Monday, April 25, 2011

Family Ties

I bet that the title of my post reminds many of you of the old sitcom starring Michael J. Fox. Well, if you didn’t think of that when you read the title then you probably are thinking of it now (at least for those people who were watching ‘Family Ties’ every week back in the 1980s. or so). Anyway, let me end my little digression.

Today my mother, my grandmother and I went to visit a cousin of my mother’s who we are not very close with and who we haven’t seen in ages. The reason for the visit was unfortunately an unexpected illness, Alhamdullillah my mum’s cousin is doing much better and you’d never say that he was ill at all. However, while sitting around talking, it struck us all that people in today’s time don’t really keep family ties. Besides the occasional visit and phone call, families are not as close as they used to be. This got us talking about our family, the generations that have passed, how this one is related to that one, whose father that is and who married who and so on and so forth, and I have to admit that I was a bit lost. I have never even met many of my family members and the truth is that I may meet someone who I am related to and not even know it. While my parents and grandparents still know the generations of our family that have passed, we as the new generation, are rather clueless in this regard and if it were not for our grandparents and parents, we would be totally hopeless in even identifying who our family members are.

I don’t know what it’s like for other people, but usually when people ask me about my family, it includes, my parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and maybe I’ll make mention of a few other close family members; maternal grandmother, uncle or aunt... Our idea of family is very limited though and this has been reduced to the nuclear family as opposed to the extended family. This is contrary to the way things were in earlier times when extended families were close with one another, and people knew how they were related and maintaining family ties was a priority. Perhaps this is because of modernization. In our parents and grandparents times people were poorer and they lived simpler lives. Families lived close to one another and if you wanted to visit your family members you could just take a walk there instead of having to get in the car and drive out to some remote area. Nowadays people have more money, this means that they can afford better homes in all areas and so naturally families tend to be scattered about and because of this distance, it becomes harder to stay in touch. Not to mention the hectic lifestyle that goes hand in hand with this modern era.

Present day trends also seem to play a huge role. It’s not often that you see extended family members all living together as one family. Nowadays it’s just parents and their children and even grandparents aren’t allowed to make decisions or even give their input about the upbringing of children. Children are taught from a very young age that their family unit consists of their parents and siblings. So perhaps a lot of this can be attributed to the modern age we live in.

Yet all of this seems like poor excuses. Listening to my mother and grandmother trace back our family roots made me realize that these very roots that go way, way back, play an important role in my life and even influences my identity. We are all a part of a family, it doesn’t matter what type of a family it may be, but as human beings, we cannot exist in isolation and thus we are a small part of a much bigger unit. Even though we may not realize it, our actions have repercussions in our entire family system, whether we see all of them or not, whether we know all of them or not.

Who knows what prayer of which one of our ancestors has been answered on our behalf? Who knows which good action of which of our family members has influenced the rest of us? Who knows what interaction between which family members has resulted in us being who we are today? I mean, wasn’t it the prayer of the mother of Maryam (May Allah be pleased with her and shower His peace and blessings on her), for righteous offspring that had an effect on who her daughter became and subsequently who the son of her daughter was. Certainly then, family members have an effect on one another, whether we know this or not.

So naturally as we were departing from our family today everyone spoke about how we should stay in touch because the young generations don’t even know the family and so on, and everyone commented on how good it was to see each other, but it’s sad to say that life will go on as usual, and I wonder if we’ll make the time to meet up again or if we’ll wait for another illness to bring us together again. Who knows? But I’ve learnt that family ties can never really be broken, it’s something that is inevitable. Sometimes we tend to feel that staying in touch with extended family is irrelevant to us, but who our family is will always be a part of who we are, whether we want to admit this or not. This is why they say that blood is thicker than water, because family will always be family and family members will always have an influence on one another, either directly or indirectly.

An important teaching of Islam is that we should always maintain family ties and breaking family ties is something that is regarded as very bad. Today I was reminded of this, and I was made to understand this a little better. I wish that me sharing this with you can help you to understand this a little better yourselves.

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