What is the ruling for severing family ties with someone and no longer consider the person as family?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
The word silaturrahim originates from two Arabic words which are “صلة” which means relation and “الرحم” which means close family. It means protecting and maintaining a close family relationship.
Some scholars are of the opinion that the word Rahim is limited to mahram only and some scholars hold the opinion that it is among the heirs.
The meaning of Rahim when it is referred in silaturrahim is:
الأقارب من جهة أبيه وأمه كالجدات والأجداد والخالات والعمات وأولادهم والأخوال والأعمام وأولادهم
“Close family member on both the paternal and maternal side such as grandmother, grandfather, paternal and maternal aunt, their children (cousins), paternal and maternal uncle and their children.”
Warning Against Severing Family Ties
Severing family ties is among the major sins according to the consensus of scholars. Severing family ties between close family members would hurt their feelings either by neglecting them such as excluding them in helping them through monetary means when they are in need while we are able to or did not visit them when they are sick or ill without any valid reasons. Valid reasons meant here is if he loses something that could strengthen their relationship such as lost of property or they have some property but it is only sufficient for his own needs.
The Prophet PBUH said:
لَيْسَ الوَاصِلُ بِالمُكَافِئ، وَلكِنَّ الوَاصِلَ الَّذِي إِذَا قَطَعَتْ رَحِمُهُ وَصَلَهَا
"The person who perfectly maintains the ties of kinship is not the one who does it because he gets recompensed by his relatives (for being kind and good to them), but the one who truly maintains the bonds of kinship is the one who persists in doing so even though the latter has severed the ties of kinship with him".
Sahih al-Bukhari (5991)
The above hadith signals that a man who maintains his kinship with a person who severed their family ties is prioritized compared to maintaining one’s family ties with a person who also maintain their family relationship for it is considered as good character that is encouraged in syarak.
Imam al-Nawawi Rahimahullah Taala said:
صلة الرحم فهي الاحسان إلى الاقارب على حسب حال الواصل والموصول فتارة تكون بالمال وتارة بالخدمة وتارة بالزيارة والسلام وغير ذلك
“Maintaining silaturrahim means doing good to family members because of the relationship you have with them; it may be done through the means of property, sometimes through service to them, sometimes through us visiting them, giving and answering salam and others.” (See Syarh al-Nawawi ‘ala Sahih Muslim, 2/201)
Silaturrahim may be severed when a person hurt their family members, refuse to visit them, where their family will feel hurt or they are among family members who are poor and needy and are in dire need of help from their family members who have excess wealth but still refused to help them.
Allah SWT state:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالًا كَثِيرًا وَنِسَاءً ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْحَامَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا
“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed, Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.”
Surah al-Nisaa’ (1)
Allah SWT also state:
فَهَلْ عَسَيْتُمْ إِن تَوَلَّيْتُمْ أَن تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَتُقَطِّعُوا أَرْحَامَكُمْ ﴿٢٢﴾ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّـهُ فَأَصَمَّهُمْ وَأَعْمَىٰ أَبْصَارَهُمْ
“So, would you perhaps, if you turned away, cause corruption on earth and sever your [ties of] relationship? Those [who do so] are the ones that Allah has cursed, so He deafened them and blinded their vision.”
Surah Muhammad (22-23)
The above verse explains to us that we should fear Allah SWT and never sever our silaturrahim.
According to the above verse, Imam al-Qurtubi Rahimahullahu Taala commented on the words أَرْحَامَكُمْ: “The word Rahim has a general and specific meaning. It is generally meant as family members according to the religion. They are your brothers who have the same faith as you do, although they are not your family member. Then it is obligatory for you to maintain your silaturrahim according to the faith through love and care, helping each other, advising, not harming others, being fair, protecting each other’s rights such as when he dies one should bath him, pray for him, bury him and fulfil their rights when they are ill for us to visit them. As for Rahim’s specific meaning is paternal and maternal close family members. Thus, it is obligatory to fulfil their specific rights, such as providing appropriate nafkah (sustenance) for them and not to forget our promises when they need them.” (See al-Jami’ Li Ahkam Al-Quran, 8/164)
The Prophet PBUH said:
وَمَنْ كانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ والْيوم الآخِر، فَلْيصلْ رَحِمَهُ …
“…and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain good the ties of blood relationship,”
Sahih al-Bukhari (4830)
From Anas bin Malik RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
مَنْ أَحبَّ أَنْ يُبْسَطَ لَهُ في رِزقِهِ ويُنْسأَ لَهُ في أَثرِهِ فَلْيصِلْ رحِمهُ
"Whoever loves that he be granted more wealth and that his lease of life be prolonged then he should keep good relations with his Kith and kin."
Sahih al-Bukhari (5986) and Sahih Muslim (2557)
It is narrated from Jubair bin Muth’im R.Anhu, that the Prophet PBUH said:
لاَ يَدْخُلُ الجَنَّةَ قَاطِعٌ
“The one who severs the ties of kinship will not enter Paradise.” The meaning of will not enter Paradise is will not be among the first to enter Paradise (does not mean will never enter Paradise for he has faith).
Sahih al-Bukhari (2408) and Sahih Muslim (593)
Methods of Maintaining and Protecting Silaturrahim and Situations Where It Is Permissible to Sever Silaturrahim
There are various approaches to maintain silaturrahim. Among them are:
- If you could visit your close relatives you should never disregard it. You should visit them. It is insufficient to just send salam for them without visiting them. In certain situations, it is enough to send them salam. However, if you live in the same region, state or area and still did not visit them for a duration of a year, two years and three years, while he is able to visit them, then this is considered as the sin of severing silaturrahim.
- As for if Rahim or close relation dislikes and is uncomfortable if another person enters his house and he know this, then he is not considered sinful for he knows his family member dislike him visiting them. Hence, this responsibility is no longer applicable on him. However, he still has to send his salam to him through writing or telephone. It is easier now with sms, social media, whatsapp, twitter and others.
- But, if his close relatives love him visiting them and enters their house and is permitted to stay in their house for a long time, then it is insufficient for him to just send his salam without visiting them. If he has met them before not very long ago, then it is sufficient to send their salam to them.
- However, if a person has valid reasons, such as he lives far away or in another country, then it is not easy for him to visit his close relative. Hence, it is enough for him to send his salam to them from time to time during the three years of his absence.
- If he went to visit his close relative but he found out that his relative in not at home, then he has to leave a note or a message saying that he went to visit his relative but found that his relative is not at home. This is enough.
Among the situations where it is permissible to not visit one’s close relative is when he hears that his relatives has denounced Islam (riddah/murtad) such as insulting Allah SWT, the prophets, angels or mocking the Quran and others, then it is no longer necessary for him to maintain his silaturrahim with the relative.
It is permissible to sever silaturahim with close relatives who are a fasiq who drinks alcoholic beverages, neglects prayer, commits adultery and others. It should be reminded that it is only permissible to sever the silaturrahim after we advise him and tell him why we are severing our ties with him, in order to motivate him to leave his transgressions.
Allah SWT state:
وَالَّذِينَ يَنقُضُونَ عَهْدَ اللّهِ مِن بَعْدِ مِيثَاقِهِ وَيَقْطَعُونَ مَآ أَمَرَ اللّهُ بِهِ أَن يُوصَلَ وَيُفْسِدُونَ فِي الأَرْضِ أُوْلَئِكَ لَهُمُ اللَّعْنَةُ وَلَهُمْ سُوءُ الدَّارِ
“But those who break the covenant of Allah after contracting it and sever that which Allah has ordered to be joined and spread corruption on earth - for them is the curse, and they will have the worst home.”
Surah al-Ra’d (25)
Ibnu Abi Jamrah Rahimahullahu Taala said in his book Bahjah An-Nufus volume 4 pg 146: “Silaturrahim could be maintained through one’s wealth, helping them when they are in need, helping them against harm, be good to them and supplicating for them. All of these are for relatives who are consistent in goodness. However, if they are from among the disbelievers and who commit evil acts, then severing silaturrahim with them with the intention of doing it for the sake of Allah SWT and try to advise them (according to one’s capabilities) and telling them if they continue with their evil deeds then it will be the reason why you sever your silaturrahim with them. Then, this action is the real silaturrahim with them.” (See Fathul Bari Syarah Sohih Al-Bukhari, 13/521)
However, it should be reminded that our relationship with them (those who are disbelievers and commit evil deeds) still continues although we have severed our ties with them, through our continuous supplications to Allah SWT so that they will be guided and change and return to Allah SWT.
The Prophet PBUH said:
أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَفْشوا السَّلامَ، وَأَطْعِمُوا الطَّعَامَ، وصلوا الأرحام وَصَلُّوا باللَّيْل وَالنَّاسُ نِيامٌ، تَدخُلُوا الجَنَّةَ بِسَلامٍ يَاَ
“O people, extend greetings (saying Salam to each other), keep relations with your kin, provide food (to people) and pray at night when people are asleep and you will enter Paradise in peace.”
Sunan Ibnu Majah (3251)
The above hadith explains to us the four things we should do:
First: Spread salam by offering salam to others, whether you know them or not.
Second: Provide food and drink especially to those who are in need.
Third: Maintain silaturrahim with our close relatives.
Four: Pray to Allah SWT during the night when others are asleep and remember Allah SWT.
Severing silaturrahim is among the reasons why the punishments for a person is hastened in this world even before the Day of Judgement. The Prophet PBUH said:
مَا مِنْ ذَنْبٍ أَجْدَرُ أَنْ يُعَجِّلَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى لِصَاحِبِهِ الْعُقُوبَةَ فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعَ مَا يَدَّخِرُ لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِثْلُ الْبَغْيِ وَقَطِيعَةِ الرَّحِمِ
“There is no sin more fitted to have punishment meted out by Allah to its perpetrator in advance in this world along with what He stores up for him in the next world than oppression and severing ties of relationship.”
Sunan Abu Dawud (4902), al-Tirmizi (2511) and Ibnu Majah (4211)
The Prophet PBUH said:
" مَنْ سَرَّهُ أَنْ يُمِدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُ فِي عُمُرِهِ وَيُوَسِّعَ لَهُ فِي رِزْقِهِ وَيَدْفَعَ عَنْهُ مَيْتَةَ السُّوءِ فَلْيَتَّقِ اللَّهَ وَلْيَصِلْ رَحِمَهُ "
“Whoever wishes for a long life, abundant of wealth and avoid harm (disaster/calamity), then he should have taqwa to Allah and maintain his silaturrahim.”
Musnad Imam Ahmad and al-Tabarani in al-Mu’jam al-Ausat (3108)
Thus, according to the above evidences presented, maintaining silaturrahim is a commandment in Islam. May we all be among those who maintain and protect their silaturrahim. Amin.