How Far Should We Go?

By Zainab Habib

All of us know that Allah has ordered us to maintain ties of relationship. Being good and kind to relatives is part of Islam, but do we know the extent we can go in pleasing them and where we should draw the line?

Yes indeed there is a line….. And misguided notions of family loyalty, the desperate need to keep them happy with us or even lack of courage which we sometimes hide in the garb of ‘wisdom’, can make us cross over this line and end up doing things which displease Allah.

Here I am not talking about a relative expecting you to lie for you or about nepotism. Those seem to be relatively easier to say ‘no’ to. I am talking about where group pressure to conform becomes so all-pervading that saying ‘no’ can end up creating an extremely unpleasant situation, perhaps even breaking up family solidarity and ending up in family feuds.

Enough of the guessing game…..Now think of the activities which have, over a period of time, become the family norms, or rather, society’s norms – part of its tradition and culture, despite the fact that they are clearly un-Islamic. Think of the customs related to deaths, weddings, and so many ‘festive’ and social occasions in our day to day lives where Allah’s laws are violated.

Forbidding wrongdoing and taking a stand here can be really tough because it causes a strain in family relationships with most family members thinking that you are making too much of a ‘minor’ issue and if everyone in the family is participating, it makes it alright.

But isn’t this very taking a stand and trying to stop un-Islamic activities in the family so much a part of the maintenance of ties of kinship. Was our Prophet (SAW) not told by Allah:

“And warn your closest kindred.” (26;214)

And have we not been told in the Quran?

“And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.” (5;2)

“The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger.” (9;71)

“Cursed were those who disbelieved among the Children of Israel by the tongue of David and Jesus, the son of Mary. This was because they disobeyed and (habitually) transgressed. They used not to prevent one another from wrongdoing that they did. How wretched was that which they were doing.” (5;78-79)

And our Prophet (SAW) said:

“No obedience for evil deeds, obedience is required only in what is good.” (Bukhari)

Blindly following the practices of our ancestors, family or society in acts which violate Allah’s laws is highly blameworthy. In Islam there is no obedience to Creation which involves one in disobedience to the Creator.

As changing family traditions and reshaping cultural values may take years, our efforts to change our relatives, therefore, needs to be ongoing activity. We need to constantly stay in touch with them, always demonstrating through our words and actions how much we care for them and when we do step into the role of a da’ee to them, be sincere and patient with them. Having meaningful one-to-one exchanges with them, presenting evidence from the Quran and sunnah, giving them reading material and inviting them to informative lectures are just some of the steps in educating them. It is important to remember that we should always be respectful and balanced in our approach, and not get worked up if we feel that we are not making any headway.

And if despite having tried our best with all the wisdom and tact we possess, we are unable to stop our family members from acts of disobedience to Allah, we should have the courage to excuse ourselves on these occasions, thus sending a clear message that we are not able to validate such activities by our presence. Coming for a while and leaving early is not the solution because we may be seen coming, but our departure may not be noticed. Our absence may upset the family but Paradise does not come cheap…

And lastly, we must never underestimate the seriousness of what we may consider as “small” sins. As it is, our Good deeds Account leaves much to be desired, no thanks to lack of purity of intention, unfamiliarity with the correct way of doing them, lack of concentration, ostentation and the list goes on and on… Remember what our Prophet (SAW) told Aisha (RAA)

“Avoid sins which are considered insignificant, Aisha, for they have one sent by Allah to question about them.” (Ibn Majah)

Yes, it is high time that we have a good look at what constitutes maintaining ties of relationship and think of it as not just pleasing our relatives all the time. Our participation in their acts of disobedience to Allah’s commands will give mixed signals and detract from the message we have been trying so hard to convey. We need to remember that enjoining them to do good and forbidding them from wrong-doing is also a very vital aspect of this very important Divine command to be good to them and for which we will be held accountable.