What was the prophets dealing with his relatives? How did Prophet Muhammad treat his relatives?
“Whoever is pleased that he be granted more wealth and that his lease of life be pro longed, then he should keep good relations with his kith and kin.” (Bukhari, Adab, 12)
In Islamic literature the phrase “silat al- rahm” is employed to denote the observance of the requirements of kinship. In Arabic sila means ties while rahm (which literally means womb) means kinship. Referring to kinship with the word rahm is closely related to the fact that people come from the same mother. If people who have kinship ties search for the roots of their kinship, they will eventually see that it ends at the same womb. In other words, the womb provides the kinship. The word rahm is also a word derived from the same root with the Divine names of Rahman (Most Gracious) and Rahim (Most Merciful). The creation of living beings and the continuance of their lives is the manifestation of Allah’s Mercy. If this issue is approached from this angle, it would be much easier to understand why the first place where human beings are created and reside is named rahm.
In Islam it is important to keep human relations strong. Visiting relatives beginning with the parents and supporting them is an extremely important Islamic principle.
It is ordered in a verse to serve only Allah the Almighty first, not to ascribe any partners to Him and then to show kindness to parents and other relatives (al-Nisa 4; 36), while in another verse it is stated that:
“O mankind! … Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom you claim (your rights) of one another, and to the ties of relationship. Lo! Allah has been a Watcher over you.” (al-Nisa 4; 1)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:
“Anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should not harm his neighbor” (Bukhari, Adab, 85) and gave similar advice and orders to many people who recently embraced Islam.
We see the example of this approach in the lengthy narration reported by Amr b. Abasa (r.a.). He said that:
“I, in the age of Ignorance (before embracing Islam), used to think that the people were in error and they were not on anything (which may be called the right path) and worshipped the idols. In the meanwhile I heard of a man in Mecca who was giving good tidings (on the basis of his prophetic knowledge); so I sat on my mount and went to him. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was at that time hiding for his people had made life hard for him. I adopted a friendly attitude (towards the Meccans and thus managed) to enter Mecca and go to him (the Holy Prophet) and I said to him:
“Who are you?” He said:
“I am a Prophet (of Allah).” I again said:
“Who is a Prophet?” He said:
“(I am a Prophet in the sense that) I have been sent by Allah.” I said:
“What is that which you have been sent with?” He said:
“I have been sent to join the ties of relationship (with kindness and affection), to break the Idols, and to proclaim the oneness of Allah (in a manner that) nothing is to be associated with Him.” (Muslim, Musafirun, 294)
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (r.a.) that a man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said:
“Direct me to a deed which draws me near to Paradise and takes me away from the Fire of Hell.” The Holy Prophet (pbuh) responded:
“You worship Allah and never associate any partners with Him, establish prayer, and pay alms, and show kindness to your kin.”
When the man turned his back to leave, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) remarked:
“If he adheres to what he has been ordered to do, he shall enter Paradise.” (Muslim, Iman, 14)
In Islam maintaining good kinship ties is considered a means to earn Paradise, whereas breaking these ties and not observing the rights of relatives cause one to become distant from Allah’s Mercy. It was narrated by Abu Huraira (r.a.) that the Prophet (pbuh) had said:
“Allah created the creation, and when He finished it, Rahm, i.e. the womb, said:
“(O Allah) at this place I seek refuge with You from all those who sever me (i.e. sever the ties of Kith and kin).” Allah said,
“Yes, won’t you be pleased that I will keep good relations with the one who will keep good relations with you, and I will sever the relation with the one who will sever the relations with you.” It said,
“Yes, O my Lord.” Allah said,
“Then this right is given to you” (Bukhari, Adab, 13; Muslim, Birr, 16)
Another sacred saying of a similar meaning is as follows:
“Allah the Almighty said:
“I am Rahman. I have derived the word rahm (kinship ties) as a name from My names. I will keep good relation with the one who will keep good relation with you, (womb, i.e. kith and kin) and sever the relation with him who will sever the relation with you, (womb, i.e. kith and kin). (Bukhari, Adab, 14; Abu Dawud, Zakat, 45)
Another narration reported by Abu Hurairah (r.a.) expresses the piteous end of those who break their kinship ties:
“Every Friday night people’s deeds are presented to Allah the Almighty. The deeds of those who break their ties of kinship are not accepted.” (Ibn Hanbal, II, 484)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) emphasized that the punishment of the oppressors, those who violate the rights and break the ties of kinship, that will be given in this world. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 43; Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 57) He also expressed the worldly fruits of keeping good relations with relatives saying:
“Whoever is pleased 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, Adab, 12; Muslim, Birr, 20, 21)
One should keep good relations with his relatives even if they do not show one kindness. It should not be forgotten that those who are treated with kindness by their relatives but do not respond to it are under a grave responsibility. According to a narration reported by Abu Hurairah (r.a.), a man came to the Messenger of Allah and said:
“O Messenger of Allah! I have relatives with whom I try to have a close relationship, but they sever this relation. I treat them well, but they treat me badly. I am sweet to them but they are harsh towards me.” Upon this the Holy Prophet said:
“If it is as you say, then you in fact feed them hot ashes and there shall always remain with you on behalf of Allah an Angel to support you who shall keep you dominant over them so long as you adhere to this path of righteousness.” (Muslim, Birr, 22)
The phrase “you in fact feed them hot ashes” is a metaphor. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) compared the painful state of those who eat hot ashes to the state of those who show kindness to their relatives but do not receive the same treatment from them.
Similarly in the following saying Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) commands his servants to continue having good relations with their relatives, even if they do not respond back in kindness:
“Al-Wasil is not the one who recompenses the good done to him by his relatives, but Al-Wasil is the one who keeps good relations with those relatives who had severed the bond of kinship with him.” (Bukhari, Adab, 15)
It should not be forgotten that one should maintain certain ties with one’s relatives even if they are not Muslims. In a verse believers are ordered not to obey their non-Muslim parents who force them to reject faith, but right after this it is also commanded to “… keep company with them in this world kindly…” (Loqman 31; 15)
Abu Bakr’s daughter Asma (r. anhuma) said that:
“My mother, who was a disbeliever at the time, came to my home. In order to get his opinion, I asked the Prophet (pbuh)
“O Messenger of Allah, my mother who missed me has come to visit me. May I treat her well?” He said:
“Yes, you may.” (Bukhari, Hiba, 30; Muslim, Zakat, 50)
It needs to be known that helping needy relatives is more rewarding than helping others. In this respect Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) says that:
“Charity given to the needy has one reward while helping relatives who are in need has two rewards: one reward for charity and one for observing the rights of relatives.” (Tirmidhi, Zakat, 26)
Another narration about helping relatives first was reported by Anas (r.a.):
“ Abu Talha had the most gardens of date among the Medinan believers (Ansar). For him the garden named Bairuha was the most beloved one among his property, and it was situated opposite the mosque of the Prophet. Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) used to enter it and drink from its sweet water.
When the following Divine verse was revealed: “By no means shall you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love…” (Al-i Imran 3; 92), Abu Talha got up before Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) and said,
“O Messenger of Allah! Allah says in His Book, “By no means shall you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love…” and verily, the most beloved to me of my property is Bairuha, so I give it in charity and hope for its reward from Allah. O Allah’s Apostle! Spend it wherever you like.” Allah’s Apostle appreciated that and said,
“That is a profitable wealth; that is profitable wealth. I have heard what you have said; I suggest you to distribute it among your relatives.” Abu Talha said,
“I will do so, O Allah’s Apostle.” So, Abu Talha distributed it among his relatives and cousins.” (Bukhari, Wakalah, 14; Muslim, Zakat, 42)
It is not of benefit for a mature believer to talk about goodness and charity when he is poor but forgets everything when he becomes rich. One should always help his relatives under any circumstances. The Holy Qur’an criticizes such people as follows:
“Would you then, if you were put in authority, that you will do mischief in the land, and break your ties of kith and kin? Such are the men whom Allah has cursed. He has made them deaf and blinded their sight.” (Muhammad 47; 22-23)
How one should keep good relations with his relatives varies depending upon his social status. For instance, it is necessary to talk to relatives nicely, to smile and greet them, to ask after their heath, to share both their sadness and happiness as much as possible, to exchange gifts, and to help them financially when it is needed.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) not only emphasized in his sayings the significance of keeping good relations with relatives but also showed it in his life. As it is known, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) lost his father before he was even born and his mother passed away when he was only six. He was raised first by his grandfather and then by his uncle Abu Talib. Abu Talib’s wife Fatima did not treat him differently from her own children. When this believing lady passed away in Medina, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) became so sad that he said that “my mother passed away.” He shrouded her with his own shirt and even laid down in her grave for a while.
The Companions said:
“O messenger of Allah! You have not done for anybody else what you did for Fatima.” Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) replied:
“After Abu Talib there has been nobody else who treated me so well. I put my shirt on her so that she would wear garments of Paradise. And I laid down in her grave to make her state in the grave easy.” (Yaqubi, II, 14; Ibn Abdi’l Barr, IV, 1891)
When the Prophet (pbuh) was on his way to the minor pilgrimage in Mecca, he stopped by a place named Abwa and visited his mother’s grave. He tidied the grave while he was crying. When he was asked why he was crying, he said:
“I just remembered my mother’s mercy and compassion towards me. This is why I cried.” (Ibn Sa’d, I, 116, 117)
In Abwa, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would from time to time visit his mother’s midwife Umm Aiman from Abyssinia, who had witnessed his mother’s death, and say about her:
“She is my mother after my real mother.” (Ibn al-Athir, Usd al-Ghabah, VII, 303)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) wanted his uncle Abu Talib to embrace Islam very much. He said to his uncle at the time of his death:
“Witness that there is no god but Allah and I will bear testimony (of your being a Muslim) on the Day of Judgment.” But he (Abu Talib) refused to do so. Then Allah revealed this verse:
“Surely you cannot guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases, and He knows best the followers of the right way.” (Qasas 28; 56) (Muslim, Iman, 41, 42)
The following report about his other uncle, Abbas (r.a.) is also remarkable.
“One day Abbas (r.a.) angrily came to the Prophet (pbuh). Allah’s Messenger (pbuh):
“What makes you so angry?” Abbas (r.a.) replied:
“What does Quraish want from us? They smile at each other but frown at us.” Then Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) also got upset. His anger was so severe that his face became red and he said:
“By Allah in Whose hand my life is, faith will not enter in your hearts so long as you do not love for the sake of Allah and His Messenger.” Then he continued:
“O People! Whoever oppresses my uncle is surely oppressing me, for someone’s uncle is like his father.” (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 28)
Ibn Abbas (r. anhuma) narrated:
“One day Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told (my father) Abbas (r.a.):
“O uncle! You and your son come to me on Monday morning so that I will pray for you. May Allah bestow goodness upon you and your son because of my prayer.”
We went to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). He made us wear some clothes and then prayed for us saying:
“O Allah! Please show Your mercy, encompassing all their sins, upon Abbas and his son. O Allah! Protect him because of his son.” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 28)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) also treated his foster mother Halimah well. He would become very happy when she came to visit him, and place his upper shirt, on the ground for her to sit on. Then he addressed her saying, “My mother! My mother!” (Ibn Sa’d, I, 113, 114)
A similar incident was narrated by Amir b. Wasila (r.a.):
“I saw the Prophet (pbuh) distributing meat at a place named Jiranah, when I was a boy carrying the bones of slaughtered camels. And just then a woman approached the Prophet (pbuh), he spread out his cloak for her, and she sat on it. I asked:
“Who is she?” The people said:
“She is his foster-mother.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 119, 120)
According to another report, during the Meccan period the Prophet’s foster mother Halimah came to visit him. And she complained about famine and drought. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) gave her forty sheep and a camel loaded with food with which to take back to her town. (Ibn Sa’d, I, 108, 109)
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) showed similar kindness to Suwaibah who had breastfed him for a few days when he was born. In Mecca both the Prophet (pbuh) and Khadijah (r. anha) would help her. After immigrating to Medina, the Prophet (pbuh) sent food and clothes to her and kept in contact with her until she died. He even searched for her relatives after her death, and found out that she had nobody. (Ibn Sa’d, I, 108, 109)
After the battle of Taif, the believers obtained many captives from the Hawazin tribe. Because of his foster aunts among the captives Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) freed first all the slaves of his share and then the ones of the shares of the Abdulmuttalib clan. Then the Companions followed the Prophet’s (pbuh) example and freed the captives of their share without taking any ransom money. (Ibn Hisham, IV, 135)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) kept good relations even with his most distant relatives. In his sayings he emphasized its importance in human relations. Abu Dharr (r.a.) reported Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) as saying:
“You would soon conquer Egypt and that is a land which is known as the land of measure called al-qirat. So when you conquer it, I want you to treat its inhabitants well. For you have a treaty with them and they have the right of kinship upon you.” (Muslim, Fada’il al-Sahabah, 226)
In another version of this tradition Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) says that:
“…there lies upon you the responsibility of protection upon them because of blood-ties or relationships of marriage with them.” (Muslim, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 227)
As is known, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was descended from Ishmael (A.S.). Because Ishmael’s mother Hajar was an Egyptian, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) accepted Egyptians as his relatives. This is why he asked his Companions to sign protection agreements with Egyptians and advised them to treat the people kindly.
Another connection between the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and Egyptians was his blood-tie with them. In the seventh year of immigration, Allah’s Messenger had sent some letters to theneighboring countries inviting them to Islam. One of these letters was sent to the ruler of Iskandariya. Even though the ruler did not embrace Islam, he sent some gifs to the Prophet (pbuh). Among the gifts, there was a slave-girl named Mariyah and the product of their union was the Prophet’s son Ibrahim. NOTE: The Prophet married Mariyah after she gave birth to Ibrahim and from which the ruling of ‘umm al-walad’ was derived, i.e. a concubine who gave birth to her master’s child was no longer under the status of a normal slave but of ‘umm al-walad’ and the child was free. Thus, Allah’s Apostle had a blood-tie with the Egyptians.
In short, according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) believers are advised and even encouraged to maintain good relations with their relatives. Unfortunately, today we have forgotten our relatives that go a few generations back. For example, when it is said “son of our grandfather’s uncle” or “the daughter of our grandmother’s sister” we think that we have no need to maintain a relationship with them. We can observe the danger to the complete lose of family relations among people who live in urban areas in particular. Modern life styles and a distancing from spiritual values are the most important reasons for this lost. Whereas in Islamic culture, meeting with relatives provides an environment where one has the opportunity to maintain and improves one’s relations. These ties are like beads aligned on a thread. Similar to the inappropriateness of breaking that thread, breaking those ties is also inappropriate. It is a requirement of a being a Muslim.
Source: The History of Prophets in Light of The Qur’an, THE CHAIN OF PROPHETS II, Osman Nuri TOPBAŞ, Erkam Publications