The Civilised Family
By Sayyid Qutb
If the family is the basis of the
society, and the basis of the family is the division of labour between
husband and wife, and the upbringing of children is the most important
function of the family, then such a society is indeed civilised.
In the Islamic system of life, this kind of a family provides the
environment under which human values and morals develop and grow
in the new generation; these values and morals cannot exist apart
from the family unit. If, on the other hand, free sexual relationship
and illegitimate children become the basis of a society, and if
the relationship between man and woman is based on lust, passion
and impulse, and the division of work is not based on family responsibility
and natural gifts; if the role of women is merely to be attractive,
sexy and flirtatious, and if women are freed from their basic responsibility
of bringing up children; and if, on her own or under social demand,
she prefers to become a hostess or a stewardess in a hotel or ship
or air company, thus using her ability for material productivity
rather than the training of human beings, because material production
is considered to be more important, more valuable and more honourable
than the development of human character, then such a civilisation
is 'backward' from the human point of view, or 'jahili' in Islamic
The family system and the relationship
between the sexes determine the whole character of a society and
whether it is backward or civilised, jahili or Islamic. Those societies
which give ascendance to physical desires and animalistic morals
cannot be considered civilised, no matter how much progress they
may make in industry or science. This is the only measure, which
does not err in guarding true human progress.
In all modern jahili societies, the
meaning of 'morality' is limited to such an extent that all those
aspects, which distinguish man from animal, are considered beyond
its sphere. In these societies, illegitimate sexual relationships
even homosexuality, are not considered immoral. The meaning of ethics
is limited to economic affairs or sometimes to political affairs,
which fall into the category of 'government interests'.
Among jahili societies, writers and
journalists advise both married and unmarried people that free sexual
relationships are not immoral. However, it is immoral if a boy uses
his partner, or a girl uses her partner, for sex, while feeling
no love in his or her heart. It is bad if a wife continues to guard
her chastity while her love for her husband has vanished; it is
admirable if she finds another lover...
From the point of view of 'human'
progress, all such societies are not civilised but are backward.
The line of human progress goes upward
from animal desires toward higher values. To control the animal
desires, a progressive society lays down the foundation of a family
system in which human desires find satisfaction, as well as providing
for the future generation to be brought up in such a manner that
it will continue the human civilisation, in which human characteristics
flower to their full bloom.
Obviously a society which intends
to control the animal characteristics, while providing full opportunities
for the development and perfection of human characteristics, requires
strong safeguards for the peace and stability of the family, so
that it may perform its basic task free from the influences of impulsive
passions. On the other hand, if in a society immoral teachings and
poisonous suggestions are rampant, and sexual activity is considered
outside the sphere of morality, then in that society the humanity
of man can hardly find a place to develop.
Thus, only Islamic values and morals,
Islamic teachings and safeguards, are worthy of mankind, and form
this unchanging and true measure of human progress, Islam is the
real civilisation and Islamic society is truly civilised.