Merits of the Relatives
Relatives are the family to whom one belongs. Man’s relatives are the most similar, affectionate, and helpful. Describing the relatives, Amir ul-Mu’minin (a) said:
“Man, though wealthy, cannot dispense with his clan. He is in need for their defending him with hands and tongues. They are one’s greatest backers, best reuniters, and most affectionate when a misfortune befalls.” 499
The best relatives are those who love, sympathize, and cooperate with one another for achieving their goals and interests. For its elevated social rank and great influence on reforming the Islamic society, the Islamic Sharia has paid the greatest attention to the family affairs.
Regard of Relatives
The leading moral principles on which the Islamic Sharia has imposed and confirmed is the regard of relatives by means of showing kindness, rendering material aid, protecting against misfortunes, and participating in sorrow and joy:
The Prophet (s) said: “I advise every present and absent individual of my umma, including those who are in their fathers’ spines and mothers’ wombs up to the Day of Resurrection-I advise all these to regard their relatives, even if the way to them takes one hundred year walking. Regard of the relatives is part of the religion.” 500
“He who is pleased if Allah adds to his age and increases his sustenance must regard his relatives. On the Day of Resurrection, the family relation will say with glib accent: O Lord, regard him who regarded his relatives and disregard him who disregarded his relatives.” 501
“Warrant for me one and I warrant for you four: warrant for me that you regard your relatives and I warrant for you that Allah will love you, increase your sustenance, add to your age, and take you to the promised Paradise.” 502
Imam al-Baqir (a) said: “Regard of the relatives purifies the deeds, increases the wealth, repels misfortunes, makes the Judgment easier, and postpones the deadline of life.” 503
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: “We do not know anything that adds to the age like regard of the relatives. It happens that a man whose age is decided to be three years may add to it thirty years if he regards his relatives. Hence, his age become thirty-three. A man whose age is decided to be thirty-three years may decrease to three years if he disregards his relatives.” 504
“Regard your relatives even by serving them a drink of water. The best way of regarding the relatives is to save them from harm. Regard of relatives surely postpones the deadline of life and endears to the family members.” 505
“Regard of the relatives and charity make the Judgment -on the Day of Resurrection- easier and protect against committing sins. Hence, you are advised of regarding your relatives and doing charity even by saying nice salaams and responding others’ salutations.” 506
Imam as-Sadiq (a) narrated that, once, a man said to the Prophet (s): “God’s Messenger, my relatives have rallied against me, disregarded me, and reviled at me. Should I disavow them?” The Prophet (s) answered: “If you do, Allah will disavow all of you.” He wondered: “How should I do, then?” The Prophet (s) instructed: “You should regard those who disregarded you, give those who deprived you (of their endowments), and pardon those who wronged you. If you do it, Allah will support you against them.” 507
A family contains individuals of various standings. There is the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, and the celebrity and the ignoble. Except by means of solidarity and mutual sympathy, a family cannot achieve might and luxury and cannot face the life problems with steadfastness.
In his last hours, Aktham ibn Saifi; the famous wise man, summoned his sons, collected a group of sticks, and asked each of them to break it. None could break that group. He then gave a single stick to each of them to break. They could break easily. Commenting on this situation, he said to them: “Like these sticks, always be together so that you cannot be broken.”
Disregard of the Relatives
Disregard of the relatives stands for any word or deed that oppresses the relatives, such as revilement, backbiting, alienation, and deprivation of feelings of sympathy. According to the Islamic Sharia, it is a grand sin threatened with punishment:
“If you ignore the commands of Allah would you then also spread evil in the land and sever the ties of kinship? (47:22).”
“Those who break their established covenant with Him and the relations He has commanded to be kept and spread evil in the land are the ones who lose a great deal. (2:27)”
The Prophet (s) said: “Four matters are the quickest in punishment: to recompense the favor with mistreatment, to trespass him who does not show hostility, to break the faith of the party who keeps up his faith, and to rupture the relations with the relatives who regard you properly.” 508
Imam al-Baqir (a) said that the following statements are recorded in Ali’s book: “The bearers of three ill manners will not die before they suffer the consequence of them: oppression, disregard of the relatives, and perjury against Allah. The reward of regard of the relatives is the most hastened. Even the sinful people will be enriched and wealthy when they regard each other (by means of good mutual relations). Perjury and disregard of the relatives change countries into deserted wastelands and cut off the progeny.” 509
One of the companions narrated that he, once, told Imam as-Sadiq (a) that his brothers and cousins had dismissed him from his house and that they would beat him if he disputed with them.
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said to him: “Be patient. Allah will surely relieve you.” The man was sufficed with these words; hence, he left.
In the year 131, people were affected by plague, and the man’s brothers and cousins were within its victims. When the man visited Imam as-Sadiq (a), he asked him about their manners. He told of their death. The Imam (a) said: “That was certainly the punishment for what they had done to you when they disregarded their relative. Do you wish were they alive even if they would mistreat you?” The man answered: “Yes, I do.” 510
· Shuaib al-Aqarqoufi narrated that Ya’qoub al-Maghzili, once, visited Imam al-Kadhim (a) who said to him: “Ya’qoub, you and your friend were engaged in disagreement in a place yesterday, and you reviled at each other. My fathers’ and my religion does not accept such deeds. We, likewise, do not order any of such ethics. Hence, you should fear Allah alone. Death will separate you from your friend who will die during his journey before he arrives in his town. You will be sorry for your revilement at him. Because you have disregarded each other, Allah will cut off your ages.”
The man asked: “What about my time of death?”
The Imam answered: “Because you regarded your aunt, twenty years were added to your age.” (Shuaib commented) After some time, the man told me that his friend had died during his journey.
RIGHTS OF FRIENDS
Merits of Friends
Man has longed for making friendships so that he can obtain individuals supporting him, alleviating his troubles, and sharing in his sorrow and joy.
Amir ul-Mu’minin (a) said: “Try to have as many as possible true friends, for they are the supplies in joy and the shelters in misfortunes.” 512
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: “A friend occupies a great position to the degree that even the inhabitants of Hell will seek his help before the relatives. In this regard, Allah, conveying the words of the inhabitants of Hell, says: ‘so, we have no intercessors, nor a true friend. (26:100-1)'”
A wise man said: “The true friends are the most favorable gain in this world. They are adornment in luxury, support in misfortune, and aid for acquiring good living and good deeds.”
As a wise man was asked whether he prefers his brother or friend, he answered: “I prefer my brother when he is a friend of mine.”
Reality of Friendship
Some people may think that the true friend is the one who treats them courteously and bright-facedly, but if such one is tested, his falsity is proved. Old and modern writers have gone on complaining about friends’ alienations in spite of the love that is born for them. This is because of:
(1) The ignorance of the reality of friendship and the incapability of making distinction between the true and false friends, or
(2) Most of the friends are characterized by common social weak points, such as changeableness and disloyalty.
Amir ul-Mu’minin (a) said: “There are two classes of friends: friends of confidence and friends of grimace. The friends of confidence represent the hand, the wing, the family, and the wealth. Regarding your relation with the friends of confidence, you should offer your wealth and body to them, act with sincerity towards him who acts with sincerity towards them, antagonize him who antagonizes them, conceal their secrets and flaws, and publicize their nice qualities… You should know that friends of confidence are as rare as red sulfur. Friends of grimace are those from whom you can gain pleasure; therefore, you should not prevent them from gaining pleasure through you. Do not expect anything more from them. As long as they show you good humor and good wording, you must show them the same.” 513
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: “Friendship is nil unless its limits are kept. He who does not keep these limits should not be regarded as friend. The first limit is that the inner self and the appearance should be identical. The second limit is that the friend should regard your goodness as his goodness and your evil as his evil. The third limit of friendship is that a position or fortunes should not change the relation with the friends. The fourth limit is that the friend should not deprive his friend of anything that he is capable of doing. The fifth limit -which is the most comprehensive-, is that the friend should never leave his friend alone in calamities.” 514
The characteristics of friends move between them very quickly. The bad, however, move in greater speed. It frequently happens that well-behaved individuals have gone astray because of the influence of their bad friends. So, it is important for every man of reason to choose friends that are characterized by good mannerism and behavior.
The Ideal Friend
The first characteristic of the ideal friend is intelligence. In fact, the companionship of the foolish is vicious and malicious because the foolish injures his friend when he intends to benefit him: Amir ul-Mu’minin (a) said: “The foolish does not advise you of good and is not expected to save you from any problem even if he does his best. Moreover, he may harm you as he intends to benefit you. His death is better than his life, his silence is better than his words, and his remoteness is better than his closeness.” 515
Friends must be characterized by faith, uprightness, and well mannerism. Friends who are empty of such traits are insignificant since they are anticipated to mislead their associates:
“It will be a hard day for the unbelievers. It will be a day when the unjust will bite their fingers, (regretfully) saying, “Would that we had followed the path of the Messengers. Woe to us! Would that we had not been friends with so and so. He led me away from the true guidance after it had come to us. Satan is a traitor to people.” (25:27-9)”
The Prophet (s) said: “Man imitates his friends. Hence, you must consider them whom you want to befriend.” 516
Amir ul-Mu’minin (a) said: “To sit with the evils causes mistrust in the good. To sit with the good attaches the evils to the good. The sinful ones’ sitting with the good ones attaches the sinful ones to the good ones. If you cannot discern the belief of somebody, you should investigate his associates. If they are following the right creed, he will inevitably be on the right creed. If they are not, he then has no share in the religion of Allah. The Prophet (s) used to say: He who believes in Allah and the Final Day should not fraternize with any disbeliever or associate with any sinful. He whoever fraternizes with a disbeliever or associates with a sinful one is certainly regarded as disbeliever and sinful.” 517
Imam al-Baqir (a) said: My father Ali ibn al-Hussein, once, advised me: ‘O son, do not associate, talk, or accompany five classes of people.’ ‘Who are they, father?’ asked I, and he (a) answered: ‘Beware of associating with the liar, for he is as same as mirage: he shows you the near as remote and shows you the remote as near. Beware of associating with the sinful, for he will disappoint you for a single bite or even something less valuable. Beware of associating with the stingy, for he will let you down when you are in urgent need of his property. Beware of associating the foolish, for he harms you when he intends to do you favor. Beware of associating with the disregardful of his relatives, for I found him cursed in the Book of Allah.’ 518
Friends should exchange expressive desires of affection and fraternity so that their handle of friendship will be firmer. But if such tendencies fade away, the relation will be enfeebled, and the alienated party will expose himself to criticism and revulsion.
Amir ul-Mu’minin (a) said: “To alienate the one who desires for making friendship with you is diminution of reason, and to desire for him who does not want you is humility.” 519
Standards of Love
Aspects of love may be confused among people in general and friends in particular. Suspect may creep into the relations of friendship. Solving this problem, the Ahl ul-Bayt (a) identified definite mental standards that reveal the actual feelings and hiddens.
Imam as-Sadiq (a) answered the man who asked him how he would realize the real feelings of those who claim bearing love towards him: “You should test your heart. If you really love him, he will really love you.” 520
Imam al-Baqir narrated that, while he was dying, Amir ul-Mu’minin (a) gathered al-Hasan, al-Hussein, Mohammed ibn al-Hanafiyya, and the other sons and commanded them: “… Sons, you should associate with people in such a way that they will long for you when you are absent and will weep for you when you depart this life. Sons, hearts are well-mobilized troops; they recognize each other by means of amiability as well as hatred. Hence, you should expect good from the one whom you love without seeing any good from him. Likewise, you should beware of the one whom you dislike although you have not seen any ill behavior from him.” 521
Friendship between Ebb and Flow
“Which is better: to have many friends or to be friendless?”
Answering this question, people of reason have had various opinions. Anticipating the pleasures of sociability and benefits of solidarity, some people have preferred having many friends to being friendless. Others, however, have opted for the opposite, claiming the many problems of friendship that originate hatred an enmity.
In fact, the question has nothing to do with the number of friends. It is related to the traits of nobility and sincerity that friends must bear. However, the noble, sincere friends are, unfortunately, very few. A single sincere friend is of course better than thousand insincere ones. In this regard, Alexander said: “He who has many friends arbitrarily is as same as him who has many stones, and he who has few, but selective, friends is as same as him who has selective pearls.”
Rights of Friends
1. Material Care
It is incumbent to help the friend who suffers an economical crisis. This is in fact one of the obligatory rights of friendship and one of the proofs of loyalty. God, in the holy Quran, praises some peoples who showed altruism:
“They give preference to them over themselves – even concerning the things that they themselves urgently need. (59:9).”
Imam al-Kadhim (a), once, asked one of his close companions: “How do you behave concerning your mutual association and relief?” The man answered: “We are in the best manner in this regard.”
The Imam (a) asked: “Are you pleased when one of your needy associates come to your shop or house to take that which they need?” The man answered: “No, we are not.”
The Imam (a) commented: “Now, you are not behaving as I want you to do in this regard.” 522
· Abu Ismaeel narrated that he told Imam al-Baqir (a) that numbers of the Shia were great. The Imam (a) said: “Do the rich ones among them act with kindness toward the poor, the good-doers overlook the evildoers, and they help each other?” I answered: “No, they do not.” The Imam (a) commented: “They are not Shia. The true Shia are only those who do these acts.” 523
Al-Waqidi related the following story:
The Eid day was about to come while I had no single dirham in possession. My wife, noticing this manner, asked me to do something since our children would be very depressed if they saw the other children with new clothes. Hence, I had to send a letter to my Hashemite friend asking him for help. He therefore sent me a bag of one thousand dirhams. As soon as I received them, another friend of mine sent me a letter complaining about neediness. I had to send him that very bag. Because I was embarrassed to see my wife, I spent that night in the mosque. The next morning, I went home and told her of the story. She did not blame me for so. In fact, she praised me for such a doing.
After a while, my Hashemite friend came to me bearing the very bag of one thousand dirhams. He asked me to tell him the truth; therefore, I told the whole story. He said: “When I received your letter, I had nothing at all but that bag. Nevertheless, I sent it to you. I, then, wrote a letter to our friend asking for help, and he sent me the very bag. Hence, we may distribute that sum among us.”
This story was told before al-Ma’mun -the Abbasid caliph- who summoned me and gave seven thousand dirhams. The share of each of us was two thousand, and my wife was given one thousand.
2. Moral Care
Mental crises and misfortunes may befall some people who, in such cases, become in urgent need for aid and relief. The loyal friends are the first people who must hurry in providing such help by means of words and authorities. This is in fact the true standard of love and the distinctive mark between genuine and false friends.
Amir ul-Mu’minin (a) said: “The true friend is only he who regards his friend in three situations: ordeal, absence, and death.” 524
Like all people, friends, even if they enjoy the highest ranks of mannerism, are subjects to erring. Therefore, one must overlook and excuse so long as one trust their love and loyalty. Such overlooking will perpetuate the relation of friendship since excessive criticism leads to reluctance.
Amir ul-Mu’minin said: “Bear yourself towards your brother in such a way that if he disregards kinship, you keep to it; when he turns away, be kind to him and draw near to him; when he withholds spend for him; when he goes away approach him; when he is harsh be lenient; when he commits wrong think of (his) excuse for it, so much as though you are a slave of him and he is the benevolent master over you. But take care that this should not be done inappropriately, and that you should not behave so with an undeserving person. Do not take the enemy of your friend as a friend because you will thus antagonize your friend. Never use trickery. It is the manner of the evil ones. Give true advice to your brother, be it good or bitter. Help your brother in any case, and go with him wherever he goes, and never retaliate him even if he throws dust in your mouth. Prevail your enemy by doing favor to him. This is more successful. You will save yourself from people by good manners and swallowing the anger. I did not find a sweeter thing than swallowing one’s anger in the end, and nothing more pleasant in consequence. Never suspect in your brother and never leave him without blaming. Be lenient to him who is harsh to you for it is likely that he will shortly become lenient to you. Rupture of relations is very ugly. What an ugly thing is the alienation after brotherhood, enmity after affection, betraying those who trust you, disappointing those who expect your good, and cheating those who confide in you!
If you intend to cut yourself off from a friend, leave some scope for him from your side by which he may resume friendship if it so occurs to him some day. If anyone has a good idea about you prove it to be true. Do not disregard the interests of your brother depending upon your terms with him, for he is not your brother if you disregard his interests. Your family should not become the most miserable people because of you. Do not lean towards him who turns away from you. Do not turn away from him who leans towards you when he deserves association. Your brother should not be firmer in his disregard of kinship than you in paying regard to it. You should exceed in doing good to him than is evil to you, giving to him than is withholding, and favoring him than is ceasing. Do not feel too much the oppression of a person who oppresses you, because he is only busy in harming himself and benefiting you. The reward of him who pleases you is not that you displease him. Livelihood is of two kinds -a livelihood that you seek and a livelihood that seeks you, which is such that if you do not reach it, it will come to you.” 525
Imam al-Hasan (a) said to one of his sons: “O son, do not befriend anyone before you know his means and sources. When you try him and please to associate with him, you should then befriend him on bases of pardoning his faults and consoling him in misfortunes.” 526
It is recommended to neglect the friend’s offense so as to show trust in him. This will certainly cause the offensive friend to admire his friend and try to keep good relations with him. It is also required to accept the friend’s apologies without strictness or obstinacy so as to achieve the high moral standard.
Gentle reproof is recommended in this regard, because negligence of reproof may make the friend feel his friend’s negligence or hidden rage. Unless it is characterized by gentleness and sensation, reproof is useless and unappealing. Excessive reproof may lead to the friend’s alienation and dissatisfaction.
“Only through the Divine Mercy have you (Muhammad) been able to deal with your followers so gently. If you had been stern and hardhearted, they would all have deserted you a long time ago. Forgive them and ask Allah to forgive (their sins) and consult with them in certain matters. But, when you reach a decision, trust Allah. Allah loves those who trust Him. (3:159)”
“And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best, when lo! He between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend. And none are made to receive it but those who are patient, and none are made to receive it but those who have a mighty good fortune. (41:34-5)”
The Prophet (s) said: “In the same way as He has ordered me of performing the religious duties, my Lord has ordered me to treat people courteously.” 527
“The most intelligent are the most courteous with people.” 528
It is worth mentioning that within the strong factors of prosperity of friendly relations is that each party should avoid giving credence to the backbiters and talebearers who, according to the description of the Prophet (s), are the evilest of people.
Moderation with Friends
It is wise to choose moderation in dealing with friends. Excessive love and confidence in friends are unacceptable since it happens that a friend may change into an enemy and use the secrets that he had shown as weapons.
Imam Ali (a) said: “When you cherish someone you should cherish him moderately for he may be your enemy someday, and when you hate someone you should hate him moderately for he may be your friend someday.” 529
Imam as-Sadiq (a): “The secrets that you must show before your friends are only those through which your enemies cannot harm you, for a friend may change into an enemy.”
RIGHTS OF NEIGHBORHOOD
Cooperation and Mutual sympathy
Islam has used all means for enjoining Muslims to cooperate and sympathize with each other so that they will be an ideal nation able of achieving its aims and defending its individuals against dangers. Islam has also worked diligently for planting such noble concepts in Muslims’ mentalities so as to be powerful bearing the feelings of love and fraternity:
“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and those with him are stern to the disbelievers yet kind among themselves. (48:29).”
“Cooperate with each other in righteousness and piety, not in sin and hostility. (5:2)”
Within the aspects of cooperation and mutual sympathy is good neighborhood on which Islam has stressed for sake of changing neighbors into a united group exchanging feelings of kindness and cooperating for gaining benefits and preventing dangers:
“Worship Allah and consider no one equal to Him. Be kind to your parents, relatives, orphans, the destitute, your near and distant neighbors, your companions, your mates, wayfarers, and your slaves. (4:36)”
The Prophet (s) said: “Forty houses from the front, the back, the right, and the left are neighbors.” 530
“The Archangel Gabriel continued in instructing me to keep the neighbor so importunately that I thought the neighbor will be given a share of the heritage.” 531
“Good neighborhood constructs the countries and postpones the deadline of ages.” 532
“He that passes a single night with satiation while his neighbor is hungry has not believed in me. On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will not regard the inhabitants of a town one of whose individual passes a night with hunger.” 533
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: “He that violates neighborhood is not one of us.” 534
Imam as-Sadiq (a) narrated: When he lost his second son, Benjamin, Prophet Jacob supplicated to the Lord: “O Lord, is it not time to have Your mercy upon me? You have taken my sight and taken my sons away from me.” Hence, Allah revealed to him: “Even if I cause them dead, I will certainly give them new life so as to gather you all in one situation. But, you should remember that ewe, which you slaughtered, fried, and ate, while you did not give anything of it to your neighbor who was observing fasting.”
After that, Prophet Jacob used to call his neighbors, including those who lived more than one mile away from him, to every meal he would make. 535
Rights of Neighbors
Neighbor must be treated with kindness and courtesy, such as greeting him, visiting him during ailment, congratulating him in joys, consoling him in sorrows, casting the eyes down against his harem, overlooking his flaws, abstaining from harming him, aiding him if he his needy, borrowing him the household tools, and advising him when he goes astray from the right path.
It is related that one of the neighbors of Abu Dalaf, in Baghdad, had to sell his house because of debts and crises that had befallen him. ‘I sell it with one thousand dinars,’ he said to the purchasers. ‘But the real value of your house is only five hundred dinars,’ they said. ‘This is true,’ he asserted, ‘but the neighborhood of Abu Dalaf is the other five hundred dirhams.’
When Abu Dalaf heard this story, he defrayed the debts of his neighbor and aided him so as to save him from selling his house.