Lecture by Abdul Nasir Jangda | Transcribed by Sameera[The following is the video and transcript of Shaykh Abdul Nasir's lecture "Happiness in the Home." The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]
One of the most important concepts within our religion (our dīn) is something that the Qurʾān talks about extensively and something that is very, very prominent from the study of the life of the Prophet , the prophetic biography, the sīrah. Similarly, this is something that is very extensively and emphatically addressed by the Prophet in the sacred traditions, the aḥadīth of the Prophet . It is something that is a very obvious need of human beings and a part of the human experience, and that is the issue of family.
The issue of family is something that each and every single one of us can experience and deal with in our own ways, shape, and forms. It is something that is relevant to each and every single human being. When talking about the issue of family, I feel that it is very important, crucial, and critical for us – and when we look at any issue or situation such as in the āyāt the shaykh recited in the prayer on the concept of the belief in one Allāh and believing in one god and one deity, the concept of tawḥīd and oneness of God. What is very beautiful and very important to note about how Allāh addresses the issue of tawḥīd within the Qurʾān, Allāh presents the problem. He talks about the partners you associate with Allāh – the false gods, false deities, false idols that you have taken other than Allāh. One very important way in addressing any situation and one very consistent pattern throughout the Qurʾān and teachings of the Prophet that if we are to truly address any issue, any concern, any situation, then we first and foremost must come to terms with the reality of the situation.
When we talk about rehabilitation and solving any problems and resolving any type of issue, the very first step of rehabilitation is accepting that there is a problem, being aware of the problem and being cognizant of the situation and not being ashamed and not being afraid and not shying away from admitting the fact that there is a problem. That is the first step to solving any situation and problem.
When we talk about the situation of family, something that is very near and dear to our hearts, and I think that anyone who has any level of experience in community leadership, community matters, and community affairs will very readily admit and stand up hear with me and preach about the dire need of addressing family issues, not just in society and not just in community but specifically even within the Muslim community, from our imams and our Shuyūkh who are on the front lines to even community leaders and community activists. A basic khaṭīb can tell you the importance. A Sunday school teacher and a weekend Islamic school teacher can speak to you for hours and hours about the critical need of addressing the family situation.
Coming to Terms with the Reality
What is the reality at hand? What are our issues? What are our circumstances? What is going on with us?
1. One thing that we have to understand in our very unique circumstance and our very unique situation as a Muslim minority living here in America and need to come to terms with is that the problems that we are experiencing in Muslim families are the same that others are experiencing outside of the Muslim community as well. Meaning there are certain things that are unique about our circumstances and situation, but generally speaking, a lot of what we are experiencing are general problems across the board.
We have to deal with a very specific reality, and that reality is that we live in this same society as every other faith-based community and every other ethnic community: current, modern-day United States of America. We are being impacted by those same social elements. It is very important for us to understand and deal with the reality that we are similar to any other community, meaning we will be impacted by our society and the culture we live in. The media and the impact that it is having on them is also having the same impact on us. The effects of the school environment and interacting with other children has the same effects on them as us.
I always tell this story that I have a little bit of a unique experience. There are many other people who have extensive experience in this regard, but I feel that in terms of a lot of people in our community today, I have a unique experience, which is simply the fact that I was raised during the 80s, which was not too young ago. I still may be a kid to many of our elders here, but that still is a significant time ago. I grew up during the 80s and I was a teenager during the 90s. I grew up in a place where there were very few Muslim families. The Muslim community is still relatively young. It was very, very small. Minuscule back then.
Growing up at a time like that, I got to see the evolution of the Muslim community, the development of the Muslim community until the point where we are today. At the same time, there was amongst the immigrant Muslim community this notion and idea – and I don't mean to offend anyone – and this delusion that we're all eventually going “back home.” That was the tone of the immigrant Muslim community in the 80s. That was their mindset during the 80s and even leading into the 90s – that they are all eventually going back home.
There was a certain amount of denial about dealing with the issues at hand. I remember very vividly that when people would even address social issues and social evils and family issues that were very, very common at that point in time in general American society, there was this distancing from those issues and concerns by saying, “Those are their problems, not ours. That happens with them, not us.”
I still remember during the early 90s, one of my main teachers and mentors and senior Shuyūkh Mufti Naeem (ḥafiẓahullāh) used to visit the United States on an annual basis. He would travel around and talk to communities. I was a very young ḥāfiẓ of the Qurʾān at that time. I was leading ṣalāt'l-tarāwīḥ for a community at a masjid and he came to visit and check on me and see how we were doing. We had close family relationships as well. He came to the tarāwīḥ prayers to check on me and see how I was doing, and of course we requested him to address the congregation like I am addressing you now. He started talking about the family issues. He was trying to emphasize adhering to the dīn and learning the dīn and the importance of instilling a system of tarbiyah within the homes and within the community so that our children could grow up with the proper Islamic perspective. Otherwise, the social evils in family issues that we saw “out there” and “amongst them” – notice the specific language that I am using – before we know it, it will be standing at our own doorstep and be inside of our own homes and communities.
I remember being very young and shocked by the reaction. I remember some community members becoming very angry, shouting at the shaykh and interrupting him saying, “How dare you!” He was talking about issues like divorce, kids running away from home, children rebelling against their parents, families breaking apart and cutting each other off and disowning each other – things that have become commonplace in our communities today, right?
I still remember very vividly some community members becoming very angry. “How dare you even talk about this stuff? Don't even mention the word divorce! Our children and families are here. How dare you talk about this stuff! These aren't our problems. We're Muslims. We don't have these problems. Those are their problems.” Pardon my use of the word – I don't condone speaking in this manner, but I'm trying to paint the picture for you of what the mentality was – “Those are the kuffār's problems. Those aren't our problems. We don't have those issues.” There was such a complete denial and obliviousness and delusion present in our communities at that time.
Before you knew it, my same teacher visiting year after year, it was literally a number of years before he was opening up and giving a lecture on taqwa or ṣabr or fasting or the importance of Qurʾān and he was specifically being requested to talk about marriage. He is specifically being requested to talk about divorce and children rebelling against their parents.
This is the reality that we have to come to terms with. “Their problems” are the same problems we have. There is a certain common thread between a lot of these issues; therefore, the factors are the same. Some solutions might also be very, very similar. We will, of course, have our own take on them because of the guidance of Allāh and the guidance of His Messenger . Nevertheless, there are some common threads that we have to understand. We also have to understand that we are not immune, as Muslims, Muslim families and Muslim communities, to the evils, problems, circumstances and situations that may be “out there.” That is the very first reality.
2. There is a second reality that I would like to address here before getting to some specifics of the family situation and the condition and situation of families. It is very important, and we have to understand this. A lot of times, for us, this is not wrong or incorrect in any way, shape or form, but nevertheless it is a concern and some people are very focused in this regard.
For some people, the bottom line is just spirituality. Just Islam, īmān. They translate Islam and īmān as just a connection with Allāh and the spiritual part of it – the spiritual relationships and the spiritual connection to Allāh.
Understand one thing: family struggles, family difficulties, unrest, trouble, chaos, distress in the home, and unhappiness in the home affect spirituality. It affects people's relationship with Allāh. It has a very profound impact on an individual. When someone is struggling in their marriage, in their relationship with their children, in their home, and the harmony in the home is gone, that will affect a person's spiritual condition.
How often has it been the case that when you are having a fight at home and are in the middle of a very serious situation with your spouse – yes the mind initially goes to making du'ā', but when it goes on and persists and becomes a serious problem and serious issue, how common is it that you forget to pray? You don't think of the prayer. You don't feel like getting up and praying. You become neglectful of even your ṣalāh. How common is that?
Understand that even unrest within the home and the emotional distress that a human experiences due to concerns in the family and distress in the family affects spirituality. Make no mistake about that.
Key Dynamics & Relationships of the Family
Having said that, what are some of the key dynamics and key relationships of family where we are struggling, and what are some of the struggles that we are experiencing? Then, very briefly, we'll talk a little bit about – it is a very short lecture, so obviously we can't solve the problems here and can't even in detail address the issues and solutions, but we can at least raise awareness. Understand that raising awareness is the first step to solving any problem. After a person admits that there is a problem, the next step is raising awareness about the issue and about some of the solutions. We need to at least start talking about this and becoming aware. That's what we'll do here.
The very first universal dynamic of family relationships is the parent-child relationship. Everyone is either a parent or a child. We'll talk about marriage and some other things, but the very first universal application of family is the parent-child relationship. Everyone is either a parent or a child.
Something very beautiful about the Qurʾān, the Book of Allāh, the ultimate source of guidance, ultimate reminder and ultimate lesson is Allāh talks about this relationship. Allāh highlights both the problems and the solutions. Allāh presents problematic, difficult parent-child relationships to us in the Qurʾān, and He presents to us harmonious, beautiful, happy, functional, beneficial, flourishing parent-child relationships within the Qurʾān as well to both present the problem and the solution.
The Qurʾān is not a storybook. The Qurʾān is not a history textbook. The Qurʾān is guidance. It is a reminder. It presents and solves problems. It points out our problems to us and solves those problems for us. When Allāh chooses to mention something in His Book and in His Speech, it is there for a reason and purpose because it is very important and very relevant.
Allāh in Sūrah Maryam, and other places as well, very extensively presents the difficult and strained relationship of Ibrāhīm with his father. A father is frustrated with his son, and the son is frustrated with the father. Both have their own perspectives. The father is frustrated with the son because the son has abandoned the culture, the religion, the ways of his father, family, community, forefathers. The son is frustrated with the father because the father is in denial about the truth – believing in one God. They are going back and forth. The son is telling the father very respectfully “O abati (O my dear father),” which is like how we would say, “Dad, please. Abu, come on, please. Baba, please.” He is pleading with his father and says “ya abati” four times. At the beginning of every statement, he says, “Dad, please.” Ya abati, ya abati. He is trying to be respectful and not point any blame. “You are not bad, dad. Shaytan is bad.” He is trying to plead with the father, and the father is frustrated with the child. “So you're trying to tell me my gods aren't good enough for you, Ibrāhīm?” He doesn't say “my dear son.” “I'll kill you!” It literally means in Arabic, “I'll stone you,” which is an expression in Arabic meaning “I'll kill you. I'll hurt you. You need to stop know, I'll hurt you.” “Get out of here, you are dead to me. You are nothing to me.” Look how difficult that relationship is. Allāh presents such a parent-child relationship.
Ya'qūb with the older sons is a strained relationship. They are jealous: “He likes Yūsuf better than he likes us. He chooses Yūsuf over us. He loves Yūsuf more than he loves us. Why?” The father is trying to make the sons understand. “What is wrong with you guys? Why would you even say that? Why would you even think that?” The father knows that the sons have taken their younger brother and disposed of him. The father knows they are lying to his face, but what can he do? This is a difficult relationship.
A parent-child relationship is something that Allāh tells us: “There are lessons.” There will be difficulties in the parent-child relationship. The child will feel like the parents just don't understand them, and the parents will be frustrated with the child. “I only want good for you. Why won't you listen to me?” The child says, “You don't understand me!” The parent says, “You don't listen to me!” I think all of us have experienced that. SubḥānAllāh something that is unique about this relationship, this is not only when the children are young. This is not only in the teenage years. Those who are older and have older parents also know the struggles and the challenges. That is why you know that very famous āyah of the Qurʾān from Sūrat'l-Isrā', “Don't even say uff to your parents.”
Do you know what context it is in? It is specifically talking about when one or both of your parents have reached senility and have become old and senile. Now they are angry. They are frustrated and their body is falling apart. They are ill and sick. They can't eat properly, they can't sleep properly, they can't walk properly. Do you know how difficult that is? As young, able-bodied people we have no understanding of how frustrating that must be. Imagine living your life on your own feet and being independent for 50, 60 years and then one day you cannot even get up and go get a glass of water by yourself and can't get a glass of water by yourself. Imagine what that's like. They are angry. They are short-tempered, frustrated. Even the mind begins to go. The emotions become frail. Allāh tells us, “They get returned back to the worst of ages.”
One of my dear, dear friends, one of my best friends, accepted Islam in middle school and we grew up together. He is a convert and his parents are not Muslim yet. Make du'ā' for them inshā'Allāh. May Allāh bless them with guidance, hidāyah. Both of his parents are old and have health issues, but his mother suffered a very severe stroke recently to the point where she lost a lot of function in half her body. He told me, “Nasir, you know when life hits you and you wake up to the reality of life, the reality of so many things hit you in the face. 60 miles per hour.” He is working and working hard. He travels for work and has to be away from his parents because he is financially supporting them and paying the medical bills for the nurse to be there to take care of his mother. All of the responsibility is on him. He said, “I was visiting my parents over the weekend, back home from work and off the road. I went back to my parents and was with them over the weekend. I sat there and fed my mother with a spoon. I spoon-fed my own mom.”
SubḥānAllāh. That's when I realized. You know when you sit there and feed your child? I have a two-year old at home. When you sit there and feed your child and say, “Come on, come on. Open up.”
Another one of my dear, dear friends, we studied together. We grew up together and are like brothers. His mother also has very difficult health and suffered a stroke and is dealing with a lot. I visited him and his mother with him. Having to force her to speak and to talk and to interact and to eat, asking, “Come on, did you eat your food?” SubḥānAllāh.
Allāh is talking about when parents reach old age. My grandmother , may Allāh bless her and grant her Jannat'l-Firdaws, developed Alzheimer's before she passed away. SubḥānAllāh. I witnessed that and I witnessed my mother, aunt, and uncle experiencing that. The mind was gone. Allāh in that context is speaking about our parents becoming old, the difficulty and the frustration with parents. Teenagers say, “You are making my life difficult. God, you hate me. Why do you hate me so much? You never want to let me do anything. You want to ruin my life.” Usually it is about sleeping over at a friend's house on a Friday night. “But everyone is going to be there. You are destroying my life.” The frustration that kids have with parents is not relegated to teenagers. Anyone who has elderly parents and is an adult now and mature now – “I'm an adult. I'm mature now. I don't have drama. I don't have teenage hormones. I'm not going through that phase in my life. I'm not an adolescent” – you still know about the frustration with parents, don't you? You might be an adult and you might not have drama anymore, but now your parents are old and fragile and senile and demanding. They don't want your money. “I've paid their bills, what more do they want? I send money every month, what more do they want?” They just want to sit and talk to you. That's all they want. They still want to know that they exist and matter to you. They still want you to ask their opinion about something like you used to.
Allāh is speaking specifically. Frustration with parents is a universal thing. Everyone is dealing with it. Similarly, frustration with the children and disappointment with children is a universal thing. When they are kids, they don't listen, they don't learn, they don't pay attention. The world is opening up to my four year-old and she is starting to become more and more independent every single day. It is already awkward for her now. I dropped by her school and walked into the classroom and saw her working. You know, when your children are small, or at any age for that matter, when you look at your children, you are overcome with love. The love just fills your heart. I hadn't seen her for three hours – she went to school at 8 in the morning and I'm there at 11 and it already feels like a lifetime. What did I do? I walked up to her from behind her and hugged her and kissed her. She said, “Abuuu, stop!” When she got home later that day, she tells my wife, “Mommy, Abu hugged me and kissed me in front of everybody.” I'm like, “What's wrong with that? Of course I hugged you and kissed you because you are my baby girl!”
It starts there, and they start to become independent. Anybody who has teenagers, they know. I was recently talking to a friend and colleague, another imām, and we were all getting together and talking about how much we love our communities and how amazing our lives are, māshā'Allāh. We are all fairly younger and all have small children and babies except for one of colleagues who has a teenager. It struck me. I asked him, “We talk and lecture so much and preach all the time. How is it having a teenager?” He says, “Ya, Al-Salām. Make du'ā' for me.” That's all he could say.
The disappointment and frustration with children is universal, whether they are kids or teenagers and even when your children are all grown up. You think my parents don't still get frustrated with me? Of course they do. Even when they are all grown up and have kids of their own and are responsible individuals and have a job and a home and a family, they is still always going to be frustration because of what I just mentioned. “You don't have time for me anymore? You can't come and say 'hi'? You can't say salām to your mom?”
My mom text messages me, which weirds me out. There is something that seems unnatural about an older Pakistani woman text messaging. It's like, why do you even know how to text message? She text messages me and she expects a text message back. If I don't respond back in the next couple of minutes because I was lecturing or teaching, then I get a follow-up text message with a question mark. The next one has two question marks. The third one has three question marks. “Where are you?” It's a universal thing to be frustrated with your children. All of us experience this.
That's one of the situations and dynamics in which we require some guidance and need some direction. I'm going to lay out some of the key family relationships and what are their issues, and then we are going to talk about implementation of some of the solutions.
Marriage & Spousal Relationship
The second family dynamic that we struggle with and are experiencing problems in regards to is marital discord, starting all the way from pre-marriage, how to get married. It is a universal problem and has become a very common problem. You can ask the shaykh. How many young people show up at his doorstep? “I want to get married to so-and-so but this problem or her parents or my parents or this or that…” It starts from there. Even problems in the marriage.
Sometimes in a rush of emotions or even in religious overzealousness, “I have to avoid the sin and avoid the fitnah and get married.” Who, when, why, what, how – “Doesn't matter, brother. It's the Sunnah.” I'm pretty sure getting married blindly is not the Sunnah, but that's what happens. Very, very young people are getting married in religious overzealousness or a rush of emotions. A couple of years into marriage, they realize they didn't know the person they got married to.
It's becoming so common for young people and newlywed couples to be divorced within a number of months or even a couple of years if not a couple of months. Lack of responsibility in a marriage. A husband not taking his responsibility seriously. A wife not behaving responsibly. When you have young children, so many couples experience marital issues and problems. Why? “He is not being a father to his children.” “She is not being a good mother.” Lack of responsibility.
This is a term I came up with. You know pass interference for football fans? In-law interference (TM). It is a major issue. You have a clash of cultures and a clash of worlds and dimensions happening. Is all interference from in-laws bad? Absolutely not. Nevertheless, the dynamics of that interference and how that interference is causing problems. The in-law problem.
Lack of Maturity
Rushing into decisions and rushing into marriage. Prioritization. For some people, work comes before the family. For some people, the religious cause, the organization, the association, the movement, the spreading of the dīn comes before family. That is becoming a problem. Families are being torn apart why? Honestly, this is an oxymoron. If somebody's family failed because of their service to the dīn and because of da'wah, it doesn't even make sense and is a contradiction. It is an oxymoron and impossible. It obviously means that somebody did not understand the dīn or religion.
Lack of Communication
In prioritization, there is another thing. Sometimes it can be the religion and sometimes it can be work, money, greed, and that is justified by saying, “But I want to give you guys a nice home to live in. I want to give you guys the life that I never had. I want our kids to go to the best school.” What happens because of that? We destroy the family that we were using for justification to chase after money.
Sometimes it's my own hobbies and indulgences. “I'm married but I still have to play Modern Warfare all night long with my friends.” “I'm married but I still have to go to the basketball tournament. I work all week and Saturday is the basketball tournament and the wife is waiting, and we're finally going to spend some good quality time together but I have to go ball with the boys.” My own personal hobbies and my own personal indulgences. This is football country. I come from Dallas, another football area, so you guys will understand what I'm talking about. Saturday is college ball and bowl games, which equals twelve hours of fun in front of the television. “What the spouse does is their problem. I'm sorry, I'm not going to change me. I'm not changing for anybody. You married me and that's what you get. I heard you say, 'I accept,' so you accepted ASU football as well, as terrible as it is.” Sunday is football – NFL game day. I have the NFL package where it is 8 screens on the TV at one time. In a 12-hour period, I watch 15 games simultaneously. Congratulations. Mubarak. Do you want a cookie? Or maybe a laddoo? What do you want?
Prioritization and a lack of sense of what the priorities are. In this culture we have a challenge. I was born and raised in Dallas, TX. From this culture's perspective, I will tell you one huge problem we have with prioritization, something that we put before families that is very unique and specific to this culture. There is a phrase and expression that guides you. I can't repeat it here. It is offensive and inappropriate and this is the masjid and House of Allāh, so it's impossible and I wouldn't because it is inappropriate. They basically say, “bros before ____.” Don't say it! They use a very derogatory word about women. It is basically putting your friends before women even though that word doesn't even apply to a person's wife, astaghfirullāh.
Nevertheless, that same concept is applied to marriage. “Uh-uh, my friends come first. Going to hang with the boys.” This isn't even specific to the guys. It is even in regards to the women. If a woman gets married and is a wife now, how dare she not go out with the friends to dinner? They get shunned and outcast by their unmarried friends. They get pushed out by their unmarried friends. This is a real struggle that people are having. They literally have to reinvent their friends circle and rediscover friends. First when they get married, the unmarried friends want no part. “She has no time for us anymore. She has to go and spend time with her husband.” Like that is a ridiculous concept.
The young married friends who don't have children say about the first one to have children, “God, she's so lame to hang out with now. Everything is about a diaper and milk.” God forbid she be a good mother, right? Now she is being again outcast by her friends and she has to go out there and discover other mom friends. This is a struggle people have. People crumble underneath that pressure. “My friends have to be put first. What am I going to do without my friends?” The marriage, the children, everything will come second. The marriage struggles because of a lack of prioritization.
Lack of communication. That's one of the most universal issues and problems. Never establishing a line of communication let alone being comfortable communicating concerns, problems or even good things. Nothing is communicated. Lines of communication are never established. Again, this is a culture in which we pride ourselves in individuality and independence. “I'm independent and my own self and I don't need anybody's help.” That manifests itself and creates problems even in marriages.
Unwillingness to Compromise
“Why should I change anything about myself? If you don't like the way things are, then you deal with it.” Complete total lack of compromise. Absolutely no motivation and no inclination to sacrifice anything. “I should not have to sacrifice anything.” This on both sides of the marriage. I'm not sitting here giving some old school lecture about women having to sacrifice. This is on both sides.
I feel that especially some of the very unique dynamics we have, I can speak about my generation and our challenges. I feel that lack of sacrifice and unwillingness to sacrifice exists actually more amongst the guys than it does amongst the girls. Just complete and total unwillingness to sacrifice anything.
Then a third manifestation, which I'll talk about more briefly, of family issues or family problems is sibling rivalry. It's a little more unique that even marriage, but nevertheless it is a problem and issue, whether it is the parents favoring unknowingly and unintentionally one child over another that harbors and creates resentment amongst the children for each other.
As families and parents, we have to learn to be sensitive to the strengths and weaknesses of each and every child. Be cognizant of what is each child's needs. If something works for one child, maybe that is not what will work for the other child. Be cognizant of their specific needs.
Not creating and not fostering an environment of competition amongst the children where they feel they have to compete for the parents' love and approval. I hate to bring up personal things, but I'll mention it. Abdullah, the crazy guy running around and setting up all of the gadgetry here, is my younger brother. From what you see here, that's exactly what you get. I'm the one talking on the microphone and he is the one recording, editing, and uploading the videos, doing all the back-end video work, but there's not a sense of competition. We have to learn to appreciate what everybody brings to the table. We have to learn to respect everybody and not compete with each other in regards to what we are doing. We need to not create an environment of competition but one of collaboration. When we collaborate and come together, how unbelievable of a strong unit we can become as a family and siblings and brothers and sisters.
I know I'm going to date myself with this reference, but does anybody remember Voltron? It's like Voltron. For somebody a little younger, Captain Planet.
What are some solutions that we can begin to implement to repair this family situation?
I talked about this in the beginning, and I'll bring it up here again. When we repair our relationship with Allāh – understand that our relationship with Allāh is the basis and foundation of everything in our lives. This is something we say in the Qurʾān, this is something we say in adhkār, this is something we say in supplications and du'ā's. That is: “Allāh is the source of all blessings. Allāh is the One that grants blessings.”
There are aḥadīth and traditions and narrations to the effect that when we repair our relationship with Allāh, Allāh will repair everything else. When a person is beloved to Allāh, Allāh has what announcement made in the heavens and on the earth as well? “Allāh says, 'I love him, so everybody else love him as well. O Jibrīl, I love him so you love him.' Jibrīl says, 'Allāh loves him, I love him, so all of the inhabitants of heaven love him.'” The inhabitants of the heavens, the malā'ikah, come down to the earth and say what? “Allāh loves him, Jibrīl loves, we love him, so therefore all of you love him or her.”
When we fix things with Allāh, Allāh will but barakah and blessings in everything else in our lives. This is something that is very obvious. That's why the Prophet said, “Tell your families to pray, and you be regular and punctual about prayer yourself. You be steadfast about the prayer yourself. Tie yourself upon the prayer.”
Talking about the parent-child relationship, we have to learn to repair our relationships. The parents must repair their relationships with Allāh. That is why we are taught a du'ā': “Rabbana habb lana min azwājina wa dhurriyyātina qurrata a'yun waj'alna lilmuttaqīna imāma.” Make our spouses and our children the coolness of our eyes, and make all of us the leaders of the muttaqīn. We have to repair spirituality – the parents and the children – and do it together as a family. Pray together as a family. Make du'ā'. First fix your relationship with Allāh, and that will put barakah and blessings and start to repair the relationship with the family members.
Marriage: In āyah 238 of Sūrat'l-Baqarah, Allāh says, “Very carefully, very cautiously, very diligently watch over the prayers.” Do you know what is very interesting about this āyah? Allāh mentions this āyah in the middle of a passage which talks about divorce. In the middle of giving us advice about divorce, Allāh says, “Watch over the prayers.” Why? Because maybe you are having problems in your marriage because you are having problems with your relationship with Allāh. Go back and fix your relationship with Allāh and put barakah and blessings and raḥmah and the Mercy of Allāh back into your marriage.
The houses in which Qurʾān is recited, the inhabitants of the heavens and skies have the stars shine onto the inhabitants of the earth. Our houses become filled with nūr and barakah and blessing when we recite Qurʾān in them. The Prophet would pray the farḍ daily prayers in the masjid. Where would he pray his sunnah and nawāfil prayers? In the home. Do you know what that means for the Prophet ? This is the masjid and that's the home. Do you see the difference? He would take four steps and be in his home, but he would still go and make the distinction and establish the fact that he would take those four steps, cross through the curtain, and pray in the home where the wife and family members were. Bring spirituality back into your life, home, parent-child relationship, and marriage and see how it repairs.
When you have spirituality and a good relationship with Allāh, it makes you secure in yourself. It gives you confidence and removes the insecurities. The parents are not insecure about their children. The children are not so constantly skeptical or paranoid about the parents. Even sibling rivalry – they become secure in themselves through their relationship with Allāh.
The Prophet of Allāh was told this same point. In Sūrah Ya Sīn, Allāh says, “Don't doubt yourself, you are most definitely from the messengers.” It gives you that sense of security. First spirituality needs to be re-established. We need to fix the relationship with Allāh. Family relationships will start to get better.
2. Establishing Communication
The second basic step is establishing communication. If you don't have it, establish it, as awkward and as difficult as that might be. Initially when you establish communication, it is like pulling teeth, but establish it. If you have it, then broaden it and work on it and continue to build on it and maintain it. Open it further. Communication is very important.
I told you how Allāh presents certain difficult parent-child relationships in the Qurʾān. Allāh also presents beautiful parent-child relationships in the Qurʾān. Luqmān does what to his son? Does he yell at him? Does he say, “Hey, you stupid boy, come here”? He says, “Ya bunaya,” which literally means in Arabic “my small son.” This is an Arabic expression for saying “my dear son, my beloved son.” Like when you have a nickname for your child, when you speak to your child with love. He talks to his child. He is advising him, not lecturing him and not wagging his finger at him. He is not yelling at him. He is not scolding him and not constantly telling his son how disappointed he is in him. He is having a conversation with his son. “My dear son.”
Yūsuf sees a dream, a life-altering and life-changing dream. What did he do with that dream? Go and tell his friends? Text message his friends? Updates his Facebook status? No. He goes and talks to his father. He says, “Ya abati (my dear, dear father),…” He speaks to his father and communicates to his father.
The Prophet , the best husband of all times, did what? He would communicate with his wives. 'Ā'ishah says, “I never saw anyone do more counsel and shūrah than the Prophet . Nobody would consult in anything more – not just community affairs or religious affairs but even the affairs of the home. He would talk to us. He would communicate to us.” At Ḥudaybiyyah when the Prophet was frustrated at the ṣaḥābah who were dumbfounded and speechless, he is telling them to shave their heads, sacrifice their animals, and open their iḥrām, and they were not getting up and going because they were dumbfounded and overwhelmed and almost traumatized by what happened that they have to go back without doing 'Umrah, the Prophet did what? Who does he speak to? His wife, Umm Salamah. He speaks to his wife about being a prophet and the affairs of prophethood. He communicates. He doesn't go there and throw a fit. “Where is my food? Why is this place always dirty? What is wrong with you? Why are you looking at me like that? What is your problem? Why are the kids always making noise?” He doesn't take it out on her. He goes in there and says, “I don't know what to do. What is wrong? They are just not moving.” It's not like they are not listening or not obeying. Wa na'ūdhu billāh. These are the ṣaḥābah . But they are dumbfounded and traumatized. She gives him advice, and subḥānAllāh that advice works.
The wives of the Prophet felt so comfortable openly speaking to him. There is a famous story about Umar saying something to his wife, and his wife says, “Uh-uh. I ain't about to do that. I don't agree with you.” From back in the day and old school mentality of Mecca and the Quraysh, he was like, “What? Did you just speak back to me?” She says, “Yes. What's wrong with that? The Prophet doesn't mind.” “What do you mean the Prophet doesn't mind?” The daughter of 'Umar , Ḥafṣah, was one of the wives of the Prophet , umm'l-mu'minīn. “She speaks emotionally and he doesn't mind.” He says, “What?” He rushes over there and says, “Girl, have you lost your mind? You speak back to the Prophet of Allāh ?” She says, “No, it's communication. He tells us to speak our minds. He asks us what we think about things. He doesn't mind.” Communication. It helps in the parent-child relationship as we see in the example of Luqmān and Yūsuf. It most definitely helps in a marriage.
Establishing communication. Then paying attention to how you communicate. In a parent-child relationship, the parent might say, “Yeah, I talk to him everyday.” But if all you say to your child is “clean up your room,” then yes, you speak to your child everyday. “Clean up your room. Did you do your homework? Why do you fail your tests? Why are you so stupid?” If you speak to your child, that is not enough. How you communicate matters as well. What do you say? How do you speak? Lovingly. Kindly.
When spouses speak to each other, if everything is a sarcastic jab: “So you didn't make food today, huh?” – that is not a question, by the way. You know that is not a question. “Oh, so I guess you are busy today, huh?” That is not a question. That's a slap in the face. Nothing good comes from communication like that. You have to give the benefit of the doubt and be open and loving and caring and considerate.
Having credibility and understand when you start to communicate, the problem will not fix itself overnight. One day you try to have a nice conversation: “What's going on with you? I hope you are doing well. Everything is good.” And for now you have a history of ten or fifteen years of bad communication and have one nice twenty-minute conversation and the other side is not warming up to you yet, don't be like “See, you are obviously wrong. I tried and I was nice, and it didn't work. See, it doesn't work. My way works. You don't know what you are talking about.” It doesn't change overnight.
The Prophet of Allāh was ṣādiq'l-amīn and then he presented the message. You have to have some credibility and establish that credibility. You have to establish trust, and it won't happen overnight.
Spirituality, communication, and the third area where we can work on to improve these family relationships is like what I mentioned extensively: prioritization. We have to put these family relationships in the right priority, and that is making time for family whether that is a parent-child relationship or a spousal relationship, make time for each other. Even the sibling rivalry can be solved by spending time together and making time for each other.
Just as a clarification for the father who works tirelessly, and that is fine and respected, but understand that you might say, “I spend eight hours a day at home,” but you spend those eight hours a day sleeping on your face.” That doesn't count as family time. “You know, I come home, don't I?” Yeah you come home, use the bathroom, and go to sleep. That doesn't count as spending time with your spouse. You have to spend good, quality family time with each other. You have to make time for each other. Put each other as a first priority.
Here comes the shocking part. We have to redefine the boundaries of 'ibādah. There is no guilt in spending time with family. Yes, it should not deter you from your basic responsibilities to Allāh . Ṣalāh is ṣalāh. Prayer is prayer. But at the same time we do have to redefine the boundaries of 'ibādah, of nafl (extra worship). Having a nice, quiet intimate dinner with your spouse and having a candlelit dinner with your wife is 'ibādah. It is a virtuous deed. Good deed. Reward. Yes! I'm not crazy.
You know when you wrestle around with your children and play with your kids – my kids are young – and play hide-and-go-seek (where my daughter constantly cheats, all the time, so when it's my turn to hide and her turn to seek, she counts while looking at me.) Alḥamdulillāh, I've developed a lot of upper body strength. Do you know how? Swings. Non-stop. These kids never get tired. I think there's a possibility my daughters could grow up to be pilots. They never get tired of being on a swing. My younger one is two-years old, and the first thing she does after she wakes up in the morning is go to the backdoor because we have a swing set in the backyard, and she says, “Outside!” That is code for “let me outside.” She doesn't waste a lot of time and is very impatient. If her request is not immediately obliged, then the second time, “Outside!” And the third time, it is a straight up scream. “Outside!!!” Spending quality time with them. Making time for them. You know what? Playing hide-and-go-seek with your kids and pushing them on the swings is an act of worship. It is an act of 'ibādah.
The Messenger of Allāh told the ṣaḥābah that when spouses (husband and wife) experience intimacy with each other – I'm going to speak in general terms because we have a broad audience. When a husband and wife experience intimacy with each other, physical intimacy, the Prophet of Allāh said, “It is a virtuous act.” The ṣaḥābah were shocked just as much as you probably are. Are you serious? Is that for real? The Prophet of Allāh had very simple logic. If you were to commit the same physical act outside of a marriage, would it be a sin? Yes. This is an act of reward and an act of virtue in marriage. What lesson we learn from that is engaging in the actual relationship and seeking emotional pleasure in the relationship is a virtuous act and an act of reward.
Something that is established through research and something I learned a practical lesson from my own father as a role model for me was: My dad was very involved at the masjid and one of the founders of the masjid that we all grew up going to, and alḥamdulillāh at retirement age he was able to found another masjid in a new area we moved to. My uncles and dad were always involved in this frontline, and māshā'Allāh alḥamdulillāh I learned from them. But you know, one thing though? Being on the board of the masjid, being a founder of the masjid, being involved in the da'wah activity at the masjid, it never got in the way of the family and was never put before family. There could be a meeting going on in the masjid and my dad would get a call and he would say, “Excuse me, I'm not going to be able to make it to the meeting at the masjid. If that gets me kicked off the board, fine then kick me off.” My dad owned his own business, by the way. How many people here own their own business? A businessman knows that the job never ends. A businessman never clocks out. A businessman lives, eats, and sleeps his business. But everyday there was a cut-off time for my dad. 5 o'clock, done. Doors closed, the phone goes off. “You'll pay extra if I come right now? It's okay, I guess I'll just see you tomorrow. You're going to go to somebody else? Then I guess you'll go to somebody else. My rizq is given by Allāh. I'm not going to sacrifice my family.” 5 o'clock everyday. Then he came home and sat with us, talked to us, played with us, helped us with our homework. Then we ate dinner together as a family. Then when dinner was done, he went for ṣalāt'l-'ishā'at the masjid and I went with him. But that was every single day. Nothing would get in the way of that. Not the business, not the meeting at the masjid, not the da'wah activity, nothing. Family first.
We have to learn that prioritization and that attitude, redefining these boundaries of 'ibādah and worship and understanding what's important. It's very, very important that we understand what's important.
The Center for Substance Abuse and Addiction at Columbia University published research and Time magazine ran the story in June 2006. I recommend you go and look it up and read it. It talks about how families and homes where they eat one meal together every single day are happier, healthier homes and families because they spend quality time together.
One of the recommendations that I mentioned from the Qurʾān is praying ṣalāh together. Merge family time and spirituality together. When you are going to go to the park, pray ẓuhr and then head out to the park. You are going to go for ice cream? Pray 'ishā' and then go out for ice cream. Merge these together and create a positive association. That is how you can do tarbiyah with your family and children and instill the dīn within your children. Eating meals together brings the hearts together.
4. Expressing Love & Appreciation
The fourth area that we can work on is expressing love and appreciation for each other. There is no such thing as showing too much love. Expectations have its place, rules and boundaries have their place. I'm not talking about that. We confuse love with those things. Have discipline, have boundaries, have limitations, have rules, have consequences. Have all of that, but express love. Tell your children how much you love them. Tell your spouse how much you love them. Show appreciation. Don't just have appreciation. “Oh, but I do appreciate you. Do I have to show it? Do I have to buy you flowers?” Yes, you do! Do you have to take her out for a nice meal? Yes. Do I have to tell you how much I love you, and do I have to hug and kiss you? Yes! Very, very, very important!
I understand that this breaks certain cultural taboos. In certain cultures, its awkward and strange for a father to tell his children “I love you” when they put them to bed at night and when they wake up in the morning and when they salām. “Al-salāmu 'alaykum. How are you guys doing? Everything is ok? I love you guys.” I know that it seems awkward or taboo in certain cultures, but again, I go back to the very first point that I made, you have to understand where you children are coming from. You have to understand human expectations and in the parent-child relationship and marital relationship, expressing love and appreciation.
5. Make Du'ā'
The last and final point I'll make here: make du'ā'. Never forget to make du'ā'. Allāh taught us a comprehensive du'ā': “Rabbana habb lana min azwājina wa dhurriyyātina qurrata a'yun waj'alna lilmuttaqīna imāma.” Coolness of the eyes. Do you know what coolness of the eyes means? It is an ancient Arabic expression. To understand an expression sometimes, you have to look at them and understand them from the perspective of the people who used that expression. You have to understand it from their perspective. The ancient Arabs would say this. You guys living in Arizona will be able to relate to this. Imagine the summer time in the middle of the desert. It is 120 degrees outside, but imagine you don't have these comfortable buildings and structures. Imagine you don't have air conditioning and fans. You are out there in the middle of the desert in the scorching heat. Hot winds are blowing the hot sand into your eyes. Even now with air conditioning and everything that you have, sometimes in the summer how dry do your eyes get? How irritated do your eyes become, and how much do they itch? Imagine being out in the desert without all this luxury and experiencing that. Your eyes feel like they are on fire. Your eyes feel like you want to rip them out and scratch them until they are gone. Then you come across some cool, clean water, and you take that water and splash it into your eyes and on your face. How refreshing and invigorating and how amazing that would feel.
We are saying, “O Allāh, when I look at my spouse, when I look at my children, make it feel like I just splashed cool, clean water in my eyes and face. Refresh me. And make all of us from the muttaqīn imams and leaders of the most pious and righteous. Make us role models for generations to come.”
In connection with this, these are just like I said initially, some topics and concerns that have been on my mind for a long, long time. As you see from the context of the Qurʾān and sīrah and ḥadīth of the Prophet , this is a very core concept of our religion and faith and this is a basic human need and concern. Alḥamdulillāh, this is just a short conversation that I wanted to share. This is part of a larger project that I am embarking on through Qalam Institute. We are going to have a traveling program called Happiness in the Home where we will be traveling around the country to different communities and have a full seminar talking about some of these concerns and implementing more practical solutions so we can better the condition and situation of families throughout our communities, inshā'Allāh.
These are just some thoughts and things that I wanted to share with the community here today. Again I want to thank you for being patient and listening and being attentive. I hope and I pray that this was a source of benefit for everyone. Jazākum Allāh khayran.
May Allāh accept from all of us and give us the ability to practice that which we have heard. Al-salāmu 'alaykum wa raḥmatullāh.