Rafed English

Circle of Silat ar-Rahim

Which of the relatives are within the circle of silat ar-rahim? Who are the relatives with whom silat ar-rahim is obligatory?

It is . very difficult to draw a line to divide near and distant relatives. A person having a broad outlook may widen the circle of his relatives as much as he likes. Distance or nearness in this context depends upon the angle of vision. In other words, we may call it a play of vision. Ten miles is `far' in comparison with five miles, but is very near in comparison with hundred miles.

The following narrative will explain this matter very clearly.

`Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan said:

"One we were with Mu'awiyah; many Quraishites including some of Banu Hashim, were in that group. Mu'awiyah turned towards Banu Hashim and said: `O' Banu Hashim, on what ground do you pride yourselves against us? Are we not (both Banu Hashim and Banu Umayyah) from the same father and mother? And do we not share the same house and birth-place?'

"`Abdullah ibn `Abbas replied: `We pride ourselves against you because of that thing by which you (Banu Umayyah) boast against the whole tribe of Quraysh, and by which Quraysh boast against the ansar (helpers of Medina), and because of which the Arabs boast against all non-Arabs. We pride ourselves against you because of Muhammad (who was from Banu Hashim) and his relationship which you cannot deny and (it is a fact) from which you cannot escape.'

"Mu'awiyah could only say: `O' Ibn `Abbas, you have been given a very sharp tongue.' " This talk shows that if we look at the fact that the Holy Prophet was from Banu Hashim, then even Banu Umayyah will go out of the circle of relationship; but if we compare that relationship with the distance of ansar of Medina, then not only Banu Umayyah but the whole tribe of Quraysh will be counted as the relatives of the Holy Prophet.

What we want to stress is the fact that no mathematician can solve this problem by counting the notches in the family-tree. We have to adopt the system which the Shari'ah has prescribed for such matters; and that is "common usage". For this purpose, relatives should be divided into four categories

1. Those who are within the prohibited degree ( mahram) ;

2. Those who are not within the prohibited degree, but are included in the table of inheritance;

3. Those who are neither within the prohibited degree nor are included in the table of inheritance; but their relationship is known and one feels that they are one's relatives;

4. Those whose relationship is not known. There is no doubt that the first and second categories are within the circle of silat ar-rahim; and the fourth category is surely excluded from its sphere.

But what about the third category? The following two ahadith provide the answer:

1. al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said that the Holy Prophet said I saw a relation dangling with the`arsh (The Throne of Allah), complaining before Allah against one who had severed it. I asked Jibra'il (Gabriel) : "How many generations above do they meet?" Jibra'i1 said: "Seven generations."

2. The Holy Prophet said:

When I was taken to the heavens (in mi`raj ) I saw a relation dangling with the `arsh complaining of a relative. I asked it: "How many generations are between thee and him?" It said: "We meet in the fortieth forefather."

Obviously the complaint of a relative removed seven or forty generations can be reasonable only when both parties had the knowledge of mutual relationship and still one of them neglected his duties of silat ar-rahim. In other words, the criterion of silat ar-rahim's obligation is the knowledge of relationship, not the distance of that relationship.

Adopted from the book: "The Family Life of Islam" by: "Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizivi"

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