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Teen Perspective, a column on Muslim teen issues

November/Ramadan 2003

The Powerful Bonds of The Family Unit

by Shezena T. Mohammed

Almost everything consists of units. There are units of cells that make up tissue, units of planets that make up the solar systems, units of distance, time, weight, and space. For almost everything there is some kind of unit that it can go into.

The most fundamental unit for people is family. They are born into it and they never leave it. Sea turtles, on the beach just a few minutes away, never see either of their parents, but we spend most of our lives in contact with them. It's a basic human need to be a part of a unit, a group, that you can always go back to, one that you can never be kicked out of no matter what you do. It feels good to be associated with a group of people your whole life. I have never known anyone for more than four years except my family. It may seem like a very short amount of time, but it's not a big deal, I'm only 18.

The most continuous part of almost anyone's life is his or her family. It may change, grow or shrink over time, but hopefully, there is always someone in your family just a call, click, ride or walk away. They are there from the beginning to the end. You start your life surrounded by them and hopefully end it surrounded by them. It seems no matter where you go in life, the ultimate end is to be with your family. They make you laugh, cry, and yes, even miserable sometimes, but at the end of the day, everyday, they are still unfailingly linked to you, and Alhumduillah for that.

I saw a television show about sociology and family and it presented views from different cultures, and one man said it's remarkable how God would place you on this earth with a set of people who you call your family, and it is an unspoken and general rule that you love them just because. If you a grabbed set of random people out in the street and said, "Here, love them as you would your own flesh and blood" it would be impossible. People don't have that kind of love readily available to anyone. There is something about knowing that they are from the same people you are from. It's amazing how you can love them just because they are your family. It's an exclusive group that not just anyone can join, and maybe because of that elite and restricted status, it makes it possible for such emotion to thrive. Your family could be anyone and do anything but they are almost always automatically accepted by you and the rest of your family members for no reason other than relation.

I have an uncle whom I had never met until about a year and a half ago. My dad hadn't seen him in about 30 years, the last time being when he was just a small boy. We could have passed him in the street and not known who he was, but after we got acquainted with him and the reality that he had the same blood in him as we did sunk in, it was as if we had known him all along. He was in our unit and received and was entitled to the same love as anyone else. I wouldn't have believed that it would make so much of a difference to whether he was related to us or not, in how accepting and loving we were to him, but it was. He was family and that's all it took.

It was a strange thing to experience and puzzles me even now how easily he became a part of our family but it proved only that the bonds of family are very different than the bonds with other people. It is very difficult to join, but also incredibly hard to break. No one is getting in and especially out without a very good reason. Just because someone is family they are excused from the judgment that might apply to other people, and if they aren't, it is only for the betterment of that person.

Just because you are part of a family, you are given whatever you need or want without anything expected in return. You are given much needed emotional support that could be impossible to find any place else. Family provides a constant fulfillment of every kind of need that you have. It is such a basic and deep-seated necessity to have a family that no one even thinks twice about it. Family is taken for granted.

We need our family just as we need a roof over our head, and it is vital to maintain it just as we would our house, bodies, or anything else. It might still be intact and functioning but I think it could be infinitely better if it were maintained a little more. Family is always there for us, we need them, and they are an immense source of support, so it is important to value them and cherish them. I think everyone is always looking for some kind of validation and the most significant place for anyone to find it is within their family.

It has always been my experience that Ramadan unites my family. During Ramadan, we try very hard to shun all unnecessary things we may have brought into our lives over the past year. We try to focus only on the things that are really important and leave everything else that is done in vain. As a result we find ourselves only with Islam and each other. Islam will bring us closer in just the nature of it, and doing it together solidifies our kin. We get closer to each other and in that state, it is much easier to brave any of life's challenges together, as a family. Without that, I don't know where we would be. The relations with family, I think, are always restorable, and they are like that just because it is family. It is the very nature of it. No one else will ever be so forgiving and accepting of you, or will even try. Value, cherish, and remember anyone you consider family this Ramadan. Your relationship with your family can only improve by your sincere efforts.

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