9 Practical tips for rebuilding ties of kinship

Below is a practical action plan to implement the virtue of keeping in touch with our family and friends

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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. With verses revealed on this topic, and many ahadith narrated about this virtue, it is ironic to see Muslims today far from this practice and not upholding their ties of kinship.

I know that every family has its issues/problems with certain relatives/family members, but this should not be a barrier for us to communicate with them.

Below is a practical action plan to implement this great virtue in your life:

1. Find out who your relatives are:

This is an obvious first-step, but many people skip it out of embarrassment of admitting that they don’t know all their relatives. Have a sit-down with your parents and ask them about their brothers/sisters/uncles/aunts, etc. Draw a family tree and keep a digital copy on your computer or on paper.

2. Find out their contact details:

Whether it’s a phone number, an e-mail address, Facebook profile, MSN messenger, Skype or Twitter ID! (trust me, you’ll be surprised!) 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 aunties.

3. Get 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 (who doesn’t like to meet someone online they actually relate to?!). 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. After a while, give them a call (either with your parents around to ease the introduction) or on your own and inquire about your ‘text messages’ ;). There are lots of other ways of ‘breaking the ice’ this is just an example.

4. Interview the grannies:

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.

5. Visit/Invite for Iftar:

If your relatives are in the same city, you should try visit them. 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.

6. 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 electronic notebooks 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!

7. Spend charity/zakat on them:

Unfortunately, these days a lot of Muslims have forgotten about spending charity/zakat on their poor relatives and family members. I’m not sure if it’s embarrassment or ‘fear’ that the relative may start ‘relying’ on us for their well-being or is it our laziness and over reliance on international charity organisations to deliver our Zakat and Sadaqah. Whatever it is, we have no excuse. Especially when we have clear instructions from Allah   that our charities/Zakat should be for our relatives as well as the poor and needy in other parts of the world.

In fact, scholars emphasize that we should prioritize our charities/socket so it goes to those closest to us first then to the wider Muslim community. There are ways of doing this practically, including giving your sadaqah to the poor relative through another member of the family who’s more senior, or you could sponsor one of your poor relatives’ BIG expenses, e.g. their child’s education or a medical operation, etc.

8. Be the focal point for your family:

If you implement some of the advice above, you’ll soon be THE focal point for family ties/meetings for your family. Happily take this responsibility and try to arrange various activities for your family, e.g. arranging family trips, draw family tree day, family fundraising for an Islamic project, e.g. mosque/orphanage, etc.

9. Resolve OLD issues once and for all:

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. Try to do it this Ramadan! People will be happy to forget/forgive during Ramadan/Eid and hopefully restart their relationships once again on the basis of love, mercy and Ihsaan inshaaAllah.

I hope the above steps give us all a practical road map to rebuilding our ties of kinship. Let us not let shaytaan 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.

Watch the inspiring video by Mufti Menk below

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