This is an alarming pattern I’ve noticed for years among westernized American Muslims.
When the role of the husband as the head of the family is mentioned, and his heavy responsibilities to lead, provide financially, protect, and guide his wife and children, the reaction of some American Muslims is something like:
“Why would one adult rely on another for so much? Also, what qualifies the husband for this level of authority?”
This mentality betrays a fundamental ignorance of human nature and of the vast innate differences between the two genders.
Men and women are not the same. You can’t just throw a blanket over the huge gender differences by calling us all merely “adults” and then act confused about why one “adult” should rely on another “adult” for so much.
This is stunted thinking.
This is what liberalism does. It masks the reality of life and the human condition and obfuscates basic human nature. If we are no longer allowed to be men and women, but instead all are slapped with the uniform generic label of “adult,” then we are all identical and have identical capabilities and natures and we can all identically rely on the state instead of on one another.
We all become just atomized individual entities, indistinguishable from one another. All “adults” have the same capacity to become wage slaves for the state, cogs in the capitalist economy, earners, consumers. No “adult” is exempt from this. No “adult” need rely on another (read: identical) adult; but we adults can certainly all rely on the state.
Thus begins the modern breakdown of marriage and of the family.
“We’re all adults here. I don’t need you.”
The only allowance this type of thinking makes for one person ever needing another is when that person is not an “adult”: so a child.
Children, it is granted by this type of westernized Muslim, do actually need parents, who are “adults.”
But this is rendered acceptable to the liberal Muslim mind only due to the fact that parents qualify for such a status owing to their investment in rearing their child from infancy, as made apparent in the relevant verses in the Quran.
So the comparison is then made between the authority of parents over their children and the authority of the husband over his wife:
“Parents have earned their authority but the husband is granted the same level of authority, seemingly without any qualifiers. What qualifies husbands for the same power as parents? Again, WHY would one adult grant so much unnecessary authority to another, especially in tasks that she could just as well accomplish herself?”
The only reason parents can have any authority over their children is that the children are not adults themselves. Once you’re an adult, all bets are off! You’re free as a bird!
But a husband and wife are both adults! So how on earth can a husband be allowed to have any sort of authority over his equally-adult wife??
This obsession with there being only two states (children and adults) creates a lot of confusion and misery.
If you have been trained to see human beings as only either “child” or “adult,” much will escape you in terms of understanding the deen and concepts like gender roles and division of labor within a marriage. The categories of “male” and “female” have become invisible to you, or have been rendered essentially meaningless to you in this increasingly androgynous modern world.
Men and women are not both merely “adults” who are interchangeable. Men are men and women are women. They are two very different beings, vastly different creations of Allah. They have very different natures, tendencies and inclinations. Male traits differ from female traits. We have to respect this different, acknowledge it, and appreciate it. In this male-female polarity is a mercy from Allah who created us.
In the Quran, Allah has told us repeatedly that it is among His amazing signs that He has created the male and the female,
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
“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 put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (Surat Ar-Rum, 21)
and that the two are different and distinct,
وَلَيْسَ الذَّكَرُ كَالْأُنثَىٰ
“And the male is not like the female…” (Surat Ali Imran, 36)
and that the the goal of marriage is a harmonious relationship between these two different creations.
هُوَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَٰحِدَةٍ وَجَعَلَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا لِيَسْكُنَ إِلَيْهَا
“It is He who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might find comfort in / serenely dwell with her…” (Surat Al-A`raf, 189)
And yes, that one creation of Allah, the male, has an added responsibility for the other creation, the female.
ٱلرِّجَالُ قَوَّٰمُونَ عَلَى ٱلنِّسَآءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ ٱللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍۢ وَبِمَآ أَنفَقُوا۟ مِنْ أَمْوَٰلِهِمْ
“Men are in charge of / are authorities over women by [right of] what Allāh has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth…” (Surat An-Nisa, 34)
This additional responsibility translates to additional authority and power.
وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ ٱلَّذِى عَلَيْهِنَّ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌۭ ۗ
“…And due to them [i.e., the wives] is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men [i.e., husbands] have a degree over them [in responsibility and authority]…” (Surat Al-Baqara, 228)
This is only logical and expected. Responsibility without authority is slavery.
We really have to take off the liberal blinders we’ve been wearing. The health of our marriages, the stability of our families, our own mental state, and the strength of our iman are all at stake.
We are certainly all adults, and each of us has responsibilities and duties and tasks. But they are not all the same, as the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم tells us,
كلُّكم راعٍ، وكلُّكم مسؤولٌ عن رعيَّتِه، والأمير راعٍ، والرجل راعٍ على أهل بيته، والمرأة راعية على بيت زوجها وولدِه…
“Each of you is a shepherd, and each of you is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them…”
We are not all identical, interchangeable “adult” clones. We are men and women, with very different natures and different things that comes naturally to us because of our gender. We are each uniquely suited for the optimal performance of our district gender roles in a marriage.
The beauty of marriage is the unity of the best of male traits and the best of female traits for the establishment of a happy and healthy family. The masculine and the feminine combine together for the good of children, the family unit, and society at large. Even the personal relationship between the husband and wife is enriched by the beauty, fun, and humor of the differences that exist naturally between men and women!
Alhamdulillah for the comprehensive Islamic system of family and the delicate balance between the roles of husband and wife which lead to happiness and serenity for all parties.
By Umm Khalid
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