Many families are multi-religious, thus, some Muslims have parents and relatives who are not Muslims. Many are unsure about the Islamic injunctions about relating with their non-Muslim parents and family members.

How should Muslims relate to their parents and relatives who belong to other faiths?

Both the Qur’an and hadith mention the obligations of being considerate and loyal to the ties of kinship, irrespective of the religious background of one’s family members. Allah states in the Qur’an: “Be mindful of your duty to Allah in whose name you appeal to one another, and of your obligations in respect of ties of kinship” (Qur’an 4:2). This message is emphasized by the Prophet (p) in the following narration: “Anas related that the Prophet (p) said, ‘He who desires that his provision be expanded and that his days be lengthened should join ties of kinship’.”[1]

This duty is sustained despite prevailing tensions between family members. Abdullah ibn Amr, for instance, relates that the Prophet (p) said, “One who reciprocates in doing good is not the one who upholds the ties of kinship. It is the one who upholds them when the other party severs them.[2]

It was narrated by Asma bint Abu Bakr that, “My mother came to me during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (p) and she was a polytheist. I said to Allah’s Apostle (seeking his verdict), “My mother has come to me and she desires to receive a reward from me, shall I keep good relations with her?” The Prophet (p) said, “Yes, keep good relations with her.” Another version of this tradition states that Asmā’ said, “‘my mother has come to see me and she is hoping for something from me. Should I gratify her?’ He said, ‘Yes, be benevolent towards your mother.’”[3]

Similarly, Abu Dharr relates that the Prophet (p) said, “You will soon conquer the land of Egypt. Then treat its people kindly, for there are ties of treaty and kinship with them.”[4] 

When Qur’an 26:214 (“And admonish your nearest kinsmen”) was revealed, Abu Hurairah relates that the Prophet (p) summoned the Quraysh and said to them, “O Bani Abd Shams, O Bani Ka’ab ibn Lu’ayy, safeguard yourselves against the Fire; O Bani Murrah ibn Ka’ab, safeguard yourselves against the Fire; O Bani Abd Manaf, safeguard yourselves against the Fire, O Bani Hashim, safeguard yourselves against the Fire; O Bani Abdul Muttalib, safeguard yourselves against the Fire; O Fatimah, safeguard thyself against the Fire, for I can avail you nothing against Allah. I have ties of kinship with you, and these I shall continue to honour.”[5]

[1] Bukhari and Muslim, cited in Imam an-Nawawi, Riyadh us-Saliheen, no.321, under the section “On Benevolence towards Parents and Strengthening the Ties of Kinship.” Transl. from Arabic by Muhammad Zafrulla Khan,  Curzon Press, London, 1974, p.74

[2] Al-Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari, hadith no. 5991; Abu Dawud, Sunan Abi Dawud, hadith no. 1699.

[3] Al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, hadith nos. 2620, 5979 & 2477; Muslim, Sahih Muslim, hadith no. 2372; Al-Tabarani, al-Mu’jam al-Kabir, vol.24, p.78; Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad al-Imam Ahmad, edited, Shu’aib al-Arnaut and others, 2nd Ed. Mu’ssasah al-Risalah, 1999, hadith no 26915; Abu Bakr Abd  al-Razzaq bn Hammam al-San’ani, Musannaf Abd al-Razzaq, edited, Habib al-Rahman al-A’zami, 2nd Ed., Al-Maktab al-Islami, Beirut, 1403 AH, hadith no. 9932

[4] Muslim, Sahih Muslim, hadith no. 6658

[5] Sahih Muslim, hadith no.522; Musnad Imam Ahmad, hadith no.8402; Al-Adab al-Mufrad, hadith no.48; Sunan al-Tirmidhi, hadith no.3185; Sunan al-Nasai, hadith no.3684.

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