What is the decree on keeping away from people and breaking relations with one’s family?

The Details of the Question

- What is the decree on keeping away from people altogether and breaking relations with one’s family and relatives completely?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Keeping away from people can be permissible if it is based on a justifiable reason. For example, it is understandable not to be too close to some people whose religious or worldly harm is certain. As a matter of fact, throughout the history of Islam, some people have lived in seclusion for their religion.

It is not appropriate to stay away from people, family/relatives if there is no serious reason. In Islam, it is essential to serve Islam and people instead of “living in seclusion”.

“The best people are those who are useful to other people.” (Faydul-Qadir, 3/480)

The hadith above advises us to have close relationships with people, family and relatives.

In addition, there should be many lessons to be learned from the following hadith:

“A believer who mixes with people and shows patience in the face of their harm is better than a believer who does not mix with people and does not show patience in the face of their harm.” (Bukhari, Adabul-Mufrad, 388) 

It is possible to consider the hadith above for all aspects of life and society.

In particular, it is not preferable for a person to keep away from people, family and relatives just for his own relaxation and to satisfy his feelings.

Breaking off relationships with one’s family / relatives is different. In Islam, ties of kinship are a very important duty, a source of thawab; severing ties with them involves a great responsibility.

There are definitely degrees of family members and relatives. For example, we cannot cut off our relationships with our parents. Maternal and paternal aunts and uncles are also regarded as parents. Siblings are like that too. There are important lessons to be learned from the following hadith:

“Establish good relations with those who sever ties with you, and respond to those who deprive you (of your wishes and desires) by giving (fulfilling their wishes and desires). Do not take revenge on those who wrong you; forgive them.” (Majmauz-Zawaid, 8/188)

We should not forget that it is not permissible for a believer to keep apart from a believer for more than three days. (see Abu Dawud, Adab 47) If that believer is from one’s family and relatives, it is worse.

However, there is no harm in remaining distant - without breaking off relations - from people whose harm is certain - especially related to religious and ethical issues - and it is something that can be preferred. The people with whom we have close relations are among the good or bad factors related to religious and ethical issues.

Some hadiths regarding the issue are as follows:  

“Allah will not show mercy to a person who does not show mercy to people.” (Bukhari, Adab 18, Tawhid 2; Muslim, Fadail 66)

“A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He does not cheat him, lie to him, nor deceive him. All of the Muslim is unlawful to another Muslim: His honor, his wealth, and his blood. Taqwa is here. It is enough as evil for a person to despise his Muslim brother.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 18)

“Do not argue with your believing brother; do not make jokes that will not please him; and do not make any promises that you will not keep.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 58)

“A person who does not act softly is regarded to have been deprived of all goodness.” (Muslim, Birr, 74-76)

“Nice word is charity (sadaqah).” (Bukhari, Adab 34, Jihad 128, Muslim, Zakah 56)

“Do not be like those who say, ‘If everyone does good, we will do good too; if everyone does injustice, we will also do injustice’ but prepare yourselves to do good to those who do you good and not to do injustice to those who wrong you.” (Tirmidhi, Birr, 63)

“A Muslim is a person from whose hand and tongue Muslims are safe. A muhajir is a person who abandons what Allah has forbidden.” (Bukhari, Iman 4, 5, Riqaq 26; Muslim, Iman 64-65)

“A person who cuts off his relations with his relatives will not enter Paradise.” (Bukhari, Adab, 11; Muslim, Birr, 18)

“The strong one is not the one who shows his strength in wrestling, but the one who controls himself when he is angry.” (Bukhari, Adab, 76)

“A person who believes in Allah and the Last Day should not harm his neighbor. A person who believes in Allah and the Last Day should entertain his guest. A person who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either say good things or remain silent.” (Bukhari, Adab, 31, 85; Muslim, Iman, 74, 75)

“The one who helps the widows and the poor is like the one who fights in the way of Allah or who fasts during the day and spends the night in prayer.” (Bukhari, Nafaqat, 1; Muslim, Zuhd, 41)

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