Role of the family

Family relations carry great importance in Islam. Silatur Rahm, or keeping good relations with extended family members, is one of the qualities of a believer. The Holy Qur’an says:
Those who join what Allah has commanded to be joined, and who fear their Lord, and fear the evil punishment.. . (13:21)
Believers are commanded to avoid severing relations with family members. Some people believe that if relatives do not share one’s beliefs and values, it is not improper to sever ties with them. That is not acceptable in Islam. Imam Husayn (a) was once asked if relations should be kept with relatives who are not on the true path. Imam replied that it was still necessary to keep relations. He explained that if the relative is on the right path, he has two rights – one of a relative and one of Islam. Otherwise, he at least has one right – that of being a relative. Silatur Rahm increases life span and prevents poverty, while cutting relations with relatives decreases the life span. When a couple enters into marriage, ties with both families need to be maintained. Families can contribute a great deal to guide and advise the new couple when necessary. Their experience and the wisdom of age helps them show the couple how to live in harmony and peace. They can help solve problems, assist in times of need, and provide comfort and refuge for the couple. Visiting the family can be an important part of the couple’s life, especially after the arrival of children. Children can benefit a great deal from the warmth and affection of extended family members. It is unfortunate that sometimes families misuse their influence to create problems in the marriage. Although it is hoped that this is not too common, the sad truth remains that stress in marriage is sometimes caused by family members. Although it may often be with good intentions, family interference can disrupt the harmony of the couple, and may even incite one spouse against another. Possessiveness, jealousy, fault-finding etc. are some of the evils which sometimes rear their ugly heads among family members. The couple has thus to be very discerning when it comes to relations with family. The following are some guide lines for the couple regarding family: 1. Maintain close relationships with families This is recommended in Islam and can bring a lot of joy and satisfaction into life. Human beings need close relationships, and the bond of kinship is an extremely strong one. Both spouses should respect the family of the other. Even when differences arise, do not let them sever the relationship. A broad mind and a big heart can overlook a lot. It is wrong to harbor grudges for long against relations who may have shown disrespect or even jealousy. If the couple is going to stay together with the in-laws it is necessary to adapt and accept a great deal. There are many advantages to this type of living arrangements. Although the wife may feel restricted sometimes, joint family life can be a beneficial way of life for everyone involved. From the beginning, the wife should try and build a good rapport with the in-laws, take them as her own family rather than outsiders. It is advisable to have good communication with the family. Differences can be sorted out and discussed rather than kept to oneself. For a wife who lives with her in-laws, it makes sense to make an ally of her parents-in-law. Common sense declares that she will be treated the way she treats them. Most reasonable people will respond positively to love, cheerfulness and a willingness to try and do well. She does not have to be perfect, just reveal the desire to improve and change if necessary. When living together it is important to respect the feelings of the spouse in front of the family members. The husband should not, for example, side with his mother against his wife. When things go wrong it is best not to take sides, and solve things reasonably. Blind loyalty to one member can often arouse great resentment. The wife should also try not to complain to the husband about the treatment she receives from his parents. Her relationship with them should be sorted out within themselves, rather than pitting her husband against them. She should be sensitive to the fact that it would be a great dilemma for her husband to be placed between his parents and wife, having to choose sides. It is especially important to talk about the expectations of the family, their likes and dislikes etc. so that the wife is not placed in an uncomfortable position because she was not aware of what was expected of her. Each family is different, and it should not be assumed that the family of the wife has the same routines and lifestyles as the husband’s. It would thus be wise to talk about things in the initial stages of living together with the family. This could prevent misunderstandings and disappointments later. It is also important to maintain good relations with the wife’s family. The Holy Prophet (s) was very close to his daughter and her family. If the couple lives by themselves, Islam encourages the maintaining of close contact with the families. The couple should attempt to visit often, call, and generally keep up contact. Meals should be shared together occasionally and family outings planned to increase bonding between the members. When things go wrong sometimes, remember that these are relatives, and one does not have the choice of cutting ties with them, as may be done with friends. This is especially true when children arrive. The love of grandparents and extended family greatly enriches the life of a child. To deprive him of that love because of long held grudges is a great mistake. Sometimes because a family has behaved wrongly to their daughter-in-law, the woman poisons her children against them. That is a great injustice to the children. The in-laws are blood relations of the children, and the mother would be wise and thoughtful if she prevented herself from passing on her dislike of the family to her children. She would be doing her children a great service. 2. Accept advice discerningly Most families would like to help their children establish happy marriages. To achieve this they often advise the young couple, and guide them on daily matters. This could range from passing on good ways of housekeeping to personal matters regarding the relationship between the husband and wife. Although this advice is often useful, even necessary, for the fledgling couple, it is necessary to think for oneself before carrying it out. The spouses should see what is best for themselves, and not follow advice blindly because it has come from the family. Each spouse should make sure that he or she does not insist that the other follows the in-laws advice. Every human being has been given the blessing of intellect and reason, and should be able to judge for himself what is best for him. Advice and guidance should be adapted to suit one’s own needs. 3. Respect the spouse in front of the family It is wrong for either the husband or the wife to talk about each other – negatively – to the family. This cold be a harsh comment in front of the family with the spouse present, or a negative discussion in the absence of the spouse. Either situation can be gravely harmful to the relationship. Complaints and problems should be dealt with between the spouses themselves. Sometimes a wife or husband may feel frustrated at the actions of the other. This could be conveyed in a discussion with the family. This is especially true when frustrations are bottled up, and not communicated to the spouse. The anger and bitterness is then revealed in conversations with the family. To avoid pent up frustrations that are later passed on to the family, the couple should have strong communication. This would ease the frustration at least, even if it may not always solve the problem. When a family learns of the conflict of their son or daughter with the spouse, it may arouse resentment and disrespect of the spouse. Sometimes if the spouse also does not get along well with the in-laws, this could add fuel to the fire. Relationships become strained and uneasy. It is an unhealthy situation for all those involved. Apart form the fact that such situations may create disrespect, it may also cause great worry to the family. Most families would like to see their children happily married. Parents go through a lot of heartache when their children are unhappy or frustrated. To save their parents from this misery, the couple must try not to include them in the day to day problems of their life. Only when their advice is deemed necessary, should they turn to them with problems. Keeping good relations with one’s relatives and doing good eases the Hisab [Accounting on the Day of Judgement] and protects against sins, so keep good relations with your relatives, and do good to your brothers, even if only though Salaam and its answer. Imam as-Sadiq (a) A man came to the Holy Prophet and complained, “O Messenger of Allah, I have relatives with whom I kept good relations but they continuously annoy me, and I have decided to reject them”. The Holy Prophet said to him, “Then Allah will reject all of you”. “What should I do then?” asked the man. The Prophet explained to him, “Give to him who denies you, join [keep good relations] with him who cuts you off, forgive him who oppresses you. Then if you do that, Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, will be your supporter against them.