What is the Ruling of Maintaining Family Ties?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch 

Question Summary

What is the ruling of maintaining family ties? Which family members does this ruling apply?  When is maintaining family ties disliked or prohibited?

Question Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

Maintaining Family Ties

Maintaining family ties is necessary (wajib). [Haskafi, al-Durr al-Mukhtar]

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The family ties cling to the Throne (of Allah) saying, ‘whoever maintains me, Allah will maintain them and whoever cuts me off, Allah will cut them off.” [Ali Qari, Mirqat al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih]

Who Are Considered Relatives

The scholars differed on which family members this obligation applies. The relied upon position in the Hanafi school is that the obligation applies to every blood relative (rahim).

However, the strength of the obligation varies according to the closeness of the relationship. Thus, one’s parents have the greatest priority, then the unmarriageable kin (maharim), then the remaining relatives. [Ibn’ Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar citing Sharh Muslim of al-Nawawi]

Family Relations by Rank

The following list shows the rank of each relative in order from highest rank to lowest:

1) Parents and Grandparents (Mothers are given priority over fathers)
2) Oldest Siblings and Uncles and Aunts (The older brother and paternal uncles have the rank of fathers; the older sisters and maternal aunts have the rank of mothers)
3) Unmarriageable Kin
4) Remaining Relatives
[Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar citing Tabyin al-Maharim]

How Are Family Ties Maintained?

Maintaining family ties is done according to one’s capabilities. This could be fulfilled by various means, such as sending salutations (salam) and greetings, sending gifts, assisting them in their needs, sitting with them, talking with them, doing good deeds for them, etc…

If one lives near their parents, their responsibility is greater than the one who lives far away. Thus if one’s parents need help or want them to visit, merely sending salaams does not suffice. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

No Condition of Reciprocity

Know that it is not a condition for the obligation of maintaining ties that one’s relatives reciprocate the maintenance. The obligation stands alone regardless of whether one’s relatives reciprocate the maintenance or try to break the ties. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The joiner of family ties is not the one who reciprocates. Rather, the joiner of ties is he who – whenever their relatives sever the ties, joins them.” [Bukhari]

When is it Prohibited or Disliked to Maintain Ties

In general, there is no situation wherein maintaining ties is prohibited or disliked.

Asma bint Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with her) said, “My mother, who was a polytheist, came to my during the time of the Quraysh, so I said, “O Messenger of Allah, my mother has come to me, and she is rebellious against Islam, do I maintain the ties?” He said, “Yes. Maintain the ties with her.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

There are a few unique circumstances that act as an exception to the above. One example is the Battle of Badr, in which the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) and many of the Companion fought against their own family members. However, this is an extreme circumstance; the basis is that maintaining family ties is an obligation regardless of the circumstance.

Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York, where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.