What are our duties toward our close relatives and siblings?

Details of the Question
Will you explain the rights of my father-in-law and mother-in-law on me and tell me how I should treat them?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Doing favors to relatives, taking care of their rights, helping them materially and spiritually on any occasion, asking about their health and meeting their needs through various means, empathizing with them and trying to solve their problems are among important religious duties. It is frequently and insistently reminded in both the Quran and hadiths that a person should treat his relatives, especially his parents, well and not to offend them.

Hz. Abu Burda narrates:

When I returned to Madinah, Abdullah Ibn Umar came to visit me. He said, "Do you know why I came to you?" I said,"No." Thereupon, he said, "I heard from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). He said,

"If a person likes to visit his father who passed away, he should visit his father's friends who are living."

My father, Umar, and your father were very close friends. Therefore, I wanted to visit you."1

Along with the father, the same rights are valid for the mother too. After the mother, the maternal aunt is in the second place. Doing a favor to the maternal aunt is regarded as doing a favor to the mother. By the way, we want to mention an incident that took place in the Era of Bliss:

According to what Ibn Umar narrates, somebody cane to the Prophet (pbuh) and said,  

"O Messenger of Allah! I committed a major sin. How should I repent so that my sin will be forgiven?"The Messenger of Allah asked, "Is your mother alive?" The man said,"No." He asked again,"Is your maternal aunt alive?" The man said, "O Messenger of Allah! Yes." Thereupon, the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Go and do her a favor (good deed)."2

As it is stated in the verse "those things that are good remove those that are evil", it is advised in the hadith that one should do a good deed in order to have his sin forgiven.

Another issue mentioned in the hadith is that the maternal aunt is regarded as the mother and is spiritually regarded to have replaced her. For, the closest relative of a woman apart from her father and mother is her sister. Thus, due to this kinship, a favor done to the maternal aunt is regarded as a favor done to the mother.  

As for the siblings, the closest relative of a person after his parents is his sibling. They have many common aspects like coming from the same parents, growing up in the same house and sharing the same feelings at most times, unlike the other relatives. Besides, a person is linked to his parents and siblings emotionally. Therefore, a person protects his siblings with compassion and loves them if they are younger; he shows them respect and does them favors if they are older.

A person whose father dies sees his older brother as his father; a person whose mother dies sees his older sister as his mother. The Prophet (pbuh) mentions the rights of older siblings concisely in the following hadith:

"The rights of older siblings on younger ones are like the rights of the father on his children."3

Therefore, a person needs to accept his older siblings as his father and mother and act accordingly. It is an Islamic duty to listen to their advice that is not contrary to the religion , take care of their rights, help them when they are in need, visit them and show respect to them like his mother and father. It is a humane and Islamic duty to show the same love and compassion to younger siblings. It is an important duty for a person to take care of them and do his best to bring them up well.

It is an abominable act to cut off relationships with one's siblings by using some worldly issues as an excuse, to alienate and to prefer to keep away from them. If they have some faults regarding belief and some deficiencies in terms of Islamic lifestyle, it is our duty to try to compensate them and to make them warm toward Islam and the truth. The advice of God Almighty to the Prophet (pbuh) is clear:

"And admonish thy nearest kinsmen."4.

Is this divine advice not valid for all of us?


1. at-Targhib wat-Tarhib, III/323.
2. ibid, III/337.
3. Ihya, II/219 (reported from Ibn Hibban)
4. ash-Shuara, 26/214.

(Mehmed PAKSU, Kadın, Evlilik ve Aile)

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