Family and relationships: Modern and Islamic viewpoints

18 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

It is obvious today that family and intimate relationships are undergoing various significant changes and substantial transformations as a result of global socio-economic development and advances in technology. The expansion of educational and employment opportunities, the advancement of technologies in agriculture and other production sectors, increased access to development services of self-employment through microfinances and improved healthcare education, social awareness avenues, and economic and political empowerment among the disadvantaged are the major factors influencing changes in the family pattern in Bangladesh. Modernisation and urbanisation are linked to small family structures.  The roles and functions of the family have evolved over time in Bangladesh, in accordance with the changing structure of families.

Women's empowerment has also changed the traditional family roles of men and women. Women's empowerment may be attributed to a number of factors, including increased educational attainment, development of capitalism, increased female participation in production and various social changes. Women, like men, are now employed in various professions. Being a man or a woman is no longer a criterion in many professions. Any skilled and educated person can join the workforce. Women are increasingly coming out to work outside their homes. Not only educated and talented women, but even non-skilled women are doing so. For example, since the 1990s, the expansion of garment industries has influenced many women to relocate to cities for work. Women need not be trained or educated to work in this field, as they can learn on the job. These factors contributed to women's mobility, as a result of which traditional households are dwindling. Women's roles as child bearers and homemakers are no longer dominant in their lives; instead, the new ideology is: "gender equality."

This new ideology affects the way we perceive family and intimate relationships. In a traditional society in rural Bangladesh, women were supposedly dependent on the male members of the family. Their life choices were mostly determined by the male members of the family like the father, brother or uncle. But now, that system is on the verge of diminishing. Educated and employed women are now free to choose their partners on their own and leave them at any time. Economic solvency is one of the major reasons behind this. Divorce, in traditional rural societies, was considered a curse for a woman and she used to be blamed for it. Now, divorce rate is increasing tremendously. Mostly it is women who are filing for the divorce. Earlier marrying a divorced woman was prohibited by social norms. Since societies in our sub-continent have strong influence of the Hindu culture, the attitude towards a divorced or widowed woman is very negative. Divorce is considered as a “stigma” since it’s hard to marry off a divorced woman for a family. The scenario is completely different now.

Our society is constantly undergoing massive social transformations influenced by the forces of production. There are many indications of contemporary intimate relationships in Bangladesh society. The family and marriage traditions are at the risk of dying as a result of the various changes brought about by capitalism and modernisation. Despite the fact that many people still adhere to traditional values, a new generation is embracing modern intimate relationship values.

By and by, the adoption of many western values converged with religious values. This results in people being tolerant and open about changes that are taking place. The tradition of purdah restricts the movement of women and makes them stay at home. But, nowadays many religious families tend to send their daughters to schools, colleges and universities. Some of the girls maintain purdah minimally by wearing hijab which is now accepted in society.

In Bangladesh, Islamic principles govern many aspects of social life. With the rise of technology and capitalism, however, Islamic doctrines are losing their dominance. Religious leaders were vehemently opposed to the emergence and acceptance of some facets of modernity, deeming it un-Islamic. In Bangladesh, intimate relationships such as premarital relationships were deemed foreign culture and were outlawed. However, resistance to modernity was never successful, and modernism has infiltrated many parts of our culture. In a nutshell, adaptability to modernity or the integration of modernity and Islamic practices have developed.

It's no surprise that a society dominated by Islam is gradually absorbing non-Islamic practices. The advancement of communication technologies has aided these changes. Dating platforms like Tinder, for example, are ideal for quickly finding a partner. It makes it easier to meet people who share similar interests and to find a companion. Some terms, such as "hook-up" and "dating" have grown popular among today's youths.

People deviated from traditional values as a result of such practices. Many young people now regard marriage as "uncertain" or "unimportant" in their lives. Marriage, on the other hand, is more of a choice and a risk. If this trend continues, it will have a significant impact on the future of family and intimate relationships in Bangladesh society. Traditional family structures will be replaced by new ones. The institution of marriage will be shattered, and many people will be hesitant to marry or even marry only for the sake of having children.


Arifur Rahaman, is a student of

Sociology Department, University of Dhaka