Conflict of rights, duties

Q110 :A relative of mine in Pakistan travels for several months together, perhaps a year, in order to go on a mission of propagation of Islam. He leaves behind his wife and children, giving his wife some money which is hardly sufficient for the needs of the family for more than a couple of months. His wife has been complaining that she suffers a great deal looking after her young children on her own. He has been telling her that he trusts his family to Allah's care. My question is: How far does Islam approve of such a mission of propagation of Islam, when it means neglecting one's family?

A110 : It is certainly the duty of every Muslim to try to propagate Islam and to try to make its message known to people. The whole Muslim community is responsible for making Islam known to the rest of mankind and calling on them to embrace it as a faith and a way of life. In addition, every individual Muslim should do his best to propagate Islam among non-Muslims and to encourage Muslims to attend to their Islamic duties. This was the task of prophets and it was brought to its fullness by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last messenger sent by Allah. He spared no effort in explaining Allah's message to mankind and he worked hard for his followers to establish a base for Islam from where it moved on to spread to vast areas of world. One important point to remember about Islam is its total approach to human life. It does not emphasize any single aspect of life at the expense of another. It does not tolerate the neglect of a duty only because a person is happier fulfilling another duty. The needs of this world must not be neglected because one wishes to devote himself to the fulfillment of duties relevant to the life-to-come. Islam provides for us a middle order which takes care of all men's needs as individuals, members of a family, and active workers in the community. In the Qur'an we read this instruction which applies to every single one of us: "Seek, by means of what Allah has granted you, (the good of) the life to come, without forgetting your own rightful share in this world; and do good to others as Allah has done good to you" (28;77). All of us know the famous story when three people went to the wives of the Prophet inquiring about his worship. When his wives told them, they felt that it was less than they had expected. One of them said you need not wonder at that because the Prophet has already been forgiven all his sins, past and future. We cannot aspire to that. Therefore, we have to make a special effort in order to win Allah's pleasure. One of the men pledged to spend all night every night in worship, the second pledged to fast every day of his life and the third pledged permanent celibacy so that he would not be distracted from his worship. When the Prophet learned of their pledges, he reproached them. Reminding his companions that he was the most God-fearing among them, he said: "I, nevertheless, do spend sometime in night worship, but I also allow myself enough time to sleep; I do fast voluntarily, but I also have many a non-fasting day and I marry women. Marriage is a pattern of life I choose. He who turns away from my pattern does not belong to me." Perhaps there is no clearer statement about the balanced nature of the Islamic way of life. When we look at the life of the Prophet, we realize that he never neglected a duty. When it was time to go to war, for the cause of Islam, he did not hesitate to march at the head of his army. He never neglected something which he felt would give pleasure to one (or more) of his wives, provided that he was able to secure it for her. Your friend has certainly many duties toward his family. He is responsible for their maintenance and he has to work hard in order to provide his wife and children with the best standard of living he can afford. If he does not, then he is guilty of neglecting his duty. No Muslim is deemed to have discharged his responsibility to take good care of his wife and children if he chooses to stay unemployed or without a job. Moreover, his duty toward his family far exceeds the provision of food and clothing and shelter. He has to look after the upbringing of his children. He has to make sure that they grow up as good Muslims. If he neglects this duty in order to serve what seems to him to be a higher or nobler duty, he will be accountable to Allah for this neglect. Abandoning the upbringing of one's own young children, is not to abandon a secondary duty. Indeed, taking good care of them is, in Islam, a primary duty, and takes priority over many other duties. Your relative's attitude is highly reprehensible. He neglects the education and upbringing of his own children in order to do something which Allah has not required him to do in this particular fashion. His duty to propagate Islam would be better served by bringing up his children as good Muslims. To say that he trusts his family to Allah's care is good enough, if he has compelling reasons to be absent. His reason, i.e. propagation of Islam, is not a compelling one because he can undertake that activity at home. Why should he go abroad for a year in order to propagate Islam? From another point of view, a man's duty towards his wife is such that he is not allowed to be absent from home, in connection with his business, for more than four months, unless she willingly agrees to that absence. Umar ibn Al-Khattab issued a general decree not to allow any soldier to be away from home for more than four months, in order not to place a heavy burden on Muslim wives who had to suffer the long absence of their husbands. If such a long absence is not acceptable when a person is going on jihad, who can claim that it is acceptable in the case of an activity which can be, at best, classified as desirable or voluntary. Your relative is wrong to cause his wife such suffering. He will be better rewarded if he looks well after his family and tries to propagate Islam and its message at home.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )