Islam encourages close ties with both immediate and extended family.
Islam encourages close ties with both immediate and extended family.

Family is a major foundation of Islamic life. The Quran speaks of marriage in traditional terms -- the man as breadwinner and head of the house, the mother as nurturer and the children as respectful. The Prophet Muhammad himself was a parent and grandparent, and like Muhammad's family, Muslim families are supposed to be close, kind and loving.

Importance of Family

The Sahih Bukhari hadith collection of Muhammad's sayings, book 73, number 13, quotes Muhammad as saying: "The person who severs the bond of kinship will not enter Paradise." Family is a critical component of Muslim life, and keeping with pre-Islamic sensibilities, ties among extended family are encouraged. Surah 30, verse 21 of the Quran also lays out God's plans for marriage, which are to create "tranquility" between husband and wife with a bond of "affection and mercy."

Expectations of Parents

Parents are expected to provide for their children, be kind to them and raise them as Muslims. Muslim parents will often whisper the Shahada, or Muslim profession of faith, into an infant's ear when the baby is born. The advent of Islam also greatly changed the attitude of parents toward female children -- the religion strictly forbids the ancient Arabian practice of female infanticide.

Expectations of Children

Book 74, number 290 of the Bukhari hadith collection quotes Muhammad as saying that the two worst sins are worshiping someone other than Allah and being undutiful to one's parents. Being dutiful to parents includes being obedient, kind and respectful. Surah 17, verses 23 and 24 of the Quran emphasize respect for parents once they reach old age, and it commands children -- out of gratitude for all their parents have done -- to pray for their parents.

Muhammad's Family Life

Muhammad sets the example for Muslims past and present; his interactions with his own family are critical to Muslim belief. The hadith portrays Muhammad as a dutiful and affectionate parent. The Bukhari collection, book 73, number 65 states that Muhammad "used to keep himself busy serving his family." Book 73, number 26 of the same collection tells of Muhammad kissing his grandson and admonishing a man who was not "merciful" to his own children.

Marriage and Divorce

Marriage is recommended in Islam, and most aspects of Muslim marriage are similar to those in the West. The most distinctive aspect of Muslim marriage, when compared to the West, is polygamy. The Quran, in surah 4, verse 3, permits men to marry up to four wives if they can be treated well. Divorce after marriage is sometimes a reality, and Islam recognizes this. Surah 2, verses 24 through 37 outline Muslim positions on divorce, including the mandatory waiting period to see if the woman is pregnant.