Saturday, December 3, 2011

Travelling Sisterhood

I gave my girls a clear warning before leaving them with my mother for our hajj pilgrimage. 

"Don't let me hear, 'They fought the whole time!' first thing when I get back," I told them. (Thankfully, they weren't able to catch " my poor mom had to," which I mumbled under my breath.)

Being close in age and tight in space while growing up, we four sisters certainly had more than our fair share of fights, I regret to admit.  It didn't take much to light a spark: a sweater borrowed without even asking!, whose turn it was to vacuum, who first called "Sitting in the middle!" of the backseat of the Oldsmobile station wagon. All such points were incendiary in our household. 

Sibling rivalry is, unfortunately, a fact of life in most homes, even when parents mete out just treatment. God acknowledges this in the examples of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Prophet Adam, as well as in the "most beautiful of stories" of Prophet Joseph, who was thrown into a well by his older brothers and then sold into slavery. 

"[Joseph said]...'after Satan had sown discord between me and my brothers.'" [Quran 12: 100]

If left unchecked, this rivalry can eventually tear a family of grown adults apart, especially once inheritance (of position, power, or wealth) comes into play. How many siblings have sworn one another off over claims to their parents' property, even if it's only a shack out in Timbuktu!?

Scholars say the root of such conflict is an unhealthy attachment and love for this world. It can manifest itself in seven ways:

1. lust for women/men
2. coveting this world
3. love for position
4. love for comfort
5. love to be superior
6. love of speech
7. love of wealth

To avoid such situations, we must constantly keep God and our eventual return to Him top of mind.

Prophet Muhammad (S) showed us how God reigns supreme through the way he treated his foster siblings. When his sister came to visit, the Prophet (S) exhibited much happiness, rolling out a rug and asking her to sit and converse with him. He did not, however, go as far when his brother stopped by.

The Prophet (S) explained that his sister deserved more love and regard because she was more dutiful to her parents (in obedience to God).

One of the most beautiful examples of unconditional love for a sibling purely for the sake of God was the example of Zainab with her older brother Hussain, both children of Fatima (one of the four perfect women of all times).

"Zainab's life was directly connected with the life of Imam Hussain," says scholar Abbas Ayleya. "This has been witnessed since day one of her birth."

As a baby, when she couldn't be consoled by her mother, Zainab would quiet down while held in the arms of big brother Hussain. A few years later when their mother died, it was Zainab who took on the role of a mother to her brothers and father, as did Fatima to Prophet (S) years ago.

Having witnessed many injustices throughout her life, Zainab stuck with Hussain through thick and thin, jumping at the opportunity to assist him on his mission to oppose a tyrannical regime.

Here's how she petitioned her husband to let her go:

"My mother did not leave me behind to watch from afar as recreation the day when my brother is all alone, surrounded by enemies with no friend or supporter. You know that for fifty-five years my brother and I have never been separated." 

In Kerbala, anguished Zainab watched with pride as her sons, nephews and brother fought valiantly to save Islam until the bitter end, demonstrating that though she loved Hussain dearly, her love for God was far greater. 


xavier said...

Asalaam alaikum,

In thinking of our siblings, especially as we get older and see our nephews and nieces, there comes a great regret within ourselves that springs one thought: "I wish we had never fought so much for the sake of mom."

How may times has your mother told you as a young child and still reminds you till this day by saying, "All I ask is for you all to get along and love each other"? And how many times did we break our mothers heart when he didn't listen to her. How many families have been destroyed because of childhood envy that rose in a heart to destroy the bonds of brother/sisterhood? Far too many, as we all know. Show me a family that doesn't suffer from sibling rivalry and it's probably because it's an only child family.

Cain and Abel would be the antithesis of all time in examining the worst of jealousy and envy among children of the same mother. Completely angry that his paltry sacrifice (he chose his worst food) paled in comparison to his brother's noble offering (best animal) to God, Cain slew his brother. Feeling guilty and scared, Cain did not know what to do about his brother's body. So what did God do?

The Merciful Lord sent down two crows. One killed the other. The one that was alive then buried the dead one. No one had ever died before, so this is how Cain learned to bury his brother, Abel. This is the mercy of God. That even when we do something atrocious, He is there for us, even when it's against our own blood.

It's very telling then, that the animals who murdered Imam Hussain (as) trampled his body and didn't allow him a funeral. Their sin was so great, that God didn't help them and instead, let it be known for all time of their horrible crime.

Think about that when someone ever pretends that the murderers of Hussain (as) and his brave 72, are not guilty of a heinous act against God and His most Noble Prophet.

And also remember, that it's never too late to approach your brother and sister and make amends. God will help you, but He will lay your sins bare if you behave with indignity to your brother/sister in faith or humanity if you carry envy and hate towards them.

Imagine having to deal with that on the Day of Judgement.

xavier said...

Qur'an Sura Al-Ma'ida:

30. The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones.
31. Then Allah sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. "Woe is me!" said he; "Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?" then he became full of regrets.
32. On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

Salina Khan said...

Thank you, Xavier, for all your great reminders, especially to try to "bury the hatchet" when it comes to siblings and grievances. Siblings are a beautiful thing!

xavier said...


Actually, this English interpretation below of the ayats better explains the issue.

But recite unto them with truth the tale of the two sons of Adam, how they offered each a sacrifice, and it was accepted from the one of them and it was not accepted from the other. (The one) said: I will surely kill thee. (The other) answered: Allah accepteth only from those who ward off (evil).

Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee, lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

Lo! I would rather thou shouldst bear the punishment of the sin against me and thine own sin and become one of the owners of the fire. That is the reward of evil-doers.

But (the other's) mind imposed on him the killing of his brother, so he slew him and became one of the losers.

Then Allah sent a raven scratching up the ground, to show him how to hide his brother's naked corpse. He said: Woe unto me! Am I not able to be as this raven and so hide my brother's naked corpse? And he became repentant.

Salina Khan said...

I have also read that after Abel's murder, Adam and Eve prayed to God for another obedient son like Abel and were blessed by a boy they named Seth. Seth went on to be a great Prophet. This makes me wonder if Cain's list of jealousies included Abel's future leadership position...?

Farah said...

beautifully written as always! I am grateful that even with all the verbal and physical fights, my brothers and I came out still caring for each other with no feelings of envy or jealousies. Alhamdulillah, that in itself is a great blessing from Allah (swt)


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