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The Anniversary of the Revelation of Surah Al-Insan and Family Day

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The 25th of Dhu al-Hijjah marks the anniversary of the revelation of Surah “Hal Ata” (also known as Al-Insan or Ad-Dahr), which, according to narratives, was revealed in praise of Imam Ali and Lady Fatima (peace be upon them). They had made a vow to fast for three consecutive days, and upon breaking their fast each day, they selflessly donated their modest meals to the needy, the orphan, and the captive, and contented themselves with only water. This day has also been designated as the Day of Family and a day to honor retirees.

Understanding Surah Hal Ata (Al-Insan)

The first verse refers to a “time” that has passed over “man,” when he was nothing worth mentioning. It then points to the creation of man and his placement at a crossroads between “gratitude” and “ingratitude.”

Given that the focus of this surah is on man, his actions, sincerity, sacrifice, his eventual fate on the Day of Judgment, and the good blessings for the virtuous, this Surah is also called “Insan” (Human).

The Surah is also famously known as “Hal Ata” because it starts with this phrase.

This Surah was revealed in Medina, and according to narrations, it praises Ali and Fatima (PBUH) who, as part of their vow, fasted for three days and donated their simple iftar meal to the poor, orphans, and captives (Verse 8), breaking their fast with water. The following verses mention Allah’s blessings for the people of heaven and the rewards for good deeds in the hereafter, commanding patience and resilience.

It contains 31 verses and was revealed after “Surah al-Rahman”.

The Glory of Sacrifice

Ibn Abbas reports: Once during their childhood, Imam Ali’s (PBUH) sons – Hassan and Hussain – fell ill. The honorable Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), accompanied by some companions, visited them and suggested to Imam Ali (PBUH) to make a vow for their recovery, promising to fast.

Imam Ali (PBUH), Fatimah Zahra (PBUH), and Fidda – their servant – made this vow: If Hassan and Hussain recover, we will fast for three days in gratitude to God.

Hassan and Hussain (PBUH) were healed. Imam Ali (PBUH) and his family, in fulfillment of their vow, had no food in the house. The Imam (PBUH) borrowed approximately nine kilos of barley from Shamoun Khyabari. Fatimah (PBUH) ground some barley into flour and baked five loaves of bread – one for each family member.

On the first day, they fasted. At the time of breaking the fast, a needy person came to their house. Imam Ali’s (PBUH) family gave their Iftar meal to the needy person, even though they were in need of food themselves. They made this sacrifice and broke their fast with water, spending the night without a meal.

The next day, they fasted again for the second day of their vow. At night, when they were about to break their fast with barley bread, an orphan knocked on their door asking for food. Once again, they sacrificed and gave their Iftar meal to the orphan.

The Iftar of the third day of fasting was also given in the way of Allah, altruistically offered to a captive who came asking for food.

In the morning, Imam Ali (PBUH) took Hassan and Hussain by hand to visit the Prophet of Allah (PBUH). When the Prophet (PBUH) saw them trembling from severe hunger, he said: “How hard and painful it is for me to see you in this condition.”

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) immediately rose and accompanied them back to the house of Imam Ali (PBUH). Upon arrival, he saw his daughter Fatimah in the prayer niche, her eyes sunken from hunger, which doubled the Prophet’s (PBUH) sorrow.

The Prophet (PBUH) had not yet left Imam Ali’s (PBUH) house when suddenly the angel of divine revelation – Gabriel – descended. He congratulated the esteemed Prophet of Islam (PBUH) for having such a sacrificing family and then presented him with the Surah Insan.

The Alawi-Fatimid Family, the Place of Revelation of ‘Hal Ata’

“And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive, (saying): “We feed you for the sake of Allah alone; no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.”‘

No one has raised any doubts about this issue: that this surah commemorates the virtues of the Ahlul Bait (peace be upon them).

The narration from Ibn Abbas is validated and confirmed by the scholarly leaders of both Sunni and Shia and is accepted by all Muslims. Now, here are the names of Sunni scholars who have narrated this hadith:

 Abu Ja’far Iskafi, Hakim Tirmidhi, Muhammad ibn Jalil Tabari, Ibn Abd Rabbih, Hakim Abu Abdullah Nishapuri, Hafiz Ibn Marduyah, Abu Ishaq Tha’labi, the great exegete Abu al-Hasan Wahidi, the great exegete Hafiz Abu Abdullah Andalusi, Hamidi, Abu al-Qasim Zamakhshari in Kashaf, Akhtab Khwarizmi, Hafiz Abu Musa Abu Abdullah Razi, Sherkhani, Muhammad ibn Talha Shafi’i, Abu al-Muzaffar Sib ibn Jauzi, Izz al-Din Abd al-Hamid, Hafiz Abu Abdullah Ganji Shafi’i, Qazi Nasir al-Din Baydawi, Hafiz Muhib al-Din Tabari, Hafiz Abu Muhammad Abu Hamza Azdi Andalusi, Hafiz al-Din Nasafi, Sheikh al-Islam Hamui, Nizam al-Din Qomi Nishapuri, the famous exegete Ala al-Din Ali ibn Muhammad Khazin Baghdadi, Qazi Izz al-Din Aji, Hafiz Ibn Hajar, Hafiz Jalal al-Din Suyuti, Abu Sa’ud Imadi Hanafi, Sheikh Ismail Birusi, Shawkai, Muhammad Sulayman Mahfuz among scholars of the twelfth century, and in addition to them, many other scholars have mentioned this noble hadith under the aforementioned verse.

The Family Life of Ali and Fatima (PBUT)

Ali, peace be upon him, and Fatima, peace be upon her, with the understanding they had of each other, commenced their modest life with purity, sincerity, sympathy, mutual understanding, order, sacrifice, and selflessness, which are the foundations of any successful life.

Things such as clothing, adornments, houses, luxury, gold, and jewelry, which cause significant disputes in materialistic lives, held no value in the eyes of Ali and Fatima. On the other hand, the love and affection that Ali, peace be upon him, had for Fatima, and the affection and love that Fatima had for Ali, bestowed such purity upon their family life. Ali, peace be upon him, considered Fatima’s existence as a solace for his heart and stated, “Fatima conducted the household chores in such a desirable manner and interacted with me so appropriately that whenever I saw her, all my sorrows and worries would be alleviated, and my heart would find peace.”

The collaboration and help of Ali, peace be upon him, in the house, and the sacrifice and dedication of Fatima, peace be upon her, on the other hand, added another layer of purity to this life.

A marriage bond, signed under the sanction of Allah and His Prophet, built on piety and reverence, and consisting of the Mistress of the Women of the World and the Commander of the Faithful, whose members have been kept by Allah from all forms of malice and impurity, leaves no room for discord or dispute. This bond resonates with purity, mutual understanding, and sympathy. Ali, peace be upon him, with his clear words, rejects the existence of any discord in his family and says, “Fatima never suffered because of me, and she never caused me any pain either. I never forced her into anything, and she never caused me any distress. She never stepped contrary to my inner wishes, and whenever I looked at her face, all my sorrows were removed, and I forgot my pains.”

Sociology of the Family

The family is the first and smallest institution where individuals experience interactions with others. In addition to establishing relationships with other family members, individuals also learn how to interact with the wider society. Just as the fundamental foundations of human personality are formed within the family, so too will their future interactions with others be determined here. Whether individuals develop a balanced and calm personality or a restless and aggressive one, whether they will have successful relationships with others in society or not, all of these are manifested and developed in the initial environment of interaction, which is the family. Of course, other important factors such as genetic conditions and natural environments also play a role in shaping individuals’ personalities, but the family’s role in this process is more prominent.

Family Management

The family requires prudent administration, and alongside income generation, the manner of its consumption is significantly important in the balanced management of a family. A prudent man establishes a balance between physical and spiritual nourishment, education and upbringing, leisure, and work, humor and seriousness, encouragement and punishment, etc. With a prudent man in place, the woman, in the shade of the trust and reassurance she has in her husband, fosters an atmosphere of love within the family. Even without extensive financial means, a prudent man can offer tranquility to his spouse, and this peace, free from tensions and stresses, is the foremost requirement for a woman to nurture love within the family.

The family needs management. In a healthy family, needs are prioritized according to their importance. It should not happen that, ultimately, the family suffers from malnutrition and poverty in an attempt to meet the non-essential needs of the children. Other very important aspects that require management include controlling the comings and goings and cultural management within the family nucleus. This encompasses a wide range of both negative and positive behaviors. For every prohibition, a solution is required, and each family needs suitable families for interaction and friendship, healthy recreation instead of unhealthy ones. These matters also require management.

The Role of a Woman in the Family

Human society requires certain causes and factors to ensure the purity of conscience among its members, and merely having political, military, economic rules, etc., is not sufficient. Given that human society is made up of smaller family societies – that is, the members of numerous families will be the ones to realize the formal community – until a cause of affection and inclination arises among family members, no purity of conscience, spirit of cooperation, or bond of friendship will ever be established among the individuals of the formal community. The most critical factor that animates forgiveness, sacrifice, and affection among family members is the mother’s spirit within the family. Although the father, as the “men are protectors and maintainers of women,” is responsible for the administrative and executive tasks of the small society, i.e., the family, the foundation of the family, based on love, loyalty, and bonding, falls on the mother because the mother is the origin of the birth and upbringing of children, who are all interconnected.

Those who are born of a woman are not like the fruits of a tree, where the spirit of human sacrifice does not manifest at the plant level, or like the offspring of a female animal, devoid of human cooperation and lacking a unique human bond. Instead, children born of a woman, whether immediately or distantly related to each other, are compassionate and kind, blossoming their natural bond under the light of religious teachings. In the school of religion, preserving this bond and not forgetting it is considered a significant duty. Anyone who severs this natural and religious bond will be deprived of God’s special mercy. For maintaining kinship is among the things that God has commanded, and for those who cut off what should be connected, divine curse and condemnation have been promised.

Family in the Quran

The family is a small community that initially forms with a man and a woman, two individuals destined to participate in each other’s spiritual evolution and material growth. Above all, they each compensate for the other’s deficiencies at the height of love and affection. If anything threatens them or puts their intellectual and belief ideals at risk, they both rise in defense, fighting it for their enduring life and existence, planning for their survival, and continuing their lineage. The Holy Quran eloquently articulates this fundamental principle:

“And one of His signs is that He has created for you, spouses from among yourselves so that you might take comfort in them, and He has placed between you, compassion and mercy. In this, there are certainly signs for people who reflect.” (Quran, 30:21).

Imam Muhammad Baqir, peace be upon him, quotes his grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, as saying, “No foundation has been built in Islam more beloved in the sight of Allah, Exalted and Majestic, than marriage.” This underlines that in the school of Islam, no institution is more cherished by Allah than the institution of marriage.

Islamic Morality and Upbringing in the Family

When a husband and wife meet each other at the end of their daily work or in the middle of the day, both expect to create an environment that is joyful, lively, livable, and stress-relieving. It is reasonable and appropriate for both to have such expectations from each other. If you can achieve this, life will be sweet.

To create such a secure and peaceful environment, the way forward is for the husband and wife to turn this environment into one of love, that is, to show each other love and affection. But how? Loving is not forced; as it say, ‘Affection cannot be forced, love cannot be hammered’! Love should grow in one’s heart like a flower growing from the ground. What do you do to make the flower of love grow in your spouse’s heart? This task is in your hands, both for women and men. The way? The way is to be faithful and show affection to them.

This action ignites love in their heart. When they love you, love also ignites in your heart because you are interdependent. If we do not say that this great set of rules related to men and women, mahrams and non-mahrams, and hijab are for this purpose, eighty to ninety percent of it is for you two to live with love at home.

 If you, who walk in the street, did not consider this, your heart would be distracted in a hundred places and your home would lose its color; the same goes for them. If you, as a man, do not observe mahram and non-mahram, if you find a friend of the opposite sex, if you warm up to everyone, if the hijab is not observed, if hundreds of women with various makeup pass in front of you; and also, if you as a woman, whenever you saw a particular man and stared at him, watched him, and did whatever, what would be the result? The result is that your spouse, from your perspective, will no longer have the appeal that love creates.

Family and Its Challenges

The challenges of the family can be divided into two categories: internal and external. Neglecting ethical and legal issues, and not observing matters related to human relationships, are internal harms affecting the members of the family.

External harm-causing factors should be found outside the family environment. In the present era, with the advent of mass communication tools like newspapers, books, radio, television, satellites, and internet networks, the nature of family life has changed and has brought various and difficult consequences with it. Modernization has confronted the essence and identity of the family with serious entanglements, and various technologies and inventions, designed to enhance the quality of life in contemporary societies, have confounded families and promoted consumerism. The overactivity of parents has also caused numerous emotional damage to children and has made it difficult for the family to fulfill its responsibilities.

Learning from Imam Ali and His Family (PBUT)

The life of Imam Ali and his family peace be upon them, stands as a shining beacon of inspiration and guidance for anyone seeking to foster a wholesome and virtuous family environment. Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, and his wife Lady Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUT), crafted an exemplary household based on the core principles of mutual respect, love, and commitment to spiritual growth.

Imam Ali and Lady Fatimah’s relationship was a testament to the power of profound affection and equal partnership. Their love was not merely romantic; it was a partnership where both were invested in each other’s spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. They shared responsibilities, cared for each other deeply, and always encouraged one another in the pursuit of knowledge and spiritual refinement. Imam Ali was known for helping with household chores, an action that many might consider unusual for a man of his stature and time. This beautifully illustrates the Islamic teaching of shared responsibility within a family, as well as showing respect and consideration for the workload of the household.

The upbringing of their children was also a masterclass in effective family management. They raised their children with love and kindness, but also with discipline and strong moral guidance. They fostered an environment of learning, spirituality, and respect for all. Their children, including Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain, grew up to be paragons of virtue, leadership, and service to humanity, deeply influenced by their parents’ teachings and their household’s ambiance.

Their home was always open to the needy, the orphans, and the wayfarers, teaching us the importance of empathy and generosity. They were known to give away their food while fasting to those who knocked on their door, a poignant demonstration of their selflessness and commitment to helping those less fortunate. It also speaks volumes about the atmosphere they cultivated at home – one of kindness, compassion, and self-sacrifice.

In looking to Imam Ali and his family as a model, we learn that a good family is not solely defined by prosperity or worldly success, but by the character and values it upholds. The values of mutual respect, shared responsibility, unconditional love, spiritual development, empathy, generosity, and self-sacrifice, as embodied by Imam Ali and his family, should be at the heart of our own family lives. By fostering these values and principles, we too can create an environment that breeds positivity, nurtures personal growth, and ultimately, contributes to a more compassionate and understanding world.

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