Maintaining the family relationships in Islam

Maintaining the bonds of kinship (silatur-rahim) indeed enjoys extraordinary importance in Islam. Conversely, severing the ties (qata-ur-rahim), is very high on the list of enormities/major-sins.
At two places in the Qur’an, Allah has cursed the one severing family ties.

“And those who break the covenant of Allah, after its ratification, and sever that which Allah has commanded to be joined (i.e. they sever the bond of kinship and are not good to their relatives) and work mischief in the land, on them is the curse, and for them is the unhappy home (i.e. Hell)” [Ar-Rad 13:25. See also Muhammad, 47:22-23].

“There is no sin more deserving of having punishment meted out by Allah to its perpetrator in advance in this world along with what He stores up for him in the next world than oppression and severing ties of family.” [Tirmidhi].

Another hadith highlights the high stakes involved here in a compelling way: “Rahim (family ties) is a word derived fromAr-Rahman (The Compassionate One) And Allah says: ‘I shall keep connection with him who maintains you and sever connection with him who severs you.’” [Bukhari]

“Whoever is likes that he be granted more wealth, and that his lease of life be prolonged, then he should keep good relations with his kith and kin.” (Bukhari)

“Whoever has poor/feeble kin and does not treat them well and gives his charity to others and neglects them, Allah does not accept his charity and will not look to him on the Day of Judgment.” [Mundhiri]

But whoever is poor should keep good terms with them, visit them and be heedful of them. The Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Maintain family relationships even by just greeting.” [lbn Hajar AI-Hathami mentioned it in Majma’ Al-Zawa’id and said it is reported by Al-Bazzar]

“Allah’s mercy will not descend on people among whom there is one who severs ties of kinship.” [BaihaqiShuab Al-Iman]

Silatur-rahim has been defined as politeness, kind treatment, and concern for all one’s relatives even if distantly related, corrupt, non-Muslim, or unappreciative. [Shaikh Abdul Wakil Durubi in Reliance of the Traveller].
 While nearly every religion has emphasized good family relations, Islam has taken it to unprecedented heights. It is a duty to be discharged without an eye for reciprocity. A Muslim is required to be kind even to his non-Muslim relatives. Similarly he is required to be kind to even those relatives who are harsh to him.

Maintaining relationships even with those relatives who break the relations & abuse:

 
Al-Waasil means ‘one who keeps good ties with his blood relatives’.This is a general definition of Al-Waasil. However, Rasool-Allah (PBUH) gave more explained definition for Al-Waasil. Following hadith tells us about this:

Narrated Abdullah bin Amr (RA): The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Al-Waasil is not the one who recompenses the good done to him by his relatives, but Al-Waasil is the one who keeps good relations with those relatives who had severed the bond of kinship with him.” (Bukhari)

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that a man said: O Messenger of Allah, 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. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “If you are as you say, then it is as if you are putting hot ashes in their mouths. Allah will continue to support you as long as you continue to do that.” (Muslim)

Someone asked the Holy Prophet (Peace be up on him), “What is the way of saving oneself in the Hereafter?” He replied: “You maintain the ties (of relationship) with the one who severed it with you, you give to the one who deprived you, and you forgive the one who wronged you.” (Tirmidhi)

Islam came to set all our relationships right. This includes our relations with Allah as well as with other human beings. Silat-ur-Rahim is a very important part of the latter.

Today, unfortunately, these teachings can mostly be found in Muslim societies in their violation. The best we do today is reciprocate; more commonly we backbite, cheat, and hurt our relatives and continue the spiral of hurt and humiliation as they respond. And we just abandon those of our relatives who are economically unfortunate.

Reasons for general breaking of relationships today:

There are three reasons for this sad situation.
First is the widespread ignorance about Islamic teachings in this regard. Even in various Islamic groups the subject hardly gets the attention it deserves.
Second is the rampant materialism. While materialism hurts all aspects of our life, it is especially damaging to family ties for they require sacrifice of time, money and personal comfort.
The third reason has to do with recent history. It is a “gift” of the transformation of Muslim societies under colonialism.

Industrial Revolution came at a time when Muslim civilization was in the doldrums. Muslim historians point out very accurately that the genesis of European Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution was in the Golden Age of Muslim Spain. Yet it is also true that it progressed at a time of Muslim decline. And that explains the form it took and the devastation it caused to the family life. Everywhere it disrupted human relations. Poet Iqbal pointed to this when he said in his famous line: The rule of machines is death for the heart.  Machine tools crush compassion. Later, under the influence of colonialism, urban centers throughout the Muslim world faithfully duplicated all of these problems. This was just what a blind following of the West promised. Relations between husband and wife, between parents and children, between workers and managers, between neighbors, between relatives, in other words between all segments of society were dealt a devastating blow.

The process continues in the post industrial, neo-colonial period. To quote one example, television (and, more so today, the internet and mobile phones) is rapidly destroying what was left of human relations, cutting off even members of the same family from each other and engulfing everyone within his or her own pleasure cocoon, oblivious to the world without. It is just one, but probably the most subversive and intrusive tool of our so called postmodern global village. Village of distant neighbors without love and kinship.

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