The concept of family conceived through the first humans Adam and Hawaa, peace be upon them, and through them emerged the rest of mankind. The Quran mentions:
“O men, fear your Lord who created you from a single soul, and from it created its match, and spread many men and women from the two. Fear Allah in whose name you ask each other (for your rights), and fear (the violation of the rights of) the womb-relations. Surely, Allah is watchful over you.”
(Surah An-Nisa, 4:1)
Islam attaches great value on the conservation of family. Interestingly, the word usra, Arabic for family, is derived through words that denote cohesion, union, and protection. It is for the same purpose that Muslims are frequently reminded, through the verses of the Quran and Seerah of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, to enjoin ties within their blood relations.
Here are some key concepts which highlight the significance of upholding ties of kinship in Islam.
1. Maintaining ties serves as evidence of your faith.
It is narrated by Abu Huraira that Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain good relations with kins.”
(Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim)
It is evident through this hadith that maintaining good ties is of utmost importance for a true believer. And, one should honor the act purely for the sake of pleasing Allah. When a believer does so and lets go of his/her ego, they receive Allah's blessings and mercy.
In another hadith, it is narrated that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"The word 'ar-rahm (womb) derives its name from Ar-Rahman (i.e., one of the names of Allah) and Allah said: 'I will keep good relation with the one who will keep good relation with you, (womb, i.e. kith and kin) and sever the relation with him who will sever the relation with you, (womb, i.e. kith and kin).’”
The Seerah of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, contains numerous examples of how he maintained good relations with his own family members.
2. This deed is dearer to Allah than many others.
Narrated Abu Darda, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Shall I not inform you of something more excellent in degree than fasting, prayer and almsgiving (sadaqah)? The people replied: ‘Yes, Prophet of Allah!’ ‘He said: It is putting things right between people, spoiling them is the shaver (destructive).'”
(Sunan Abi Dawud)
The hadith is self-explanatory and stresses Silat al Rahm, the maintaining of kinship ties. It advises not just maintaining healthy ties but also becoming the source of helping others to reconnect. The reward of doing so is weightier in the eyes of Allah than the performing of a believer's obligatory rituals.
3. There are rewards for the believer.
There are intangible rewards for the believers who invest their time and effort in strengthening their ties of kinship. There are many references from the Quran and Sunnah which lead us to carry on the practice of maintaining good ties with family members and having faith that those efforts will be rewarded.
Spiritual and Physical Benefits. Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, narrates that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"Anyone who is pleased that his sustenance is expanded and his age extended should do kindness to his near relatives."
(Sunan Abi Dawud)
There is a promise that good deeds help strengthen a believer's faith and that serving family members and treating them well helps bring about Allah's blessings in the form of rizq or sustenance. This can be in the form of health or provision or both.
Double the Rewards. Ibn 'Umar narrated, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"Nothing that a man spends on himself and his family, anticipating a reward from Allah, will fail to be rewarded by Allah Almighty. He should begin with those whose support is his responsibility. If there is something left over, he should spend it on his next nearest relative and then the next nearest.
As the saying goes, “Charity begins from home.” In the above case, there is a reward for the believer in spending on family, as well as proof of upholding ties of kinship.
4. We can learn from the prophets’ examples.
Many references can be found in the Quran and Sunnah, which direct us towards practicing perseverance in the advent of conflict or rivalry between kith and kin. The story of Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, told in the Quran is a classic example of jealousy and envy between siblings.
“Indeed, he who fears Allah and is patient, then indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good.”
(Surah Yusuf, 12: 90)
Despite sheer hatred from the brothers and their ill plans to kill him, Yusuf remained steadfast and only turned to Allah for support. His patience and perseverance brought him the virtues of Allah's blessings, and he was once again reunited with his father Prophet Yaqub, peace be upon him.
Many other prophets and righteous servants had challenging relationships with their family members. For Prophet Ibraheem, peace be upon him, it was his father. For Prophet Nuh, peace be upon him, it was his son. For Prophet Lut, peace be upon him, it was his wife. For Asiyah, may Allah be pleased with her, it was her husband Pharoan. For Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, it was his uncle. And these are just a few. These stories were provided in detail as a means of emphasizing the challenges that can come from our family members and how we should handle our responsibilities and the rights they have upon us, even if they are not following the Straight Path.
5. Breaking the ties of kinship is forbidden.
According to a narration by Abu Bakrah, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“There is no sin more deserving that Allah hasten the punishment in this world, in addition to what is stored up for him in the Hereafter – than injustice and severing the ties of kinship.”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
This again, reiterates the displeasure of Allah for the believer who severs ties of kinship.
Additionally, severing ties with family members (especially blood relatives) can restrain one from entering Jannah. According to Jubayr ibn Mu'tim, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"The one who severs ties of kinship will not enter the Garden."
Though many among us struggle to keep good relationships within our families, the real testament of our faith lies when those relationships are difficult. In spite of such challenges, we must work hard to maintain family ties by raising our awareness of the teachings of the Quran and Seerah of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him.
Strengthening Family Ties
Family life is pivotal to providing a secure, healthy and nurturing environment for parents, growing children, as well as our elders. It is, in fact, the best place to pass on and develop human virtues such as love, kindness, mercy, and compassion. Muslim scholars believe that these values are not just for the benefit of individual families, but serve as building blocks for a strong community as well.
Here are some ways to foster love and kindness toward your family and help strengthen generational ties.
1. Express love and respect for everyone.
By default, we tend to assume that the expression of love and more so respect, should be reserved for the elderly. But there is no such evidence of respect for elders alone in Islamic guidance. In fact, our beloved Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him, always showed respect and love towards the young, such as his children and grandchildren. He loved them and treated them tenderly and showed them how to lead a humane life.
Following on the Sunnah of our Prophet, peace be upon him, we must try and deal righteously with everyone. The closer the relationship, the more emphasis there should be to connect with them - with parents, spouse and children, followed by siblings, followed by paternal/maternal uncles/aunts, followed by their children, etc. It is important to note that respect surely expands to all those around us.
2. Honor your parents.
“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and do good to parents. If any one of them or both of them reach old age, do not say to them: uff (a word or expression of anger or contempt) and do not scold them, and address them with respectful words,and submit yourself before them in humility out of compassion, and say, ‘My Lord, be merciful to them as they have brought me up in my childhood.’”
(Surah Al-Isra, 17:23-24)
One is obligated to be kind, dutiful, and respectful toward their parents and uphold their ties of kinship, even if they are from amongst the non-beleivers. In several places in the Quran and Sunnah, the ruling to do good toward parents, comes right after the obligation to obey Allah. This placement stresses its significance.
Additionally, by being dutiful and respectful toward our parents, we automatically set an example for our own children to follow into the future generation.
3. Spend quality time as a family.
We all have obligations to fulfill, however, that does not mean that we should be giving any less importance to our own families. Spending quality time together can enhance family relations and also provide opportunities for members to discuss important family matters and work toward mutual benefit.
It is imperative to spend at least some quality time together, every day. This can be mutually agreed upon, such as eating a meal together. Or, it could be any other hour during the day which befits every member of the household. During this time, members of the family must be careful not to bring up issues that may become the source of resentment or discomfort for others, in particular.
For some families, getting together frequently may be a real challenge as children become older and move out for further education or to begin their own family life. In such instances, family members must do their best to stay connected and perhaps even plan for a family trip.
4. Use technology to bridge the distance.
For families that are divided geographically, there are seamless opportunities to connect via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service providers such as WhatsApp, Facetime, Botim, Facebook, Skype and the like.
There is an increasing trend towards keeping in touch via family WhatsApp groups, however, sometimes these groups may not necessarily serve the purpose of ‘being in touch’. In such scenarios, each family member needs to take up their responsibility, individually, and make a conscious effort to stay in touch with the family at large.
5. Learn about your ancestry.
Keeping track of genealogy is encouraged in Islam. The famous Sahabah Abu Bakr Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, was respected (in the days of ignorance) because of his knowledge of the genealogy of Arabs, and it was considered a noble science back then.
According to Jubayr ibn Mut 'im, he heard ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab say on the mimbar, Arabic for the pulpit,
“Learn your lineages so that you can maintain ties of kinship. By Allah, if there are some bad feelings between a man and his brother and he knows that there is kinship between him and that man, that will prevent him from breaking with him.”
The best way to go about it could be to work together on preparing a family tree, lineage, or ancestry chart. This can be discussed and updated with the elders in the family and would serve as a great way to have them involved in this fun family activity, too! This would provide for an opportunity for quality family time, encouraging younger members of the family to learn from the elder’s stories and past experiences. For a nice family activity, consider making a Heritage Book.
6. Support and assist those who need help.
Salman bin 'Amir, narrated that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"Giving charity to a poor person is charity, and (giving) to a relative is two things, charity and upholding the ties of kinship."
In lieu of the above, those who are in need of any kind of help have rights upon us and the greatest form of such help is toward our family. This could mean assisting them morally or financially or visiting when they are sick. Not only will this help strengthen the family bonds but will earn the doer plentiful reward for upholding ties of kinship.
7. Seek help from Allah when there are challenges.
Sometimes family relationships can become strained due to conflict and/or misunderstandings. One should strive to resolve any disagreements at the earliest stage and not let ego take its toll on the situation.
In a hadith reported by 'Abdullah bin 'Amr Al-'as, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"The person who perfectly maintains the ties of kinship is not the one who does it because he gets recompensed by his relatives (for being kind and good to them), but the one who truly maintains the bonds of kinship is the one who persists in doing so even though the latter has severed the ties of kinship with him."
Seeking help from Allah alone is a sure way to receive help in such matters..
8. Convey rewards to the deceased.
Many of us have gone through the loss of a loved one or even many. There could be different ways of going about maintain our ties of kinship even after they depart from this world. One way could be to continue to spend goodness in their name, i.e. through sadaqah jari’ah or ongoing charity.
Another could be to offer nafl prayer, give in charity, or recite the Quran and convey the rewards to the deceased. Surely, this way our hearts will always cherish the bonds of kinship and earn the pleasure and mercy of Allah. Allahu Alam.
In conclusion, let us be observant of enjoining and cherishing our ties of kinship. And, learn to forgive even if others have wronged us. Extending a hand of friendship and showing kindness is of utmost importance and is also a window to one’s character.
May Allah grant us ease and wisdom to deal with any difficulties we are facing, individually and/or collectively as a family, and help us strengthen and maintain our ties of kinship with the best of intentions. Ameen.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and writer who is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. She and her husband are parents to three boys and are currently living in Abu Dhabi.