Thinking About Our Family
If you want to get a glimpse of the
future of Islam in America, take a good look at the state of the Muslim
family here today.
For Muslims living in non-Muslim countries,
the family is where Islam’s first seeds are planted and nurtured,
not the mosque or other societal institutions. It is by watching family
members pray, fast, tell the truth, and respect each other that children
learn Islamic values; it is by watching parents and siblings decorate
the house for Eid, exchange gifts and attend congregational prayers
on a regular basis that an Islamic identity is built.
What this means in the long-term is
that if the Muslim family suffers, then the state of Islam in this country
The Muslim family is not immune to
currents affecting all families in America. Divorce, the rise of single-parent
families, the challenges of dual-earner families, the need to care for
aging parents and the dramatic overhaul of the nuclear family system
in general in the last 45 years are issues that affect all families.
According to New-York based Muslim
sociologist Professor Ilyas Ba-Yunus, Muslims in America have a divorce
rate of slightly over 30 percent, which is much smaller than the combined
rate of North America of 48.6 percent. However, it is very close to
the United Kingdom’s divorce rate of 33.2 percent, which is the
second highest in the world.
Other statistics relating to the American
family include the following:
Statistics From the US Census Bureau
- Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce.
- 27.8 percent of families in America are one-parent
- The number of unmarried partner households has
increased by 72 percent in the last decade from three million in 1990
to more than five million in 2000. These figures include both same-sex
and different-sex couples.
- More and more young children are being left alone. Nearly
1 out of five children between the ages of 5 and 14 regularly cared
Statistics From Other Sources
- More than one million children have parents who
separate or divorce each year. The National Commission on Children
than half of Americans today have been, are or will be in one or more
stepfamily situations. Stepfamily
Association of America
- One in two children will live in a single-parent
family at some point in childhood. State of America’s Children Yearbook 2000,
- One in three children is born to unmarried parents.
America’s Children Yearbook 2000, Children’s Defense
- 1 out of 5 children have a learning, emotional,
or behavioral problem due to the family system changing. (National
Center for Health Statistics)
- More than one half of all youths
incarcerated for criminal acts lived in one-parent families when they
were children. (Children's Defense Fund)
Successful families don’t happen
by accident. They are the result of choosing
the right spouse, carefully establishing a solid partnership in
first two years of marriage, and couples seeing each other as a
team, not as competitors.
Solid families engage in open communication
in all aspects of life, from mundane issues like establishing a budget
to big ones like how to pass the beauty of Islam on
to their children.
Successful families also require a tremendous amount of patience. In
practical terms, this means trying our utmost to work out conflicts
through mechanisms like consultation,
before deciding to divorce.
Committing to build a successful family
also means rooting out all kinds of abuse ranging from domestic
violence to sexual
Giving our families the proper time,
care and attention will yield far greater results for Islam on this
continent than anything else we do. If our children and grandchildren
see Islam as an exotic cultural import to be displayed twice a year
on Eid days, the mosques and schools we are racing to build today will
be empty tomorrow.
One Muslim sister who married almost
a decade ago sought advice from family and friends about the secret
to a successful marriage. She noted that all of those she spoke to who
had successful marriages identified one common denominator: good communication.
Not looks, money, fame or even chemistry.
But what is good communication? We
may have grown up witnessing our parents and other couples talking to
each other, but were they really communicating effectively? Good communication
that builds strong families occurs when family members consult
each other to run their affairs. But listening
is just as critical to consultation, if not more so.
Solid Muslim families are also built
on a commitment to Allah that is nurtured by a connection to the Quran.
In this regard, establishing a weekly
family study circle in which everyone read, reflect and discuss
themes of the Quran together is an invaluable tool in strengthening
everyone’s commitment to God and to the family unit as a whole.
We need to evaluate
our family lives and plan this month. Hold a couple of meetings with
the family. Do it today, even if you have never done it before. Discuss
what new skills to develop individually as well as a family. Talk about
where you'd like to go on vacation; discuss how to spend your money
this year and which causes to donate to. You can develop your own outline
or use the one we've provided as a template to start with.
Whatever you choose to do, take the
step today. Every day we lose to become stronger as Muslims and as families
will be one that we will sorely regret tomorrow. Will our future generations
look back in time and merely say, "I remember my grandparents used
to talk about something called Islam"or will they develop into
stronger Muslims than we are today? The answer lies in the steps we
take now to revive our families.