If a report announced that one million children in the UK had no adequate teacher at school, we would be in uproar.
One million children going without an adequate education would be unacceptable and a cause for considerable public anger to be directed towards the Government - as when it comes to failing public services, everyone knows where to point the finger.
Now holding this thought, think about the real report that came out last week from the Centre for Social Justice stating that one million fathers are absent from the lives of their children. More than just a cause for celebration on Father's Day it could be easily argued that in a child's life, the presence and influence of a father is of far greater importance than a school teacher. Director of Centre for Social Justice Christian Guy said regarding this absence of fathers from the lives of children, that the effects are "devastating". Obama himself made a heartfelt address about the absence of his father on Father's Day. But when it comes to the problem of absent fathers in society both in the UK and in the nation Obama rules over, where do we point the finger?
Currently the finger is barely being pointed anywhere. Obama made his address, but failed to address the causes as to why such absence of fathers is still rampant across the US. In the UK, this report by the Centre for Social Justice has come, and quietly gone again in the news, and we have all moved on. However there needs to be a frank acknowledgement, that as fathers become more and more absent - an increasing 20,000 a year in the UK the report claims - children are becoming more and more negatively impacted. To add to this, with the stunt pulled by a man from Fathers for Justice, where he defaced a painting of the Queen in order to seek attention for his plight of being denied access to his children; there is a real question to ask about the role of fathers in secular liberal societies.
Firstly we need to ask, what is it that pushes so many men to walk away from their role of a father as this report has highlighted? And the answer I believe, can be found by scrutinising the secular liberal society we live in and the values that are promoted.
Liberal values have created a culture, where the dominant message is to live by ones' individual hedonistic pursuits. This message, along with sexual freedoms, has nurtured a viewpoint towards relationships where seeking ones' pleasures and the fulfilment of desires becomes of greatest importance. The responsibilities that come with relationships become then, a secondary issue. And this has definitely been the case for a huge number of fathers, for whom being 'tied down' with a child would make life too serious, boring or require too much commitment.
And such behaviour is fully legal, giving men the green light by the state (whether it is Obama's, Cameron's or any secular liberal state) to chop and change relationships as they like despite consequences on the lives of their families.
Moreover as many liberal societies have moved away from the traditional family structure, of children being brought up by their biological mother and father, it has been assumed that this movement is progressive - That the evolving of this structure to a free for all, should be accepted and celebrated. But we should question first and foremost - What is the basis upon which this change in the form of the family unit is labelled as progress? The sad reality is that the varied forms of the 'modern family' have not been established upon deep, critical study of what is best for the rights of children and society overall, but rather the result of a random evolutionary process driven by the personal desires and ambitions of parents.
And on the other side of the spectrum 'Fathers for Justice' has illustrated the desperate lengths some men have to go through to secure their rights as a father. As society moves away from the traditional family unit, the result has been the diminishing of the role of the father to one of minimal importance or to even having no defined role at all. This has caused the devastation we see on the other side of the spectrum, where fathers have been denied their rights.
Islam on the other hand has a distinct viewpoint in life that the purpose of life is to please a Higher Being. This means in every aspect in life, people understand that they are accountable to this Higher Being in the way they conduct their relationships and affairs.
The social system of Islam seeks to ensure that no-one, man, woman, or child is left without their rights and the responsibilities towards them being fulfilled. This is achieved by only allowing one type of intimate relationship to exist between men and women, and that is marriage. This means that if any man wants to have a relationship with a woman, he must do so by also vowing that he will commit to her and take physical, emotional, and financial responsibility for her and any children that arise. Every intimate relationship between a man and a woman has the potential to bear children, and to not clearly secure the rights of those potential children in advance, is consequently just calling for disaster.
Islam of course, does not force anyone to stay in a marriage which does not work after all attempts have been exhausted, or in a marriage that is abusive in any way by providing both men and women, with the solution of divorce as a last resort. However divorce is seen as a last resort in Islam, motivating couples to try to make things work as much as possible. This creates a mindset in society where husband and wife seek to please each other and live together honourably as their ability to do so is greatly rewarded by God. Marriages therefore take on another dimension other than just a means to fulfil ones' carnal needs and emotions and do not become redundant when they cease to serve that purpose. This means people are encouraged to continue a long-term relationship, creating a stable and secure home for children.
The third Caliph (leader) of Islam, Umar ibn Al Khattab once told a man who wanted to divorce his wife as he did not love her:
"Are all houses built on love? What about loyalty and appreciation?"
Islam also has a fixed family structure which is not open to evolving, as the components required to bring up a family have not changed. Islam recognises that a successful family unit requires both father and mother to understand their important roles so they can fulfil them properly, and the central role of a father in the family unit is definitively defined.
A saying of the Prophet, Peace be upon him, lays out the responsibility a father holds to protect, care for and financially provide for his family. He said,
"All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock...... A man is a shepherd in his family and is responsible for those in his care."
In the Qur'an, it also says, "But the father of the child shall bear the cost of the mother's food and clothing."(Chapter Al-Baqara, verse 233)
Further to this, a father is placed with the responsibility to lead the development of his children as evident inanother saying of the Prophet, Peace be upon him:
"No father can give his child anything better than good manners"
These evidences and many more, lay out the responsibility a father holds from the moment he bears children. And if he is divorced from the mother, he does not need Child Maintenance or the Courts chasing after him to force him to pay his due. He understands clearly from the onset, the fulfilment of his responsibility as a father is linked to his success in his Hereafter. It also ensures that fathers do not have to fight for their rights as if he is separated from the mother, Islam still enshrines his rights and responsibilities towards his children which can never be eroded away.
At a time where liberal societies are facing deepening cracks in family life in society, it is surely pertinent for those who sincerely seek a solution to this problem and wish to see the rights of children secured to consider whether Islam's social laws that are so often labelled as archaic, restrictive, and oppressive, may just hold a remedy.
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