In principle, the dependants (whose responsibility MUST be borne in any case) was limited:
al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.)* said: The ways to spend (one's) wealth are twentyfour in all ... Thus, the five ways in which spending money is obligatory (wajib) are the expenses of the maintenance of his dependants, of his children, his father and mother, his wife and his slave. These are obligatory upon him whether he be hard-up or affluent.
But if he is affluent and well-to-do, then he has been emphatically enjoined to spend on other relatives also. The same hadith (tradition) goes on to say (a.s.) is the abbreviation of -Arabic phrase `alayhi (or ha /himu)'s-saldm (may peace be upon him/her/them). And the five strongly recommended expenses are: Dedication of perpetual gift, doing good to one's relatives, doing good to other believers, recommended charity and emancipation of slaves.
This hadith is narrated in Wasa'il ash-Shi `ah. There are numerous ahadith (traditions) extolling the virtues of doing good to one's relatives, which will be mentioned in appropriate chapters.
An interesting point to ponder over is that the Hindus, in spite of their Joint Family System (or should it be said, `because of it?') never felt such intense love towards their relatives as was seen in the Arabs in spite of their Separate Family System, and that Islam upheld that love to a reasonable extent.
One cannot help but admire how Islam has interwoven the "family sympathy" of the Joint Family System with the "legal orderliness" of the Separate Family System. There is no escape from admitting that such a beautiful as well as perfect family system was never adopted before Islam. After all, what is the use of a joint family in which two Hindus (even if they are father and son) are not allowed by their religious customs to eat together? And what is the harm of a separate family if the people are encouraged to eat in one another's house and thus strengthen the bonds of love and relationship?
Adopted from the book: "The Family Life of Islam" by: "Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizivi"
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