The ways in which a Muslim is legislated to obey the commandments of Allah are by fulfilling his rights towards his Creator (Huqooqullah) and his rights towards fellow creations (Huqooqul Ibaad).
While many might aim to achieve excellence through the former, most people lose out with regard to the latter and Allah’s refuge is sought. Islam places equal importance to both the ways and one cannot hope to get salvation by focusing on one over the other.
Among the ways in which the latter gets executed is by maintaining his/her ties of kinship. This is highlighted through the first verse of Sura An Nisaa where Allah says: “O Mankind, fear your Lord, Who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women, far and wide. Fear Allah, in Whose name you demand your rights and be mindful of your ties of kinship, for Allah is always watching you.” (4:1).
The fact that Allah talks about being mindful of the ties of kinship in the very first verse of this long sura speaks volumes about its importance. In addition to this fact, the emphasis on maintaining the ties of kinship can be gauged from the sunnah of reciting this verse while solemnizing the marriages. Unfortunately, the times that we are living in, has witnessed its lowest ebb in this significant characteristic of Islam.
What is disheartening and saddening is that many practicing Muslims cut a sorry figure when it comes to this aspect of Islam. Children not in good terms with their parents, disputes among siblings due to petty issues in property inheritance leading to family feuds, married ones not seeing eye to eye with their in-laws due to trivial issues and neighbors who are close relatives being intolerant with each other due to insignificant matters have all become commonplace and Allah’s protection is sought!
The Quran speaks about the significance of maintaining the ties of kinship in many places in different contexts.
In Sura Al Baqarah, when Allah makes a mention of what constitutes piety and righteousness, He includes spending one’s wealth on one’s kinsfolk. (2:177). If one’s relatives are more entitled to one’s charity than anyone else, then what about being kind to them and striving to maintain ties of kinship? This is why our Prophet ﷺ said: “Sadaqa given to the poor is charity while Sadaqa given to the relatives is both Sadaqa and Silah (nurturing relations), for they are the most deserving of you and your kindness and charity.”
In a similar verse in Sura An Nisa (4:36), where Allah has commanded to single Him out in all acts of worship and be good to one’s parents, He has ordained kind treatment of relatives, male and female. In the same verse, where Allah talks about being mindful of the rights of neighbours, He has explicitly mentioned the rights of neighbours who are close relatives.
Elsewhere, in sura Ar Ra’d, Allah mentions the qualities of people of understanding in these words: “And those who join that which Allah has ordered to be joined.” (13:21).
Imam Ibn Katheer, in his tafseer of the above verse mentions that they are (those who are) good to their relatives and do not sever the bond of kinship and they are also kind to the poor and the needy generous in nature. According to Tafseer Sa’adi, upholding ties of kinship mentioned in this verse includes honouring the relatives in word and deed and fulfilling their duties, whether religious or worldly.
A few verses down the line in the same sura makes a mention of the characteristics of the wretched people of Hell fire and says about them, '(…they) sever the bonds that Allah has commanded to be upheld.’(13:25). These are the people, upon whom will be the curse of Allah and therefore will be farthest from the mercy of Allah.
Similarly in Sura Muhammad, Allah asks a rhetorical question, thus” Then is it to be expected of you, if you turn away, that you will spread mischief in the land and sever ties of kinship?. These are the ones whom Allah has cursed and had made them deaf and blinded their eyes.” (47:22 and 23). In these verses, Allah makes it abundantly clear that severing the ties of kinship results in His curse. So, how can a slave of Allah keep beseeching Allah for His Mercy while not fulfilling His command to establish bonds of relationship between his near and dear ones?
When our Prophet ﷺ rushed to his wife Khadija (radiyallahu anha) relating to her what he had experienced at the cave of Hira soon after the revelation of the first set of verses of Quran, her words to comfort him bears ample testimony to what was his commitment to maintaining ties of kinship. She said: “I swear by Allah, Allah would never disgrace you.
You keep good relations with your family, help the feeble and destitute, serve your guests generously, and assist those who deserve help.” These are truly noble words from the noblest of ladies about the noblest of men! While she could have chosen to comfort him using the relationship our Prophet ﷺ had with Allah and his devotion to Him at the cave for months together, she chose to comfort him using his noble character and high level of morality, highlighting his relationship with fellow human beings.
The way in which Yusuf (alaihissalaam) responded when his brothers related their misery to him after they meet him in Egypt stands out as a guidepost for such people who have been wronged by their siblings, and by extension, other relatives, for whatever reasons and decide to cut off the ties of kinship with them. He said to them, “No reproach shall be upon you this day and Allah will forgive you.” (12:92). While he had every right to be revengeful for what they did to him by throwing him in a well, he chose to raise the moral standard by repelling evil with good behaviour, as the Quran exhorts us.
Perhaps, this is why our Prophet ﷺ said: “The (true) maintainer of kinship is not one who merely reciprocates. The (true) maintainer is the one who reconciles ties when they are severed”. (Bukhari). A person who maintains a good relationship with kin only if they do so is not considered a true maintainer of ties, because he is only doing out of reciprocity and hence he will not gain complete reward for it.
Among the reasons why strain in relationships occur is due to stubbornness or inability to forgive an individual who has wronged him/her. For such individuals, the story of ifk and the reaction of Abu bakr (radiyallahu anhu) mentioned in Sura Noor stands as a beacon of light. Mistah, a close relative of Abu Bakr (radiyallahu anhu) was being provided financial assistance by him and when Abu Bakr(radiyallahu anhu) learnt that he had indulged in spreading the rumour of character assassination of his beloved daughter and our mother, Ayesha (Radiyallahu anha), he had decided to cut off the financial assistance.
At this point of time, Allah had revealed verses, “Do you not like that Allah forgives you?”. Immediately, Abu bakr (radiyallahu anhu) said: “By Allah! I definitely want that Allah forgives me.” He not only restored the assistance but also vowed that he would not stop doing so at all. This was the highest edifice of morals which the companions of our Prophet ﷺ had set for us to emulate.
It is worth noting that in the Arabic language, the womb, from which the ties of kinship get established, is called Rahm and is formed from the same letters from which the word, mercy, is also formed indicating a strong bondage between maintaining ties of relationship and being worthy of getting the ever-needed Mercy of Allah.
In an authentic hadith by Sunan Abi Dawud, our Prophet ﷺ says: 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."
This hadith explains the need to maintain the ties of kinship in order to expect the Mercy of Allah to come to our rescue. The fact that Scholars of hadith have devoted entire chapters on this topic in their works also underlines its importance.
Abdullah bin Salam (radiyallahu anhu) narrates, “When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ arrived in Madina, I went to see him and upon observing his face, I recognized that it was not the face of a liar. The first thing that he ﷺ said was: “O people! Spread salam, provide food, maintain ties of kinship, perform prayer at night when people are asleep and you will enter Paradise in peace.” From this hadith, it becomes abundantly clear that one needs to pay close attention to people-relations in order to enhance one’s chances of entry to Paradise.
While Islam considers lying as a major sin due to the inherent evils and mischief associated with it and has prohibited the same, it has permitted doing so if it can bring about reconciliation between strained relationships. Our Prophet ﷺ said: “A liar is not he who settles disagreements between people and (as such) speaks well (of them to each other) and conveys good”. (Bukhari). This shows the extent to which Islam places emphasis on ties of kinship.
In addition to these spiritual benefits that accrue due to maintaining ties of kinship, it also results in material benefits. On the authority of Abu Hurairah (radiyallahu anhu), our Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever loves that he would be granted more sustenance, and that his life span be prolonged, then he should unite his ties of kinship.” (Bukhari). All human beings crave for two aspects mentioned in the above hadith- long life and bountiful provisions. In this hadith, our Prophet ﷺ has prescribed the success formula to achieve the same by maintaining ties of kinship.
It is from the beauty of Islam that it not only encourages believers to keep up the ties of relationship, considering it as a virtue but also places severe warnings for failure to do so. A strongly worded Hadith goes thus: “One who cuts ties of kinship will not enter paradise.” (Bukhari).
Once, a man came to Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and said, "Direct me to a deed which will admit me to Jannah and take me away from the Fire". The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "Worship Allah and associate no partner with Him, perform As-Salat, pay Zakat, and maintain the ties of kinship". (Agreed upon).
Another hadith states: “Do not cut off one another, nor desert one another, nor hate one another, nor envy one another. Be you, O worshippers of Allah, brothers. It is not lawful for the Muslim to shun his brother for more than three(days).” (Tirmidhi). It should be noted that the word ‘brother’ mentioned in this hadith is not the biological brother and refers to the Muslim brotherhood and that being the case, on what grounds can a Muslim even think of cutting ties of kinship with his own siblings, blood relatives and his kith and kin?
From the above ahadith, it becomes clear that in order to enter paradise, merely fulfilling the rights of Allah would not suffice while not placing equal emphasis on the rights of creation will prove detrimental to one’s chances of entry to eternal bliss.
Hence, any lapse on taking good care of the near and dear ones should therefore be avoided.
If there is any point of time in the history of Islam that needed the Ummah desperately to be united, it is now and this unity can never be achieved without mending our relationship with our loved ones.
May Allah allow us to be among those who not only strive to establish the ties of kinship and but also fulfil all the rights towards the Creation as much the rights towards the Creator.