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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books The Family Translator's Foreword

Translator's Foreword

The Family

by :

by Imam Muhammad Shirazi

Translator's Foreword

Family life and related issues such as marriage, divorce, parenthood, underage pregnancy and abortion are areas of great discussion and dispute in the western' world today. The facts emanating from various societies in the developed' world show that the current state of affairs is unsustainable and illogical and will inevitably result in the decline and self-destruction of these societies. A prime and oft-quoted [1] example of this is Italy where, being a Catholic country, one would expect the birth rate to be high. However with a reproduction rate of only 1.3 children per couple it is clear that the population is not being sustained or replaced and is dwindling. It requires a live reproduction rate of at least 2.0 children per couple to maintain population levels each generation. This story is repeated throughout the European Union where the Republic of Ireland despite also experiencing a sharp drop in the fertility' rate is the only country where rates are at generation replacement level'. [2] At these rates, Italy's abortion statistics at around 150,000 per year [3] seem an unaffordable luxury as they do in the other countries of the EU. The use of the term fertility rate' according to these statistics also appears to be a little disingenuous, as it does not take into account the number of terminations each year. The number of live births per woman is not a valid reflection of true fertility, because a conception subsequently terminated can also be regarded as a statistic of fertility.

The killing of children is deemed wrong in the Qur'an and hence in Islam :

And kill not your children for fear of want, We will sustain them and you. Indeed, the killing of your children is a great sin.' [4]

In many places in the Qur'an also, evidence is brought that previous nations and generations were brought down by their sinning :

Do they not travel through the earth and see what was the End of those before them? They were even superior to them in strength and in the traces (they have left) in the land: but Allah did call them to account for their sins, and none had they to defend them against Allah. [5]

Hence we can see that the concept of sin is not just an abstraction with no relevance or effect in the real world but it is a way to the downfall of human society.

One man who has witnessed such a downfall in his own beloved society is Ayatollah Muhammad Al-Shirazi, a prolific Iraqi religious scholar and authority now living in Iran. In his book Our Life of Half a Century Ago written in Arabic and yet to be translated, he describes the ease, simplicity and purity of Islamic life in Iraq particularly the cities of Najaf and Karbala 50 years ago. He then tells of a gradual decline and erosion of basic Islamic tenets on a societal level and the adoption of eastern and western secularisation. This experience has lead to the main theme which runs through virtually all of Ayatollah Al-Shirazi's books namely a call for the gradual reinstitution of Islamic tenets, laws, principles, and commandments in all areas of life legal, economic, political, social, and spiritual.

The Family in Islam is one such book of Ayatollah Al-Shirazi's. In it he highlights the problems he sees primarily in Islamic societies today from the phenomenon of unmarried young men and women through to birth control and contraception. He calls for a return to the simplicity he experienced in his youth and draws our attention to the Islamic teachings and laws in this vital area of life. As well as being a call to the Muslim world to revert to the true teachings of the Qur'an and the Prophet and Imams, this book can also be of use as an introduction to others who seek some answers to the social problems of today. Islam has detailed teachings which promise success in every area of human life on individual and societal levels and what's more their practicality has been historically proven despite being under constant attack from the outset until the present day. It was not so long ago that Islam was berated for allowing divorce, which is religiously permitted and spoken about in great detail in the Qur'an, yet now it has been adopted by the very societies that formerly forbade it. However picking and choosing Islamic teachings to suit fashion or whims is not the key to success. Rather the key to success is to implement the Islamic ideology in all areas of life by following God's guidance for mankind.

They follow guidance from their Lord and they are the ones who will prosper.' [6]

Author's Introduction

The family in Islam' is the name of this short book, which I have written as a basic guide to an important aspect of life, which the laws of the West in Islamic countries have worked at destroying and continue to do so. I have witnessed from beginning to end a half-century of family matters and what I see latterly bears little or no resemblance to what I saw formerly. With the adoption by Muslims of Western laws, both their religion and their worldly life have disappeared, as Allah says in His book the Qur'an: They lose both this world and the next: That is indeed the manifest loss.' 1

Many Muslims, and not least their governments, have welcomed the West and lapped up its laws thinking that this was a path to liberation from the tyranny of the Ottoman and Qajar empires whose flawed Islam and complete isolation after the fall of their governments towards the West have been witnessed. They bring to mind the words of the poet :

He who seeks refuge in Amr on being tortured is like one seeking refuge in fire from the burning sun'.

Or the words of another :

I complained about Amr and when I left him and found other neighbours I wept for Amr'. There is no doubt that the Ottoman and Qajar empires acted out with the range of Islam and for this reason, the countries of Islam fell under the control of the West and the East. But there is also no doubt that the parable for Muslims in this respect became the example of the Ummayads and the Abbasids, as the poet also says :

Ah would that the tyranny of the sons of Marwan 2 return to us,

And would that the justice of the sons of Abbas 3 never was'.

Muslims had thus become an embodiment of one who has forgotten both the paths'. For they were, under the Ummayads and the Abbasids, diminished in matters of religion and of earthly life, but under the auspices of the West and the East, they were, except in a very few circumstances, completely bereft of both spheres. Allah alone knows how much we can bear of oppression and repression and deviation from His laws until the correct Islamic situation returns to us. However, we should realise that this return is not possible without awareness. By awareness we mean awareness of the laws of Islam, from the notion of a single community without geographical borders', through to fraternity whereby every Muslim in any province of Islam is treated in all his affairs as if he is from that province, and freedom, whereby every thing is free except that which is prescribed as illegal, through to all the other vital Islamic laws so profusive in number.

Each law in Islam is a vital entity promoting life, as the Qur'anic verse says: 'Respond to Allah and His messenger when He calls you to that which will enliven you'. 4

This awareness, however, will only occur when Muslims have come together in organisations and political parties and groups whereby they will be in a state of utmost realism and direction, integrity and moral rectitude. Thus Allah may surround Muslims with His kindness and salvage them from this abyss the like of which they have not fallen into from the first light of Islam until this century. This is because Allah only conducts affairs by providing the ways and means to them. As He says in His book in the story of Dhu Al-Qarnain 5', repeatedly: Then he followed a way' 6, or as happened to the people of Israel when they went against His commands, He made them wander in the wilderness for forty years.

This matter requires continuous effort and enduring patience. Do we not perceive the Khums tax in accordance with its importance, it being mentioned in the Qur'an once 7, while the word perseverance' and its derivatives are mentioned seventy times. In the hadith or tradition of the prophet it is said: As a part of faith, patience has the station of the head in relation to the body. Just as there is no good in a body without a head, there is no good in a faith that is not accompanied by patience'.

If then we work towards this and call upon Allah night and day, then it is hoped that the greatness of Muslims will be returned to them along with their independence and autonomy. Allah alone grants success and is the sole refuge.

The holy city of Qum
Muhammad Shirazi
8th Jamada II 1415 Hijra. (1995)

Section One

The Law of Matrimony
In Creation, In Civilisations and In Religions

God 8 has said in his masterful book: 'And of everything we have created pairs so that you might take notice'. 9 The law of pairs is so deeply intrinsic to created objects that one does not find any atom or galaxy or anything smaller or larger than these that is not subject to this law. If one looks to creation in all its vastness and what it holds, from stars and planets, air and water, trees and rocks, to animals and humans, one cannot but concede as to the integrated perfection of this system in so far as each one complements and perfects the other. Each proceeds according a precise and balanced system which is only violated and traversed by humankind who were given by God the responsibility of administering themselves after having been sent messengers and having had the limits of behaviour laid out and the laws made clear. Mankind then took up this responsibility but did not carry it out, as it should be - excepting God's faithful servants - at times falling into oppressiveness, at other times into ignorance. In the Qur'an Allah states: 'We did indeed offer trusteeship to the heavens and the earth and the mountains but they refused to take it being afraid thereof. But man undertook it, though he is unjust and ignorant'. 10

If one leafs through the pages of human history, over and above the instructions of religion, one realises that the family system, procreation, the avoidance of inbreeding, the avoidance of marital infidelity, instability and abuse are matters of human nature and psyche ('The fitra (intrinsic nature) of Allah upon which He has created the people.' 11). Even amongst primitives and pagans and those who did not observe any law, from time to time their inherent nature would shudder and would manifest itself in some form of law or in the form of customs and traditions. It is no delusion that we turn to custom and tradition to prove this, nor indeed to divine law which corresponds to inherent human nature, for all that the divine law rules necessary so does the intellect, and vice versa. The concordance and mutual agreement of humanity over a certain matter, despite their diverse nations, civilisations and religions, points to the deep-rootedness of that matter in the human psyche. In this section, we will review in brief the findings of naturalists and anthropologists as well as the religious view in this field.

The Law of Matrimony in Creation

This vast creation from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy comprises of tribes and peoples based upon the system of pairs. Every element is formed from atoms, and every atom is composed of negative electron and positive proton. The occurrence of any imbalance in the ratios and equilibrium of these charges will result in the instability of the atom, and the atom will then try to return to a stable state by discharging a formidable energy known as atomic energy. Likewise in creation there are two complementing forces - magnetism and electricity - neither of which can exist without the other. Then magnetism is composed of two polarities - north and south - and electricity of two charges - positive and negative - according to scientists.

In the Vegetable World

Allah has said in the Qur'an: 'All praise to He who has created all the pairs, of which grow in the earth, and of yourselves, and of that which you have no knowledge.' 12 Every plant contains a masculine and feminine member, which upon their maturity pollination occurs and then fruition. Granted there are types of plants and trees which do not need this depth and complexity but they are like humans who have two independent members, which co-operate mutually in order to produce fruition, as is the case with the palm tree and papaya tree and others.

In the Animal World

Animals whether quadrupeds, bipeds or reptiles, amphibians, fish or birds, are subject to the law of pairs. He (Allah) has said: 'Originator of the heavens and the earth has made out of yourselves pairs and of the beasts pairs ... ' 13 So they strive, because of the forces placed within them, to procreate and multiply and to preserve their species. Mothers extend affection to their offspring after birth or hatching and prepare the appropriate environment for their growth and development and defend them with their lives against the dangers which surround them.

The Law of Pairs in Human Civilisations

There is no doubt that there are differences between humans and other creatures. Humans have a certain freedom of choice and will whereas animals are driven and determined. There is also no doubt that there is a difference among peoples with regards to systems and laws to an extent which at times is contradictory and incompatible. However it is not right that we take this difference as being the most fitting expression of the matrimonial system. Indeed, this synopsis does not hold true for all areas of the nature of the family, so we will concern ourselves to the areas upon which peoples have been in agreement from the earliest times as civilisations and peoples. This will no doubt fulfil our purpose. Particularly regarding marriage and childbearing, libertinism, and the system of rights. In the following pages, we will deal with matrimonial laws from the earliest times until the present day.

1. The Civilisation of the Valley of the
Euphrates and the Tigris (Mesopotamia)

Matrimony was deemed to be greatly important in the Sumerian civilisation where they promoted marriage and repudiated celibacy. Marital infidelity was regarded by them as a crime punishable in detailed laws by death. The two adulterers if there were witnesses to the crime would be bound and thrown into water to drown, and if there were no witnesses then the woman could exonerate herself by an oath.

Amongst the Assyrians, the matter was much the same where marital fidelity was compulsory and infidelity was punishable either by death to both parties by drowning, or by them being whipped, or by their hair being torn out, or by the amputation of the ears.

The Assyrians also called for a high birth rate in moral laws in which they considered abortion a serious crime punishable by execution. They considered a beating, which led to abortion as a crime punishable by fifty lashes, forced labour and in some cases execution. The Babylonians specified more than sixty rules regarding the preservation of the family and stressed the seriousness of adultery and the implementation of punishment by drowning for the perpetrator. 14

2. Ancient Egyptian Civilisation

Ancient Egyptian texts afforded marriage a high importance. Adultery was forbidden and its perpetrator was threatened with the most violent punishments, according to historians. The unfaithful husband would be subjected to flogging and the unfaithful wife would be subjected to the amputation of the nose. Adultery was one of the pretexts for divorce among them without distinction between the man and the woman.

In the civilisation of Osiris, dead persons used to bear with them to their graves a document testifying to their probity and fidelity in order to obtain mercy in the afterlife.

3. European Civilisations

In Sparta, celibacy was a crime in which the bachelor forfeited the right to vote and to watch public spectacles and so on.

In Rome, celibacy was forbidden and considered a state in contravention of their religion punishable by beating or flogging with regard to the age of the individual 15, and by increasing taxes and forbidding them from inheritance unless they married within 100 days of the death of the legator. 16

They regarded adultery as a grave offence punishable by death or by banishment from the country for life.

The punishment for one who caused the abortion of a pregnant woman was banishment or the confiscation of his property.

They laid down the so called Julian 17 law specifically for marriage aimed at making marriage common and calling for a high birth rate and a reduction in taxes in relation to the number of offspring up to the number of three children, when taxes would be lifted completely just as bonds would be lifted from any woman who had given birth to three children.

Constantine made adultery punishable by death, and any such dishonour during the age of Augustinian was punishable by execution or confiscation of possessions.

4. The Civilisation of the American Continent

In the Aztec civilisation, in Central America adultery was a sin whose punishment was death by strangulation and then stoning without distinction between man and woman.

In the civilisation of the Incas in the Andes, marriage was compulsory and celibacy was forbidden and there used to be an observer from the Incas who would roam the villages and the countryside to make sure that celibates would marry.

5. The Civilisation of Ancient Japan

In Ancient Japan, women were known for marital fidelity or faced death. If a husband came upon his wife in flagrante delicto, it was his right to kill her and her lover on the spot. Certain of their leaders have added that if a husband has killed his wife in these circumstances and let the other man go free then he himself deserves the punishment of death.

Even the sect of the Samurai who insisted upon remaining without marrying until the age of thirty made it incumbent upon themselves to marry and produce at least two children. Chastity was a great virtue among the Japanese so that some women would even kill themselves when their virtue was exposed to danger.

6. Among Pre-Islamic Arabs

The Arabs concerned themselves with lineage and descent, and this interest drove them to such depths and precision in the organisation of the family and the tribes and peoples that it became to them an art and a science. 18

They used to encourage early marriage beginning with age sixteen for men and twelve or less for girls so if a girl reached eighteen or twenty without marriage, she would be viewed with concern.

The veil was widespread in the various Arab lands in many forms just as the custom of circumcision was widespread even for girls.

They used to forbid marriage to close relatives and fornication was regarded as a sin, which if they were able to punish it, did so with severe punishments. 19 In certain circumstances, the adulteress would be separated and isolated in the house and would remain in this way un-married until death.
[1] Mentioned by the same biologist on BBC Television's Heart of the Matter, Sunday 28/11/1999, 11.25 p.m. and on Night Waves, BBC Radio 3, 26/11/1999, 9.30 p.m.

[2] See Europe in Figures, Chapter 18 Fertility.

[3] See United Nations Demographic Yearbook 1999, Chapter 9.

[4] The Holy Qur'an: The Tribe of Israel (17): 31.

[5] The Holy Qur'an: The Forgiver (40): 21.

[6] The Holy Qur'an: The Heifer (2): 5.

1 The Holy Qur'an: The Hajj Pilgrimage (22): 11.

2 The son's of Marwan refers to the Umayyad Caliphate in the early days of Islam. (Translator's note)

3 A reference to the 'Abbasid Caliphate. (Translator's note)

4 The Holy Qur'an: Public Estates (8): 24.

5 A major book on Qur'anic commentary mentions three possibilities for the identity of 'Dhul-Qarnain' : Alexander of Macedonia, One of the Yemenite Kings, Koroush one of the kings of Iran. The author of the book favours the third possibility because the description fits best Koroush. However the main thing is that he was a 'righteous servant of Allah.' (Tafsiri-Nimoune, vol 12, page 542, Nasir Makarim). (Translator's)

6 The Holy Qur'an: The Cave (18): 89.

7 The Holy Qur'an: Public Estates (8): 41 ('Know that whatever you acquire, a fifth of it is for Allah').

8 The word God is used here for translation purposes more or less interchangeably with the Arabic word Allah (The God, The Deity, The Unseen). However the Islamic conception of God as elucidated in the Qur'an differs from other conceptions in its strict adherence to the belief in monotheism - the oneness of God who has no partner in creation and no sire. He is The One, The Eternal, He does not beget, nor was He begotten and there is nothing like unto Him. (Translator's note)

9 The Holy Qur'an: The Winnowing Winds (51): 49.

10 The Holy Qur'an: The Coalitions (33): 72.

11 The Holy Qur'an: The Romans (30): 30.

12 The Holy Qur'an: (the letters) Y.S. (36): 36.

13 The Holy Qur'an: Consultation (42): 11.

14 See Laws of Hammurabi, Articles 130 - 158.

15 This was after the age of 25 for men and 20 for women during the reign of Augustus.

16 They were forfeit certain types of inheritance.

17 This was during the age of Augustus 30-14 BC.

18 Al-Hurani has collected lineages and organised them into levels according to the size of each level and he gives them thirteen classifications.

19 Like monetary fine or banishment or death by stoning, and this appears in the writings of certain of their historians like Akthum bin Saifi.