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Monday, March 13, 2006

At the Heart of Every Relationship is Allah

By Altaf Husain, MSW**
Jan. 15, 2006

Relationships are central to the existence of every human being. Allah Most High has enjoined some relationships as purely natural, such as those between parents, children, and other immediate and extended family members. Other relationships are based on solemn contracts, such as a marriage. Through a marriage contract, a man and a woman who are ordinarily impermissible to each other become permissible to each other. Some relationships are based on familiarity and social ties at the community level. Other relationships are based on business contracts. All of these relationships are based on the fulfillment of rights and responsibilities.
In His ultimate wisdom, Allah Most High has placed Himself at the heart of every relationship. To love Allah, to know Allah, and to want to please Allah in our daily lives, we must have functional and healthy relationships with our parents, siblings, friends, and community members. We do not have the option to remove either Allah or human beings from our lives. The love, mercy, and compassion that characterize our interactions with others are a blessing from Allah. He created us and endowed us with these sublime qualities. It is only sheer arrogance that would make us attempt to remove Allah from any of our relationships.
The main reason that Muslims place Allah at the heart of every relationship is because these rights and responsibilities emanate from Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). We learn of our rights and responsibilities through Islamic teachings as explicated in the Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Fulfilling one's responsibilities requires knowledge of what those responsibilities are. Similarly, one cannot expect to demand one's rights without knowing first what those rights are.
Anytime a relationship goes sour, one must stop first to ask what the basis of the relationship is and if in fact the relationship existed for the sake of Allah. A businessman who cheats others is wantonly defying the teachings of Islam. At the moment when he cheats another person, he is also allowing his personal greed to override his fear of Allah Most High. A husband who raises his hands to hurt his wife or their children is defying the teachings of Islam. At the moment of his violent outburst, he is allowing his personal anger to override his fear of Allah Most High. There can be no moment in which Allah Most High is not at the heart of a relationship. It is an unfortunate existence, and indeed a miserable existence, for the one whose personal whims and desires end up placing him or her at the center of the relationship.
Let us consider a day in the life of a young man named Khalid.
Khalid sat up in bed, unable to fall asleep. What had started as just a small disagreement with his parents had deteriorated quickly into a shouting match. Khalid hurled the final volley, saying, "I don't care what you or anyone else says; I don't need you, I don't need anyone; I have Allah to help me." Slamming the door to his room shut, Khalid felt sure that he could survive on his own. After all, at the prime of his life as a 15-year-old, why did he need his parents? They just kept getting in his way. Why did he need his brothers and sisters? They never understood him. Why did he need his friends? They never went along with him. As long as he had Allah, he was set. He was complete. He needed no one else.
As he sank into bed for the night and slipped under the warm covers, he felt sure that tomorrow would be different. From tomorrow onwards, he would need no one else, no other relationship except the one he had with Allah. He tossed and turned but he was restless and unable to bring himself to sleep. Why? These covers are so warm, so comfortable, why can't I get to sleep? The peaceful night was interrupted. He sat up in bed. In the bedroom next door, he could hear his father consoling his mother who was sobbing uncontrollably. The strong-headed Khalid was no more.
Only a few hours ago he knew exactly what he wanted to do, where he wanted to go. He knew he needed no one else except Allah. But now, hearing his mother crying had confused him. He was unsure of himself. Unsure of what he felt. If he had Allah, why did anyone else matter? So what if mom or the siblings were sad? So what if his friends and the community looked down on him for his behavior? He struggled to put himself to sleep that night. Unable to sleep, he turned to talk to Allah. Picking up the Qur'an, he thumbed through the pages and came across a few that seemed to be wrinkled, used more often than the others. He could not believe his eyes and as he read the verses out loud, the meaning of the verses seemed to shoot directly to his heart.
[Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: "My Lord! bestow on them thy mercy even as they cherished me in childhood." Your Lord knoweth best what is in your hearts: If ye do deeds of righteousness, verily He is Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again (in true penitence).] (Al-Israa’ 17:23-25)
Here it was, loud and clear. Any people who thought they could have a relationship only with Allah and cut off their ties with parents, siblings, and friends were mistaken. Khalid knew that he had hurt his mother and his father with his "I don't care" and "whatever" one-liners. He also knew that he did care and he loved them both dearly. And he was very much aware of the fact that as annoying as his brothers and sisters were, they were his true friends — people he could count on to love him no matter what!
Khalid read and reread these verses in which Allah Most High, after decreeing that Muslims worship no one but Allah, decreed kindness to parents. The mention of mercy, honor, humility, righteousness, forgiveness, and repentance had a calming effect on Khalid. He wanted nothing more at that moment than to go and tell his parents he was sorry. He wanted to give them their right to advise him, to counsel him, and to assist him through these teenage years. He wanted most of to repent to Allah for raising his voice at his parents!
Final Thoughts
As we go through life, Allah Most High tests us with various challenges, and perhaps the most difficult of these tests are those that involve human relationships. Increasing our awareness of our rights and responsibilities is a very critical component of our lives. Remembering to be conscious of Allah Most High helps us to fight any desires that arise out of a purely selfish orientation. We do not live alone or in a vacuum. We are just one of the many actors in this human drama of life and the earth is our stage. The script has already been written by Allah, and our goal is to toil on this earth, conscious of our rights and responsibilities towards Allah and towards those around us. Our goal should be to please Allah through establishing functional and healthy relationships with our family, friends, and community members. Ultimately, we can only achieve true success when Allah Most High is at the heart of all of our relationships. An apt reminder in closing is when Allah Most High addresses all of mankind, saying:
[O mankind, be conscious of your duty to Allah, Who created you from a single soul and from him He created his mate, and from them both, He created many men and women; and fear Allah through Whom you demand your (mutual rights) and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs; surely Allah is ever an All-watcher over you.] (An-Nisaa' 4:1)

**Altaf Husain is a licensed social worker in the United States and has been a contributing writer to IslamOnline since its inception. He can be contacted at youth_campaign@iolteam.com.


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