Sociology of the Family with a View to Islamic Sources
Author: Dr. Hossein Bostan (Najafi) Translated by: Somaieh Rahimzadeh
Being the smallest social institution, family has attracted the attention of social thinkers due to the special significant place it occupies. On the one hand, the mutual effect between family and other sections of society, and on the other hand, its survival throughout ages and centuries have driven many thinkers to study it using different approaches. Apart from the religious, ethical, philosophical and legal approaches dominant in the past, there has been a growth of historical, anthropological, psychological and social approaches to family since the 19th century.
According to common definitions, sociology is a theoretical science which attempts to describe and explain social interactions and institutions by using various experimental methods. The application of this scientific discipline comes to manifest itself in policies and strategies which are presented by the experts in order to improve social conditions. On the other hand, since Islam intends to present an all-embracing and comprehensive plan for the personal and social happiness of humans, it has revealed its stance on different issues concerning family in an extensive series of Quranic verses and narrations sometimes in the form of descriptive phrases and often in the form of normative phrases.
Therefore we can expect to find many overlaps between the phrases concerning the family in this comprehensive religious plan and the phrases in the discipline of sociology about family and this will provide a proper ground and the necessary motivation to embark on interdisciplinary studies by integrating religious and sociological approaches, because these type of studies play a significant role in extending the boundaries of knowledge in the field of humanities. In fact, such works will pave the way for achieving two main objectives in this field; first, the establishment of the idea of humanities and Islamic ideology and specifically the paradigm of Islamic sociology in academic settings the need for which is felt in recent years more than ever. Second, the localization of the human sciences which attracts more supporters in comparison with the first objective due to the fact that today the shortcomings of the non-native human sciences have been revealed even further.
Particularly in the field of the sociology of family, a considerable part of the topics includes those which do not fit the general setting of the Islamic societies, even though they might have pervaded some Westernized groups and social strata in these societies, these topics may include: romantic love, cohabitation, homosexual families, and the conflict between love and parenting. On the other hand, the family in Islamic societies is facing numerous issues that the sociology of family has not yet engaged in a deep study of them which includes the functions of alimony, zeal, hijab1 , the restrictions on the relationship between the men and women, the Islamic upbringing of the children, temporary marriage, polygamy. Since social realities are the result of social values to a great extent, and given the differences of social values of different societies, it is quite natural that the sociology of the family as a new and budding science in the Western world should concern itself with the ideal Western family and be specified to resolving the issues and problems emerging in the Western culture and the Western family, while it should also be noted that these problems will most probably not be considered as problems and issues at all in other societies.
Furthermore, even when a sociologist is engaged in studying the non-Western societies, he usually employs the same concepts and theoretical frameworks of the Western sociology and this is also an important obstacle in gaining a true understanding of the realities in these societies. For instance, when the sociologist of the family uses some of the concepts originating from the Western culture such as patriarchy and sex discrimination to analyze the family relationships in Islamic societies, this problem emerges.
The current book is the abridged form of and at the same time a complement for the book Islam and the sociology of family which its first edition was published in 2004.The discussions of this book are organized in five parts and fifteen chapters; the first part deals with the subject of marriage, in the second part the structure of the family, and in the third part the functions of the family will be explored, the fourth part is specified to important subjects in the area of the pathology of the family and the ways to strengthen it and finally the fifth part will present some theoretical discussions in the area of the sociology of family.
The method followed in presenting the topics involves first doing an overview of the topic from a sociological perspective and referring to the theoretical views and the current experimental findings, and then presenting phrases and points available from the main Islamic texts, namely Quran and the narrations quoted by the Prophet (pbuh) and the Immaculate Imams related to that topic.
Here I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for the authorities, colleagues, and the respected staff of the Emissary and University Research Centre who provided help and support for the accomplishment of this project. I ask for God's help and blessing for all who endeavor to be in the service of dear Islam.