Save yourselves and your families from a Fire
By: Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Jalali
Allah (the All-Wise) says via the Qur’an inter alia, “O you who have faith! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire.”1 (66:6),
Here, “families” does not only mean your kin but also encompasses anyone connected to you. The interesting point of this verse is the order in which it addresses the believer. Allah (the All-Merciful) first mentions saving one’s self, and then He mentions saving others. This makes logical sense. How can one save someone else before he saves himself? For example, if I am drowning with others, I cannot save another person who is drowning unless I prevent myself from drowning first.
In regards to saving family (e.g., one’s children), there is a hadith (tradition) that says that one should play with his children until the age of seven, then for the next seven years, one should teach his children manners, and then for the next seven years, one should be a friend to his children. However, if one is to follow this paradigm, then one needs to be educated himself, which goes back to the concept that one should save himself (the first phase of salvation, while saving family and then saving society are the second and third phases, respectively).
In regards to saving one’s self, we must respect other human beings and ourselves, primarily, via manners. Allah (the All-Knowing) says via the Qur’an (2:256), inter alia, “There is no compulsion in religion.”
We should not force others to believe something, and we ourselves should not be forced. We should obtain and spread truth and knowledge through intellect and reasoning. This is the proper path; the path of manners and self-building. Furthermore, Allah (the All-Praiseworthy) says via the Qur’an (2:194), inter alia, “So should anyone aggress against you, assail him in the manner he assailed you, and be wary of Allah.”
Meaning, do not exceed the limits. Do not be overpowered by emotion and revenge. One needs to control one’s self. Additionally, Allah (the All-Beneficent) says via the Qur’an (24:27), inter alia, “O you who have faith! Do not enter houses other than your own until you have announced [your arrival] and greeted their occupants.”
Meaning, one should say salam (peace) to others. When someone says salam to another human being, one is conveying that he is at peace with the other. Through basic principles (such as manners, respect, control, and desire for peace) one can grow. Following such wisdom from the Qur’an, one is able to struggle with one’s self to better and, ultimately, save one’s self. The Qur’an further mentions: (7:32), inter alia: “Say, „Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants, and the good things of [His] provision?’” (25:67),
inter alia: “Those who, when spending, are neither wasteful nor tightfisted.” (2:172),
inter alia: “O you who have faith! Eat of the good things We have provided you, and thank Allah.” (2:168),
inter alia: “O mankind! Eat of what is lawful and pure in the earth.” (16:114),
inter alia: “So eat out of what Allah has provided you as lawful and good.” (2:286),
inter alia: “Allah does not task any soul beyond its capacity.” (22:78),
inter alia: “He has chosen you and has not placed for you any obstacle in the religion.” (2:185),
inter alia: “Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you.”
Looking at these verses and synthesizing them, one can see that Allah (the All-Wise) wants us as individuals to perform acts to purify and better ourselves. For example, adorning Allah (the All-Praiseworthy) through salat (Islamic ritual prayer) and sawn (fasting), spending money wisely and with a good heart, and eating lawful and good foods.
By knowing what to do and then doing it, one is able to better himself. Furthermore, Allah (the All-Knowing) knows that we have limitations and that we are human, and so He does not want to burden us. He allows us to perform acts based on our capacity. However, He wants us to know what to do (at our different capacities) and apply it so that we can be just to our own souls and save ourselves. 8
The levels of responsibility of a person include one’s self, then the family, and then the society. Focusing on the family, one must realize that each family is a part of and/or forms the society. As individuals, we live in society based on our respective families. Even families within the animal kingdom make up the society of living beings.
Humans are animals from a scientific point of view, but there is something that differentiates human families from animal families. That something is law. Some animals may have natural tendencies or natural rules of behavior, but the laws imposed on man and his family go well beyond the natural rules of the animal kingdom.
The laws regulating family, like any other law, stem from experience. For example, looking at the history of humans, usually laws are written to prevent an act or to keep order. People do not just wake up one morning and start writing laws randomly. There has to be a reason for a law, and that reason usually is based on experiences people go through. For example, if a certain group starts practicing an act, and other people are harmed by the act or the act causes disruption, then those responsible for writing laws may create a law to prevent or regulate that act. Even religious law is based on experience. Allah (all praise be to Him) in His unlimited wisdom knows (beyond our comprehension) how human beings will interact, and He is able to setup laws for us that take into consideration what we call experience.
For example, usually, mature individuals get married. These individuals, because of their maturity, understand the concept of responsibility, which is key to marriage. Therefore, the rules and laws of marriage are grounded on concepts, such as responsibility, that a human learns through experience. In Islam, marriage is a contract (between two people – a man and a woman), unlike a sacrament as Christians view it.
However, the marriage contract incorporates laws of justice, responsibility, respect, raising children, etc. Again, a human really appreciates the value of these laws based on experience. Because marriage is a contract, the two parties can stipulate conditions. Also, there may exist tacit or implied agreements based on culture or other conditions. When people marry, a family is born, and as mentioned above, different families make up the society. This family (marriage) needs laws to regulate it so that it does not deteriorate. A deterioration in family is a deterioration in society.
There are two concepts one should comprehend when thinking about marriage and the laws of marriage
Well, there are two concepts one should comprehend when thinking about marriage and the laws of marriage. These concepts are 1) today and 2) the hereafter. One must understand the needs of this worldly life as well as the needs for the hereafter. One cannot just focus on one and ignore the other.
For example, when a man is looking to get married, he should choose a wife with wisdom. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) said that when you want to get married, do not look for beauty or wealth alone, first look at religion. (Jalali, page 423). Why? The quality of the wife (as well as the man), meaning her religious foundation, will keep the marriage strong because there is an understanding of the hereafter. If one’s spouse only cares about this world, it is easy to go astray, but if one worries about the hereafter, then one may struggle to stay on the right path.
Also, the religious foundation of a wife will pass onto and educate the children. The real teacher of the family is the mother. A poet once wrote that a mother is the first teacher who teaches all teachers. (Jalali, page 422). Generally, the mother will spend the most time with the children, and that is why it is crucial that the mother has a strong religious foundation. Allah (the Most High) says via the Qur’an (2:221), inter alia, “Do not marry idolatresses until they embrace faith.”
The mother is the real heart of the family, and the family is a cornerstone of society. That is why Islam considers the role of the wife/mother to be very important and honorable, and the role of the wife/mother is to be respected. Therefore, marrying a woman with a strong religious foundation is a great start. But it is only a start. One must maintain true Islamic teachings and rulings during the marriage. Allah (the Most Wise) says via the Qur’an (30:21), “And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect.”
Accordingly, the husband and wife should respect each other and deal with each other with kindness, not anger. If the man does not respect the wife, then it is natural that the wife may not respect the man. Respect, love, and adherence to Islamic teachings will allow a marriage to flourish.
Women are considered extremely important and valuable in Islam
Women are considered extremely important and valuable in Islam. Actually, women were rescued and given their rights by Islam. In the time of ignorance, women were treated like property, and they did not have a voice. Islam gave women a voice and much more. In Islam, women are equal to men in value. For example, Islam does not allow one to force a woman into marriage. She must consent on her own free will. Other rights were granted as well.
For example, women were able to own property, and they also were given rights to baiyyah (pledging allegiance). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) would visit women or women would visit him, and they were given the right to pay allegiance to him. Allah (the Most High) says via the Qur’an (60:12): O Prophet! If faithful women come to you, to take the oath of allegiance to you, [pledging] that they shall not ascribe any partners to Allah, that they shall not steal, nor commit adultery, nor kill their children, nor utter any slander that they may have intentionally fabricated, nor disobey you in what is right, then accept their allegiance, and plead for them to Allah for forgiveness. Indeed Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful.
Women in the U.S. were not even given the right to vote until the early twentieth century. However, some people argue that Islam oppresses women. Firstly, to truly understand the Islamic philosophy towards women and what Islam did for women, one must compare the freedoms Islam brought with other societies at the time of the advent of Islam.
If you compare how Islam viewed women to how the Roman society or the Persian society viewed women at the time, one would be amazed at the beauty of Islam and understand that Islam came to abolish oppression of women.
Secondly, some of the “freedoms” touted by certain groups nowadays regarding women are against the nature of women. In my opinion, the way current societies treat and view women is actually stepping away from freedom. For example, societies are treating women more and more as property or pieces of meat. Women are judged based on their beauty and how they dress rather than what they think and believe. Islam is above such superficial concentration.
Women are not property or pieces of meat, they are equal partners to men. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) demonstrated how one should honor and view women. Once a king gave a woman, Mariah, to the Prophet as a gift, a piece of property. The Prophet accepted Mariah but not as a piece of property, but as a human being. He married her, and that act of marriage symbolized the elevation of women that Islam brought. Allah (the Most High) says via the Qur’an (4:1): O mankind! Be wary of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and created its mate from it, and, from the two of them, scattered numerous men and women. Be wary of Allah, in whose Name you adjure one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is watchful over you.
Surely, women are created as men are created, and women, generally, are equal to men in application (e.g., both men and women are obliged to pray). However, some look at Islamic practices and declare that Islam is not fair to women. Yet, these critics do not consider the totality of the circumstances. For example, the inheritance rulings of Islam give double portions of wealth to a son compared to a daughter. From a superficial look, one can say that Islam favors men because they get two parts and women only get one part.
Islam takes into consideration the concept of compensation
However, Islam is a just religion, and it takes into consideration the concept of compensation. In Islam, a man is financially responsible for his wife and family. He is obliged to provide for the family while women are not obliged. Accordingly, from a fixed amount of inheritance, a woman takes less and a man takes more because he is legally obligated to provide for his family. When one looks beyond the surface, the beauty of Islam is truly exposed. There are some issues that are considered controversial, such as hijab (a state of modesty, entailing rules for both sexes, that includes more clothing or covering requirements for women than men in certain circumstances).
However, if one believes in Islam, the philosophy of hijab, and its practical benefits, then there is no controversy. There will always be critics. Yes, Islam places restrictions on women (as well as men). However, these restrictions are placed for natural, practical, and spiritual reasons, not because Islam views women as evil or bad. Islam has never and will never have a negative attitude towards women. Women are to be respected with great care as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) respected women.
In light of the discussion on women, this lesson focuses on verse thirty-four of chapter four (surat al-Nisa) of the Qur’an. Before delving into the verse, one must understand that Islam does not sponsor the mistreatment of women. Individuals may mistreat women based on their misconceptions or culture, but just because a person, who claims to be a Muslim, does something wrong does not mean Islam is wrong (e.g., Adolf Hitler claimed to be a Christian, but is it fair to blame Christianity for his actions?).
Now, there are some who pick and choose certain verses from the Qur’an to condemn Islam. However, if one really wants to seek truth, then one must analyze a subject honestly and consider the totality of the circumstances.
For example, when reading an article or a story, one cannot truly appreciate the story or information conveyed without understanding the background or historical context. It does not make sense to read and try to understand information in a vacuum. Misinterpretation and misguidance occurs without considering context (e.g., the claims of the terrorists are based on misguidance due to the lack of understanding of context). The importance of understanding the background applies to everything, including the Qur’an.
Yes, the Qur’an is a divine book that will remain alongside the progeny of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all) until the Day of Resurrection, but the Qur’an was revealed in an Arabic language within a certain context and people. So when considering legislation in the Qur’an, as in any legislation, one must understand the background of that legislation (because that background may enlighten a person about a goal behind that specific legislation).
Looking at the background of the Qur’an, one sees that the Qur’an was revealed within an age of ignorance. Women really had no moral restrictions in their actions. Generally, they slept with multiple men even though they were married. Women would have children, but because the women had so many sexual partners, the father of the children would not be known. The physical features of the children would be compared to the women’s partners to try to figure out the identity of the father. Islam came to abolish this depravity. The injunctions of Islam applied moral restrictions to women (e.g., they can only have sexual relations with their husbands). In this context, one must analyze the Qur’an (4:34), which states: Men are the managers of women, because of the advantage Allah has granted some of them over others, and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth. So righteous women are obedient, care-taking in the absence [of their husbands] of what Allah has enjoined [them] to guard. As for those [wives] whose misconduct you fear, [first] advise them, and [if ineffective] keep away from them in the bed, and [as the last resort] beat them. Then if they obey you, do not seek any course [of action] against them. Indeed Allah is all-exalted, all-great.
Focusing on the latter part of the verse, one sees that Allah (the Most High) tells men how to deal with their wives in regards to violation of the law. Again, in regards to context, this verse concerns women that are married (who do not want to get a divorce) and do not obey the law. So what can the husband do?
Looking at the verse, there are three stages. The first stage is to advise or admonish the deviant wife. If that does not work, the second stage is to avoid the wife in sexual relations (e.g., if the husband is unhappy with his wife for having deviant relations, then he cannot also want to have sexual relations with her if she does not listen. That is sending mixed messages to the wife.). If nothing else works, the last stage is to beat the wife. These stages must be followed in order. One cannot skip stages. The “beating” is physically hitting the wife for correction purposes.
However, as mentioned above, one must understand this “beating” based on the background or historical context. Over 1,400 years ago, if one’s wife did not want to get a divorce and she was having sexual relations with other men, what do you do? That husband, over 1,400 years ago, can admonish her and can also disassociate himself from her (in regards to sexual relations), but what if the wife still continues breaking the law?
At that time, the man would have to beat her to get her back on the straight path. The whole goal of the beating at that time was to punish for correction. The goal was not to beat, it was to correct. Islam does not want husbands to go around and beat their wives. If one studies the Islamic record in its totality, one will see that Islam endorses men to love women and treat them with respect and gentleness.
So, looking at the background, one sees that the beating was only a means, and the goal was to correct. Accordingly, the question is what should husbands do now? Yes, they should admonish, and they should disassociate from the sexual relations. What about the last stage? Yes, they should correct, but the correction should not be to physically beat the wife. Why?
Because nowadays, over 1,400 years later, the goal of correction will not be achieved by beating. Sociological factors, psychological factors, and other factors of today should be taken into consideration in regards to effectiveness. If one beats his wife, he may end up in jail and the wife and society will consider it torture.
Today, there are systems and different means in play that one can use. The key is to achieve the goal of correction, not focus on the means used over 1,400 years ago. One may argue that such a suggestion is an insult to Islam or is going against the Qur’an.
On the contrary, such thinking does not go against the Qur’an. The wisdom of the three stages is intact and is being followed. Only the means of old (beating) is being replaced with means that fit the present to achieve the same goal, correction. For example, Allah (the Most Wise) says via the Qur’an (22:27), “And proclaim the hajj to people: they shall come to you on foot and on lean camels coming from distant places.”
Just because people used camels to go to pilgrimage over 1,400 years ago, is it wrong to use cars or planes to go to pilgrimage now? The camel was just a means for the goal of pilgrimage. If I try to go to pilgrimage on a camel today, I may never get there or may be put in jail for animal abuse. Islam is not a rigid religion. It is a religion of wisdom, and if one means does not work anymore to achieve a goal, then another means may be used to achieve the goal. Remember, the “beating” was only a means, not the goal.