Jazakallah for writing to us regarding your concerns about a brother who is an “absent husband and father”. I would like to deal with this matter at length as Muslims are challenged with many dilemmas and fitna from all directions. It is noble and commendable to serve Allah Ta’ala’s deen where and whenever possible. However, to serve one’s family and to be consciously involved in the upbringing of one’s children is a responsibility and duty every parent has (to fulfill).
Parents have to recognise that they live in a world where “western” influences are strong, no matter how much they may try to shield their children or themselves. They cannot go on burying their heads in the sand in this day and age and believe that they will not be affected or targeted in one way or another. They have to accept that their children are growing up in a world where peer group pressure, the education system and the media, be it “mXit”, drugs, movies, pornographic material exist and can have an influence on them. These traps can have a huge impact on their children’s lives and in fact on the lives of the parents themselves.
Children become confused when they have a “temporary father” or a father who takes little interest in being present for his children. This sort of father is considered as an absent father and the children often experience conflict about whether they are loved or wanted by him or not. Yes, a mother is the child’s first school but it is the father who is most important in teaching his children what the world is all about. He is the one who helps to establish moral and social values in the lives of his daughters and sons for he is their link with the outside world. He goes out daily into the outside world and he thus has full knowledge of what his children will be faced with. It is his duty to make them aware of the possible pitfalls they may encounter out there and help them by preparing them to deal with these pitfalls and other challenges.
He is also the parent who has a great deal of influence over his children in terms of their interests, be they academic, religious, social or otherwise. When a father takes an interest in the children’s education, they are more motivated to do well and to be “like father”. Not only sons but daughters also love to impress their fathers and they often want to do well because, “my father will be so happy with me”. They identify more with the father’s qualities and code of life. This in turn helps to improve their self-esteem, confidence and identity of who they are as Muslims. They are better able to stand up to negative peer pressure and are more receptive towards avoiding evil.
When a father shows a lack of interest in his children’s education, they often lack the motivation and interest in performing well. They feel rejected or have the attitude, “What’s the point because my father does not care as he is too busy making money or doing his own thing”. They also become ambivalent about whether they can love, trust and respect him or even obey him. They often find it difficult to obey him or follow his advice or guidance because he is not ‘there for me when I need him’. By the otherwise, I mean that if a father does not convey his interest in his children’s daily lives, his children will seek the “otherwise” which could be drugs, crime or worse. They will seek acceptance and recognition from their friends who instead become more important than the ‘absent father’. In order to be accepted and to have a feeling of belonging (with their friends), these children may engage in activities that are haraam and that get them into trouble with the law.
The father should not just take the stand that he does not have to spend much time with his children or that, “My children will be safe because I am fully engaged in the work of deen” The life of a Muslim has to be one of balance. If there is no balance in how a father conducts his time between work, family and deen, his family will be rocked from pillar to post. The father is the captain of his family and as such, he has been given the responsibility to protect and guide his family safely. He is the shepherd of his flock and he has to look after them.
It is totally unacceptable that a husband goes for 4 months jamaat and leaves his wife to work and support his family. In fact, he should have seen to it that he made adequate provision for his family so that his wife did not have to work during this time. She should have been in a position to give her full attention to her children and feel safe in her home by not having to be working. By away from home too often and by not spending quality time with them, he is abdicating his duties and responsibilities as a father and husband. If he is so caught up in his own world of television, car washes, business and other activities; he is neglecting his wife’s and his children’s rights over him. He should question himself and ask why he serves other people but fails to serve his own family. He has to examine himself and ponder over where his first duty lies. It is considered a great sadqa to assist one’s wife in the home. His duty is to take his family to the doctors when needed and timeously too so that they don’t miss their appointments. Since he goes in jamaat so often, he has learnt the value of time and punctuality. Time to put it into practice, brother. The brother concerned here should seriously consider what role he is playing in his family.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best