15 Nov Care of Kin.Part3
The term relatives usually implies close relations such as immediate family, cousins, aunts or uncles. There are special benefits in treating these relatives well. The Messenger of God said,
“An aunt is like another mother.”
Likewise, an uncle is like another father. It is only natural that as part of good morality such close family members have certain rights on us. Among these rights, paying visits is of particular importance. As explained below, the general rule is that one should visit close relations first on holidays, and then occasionally at other times, if possible bringing gifts.
Visiting strengthens the bond of love between relatives, and puts an end to estrangement. It allows people to share their sorrows and joys, and to help one another through difficult times. In particular, the elderly need to spend their final years in peace and happiness in the bosom of their family, knowing they are loved and cared for.
There is another consideration that should be taken into account when examining the subject of sila al-rahm. One should not expect anything in return; in this context, this means that we must not only look after the relatives with whom we are already close, but we should also attend to our duties toward those who have severed ties with us. The Prophet said,
“One who simply returns good with good is not living the full meaning of ‘caring for relatives.’ True care means to care for the relation who has not shown us any regard.”
In fact this is a general principle—we should always think carefully and choose the good action in every situation. It is not correct to look after the well-being of those in need when one is weak and powerless but to change one’s conduct when wealth and power increase. This situation is one among the thousands of layers of meaning in the following Qur’anic verse:
But is it to be expected of you (O hypocritical ones), that you will break your promise and turn away (from God’s command- ments), and cause disorder and corruption in the land, and sever the ties of kinship? Such are they whom God has cursed (excluded from His mercy), and so He has made them deaf and blinded their eyes (to the truth). (Muhammad 47:22–3)
As a final point, I wish to point out a general principle found in a hadith of the Prophet. Being fallible humans, we may sometimes let bad words slip, especially when we are agitated and angry. There is a striking hadith about this:
Ibn Amr ibn al-As relates the following words of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him:
“One of the greatest sins is to curse one’s parents.” Those with him asked, “Would any person curse their own parents?” The Messenger answered, “Yes! If anyone curses the parent of another person, as that person will then curse their parent in return, it is as if he has cursed his own parent!”