Family Ties in the Islamic Family

Almost all religions have recommended the maintenance of family ties, but in the Islamic family, it has taken to unprecedented heights. Various Qur'anic verses and narrations (Hadiths) have emphasized maintaining the bonds of kinship (called Silatur-Rahim in Islam) and instruct Muslims to be kind, merciful, affectionate and caring towards parents and relatives; even to non-Muslim relatives or to those who are harsh to them. Why has so much importance been given to family ties in Islam? Who are concerned? What consequences does ignoring this important Islamic advice bring about? Here these and many similar questions are answered.

 

What is Family Ties (Silatur-Rahim)?

 

According to definitions with regard to Islamic family, Rahim [i] is anyone who becomes a relative through blood ties with one’s father, mother, uncle, and aunt, or through marriage [1]. And, Silat means kindness and affection. Simply said, Silatur-Rahim means being kind to family and relatives, and keeping a good relationship with them [1].

 

The Importance of Family Ties

 

Family kinship, with respect to the structure of Islamic family, is of paramount importance and is known to be the fastest-paid prayer. It brings about a quick reward in this world as well as an afterlife reward. Even the members of a family who are all sinful acquire more wealth by maintaining family ties, and their lives will last longer by doing good to each other [2].

 

In Surah Nisa it is said: “Be wary of Allah, in whose Name you adjure one another and [of severing ties with] blood relations.” (4:1). In another verse of the Quran, the pledge taken from the Children of Israel that includes worshipping God and being good to relatives is reminded (2:83). Muslims are also told to worship God and be good to parents and the relatives in another verse (4:36). The command to keep family ties right after the instruction of piety and worshipping God in these verses demonstrates that Silatur-Rahim is almost as important as piety in Islam.

 

Islamic family 

 

In a narration, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that: “I command all the people of my followers (Umma), whether present or not, and those generations which are to come till the Day of Judgement (Qiyama), …, to maintain family kinship even if they live at a distance of a year's journey.” [3]. In another narration, Prophet (PBUH) states that the best of people in morality and behavior are the ones who resume their relationships with a relative who has cut the relation with them [4].

 

These verses and narrations about family kinship in the Islamic family together with many other ones illustrate the importance of this matter in Islam.

 

Keeping Family Ties in the Islamic Family: Who are Concerned?


Being a moral and divine duty over every human being, keeping family ties concerns both faithful and unfaithful relatives. Hence, even if parents and other relatives are not religious, one should respect them and try to fulfill their needs.

 

Imam Sadiq (AS) was asked about the rights of the relatives over one, he (AS) answered: “If they are of the opposite religious ideas, they have family rights that nothing can stop it; and if they are of the same religious believes, they have two rights: family rights and Islamic rights"[5]. When a man asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about how to treat a relative who had harmed and insulted him, the Prophet (PBUH) answered: “Resume your relationship with the one who has broken family bonds with you, grant the one who has deprived you and forgive the one who has harmed you. Whenever you do so, God will protect you against them” [6].

 

However, the relationship with unfaithful and irreligious relatives, according to the Islamic family, can be maintained as far as it does not lead to committing an unlawful (Haram) act or disobeying other divine commands, otherwise, keeping family ties with unfaithful relatives is not even allowed [7].

 

Islamic Family

 

The Priorities of Family Ties in the Islamic family

 

One might have numerous relatives and need to know who should be visited first or whose rights are more important than others’. The priorities are as follows in Islam: parents (and mother is the priority between them); sisters and brothers; relatives through blood ties (uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.); and, relatives through marriage (in-law family, etc.) [8].

To indicate the importance of this ranking, Prophet (PBUH) said: “If one gets five loaves of bread, or five dinars or five dates and wants to consume them, the best way is to donate them to parents. Secondly to use them himself and his family, and then giving them to poor relatives. Then donating to poor neighbors and finally voluntarily giving in the way of God; which is least rewarded.” [9]. It means that these five kinds of donations will be all rewarded since they are in obedience to God’s commands and in His way, but voluntary charity (Sadaqah) is less paid [10].

 

Imam Hussain (AS) has narrated from Prophet (PBUH) that: “to pay family rights, begin from your own family: first your mother, father, sister, and brother; then other relatives depending on how close they are to you” [11].

 

Continues Reading: What Does Islam Say about Maintaining Family Ties: Part 2

 

Notes:

[i]  Rahim is a word derived from Allah's special quality, Ar-Rahman (The Compassionate One).

References:

[1]. http://www.hawzah.net/

[2]. Ibn Babawayh, “Al-Khisal”, p. 124.

[3]. Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 151.

[4]. A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 212.

[5]. Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 157.

[6]. Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 150.

[7]. A. Javadi Amoli, “Tasneem Tafsir”, vol. 2, p. 560-561.

[8]. A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 219.

[9]. Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 5, p. 65.

[10]. A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 220.

[11]. Shaykh al-Mufid, “Al-Ikhtisas”, p. 219.