The Atmosphere of Harmony and Togetherness at Home
By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Hussain Madhahiri
Today we shall discuss about the atmosphere of harmony and togetherness at home. We should know that a hundred-percent harmony in any home is next to impossible. The husband and wife; the daughter and mother-in-law; the father and son cannot all be of the same nature! There will be marked differences between their natures and behaviour. Differences amongst the inhabitants of a home are, but natural. We cannot deny this, we have to accept this. We seem to be totally ignorant of the fact that a hundred percent compatibility is next to impossible. If there is a 100% ethical compatibility, it is indeed a great gift from Allah. However, if a husband and wife agree to the extent of, say, seventy-percent, the situation is very good. They should be thankful to Allah that they are highly blessed! I can say with confidence that if they are fifty-percent compatible, then too, they are lucky! Similarly if the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law; father and son; mother and daughter agree in all matters up to fifty-percent, they will be fine. If the agreement is around seventy-percent, then they must thank Allah that their family is blessed!
But if the compatibility is around 50% to 70% what steps should we take so as to take care for the remaining differences?
Two actions can remove the existing differences between the members of such families. I shall deal with the first in this talk and the other in the following session. One of the two actions is love!
The first thing that can obviate differences is love and affection. If love prevails between husband and wife; daughter and mother-in-law; and parents and children, then the thirty or fifty-percent difference of opinion that remains will not have any deleterious effect on their relationships. The rays of love will overwhelm these differences. Love makes people blind and deaf. One sentence of the Holy Prophet (s) illustrates this point:
If you like or love someone, then you will not notice the person’s failings
You will neither recount such a person’s weaknesses nor will you like others to mention them in your presence. If perchance, someone relates to you the shortcomings of your loved one, howsoever true, you will make an effort to defend him. If someone looks at a person with love, he hides and overlooks all his defects. Loving eyes are unable to see defects in the loved one. The same eyes very clearly perceive defects in the other persons. Even if one can see some defects in the loved one, he covers it up.
The story of Laila and Majnu is oft quoted. It is said that Laila had cooked a broth. Everyone was going to her to fetch their share. Majnu too gave his pot to someone to fetch some for him. When Laila was told that the pot belonged to Majnu, she threw it on the ground that it shattered to pieces. Majnu’s friend informed him that instead of sending some broth for him, Laila had broken his pot. Majnu recited the following couplet:
Agar ba deegar anash bood maila
Chira zarf mara shikaste Laila
If Laila was inclined towards another
Then why did she break my pot
Majnu said that breaking of his pot by Laila was the evidence of her love for him. If this wasn’t the case, then why didn’t she shatter the pot of any other man! This shows that Majnu never, for a moment, thought that Laila could do anything wrong! Instead he covers up her wrong action. If a wife loves her husband, she will defend him if someone speaks ill of him. She cannot bear it when someone speaks ill of her husband. This is the same lady who does not hesitate to state the flaws she notices in friends or even her brother. But when it is the turn of her husband she springs to his defence, because she is actually unable to see any flaws in him. I know many ladies who thank Allah when their husbands become angry with them – they say: this sternness on the part of my husband is proof of his love for me, otherwise why doesn’t he behave in the same way with his sisters. It is because my husband loves me and wants to reform me that he is strict with me.
One thing that we should remember is that while speech can create love, it can also extinguish love. Sometimes speech is like the beauty spot on the face which enhances the beauty of the person. Sometimes it is hard and burns – just like pepper.
Sometimes a husband expressing his gratitude to his wife is like the beauty spot on the face that shines like the moon, and is invaluable for the woman. A husband’s expression of gratitude creates a lot of love in the heart of his wife. On the other hand sternness and curt behaviour destroys love and is just like pepper burning the mouth. Sometimes uttering a small sentence can play a very big role in extinguishing love between the husband and wife. Islam has promised great rewards for the wife who obeys her husband, and treats him well. There is so much reward for her that even the jurists can expect just a little more. The Prophet of Islam (s) used to say that any man or woman who recognizes the rights of Ameer al Mu'mineen, fulfils the obligatory (wajibat), abstains from sins, or if he happens to sin, he repents without delay; and is married, then all the doors of the Heaven are open for them. Their station in the Heaven will be with the Prophets and the Infallible ones. The Holy Quran too says that certain people are with the Prophet (s) and the Imams (a.s.)
Whoso obeyeth Allah and the Messenger, they are with those unto whom Allah hath shown favour, of the Prophets and the Saints and the Martyrs and the righteous. The best of company are they.
A person who obeys Allah and the Prophet (s) a hundred-percent will be grouped with the Prophets, their vicegerents, the martyrs and the righteous ones on the Day of Reckoning, and all the doors to Heaven will be open for him. He will be permitted to enter Heaven through the door of his choice. This is a great honour which will be bestowed on him. This honour can be acquired by maintaining a home with a cordial, pious atmosphere, filled with love and affection.
We read in the traditions that when a woman gives a glass of water to her husband, Allah grants her a reward equivalent to that for a full year of worship! Obviously the reward is not for giving the glass of water! Allah is giving this bounty to the woman because He wants her to be obedient and loving to her husband. Similarly when a man strives to provide comfort and sustenance to his family, it is as if he is fighting in the front lines of the battle against the infidels. Why is this man being given so much reward, while it is obvious that he actually has no right to it? He is being given this reward so that the atmosphere of the house remains good, so that there is love in that house.
On the other hand the use of foul language can land a person in Hell. The Prophet of Islam (s) says that if a woman displeases her husband, whether it is with a single harsh word, or an abusive tongue, or if a husband displeases his wife with harsh language or bad behaviour, they will be the first to enter Hell. Why is this attitude considered to be a big sin? The reason is that if love doesn’t exist in the homes, life will go haywire, resulting in grave consequences. But if there is an atmosphere of love and peace at home, this home will be of immense benefit to the society. In the book, Wasail al Shia, several traditions on this subject are quoted. Because of the constraint for space we have also not been able to quote any of the traditions on this subject, narrated in the works of Allama Majlisi and other authors of repute.
The Prophet of Islam (s) says that if a wife bears the ill treatment of her husband with patience and does not confront him, and if a husband bears the bad behaviour of his wife with patience, this wife and this husband will occupy a station in Heaven equal to that of Prophet Ayoob (a.s) whose patience in calamities is well known. This status is not acquired as a matter of right, but it is earned with sincere effort to maintain love and amity in the family. We should exercise care that love is not snatched away from us because of our careless and hot-headed behaviour with members of our family. I appeal to you to give utmost attention to the language that is used at home. Sweet and considerate talk enhances love and amity, while harsh words destroy them.
One of the major reasons for the lessening of love and good relations among family members is unfair preference given to some members of the family over others. This happens when one son or daughter is the favourite of the parents when there are two or more children in the family. Sometimes one son-in-law or daughter-in-law is favoured over the others. We find in certain families that while distributing their assets, they unfairly apportion more to the favourite son than to the other. In certain other families they totally deny any share to the daughter against all norms of fairness! Their argument, generally, is that the daughter has taken away her dowry at the time of marriage and need not be given any more from their assets. This is not a good attitude. The Prophet (s) said: May Allah have mercy on the parents who help their children to be virtuous. Then he (s) added: May Allah’s curse be on the parents who carelessly leave their children uncontrolled to go astray, so much so that they become Aaq (disinherited). What makes the children misbehave with their parents? If the son observes that his mother is on the wrong, she treats his wife badly and picks on his wife for trivial matters, still he should not misbehave with his mother. If he misbehaves with his mother he will render himself Aaq. When the son becomes Aaq, he will neither get any benefit in this world nor in the Hereafter! When a son feels that his father favours his brother over him, when the daughter feels that her brother is being preferred to her, when daughter feels that her sisters husband is being favoured over her own husband they are hurt. Such sons and daughters might start hating their parents. Pity the daughter who hates her parents. She then starts backbiting about her parents. She has no right to do so. When she backbites about her parents she becomes Aaq, even if the parents are on the wrong. The youth must respect their parents. They should not misbehave or use harsh language while dealing with their parents. The Holy Quran uses very strong words in this matter:
Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none save Him, and (that ye show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain to old age with thee, say not “Fie”unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word.
The Holy Quran says that one should be good to his parents. Being good to parents has been kept on par with worshipping Allah. It further says that even when the parents grow old and feeble, and do some injustice to the children, they still have no right to fight with the parents. Beware, never use harsh language with them. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (a.s.) says that if the parents beat a child, he should say to them: May Allah have mercy on you. Arguing or fighting with parents is forbidden. If someone does this and the parents in their ire disown (Aaq) him, then this person is destined for Hell. But the parents too will go to Hell. When a son or a daughter goes to the Hell on the Day of Reckoning, the parents too will be asked to join them in Hell. The children go to Hell because they became Aaq, the parents go to Hell because they created the circumstances which led their child to become Aaq. They committed such acts which led their children to use harsh language or misbehave with them. When his mother misbehaves with his wife, the son retaliates and misbehaves with his mother. When the father is harsh with his son, the son fights with the father in turn, thus rendering himself disowned. The Prophet of Allah (s) has said that accursed are the parents who let their children become Aaq.
I appeal to the parents not to discriminate between their children. They should treat the sons and daughters equally. We see that sometimes an ignorant mother loves her daughter more than the son. Her behaviour even makes it very clear that she likes her daughter more. The first consequence of this attitude is that the love for the mother departs from the heart of the son. This is a major sin. Another sin is that the son starts hating his sister. Remember, if such feelings are created between siblings, it is very difficult to remove them. The more the siblings hate each other, the bigger their sin will be. The parents, too, are a party to the sin.
A father once distributed his assets amongst his children. He gave everything to one child, and deprived the other. As soon as the parents died, differences sprang up between the siblings. This enmity extended to the next generation. Many such examples are before us. This act is tantamount to Qate Rahm (breaking ties of kinship) which is a major sin. Who is at fault in such situations? It is the parents who sow the seeds of dissent amongst their children with their favouritism.
The Holy Quran has described the law of inheritance. The son has to be given one part and the daughter should receive half of what her brother gets. As far as daughters are concerned, they all receive equal inheritance. If someone gives more to one son than to the others, and gives more to one daughter than the others, then he has openly opposed Allah’s Law of Inheritance. Therefore such acts are termed as Kufr or infidelity! If a mother loves her daughter very much, it’s fine - but why does she belittle her son-in-law? If she wants her daughter to live in peace, she should treat her son-in-law with respect and attention when he visits her home! Why does she give more attention and respect to one son-in-law than the other? Why does the father compare one son to the other? Why does he tell one son that the other is better than him? This attitude is worse than killing someone. The spirit of the daughter who has been belittled gets killed. Control your speech. Be careful about your character. Be careful about these small things because these can result in grave consequences. When your sons-in-law visit you, respecting only one of them will be taken to mean that you are disrespecting the others. Sometimes the parents compare the intelligence and proficiency of two of their sons. The parent says: your brother is so intelligent. He studies so hard. You are such a careless person. This upsets and discourages the son who is less intelligent and smart. It is seen that the parents give more dowry to some daughters than the others because their grooms are wealthier. They don’t realise the grave mistake that they have made with this behaviour. Friends! This problem is not because of lack of wealth. This is the result of partiality and favouritism. The mothers should give equal love and affection to all their children. If the mother shows her love for her son’s child, she should show the same affection for her daughter’s child. If a child is prettier than others, he might become the favourite of everyone. In such situations care must be taken that the other less attractive children don’t feel left out. We must ensure that no one gets preference over others at home. If there is favouritism in a home, its foundations become weak. But in the homes where love prevails, everything else becomes secondary. Then there won’t be any differences between the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, or between the husband and wife. In such homes you will not find fights or use of harsh language.
Forgiveness and Forbearance
The topic for discussion today is forbearance and overlooking faults. If the element of love is lacking in any household, forbearance and forgiveness can ameliorate the situation. Forgiveness is a divine word. When a person thinks of forgiving, he feels a radiance around him. Forgiveness is such a sweet and divine word that it is equal to love. The Holy Quran speaks highly of forgiveness and overlooking shortcomings, and divides it into two categories. The first category of forgiveness is that when a person notices a fault or shortcoming, he forgives for the sake of Allah or humanity.
Keep to forgiveness, and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.
The Holy Book exhorts Muslims to adopt the habit of forgiveness and leniency. They should enjoin the inhabitants of their homes to be kind and merciful with others. Therefore, the first stage of this attitude is that when one notices a wrongdoing or fault in anyone, he forgives him.
The second stage is higher than the one mentioned above. The Quran wants us to attain a status where we can see no wrong. A person at this stage perceives no fault in his wife or other members of the family, so there is no question of forgiving them. This is called 'forbearance and forgiveness'.
The Holy Quran expects Muslims and human beings to cultivate the trait of forgiveness. If one notices a defect in anyone, he should forgive the person as if he is not aware of the fault! The Holy Quran asks Muslims: Don’t you want Allah to forgive you on the day of Judgement? Allah pardons those who practice forgiveness and forbearance. He forgives them in this world itself. On the Day of Judgement, Allah will not expose the faults of those who turn a blind eye to the faults of others. You must have heard that some persons will enter the Heaven without giving any account of their deeds. Their attitude of forbearance and forgiveness is the cause of their smooth entry into the Heaven. Some persons will have to account for their deeds, and then they will be forgiven so that they can enter Heaven. But some people will not give an account at all. Thus the Quran states that if you want to be pardoned on the day of Judgement, you too should pardon others in this world. At home, one should be a person who forgives and forgets others’ faults. If you do not want to be questioned about your deeds on the Day of Judgement, then don’t rebuke anyone when you notice his faults and failings. The husband should forgive and forget the wife’s mistakes; the wife should have the same attitude with her husband. In a poem said to be composed by Ameer al Mu'mineen (a.s.), he says that he forgave and pardoned a degraded person who had harmed him. In the closing verses of Sura Furqan, the Holy Quran describes the qualities of a mu’min, and says that pious souls behave in such a way with the evil, ignorant and foolish persons as if they were totally unaware of their faults. When a man enters his house and finds it untidy, the children are not clean, the wife has not bothered to freshen herself, because he is a good man, he overlooks these things. He forgives and turns a blind eye to these things. A husband ill-treats his wife, and behaves irresponsibly but she forgives him and turns a blind eye to his failures. She is patient and bears with him. It is these qualities which have been described at the end of Sura Furqan, but in different words. These verses should be taken to mean that mu'mineen should practice forgiveness, and overlook short comings in others, in the same way they would overlook if their one year old were to slap them in the face. According to the Quran, a mu'min should reach this stage. If he expects Allah to forgive him, and desires to enter Heaven without having to give an account for his deeds, he should have the qualities of forbearance and forgiveness in himself. The verse bears witness to the fact that one who doesn’t forgive, and answers evil with evil, cannot expect Allah to forgive him on the day of Judgement. Thus the second stage is to forget the evil done to him. But the Quran does not stop here. It expects more, especially from the people associated with the pulpit and the prayer niche, and those who are proud to be Shias. This is the third stage of forbearance and forgiveness. The Holy Quran says:
…and they repel evil with good…
This means that when someone wrongs you, you should do good to him. In fact this verse has been repeated in the Holy Quran at several places. When a person tries to harm you, do good to him. The Prophet of Islam (s) has exhorted persons to be (particularly) good to persons who have been bad to them. In Sura Yusuf we have been exhorted to cultivate this trait.
Sura Yusuf is a very interesting Sura. The Holy Quran calls it Ahsan al Qasas or the best of stories. This Sura presents us with a character, which if we adopt, we can become perfect. In Sura Yusuf several subjects have been dealt with. One of these concerns our talk. The Holy Quran says that Zuleikha pestered Yusuf (a.s.) so much that he was forced into imprisonment, for several years. Even when he was released he refused to leave the prison and sent a message to the king asking why had the ladies cut their fingers when they saw him? Why had Zuleikha troubled him so much? Then a committee was constituted and the women were called to depose before it. These women bore witness to the innocence of Yusuf (a.s.). Now Zuleikha too confessed that she was at fault and that Yusuf (a.s.) was among the truthful. She admitted that Yusuf (a.s.) was innocent and that she made false allegations against him. It was only then that Prophet Yusuf (a.s.) came out of the prison. He said that he had made the women confess their guilt only to prove his innocence. He said that he now wished to become the Aziz of Egypt and hold the reins of the government in his hands. This would not have been possible as long as he carried the stain of false accusations on his character. If it were not for this he would have overlooked the evil of Zuleikha and the heartache of having to spend ten years in prison.
The Holy Quran says that Prophet Yusuf’s brothers came and felt ashamed on recognizing their brother. When he found them humiliated, Prophet Yusuf (a.s.) asked them to forget the past and reminded them that Allah was the most Merciful, He would forgive them. It is said that Yusuf (a.s.) even served them dinner and took good care of them. This was despite their very bad treatment meted out to him. They had tried to harm the innocent child and pushed him into a deep well. When Prophet Yusuf (a.s.) was rescued from the well, he was sold as a slave. Remembering their past ill treatment, the brothers could not eat their dinner. Hadhrat Yusuf (a.s.) said, “Don’t feel ashamed! It is because of you that I have reached here. If you had not put me into the well, I too would have come from Kanaan to Egypt in search of a little quantity of wheat like you! Today that I am the Aziz of Egypt - it is only because of you!” This was one aspect of the attitude of Prophet Yusuf (a.s.) with his brothers. The second aspect of the attitude of Yusuf (a.s.), as narrated by the Holy Quran, was manifested when he went to receive his parents. He made his parents sit on a throne with due respect and showed great respect to his brothers as well. The Holy Quran says:
And he said, “Come into Egypt safe, if Allah wills!”
Prophet Yusuf (a.s.) told his brothers that they had honoured him by coming to Egypt and that they were welcome to Egypt to live in peace and comfort. This was Yusuf (a.s)’s second attitude towards his brothers. He overlooked their faults and rewarded their evil with good. The third attitude of Prophet Yusuf (a.s) really manifests his greatness. The excellence of Yusuf (a.s.) manifests from the moment when he made his father ascend the throne. Elaborate arrangements were made to receive his father along with the brothers. A tent was pitched and a throne was placed in it. A retinue went to receive the guests. When his father sat on the throne and relaxed, Hadhrat Yusuf (a.s.) said, “O my revered father! This is the outcome of the dream that I had once seen! See the status we have achieved! The enmity that Satan had created between me and my brothers has enabled me to acquire this status. Hadhrat Yusuf (a.s.) wanted to tell his father not to become angry with his brothers for pushing him into the well. It was not their fault; it was Satan who was to blame. It was Satan who had put his enmity in the hearts of his brothers. It was because of his brothers' doings that he acquired this position. This is the perfect man. Don’t be under the impression that the Quran just wants to narrate a story. No, the Quran is telling the Muslims to emulate the character of Prophet Yusuf (a.s.). You should not stop at forgiving and turning a blind eye to the faults of others. You should go a step further and return good for evil. At several places the Holy Quran uses words which can have more than one meaning. The commentators interpret it differently, while the scholars of ethics and the moralists give it another meaning. For example:
The guerdon of an ill-deed is an ill the like thereof …
The meaning that is generally attributed to this verse is that, for example, when a person cuts the hand of another, the judge orders a hand of the perpetrator cut. The other meaning is that if someone harms you, you harm him. That is: an eye for an eye. In my opinion the youth prefer the first meaning over the second. But I am sure you will like the third interpretation that I am giving here. This interpretation is drawn from the Sura al Qasas that says “if someone wrongs you, do good to him!” The Prophet of Islam (s) stayed in Makka for thirteen long years after the proclamation of Prophethood and bore immense hardships heaped on him by his enemies. This is the reason that in that period about forty to fifty persons accepted Islam. In 8 A.H, the Prophet (s), marched to Makka with a contingent of 12,000 troops, and brought Makka under his control without spilling a drop of blood. The first thing that the Prophet did was to enter the Kaaba, purify it by asking Imam Ali (a.s.) to demolish the 360 idols housed within the Kaaba. Then he came to the door of the Kaaba, which exists even today, and sat near it. The people assembled around him, and Dua-e-Wahdat was recited. Masjid al Haram was full of people. Who were these people? These were the people who used to stone the Prophet (s). These were the people who had injured his forehead. These were the people who had fought nearly 74 small and big battles with the Prophet (s) and his small band of devoted companions. While the Prophet (s) was reciting the Dua-e-Wahdat , these people were shaking like leaves, because they were expecting the Prophet to order Imam Ali (a.s.) to slay them any minute. When the prayer was over, the Prophet (s) turned towards them and asked, “Tell me! How should I deal with you?” Abu Sufian, Hinda and their like spoke out, “O Prophet of Allah! You may punish us the way you wish to! You can kill us and cut us into pieces!” At this juncture the Prophet (s) said, “Let the past remain in the past. I have forgiven all of you! May Allah forgive you too!” When these people declared their faith, the Prophet accepted it although he knew that some people like Abu Sufian and Hinda were incapable of accepting faith. The Prophet (s) knew very well that they had not really accepted the faith, they were only paying lip-service; still he accepted their proclamation. Even before entering Makkaa, the Prophet (s) had gone to the extent of declaring Abu Sufian’s house as the place of security: Anyone taking refuge in Abu Sufian's house would not be touched. Abu Sufian wanted a position, he was a chief of Makka, and hence the Prophet (s) gave him such a position.
We read in history that when the Prophet (s) entered Makka, one of his men went around the city, with a standard in his hand, shouting that this was the day of battle and that they had come to take revenge against the enemies! When the Prophet (s) learnt about this, he was very angry and ordered Hadhrat Ali (a.s.) to go and take away the standard from the hands of the person and proclaim in the streets of Makka that today is the Day of Blessing, today is the Day of Kindness.This was the character of our Prophet (s) and his Holy Descendants (a.s.)!
The Holy Quran wants us to be forbearing. It says that if someone harms us, we should forget it, and strive to do good to him! The Prophet (s) used to say that a good neighbour is not the one who is good to his neighbours – this is the duty of every Muslim. A good neighbour is the one who bears with patience the ill treatment meted out to him by his neighbours! An elderly person was ill. When his neighbour came to visit him, he found the old man lying on a moist floor. Half the walls were also moist. The visitor found that the moisture was seeping into his neighbour’s house from the wall adjoining his own house. The neighbour was much perturbed and told to the old man, “Why didn’t you tell me. I could have made you comfortable and got rid of all this moisture seeping through your walls”. The old man said, “I didn’t inform you because it would have inconvenienced you!” Islam requires people to have such an attitude towards others in their neighbourhoods! It expects the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law to be more affectionate and loving than this, rather Islam expects “Repelling evil with good” from them.
Friends! Please remember that true happiness doesn’t come from wearing good clothes and jewellery! Neither do these things dispel sadness, nor do these create eternal love! It is this verse which dispels sadness and creates happiness. Write this verse and hang it in the house where the husband, the wife and the children can see it. Gradually, they will learn to forgive. Shame on the wife who misbehaves with her husband because he gets angry with her. It is also a matter of shame for the husband who fights with his wife because she misbehaved with him. In the view of the Quran a good wife and a good husband is one who follows “Repelling evil with good!” If someone treats them badly, they repay them with kindness and mercy. If a fight erupts between a husband and wife, they hasten to make peace. The Prophet of Islam (s) told a woman, “If ever there is a fight between you and your husband, it is your duty to make up with him!” The woman asked, “Even if he is cruel and is at fault?” The Prophet (s) replied emphatically, "Yes! You must take the first initiative because you are a woman! A woman has to be the epitome of love for her husband! She should totally shun any ill feelings!” In a nutshell, if there is seventy percent compatibility in our families, we can make it a hundred percent with the adoption of the attitude of forbearance and forgiveness! In the view of the Holy Quran the environment at home should be one of " attaining peace therein". May Allah make our homes the abodes of peace!