Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) often spoke about the family unit being the tell-tale cornerstone of a thriving community.
The Prophet was always kind to his family members, he joked often with them, spent recreational time with them and always advised them to enjoin good and ward off evil.
He reminded them often that he cared for them very much and loved them dearly, invoking Allah to bless his family as much as Allah had blessed him.
He often bought gifts for them, was just in distributing presents, and even visited family members of his deceased wife, Khadijah, indicating that he maintained good relationships with her family and friends even after her passing.
Muslims are often reminded that family relations are just one of the many blessings that humans are allowed and encouraged to enjoy on Earth, illustrating the importance of good family relations as a glimpse of heaven. In fact, it is said that a loving home is like heaven on Earth.
However, in today’s modern society, with time constraints and stress, among other challenges, good family relations tend to fall apart, leaving the Muslim family in shambles and the obstacles to building a strong nation even more challenging than before.
Many modern families consist of two working parents, leaving very little time for the family to recuperate from long hours away from each other – not only for the sake of the children, but also for the respective parents themselves.
In some cases, families are divided geographically, with children studying or working abroad, depending on the circumstances. This can cause family relations to become even more strained and good family relations difficult to achieve.
Make an Effort to Spend Quality Time as a Family
For busy families that are often apart for long hours of the day, making an extra effort to spend quality time together is important.
Ideally, this should be done daily, especially if children are still young and live with and depend on their parents for recognition, praise and a sense of belonging.
Enjoying dinner together is a simple way to spend quality family time, bearing in mind that parents should get rid of their stress and worries and other negative emotions before the dining session while communicating to their children. This also shows that they appreciate the presence of their children after a hectic day at work.
Sharing positive stories is a good way to strengthen family relations. If a member of the family is facing a problem, whether at school or at work, then it can also be shared.
A golden rule is that everyone positively pitches in with constructive solutions to help resolve the challenge. This makes family time a “safe” time, providing a secure venue for family members to voice their concerns, knowing that they are within a circle of support.
Of course if there are pressing issues at hand, it is important for family members to be transparent with each other in order to build trust and respect.
If dinner time is not the most appropriate time to discuss such matters, then family members should not be afraid to request for some quiet, together time to discuss such issues. Other members of the family should hold this request with respect and honor the time spent to help resolve any problems.
This type of quality time slots help strengthen family bonds, and build a strong focus on the home as a safe environment, full of trust and respect. A strong family is one that communicates well, does not judge, or make assumptions about the well-being of the other family members.
Spend Time Engaging in Activities of Interests
People are often happier when they are able to be engaged in activities that spur their interest. As long as such activities do not contradict Islam, family members should find activities of mutual interests to cultivate a strong relationship with each other.
This invitation can and should also involve other family members, such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. This way, individuals are able to enjoy what they do best, in the company of those who care about them the most.
Activities can range from attending religious classes, participating in charity runs, doing volunteer work, library visits, enjoying sporting events…. The list is endless, and as long as there is mutual respect and interest, these types of rendez-vous will help strengthen the understanding between family members and act as strong mutual grounds for a robust family unit.
Making arrangements for social gatherings is another way to strengthen family ties. Whether it is a weekly get-together at the park or a monthly barbecue it is a great way to meet up with family members and catch up with each other; and also allows individuals to release stress and recount the most important blessings that God has bestowed upon them.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
For families that are divided geographically, Facebook, Skype, e-mail and blogs are just a few ways to keep in touch – this type of communication is seamless, borderless and easy to use. It is also not time-consuming at all.
There are advantages and disadvantages of using technology, but in the instance, the good outweighs the bad, and long-distance family members will be able to keep in touch and up to date with the happenings of their loved ones across the world.
Bear in mind, however, some platforms are launched publicly, and it is still important to respect privacy between family members. Thus, it pays to be vigilant when using certain applications to keep in touch. Even with a geographical divide, it is important to maintain mutual respect and trust between family members.
Obviously, not everyone is privy to such technological advancements, and in this case, there is nothing like rekindling traditional values through traditional means of communication such as letter-writing, and of course, planning scheduled visits way ahead of time.
Strengthen Your Relationship with God
Sometimes family relationships can become strained due to disagreements, misunderstandings or arguments. It is important to resolve these issues.
The first step is to turn to God for guidance. If a person continuously submits to God and invokes His mercy, he or she will have his or her heart filled with mercy, peace and patience in dealing with problems – even family problems.
The next step is to forgive, apologize and move on. Anger, jealousy and general misunderstanding do not come from good sources; thus it is useless to build a relationship based on these acts. Even in the worse sort of misunderstanding, Muslims need to peruse a certain level of civility between each other, especially with family members, and to maintain mutual respect for each other, no matter how different opinions are.
God can help facilitate this, and, as a family, it is even better to seek God’s forgiveness and guidance collectively.
Praying together and for each other, or performing good deeds together is a good way to continuously strengthen one’s relationship with his lord, which will eventually have bountiful spill-over effects upon the unit of such a person’s family.
Family unity represents the cornerstone of a thriving Muslim community. Muslims need to concentrate on building healthy family ties within their single unit, extending the same to their larger web of family members; this, in turn, solidifies the grounds of the nation and its future.
Keeping good company, including supportive family members is just one of the many intangible blessings that God has bestowed upon believers, and the best way to show gratitude is love and cherish the same people in the same family unit.
(Last Published: December 2016)