Family Values, the Family Institution, and the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century

by Osman Bakar

Source: Islam and Civilisational Renewal, vol. 3, no. 1 (October 2011), pp. 12-36.

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Abstract: The main aim of this article is to discuss the concept of family and its values and its place and role as a multi-dimensional institution from the Islamic perspective. The author seeks to show that the Islamic family institution as envisaged by the Quran and as practised by Muslims throughout the history of Islam is at once a religious, an educational, and a socio-economic institution. The family is first of all a religious institution since it is based on the principle of sacred marriage and it exists to serve as an instrument to help man realise the twin goals of his existence in accordance with God’s cosmic plan. The twin goals in question are of servitude (ubudiyyah) and vicegerency (khilafah) and equivalently of man’s perfect relationship with God (hablun min Allah) and man’s perfect relationship with fellow men (hablun min al-nas). The author then discusses the role of the family as an educational institution in the sense of it being the first school for its children dependants where basic religious and ‘secular’ knowledge are both provided. Next to be discussed is the family’s role as a socio-economic institution with particular emphasis on household governance and economic health. This article emphasises the view that societal health, particularly its economic dimension, presupposes family health. A crisis in the family institution can have grave consequences on the well-being of society as a whole. Finally, the author discusses the challenges faced by the family institution in the twenty-first century and presents several recommendations on what needs to be done in response to these challenges.

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