Be good to your relatives
In Imam Ghazali’s Kitaab Al-Arba’in Fi Usul ad-Din, The Forty Principles of the Religion, he explores how to deal with different people. In this section we will look at how to treat relatives.
Blood ties are special
‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
“Allah, the Almighty and Exalted, said, ‘I am the Merciful (ar-Rahman). I have created ties of kinship and derives a name for it from My Name. If anyone maintains ties of kinship, I maintain connection with him, and I shall cut off anyone who cuts them off.'” (Adab al Mufrad)
عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ عَوْفٍ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ رَسُولَ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ: قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: أَنَا الرَّحْمَنُ، وَأَنَا خَلَقْتُ الرَّحِمَ، وَاشْتَقَقْتُ لَهَا مِنَ اسْمِي، فَمَنْ وَصَلَهَا وَصَلْتُهُ، وَمَنْ قَطَعَهَا بَتَتُّهُ.
In general we have to be good to our families and prioritise and focus on our close family before extended family.
What about difficult relatives? We all have these, but they are your rahim (connected to you by blood) so you have to behave well towards them. We are given huge encouragement to be good to relatives as it carries enormous reward.
The reward for being good to family
The incentives for being good to family are huge. One of the rewards for maintaining good relations (silaturahim) with relatives is that you are granted more rizq and a longer life span.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him):
He who wishes to have his earnings grow and his term of life or his lifespan is prolonged; he should keep ties with his kin. (Bukhari)
How is it that your destiny, written at birth can change by this? Abdullah bin Mus’ud narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) said:
“(The matter of the Creation of) a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days, and then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a piece of flesh for a similar period. Then Allah sends an angel who is ordered to write four things. He is ordered to write down his (i.e. the new creature’s) deeds, his livelihood, his (date of) death, and whether he will be blessed or wretched (in religion). Then the soul is breathed into him. So, a man amongst you may do (good deeds till there is only a cubit between him and Paradise and then what has been written for him decides his behaviour and he starts doing (evil) deeds characteristic of the people of the (Hell) Fire. And similarly a man amongst you may do (evil) deeds till there is only a cubit between him and the (Hell) Fire, and then what has been written for him decides his behaviour, and he starts doing deeds characteristic of the people of Paradise.” (Bukhari)
The answer is that your destiny is written at birth and Allah, and has been recorded the Preserved table (Al-lawh al-mahfoudh). This does not change. However in the Book of the Angels which is given to them periodically, it can be changed. Therefore if someone had a lifespan of 60 but then began to maintain better relations with his family, Allah will command the angels to extend his life span.
The punishment for not being good to your family
Tabarani, Bukhari and Muslim have mentioned that the fragrance of Jannah can be smelt 500 years before you reach it, but the one who disconnects his relatives and is bad to his parents will not smell this fragrance. In Bukhari it says they will not admitted to Jannah if they do not maintain good relationships with their family.
The reason for this is because the family is the building block of society. This is why Allah commanded us to be good and this goodness begins at home:
“You are the best nation raised up for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and you believe in Allah. If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them [though] among them are believers, but most of them are disobedient.” (3:10)
The ripple effect of goodness starts with the nuclear family and then spreads outwards to relatives and even those relatives who are not good to you.
Unfortunately we tend to inherit broken relationships from our parents. For instance, if your father has issues with your uncle, you will be less likely to talk to him and his family. Thus generations become disconnected, because of sometimes quite petty reasons or the whisperings of shaytan who exacerbates hurt, makes you think ill of others and situations.
The bottom line is that you are always being reminded to be good. The list has priorities number your parents, your family, your relatives, wife and children, cousins and uncles you have to be good to them even if they are not good to you.
This is where the challenge is. Jannah is not free of charge. Do not be vulnerable to abuse. Do the best to maintain a good relationship with your family, without allowing yourself to be placed under hardship or opening yourself to abuse.
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
A man said to Messenger of Allah (peace be on him): “I have relatives with whom I try to keep the ties of relationship but they sever relations with me; and whom I treat kindly but they treat me badly, I am gentle with them but they are rough to me.” He (peace be on him) replied, “If you are as you say, it is as if you are feeding them hot ashes, and you will be with a supporter against them from Allah as long as you continue to do so”. (Muslim)
Feeding them hot ashes is a metaphor, meaning that because of your goodness towards them and their evil towards you, they will feel shy and pain as the pain of someone eating hot ashes.
Be good to parents
Among the narrations Imam al Ghazali talks about the importance of being good to parents. Abdullah ibn Amr reported:
A man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) asking permission to wage jihad. The Prophet said, “Are your parents alive?” The man said yes. The Prophet said, “Then strive in the service of them both.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Abu Huraira reported that a person came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Who among the people is most deserving of a fine treatment from my hand? He said : Your mother. He again said : Then who (is the next one) ? He said: Again it is your mother (who deserves the best treatment from you). He said: Then who (is the next one) ? He (the Holy Prophet) said: Again, it is your mother. He (again) said: Then who? Thereupon he said: Then it is your father”. (Muslim)
The well narration that paradise lies under the feet of mothers is a weak narration but its meaning is fine as it is in line with Wa bil walidayni ihsana:
“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Wheter one or both of them reach old age (while) with you, say not to them (so much as), “uff”, and do not repel them but speak to them a noble world.” (17:23)
Be good to your wife
We have been taught that the best among us is the one who is best to his family. The Prophet (peace be on him) used to be the best to his family. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
“The best of you are the best to their families, and I am the best to my family.” (Tirmidhi)
He would laugh and smile and entertain his wives. The Hadith Umm Zar’ is the long story the Prophet (peace be on him) told his wife Aisha and it is classified by the scholars of hadith as entertaining your wife or husband.
Gifts to children
One of the Islamic principles of justice and good parenting is to fear Allah and give your children equal gifts in your lifetime. In your lifetime do not give your boys double what you give your girls. This is only the case after your death.
In exceptional scenarios where one child needs more support, then you can give them extra, but in general and in normal circumstances, your gifts to your children should be equal.
Once a companion came and asked the Prophet (peace be on him) and to witness that he had gifted a garden to his son, but the Prophet (peace be on him) refused to witness it.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) asked, “Have you other children besides this one?” He said, “Yes.” The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) asked, “Have you awarded a gift like this to all of them.” He said, “No.” The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him)) said, “I am not going to bear witness to this act of injustice.” (Bukhari)
If a child helps his father run his business, does his involvement in the business mean he can take more than his brothers and sisters? Yes, as he is growing the business for them. He should have extra as he is not a sleeping partner. He put his expertise, blood and sweat into it, so they are not equal.
Be good to your servants
The Prophet (peace be on him) said:
Fear Allah in regard to what your right hand possesses. Feed them from what you eat; dress them from what you wear; and do not burden them with work that they do not have the energy for. Indeed Allah has given you possession of them, but if He willed He could surely have given them possession of you. (Muslim)
If they made mistakes then be good to them. If you are nasty to them, they will be bad to you and your business will suffer. Therefore be good to your employees for the sake of your dunya and akhirah.
Some companies give their employees a share in the company to encourage them and motivate them, while other companies squeeze every bit out of their employees, so they cannot wait till they leave. This is not the right way to treat them. When you treat people well it will benefit you in dunya and akhirah.
May Allah makes us from those who are good to their family and relatives and employees and please Him. Ameen.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim
How to deal with difficult neighbours
The first 6 rules of how to deal with people
How to deal with people according to their status (9-11)
Cover the faults of others (12-13)
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- Cover the faults of others. Ghazali’s Rules 12-13 for dealing with people.
- How to deal with people according to their status. Ghazali rule 9-11
- Dealing with gossip and arguments. How to deal with people: Ghazali’s rules 7-8
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