Saeed, a self-made businessman, says: “What my brothers did deserves that I never speak to them again. After all, I’m not the Prophet (sa) – I don’t have unlimited patience.” For various reasons, he has completely boycotted his brothers and sisters for more than ten years, to the extent of refusing to talk to them, visiting them or letting his family meet them. He believes that what he has done is Islamically correct. His sons follow the same line of thought and action.
His son Rehan, a young husband and father, believes: “Staying away from my father’s side of the family is the only way to stay at peace.”
Such scenarios are becoming fairly common in every other family these days, although Islam places great importance on maintaining close ties with relatives and warns of severe punishment for those who sever them. Recall the story of Abu Sufyan and Heraclius, when he sent for him and said: “What does he (the Prophet) enjoin upon you?” Abu Sufyan said: “He enjoins us to pray, give charity, be chaste and uphold family ties.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
So why do people break off relationships? There could be a number of reasons for this:
Lack of awareness
Many people don’t know that Allah (swt) has not given us a choice, as far as maintaining of blood ties is concerned. There is a lack of awareness about just how important relatives are in Islam, what rights they have upon us and the punishment for those who sever these ties.
Expecting too much
We take it for granted that our relatives owe us a lot and are more aware of our rights upon them than our responsibility towards them.
Failing to forgive and forget
Perhaps the greatest factor for failing relationships is the failure to forgive and forget. We give ourselves all the benefits of doubt and give no allowance to others.
Current trends in society
Over the past years, the nuclear family has emerged and close-knit extended families are slowly becoming a thing of the past. People would rather unwind on weekends with friends than extended families. Family commitments have become chores that are fulfilled as a burden or abandoned altogether. The practice of elders resolving family disputes is also becoming extinct.
The blame game
It is always more convenient to place the entire blame for an incident at someone else’s door. We fail to realize that each one of us is responsible for our actions and that we always have a choice in a situation – to react positively or negatively.
Doing good for the wrong reasons
When we act kindly, our instant mistake is that we start expecting good in return from the same person. What that actually means is that we did not correct our intention – of doing good only for Allah’s (swt) sake, expecting return only from Him (swt), not our relatives. Repelling bad treatment with good is what is actually required.
The Messenger (sa) said: “The one, who maintains a relationship with his relatives only because they maintain a relationship with him, is not truly upholding the ties of kinship. The one, who truly upholds those ties, is the one who does so even if they break off the relationship.” (Bukhari, 5645)
“I’m not a hypocrite. I can’t be nice to someone I don’t like”
There is a difference between hypocrisy and courtesy. When we are meeting someone nicely but with an ill intention of causing harm to that person, it is called hypocrisy. But if we are being courteous to someone for the sake of Allah (swt), in spite of disliking certain traits in them, then we are actually earning Allah’s (swt) pleasure for our added effort and patience.
Taking the easy way out
When a problem occurs, the instant reaction is to break off and run. Escaping from uncomfortable situations and relationships is always easier than facing problems and resolving issues. However, Islam does not endorse living as a hermit in isolation, but rather living a life of struggle, in the midst of humans with contrasting temperaments and bearing their trials with patience and self control.
Scholars state that even under extreme circumstances, such as when the relatives are disbelievers or sinners, a Muslim is not allowed to cut off relations with them completely. After trying his best to advise and guide them towards the right path and making Duas for their guidance, if they persist in sin and are affecting his own Iman, then he is allowed to minimize interaction with them. So he can talk on the phone, instead of visiting, or shorten his visits or send an occasional gift, but maintain some form of contact nevertheless.