Friday 22nd Sep 2017
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The Nuclear Family Explosion

Cover Story

SOROOR AHMED analyses how the very concept of family as an institution is collapsing thanks to the lopsided growth of materialism and our mindless imitation of the West.

A joint family simply disintegrates, but a nuclear family explodes, that is, causes social devastation when it splits – obviously when the husband and wife get separated. It can be compared with the enormous amount of energy released after the break-up of nucleus. These unique nuclear explosions have already taken their toll in the West and now have their impact on the Third World and Muslim countries as well.

The institution of family is not only crumbling but is even getting aborted before taking birth, that is, many new families are not coming up because of the social miscarriage. Eligible boys and girls are not getting married because of one social reason or the other. Cybercity Hyderabad, a cynosure of many eyes, according to one survey, accounts for over 60,000 unmarried Muslim girls well past the age of 30. Most of them are highly qualified ones – some whiling away their nights at call centres to earn a few fast bucks. It is feared that they may soon join the tribe of 22 per cent call centre employees who have turned junkies. There are hundreds of Hyderabad-like examples all over the country.

Besides, there is astronomical rise in the case of matrimonial disputes, which often lead to the destruction of many families. More and more Muslim males and females are landing up in jail because of the use or even misuse of Section 498 of the Indian Penal Code, which is related to the demand of dowry. 

 These examples are enough to make the community leaders sit up and ponder.  Can a community which fails to facilitate the birth of hundreds of thousands of new families – as the boys and girls are not getting partners – boast of becoming a model for the society as a whole? Can a community claim that the faith which it is following guarantees the best family life when an increasing number of marriages are ending up in separation?

The tragedy is that we are guided so much by the externally-set agenda – the trivial issues raised by the media, the film personalities, the academics and other public opinion makers – that we are yet to realise that the collapse of family as an institution is fast acquiring a menacing proportion. The Muslim intellectuals – now even the religious leaders – would talk about the lack of education, illiteracy, poverty, ignorance, unemployment – no doubt these are our problems – but hardly anyone would express concern over these growing matrimonial breakdowns. If we fail to diagnose the disease, how can we treat the patient? 

While pursuing modernism Muslims are totally oblivious of the fact that the road leading to it is full of pot-holes and is littered with mines. If the western society is still surviving, it is simply because it takes many years for a system to crumble after the rot sets in. Aurangzeb died in 1707 but the Mughals finally collapsed in 1857. His son, Moazzam or Bahadur Shah-I, who had ruled for five years before he died, was the master of the same huge empire, but nobody is interested in knowing about him. Between him and 1857, that is, up to the overthrow of Bahadur Shah Zafar there were 13 Mughal emperors – against only six between Babur and Aurangzeb – yet nobody is keen to know much about their achievements as their performance was lustreless.

There is writing on the wall but men and women of dim vision are unable to read it. They are still blindly following the West. We are helplessly witnessing the gradual erosion of family as an institution. Almost every second family, especially of the middle class, is facing this challenge yet none is coming out with any solution. The growing army of spinsters, bachelors and deserted women will work as fifth column to undermine whatever achievements the community has made in the field of education, health or other sectors.  

While many serious thinkers and writers in the West have started calling for the revival of family and family values, we are taking the reverse journey. The family bonds are gradually growing weak among us. While many in the West are looking towards East – and in particular towards Islam – for solace, our elites are mindlessly eying for western thoughts, ideas, fashions, culture, family-life, etc. Many of our youths are falling between the two stools – that is between the West and Islam. While marriages are losing sanctity in the West and more and more people openly prefer live-in relationship, we are in a piquant situation. We are preventing our youths from marrying by raising so many artificial walls yet at the same time are not giving them freedom as people do in the West – obviously we cannot.

Some of us have rather unwittingly learnt a wrong lesson from Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) preference for a nuclear family – he used to keep his wives separately. Some of our highly educated youths, for sheer material reason – and not for some greater and noble cause – have left their old and ailing parents, unmarried sisters, etc at their homes in India to permanently settle down in some far off western countries. No, they cannot be compared to those who go to work elsewhere – be it in other cities, in the Gulf or in any other countries to earn livelihood.

In some cases there is nobody to encash the dollars, pounds and euros sent by those gentlemen who have migrated to the West for good as their parents are too helpless to reach a bank. Islam’s indifference to the joint family does not amount to leaving parents in the lurch. The rush of materialism has wreaked such a havoc that in the United States there is no dearth of couples – yes even Muslims – who live in two different cities separated by several hundreds or even a couple of thousand kilometres. Both husband and wife would fly or drive down to a city or town in the middle of both these places and spend a night or two in a hotel every weekend or even after much wider gap. They would then return to their cities to work. This tribe is called DINKS, that is, double income no kids.

They are not the poor lot who had to help themselves out by any means. There are umpteen examples of ignoring the parents in a subtle way among the second generation migrant Muslims in the United States or other western countries. For instance, young professional Muslims would leave their parents in Seattle, considered the most liveable city of the country, or San Francisco to settle with their wives and kids in far off small and relatively less developed towns in Florida or Alabama just for the sake of a few hundreds of extra dollars every month – and in some cases even less.

This phenomenon of unnecessary tearing apart the families has started from above, that is, from affluent class. The irony is that none – even the parents – is speaking out against it. The glamour of exchange value of currency – one dollar becomes Rs 45 or one pound ends up fetching Rs 80-plus – is too tempting to render everyone speechless, though mothers and fathers in private do complain of loneliness.

The tragedy is that many of those engaged in spreading the message of Islam are not finding fault with this immoral practice of unnecessarily leaving parents up the creek. While sermonising the mass clerics would cite the examples of certain poor rickshawallahs or labourers who do not take care of their parents not knowing that the above-mentioned gentlemen living indifferently in the other end of the globe are – on this count – much bigger culprits, than the poor guys.


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