“The believer who mixes with people and endures their injury is better than the person who does not mix with people nor endure their injury.” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]
Sayings of Early Muslims
“If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves [ibid]” [Hamdun al-Qassar]
“If you find see something you don’t like in a brother, try to find 1-70 excuses for him. And if you can’t find an excuse, say ‘There might be an excuse, but I don’t know it.’ ” [Imam Jafar As-Sadiq]
We are social beings who live in social groups and have developed civilizations. Having an active social life is one of our fundamental human needs, even in the case of reserved and introverted individuals. We depend on each other to fulfill our needs, for trade and services, for personal matters, etc. When social expectations and duties are disregarded, the community breaks down and it becomes difficult to function with emotional, social, and physical fulfillment.
Islam lays great emphasis on protecting human dignity and individual rights, such as:
- Protecting life: Wrongfully killing an individual is equal to killing all of humanity and likewise saving a life is equal to saving all of humanity.
- Protecting freedom: All people are equal in the sight of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He), the only distinguishing factor being their level of piety. Within reasonable boundaries, people have the right to freedom to make life choices independently and enjoy the fruits of their striving. Freedom also involves the right to form individual opinions based on study and exploration and the right to seek knowledge and guidance through credible sources.
- Protecting honor: Attacks against honor and dignity are punishable. Islam takes a firm view against backbiting, slander, suspicion, and spying.
- Protecting property: It is also forbidden to steal or usurp what belongs to others. Any community will have people of different degrees of wealth. What is earned by an individual belongs to them and cannot be taken without permission. In a fair society, each person is satisfied with what they have and do not violate the rights of others to fulfill their own desires.
The family is the foundational building block of society. Breakdown of the family unit has ramifications on the wider society. Therefore each member of the family must undertake responsibility to co-exist with the others in a healthy manner and also to be a source of support.
The husband has to treat his wife well. The wife who is treated well will, in turn, support her husband in maintaining the family honor and well-being as long as his decisions do not contradict divine injunctions.
The husband and wife together, acting in the role of parents, create an atmosphere of mutual respect and good moral values in the household so that the children imbibe those values naturally. Discipline is implemented by commanding respect rather than by demanding it. The children, in turn, reciprocate with obedience and loyalty to the parents as well as having a healthy relationship with their siblings.
The outcome of such a family is a healthy society where individual become beneficial contributors.
Maintaining Ties of Kinship
There is no doubt that a society whose members maintain family relations and treat each other mercifully forms an invincible fort and a fortified castle. It produces close-knit families and a solid social structure that provides the world with leaders, instructors, thinkers, teachers, callers and reformers, who carry the torch of guidance to their nation and to all of humanity.
Kinship ties refer to a person’s bond with his paternal and maternal relatives; and, maintaining them implies being good and kind to one’s relations in both words and deeds. This includes visiting them, asking after them, supporting the needy among them and helping them with their affairs.
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “He who desires ample provisions and his life be prolonged, should maintain good ties with his blood relations”. [Bukhari and Muslim]
Maintaining ties of kinship does not only mean visiting, helping or serving one’s relatives in return for similar deeds on their part. True upholding of family relations is to do so with those kith and kin who sever their bond with us. Thus, it refers to visiting relatives who do not visit us, and being good to those who wrong us.
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.” [Adab Al-Mufrad]
Abu Huraira reported that a person said, “Allah’s Messenger, I have relatives with whom I try, to have close relationship, but they sever (this relation). I treat them well, but they treat me ill. I am sweet to them but they are harsh towards me.” Upon this he (the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)) said, “If it is so as you say, then you in fact throw hot ashes (upon their faces) and there would always remain with you on behalf of Allah (an angel to support you) who would keep you dominant over them so long as you adhere to this (path of righteousness).” [Sahih Muslim]
On the other hand, severing ties of kinship bears serious consequences.
“So would you perhaps, if you turned away, cause corruption on earth and sever your [ties of] relationship? Those [who do so] are the ones that Allah has cursed, so He deafened them and blinded their vision.” [Quran; 47:22-23]
Narrated Jubair bin Mut’im that he heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saying, “The person who severs the bond of kinship will not enter Paradise.” [Sahih Bukhari]
“It is not lawful for the Muslim to shun his brother for more than three (days); they come fare to fare and this one turns away, and that one turns away. The best of them is the one who initiates the salam.” [Tirmidhi]
The Harvard Study of Adult Development has spanned over 75 years to monitor the lives of selected candidates. One of the things observed in that study is the importance of good relationships for leading healthy and happy lives.
They found out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. However, it’s not just the number of friends or whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.
One must catch one’s self from falling into the trap of judging another person too soon. Even if we think we know someone well, we may not be aware of their intentions and, in fact, the other person could possibly be better than our own selves.
What we know of a person today may not hold true of them in the future.
“By the One, other than Whom there is no deity, verily one of you performs the actions of the people of Paradise until there is but an arms length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him, and so he acts with the actions of the people of the Hellfire and thus enters it; and verily one of you performs the actions of the people of the Hellfire, until there is but an arms length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he acts with the actions of the people of Paradise and thus he enters it.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” [Dale Carnegie]
Allah is the Best of Judges. He alone knows what goes on in every person’s mind and heart and He alone has full knowledge of each person’s past, present and future. It is therefore not appropriate for us to pass judgment on others, especially in a negative circumstance.
When dealing with people, one may encounter various types of trials and tribulations. At a personal level, some people are difficult to deal with due to their inclination to lose their temper or to make unreasonable demands, for example. Perhaps we have to bear the responsibility of attending to family members who are ill or dependent in some way. At a community level, we may encounter hatred or intolerance such as from Islamophobes or racists.