If we minutely observe our universe, it becomes evident that the Almighty has created everything in pairs. Both members of a pair complement one another and there exists a tremendous amount of affinity between the two. The poise and balance necessary to create harmony and concordance in this relationship are very delicate, and a slight divergence can damage it beyond restoration. One of the members plays an active and dominant role and the other a passive and acquiescent one. In case, a piece of paper does not submit to the initiative taken by the pen, no writing can come into existence. If the pen smoothly slides across the sheet of paper, it can create a masterpiece, and if it harshly scrapes on it, it will only tear it apart.
Man and woman, perhaps, are one of the perfect examples of such ‘paired-creation’. When they interact with one another, it is in their own well being that harmony and concordance result. But then what should be the nature of this interaction? Islam has always insisted that marriage is the only legitimate form of this interaction so that the institution of family becomes the basic unit of a society.
The reason for this is that man is basically a weak and an insecure being. He has spiritual as well as material needs. Just as he needs to develop a strong relationship with the Almighty to fulfill his spiritual needs, he also needs to develop a strong relationship with his fellow human beings to fulfill his material needs. Thus a man and a woman must come together in a permanent bond of wedlock to create a family to fulfill these material needs which may be physical, emotional and psychological. A man and a woman, taken separately, are incomplete in their existence. Both need each other to fill the voids of their personalities. There are some responsibilities which only a man can fulfill and others which only a woman can. Furthermore, since these requirements are everlasting, any temporary relationship between a man and a woman can never be truly fruitful. The Qur’a#n thus says that marriage is a means of solace and comfort for both of them:
And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them and He has planted love and kindness between you. (30:21)
Besides providing peace and tranquility to the spouses, the role a family set-up plays in fulfilling the needs of the individual born to a family is apparent to every keen eye.
Further, in order to safeguard the institution of family, Islam has given a number of directives for the protection and preservation of the family. Some of these directives are referred to below.
It says that a man and a woman must come together in a permanent bond of marriage and must not indulge in extra-marital relationships since they dismember the institution of family. It prescribes severe punishments for people who are guilty of adultery and ostracizes them from the society.
It lays down a whole code of social etiquette and communal conduct to safeguard and protect chastity and modesty which themselves are necessary for the well-being of a family set-up.
It regards the husband as head of the family because his temperament and disposition are more suited for this task.
It is of the view that all differences of opinion between the husband and wife should generally be resolved in an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence. However, if a situation of anarchy and disorder arises which threatens to disrupt the whole family set-up, the wife must adopt an attitude of submission and adjustment.
It invests the husband with certain powers to deal with a wife who adopts a rebellious attitude and stands up against his authority, just as an affectionate mother has the authority to admonish her children to correct them.
It holds the parents responsible for the proper upbringing of their children.
It urges the children to be very kind and compassionate to their parents, especially in old age.
It says that if ever a divorce is to end a family set-up, a certain prescribed procedure should be followed in letter and spirit since this procedure ensures that the dissolution of marriage passes through an interim phase in which the decision has ample time to be reconsidered.
It maintains that if a divorced woman intends to start a new family, her former husband or his relatives must in no way obstruct her.