Relationships. They make the world go ‘round. We have a disagreement with a family member, friend or co-worker and it sours our day and often triggers a trickledown effect. Stressful scenarios play out in our head until we finally resolve the issue. Or not. Sometimes we lose people for long periods or worse, a lifetime. Maintaining good relationships not only brightens our day but gives stability to society.
I subscribe to the idea that faith is the intersection of God and others. Multiple relationships are detailed in the Qur’an. Tending to the needs of others and honoring their rights is considered worship as much as prayer and fasting.
Do good to parents and relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor and the neighbor farther away, the companion at our side, the traveler, and those who serve or work for you. These rules are not just for our fellow Muslims, but with everyone with whom we interact.
The family is the bedrock of Muslim society, starting with marriage. The ideal marriage is described as living together in serenity and tranquility. Spouses are ‘garments’ for one another: a tender analogy for protection, warmth, and love. Although typical gender roles are the norm, as far back as the 7th century Muhammad famously shared in all the household duties, contrary to what culture often dictates. He was certainly the original millennial man!
Divorce is possible although it said to be the most displeasing act. Steps are taken to ensure that the divorce pronouncement is not made in haste, and to assure the woman is not with child. Fractious couples are encouraged to seek the counsel of their families and failing that, to seek professional help. If the couple decides to part, there are strong admonishments to be fair, just, and humane.
Children are addressed with wise and loving advice. A famous saying is to ‘play with children for the first seven years, teach them the next seven, and following that, take them as a friend.’ Care of the orphan is considered one of the noblest responsibilities, providing that the child knows and retains his biological lineage and name if known.
We are reminded of our parents’ patience and devotion when we were young: never to say so much as ‘oof’ to them in moments of frustration as “They will go back to knowing little after knowing much.” Nursing homes or senior centers are still relatively unheard of in Muslim lands. Many families buy or build multi-family apartment buildings for their relatives. The noisy clamoring of children up and down the stairways and impromptu visits can be annoying to some but appreciated by the elderly. I witnessed an unforgettable tender and not uncommon sight during a pilgrimage to Mecca: an elderly man pushing his yet more elderly father in a wheelchair around the Kaaba for the seven mandatory rounds.
Mothers enjoy a particularly high ranking, 3 times more deserving of attention and care than fathers. It is said that paradise lies beneath her feet. “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is well understood and applied.
Maintaining family ties is a great sign of devotion to God. To break those ties is a very serious offense. Muslims are encouraged to give gifts frequently as this softens and endears the hearts.
Muhammad said it is not permissible to have estranged relations between one another for more than 3 days. The first to make an offer of peace is the better of the quarrelers. We are also encouraged to forgive one another 70 times (easily said, not easily done)!
Pay the worker before his sweat dries. Employers take heed! Don’t delay that paycheck.
The hospitality afforded the traveler and visitor to Muslim lands is legendary.
So much attention was paid to the neighbor that one companion of Muhammad quipped that next he would be including him in his list of inheritors! A true believer is described as one who could not sleep while his neighbor went hungry.
The Quran is a beautiful guide book. While we are all so very human and often fail in applying its wisdom, the verses serve as beautiful recipes for keeping our relationships alive and thriving, and society functioning as its best.