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Family Ties: “Silat-ur-Rahim”

 

Islam has placed tremendous emphasis on the establishment, maintenance and preservation of family kinship. Various Qur’anic verses and Ahadith instruct Muslims to be kind, merciful, affectionate and caring towards parents and relatives.

Although almost all religions advocate maintenance of family ties, Islam has taken it to unprecedented heights. A Muslim is commanded to be kind even to his non-Muslim relatives. Similarly, he is required to be kind to those relatives who are unpleasant or harsh towards him.

Maintaining the bonds of kinship (silatur rahim) enjoys extraordinary importance in Islam. Conversely, severing family ties (qat’ur rahim) can lead one to a disastrous end.

Due to the importance Islam has accorded to maintaining family ties, the rewards and benefits of doing so are indeed great. Similarly, neglect and severing family ties can have disastrous consequences on a person’s life. It therefore becomes imperative that every Muslim is soundly educated regarding this important obligation.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY TIES

Mutual dependence is an important facet of human existence on earth. Mankind could not have survived without this co-existence. The fact that Allah Ta’ala created Hawa (alayhas salaam) as a partner for Hazrat Aadam (alayhis salaam) is a classical example to prove the need for interdependence. This reality is manifest in every facet of human existence.

Communication, interaction and interdependence between human beings is an essential requirement for a normal and harmonious society. At every point in one’s life a person will be interacting with other people. Generally, the people one will come into contact with more often are his family folk. Due to the frequent contact resulting from a family relationship, it is imperative that one is always on good terms with family members.

The importance of maintaining harmonious relationships with all family members is highlighted in the following verse: “ And fear Allah through whose medium you ask one another (for your rights) and be mindful of your relatives.” (Surah Nisa)

In this verse, the instruction of keeping family ties follows directly after the instruction of fearing Allah Ta’ala, hence highlighting its importance in the sight of Allah Ta’ala. In another verse it is mentioned, “And worship Allah and do not assign partners with Him and be favourable unto parents and family members and the orphans and the destitute and the near neighbour and the distant neighbour and the traveller and your slaves. And Allah does not love one who is haughty and proud.” (Surah Nisaa)

The great number of Ahadith that instruct family kinship emphasizes the matter even further. “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain the bonds of kinship.” (Bukhari)

FACTORS THAT MAINTAIN FAMILY UNITY

Regular Visits – In an era when the words “no time” have become a formidable cliché, Muslims are duty bound to keep close contact with family relatives by visiting each other regularly. The trend today is to visit someone if there is some material or worldly benefit, or only if they keep contact with us. Relatives should be visited solely for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala and to create and maintain muhabbat (love) in the family.

Mutual Assistance – Assisting one’s relatives carries two reward; one reward for assisting and one reward for bonding family ties. These noble qualities will also be a practical means of guidance for the children. In this way family relationships are strengthened and can be maintained for generations. Certain people feel uncomfortable to assist relatives if they require financial help in the form of Zakaat, etc. This manner of thought should be corrected.

Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Sadaqah given to a poor person is an ordinary sadaqah, but sadaqah given to a relative serves two purposes: one as a sadaqah and secondly, an act of upholding family kinship.” (Tirmizi)

Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whosever desires to have expansion in his sustenance and a prolonged life, should treat his relatives with kindness.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Abundant Greeting – Increasing salaam to each other creates muhabbat. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) has urged Muslims to spread salaam. Those who initiate salaam are protected from pride and haughtiness.

Exchanging Gifts – Showering relatives with gifts is also an effective method of generating love between people. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Exchange gifts with one another, you will create love and goodwill amongst yourselves.” (Abu Ya’laa)

COMMON FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO FAMILY DISSENSION

Marriage Breakdown – This is the single most factor that has disrupted family life and created discord in communities. The separation of two individuals directly impacts on both families, and in this way the discord permeates the entire community.

It is incumbent upon couples to understand the reality and commitment of Nikah and its impact on society. If the couple have no other option but to divorce, this procedure should be carried out in a dignified Shari manner, and any animosity or hard feelings should be minimised.

Business Upheavals – This is also a major contributor to family problems and disunity. Material interests and love for the world take precedence and people do not realise the consequences of their words and actions. Ignorance and authority play a major role, and wealth of the orphans, innocent and weak is usurped. Strict application of Shari laws and co-operation is required in sensitive business issues. At all times the family unity should be maintained as top priority.

Estate Matters – The demise of a family member is sometimes the spark that leads to endless misery for families when the deceased’s estate is not distributed correctly. Hence it is imperative for Muslims to keep their financial matters in order, thereby not leaving an opportunity for family discord. Ulama should be consulted in this regard for proper Islamic guidance in the field of Islamic inheritance and estate distribution.

Suspicion and Gossip – These are two major qualities that wreak havoc, burn and destroy the perpetrator inwardly. Mischief is created through false information and opinions about people and families causing disunity and family discord. A believer should at no time engage in backbiting or harbour evil thoughts about others. There are severe warnings of chastisement for people who engage in these sins. May Allah Ta’ala protect us all.

According to a Hadith, “One who joins ties when family members are co-operative and returns the same affection cannot be said to be one who joins family ties, rather the one who can truly be termed a person who joins ties is he who upholds and maintains the ties when the other family members have severed ties with him.” (Bukhari)

EMPHASIS ON UNITY

The extent to which Islam detests disunity and dissension can be gauged from the following Hadith. Umme Kulsum (radiyallahu anha) reports that she heard Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) saying, “He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar.” (Bukhari)

Speaking lies is a major sin, which invokes the curse of Allah Ta’ala, yet the Shariah has given the concession to speak a “white lie” in order to reconcile a dispute and keep two people on talking terms.

SEVERE WARNINGS FOR THOSE WHO SEVER FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

Just as the reward and rank for maintaining family unity is great and fulfilling, similarly the warnings and sin for severing and breaking ties is equally detrimental.Allah Ta’ala has cursed the one severing family ties, “And those who break the covenant of Allah, after its ratification, and sever that which Allah has commanded to be joined (i.e. they sever the bond of kinship and are not good to their relatives) and work mischief in the land, on them is the curse, and for them is the unhappy home (i.e. Hell)” (Surah Ar Rad)

A cursed person is one who is deprived of the mercy of Allah Ta’ala. This sin is punishable in this world as well as in the Hereafter. “There is no sin more deserving of having punishment meted out by Allah to its perpetrator in advance in this world along with what He has for him in the next world than oppression and severing family ties.” (Tirmizi)

A Hadith highlights the rank and importance of this duty: “Rahim (family ties) is a word derived from Allah’s special quality, Ar Rahman (The Compassionate One). And Allah says: ‘I shall keep connection with him who maintains you and sever connection with him who severs you.’” (Bukhari)

A person should love someone solely for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala. If there is need to dislike someone for Shari reasons this should also be for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala. If a person is compelled to sever ties with a family member due to a genuine Shari reason, then the aforementioned warnings will not be applicable.

Family disputes and differences should be resolved early and amicably. Procrastination in resolving family matters can lead to explosive situations. Ulama should be consulted in good faith and the matter should be put forward factually, honestly and sincerely.

The Jamiat assists individuals who are experiencing social difficulties. Problems are discussed and mediated under the guidance of Ulama. Counselling and advice is also offered telephonically, via e-mail and other mediums of correspondence.

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