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Haydar Husayn

For Those That Think Joint Families Are Islamic

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2. Extended & Nuclear Family Systems

Human family systems are normally divided into two types: Extended (or Joint) Family System and Nuclear (or Separate) Family System.

Extended Family System

In this system, all members of a clan: father, son, brother, sister, uncle, nephew, and others live together. The income of the individual is not treated as his personal property, rather it belongs to the family and the expenses of all members are met by that ‘family or collective income’. This system intends to promote togetherness, mutual trust and co-operation among the family members. However, this system also breeds the attitude of laziness and dependency among some family members, and, as a result, it also kills the initiative to work harder among some others. (The Hindu society is based on the extended family system.)

Nuclear Family System:

In this system, everybody is responsible for his own immediate dependants only. His income belongs to him and not to the ‘family’. This system lacks the disadvantages of the Extended Family System but it also breeds self-centeredness and selfishness.

3. The Islamic View

What does Islam prefer? The family system advanced by Islam has combined the advantages of both systems mentioned above and has avoided their disadvantages.

On the one hand, Islam endorses the set-up of the nuclear (or separate) family system since it has clearly defined the people for whom you must provide. On the other hand, it has strongly emphasized on the issue of silatu 'r-rahm (keeping the bond of relationship intact) thus promoting the virtue of helping the relatives.

In Islam, a family can take the following two shapes:

· a couple and their children.

or

· a couple, their parents and their children.

This definition is based on the law which defines the persons whose maintenance is your obligation: your wife, your parents, and your children. These people are your dependents, it is obligatory upon you to provide for them. Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said:

“The ways of spending one's wealth are twenty-four in all...Thus, the five ways in which spending wealth is obligatory (wajib) are the expenses of the maintenance of one's children, father, mother, wife and slave. These expenses are obligatory upon him whether he is financially in constrain or affluent.”

As for your cousins, uncles and aunts, they are your “relatives” but not your “dependents”. That is, it is not obligatory upon you to provide for your relatives. However, in Islam, it is importance to have good relations with your relatives, and to love, respect and help them. Imam as-Sadiq further says: “And the five strongly recommended expenses are: dedication of perpetual gift, doing good to one's relatives, doing good to other believers, recommended charity and emancipation of slaves.”

Both aspects of this Islamic view are clear from verse 24:61.

There is no blame upon...you if you eat (without permission) in your own houses, the houses of your fathers, the houses of your mothers, the houses of your brothers, the houses of your sisters, the houses of your paternal uncles, the houses of your paternal aunts, the houses of your maternal uncles, the houses of your maternal aunts, the house which is in your trust, and the house of your friend.

The verse, on the one hand, clearly mentions separate houses for fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles and other relatives thus implying that one should not put the burden of his dependants even on one's parents or other family-members forever; one must be self-reliant and self-supporting.

On the other hand, to promote unity, love, friendship, and also to be aware of each other's situation, the verse allows you to go and eat at the houses of your extended family members without prior permission.

4. Examples in History

We also find many examples in the lives of the Holy Prophet and his Ahlu 'l-bayt which prove that they had lived separately from their extended family-members.

There was a famine in Mecca in 35 `Āmul Fil (i.e., 35 years after the birth of the Prophet). Abu Talib, the Prophet's uncle, had many children and his means of livelihood were limited at that time. The Holy Prophet, who himself had been raised by Abu Talib, felt that his uncle was facing financial difficulties. He, therefore, suggested to his other uncle `Abbas (who was wealthy at that time) to help Abu Talib. `Abbas went with the Prophet to Abu Talib. After some discussion, they decided to share the expenses of Abu Talib's sons: ‘Ali should live with the Prophet, Ja`far with `Abbas, and `Aqil was to remain with Abu Talib.

This shows that the house of the Prophet was separate from that of Abu Talib. This was so, in spite of the close relationship between Abu Talib and Prophet Muhammad. This event also gives an example of silatu 'r-rahm.

During the last Ramadhan of his life, Imam ‘Ali used to break his fast one day at the house of Imam Hasan, next day at the house of Imam Husayn, and the third day at the house of his son-in-law, `Abdullah bin Ja`far. This shows two things: our Imams had separate houses with their own family but, at the same time, they fulfilled the duty of silatu 'r-rahm.

These two examples are sufficient to guide Muslims in their daily life. If any Muslim ventures to deviate from this straight path, he will no longer remain on the path of Islam. It is only by following this Islamic code that mankind can obtain peace of mind in this life and everlasting happiness in the life hereafter.

http://www.al-islam.org/islam_faith_practice_history/34.htm

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I don't think it shoul dbe an issue when it comes to living with your husband's parents. If there is no one else to care for them, or even if there is but they prefer your husband, I don't think a girl should be stuck up about that. But, I definitely don't agree with the sisters, brothers, brothers' wifes, their children, etc. that's just asking for problems, in most cases

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Implying that joint families are somehow unIslamic is just as foolish as implying they are Islamic. The Prophet lived in extremely humble conditions that don't exactly reflect the spacious housing or multiple bedrooms of joint families today. Unless you have a specific hadith which discourages joint families then you are simply speculating.

Everytime the Prophet (sawas) got married, he provided a new home for his wife. I'm sure he could have managed one for his daughter and cousin if he wanted to.

Anyway, I'm not trying to imply that joint families are unislamic in themselves, but the cultural expectation of living in joint families certainly is.

Living with your family after marriage could potentially subject women to unnecessarily abusive dynamics but it can also be healthy and pragmatic for

  • Students
  • Young men and women who are not yet financially stable but want to get married to avoid haram
  • People who do not wish to put their aging parents in a home
  • Families that genuinely enjoy being with each other

All the cases you mentioned, taken together, still form a small minority of all joint families.

Just because something is cultural doesn't mean it necessarily contradicts Islamic teaching. If it does become abusive then it must be addressed, but blanket generalizations on the matter are hardly appropriate.

The fact is a wife has the right to separate living accommodation. To force her to live with her in-laws is unislamic.

Culture doesn't always parallel what you have grown accustomed to seeing in Bollywood films or threads started by disgruntled housewives.

Bollywood films? Threads? What on earth are you talking about?

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Guest Zahratul_Islam

Bollywood films? Threads? What on earth are you talking about?

Oh I apologize for assuming you derived your generalized perception of joint families from places in which they are commonly referenced.

I guess I must have missed your research in the Academic Journal of Orientalist Stereotypes

Everytime the Prophet (sawas) got married, he provided a new home for his wife. I'm sure he could have managed one for his daughter and cousin if he wanted to.

Anyway, I'm not trying to imply that joint families are unislamic in themselves, but the cultural expectation of living in joint families certainly is.

Like I said, unless you can find a hadith which explicitly forbids it then you are merely speculating the rational and reason behind it, in which case you should be careful to avoid words like "unIslamic." Even referring to a cultural expectation as unIslamic is (at best) a stretch.

All the cases you mentioned, taken together, still form a small minority of all joint families.

Really? I would love to see what your sources are for that statement. The majority of people I have come across are living with their parents to save money, care for them in their time of need, or perhaps because they may genuinely enjoy it as it provides them with perks like free childcare while they pursue careers.

The fact is a wife has the right to separate living accommodation. To force her to live with her in-laws is unislamic.

If you agree to a marriage under those conditions it is not force. If you find them undesirable then you can make it known that it is not something you are open to and he can either adjust or move on to the next potential bride.

I wouldn't want a husband who didn't care for his parents in their old age. If he was hesitant I would push the issue myself.

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Oh I apologize for assuming you derived your generalized perception of joint families from places in which they are commonly referenced.

I guess I must have missed your research in the Academic Journal of Orientalist Stereotypes

It never crossed your mind that I might be speaking from personal experience?

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Guest Zahratul_Islam

It never crossed your mind that I might be speaking from personal experience?

Maybe, but upon getting married my own mother was also in a joint family where she was not very happy. We have all seen/heard of situations where the wife isn't very content and (alternatively) situations where the family dynamics are both healthy and happy. Calling it "Islamic" or "UnIslamic" based on these experiences is ill advised.

If you don't like it or feel like it would present undue burdens on your life or that of your spouse, refrain from doing it. Simples. :donno:

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Guest Zahratul_Islam

Also (correct me if I am wrong) I am pretty sure that the Prophet (swt) missed Fatima al Zahra (as) so much that he ended up moving her to a house that was either in very close proximity or somewhat connected (through a wall or doorway) to his own residence.

I cba to look up haddiths. Either way it wasn't the crux of my argument just something I remember reading once.

Edited by Zahratul_Islam

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Bottom line...

If living in a joint family is amiable and fair for all, where everyone's needs are respected and honoured, and by following all those rules that allow communal living to be mutually satisfying are upheld, then extended families are very good to be part of!

but where relationships are strained, broken to the extent that there is a daily war raging between the different factions , then ofcourse single unit nuclear families are obviously the answer!

in the olden days poverty forced families to co -exist so that grandparents, parents, sons, all daughter in laws and grandchildren all lived under one roof. It does make sense to share a house though! why pay 2 sets of bills, tax, etc when u dont have to if u lived in an extended family- providing you can ALL get along that is! ... but if the bills are shared then I think everyone would get along perfectly :-)

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Implying that joint families are somehow unIslamic is just as foolish as implying they are Islamic.

I agree. Family structure is determined politically and/or economically. It has nothing to do with faith.

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2. ISLAM AND THE FAMILY SYSTEM

Islam is the Final religion and has the most ideal shari `ah (revealed law). An unbiased observer cannot help admiring the equilibrium which it has achieved balancing the demands of body and spirit, providing guidance concerning life in this world as well as teachings concerning life in the hereafter. It is the Leading Light which brightly illuminates every turning in the highway of human life.It is the Perfect shari `ah which did not leave any human need uncared for.In so far as family-life goes, we see that Islam has unravelled every problem of the family system with such dexterity that one has to accept that it could not be solved in a better way.

One cannot but register astonishment at the attitude adopted by some Christians writers. They seem to be suffering from an inferiority complex when they compare the Islamic shari `ah with their religion which has no shari `ah at all. Therefore, they try to imply that, that perfection of shari`ah is a "drawback" or that the moral standard of Islamic teachings is not as high as that of Christianity.

3. FAMILY PILLARS

In any family there are those persons without whom a family cannot be regarded as complete. A human being is born of a father and a mother; the parents look after the child and bring it up. This child in turn attains maturity and is joined to a spouse in the golden link of matrimony. Then this couple start their own family. Thus we may say that the persons who form pillars of the family are father, mother, child, husband and wife. Some people need help in their domestic chores. Therefore, Islam has added the `servant' also in the list.

4. JOINT FAMILY AND SEPARATE FAMILY SYSTEMS

According to sociologists, there are two types of family systems in the world: "The Joint Family System" and "The Separate Family System".

Joint Family System: This system implies that all members of a clan:- father, son, brother, sister, uncle, nephew etc., live together. The in come of the individual is not treated as his personal property, rather it belongs to the family and the expenses of all members are met by that `family income.' Separate Family System: In this system everyone is responsible for his own immediate dependants. His income belongs to him and not to the family. The Hindu family is a joint family while in Arabia the separate family system prevails. Perhaps it is for this reason that cousins are called 'brothers' and `sisters' in India, while in Arabia they are just sons and daughters of the uncle or aunt. And, perhaps it was because of this system that Hindus regard cousins as falling within the prohibited degrees, that is, cousins may not marry each other in the Hindu religion. There is no such prohibition in Islam. However, both these systems are very old, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Joint Family System: Its Advantages and Disadvantages

The Joint Family System is a very good example of humanism, benevolence, mutual trust and co-operation. Members of a family or clan are branches of the same root. It is only natural that they should remain united in their domestic management and family life. This `togetherness' is expected to create happiness and peace of mind.

Furthermore, this system ensures that those family members who, for any reason, are unable to earn their livelihood do not face destitution and poverty, and thus are spared disgrace and heartaches. This system acts like an Insurance company which accepts all responsibilities at the time of old age, unemployment and sickness, and the family members are saved from the troubling anxiety of tomorrow. So much about its advantanges. Ironically, these very advantages give rise to its disadvantages.

The ease of mind provided by this system some times can be misused by some unscrupulous people. If a member of the family is lazy, he finds it easy enough to live on the fruits of others' labour; he never realizes the importance of earning his own livelihood. Once he acquires such taste, he will find many excuses to avoid work. After all, why should he exert himself when there are other relatives ready to take his burden on their shoulders? Unless one is made to realize that one cannot exploit others in this way, one will not make real effort to earn his bread. Neither will he fell ashamed of his useless life. Furthermore, this system kills the initiative to work harder. If a man exerts himself to the furthest limit and thus earns more, his standard of living, naturally, would be much higher than a person earning less. If a man earns twice as much as his brother, common sense says that their standards of living must be different accordingly. But the Joint Family System does not allow it. And the drive to exert onself more, and to earn more, dies. The most serious defect of this system is that, instead of creating harmony, love and trust in the family (as it is supposed to do), it becomes the chief cause of domestic strife. When a man works hard to meet the expenses of the Joint Family while his brother spends his time in roaming the streets aimlessly; or when he exerts himself to earn as much money as possible, while the brother throws away his chances of advancement, the resulting ugliness in the family relations is beyond description. Family members begin hating each other, tempers flare on the slightest pretext; suspicion, anger and hatred fill the place of trust, love and happiness. The atmosphere of the house gradually turns into a living hell and then comes a time when separation remains the only remedy.

Separate Family System: Its Advantages and Disadvantages

The Separate Family System does not suffer from the disadvantages mentioned above of Joint Family System, nor does it have its advantages. To remain aloof from one's own relatives is likely to kill the finest of human instincts. This system may breed selfishness and meanness. Those who look upon mankind as if raised on a high pedestal feel that the whole of mankind is akin to the limbs of one body - humanity; but the Separate Family System turns brothers into strangers, who may meet several times a day but do not care for one another.

5. THE WISE SYSTEM OF ISLAMIC SOCIETY

Now, let us look at the wise system of Islam. Here we find that Islam has laid down a straightforward highway with such skill that a man walking on it may enjoy the sweet smell of both these systems, and still not be beset by the thorny problems of either. How? Islam removed the basic cause of lethargy by decreeing that everyone is responsible for the expenses of his own dependants: he has no right to put the burden of his children, for example, on the shoulders of other relatives. Thus, the evil effects of the Joint Family System were avoided; at the same time, everyone was emphatically enjoined to "keep the bond of relationship intact." This prevented the tendency to selfishness and aloofness from one's own flesh and blood.

The Family Life of Islam

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Haydar

i think what i am trying to say at least and i think the other sisters do try to say too is , just because x is culturally desirable or non desirable ,you may not build a rule on it once it is in mubah realm

playing video games can be harmful or undesirable but it cant be in the unislamic , it is mubah

also , i do think people tend to like the independance ,once they can afford it they will go for it , but for those who want to have a family and plan to have a seperate house in future , postponing their 100% independance and accepting some paternal help isnt a bad plan

at least this is how things are in arab lands, i am not sure how things are in central asia

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It never crossed your mind that I might be speaking from personal experience?

Yes. Speak for yourself.

For many people, in today's societies, the alternative to living in a joint family system is to take on debt in order to buy your own property or alternatively to pay rent.

In the UK, either of the latter two options can typically account for 50% of someone's post tax monthly income. And of course the payment of interest on debt raises issues of halal and haram itself.

So for those people who do not have dysfunctional families, a joint family arrangement can certainly be a very effective means of saving money.

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Proof?

Where ever i read biography of Syeda Fatima(as),its written like that,now these are mainly urdu books,how should i refer you to,one example is '14 sitarey',obviously these are written by ulema,the basic references would be from Arabic/persian books,but i don't know which of those say so.

You can find it out yourself,where did She reside after His marriage?

Edited by Kaniz e Zahra

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The Hindu family is a joint family while in Arabia the separate family system prevails. Perhaps it is for this reason that cousins are called 'brothers' and `sisters' in India, while in Arabia they are just sons and daughters of the uncle or aunt. And, perhaps it was because of this system that Hindus regard cousins as falling within the prohibited degrees, that is, cousins may not marry each other in the Hindu religion

In West where families live separately, cousins are considered to be brothers and sisters as well when it comes to marriage.

perhaps = not 100% sure.

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I wouldn't go as far to say joint family is less Islamic than the nuclear , but it is a fair point to raise, there is the mentality in certain cultures that a decent , respectable daughter in law , is one who will adopt the family of the man she marries and the only way to do that in their eyes is of course to live as a joint family , in fact some of these people would be offended at the mere thought of a woman questioning whether she will have to live with the in-laws or not ,its just the done thing, the bench mark is already set to a standard that it shouldn't be , and then this can result in nasty power struggles.

There are I would say , a fair amount of men that insist on living as a joint family even if they are financially sound with the sprightliest of parents , solely because they believe it shows more loyalty to those that raised them and would be disrespectful to their parents if they were to move out, this thinking leads to unhealthy expectations ( I personally think) , and that is where the problem is , something that is perfectly fine to do is a taboo for certain communities when it shouldn't be.

This is exactly the problem.

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Like someone mentioned above I wouldn't go as far and say its unislamic I live in a joint family and my wife is the one that came up with the idea to save money but I completely agree with OP its unislamic to make the wife think its obligatory to have a joint family . The Prophet(S) example is perfect regardless if he had room or not the moral lesson from it is its not mandatory. Plus which narration says that the Prophet(s) says you can't live with me because I don't have enough room I'm just curious. If their isn't one then were just speculating. Maybe one of the reasons he wanted to promote married couples starting together in a new house.

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The example of Prophet (SAW) could be explained within the context of age-old tradition that daughters leave home when married. Joint families are usually made up of parents and the family(ies) of their son(s). Nuclear family is, I believe, a fairly modern phenomenon and a result of industrial revolution and its subsequent labor laws. Since the invention of agriculture (10,000 years ago) to industrialization of human societies (last 200-50 years) their economic model were agrarian and hence most lived in joint families- more hands =ed more production on the field.

To say that joint-families are unIslamic is inaccurate because it has absolutely nothing to do with Islam or religion. However, I would argue that nuclear families are a result of consumerism, over-acknowledgement/awareness of the concept of self, and over production of goods. Yes there are difficulties in joint families but they are mostly rooted in lack of education, awareness of the self (through media), and harsh states of economy. So nuclear family is a luxury of industrialization and is not yet available to all like any other good industrially produced. Not being able to afford it should not be deemed as a sin.

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It is narrated from Imam Al-Baqir(as) 'It is makruh that a man engages in sexual intercourse with his wife if, as well as them, there is someone else in the house' This hadith would be one good reason not to have a joint family, the privacy is severly hindered so how are a husband and wife supposed to fulfill their desires on a regular basis living in a joint family home, that most likely has thin walls and is not going to be a huge house with proper private sections for each married couple, as well as rooms for all the children. Also, there is usually an issue with hijab, it is quite a burden if there are cousins, or brothers in law, or uncles in law etc around all the time, unless there are private quaters for each couple and A LOT of trust between non mahrams. The practicality is just not feasable, unless you are talking about living with just parents, but even then there is still the issue of privacy for intimacy etc.

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It is narrated from Imam Al-Baqir(as) 'It is makruh that a man engages in sexual intercourse with his wife if, as well as them, there is someone else in the house' This hadith would be one good reason not to have a joint family

Yeah, good point. I just came across this hadith again not so long ago, and wondered how this doesn't just prove that living in a joing family out of choice is makruh.

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(bismillah)

(salam)

There are a lot of people that confuse culture and religion, and are under the impression that joint families are part of Islam. To them it is almost unthinkable for a man not to live with his parents after marriage, and it is expected than a woman live with her in-laws.

Well, for those that do believe this, here is something to think about.

After Imam `Ali (a) married Sayyida Fatima (sa), they moved into a seperate house. They did not live with the Prophet (sawas) despite being the two closest people to him, and neither did they live with the Imam's mother, who was a widow.

http://www.al-islam.org/gracious/

You've got to wonder why the 'obvious' solution of living with the Prophet (sawas) was never suggested.

Yes, but this is clearly a cultural issue. Westerners tend to move out while more often than not people from the indian subcontinent, regardless of religion, are expected to remain with their parents. But then again they are also the least likely to leave their parents in care homes...

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Yes, but this is clearly a cultural issue. Westerners tend to move out while more often than not people from the indian subcontinent, regardless of religion, are expected to remain with their parents. But then again they are also the least likely to leave their parents in care homes...

Yes, I know it's a cultural issue. The question is what Islam recommends. Obviously if your parents need support in old age or illness, then nobody is saying you should pack them off to the care home, but in most circumstances people get married when their parents are still able to care for themselves, or there are other siblings still at home who can care for them.

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Yes, I know it's a cultural issue. The question is what Islam recommends. Obviously if your parents need support in old age or illness, then nobody is saying you should pack them off to the care home, but in most circumstances people get married when their parents are still able to care for themselves, or there are other siblings still at home who can care for them.

I realised at an early age, as I'm sure you did, that people only care what Islam recommends when it's in their favour.

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I have never lived in a joint family system, and I always wonder how do so many people live in such a system for years since it creates so many problems, and yes it's so hard to do hijab in joint family system. But desis always say that in our culture, when 2 people get married, it's just not 2 people, it's 2 families that are united. I am starting to think it's more than a figure of speech, I pray everyday that I am wrong about this.

I agree that most people get married at an age when their parents don't need so much care, so there's no reason to live with parents and there's definitely no good reason to live with your married siblings.

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I have never lived in a joint family system, and I always wonder how do so many people live in such a system for years since it creates so many problems, and yes it's so hard to do hijab in joint family system. But desis always say that in our culture, when 2 people get married, it's just not 2 people, it's 2 families that are united. I am starting to think it's more than a figure of speech, I pray everyday that I am wrong about this.

I agree that most people get married at an age when their parents don't need so much care, so there's no reason to live with parents and there's definitely no good reason to live with your married siblings.

People who primarily follow their culture come out with a lot of nonsense, so it's best just to ignore what they say. In desi culture, few women wear hijab properly anyway, so it's not as much of a problem as it would be otherwise.

At the end of the day, people should look to what Islam teaches first, not their culture. Otherwise what ends up happening is you compromise your Islamic principles for the sake of appeasing family and society.

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