The Family Unit – The Heart of the Ummah - Part 1

From the beginning: how we choose spouses

The ummah longs for unity and demands a strong leadership. We blame the government, the society and enemies of Islam for our failure to get there. Yet if all of us implement Shari'ah values within our four walls, Islam will automatically be implemented outside our houses and into society. Islam is a status generated from within and cultivates a deep sense of responsibility. It promotes guardianship and watchfulness for those who fall within our care. 

Reported by Ibn `Umar (RA): Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, "All of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects. The ruler is a guardian and responsible for his subjects; the man is a guardian of his family; the woman is guardian in her husband's house and responsible for her wards; a servant is guardian of his master's property and responsible for his ward. So all of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects". [Bukhari & Muslim]. 

We will be questioned by Allah about how we implement these responsibilities and all our decisions. For example, if the husband is a slave of Allah, and chooses his wife for the sake of Allah, then it is a good starting point to have children who are the slaves of Allah. If all families make their choices and live their lives in Allah's path, the whole community will be united. In reality however, when someone raises marriage prospects, the normal questions that follow are how the person looks like, how rich or poor, how educated, or how well connected the family is.

Can any of us, whether rich or poor, educated or ignorant, imitate what Umar (RA) did? He on his patrol of Madinah late one night, felt tired, so he leaned against a wall. In the darkness, he heard a woman order her daughter to mix milk with water. This practice was prohibited by Umar (RA) because it was a form of cheating the customers.

The girl refused, reminding her mother of Umar's (RA) decree on this issue. The mother still insisted for the girl to mix the milk with water, but to do it in a location where Umar (RA) could not see her.

The girl refused and said, “I cannot obey Him (Allah) in public and disobey Him in private.” 

How many girls today are willing to stand up against their mothers to uphold the Truth? While obedience to mothers is mandatory, it only applies in matters which are consistent or in line with Islam. Many Muslim mothers, when it suits them, are swift to remind their offspring that jannah lies under their feet, but ignore the commands of Allah on the majority of other issues which are not to their liking!

Umar (RA) was so impressed by the response that he asked his companion to investigate the girl's background. When he reported back to Umar (RA) that the girl was unmarried, Umar (RA) gathered his sons and said: “Do any of you need a wife, so I can arrange the marriage for you? If I had the desire to get married, I would have been the first one to marry this young woman.” 

One of his unmarried sons, Asim, agreed, and Umar (RA) arranged for their wedding.

What was the appeal of this girl? Umar (RA) had not even seen her physically and could not assess her beauty. She was poor, unsophisticated and from a humble family, but her piety and obedience to Allah were so appealing that Umar RA urgently wanted her as part of his family. The marriage produced the mother of Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, also known as the fifth Rightly Guided Caliph or the Second Umar, one of the most just and pious rulers after the Khulafa Ar Rashideen.

In another incident, a poor man found an apple on the ground. Being extremely hungry, he took a couple of bites before realizing that the apple had fallen from a tree within the compound of a house, which meant that the apple belonged to the owner of the house. He rushed to the owner and pleaded for forgiveness for eating the apple without permission. The owner said that the only condition for forgiveness was if the man were to marry his daughter, but warned that she was blind, deaf, mute and paralysed. Due to the fear of Allah, the man immediately consented. In Islam, a woman cannot be forced into marriage, and she has the final say on the matter. The house owner told his daughter that he had found a pious man to be her husband, but that the man was extremely poor. The girl agreed to the marriage, and the wedding took immediately.

The new groom saw his bride for the first time, and gave her a greeting of salam. Surprisingly, she replied even though she was supposedly mute. She walked towards him and he discovered that she was neither blind nor paralyzed. In fact she was extremely beautiful. She explained that her father had not lied: she was "blind" because she had never seen a non muhrim man before him. She was "deaf" and "mute" because she neither listened to forbidden things nor participated in forbidden conversations. She was "paralysed" because her feet had never stepped into forbidden places. The marriage produced Imam Abu Hanifah, who is one of the most renowned scholars in Islam.

While travelling, Abu Dharda (RA), the wisest man in the ummah, spotted a man making several mistakes in his salat, so he enquired what the matter was. The man explained that he was too poor to find a teacher on Islam (much less a wife). A few days earlier, the Khalifah had asked for Abu Dharda's (RA) daughter's hand in marriage on behalf of his son, but Abu Dharda (RA) declined because he did not want the daughter's iman to be corrupted by power and luxuries.

Abu Dharda (RA) then suggested to his daughter that if she were to lead this man to Islam, it might take her to jannah. She immediately agreed to the match, without asking for gifts or a big celebration. How would we, as parents have chosen today? Would we have been willing to bar our daughters from marrying a man of influence in favour of a man of piety?

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