Non-Muslim Relatives: Their Rights Concerning Us
In the West Muslims have to live side by side with adherents of other religious beliefs or even atheists. This is the reality of mixed society. And it has nothing bad about it. Tolerance has been prescribed by Allah to us Muslims and hence there is no issue about being immersed into cultures with strange ways and customs. There is at all times some form of ‘distancing’ that lets us ‘keep the balance’ and maintain our own world in the correct shape.
The difficulty may arise when your family members are non-Muslim. This situation may come up in a number of cases: conversion of either family member to a different religion, in the case of Western societies, conversion of a Christian to Islam, or, more rarely, an interreligious marriage.
All these cases present no problem in terms of the legal issues. Thank be to Allah, the political correctness exercised in Western societies enables institutional freedom for the people of mixed religious background to feel at ease in their daily lives.
However, when it comes to people’s relationships, things may get tougher.
Our Non-Muslim relatives may be either ignorant in quite good faith of what it means to be a Muslim and thus failing to be mindful of our needs and customs, or belligerent towards our religion and thus rather forceful in their wish to ‘reform us back’. This may be a source of discord in the family and as such a thing much displeasing to Allah. What should be done in this case?
For a woman, say, who wants a family gathering to be merry and enjoyable and yet avoid snubs at the fact that she is wearing a Hijab. Should she take off the Hijab or partake of non-Halal food? Not at all. The need to maintain peace in the family and good relations with all your relatives may not supersede the matters of faith. Therefore, this task may become an additional challenge, a test to the Muslim to show maximum leniency and gentleness in steering his or her relatives away from their bias or anger.
The important thing in this process is to have peace and confidence in your own heart and firmness in your own soul. Our Non-Muslim relatives have claims on us only so far as it does not concern our faith. Succumbing in matters of faith is a sin. However, being strong in the profession and demonstration of faith doesn’t mean one has to wage a war. By gentleness and love anything can be overcome.
“He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (30:21).
There is the wisest of paths offered by Allah in this quest for ‘peaceful co-existence’. Each party shall hold to its own beliefs and respect them. There doesn’t have to be any affront. All there has to be is parity. And it will lead you to the required balance and make your life happy. “Say, ‘O disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship. Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship. Nor will you be
worshippers of what I worship. For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.’ “ (109:1-6)