By Ni'mah Ali
My heart aches when I see the way some Muslim families and communities, including my own are towards each other these days. We have severed the ties of kinship without even realizing it. How do we then expect to receive Allah’s love and mercy when we have abandoned the most important of Allah’s commandments and advice?
Yesterday, I saw a cousin of mine who I didn’t see in long time. Several months earlier, my sister told me that she was sick, but all I did, was say, “Oh Allah cure her” and went about my business. I didn’t bother to call or visit her. I didn’t bother to ask if she needed any help with her young children and home. I didn’t give her the support and company she needed in her time of sickness and loneliness. It wasn’t because I didn’t care, I just thought maybe it didn’t really matter all that much. Plus, I told myself, I’m just too busy running around between work, school, and home. Honestly, I just didn’t make the effort.
When I saw her yesterday at the masjid, she definitely looked weakened from the illness but recovering Alhamdulilah. At the moment, I didn’t remember right away that she got sick, and I thought to myself, she looks like she got sick or something. I said Salaam to her and extended my hand. She looked at me for a brief moment, almost with disappointment and surprise, then shook my hand and returned my salaam. Before I could say anything else, I remembered. I couldn’t even give her a second look. Immediately, a wave of guilt came over me. She didn’t say much to me. She just looked away and went back to reading the Quran. I almost broke into tears. I felt ashamed of myself. It’s too late I thought. There’s absolutely nothing I can say to her now. I didn’t know what else to do. So I just left without saying another word.
Ever since yesterday, she has not left my mind. Every time I remember that look she gave me, the look of sadness and questioning, not to mention disappointment; I just feel guilty and sad all over again. This incident sparked many important questions in my head. I wonder why and how keeping ties with family, relatives, neighbors and friends has become so difficult to the point that now it is almost un-important to many people including myself. Everyone has their excuses, but the bottom line is, we are severing the ties of kinship and we don’t even realize it.
There’s no denying that there are families who are very close, who share the good and challenging times in life. But the majority of Muslims these days don’t have those tight-knit family relationships. And those who do have a good relationship with their families, relatives and communities should praise and thank Allah everyday because it is a blessing from Allah Himself!
So this brings me to my main question: how does one bring people in their families, relatives, and even communities not only together but to have them be open and loving to each other? Clean from hatred, grudges, and bad feelings. We have to remember, the challenges are many in bringing families and people in general, together.
I believe there are a number of reasons why families and relatives are usually divided or simply put, don’t keep contact with each other—and I speak from my own experience coming from a large family but with little contact with many of them. There are a number of things that usually push people apart and those things are the following:
- Lack of trust: If there’s no trust between people, it’s hard for people to be open with each other.
- Grudges! Grudges will destroy any relationship especially between families. Sometimes people just don’t want to let go of damages done to them. This will create long lasting enmity between people.
- Not growing up together or around each other: in other words not seeing each other enough! When relatives, even siblings don’t grow up together or around each other, there will be no familiarity, which means even brothers and sisters from the same womb will not be comfortable with talking to each other openly; there’s always going to be a sense of awkwardness in the air and to avoid that, people will just avoid each other.
- Fear of rejection: When someone goes out of their way to be nice to someone, to try to get close to them, to welcome them to their homes and lives, and the other person wants none of it, it hurts! Some people don’t know how to deal with this kind of rejection, and they just quit all together and never try again.
So how does one get the courage and strength to try to bring their families and relatives together and to accept each other with flaws and all even though are all the above mentioned challenges? Even more important, how does one get over all of these obstacles and try to change their own mindset and abilities? I certainly don’t have the answers, but we have to start somewhere. We should start by understanding how important keeping ties with kin is in Islam. Keeping ties with family is mentioned in the Quran more than once or twice, and the prophet SalAllahu aleyhi wa sallam has talked about it in many hadiths narrated by the companions. It takes strength and courage to even make the effort of keeping family ties, but the more we make the effort the more it will become easy and Allah will certainly love us for it. May Allah keep our hearts and minds clean of bad thoughts and feelings for the people that matter most: our families, relatives and brothers and sisters in Islam.
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