“I will never force my kids to love relatives that don’t see them or ask about them. Period.”
This is a popular statement making its rounds and being shared widely on memes across social media. On the surface it makes sense, right? Your children are one of the most important people in your life, and if someone doesn’t give them time or importance then we certainly shouldn’t expect our kids to show them love. Is this type of thinking in line with Islam? Not quite. There are many evidences from the Quran and Sunnah that highlight the importance of maintaining kinship ties in Islam, while also containing clear warnings for those who sever relationships with their relatives.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “The one who maintains ties of kinship is not the one who reciprocates. The one who maintains ties of kinship is the one who, when his relatives cut him off, maintains ties of kinship.”
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “Learn enough about your lineage to facilitate keeping your ties of kinship. For indeed keeping the ties of kinship encourages affection among the relatives, increases the wealth, and increases the lifespan.”
It was narrated from ‘Aishah, the Mother of the Believers, that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“The most quickly rewarded of good deeds are kindness and upholding the ties of kinship, and the most quickly punished evil deeds are injustice and severing the ties of kinship.”
O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you. [Quran Surah An-Nisa: 1]
Simply reviewing the Islamic evidences relating to kinship and family ties should be enough to make us stop in our tracks before accepting and endorsing this popular meme, but if you take another second to think about it, it doesn’t make sense anyway. Do we really want to raise our children with the notion that love, affection, and kindness should only be shown in response to someone giving us attention? What type of message are we sending when we instil the idea that we give to others, but always with an expectation of reciprocity? Imagine what the world would be like if we only reached out to those in society who reach out to others? If we raise our children with this sense of entitlement, we run the risk of our whole next generation being adults who are self-centred, self-focused and individuals who lack empathy or care for anyone outside themselves. If you think about it, you may have relatives from across the world who might not have the ability or technology to keep in touch regularly. Why not teach our children to think well of others and to be the one to make the effort when they have the ability to? Now no one is saying to “force” your children to do anything, but wouldn’t it make more sense to help our children understand from a young age that not everyone will be kind to them, and at times they may even be ignored, and they can’t control that. But they can choose to not take it personally, and instead be the type of person who shows kindness and reaches out to their relatives in obedience to Allah (swt).
As a parent, it’s completely understandable to feel protective over our children, and even to feel the sting when our child is ignored or snubbed by others-especially relatives. To make matters worse, we’re constantly bombarded by messages that promote individualistic thinking and the idea that “it’s all about you”, “do what makes you happy and always put yourself first”, “don’t worry or care about others’ needs.” As Muslims, we have to think critically every time we are faced with these ideas.
When we see a statement that seems to be gaining traction and popularity, let’s stop and ensure we’re using our Islamic lens to critically analyze what we’re being told rather than accepting words that sound relatable and attractive. First step: What is the Islamic perspective on this? Is this in line with my beliefs as a Muslim? If not, we reject the idea and remind ourselves what the correct perspective is.
Why is this important? After all, it’s just a silly meme so what’s the big deal? Here’s the thing. We don’t always even realize the way in which we internalize these messages. Let’s say a person comes across this, and without critically viewing it from an Islamic perspective, they not only accept it, but in their mind, they also use it to justify or legitimize ignoring their relatives. In the future, they might not teach their children to respect everyone, and instead only place emphasis on building love in their children’s hearts for those who give them importance. Accepting ideas or ways of thinking that are not in line with Islam have ripple effects in our attitudes, our behaviour, and our implementation of our religion.
Let’s be among those who use the Quran and Sunnah as a guide to raising our children, to developing their character, and in teaching them how to engage with others in their life.