Main Principles in Islam – Connecting blood ties, being good to families and the status of In laws
Islam is not theoretical, it’s practical.
Our obligations are towards Allah Almighty and towards the people with whom we inhabit the world. Our relationships with people begin with our immediate families.
Our immediate families are composed of those with whom we are related by blood. There are many verses in the Quran and hadith about the importance of connecting blood ties. This is silat-ar-rahim or silat- arhaam.
Allah Almighty mentions the womb (rahim) in the opening of Surah Nisa, which is concerned to a great extent with how we form balanced and fruitful relationships. Our relationships are formed from the womb:
O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer. (4:1)
Maintaining blood ties is not a choice. It’s an obligation.
It is not just a recommendation to connect blood ties, it is obligatory. How do you know that it is an obligation? Because if you neglect this command, you are sinful and punishable for doing so. Cutting blood ties is haram – it is prohibited.
Aisha reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said that Allah Almighty says:
The bond of family is suspended from the Throne and it says: Whoever upholds me, Allah will uphold him. Whoever severs me, Allah will sever him. (Bukhari and Muslim)
The word ‘Ar Rahm’ (womb) derives its name from ‘Ar Rahman’ (i.e. Allah). So whosoever keeps good relations with it (womb i.e. Kith and kin), Allah will keep good relations with him, and whosoever will sever it (i.e. severs his bonds of Kith and kin) Allah too will sever His relations with him. (Bukhari)
In another narration it says the womb is from Me, ‘Ar rahimu mini’ the womb derives from My name, Ar Rahman. In these narrations we find the same command coming through, exhorting us to be good to our families.
Strengthen your relationships at home
Goodness begins with your kin. There is no point being nice outside the home, if you are not nice at home. Kindness and caring should be the default with your family. Otherwise it is hypocrisy to put on a smiley face outside and an angry face inside the home.
The Prophet (peace be on him) said:
The best among you is the best to history family. (Tirmidhi)
The family is where goodness begins. This is why we have the proverb ‘charity begins at home’. If you want to be good, show your goodness to your family. It is worth noting that the father’s side of the family and another side of the family are equally important. ￼￼
Sadly there are people who are great philanthropists towards others but stingy with their own blood relatives. This is completely wrong.
Allah Almighty wants us to have strong families. The family is strong when the relationships within it are based on love, trust and respect.
The pillars of society
When we have strong families we have a strong community. In his opening speech to the whole community in Madinah, which included believers and the non-believers) he said:
O people! Worship The Rahman, spread salam (peace) and connect blood ties.
With these words, he laid the foundations of a successful, well-functioning community which depends on the strength of the family. The pillars which hold up this society include spreading peace – by greeting one another throughout society, and connecting with people, and connecting blood ties:
O people! spread salam, feed the hungry, be in touch with your kin, and pray while people are asleep (at night) you shall enter paradise peacefully. (Tirmidhi)
Fixing family relations
What if you don’t like some of your relatives, or you don’t get on with them?
No one said having good relationships with your family would be easy. But who said that Jannah comes free of charge? Yes, sometimes we have to suffer embarrassment, difficulties, bite our tongue, not answer back to our elders. It is not at all a smooth ride. But keep trying to mend broken relationships. Do not block the way.
Troublesome family members
We all have some family members that are harder to get on with – those we can’t see eye to eye, or those who are intrusive and nosey, and worse, those who are interfering. You might argue that keeping away from them is better for your sanity and gives you peace. However if every single one of us severed ties with difficult relations, or let relationships lapse, what would happen to the community? We would have a broken community, as we do, to a certain extent, at the moment.
Do not allow emotions to break down relationships
Allah Almighty wants us to live with each other. He wants us to tolerate each other, not avoid each other; and to help and support each other. The overall thrust of the Divine Message throughout the Quran is to overcome difficulties in relationships rather than letting difficulties destroy them.
Difficulties always generate floods of emotions and problems are intensified when we let emotions be the sole driver of relationships.
When we say we don’t like someone, or that they are difficult or intolerable – these are all emotions. Don’t allow your emotions to play you.
Certainly there are often real issues underlying these emotions, but nevertheless the majority of our relationships are governed by our emotions, as well as the interest and benefit that we derive from the connection.
There is not place for hatred in Islam
The theme we see across the board is to spread love, not hate. Not just with our blood ties but with all our relationships, including our in-laws. We are not permitted to behave badly with anyone, even our enemies. Allah Almighty says:
Do not let the hatred of some people drive you to deal unjustly. Be just this is closer to taqwa. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do. (5:8)
This is a very important rule in Islam. There is no room to oppress or to be unfair to anyone. Do not allow your hatred to let you bully those you despise. Fairness is always paramount.
What is in it for you?
When you make an effort to be good to your family and build relationships, the rewards are not just in Jannah, but tangible in dunya – they are a clear means of increasing your rizq:
Whomsoever wants his rizq to be blessed and his lifespan extended, let him connect his bloodties.
It is not just the extra hours you put in your job, that earn more for you, but the extra effort you put in in fixing your relationships with your family. When you do this, Allah Almighty makes your home mubarak (blessed). He puts barakah in your rizq and life.
How can your life span be extended when it was written for you before your birth?
The Prophet (peace be on him) told us that your rizq, lifespan, and if you are destined for heaven or hell is written while you are in the womb.
Anas b. Malik reported:
I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: He who is desirous that his means of sustenance should be expanded for him or his age may be lengthened, should join the tie of relationship.
Then how can it be that your life span is extended due to your deeds? Scholars say your life span is written with a condition and if you fulfil the condition of connecting your blood ties, you get the extension on your life. Allah Almighty knows whether you will or not, but this is for the angels.
‘Abdullah b. Mas’ud reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said:
When forty nights pass after the semen gets into the womb, Allah sends the angel and gives him the shape. Then he creates his sense of hearing, sense of sight, his skin, his flesh, his bones, and then says: My Lord, would he be male or female? And your Lord decides as He desires and the angel then puts down that also and then says: My Lord, what about his age? And your Lord decides as He likes it and the angel puts it down. Then he says: My Lord, what about his livelihood? And then the Lord decides as He likes and the angel writes it down, and then the angel gets out with his scroll of destiny in his hand and nothing is added to it and nothing is subtracted from it.
Managing difficult relatives
In life you have difficult colleagues, neighbours or bosses. You have to get along with them and do your best to keep good relations with them. Similarly, you have difficult relatives.
If they are troublesome, instead of visiting them every week, visit them every other week. Though you can’t change them, you can minimise their side-effects. Instead of staying four hours, stay for one hour. But don’t let the connection drop.
A man said to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), ‘I have relatives with whom I try to keep in touch, but they cut me off. I treat them well, but they abuse me. I am patient and kind towards them, but they insult me.’
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘If you are as you say, then it is as if you are putting hot dust in their mouths. Allah will continue to support you as long as you continue to do that.’ (Muslim)
Do not for a second think if you are being good and the other person is being bad, that the good is wasted. No. It will be counted for you. Allah is the Most Just. One of his name’s is Al Adl.
Do not tolerate abuse
Being good to relatives does not mean being a doormat, or letting yourself be abused or exploited. Under the banner of connecting blood ties, you must not allow yourself to be victimised. You have the right to protect yourself with politeness and wisdom. We need to keep the boundaries and limits. If someone is bad to you, you can’t be bad to them, then you are no different. You have to be obedient servants of Allah Almighty when you deal with anyone in general, but especially with your families.
Show kindness, care and love to in laws
We can see that Allah Almighty commanded us to behave with excellence towards our fellow human beings. Our relationship with our neighbours alone is of huge importance. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
Jibril kept recommending me to treat my neighbour well until I thought that he would tell me to make him one of my heirs (Bukhari)
The general consensus in Islam concerning neighbours, (and they are not even our blood relatives) is that they have rights upon us. It makes common sense therefore that we have to look after our in laws, who are even closer to us, as they are connected to us by marriage. They are the parents who raised our spouses, who have a special bond with them, and by extension with us.
And He is the One who created man from water, then made of him relations created by lineage and relations created by marriage. Your Lord is All-Powerful. (25:54)
In laws do not replace parents
Without doubt you have to be good to in laws. However does this mean that you to look after them to the same extent as your parents?
Culturally we have a common problem that women are expected to look after their in laws to an even greater extent than their own parents. There is no conflict in Islam between one’s duty towards one’s parents and ones duty to one’s in laws. Islam is clear – it is a man’s responsibility to look after his parents and a woman’s to look after hers. Except that the son carries the financial responsibility of looking after his parents if they are in need, but the social responsibility to care for parents is shared equally by their sons and daughters.
The conflict arises due to culture, which makes people confused and can generate a huge, unwarranted strain on marriages.
In terms of your obligations, your own parents are number one. Your in laws are probably number three. It is 100 percent wrong to replace your parents with your in laws.
Unreasonable cultural expectations
In the South Asian culture, there is often an expectation that wives become subservient to their in laws, and a sense that they are there exclusively to serve their needs, to the extent that husbands hand over responsibility of looking after their parents to their wives the day they get married. There are families where daughters in law are expected to visit her in laws every day, but not ‘permitted’ to their own parents. This is wrong. The husband has no right to prevent his wife visiting her parents or being obedient to her parents, as long as they are not commanding haram or being unreasonable.
Why does the man obey his mother but not allow his wife to obey her mother, why is it halal for him and haram for her? We all have to obey our mothers and fathers within limits. And if parents command you to commit a sin or shirk, then you cannot obey them.
We need to retrain or communities
It is time for us to overcome the oppressive cultural practices that have been passed down for centuries. What should be a bond between based on mercy and love between two families becomes more often than not, a thorny, prickly one.
When we raise sons they should have the understanding that looking after their parents is their responsibility. We should encourage our children to love and respect and honour their in laws. And parents and in laws should allow their children the space to nurture their marriages. If they don’t marriages will hit the rocks before they have been given a chance.
The early years of our life in school show us how strong the influence of friends are in our life and the importance of good company.
If you have a good friend the influence is positive and we need to choose good companions.
The Prophet (peace be on him) said:
The likeness of a righteous friend and an evil friend, is the likeness of a (musk) perfume seller and a blacksmith. As for the perfume seller, he may either bestow something on you, or you may purchase something from him, or you may benefit from his sweet smell. And as for the blacksmith, he may either burn your clothes, or you may be exposed to his awful smell. (Bukhari and Muslim)
The scent of the good friend lingers on you and the stench of the bad friend lingers – you choose. You follow the footsteps of your friends. We see this with gangs, the member might not be bad at heart – if you take him out if the gang he would be a good person- but as he’s following the herd, he ends up getting deeper and deeper into crime and becomes vicious.
Do we have a say in choosing our companions? Certainly. Our companions affect our relationship with Allah Almighty.
If you ask your friend for advice, and he gives you the wrong advice it will change your life. The good friend gives you the right advice. If he sees you doing something wrong, he corrects you with kindness. If he does not correct you, he is not the right friend. He is not loyal. Loyal friends are not the ones who only praise you. Sincere friends show you your goodness and your shortcomings. It is the trait of the team around politicians always flattering and praising them despite their grossest misjudgements shortsightedness and mistakes. Always give the right advice.
In many verses, Allah commanded us to spread goodness ‘wafa khayr’. In 50 verses in the Quran, we have the pairing of belief with good deeds- amanu wa amilus saliha. Imaan has to be active, not passive.
We ask Allah to enable us to be good and kind and wise and patient.
Abdullah bin ‘Amr narrated that the Messenger of Allah said:
The merciful are shown mercy by Ar-Rahman. Be merciful on the earth, and you will be shown mercy from Who is above the heavens. The womb is named after Ar-Rahman, so whoever connects it, Allah connects him, and whoever severs it, Allah severs him. (Tirmidhi)
Talk delivered to City Circle 31st Jan 2020 in London. (Talk No. 4)
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