KEEPING UP BONDS of kinship is not as easy as it sounds.
Families and friends give warmth and meaning to our lives, keep us strong and fulfilled, make us feel loved and wanted, help us grow, struggle and stay the course of an unpredictable and at times unkind life.
In Islam, Allah requires us to revere the womb and the relationships that emanate from it. Allah imposes on us to save not only ourselves but our family from the Punishment—which means that a good family can help us evade the Fire of a miserable eternity, just as a bad one can lead us into it.
But intimacy, closeness, frequent interaction and mutual dependence that close family and friends share can also lead to the exact opposite of the beautiful things enumerated above.
- Warmth of love in a family can turn into a hell of envy;
- Bonds of blood can become spilling of blood;
- Search for fulfillment can become thirst for humiliating others; and
- Support in tough times can turn into hatred and rivalry even in good times.
It happens when the members of a family do not possess the right values and attitudes. Satan, the worst enemy of mankind, loves none of his snares more than sowing hatred within believing families and friends. The excessive individualism of modern times as well as timeless ignorance and selfishness can replace the love of families and bonds of friendship with hatred and bad blood.
It is not uncommon that people quickly denounce and desert family members only because they forgot to invite them to the last get-together. I have personally witnessed two family members who actually lived door to door and refused to even share the Salam amongst them when they met face to face. The reason? Each one claims that the other should initiate the first visit and “Why should I be the one to go knock on their door? Plus, I got ill the other day and they did not even bother to stop by and see how I was doing!”
Oh, does it hurt to hear these ‘arguments’! It makes me understand the words of the Messenger of Allah œ that Satan runs through the blood stream of the son of Adam. The saddest thing is that their children were told to never speak to their relatives or even approach their door. It rips my heart inside out to even think about it.
This is not fiction, but a reality taking place between members of my own family. I have seen two sisters, one of whom decided to abandon the other only because the latter did not bring her the right fabric that the former had requested on the way from Hajj. And I am quite certain that this is the case in so many other Muslim families, in utter disregard of the fact that they are committing one of the gravest and most horrendous sins which brings upon a person the anger and curse of Allah.
We ask Allah to guide our hearts and give us the strength to remain in control over our spoiled souls!
Severing relations has become a threatening epidemic that has found its way into many Muslim families. In my observation, nine out of ten times the causes and motives leading to such hostility are silly and trivial. Have we forgotten the tremendous value of al-raḥem? Have we become completely unmindful and oblivious of its significance? Or is it that our selfishness and self-centeredness has gotten the best of us?
Our Kin’s Rights over Us
Every member of our family has rights over us. These rights differ from one person to another. For instance, the mother stands higher than the aunt and the grandfather is most definitely above the brother in law.
Some of the rights that our next of kin have on us are:
- To maintain a good relationship with them by showing respect, love and sympathy.
- Be there for them when they need you.
- Go visit them at times of sickness and be a good support at times of tribulations.
- Share with them glorious moments. Let them in on all your good news.
- Buy them gifts and congratulate them on Eid days.
- Help them financially during harsh times.
When Allah revealed the verse, You will not attain piety until you spend from that which is beloved to you. Abû Ṭalḥah said, “The most beloved to me of my wealth is B’ir Hâ (a garden), and I am giving it as a Ṣadaqah for Allah, I yearn for its reward from Allah. So, Messenger of Allah, spend it as you see fit according what Allah has shown you.” The Messenger said, Bakhin! (an expression of amazement), that indeed is a profitable trade. I have heard what you said, and I recommend that you spend it on your kin. Abû Ṭalḥah responded “I will do so O Messenger of Allah.” And Abû Ṭalḥah indeed gave it away to his relatives.
Spending on kinship has become a neglected responsibility, to the point that you can easily find people who will invite a friend to a classy restaurant and never spend a dime on their cousin. They offer valuable gifts and even money to their peers and co-workers while their parents are in dire situations. This brings to mind the affair of Muṣteḥ who was Abû Bakr’s cousin and also among those who fell into the error of slandering his daughter, the Mother of the Believers, ¢Âishah in the famous incident of Ifk. This made Abû Bakr so furious that he took an oath he would never again give charity to Muṣteḥ. Following this incident, Allah the almighty sent down several verses attesting to the innocence of the mother of the believers, but among them was also this magnificent verse,
And let not those among you who are blessed with graces and wealth swear not to give (any sort of help) to their kinsmen, and the poor, and those who left their homes for Allah’s cause. Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. [Sûrat Al-Nûr, 24:22]
Upon hearing this beautiful verse, the noble companion Abû Bakr said, “Yes we love! (meaning, Yes, O Allah, we love that you forgive us),” then resumed his spending on Muṣteḥ. Let us all pause and look deep into this verse and reflect upon its limitless wisdom, and see how Allah the Lord of the worlds recommended to Abû Bakr charity to his kin, even when this person had falsely slandered his daughter!
One might ask, “What if my parents and my kinsmen are non-Muslims? How should I deal with them? What rights do they have over me?”
When Your Kinfolk are Non-Muslim
First and foremost, even if one’s kinsfolk are hostile to Islam, one should
- Under no circumstance give up on them;
- Continue to invite them to Islam with kindness, compassion and wisdom.
- We should pray to Allah constantly to guide them and open their hearts and lead them to the straight path.
Try all beautiful and wise ways to bring them into the fold of Islam. Bear in mind that this indeed is one of the most difficult tasks and one of the most honorable ones as well.
- Show them concern and be patient when dealing with them.
- Overlook the harsh words and pardon the ridicule.
- Remember that never did the Prophet œ quit calling his uncle Abû Ṭâlib to embrace Islam, even when his uncle was on his death bed.
- One of the most touching scenes in the Quran is the dialogue that took place between Prophet Nûh and his disbelieving son. Here is a Prophet of God trying eagerly to call his son to the path of light and safety. Even though his son was an adamant disbeliever, Nûh chose the kindest of words and used the most compassionate expressions to persuade his son.
Asmâ’, the daughter of Abû Bakr, said:
My mother came to Madinah while she was still an idol-worshiper during the time of the treaty between the Quraysh and the Prophet. So I went to seek the Prophet’s opinion, asking him: ‘My mother came to me in a state of necessity, should I cater to her needs?’ The Messenger said, “Yes, you should go visit your mother.” (Bukhâri)
We should be nice to our non-Muslim relatives, visit them, say words of kindness, give them presents, and pray that Allah opens their hearts to Islam.
Allah the almighty said,
Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity. [Sûrat Al-Mumtaḥanah, 60:8]
So long as they do not stand as a barrier between us and our Din, we are obligated to fulfill all the rights they have on us. We must not become someone’s excuse for not wanting to become Muslim.
Between Islam and the Family: Which Should I Choose?
This is a question everyone with non-Muslim relatives wishes never to encounter. It represents one of those times we call ‘the moment of truth.’ It is the most difficult of tests.
Before answering this question, every Muslim should keep in mind that we never compromise when it comes to the Din of Allah; this is a general rule that has profound implications for our topic. Nonetheless this rule has been misinterpreted and misused by many Muslims who have reverted to Islam and whose parents and other family members hold different beliefs. The quandary can be solved as we reflect upon this verse,
But if they (parents) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not; but treat them in the world with kindness, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do. [Sûrat Luqmân, 31:15]
There is absolutely no graver sin than shirk (giving to others a regard or authority over us as if to Allah; treating them as ‘partners’ alongside Allah), yet Allah the Almighty advised us to keep them company in this life and show them benevolence. This is the only time when we can say ‘No’ to parents—when they encourage us to forget our Islam. But the verse does not say walk out on them. Instead it is instructing you to be there for them, to support them in all kinds of ways when they need you, so long as they do not ask you to go against the teaching of Allah and his Messenger œ. This also goes for the rest of our non-Muslim kinfolk.
Conversely, one might raise the question: “What if my family gave me an ultimatum that either I change my religion or they disown me. What should I do?” This is why they call it a great test, the test that only those upon whom Allah has bestowed the favors of Imân and Ṣabr (patience) will pass. Remember what Yûsuf said:
Verily, he who fears Allah with obedience to him, and is patient, then surely, Allah makes not the reward of the Muḥsinun (righteous) to be lost. [Sûrat Yûsuf, 12:90]
Let us recall the story of Sa¢d ibn Abi Waqâṣ and his mother whom he treated with utmost kindness and compassion even though she was a polytheist. In a bid to make him abandon Islam, she went out to the desert under the scorching sun without food and water and threatened to remain there until he abandoned Islam. Sa¢d pleaded with his mother and begged her to cease torturing herself. After realizing that she was quite determined, he plainly told her, “O mother, by Allah, if you happened to have one hundred souls, and you started losing one after the other, I would never leave the Din of Muhammad.”
Supplicating to Allah is another, indeed the most important, step in inviting our dear ones to Allah. Abû Hurairah was persistent in inviting his mother to Allah, and asked the Messenger to make du¢a’ for her. So the Messenger of Allah did. When he returned home, he found that she had already accepted Islam. He could not hold back his tears of joy and gratitude.
…To be continued, inshâ’Allah, in Part 2…