بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ لِلَّهِ ,نَحْمَدُهُ ,وَنَسْتَعِينُهُ وَنَسْتَغْفِرُهُ , وَنَعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنْ شُرُور أَنْفُسِنَا وَمِنْسَيِّئَاتِ أَعْمَالِنَا ,مَنْ يَهْدِهِ اللهُ فَلَا مُضِلَّ لَهُ , وَمَنْ يُضْلِلْ فَلَا هَادِيَ لَهُ , وَأَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ
Verily, all praise is for Allah. We praise Him, we seek His assistance and we ask for His forgiveness. And we seek refuge in Him from the evils of our selves. Whoever Allah guides, none can misguide. Whoever He misguides, none can guide. And I bear witness that there is no deity other than Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and messenger.
أعوذُ بِٱللَّهِ مِنَ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنِ ٱلرَّجِيم
Seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled.
بِسْ مِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ ٱلْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ
Kuntum khayra ommatin okhrijat lilnnasi tamuroona bialmaAAroofi watanhawna AAani almunkari watuminoona biAllahi
You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.
(Surah Imran, Quran 3:110)
My dear brothers and sisters, all praises are due to Allah, who has given us the Quran as guidance. The One who has given us the way of His Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as an example for us, on how to follow that guidance. And as a part of that guidance, Allah tells us:
قُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا
Protect yourselves and your families from a Fire.
But one of the obligations we have towards our family is to do our best, to protect them and to save them and to make sure that they follow the message of the Quran, which is to stand for good. And that is what Allah mean when he says:
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ
…that you are the best nation, brought out in the service of people.
And what is the service?
تَأْمُرُونَ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ ٱلْمُنكَرِ
…that you command the good and you forbid that evil.
…and you believe in Allah.
And so where do those two things come together when it comes to our families? How can we create a strong family? How can we create strong relationships with our family members? If you study, what makes a group successful? Any group – whether it is an army, an organization, a family – there’s a lot of overlap between what makes all these different groups of people successful.
Part of that study shows that, one of two things or two things in particular which make groups of people successful in which we can apply to our families is high morale. That is the result of a shared purpose. That is the result of confidence in your group and enthusiasm for that purpose. And the other thing is cohesion, which is that love for each other, that concern for each other, the bonding that exists within that group. When you have a strong foundation, when you have these things, then you can build a building knowing that it will stand. It won’t collapse.
But if the foundation of your family unit is weak, wobbly, shaky, then anything you build upon has a chance of falling apart. When we have that strong family, then the members of the family are happier. They’re productive, they’re goal oriented. They have resilience. When the family is weak, the family members are mostly concerned about the tensions in the family and it stresses them out and it keeps them from being able to focus on whatever’s happening outside. So how can we create a strong family that can be a shock absorber for us, a good suspension system that no matter what is going on in the outside world, no matter what stressors are upon us, we can come back to our family and find that shock absorption. So that things that normally look like huge disasters to us, we find opportunities for change. We find opportunities for betterment because we have that support in that background.
So, how can we build a strong family? How can we encourage cohesion within our family or with any group of people? And like I said, this can be used not only in the family context, but in so many other contexts, whether it’s organizationally, or in any place where you have groups of people.
So the first thing that creates high morale and cohesion in our families is shared purpose, which Islam gives us. If you look at the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he and his companions had a shared purpose, which was the message of Islam, which was the message from Allah. That was their purpose, to propagate this message, to spread this message, to protect the Prophet (pbuh) who was in danger from these different forces. Of course, Allah is the protector, but they were the means. So they had this strong sense of purpose as to what they were supposed to do.
And as Muslims, we have that as an ummah. We have that shared purpose that continues until this day – as I mentioned, of serving others of commanding justice, of wanting good of forbidding evil. The shared purpose exists as an ummah, but what about our family level. Do we have a mission statement for our family?
If I was to ask you, what does your family stand for, what would your response be?
- What is the mission statement of your family? What is the objective of your family?
- How does that objective or that mission statement exist within the daily actions of your family?
- How do the days and the weeks and the months relate back to this objective?
When you start a project at work, what do you talk about? You figure out the objective, and what result you’re hoping for. How can we apply this to your family?
What does your family stand for? For example, as an organization, you can say that “we are a charity. We help the homeless. We help refugees. We are a place for Muslims to find community.”
And so, what is your family’s mission statement? Do you stand for honesty in your family? Does your family stand or showing up for each other, even when it’s hard, even when there’s work and school and so on? Are you able to show up for each other? Is this a family that has each other’s backs? What is that shared purpose of your family?
The second thing which creates cohesion in any way is recognizing and appreciating the value of each member of that group. The Prophet (pbuh) said:
مَنْ لَمْ يَشْكُرِ النَّاسَ لَمْ يَشْكُرِ اللَّهَ
“The one that does not thank people has not truly been appreciative or thankful to Allah.”
So if we want to be thankful to Allah, a part of that is appreciating the people in our family, the members of our family. We have situations where family members don’t want to speak to each other and they just see red. And if you were to ask them, what’s one good thing your family member has done, or can you appreciate one good thing, they’ll say, “I can’t think of anything”. And so is there a problem with the person or is the problem that our vision has become so skewed that we’re not able to see any good in this family member of ours.
We need to look internally because we know that no person is perfectly good, that everyone is imperfect and that is part of our creation. We know that no one is perfectly bad. Can you see the good, and can you appreciate your family member? Even with everything else. Can you take a step back and see what you appreciate about this family member?
When each person is valued and each person is appreciated, that becomes part of what brings the family together. But if there is no mutual appreciation, if any member of that group feels like they are not part of the group, that the group does not value their input, that the group does not value their role and their presence in the group, the group loses its cohesion. The group loses its unity. How can we appreciate the members of our family? Tell your child, “I like it when you help me to clean up. I love it when you help me to clean up. I like when you talk to us at the dinner table, I love speaking to you on the ride home from school”.
Vocalize it. I know a lot of times we’re not very good verbalizing. We feel it, but we don’t verbalize it. And it’s important to verbalize it because people can’t read our minds. We don’t have that technology yet. It doesn’t exist. So how can we recognize and appreciate each member of our family? And get out of the cycle of criticism, where all we see is what we want to critique, and really appreciate the members of our family.
The third thing which can improve family cohesion and bring your family members together is traditions. What are the things that your family does that are traditions in your family? In Islam we have traditions. We know we have Ramadan, we have the salah, the Hajj, and I’ve talked about ritual in the context of Hajj, and the psychological power of ritual and traditions.
They did a study at Harvard where they made up a ritual. It was just a made up ritual. They took two groups and they said to one group, “Here’s a chocolate bar. We want you to open the chocolate bar and eat it”. The other group, they told, “before you open the chocolate bar, we wants you to break it into two parts and we want you to hold it for 20 seconds. And then we want you to open it very slowly. And you cannot eat it all at once. You have to take one, swallow it at a time”. And then they asked the two groups which of them enjoyed the chocolate more. The group that did that and took the time and had that ritual around it – even if it was by all means and purposes, meaningless – they actually enjoyed the chocolate more and that’s just a meaning meaningless ritual.
Adding a meaningful tradition to your family, helps to bring the family together. Maybe your family tradition is what you do on the day of Eid. And the importance of Eid is not just where you go to the salah, you give $10 to each kid and that’s it. Maybe Eid is given this important family tradition so that when it’s Eid, you look forward to Eid because all these things are going to happen. You looking forward to Ramadan because all these things are going to happen. These are family traditions and incorporating them into our families helps to bring our families together. Maybe your tradition is that you pray salah together, and you read a verse of Quran together. One person reads the verse of Quran and you read its meaning.
What kind of family traditions can you bring into your family? Maybe your tradition is that once a month you go and you volunteer at a soup kitchen. You go and volunteer to feed the homeless. Maybe your tradition is that once a month you do something for someone else. Maybe you visit one of the many refugee families that are coming. And as I talked about weeks ago, the number one thing that helps refugees find contentment in their new location is community. So maybe once a month, that’s something that’s something that you commit yourself to doing.
I was reading about the history of a famous religious singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He produced a Qawwalis, and the tradition of Qawwalis has been in his family for 600 years, year after year, generation after generation. Do you have a tradition that you can put into your family that will go on for 600 years? Then it will be known that this family is known for this incredible legacy.
Number four, expectations. When expectations are clear, then the members of any group are able to come together because each member will know what is expected. When expectations are consistent and it becomes easier to live up to those expectations. When expectations are not consistent, that creates anxiety. “If I do this, maybe dad will get upset. But sometimes when I do it, it doesn’t get upset. When I do this, then mom gets upset, but Dad doesn’t get upset”. It creates anxiety about what action will lead to what results, what consequence. So make expectations clear every day, when you come home, you do your homework before you do video games. Before you can do everything else, you got to finish your homework.
And so that kind of thing can help reorient and to reduce anxiety around. If it’s more like, “Well, sometimes I have to do my homework. Sometimes my parents don’t care depends on the day of the week. It depends on how they’re feeling. Depends how the day was“, this increases anxiety. We think we’re being flexible with our children, but actually it increases the chaos in life because there’s nothing consistent. I’m not saying it has to change today, or it has to be perfect today, but that is something that we can try to live up to.
Number five, family responsibilities. Now this is really important. Maybe we grew up without much responsibility. Maybe we grew up where in a place where we had people who would come to clean the house. That happened. As an immigrant, I remember I went back to Pakistan and there’s people who come to the house and they clean the house and they do the dishes and the food. It’s a totally different experience.
Maybe we didn’t have those kinds of responsibilities living here. There’s a lot of things to be done in the house. A lot of things that it takes, a lot of things that need to be done in order to run a family. And so it’s important that the family members, even the little ones, have some responsibility and that we are serious about carrying out their responsibilities, that if they do not carry out those responsibilities, we do not let it slide like, “oh he’s just a little one,” or, even worse, “he’s a boy and she’s a girl”. That’s the worst thing. If you’re doing that, that’s the worst thing you could do for your family. If you let things slide for some members, and the other members of the group feel betrayed.
Imagine you have a project you’re working on. And one of the team members is not doing their part. How would you feel? You’re like, “why is this person on the team? What value is this person adding to the team?” And so by having family responsibilities that each member of the family can take pride in, that’s really great.
For example, if you take on this tradition, of reading a verse of Quran after Maghrib, and you give each member a turn – “today it’s dad’s turn to read the verse, tomorrow it’s Ahmed’s turn”, each family owner can take pride in the sharing of family responsibilities and on things that run the house.
And the last thing I’ll mention here, which improves cohesion, improves morale, brings groups of people together is team building activities. At work, have you ever participated in a team building activity? Usually you go out somewhere different, somewhere new and you experience something together. Maybe you have an obstacle that you have to surpass together. Maybe it’s a difficult hike. Maybe it’s a boat ride. Whatever it is, the same thing needs to happen in your family. What are the adventures that you do together? Adventure doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands of dollars to go to Disneyland. That’s not what I mean. An adventure is something that you take on together as a family. Maybe that adventure is habitat for humanity, building homes. Maybe it’s a project that you as a family are taking on together. You’re overcoming obstacles together because when you overcome obstacles together and you face challenges together, that brings you together, you have that shared experience.
“Remember that time when we did that, and it was so difficult, but we still did it that hike that we did. And it was so difficult and I couldn’t get up. And you gave me a lift. He gave me a boost.” These kinds of shared family adventures take some time out of your day, because when you’re just at home, everyone’s on their own device, everyone’s doing their own thing. And we fail to have those experiences, which bring our families together.
If we look at the life of the Prophet (pbuh), and what he went through, each challenge brought the Muslims closer together. When the people of Mecca first arrived to Medina, there was the kind of general unity that took place and the general brotherhood that the Prophet (pbuh) tried to bring about in the city of Medina, but that true unity did not take place until they had to work together to meet those challenges of being attacked, by being at war with the Quraysh, by drought, all kinds of things, where they had to come together to overcome obstacles. And that brought them together because of their shared history and their shared experiences that they now have.
We ask Allah that He helps us to build strong foundations for our families. We ask Allah that He helps us to create cohesion and unity among our families. We ask Allah that He gives us the ability to create resilient families. I ask Allah that He protects us. We ask Allah that He guides us. We ask Allah that He forgives our shortcomings and our mistakes. Ameen.
In conclusion, the family is where everything starts. The family is where I go to to find support. If I’m not able to find that support in my family, then I have to go seeking it elsewhere. And when I seek it elsewhere, I’m not sure what I’m going to get. I’m not sure whether those people have my best interest at heart.
What we have to do is focus on creating stronger families. Today what I discussed that a strong unit or group of people is based around two things.
The first being high morale. That means shared purpose, confidence in that purpose, enthusiasm for that purpose. And it’s also built around cohesion, the things that bring you together. That means you have concern for each other. That means you have bonding because of your shared experiences. And that means that you have love for each other. And it won’t be perfect on the first day, but it’s a process. People compare it to a marathon. Marathon is very clear. It’s 26 miles, very clear as to what it is. But getting there, it’s practice to be able to run that marathon.
A few months ago, a study was released that suicide attempts amongst Muslim youth are double that of the general public. And of course we’re not blaming families, but family plays a part in how to prevent that kind of thing. When our members of our family feel close to us, they can come to us with a problem that they’re having and we can talk it out. When there’s clear expectations that “you come to me with a problem, I will help you to solve that problem”, that helps. But if it’s an unclear expectation, where a family member thinks, “maybe if I go to him, he’s going to erupt. Maybe if he finds out that this happened, it’s going to be a huge blowout. Maybe if she finds out, then I’m going to be grounded for life. I’m going to be in trouble for the next six months”, then there is no trust in the family and the members of the family cannot come to the other members with problems.
And so we have to think about how we can get better. If we need help, then we must seek that help. We must seek that help, not only from Allah, but from the people. That is something that the Prophet (pbuh) did. He did not spread his message and did not propagate his message on his own. He had companions. He had Sahaba and each one had their unique character. And the unique things which they bring to the table, just like our family members, we should appreciate what they bring to our family.
I ask Allah that He fulfills the needs of those in need. I ask Allah that He helps those refugees that are coming here. I ask Allah that He gives us the ability to help them. I ask Allah that He creates unity amongst our families and our community. I ask Allah that He helps us to build strong families. I ask Allah that He gives cure to those that are sick and that He forgives and has mercy on those that have passed. I ask Allah that He reunites us with those that have passed our loved ones.
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ العَلِيمُ وَتُبْ عَلَيْنَآ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
عِبَادَ اللّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
Servants of Allah. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.
اُذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ الْعَظِيمَ يَذْكُرْكُمْ واشْكُرُوهُ يَزِدْكُمْ واسْتَغْفِرُوهُ يَغْفِرْ لكُمْ واتّقُوهُ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَمْرِكُمْ مَخْرَجًا
Remember Allah, the Great – He will remember you. Thank Him for His favors – He will increase you therein. And seek forgiveness from Him – He will forgive you. And be conscious of Him – He will provide you a way out of difficult matters.
And, establish the prayer.