Silat al-rahim

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Ṣilat al-raḥim (Arabic: صلة الرحم), which means associating and meeting with relative and helping them, is among moral teachings of Islam. The Qur'an and hadiths emphasize so much on silat al-rahim that the Qur'an considers those who abandon it among the losers and the cursed. In hadiths, silat al-rahim is mentioned as the best action after faith, the first action speaking on the Judgement Day, the best attribute of the faithful, and the best factor for prolonging life. According to a divine hadith, silat al-rahim is derived from the mercy of God and anyone who abandons it, will be deprived of His mercy.

Silat al-rahim is sometimes obligatory and sometimes recommended. Qaṭʿ al-raḥim (Arabic: قطع الرحم) which means "abandoning obligatory silat al-rahim and lack of having the necessary relationship with relatives" is among the great sins and is not permissible even about sinful or temperamental relatives.

Concept Analysis

Silat al-rahim is formed of the two words of "sila" and "rahim." The word "sila" is derived from the root of "w-s-l" meaning "to join two things" and "rahim" which means "womb." The word "rahim" in "silat al-rahim" refers to blood relation.

In usage, "silat al-rahim" means" to associate and meet with relatives and help them". "Silat al-rahim" is mentioned in discussions about gifts, marriage, giving testimony (at the court), etc.

Some of the names and attributes of God such as Rahman and Rahim have the same root as "rahim". It is mentioned in a divine hadith, "I am the Rahman [All-Compassionate] God; created rahim and named it after My Name; so, I will include anyone who practices silat al-rahim, in My mercy and I will draw anyone who does qat' al-rahim, away from My mercy."

The Circle of Relatives

Commonly people consider two kinds of relationships:

  • Blood relationship which is made by blood and through the womb such as a father, mother, children, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grandfather and grandmother and the children of those who are called blood relatives (arham). Silat al-rahim is obligatory with this group and if a gift is given to any of them, it is not permissible to take it back.
  • In-law relationship which is made through marriage, such as the relationships made between couples and their relatives. There are different opinions on whether obligatory silat al-rahim also includes this group or not.

Among all relatives, the position of mother and father is more pronounced in the Qur'an and God has ordered to do goodness about them after ordering about believing in His Oneness and doing His worship, "Your Lord has decreed that you shall not worship anyone except Him, and [He has enjoined] kindness to parents. Should they reach old age at your side —one of them or both— do not say to them, 'Fie!' And do not chide them, but speak to them noble words." (Qur'an 17:23)

Godly Relatives

  • The Prophet (s) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a): In some hadiths, in addition to advising about having relationship with relatives, relating with Imams (a) is also advised. In a hadith, the Prophet (s) said,"I and Ali are the fathers of this community."
  • Religious scholars: religious sources have advised to associate with religious scholars as well and have mentioned many rewards for such a relationship.
  • Religious brothers: for the next level of silat al-rahim, associating with religious brothers is mentioned: "The faithful are indeed brothers." (Qur'an 49:10) Imam al-Sadiq (a) said,"The faithful are indeed brothers and are children of one father and mother; if any of them is sad, others will not sleep at night."

Position and Importance

Silat al-rahim is among the teachings emphasized upon in the Qur'an and hadiths. In several verses of the Qur'an, there is advice about respecting relationships with relatives and giving financial helps to them:

  • "Be wary of Allah, in whose Name you adjure one another, and the wombs. Indeed, Allah is watchful over you." (Qur'an 4:1)
  • "Do good to parents, relatives, orphans, and the needy, and speak kindly to people." (Qur'an 2:83)
  • "Let the well-off and the opulent among you not vow not to give to the relatives and the needy, and to those who have migrated in the way of Allah" (Qur'an 24:22) …and many other verses.

Repetition of one issue in the Qur'an shows its importance. According to the verses of the Qur'an, people will be asked about silat al-rahim in the hereafter. The Qur'an also considers the person who breaks relationships with his relatives cursed and God threatens that He will make the eyes and ears of such a person incapable of understanding the truths.

Also in hadiths and the life of the Ahl al-Bayt (a), the great significance of helping, support and being kind to relatives is obvious and breaking the relationship with relatives has been prohibited. In Shi'a hadiths, qat' al-rahim is mentioned as a cause which makes the mercy of God draw away from the person and the society.

According to hadiths, silat al-rahim is so important before God that even if wrongdoers have good relationship with their relatives, God will increase their daily sustenance; but, if those who practice daily prayers and fast, break their relationships with their relatives, their lives and daily sustenance will be cut short and will also have punishment in the hereafter. In volume 71 of Bihar al-anwar, al-'Allama al-Majlisi mentioned 110 hadiths about silat al-rahim and 102 hadiths about the rights of parents and children.

The Reason for Emphasis on Silat al-rahim

The reason Islam emphasizes on keeping relationships with relatives is that in order to correct, strengthen, develop, perfect and glorify a great society regarding economic or military aspects, or spiritual and moral aspects, people need to begin from smaller social units. By enhancing and strengthening all small units, the great society will be corrected automatically. Thus, Islam has ordered to correct the social units people usually are not reluctant to help and empower; and for silat al-rahim, God advises to strengthen the people whose blood circulates in their veins and are members of one family. So, it is clear that when small communities of relatives become powerful, their society will be glorified. Some people believe that the hadith telling that, "silat al-rahim causes development of cities" refers to this fact.

In the famous sermon of Lady Fatima (a) mentioned the growth of one's progeny as a reason and philosophy for the obligation of silat al-rahim.

Some scholars believe that meeting with relatives and friends, in addition to revival of emotional and humane connections, will make a serious influence on human's neural mechanisms and can increase life time, enhance health and decrease stress.

Fruits of Silat al-rahim

Some of the fruits of silat al-rahim are yielded in this world and some of them will be achieved the hereafter Some of such fruits are:

  • Gaining friendship and love of God
  • Support of God
  • Ending the life in happiness
  • Preventing bad omens
  • Preventing misfortunes
  • Easiness of reckoning one's account on the Judgement Day
  • Easy passage of Sirat bridge
  • Preventing sins
  • Recompense for committing sins
  • Keeping the blessings
  • Earning place in paradise
  • Purification of one's actions
  • Elimination of poverty and increase of daily sustenance
  • Fulfillment of one's requests
  • Zakat of well-being
  • Removal of rancor
  • Quick reward in this world
  • Reward of a hundred martyrs in case of perfect silat al-rahim
  • Geniality
  • Generosity
  • Elation of soul
  • Most important factor of the increase of life time
  • Development of life environment
  • Easy death.

Consequences of Qat' al-rahim

Qat' al-Rahim, abandoning obligatory silat al-rahim and lack of having the necessary relationship with relatives, is among great sins which is seriously prohibited in the Qur'an and hadiths and considered at the same level with polytheism, the consequences of which are:

  • Curse of God
  • Quick punishment in this world
  • Remaining distant from paradise
  • Deprivation of angels' helps
  • Remaining the wealth of the society in the hands of the wicked
  • Deprivation of divine mercy.

Levels

Silat al-rahim is sometimes obligatory and sometimes recommended. The closeness of relationship is influential in its obligation. Greetings, socializing with each other, caring about the relatives, financial and personal help and upholding their honor are among the examples of silat al-rahim. Qat' al-rahim too has levels and its description and actualization is based on the common understanding in the society.

Some fiqh scholars believe that even if having relation with some relatives and going to their houses makes them upset and leads to our disrespect, it does not cancel our obligation for silat al-rahim and the relationship should be preserved in some other ways.

Financial Silat al-rahim

In financial obligations, it has been advised to prioritize the relatives. The glorious Qur'an considers helping the relatives among the financial rights and also mentions helping the relatives as a right, "give the relatives their [due] right, and the needy" (Qur'an 17:26). Also, Imam Ali (a) said, "one who receives wealth from God, should help his relatives with it."

Silat al-rahim with Sinners

If one's relative is a sinner and indifferent toward religious issues, he can break our relationship with that person only if he considers it possible that breaking his relationship with that person would make him keep away from committing sins.

The Sole Exception of Silat al-rahim

Islam does not advise about silat al-rahim with disbeliever and polytheist relatives who are enemies of Islam and are hostile. In this regard, the Qur'an says, "the Prophet and the faithful may not plead for the forgiveness of the polytheists, even if they should be [their] relatives," (Qur'an 9:113) it is clear that pleading for forgiveness and praying for someone are among the examples of silat al-rahim.

In sura al-Tawba, Prophet Abraham (a) asked for forgiveness of his uncle and practiced an example of silat al-rahim, but after he (a) learned that his uncle was an enemy of God, he (a) kept away from him and broke his relationship with him.

Silat al-rahim in Iranian Culture

Silat al-rahim is very important in Iranian culture, the signs of which can be seen in the meetings of Noruz and other religious or national celebrations, night meetings in winter, gatherings in marriage and funeral ceremonies, first meeting of the new couple from one's house, birthday parties, parties for breaking fasts, meeting patients, etc.

References

  • The material of this article is mainly taken from صله رحم in WikiShia Farsi.