Tips on how to build strong family ties

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said in a hadith:
“The word ‘Ar-Rahm’ (womb) derives its name from Ar-Rahman (i.e., one of the names of Allah) and Allah said: ‘I will keep good relation with the one who will keep good relation with you, (womb i.e. Kith and Kin) and sever the relation with him who will sever the relation with you, (womb, i.e. Kith and Kin)” [Bukhari].

Never has a religion emphasized the importance of maintaining the ties of kinship and building strong bonds with one’s relatives/family than the religion of Islam. We must clarify that the ties of kinship meant here is not simply narrowed down to your immediate family members and a few uncles/aunts whom you commonly speak to, but anybody that is part of your family tree is considered a kith and kin that we must keep in touch with. With the breakdown of the traditional ‘big’ family structures and mass migration of Muslims from villages to cities around the world, we’ve lost touch with our relatives and our kin and unfortunately, by default, we’ve cut our ties of kinship. Below are a few tips to rekindle that family tie.

#1.Know your relatives
This is an obvious first-step, but many may skip it because of the embarrassment associated with admitting they don’t know their relatives. Have a sit-down with your parents and ask them about their brothers/sisters/uncles/aunts. There’s so much wisdom, experience, lessons that can be learnt from our elders. Just sit with them, ask them some questions and press record. No need to make it formal, just sit and listen.

#2.Get their contact details
Whether it’s a phone number, an e-mail address, Facebook profile, MSN messenger, Skype or Twitter ID! Or any social media contact, Find out all your relatives’ contact details and update your address book accordingly. You’ll probably find it easier to get this information through your parents but you can also try with cousins, uncles and aunts.

#3.Try getting in touch
If your relatives are using any of the online social tools, get in touch with them online with a simple Salam. I’m sure they’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear from you. If a good old phone call is the only way to get in touch with them and if you don’t know them very well, rather than making a cold phone call, start breaking the ice by sending them regular text messages to their mobile phones ending with your name and perhaps a “son of so and so” or “daughter of so and so” so they can recognize you.
#4.Visit/Invite them for events
If your relatives are in the same city, you should invite each other to weekends, Eid or iftar. If parents aren’t keen because of issues between relatives, try to do it amongst the ‘youngsters’ or the ‘cousins’. Then at the iftar you can discuss various ways to resolve family feuds and stay in touch with the family.

#5.Set up internet/video chat
Next time you visit ‘back home’, the family village, or your grandparents house, take with you one of the latest affordable electronic gadget with a front facing video camera and Skype (they are relatively cheap and pretty robust). Find out how you can set up internet (ideally wireless) for your family there and teach them the simple steps of making Skype calls/video calls. Once they figure it out, forget long distance calls, Skype would be the next thing in the village!

#6.Spend Zakat on them
Scholars emphasize that we should prioritize our charities so it goes to those closest to us first then to the wider Muslim community. Unfortunately, these days a lot of Muslims have forgotten about spending charity/zakat on their poor relatives and family members. Perhaps it’s due to embarrassment or ‘fear’ that the relative may start ‘relying’ on us for their well-being. Whatever it is, we have no excuse. Especially when we have clear instructions from Allah (glorified and exalted be He) that our charities/Zakat should be for our relatives as well as the poor and needy in other parts of the world.

#7.Resolve pending Issues
Once things start ‘warming up’ between relatives and you can see an opportunity to resolve old issues, try to resolve them formally, ideally through a senior member. People will be happy to forget/forgive during Ramadan/Eid and hopefully restart their relationships once again on the basis of love and mercy.

I hope the above steps gives us all a practical road map to rebuilding our ties of kinship. Let us not let shaytan nor our busy lifestyles take away this virtue from us. There’s so much benefit from keeping ties of kinship, it’s enough that Allah has promised to keep good relations with those who keep good relations with their family members.

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