Family forms the nucleus of a society; strong families build strong societies that are more cohesive and enduring. Raja Mujtaba
By Tarik Jan
Much that we praise the “inevitable” modern world, its problems are serious. The West pretension to be rational and scientific has not helped it hide what Peter Gay has called the paradox of Enlightenment:
“In its treatment of the passions, as in its treatment of metaphysics, “the Enlightenment was not an age of reason but a revolt against rationalism,” says Peter Gay (The Enlightenment An Interpretation: The Science of Freedom, 1973).
The modern world, which has its antecedents in the Enlightenment era, is certainly not different. And how could it be? The seed determines the sapling.
Nations, as Ibn Khaldun says, die among others in chaos. By chaos, I believe he did not mean the mere breakdown of law and order situation (which is a symptom and not the cause) but the diminishing role of some supreme or overarching principle to hold it together. That is why even though the West has released itself from the “darkness” of the past, it wobbles in the vacuity of the present with nothing to anchor at.
One of J. B. Priestley’s characters in his The Image Man (1995) rightly points to the pointless Western civilization and its manifestations. “We have come to the end of the civilization that followed the Renaissance,” says Cosmo. “No taste, no standards, no values! A place like this mocks the past and sneers at the present.” Ironically, Priestley’s Cosmo is a not a conservative or even a religious person. He is a liberal man and much closer to what Priestley himself has stood for.
If I have to name modernity’s gravest casualty, I would say it is the family and the institution of marriage. There is a whole litany of grievances and so are the wounds. For instance, convenience has replaced loyalty in wedlock; serial monogamy, wife swapping, group marriage, homosexuality and lesbian relationship have threatened the uniqueness and sustainability of the marriage.
In this onslaught on the marriage institution, gender cooperation has given way to combativeness, rivalry, and the perpetuated myth of male domination over the female through some collective male conspiracy.
I call it the perpetuated myth because it has no legs to stand upon before honest scrutiny. Such people willfully ignore the biological structuring of male and female and the role hypothalamus of the limbic system, which is prenatally fashioned, and the hormonal secretions play in determining the sexual responses in men and women. Likewise, the role chromosome (y) plays in producing male hormones androgen marked for its aggressiveness in men and the corresponding hormones (x) in women inclining women to menstruation and other womanly responses like the manifestation of her maternal behavior toward their young ones. Perhaps impressed by this uniqueness of male and female and their corresponding responses, Sigmund Freud said it succinctly that physiology was destiny.
As al-din al-fitra (the natural way of life), Islam regulates sex relations on the human physiology. But having done that, it does not leave sex relations to mere instincts and hormonal responses. Rather it binds them to a moral grid with rights and obligations, justice and equity. For this, we have to look into the birth of the first man and woman, which has a rich symbolism to reflect upon.
To begin with, for example, Adam precedes Haw? – the husband-to-be has to enact the role of the leader, shouldering responsibility for others to come.
Haw?’s birth is from the Adam ribs close to his heart and under the shade of his arm. He has to give her love, protection, and security.
The two’s essence is one; there is no difference between them. Yet, they are different in their physiology, in their emotional and mental range, which is a strong pointer to their being complementary, accommodative and helpful to each other and not gender combative.
Haw?’s birth from the Adam ribs is also indicative of her inner strength. Not easily malleable, she may submit to force but would recoil. In other words, she calls for respect for what she is and any attempt to change her nature may fail. Given the strength in her as she is glued to her nature, she may break but may not change
The husband and wife expose their nakedness to others if they violate the honor code, plunging themselves into hardship and discomfort.
The wife should not lend her ears to the outsider’s whispers of mischief and stay glued to her husband in goodness and togetherness.
With the preceding rendition of the symbols in the first couple of Adam and Eve, I hope I am not wrong if I say that sex relations in Islam flow from the first couple in history.
Unlike other religions, Islam is confluent with the dictates of life and believes in channelizing human desires and inclinations rather than contempt them. Islam is elaborate on the regulation of the sex urge, telling humans who to marry and not marry and in the process sanctifies relations. Its concern is to strengthen family, which is important from the following angles:
Family in Islam is not nuclear but an extended unit, which helps its members develop interaction skill, mutual consultation, and accommodation. Besides, it cultivates feeling of oneness among them to weather the vicissitudes of life.
It is the repository and carrier of moral and spiritual values. In this sense, it is a crucial link between the present and the past.
It is the first school of learning and discipline for the younger generation.
It not only teaches but also transmits moral values to children.
By its emphasis on love, understanding, cooperation, command and obedience, it creates stable individuals who in turn give stability to society.
Family provides safety net to its poor members whom it helps stand economically on their feet.
Family provides support as well as shelter to its divorced, daughters and widow women.
Modern studies confirm that there are two main causes of family breakup: the rise of the industrial society and liberal sex attitudes. The first has changed the family complexion from extended to nuclear while the latter has caused infidelity, desertion and eventually breakup. Islam seeks to preserve the family by proscribing fornication and adultery.
Our seculars and liberals in the media and performing arts (exceptions allowed) who encourage body exposure and free sex attitudes have begun to threaten family. That it may deprive people of stability in their life is not hard to understand.
Tarik Jan is a Research Scholar who has written several books including ‘Secular Threat To Pakistan.’ Tarik Jan is also Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker.