The Relationship between the House and other Social Institutions
The house in Islam is not just a shelter or a place to relax and unwind. It is a family development center. It is an institution. To regard the house as no more than a shelter or a place to relax and unwind would be tantamount to a slur on both the all-inclusive message of Islam and the phenomenon of the house which Islam perceives as a principal blessing bestowed upon man. Possessing a house is one of the fundamental human rights in Islam. The opposite, that is, to live with no roof over one's head, is deemed as a major ailment which both a person and a society in which he lives must constantly put up with. There could be no more adverse a condition for a person than homelessness. It begets the worst problems for the homeless people and also for their surroundings. It begets all the negative elements which stand at the diametrically opposite side of those positive elements which the house as a family development center and a microcosm of culture and civilization can generate.
In Islam, the house is an institution that has a clear mission, vision and orientation. Not just possessing houses but also rearing the favorable socio-political and economic conditions where planning, building and acquiring suitable, functional and affordable houses would be a norm, does Islam see as very crucial. In other words, Islamic housing signifies a multidisciplinary and multi-levelled process where all the tiers, phases and aspects are equally important. It is almost impossible to identify a tier, or a phase, or an aspect in that process and consider it more important than the others. The Islamic housing process starts with having a proper understanding and vision which leads to making a right intention. It continues with the planning, designing and building stages, and ends with attaining the net results and how people make use of and benefit from them. Islamic housing is a fine blend of all these factors which are interwoven throughout the entire process with the treads of the belief system, principles, teachings and values of Islam.
Islam promotes a housing culture that will from the initial phase of planning to the final phase of using houses typify much of what Islam stands for, given the amount of time people normally spend at home which, in turn, evokes the inexhaustible potential the house has for ingeniously diversifying and intensifying its roles and functions. The same housing culture, furthermore, will promote and facilitate to Muslims the realization of their most gracious vicegerency mission on earth. Muslim houses function as the physical locus of, or a launching pad for, the fulfilment of much of such a mission.
However, since the house in Islam is an institution which hand-in-hand with other societal institutions and establishments spurs Islamic society towards a cultural and civilizational excellence, there must exist the highest level of mutual understanding, cooperation and support between the house and other institutions and establishments in society. The success of a society depends on the success of the functions of its major institutions and establishments, the house institution leading the way, and how closely they cooperate and support each other in achieving the goals of the society. Conversely, the breakdown of a society is linked with the breakdown and lethargy of the functions of its major institutions and establishments, the house institution again leading the way, and how far they are alienated from each other in terms of their societal commitments and responsibilities. If there is a dichotomy, or a conflict, either at an ideological or a practical plane, in the services those institutions and establishments render to society and its people, that connotes that such a society is one without a clear orientation, purpose, vision, system and strategy. In such a society, the hardly procured, and sometimes scarce, resources, energy, skills and competence went wasted and abused. Because they are used for a set of different, often conflicting, objectives and agendas, with differing and incompatible protagonists in the game, they, at best, failed to generate the impact that was anticipated, or that would definitely have been generated if the valued resources, energy, skills and competence were utilized for a unified purpose, by a unified and concerted effort and strategy, and at the hands of compatible, truthful and dedicated individuals.
This means, for example, that there is something chronically wrong in a Muslim society where the purpose, mission and functions of the house are not in the vein of, or worse yet, are at odds or clash with, the purpose, mission and functions of the educational institutions of the same society. Apart from education, the same code applies to the rest of the segments of society: business, politics, mass media, leisure and entertainment. That means, furthermore, that there is something fatally wrong if Muslims in their societies are exposed to, taught and made to duly subscribe at home to the worldview of Islam and its system of values and moral principles, but no sooner do they step outside from the domain of their houses and subject themselves to the direct influences of the domains of the other sectors of society, than they become exposed to and aggressively bombarded with the promotional or actual elements of other alien-to-Islam worldviews and life systems.
The children, the main target of our educational and training efforts, and the future standard-bearers of society's development, are more than anybody else susceptible to falling prey to this perilous state of affairs. If they are taught or trained something at home, but outside it they are taught, trained or aggressively exposed to something else, which however conflicts and is incompatible with the former, the children's fragile, subtle and embryonic mind will suffer. Although they will be able, hopefully, to distinguish between the truth of Islam and the falsehood, remaining faithfully committed to the former, the free existence, coupled with a freer propagation, of quite a few types and manifestations of the falsehood alongside the banner of Islam, all vying against each other for an ultimate triumph, supremacy and dominance, would prove too much to bear for so many nascent minds. Many will eventually crack, albeit inadvertently, under the strain of being persistently targeted by the agents of diverse, but contradictory, ideas, philosophies and dogmas. Widespread confusion, cynicism, indifference and mediocrity, and occasional cases of outright apostasy and blasphemy, on the one hand, and frequent cases of deadening religious formalism, bigotry, fanaticism and extremism, on the other, are some of the chief psychological and spiritual disorders that Muslim societies will have to suffer as a result of the mentioned institutional ideological dichotomy, if such is allowed to be established and to thrive. In short, Islam at home alone is not enough for completely transforming, correcting and bringing forward Muslim societies, especially if there is a powerful active presence of some anti-Islamic forces inside the societal spheres other than the housing sphere. An institutional ideological unison, cohesion and collaboration, rather than a conflict and dichotomy, is the key for the progress of Muslims and their societies, with Islamic housing playing a markedly decisive role in the process.
It goes without saying, therefore, that the best and most ideal scenario would be that the quintessence of what the Muslim children in Muslim societies learn and are exposed to at home, is the quintessence of what they learn and are exposed to in schools, shopping centers, through mass media, on the street, etc. Striving towards making this scenario a tangible and total reality, in point of fact, denotes no more than striving towards the dutifully discharging of our duties towards the children whom Allah has entrusted to us. To do otherwise would mean but a betrayal of Allah's trust upon us, and the betrayal of the faith that children have placed in us in matters pertaining to their growth and maturity: physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual.
Finally, the institutional ideological dichotomy, which is here strongly repudiated, is by no means synonymous with the impartial and scientific exposure of the Muslim youth to other ideologies, religions and worldviews, which, as a matter of fact, is highly recommended to be promoted and integrated in Muslim educational systems. That is for the sake of enriching and broadening the minds of the Muslim youth, as well as for the sake of instilling in them a sense of understanding, tolerance and respect for others, which, at the same time, is bound to cause them to become far better grounded in Islam and more understanding and appreciative of their own Islamic religious experiences. They will then become a more pragmatic, sensible and productive lot. Their genuine contributions not only to the cause of Islam and Muslims, but also to the universal causes of man and mankind, will considerably increase too. Indeed, an institutional ideological cohesion and unison warrant a success to Muslims at all the planes of their existence. The opposite, i.e., an institutional ideological dichotomy, warrants a failure and hopelessness also at all the planes of the existence of Muslims.
Dr. Spahic Omer, a Bosnian currently residing in Malaysia, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design, International Islamic University Malaysia. He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and philosophy of the Islamic built environment. He can be reached at spahico [@] yahoo.com; his blog is at www.medinanet.org.