Family Ties - The Role of Youth
in Keeping the Family Together
By Altaf Husain
Scenario 1: Abdullah was only nine years old when his mother and father divorced. He had no idea what that word meant when his mom first told him, "Your father and I are getting a divorce." He knew his parents fought a lot and sometimes, he found his mother crying in the kitchen. Once his father raised his hand to strike his mother, but stopped short of it. Abdullah thought divorce meant getting help and trying to solve problems facing the family.
He was in shock when he found his father packing boxes, filling them up with only what belonged to his father. "What are you doing, Dad?" he asked. His father told him that because of the divorce, he was not allowed to live in the same house anymore and that he was moving to another town close by. His father continued, "Your mother and I have decided this is the best thing to do."
Move out? What does that mean? When was anyone going to tell? What about what I want to happen? What about what's best for me? Alas, the decision was made and there was little Abdullah could do to change it. His father moved out, and Abdullah grew up with his mother. He only had very little involvement with his father. Angry with his father for abandoning him, Abdullah kept company with other boys who were prone to committing sins. Abdullah wanted so much to get his father's attention. Unfortunately, his father kept away, and Abdullah fell deeper and deeper into sin. His mother was overwhelmed but continued to make Dua' (supplication) to Allah to guide Abdullah and to set him back on the straight path.
Scenario 2: Khadijah, Nusaybah, and Ahmed were 15, 13, and 10 years old when their father passed away and their mother remarried. They clearly remember how upset their grandparents on both sides were because of their mother's decision to remarry. Their grandparents, uncles and aunts all vowed never to speak to their mother again and severed ties with her family. Their step-father was a nice man and they understood very well that although their mother loved their father very much, she remarried for her own well-being as well as theirs. Now, with their step-father living with them, the children could not bear to be cut-off from their extended family. Khadijah and Nusaybah decided something had to be done.
They called their paternal grandfather one day and told him how much they missed their father. Their grandfather comforted them. They told their grandfather that, al-hamdu lillah, they were fortunate that their step-father was so much like their father and that they were very happy with him. Their grandfather's heart inclined towards meeting this man who was so much like his own son. After only a few minutes with the step-father, the grandfather felt relieved that indeed the children had a father in their lives and that his daughter-in-law felt secure and happy. In no time at all, the grandfather spoke with all the elders of the family and convinced them that the family ties should be restored.
Can you relate to either of the scenarios above? Do you have friends whose parents are divorced? What about friends who have a step-father or a step-mother? What would you have done if you were Abdullah? What if you were Khadijah, Nusaybah, or Ahmed?
In Islam, great emphasis is placed on the importance of the family unit, family relations, and family well-being. While parents are in charge of family affairs, Islam does not teach that youth should not have any input into what is happening with the family. How one gives input is critical, because no matter how right one may think one is, there is never any excuse for disrespecting one's parents or being unmerciful towards them. Among the many areas of family life where youth can become involved in, helping to maintain family relations is important. Sometimes, if family relations are left unattended and neglected, this area alone can destroy the peace and tranquillity of the entire family.
Allah Most High alone knows whether or not a husband and wife will be able to get along with one another and to care for and provide for their children. While most families live peacefully, more often than not, we hear about newlyweds who end their marriages, about couples who have separated, and about distraught families due to divorce and remarriage.
All of this must sound familiar to you and it might even be depressing news. It is sad when families break apart, but the critical question is, what are youth the affected children doing when this happens? Are they taking advantage of the situation as an excuse to behave irresponsibly, like Abdullah in scenario 1, when he does everything under the sun to get his father's attention? Are these children exerting efforts to help the family stay together or to help the parents reconcile?
The resounding message today should be that youth can no longer afford to be silent and passive observers while the family is breaking apart. It is important for the youth to be actively involved, but how? While many youth want to serve Allah, to serve humanity, and to change the world, sometimes the biggest project that needs attention is in our own homes.