In this reflection I explain how to grow family bonds and strong ties by using the positive outcomes of Ramadan, the discipline we developed, eating together and praying together. It demonstrates why Ramadan is Mubarak (blessed), bears fruit and is enriching and empowering.
Adnan’s a teenager who’s studying in college, his sister Jamila is a year ten student, and Fatimah is in year six, both mum and dad work. This Ramadan the family decided to have Suhoor and Iftar together. It was the first time in a long time that the family dined together twice a day. Often dad led the Fajr and Maghrib prayers in congregation. So, the magic of Ramadan blessed the family.
They began to appreciate each other more, Adnan, Jamila and Fatimah were no longer hiding in bedrooms absorbed in their iPhones but spending time in the lounge or the kitchen. They invited relatives and friends for iftar and sometimes went to relatives’ homes for iftar. Often the family prayed Isha and Tarawih in the local masjid.
Three outstanding qualities of a Muslim family
Surat Al-Layl talks about the variations in our families and individuals. How each one has a different interest, portfolio of enterprises and projects. The Lord seems to love this diversity in His creation. But somehow humans fail to recognise the attractiveness of diversity. So, Allah tells us three kinds of people He loves:
- Those who give generously.
- Those who are pious and God-conscious.
- Those who acknowledge beauty and are open-minded.
How do we react to others? How do we relate with different people? Do we put up mental barriers? Or do we make bridges?
The above key points show the nature of relationship building. They teach that to build good relations with fellow humans, we must share our lives, food, prayers, likes and dislikes. Secondly, know the Creator and Lord and thirdly, value the beauty around us in Allah’s creation.
How strong are your relationships?
Healthy relationships and family unity depend on individuals’ self-confidence and self-respect and loyalty to each other. The themes of unity and strong social relationships run throughout Islamic teachings. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) encouraged people to eat together and share meals with family, friends and neighbours.
The Majestic Quran describes the disciples’ community spirit as follows, “Although they are needy themselves, they prefer others over themselves. And whoever can protect himself from being greedy is successful” (Al Hashr: 9). So, learn to restrain yourselves, limit your needs and even put aside your freedom of choice for the good of the family. Now that’s a high standard of self-control and discipline!
How good are your interactions?
Adnan and Jamila had their own ‘comfort zones’, where their needs were fulfilled. They did what they liked, when mum called, she was often ignored, and when dad invited them to come and eat together, it was declined. Self-interest and virtual friends on TikTok and Snapchat took priority.
They were unaware that the Messenger (peace be upon him) stressed parents’ respect and care, once he (peace be upon him) said, “a person who has one or both parents but doesn’t care for them will go to hell, Allah will deprive him of his Divine kindness and make him an apostate” (Tabarani).
Parents are advised by the Messenger (peace be upon him) “value your children and teach them morals and manners” (Ibn Majah).
Yet, the mother’s love, father’s concern, brother’s admiration and sister’s love are your family’s greatest social capital. These connections are the ingredients of a strong family; mutual trust, understanding and closely negotiated ties of interdependency. This is the glue that holds the family together. The Messenger (peace be upon him) said “whoever strengthens family ties, I will bond with him and whoever breaks the family ties I will break my ties with him” (Abu Dawud).
What must my family do to grow strong together?
You need to do a lot more to build strong links with each other. Strengthening family ties demands a shared sense of belonging based on common goals, core moral and spiritual values, respect for differences and acceptance of shared rights and responsibilities. That’s where Ramadan did an amazing job! Now Adnan and Jamila began to appreciate the Messenger’s (peace be upon him) saying “the greatest sin is to disobey parents” (Bukhari).
Happy family life can be achieved by empowering and supporting each other. We know one another well, yet when we disagree, we fail to negotiate peacefully and fall out, sometimes over the pettiest of things. Therefore, learn to mediate to avoid conflict. Speak regularly to each other.
We need more contact and less time alone in our bedrooms. This will reduce mutual ignorance and hostility; this will diminish fears and suspicions. Psychologists call this ‘contact theory’. This explains the effects that different kinds of interaction have on people’s attitudes towards others. The more contact people have with each other, the lesser the effects of stereotypes and prejudices.
Cooking and eating together, going out together and visiting relatives often are some useful strategies. We have the ingredients to form a loving family. This was Ramadan Mubarak. So, continue the legacy of this blessed month.