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Should I Maintain Ties With Family Who Openly Sin or Shun Them?

Answered by  Ustadh Tariq Abdul-Rasheed
Question: Assalamu alaikum,
I have read and heard in many places that one should love everyone, be merciful with everyone, have good opinion of everyone, and deal in a good way with everyone.
But on the other hand, I have also read in books to avoid bad company. In one book I read that one should stop talking to a person who does not perform salah after being told numerous times because such person is a shaytan. I also read that one cannot say Salam to a fasiq.
Sometimes we can have relatives who openly sin without any shame, including drinking and selling alcohol, not praying, disrespecting parents, etc.  They might even thrust earphones in their ears or start whistling if anyone were to mention religion.
Now I am very confused because I don’t know how to deal with these people.  Since they are close relatives, should I love them, pray for their well being, and call them despite their attempts to avoid me – or should I just shun them totally.
Please clarify my understanding in these matters. JazakaAllah khayr.
Answer: In the name of Allah of the Beneficent the Merciful
Wa laikum salaamu wa rahmatullahi wa barkaatuh,
May Allah (Most High) bless you and grant you increase in iman and good character. Your concern over this issue is a sign of your belief in Allah and compassion and care that He (Most High) has blessed you with. The Prophets and Messengers when through similar trials in maintaining relations and kinship bonds.
Prophetic Trials
“We know that you, [O Muhammad], are saddened by what they say. And indeed, they do not call you untruthful, but it is the verses of Allah that the wrongdoers reject.” [An’am:33]
Amongst the most difficult trials of the Prophets and Messengers (upon them be peace) is maintaining relationships and family ties in face of opposition and rejection from family, friends and nation. We see in the example of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that his own people rejected him after haven taken him as an advisor and arbitrator and attesting to his trustworthiness.
The Quraysh had outwardly rejected the message of Islam. However, in reality they believed-in and attested to the trustworthiness of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in their hearts. So Allah (Most High) revealed this verse and to console and ease the hurt of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and assure him that what they manifested outwardly was not their inward reality. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was avid to maintain his relationships as he was concerned about Allah’s (Most High) creation and wanted to warn them against eminent punishment if they continued in disbelief.
Understanding What is ‘Fisq’ and Who is a ‘Fasiq’
Fisq (sinning/transgressing) refers to any transgression of the laws and limits of the Shariah. It is a general term that entails transgressions and sins both great and small. The fasiq is the one who has adhered to and acknowledges the laws of the Shariah then transgresses all or some of laws. [Ragib Asfahani, Mufradat]
Fisq (sinning/transgressing) and fasiq (one who sins/transgresses) are also used in the Quran to mean the opposite of Iman because the disbeliever transgresses necessary and clear rational judgments which are easily concluded by people of a sound and rational nature. [Ragib Asfahani, Mufradat]
When the scholars of law use the term ‘fasiq’ they are generally referring to one who flagrantly and willingly disobeys the commands of the Shariah. Because of the open, constant and repetitive sinning of the fasiq he becomes well-known for his sinning.
Muslims generally use the term based on its usage by scholars of law. However we should be careful as its usage in the Quran may vary depending on context and we should not attempt to deduce rulings and apply them to our brothers and sisters based on our own readings of the Quran and Sunnah.
Distinguishing Between Actions and Individuals
One very important distinction to make is that the ruling of Allah (Most High) from halal, haram, mandub etc relates to peoples actions and not to individuals themselves. So, if a Muslim commits a wrongdoing then we should hate the wrong action but not the individual.
This is an important principle as the non-Muslim can become Muslim and the sinful person can become amongst Allah’s (Most High) beloved and close ones. The door of repentance is always open and it is the case that people usually become better after sincere repentance.
Again, we judge actions and not individuals. If we keep this principle in mind as we interact with others then there is no conflict between having care and concern for others and wanting the best for them while maintaining our jealousy over the laws and commands of Allah (Most High) such that if we see wrongdoing it remains detestable to us.
Additionally, by understanding this principle we can prevent ourselves from becoming self-righteous when dealing with people who may be struggling with obedience to their Lord. People who struggle with religion often note that they find it difficult to be around so-called “pious” people because they perceive from them righteous indignation and contempt. Why? Because “pious” people tend to judge people and not actions. They condemn and don’t encourage. So mercy and concern is replaced by contempt and the opportunity to help and assist it lost.
Keeping Good Company
While we should maintain mercy and compassion for others that are known for their sinfulness we should also be keen not to keep close companionship with them. This is not out of arrogance or self-righteousness rather it is out of concern over our own states and the tendency of souls to take on the characteristics of other souls.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “A man is only upon the religion of his close friends. So let one of you look carefully at whom he takes as an intimate friend.” [Ahmad, Hakim]. We shouldn’t maintain intimate company with people that are flagrantly sinful not because we are exceptionally pious and above them rather because of the inherent imitation the comes with close friendship. There is no contradiction between having a genuine care for all, not looking down at others with contempt while at the same being vigilant about whom we take as companions.
Enjoining the Good and Forbidding the Evil
A distinguishing characteristics of the Muslim Ummah is their enjoying of what is right and good and forbidding foulness, evil and harm. Allah (Most High) says in the Holy Quran, “And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.”[Aal `Imran: 104]
This a command of obligation and the scholars agree that it is a communal obligation. If some from amongst the Ummah uphold the responsibility then the remaining community will not be sinful. It is preservation of the Deen of Allah (Most High) and when it is neglected then the entire community is sinful and deserving of Allah (Most High) punishment.
It is related that Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz (ra) used to say, “Allah (exalted and glorified) does not punish the general public because of sins committed in private. But rather when foulness and evil are committed openly and is not rebuked then they are deserving of punishment – all of them! [Imam Qazwini, Mukhtasar Shu`ab al-Iman]
Principles of Commanding the Good and Forbidding the Evil
The obligation of Commanding the Good and Forbidding the Evil is established in the Quran, Sunnah and by Consensus of the Scholars. It is a communal obligation which may in some cases become an individual obligation depending on the circumstances. However, there are a number of conditions that must be met in order for the obligation to be present. Among them are the following:
– One must be knowledgeable of the Halal and Haram according to the Shariah otherwise one could be enjoining what is haram and forbidding what is halal.
– One must be certain that by forbidding the evil that it does not lead to a greater evil. In such a case then it is not permissible to do so.
– That there is a high degree of certainty that one’s enjoining or forbidding will actually be of benefit. If not, then there is no obligation to do so. It should also be done with wisdom and sincere concern.
– The evil or sinful action must be manifest and open such that one does not have to resort to spying, sneaking and searching to expose the sin(s) one seeks to forbid. (Spying and searching out the sins of Muslim is forbidden and to be suspicious and inquire into another’s actions without due reason (such for a marriage or witnessing in legal cases) is likewise forbidden.)
– The sin must be one whose forbiddance is unanimously agreed upon or that the consideration of it not being forbidden is extremely weak. (Matters that are differed upon amongst qualified scholars are not the basis of ‘munkar’ and one cannot rebuke another over practicing upon an opinion which is differed upon.)
It is necessary that we consider the previous conditions so that in our attempt to help we don’t actually cause a greater harm. Additionally, it helps us to know when and when-not to engage situations. In regards to issues of high-crimes that require established political authority it is not our place to attempt to “change with our hands” without proper legal authority contrary to what is commonly misunderstood from the hadith.
Family Ties and Kinship Bonds
Finally, the obligation of maintaining family ties cannot be stressed enough. It is sinful to cut-off bonds of kinship or to shun relatives even if they are sinful.
Allah (Most High) says, “Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful.” [an-Nisa: 36] The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The one who cuts of blood-ties will not enter Paradise”[Bukhari, Muslim]
In conclusion; as mentioned above we can maintain cordial friendly bonds with relatives who may be openly sinful while letting them know that we don’t approve of their sinful acts. At the same time we should be careful to maintain a true care and concern in our hearts that their state [and ours] improves. In reality this one of the distinctive marks of Prophetic character. In our times people become apathetic and indifferent which is not a healthy state. Going either to the extreme of complete rejection or complete acceptance.
Remember the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The believer is the mirror of his brother. If he sees a fault in him he corrects it.” Though our sins may not be manifest we can relate to weaknesses of the self and in that way we can all relate to struggling with sin. This should elicit empathy rather than arrogance.
I pray this has helped clarify the matter and Allah (Most High) knows best.
Tariq Abdul-Rasheed

Should I Let My Daughter Spend Time With Her Non-Muslim Father?

Answered by Dr. Bano Murtaja

Question: I am a woman who embraced Islam when my daughter was 4 yrs old. She is now 14yrs old and wants attention from her non-Muslim father. She lacks understanding of being a Muslim but accepts our decision and devotion for Islam. Should I allow her to spend time more time with him? I fear that she will be exposed to situations without the proper guidance.

 

Answer: As salam alykum wa rahmatullahi,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

We are guided to be good to our parents, regardless of their faith. With this in mind, it is important your daughter is able to maintain a strong and healthy bond with her father.

Given that your daughter’s father accepts the faith of you and your daughter, you could speak with him about the parameters that he should maintain around her. InshaAllah a joint approach to parenting will also provide a more stable environment for your daughter also.

Given that your daughter is now 14 you may also consider discussing the appropriate parameters with her. Presumably her upbringing in the US will already have given her a good understanding of how to navigate parameters between her Islamic faith and spending time with those who have a different belief.

One of the SeekersGuidance family, Br. Anik Misra is a convert, and shares some of the things he has learned about dealing with non-Muslim parents here, that may help your daughter.

A Convert Dealing With Non-Muslim Parents

May Allah grant you ease and facilitate the best for you, your daughter and her father.

Ma’salam
Bano

Can We Break Family Ties With Siblings Who Treat Us Badly?

Answered by Ustadha Rukayat Yakub

Question: Asalaamu alaikum,

We come from a broken family that lacks agreement on anything.  Our brothers generally only notice the sisters when they want something from them.  But when the sisters need something – they make excuses to the sisters.  We try hard to be there in times of hardship and to defend their honor.  Yet, when we struggle they offer no compassion, don’t visit us, and don’t defend our honor.  When one of my sisters was divorced she and her ex-husband agreed she would get a financial settlement. He kept that agreement until he got his citizenship and got another spouse, then he discontinued the money he owed her.  Our brothers still treat him as a close friend, ignoring that this hurts our sister when they invite him and his wife to the house. Our brothers never check on us.  The only thing we can expect is a dinner invitation during Ramadan and Eid. I feel it is time to breakup these false ties of family that has no value or substance.  One of my brothers took an object and hurled it at my sister when in a fit of rage, to further explain my frustration and anger. What do you advise?

Answer: wa alaikum as salaam sister

I am sorry that you and your sisters are experiencing this, but my sincere advice is to not to break of family ties but to change the way you interact with your brothers.

It seems that you have been trying for many years to get your brothers to change and this has caused much resentment frustration and pain,  Cutting off ties will not heal this especially as in Islam the we are taught and encouraged to hold dear family ties.  Allah ta’ala is well aware of your situation and what you have done to make things work,  However you are responsible for your actions and the only person in this equation that you can change is yourself.

So if your brothers decide that they only want to get together at Eid, then visit them at this time.  Maintain good adab with them and interact with them solely for the pleasure of Allah ta’ala.   Do not expect them to reciprocate, they might, but having that expectation leads to disappointment and even more resentment when they do not.  If you are in their home and are being hurtful, let them know that you will not tolerate this behavior, but you are their sister and you love them and when they are willing to act in a way that isn’t physically or emotionally hurtful you will be more than happy to visit or have them visit you.  Then leave.  I am not advocating cutting off ties, but the deen came to protect life, and honor among other things, and your brothers have no right to physically hurt any of you.  And even if you have to leave abruptly due to bad behavior, you should still send cards, or call to keep the lines of communication open.

Also think of all the times our beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace endured the hardship of others,  This doesn’t mean that you let them, or anyone walk all over you like a dormat, but it does mean that you interact with them in the best way that you can, and leave it at that.

Stop trying to make them ‘do you right thing’ they are adults  You can and should insist that they treat you properly, but the key is, you can’t make them do this.  And you aren’t responsible for the way they behave, they will have to account for this themselves,  You will however be asked about yourself and the responsibilities you have been entrusted with so focus on nurturing your mind, body, and soul, encourage your sisters to do the same, and make dua for your brothers.   Beyond that I would not worry about the injustices they have perpetuated against you, worry just makes things worse.  Allah ta’ala is Just.  So do not worry.  Focus on now.  Focus on your mission in life and working with people who want to work with you and having good manner with those who do not.

And Allah ta’ala knows best

May Allah ta’ala give you all healing and strength and rectify the behavior of your brothers and reconcile the hearts of all the members of your family.

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

How to Deal With a Non-Muslim Relative’s Death

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I have a question regarding the situation of my grandma. I am a recent convert and my grandma is ill. I have recited the Fatiha to her and listened to recitation of the Koran (Surat Al-Bakarah) with her and it seems to bring her comfort, but I want to know how I can best pray for her and what I should ask Allah for.

So my questions are as follows: What is the best dua to make for an elderly person who is ill and who might be nearing their end? Can I make the same dua for a non-Muslim relative? Also, what is the best verse from the Koran to recite for someone in this situation? I learned that when praying for non-Muslims we should always ask for the Prophet’s intercession. Is this correct?

Answer: Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Thank you for your question.  Firstly, I want to congratulate you on your being guided to Islam.  Truly, Allah Most High lovingly chose you out of millions to accept His guidance.  We pray that Allah makes you a light and a means for others to enter into Islam also.

I am sorry to hear about the health of your grandmother.

Allah Most High has given your grandmother a tremendous opportunity in that He has given her a granddaughter who is a Muslim, who can advise her towards Islam in her last days.

The most important thing for any human being is that they end their life in a state of submission to their Creator, commensurate to the amount of knowledge of the Truth that reached them in their lifetime.

The best prayer you can make for your grandmother is to ask Allah Most High to create faith (iman) in her heart before she dies.  The greatest gift is to believe with conviction that that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His final messenger, so naturally, you should want that for her.

This can be done in your own words and sincere entreaties.  You can always, in any prayer, approach and ask Allah for something for the sake of the love and station of His beloved Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), because Allah is the only One who can guide others and answer prayers.

Since a Muslim relative would already have faith, the nature of the prayer you make for them would be different than what you would ask for a non-Muslim relative.

Also, difficulty or pain at the time of death is something that can occur to all people, and it in itself is not bad or evil, or a punishment.  Rather, it is a natural part of the exit from this world that even the best of mankind, the prophets of God (peace be upon them all), went through.

Temporary comfort from the pangs of death in this world pales in comparison to everlasting comfort in the Hereafter, so the real concern should be for the person’s Hereafter.

The Duty to Call Others to the Truth

The best and most dutiful thing that you can do is to speak to your grandmother about Allah.  Use gentle reasoning why she should believe in only One God, how He is above having any son or partner, and how He alone should be worshiped because our eventual return is to Him.  If she agrees, you can speak to her about the prophethood.

This can be done in your own language, in loving and simple words- this is not time for complex reasoning nor proofs.  It may be awkward to open a conversation about this, but try to do it in private.  This could be your last chance with her, so throw off all inhibitions for her sake.

If she differs with any of this, at last resort, you can also tell her that this is what you believe, and that those who believe it will one day enter Heaven with God’s pleasure.  You can gently ask her to believe this also, so she can be with you in Heaven, if she loves you the way you love her.

Once you have tried your best given the situation, you have done your duty of giving the Message.  If she does not or cannot accept it, do not feel to blame.

It is not clear to me, when you said she can no longer speak, whether she can still hear and understand, and nod her head.  If she cannot, then I would personally advise still talking through the Message with her gently, because she may still be able to understand without showing signs of it.

Surah Yasin from the Qur’an is something you can listen to, or read, perhaps in translation as well, both for yourself and in her presence because it speaks about life and death.

The Fate of a Non-Muslim After Death

Finally, if she passes away in a state where it was not clear to you if she understood and accepted what you invited her to, although you cannot say she died with faith nor can you pray for her after death, it is permissible to hope that Allah created faith in her heart before she died, because this is not difficult for Allah to do.  This is what my teacher and spiritual guide taught me to do in this situation.

If a non-Muslim dies without having heard or understood the message at all, according to the Ash’ari school (one of the two main schools of Sunni belief), they are not held accountable for their faith or their actions.  This is a general amnesty due to ignorance of the message however, rather than a confirmation of their religion’s validity. [Nuh Keller, Knowing: The Validity of One’s Faith]

In the end, we can never conclusively say what a person’s fate in the Hereafter will be, rather we leave this up to Allah, but this does not excuse us from inviting others to the message of Islam and believing that the deliberate rejection of the truth leads one to eternal perdition.  For more information on the fate of non-Muslims in the afterlife, please see the links below.

Allah Guides Whom He Wills

While we are concerned for the dying person, we cannot forget our own hearts and our relationship with our Lord.

A most relevant verse at this time is not necessarily directed at the dying person, but rather, at ourselves.  It is the verse that Allah Most High revealed to His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) when his own beloved uncle, Abu Talib, died without accepting Islam at his hands.  Allah Most High said:

“Truly, you do not guide whom you love, but rather Allah guides whom He wills.  And He knows best about who is upon guidance.” [Qur’an 28:56]

Times like this are a trial, especially in the life of a convert.  It reminds us of the great bounty of faith that Allah gave to us, yet at the same time, it is a time of concern and pain to see a family member leave the world without this bounty for themselves.

It also challenges us to realize the reality of this life, and tests whether we will hold fast to Allah Most High and the truth, or allow our lower selves to dictate what should be and should’ve been.  So the best thing is to keep your relationship with Allah strong through prayer, dhikr, supplication and submission to His wisdom.

I ask that Allah Most High guides your grandmother, and keeps you strong and close to Him at this time and thereafter.

Wasalam,

Abdullah Anik Misra

Related answers on the fate of non-Muslims in the afterlife:

What is the Fate of Non-Muslims in the Afterlife?

Can We Pray for Non-Muslims Who Passed Away?

Are non-Muslims Who Lived Good Lives Condemned to Hell?

Maintaining Family Ties & Obeying Parents

Answered by Ustadh Faraz A. Khan

Question: My sister was having relations with a non-Muslim boy. When told to stop because it was not allowed, she decided to leave Islam, go away from home with this boy, and have a restraining order placed against the parents. We’ve now discovered that she has been communicating with other relatives who have been supporting her and helping her out, even getting her married to this boy (who is of very bad character and degrades Islam) without the permission fo the parents. Now, my parents want nothing to do with them. They say they have forgiven much but this is the last straw. They have told us not to have any contact them. What should I do? Is this breaking kinship ties?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

May Allah give you strength in this trial and reward you abundantly.

Prioritizing Your Concerns

I think your primary concern should be maintaining a strong relationship with your sister. The most important thing in all of this is her returning to Islam. You should keep in touch with her and uphold good character. One particular trait that you should display to your sister is gentleness [rifq]. Our Beloved Messenger [peace and blessings be upon him] said, “Verily Allah is Gentle and loves gentleness in all matters” [Bukhari, Muslim], as well as “Gentleness is not found in something except that it adorns it, and is not removed from something except that it ruins it” [Muslim].

Be her friend, and let her see the beauty of our faith. This could be a long-term effort, but persevere and be patient. Our Beloved Messenger [peace and blessings be upon him] waited patiently for many disbelievers of Mecca before their entrance into Islam, all the while praying for them and displaying his superb character despite their animosity towards him and the religion. That is the prophetic sunna that we have been commanded to emulate. Your sister is the primary kinship bond that you should be concerned about.

With respect to your mother’s relatives, it seems like any attempt by you to maintain those ties will only lead to more familial tension and discord [fitna]. Two of the most important principles in Islamic law are “The lesser of two harms is to be chosen” and “Warding off harm takes precedence over acquiring benefit.” [Majalla al-Ahkam al-Adliyya; Articles 29, 30]

While normally you are required to maintain kinship ties with all your relatives, it would be better in your case to avoid contact with your mother’s relatives due to the expected harmful consequences entailed therein, namely, the spread of that tension to within your immediate family, between yourself and your parents. Leave that matter to them, and pray that Allah Most High heals their past wounds and reunites their hearts for His sake.

Patience and Trust

Allah Most High states in the Qur’an, “And be patient, and your patience is not except through Allah” [Nahl:127]. The trial you describe is a true test of patience, and the only way to actualize this virtue is through Allah alone, for He is the Provider of all virtues. Seek His aid in being patient and realize that, as our Prophet taught us, “No one has been given a better and more expansive gift than patience” [Bukhari, Muslim].

Place your complete trust in Him, and know that He is All-Wise and the Best of planners. “And trust in the Living, Who dies not” [Furqan:58]. As Imam Biqa’i explains in his masterful tafsir: “Trust” means “show Allah your utter incapacity and weakness, submit wholeheartedly to His decree, and rely on Him in all your affairs” [Nazm al-Durar].

We cannot handle our trials alone; we are weak and incapable. Our only recourse is to submit and consign our affairs over to Allah Most High. We take the means with full effort and diligence to fulfill our duties and persevere in our trials, yet our reliance all throughout is in Allah alone. As one of the early Imams states, “Whoever relies on Allah becomes free of need, while whoever does not rely on Him will be exhausted.”

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam

Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Family, Haram Income, and Maintaining Ties

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: I am inshallah going to visit some immediate family members. These family members buy their food from the haram income they receive. Their income is haram as they have a store in which they sell pork and alcohol. My concern is that I was taught that I cannot eat from what was bought with the haram. If it is true can you give some advice on how to deal with that situation, in a way that I would not harm the feelings of my uncles.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.

Only the income from the actual haram sales would be considered haram in such cases. You can assume that most of their wealth isn’t from the haram and can eat at their house. After that, if you wish to be spiritually safe, just give some money (e.g. the extent of a normal meal) in charity.

Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever desires that Allah expand his provision and extend his life, let him maintain his family ties.” [Bukhari]

Mulla  Ali al-Qari comments that, “to maintain family ties means to be good, loving, and gentle to one’s kin…” [Mirqat al-Mafatih]

Visit the family with a high intention–seeking the pleasure of Allah by maintaining family ties, strengthening relations, and upholding Prophetic excellence of character in your dealings and conduct. With this, you’ll find only the good if you uphold your intention in your actions.

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam,
Faraz Rabbani

Breaking Family Relations Due To Adulterous Acts

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: My sister was married to a cousin and had five children. My brother was also married with five children. We discovered, with undoubtable proof, that my sister’s husband and my brother’s wife were having a secret affair. This has torn apart the family and the children. Not only that, my brother has also lost the custody battle and his ex-wife slanders him and does not allow the children to talk to him. She is not religious nor practicing and does not have any desire to learn. My questions are: [1]  How am i supposed to keep family ties with my cousin after such an act? [2] What do you suggest we do about the children?

Answer: Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

May Allah protect you and us from His displeasure. What you have described is not an easy situation. Although we have only heard as much as you have described, my heart goes out to your brother and sister, and most all, the 10 children caught in between. Family relations can never be reduced to a set of legal rulings; thus, it is difficult to say that there is only one way of dealing with this scenario without understanding much of its nuances. Before we go into your questions however, there are important lessons relating to this situation that should not be overlooked by any of us:

1. The Importance of Choosing a Righteous Spouse

Although a person can marry someone for their beauty, their family status or their wealth, the best basis on which to choose a spouse is for their righteousness. If Islamic good character and religious commitment were the prime factors in people’s minds when selecting a spouse, perhaps many of the issues that practicing Muslims go through with their not-so-practicing spouses would be nipped in the bud. There would be a better understanding of each other’s rights and also, of how to be faithful to one another by controlling the actions and scenarios which lead to infidelity. Moreover, the children of the household would get two religious parents, so that even in the event of a divorce, they could still get an Islamic upbringing from either parent or both, and practicing the Deen would not be portrayed as a flaw in custody disputes. Of course, problems could and do still arise despite both people being religious, but this is why “religious” here would most importantly entail a person’s character and manners being in line with the teachings of Islam, alongside outward manifestations of piety.

2. Interactions Between In-Laws

Allah Most High tells us in the Qur’an, “And do not even go close to Zina! Truly, it is a gross obscenity and an evil path (to go down).”   [al-Quran, 17:32]

Usually, infidelity in a marriage comes about by excessive familiarity and inappropriate venues of interaction between a man and a woman; often, it begins with very light and casual exchanges which become more personal over time. Thus, one would be advised to limit the amount of contact, and eliminate unnecessary interactions, with members of the opposite gender who are not related to them.

While the workplace, school, social clubs and the neighborhood are spots that most people might keep their modesty-guards up, practicing Muslims often overlook that the traps of adultery could actually be set up in their own homes through the informal coming and going of in-laws. Very often, cultural perceptions or a lack of Islamic knowledge could lead one to say that their brother or sister-in-law is “like my own brother/ sister” or “part of the family”. In reality, because in-laws have fairly easier and more frequent access into one’s home, the opportunities for trouble abound.  A rigorously authenticated hadeeth in Bukhari, Muslim and others says that:

“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Beware of entering upon the ladies [who are non-mahrams, in seclusion]!’  A man of the Ansar said, ‘What do you think about the brother-in-law (being in seclusion with his sister-in-law)?  He (the Prophet upon him peace) said, ‘The brother-in-law is death!’ ”

The early scholar Layth ibn Sa’ad said that “in-law” here means all the un-related male relatives of the husband and also the woman’s own non-mahram relatives such as her cousins. Due to the fact that these people are familiar faces in own’s home, it is likelier and easier for inappropriate speech to begin, even when one is confident that it will not happen or has a false sense of security. Ibn Hajr in Fath al-Bari says that seclusion with one’s in-laws is compared to death because any ensuing infidelity that could occur entails destruction of one’s spiritual and personal life.  The Arabs, when they hated a thing, would often refer to it as “death”.

It should be noted however, that long before actual adultery occurs, its precursor is most often emotional infidelity: sharing each other’s problems, complaining about their spouses, and confiding in each other’s secrets.  A pious and beloved Shaykh of ours says one should not even sit casually and joke around laughingly with one’s in-laws in a group situation, let alone relaxing laws of dress and modesty. This may seem strict in some times and cultures, but when these things happen, no one expects it, and it wreaks havoc on families from within.  May Allah save and protect us.

3. The Importance of Raising Children in a Religious and Enriching Home

While giving children a religious upbringing is essential, many parents often do so without a sense of fun, interest or enrichment. The religious requirements may be taught, but quality time and relationship-building activities are usually left out- this is especially true for practicing fathers. What often occurs is that in divorce situations, the practicing parent seems to be boring and rigid and young children may incline towards a less-practicing or irreligious parent because they do not have many memories of good times or friendships with the parent who taught them their Deen.

Now, to answer your questions, after consulting one of my shaykhs who specializes in family matters, it would not be necessary or even recommended to keep up ties with your cousin. Had this been a case of something that occurred outside the family, or it happened only once and there was repentance made for it, or it had no consequences, then that might have been a different story. However, this was a sustained, years-long affair, within another branch of your immediate family, which destroyed multiple marriages and left so many children without united households. Thus, because this person was the agent of this corruption, and bringing him back around the family may cause great distress or even another chance of fitnah, you can forgive him and wish him well, but keeping up relations would not be a duty upon you in this case.

As for the children, for the sake of his own heart, as well as in the interests of winning visitation rights, your brother should try to deal in as civil of a manner as possible with his ex-wife and not descend into bickering and slandering. Often, hostile behavior after a divorce leads a person to act in vengeful or spiteful ways even if they are the wrong party, whereas there is an undeniable need to rise above that and look for avenues of cooperation on how to raise the children. No one is saying to re-form a friendly or cordial relationship; the concern here is that the children will be denied to see their own father and perhaps the only source of religious encouragement in their lives. Your brother should attempt to be jovial and thoughtful in his interactions with his children when he gets the chance, rather than emotional and burdensome, so that it will counter any potential negative things they have been told about him and so that they incline towards speaking and meeting with him.

Eventually, it is hoped that with a good relationship formed, they will look towards your family for religious encouragement if it is not provided for on the other side. Also, your brother should look to resolve any anger and resentment within himself and uphold himself in as chivalrous and magnanimous a manner as such a situation could allow, that perhaps his ex-wife could repent from her ways upon seeing his good Islamic character and possibly lead the children to a more Islamic lifestyle herself. And Allah knows best.

wasalam,

Abdullah Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani