« Families only », « family friendly », « bring your family », « he/she has a family now! », « come with your family! », « I have my own family  » … You have seen or heard these expressions. These expressions, in our time, discriminate. The reason is simple: the word family regularly refers to a couple with at least one child or a single parent.

The modern meaning of the term is problematic, in my opinion. The statement « I have my own family now », which implies, « I have children now » excludes any childless person from a family structure of their own. Having a family is realized when a child shares the life of a couple.

One can therefore be part of it (of the family), but not found one, as one would set up a company of which one would be the sole manager with his or her partner.

This word causes a lot of suffering for childless people, especially if they come from an adoptive family or other foster care. Conceiving children is a way for people without biological genealogical references points to have their own family. Building your family is sometimes even THE advice of psychologists to avoid being locked into the pain of having grown up and living without parents. Is this not a cruel suggestion for those who cannot give birth?  If we keep the discriminating definition of family in our time, they will always be without one.

Meaning of the word family in the Qur’an

I then wondered if the term family and its discriminating charge had the same meaning in the Qur’an.

I wanted to look for examples and came up with the idea of verse 83 of Surah 7 and then I came across verses 10 of Sura 20 and 55 of Sura 19.

We saved him (Lot) and his family[1]… (7:83)

He (Moses) saw a fire and told his family[2],… (20:10)

He (Ishmael) commanded his family to pray and give alms[3]… (19:55)

In each verse, the word ahlun is regularly translated into English as family. However, this word has several definitions including inhabitant, people population, family … In the book The study Quran, an [4]annotated English translation of the Qur’an, the explanation of verse 83 of Sura 7, suggests that the word « family » in English must be understood more inclusively. This word would mean the believers, the followers of Lot.

In the second verse, the Arabic word ahla de ahlun often translated into English as family also means people, inhabitants, population. So we can also interpret it by people, followers. Finally, in the third example, Denise Masson’s version translates the word ahlahou as his  family,  while in the translation of The Study Quran the same word is translated as his  people.

This leads me to think that the meaning of the word family is much more inclusive than the meaning given to it today. One could conclude that people who share  a similar belief and way of life belong to the same family.

Reclaiming the word family

I have noticed that some « fans » consider themselves members of the same family. When they meet at concerts, for example, or at meetings organized by a fan club, they use the term « family » to describe themselves. During the year-end celebrations, a rock band suggested to their fans, alone during the holidays, to get in touch with other fans because “they are a family”.

The modern world has made the word family exclusive when it is meant to be inclusive.

A family is not created as soon as a child enters a couple’s life, but from the moment one joins a group that  shares  the same beliefs, tastes and opinions. With the power of digital communication today, there is no need to see each other physically to proclaim this belonging.

After all, we all have a family! Undoubtedly, the childless community is also a family.

Original Text Le mot famille- Quel sens lui donner ?

Translation by Discussions Essentielles and Deep L

© Photo credit Pixabay

[1] Le Coran, translated (into French) by Denise Masson, Gallimard, 1967

[2] Le Coran, translated by Denise Masson, Gallimard, 1967

[3] Le Coran, translated by Denise Masson, Gallimard, 1967

[4] The study Quran A NEw Translation and Commentary, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Harper one ,2015

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