The Prophet (Pbuh) is quoted by his companion, Abu Bakarah, as saying; "No sinful action merits a swift punishment by Allah in this world, in addition to what He has in store for the wrongdoer in the Hereafter, than the severing of ties of kinship and rebellion (against an Islamic ruler)." (Related by Abu Dawood, At-Tirmithi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad and others).
The discussion in the last issue on rewards from Allah to a person who maintains and fosters his ties of kinship indicated clearly that Allah grants such a person some of His reward in this world, in addition to the reward he receives in the Hereafter. The reward in this life takes the form of an increase in income and wealth and longer life as well as being loved by his relatives and friends. In view of this, one may wonder whether the reverse is also true. Does a person who severs his ties with his kinsfolk merit punishment in this world? If so, what form does it take?
Let us remind ourselves of what we have learned earlier that Allah views very seriously the question of maintaining and fostering ties of kinship. We have quoted the Hadith that the Arabic name given to kinship is derived from the divine attribute of compassion and mercy. This has not come by coincidence. Its significance is that a person who is good to his kinsfolk earns Allah’s pleasure. Allah promises to cut off His mercy the person who severs his ties of kinship and to be kind to the person who is kind to his kinsfolk. In addition, we have a more specific Hadith which explains the punishment in the Hereafter for a person who in this world severs his ties with his relatives. Jubair ibn Mut’im mentions that he heard the Prophet (Pbuh) saying; “No one who severs his ties of kinship will enter paradise.” (Related by Muslim, At-Tirmithi and Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad.
When we remember that a Muslim strives throughout his life for the attainment of a simple goal, namely paradise, then all his efforts seem to be futile if he is negligent of his duty toward his relatives, treats them badly and severs his ties with them. This is certainly the punishment of a person who adopts an extremely hostile attitude toward his relatives. But it is a fitting punishment. He has deprived himself of His kindness. The person who adopts such an attitude also merits punishment in this world. The Prophet (Pbuh) is quoted by his companion, Abu Bakarah, as saying; “No sinful action merits a swift punishment by Allah in this world, in addition to what He has in store for the wrongdoer in the Hereafter, than the severing of ties of kinship and rebellion (against an Islamic ruler).” (Related by Abu Dawood, At-Tirmithi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad and others). The two sinful actions mentioned here share in common the fact that they weaken the structure of Islamic society and undermine its very existence. The Hadith confirms definitely that punishment in this world will be forthcoming for severing ties of kinship, although it does not specify the form of that punishment. Other Hadiths, however, give us an indication.
Abdullah ibn Abu Awfa quotes the Prophet (Pbuh) as saying; “Mercy does not descend on people when there is among them one who severs ties of kinship.” (Related by Al Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and by Al-Baihaqi). This Hadith makes such worldly punishment more of a community punishment. It is not directed at the individual who commits this sin, although he will share in it. We have to remember that divine justice is absolute. Allah does not punish anyone if he does not merit punishment. How then can we explain this Haidth which tends to suggest, when taken at its face value, that a sin committed by an individual makes the community liable to punishment Commentators on Hadith give two explanations. First, they say that the word “ people” used in the text of the Hadith refers specifically to those who assist the individual concerned in severing his ties of kinship, or at least those who do not reproach him for doing so. This makes them partners in the sin committed by him. As such, they deserve punishment.
The other explanation advanced by scholars of Hadith is that the word “mercy” used here refers to rain. This is a common usage in Arabic. It refers to the fact that rain causes plants and vegetation to grow, which in turn provides food for man. Without rain famine spreads and people die. Hence, rain is the most tangible aspect of Allah’s mercy to man. This is the reason why the word mercy is used as a synonym for rain. When severance of ties of kinship becomes common practice in a certain society, Allah punishes that society by withholding rain from it.
It is to be noted here that this does not apply to a person who severs his ties with a relative whom Allah has bidden us to boycott because of his hostile attitude to Islam. But even if we treat such a person with the sort of kindness which is allowed to us, like giving him a present or showing him some thoughtfulness, our action is commendable. We have quoted in these columns a Hadith in which the Prophet (Pbuh) gave permission to Umar and to his sister-in-law, Asmaa’ to be kind to their relatives who were unbelievers. The Prophet (Pbuh) himself showed compassion to the people of Makkah. When they hurt him very badly, he prayed for famine to overtake them. They knew that his prayers were always answered. They came to him and begged him to overlook their unkindness. They appealed to him by his ties of kinship with them. that touched a soft spot in the Prophet (Pbuh) and he prayed Allah not to punish them with famine.
In the same vein is the Hadith related by Abu Ayyub Sulaiman, who states that the Prophet’s (Pbuh) companion, Abu Hurairah, joined a group of people in their circle on a Thursday evening. As he sat down, he said: “I most seriously ask anyone who severs his ties of kinship to leave us, “No one left until he had repeated that three times. Then a young man went to one of his parental aunts with whom he had severed ties for two years. When he entered her house, she asked him, “Nephew, what has brought you?” He mentioned to her what he had heard Abu Hurairah say. She told him to go back to Abu Hurairah and ask him why he said that. Abu Hurairah answered “I have heard the Prophet (Pbuh) say; “The actions of human beings are presented to Allah on Thursday evening, the night before Friday. He does not accept the actions of anyone who severs his ties of kinship.” (Related by Ahmad and Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad.)
This Hadith tells us that severing ties of kinship outweighs any other good action we may do. It is necessary, therefore, for us if we want our good actions to be accepted and rewarded by Allah to foster our ties with our relatives. When we do that, we ensure that our reward will be ample. We have the reward of fostering our ties of kinship.
Hadiths on this subject are numerous. They tend to give us an idea that a society which allows ties of kinship to falter and weaken is one where corruption spreads and people’s vision is blurred. Abu Hurairah used to pray Allah, seeking refuge with Him from power falling into the hands of youths and fools. A man once asked Abu Hurairah what was the token of that. He answered; “Ties of kinship will be severed, people who go astray are followed and those who provide right guidance are disobeyed.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad.) It is only through such a society which allows the reigns of power to fall into the hands of fools and people of immature judgement that such social illnesses spread. Perhaps there is no punishment greater than power being handed to fools and youth who lack mature judgment.