By Tabassum M.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
“My aunt is so misguided. She doesn’t even wear hijab!”
“I’ve tried so many times to teach my mother-in-law how to pray properly, but she just won’t listen!”
“My nephew doesn’t grow a beard although I have told him to do so a hundred times! He’s totally hopeless.”
It’s very common and easy to criticize another person’s way of life, especially those who are around us all the time and with those whom we are forced to meet at least twice a year (on the two Eids) due to genetic associations we can’t help. We are forbidden to cut off these relationships, so how can we handle being with these people when we see them doing things we know are wrong?
Of course, it’s our duty to guide our families towards the Straight Path, and teach them the correct Islam. But if we catch ourselves looking down on our family members, we must sit back and think – is this criticism really beneficial: to me or to them? Does it bring me closer to Allah? Does it bring them closer to Islam? Closer to me?
The answer will probably be a no. Here’s why:
- It smells of arrogance. The “I am holier than thou” attitude originates at a source which is really scary to think of – Shaytan. This is because Shaytan was religious, so much so that he was raised to the ranks of the angels. And in came this new being made of mud and dirt and threatened his place! But Allah (swt) sees beyond the exterior; He sees the heart. So Shaytan was kicked out, and in order to take revenge from Adam, he tries to push Adam’s children into doing the same crime which he was punished for – a sense of superiority leading to arrogance.
- We don’t have access to the unseen. It could be that the relative we think is so misguided is more guided than us, has a cleaner heart, has more knowledge of the religion, and is more correct, or might just be too humble to show his or her religiosity. There are a thousand things that we must take into account before pronouncing a judgement.
- Blood relatives have greater right on us than others: a right to our politeness, our love, and our care in every way. Allah (swt) mentions: “Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbour, the neighbour farther away … Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful.” (4:36)
- There’s an increased risk of falling into backbiting. We all know what happens when relatives get together – Gossip! Gossip! Talk! Talk! Talk! And an avalanche of backbiting Once we form a definite opinion on a relative, we ourselves become more susceptible to joining in.
The judgement may boomerang back to you. The Prophet (sa) narrated a story of two men of Banu Israel, one of them religious and the other a sinner. The first would keep telling the latter to give up his sins, but the other would say, “Leave me alone with my Lord. Have you been sent as a watchman over me?” Then the religious man pronounced this judgement: “I swear by Allah, Allah will not forgive you, nor will he admit you to paradise.” Then their souls were taken back (by Allah), and they met together with the Lord of the worlds. What happened next? Allah (swt) asked the first man, “Did you have any knowledge about Me or did you have any power over that which I had in My Hand?” He threw the first man into hell and gave the second man paradise. (Abu Dawood, graded authentic by Albani)
Five healthy tips for interacting with our relatives:
- Avoid using labels. Labelling is a term in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which denotes designating negative adjectives to people based on certain behaviour. So if a person has a habit of overeating, he is labelled as a food junkie. Using such labels, even if only internally, creates a negative image and a negative lens of viewing a person through which you will pick faults and misread virtues. By avoiding this, you clear your mind of preconceived notions.
- Make your character your da‘wah (calling to good and avoiding evil). Aisha (rah) said about the Prophet (sa), “The character of the Messenger of Allah (sa) was the Quran.” (Abu Dawood, graded authentic by Albani)
- Remember that being practising includes being humane. The “I am a good person but I don’t pray” attitude is obviously wrong, but so is the reverse. Be a good, moral, humane human being first by developing the natural love, mercy, leniency, and empathy Allah (swt) put in our fitrah (instinct).
- Avoid arguments about issues where there is difference of opinion among scholars (especially the four schools of law), such as women’s prayer, moon-sighting and the length of beard a man should keep. If unsure whether there is a difference of opinion on a given issue, research on it first before giving a verdict. Never give your own opinion on such matters without scholarly support.
- Cultivate and use the natural love that connects your heart with them, the connection of rahm (the womb). I didn’t know how much I love my family until I separated from them to study abroad. Sometimes the familiarity built from constant association hides from our eyes the strong love that flows through our veins. Locate that love in your heart, let it grow and flourish, let it bring tears to your eyes, and use it to reach out to them as the most effective da‘wah
Tabassum Mosleh is a freelance writer and a student of Al-Salam Institute. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© IIPH 2016