If we minutely observe our universe, it becomes evident
that the Almighty has created everything in pairs. Both members of a pair
complement one another and there exists a tremendous amount of affinity between
the two. The poise and balance necessary to create harmony and concordance in
this relationship are very delicate, and a slight divergence can damage it
beyond restoration. One of the members plays an active and dominant role and the
other a passive and acquiescent one. In case, a piece of paper does not submit
to the initiative taken by the pen, no writing can come into existence. If the
pen smoothly slides across the sheet of paper, it can create a masterpiece, and
if it harshly scrapes on it, it will only tear it apart.
Man and woman, perhaps, are one of the perfect examples of
such ‘paired-creation’. When they interact with one another, it is in their own
well being that harmony and concordance result. But then what should be the
nature of this interaction? Islam has always insisted that marriage is the only
legitimate form of this interaction so that the institution of family becomes
the basic unit of a society.
The reason for this is that man is basically a weak and an
insecure being. He has spiritual as well as material needs. Just as he needs to
develop a strong relationship with the Almighty to fulfill his spiritual needs,
he also needs to develop a strong relationship with his fellow human beings to
fulfill his material needs. Thus a man and a woman must come together in a
permanent bond of wedlock to create a family to fulfill these material needs
which may be physical, emotional and psychological. A man and a woman, taken
separately, are incomplete in their existence. Both need each other to fill the
voids of their personalities. There are some responsibilities which only a man
can fulfill and others which only a woman can. Furthermore, since these
requirements are everlasting, any temporary relationship between a man and a
woman can never be truly fruitful. The Qur’a#n thus says that marriage is a
means of solace and comfort for both of them:
And among His signs is that He created for you mates
from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them and He has
planted love and kindness between you. (30:21)
Besides providing peace and tranquility to the spouses, the
role a family set-up plays in fulfilling the needs of the individual born to a
family is apparent to every keen eye.
Further, in order to safeguard the institution of family,
Islam has given a number of directives for the protection and preservation of
the family. Some of these directives are referred to below.
It says that a man and a woman must come together in a
permanent bond of marriage and must not indulge in extra-marital relationships
since they dismember the institution of family. It prescribes severe punishments
for people who are guilty of adultery and ostracizes them from the society.
It lays down a whole code of social etiquette and communal
conduct to safeguard and protect chastity and modesty which themselves are
necessary for the well-being of a family set-up.
It regards the husband as head of the family because his
temperament and disposition are more suited for this task.
It is of the view that all differences of opinion between
the husband and wife should generally be resolved in an atmosphere of mutual
trust and confidence. However, if a situation of anarchy and disorder arises
which threatens to disrupt the whole family set-up, the wife must adopt an
attitude of submission and adjustment.
It invests the husband with certain powers to deal with a
wife who adopts a rebellious attitude and stands up against his authority, just
as an affectionate mother has the authority to admonish her children to correct
It holds the parents responsible for the proper upbringing
of their children.
It urges the children to be very kind and compassionate to
their parents, especially in old age.
It says that if ever a divorce is to end a family set-up, a
certain prescribed procedure should be followed in letter and spirit since this
procedure ensures that the dissolution of marriage passes through an interim
phase in which the decision has ample time to be reconsidered.
It maintains that if a divorced woman intends to start a
new family, her former husband or his relatives must in no way obstruct her.