There is a historic freshwater spring in Bahrain known as Ain Adhari that has an interesting geographic feature. Due to the regional topography, it is only miles away from the spring that its waters reach a high enough level to irrigate the soil. Consequently, the Adhari Spring leaves its surrounding lands dry and barren while providing water to distant farms. This peculiar aspect of the Adhari Spring has led to an old Bahraini proverb:
عذاري تسقي البعيد وتخلي القريب
“Adhari nourishes that which is far and neglects that which is near.”
As Allah ﷻ says in the Qur’an, “Verily in the heavens and the earth are signs for those who believe.”
A question which every single Muslim man should ask himself is this: “Am I an Ain Adhari?” Am I someone who nourishes and helps those who are far away while neglecting those who are close to me?
Prioritizing your family has always been one of the most important commandments of Islam. Growing up, many of us heard khutbahs about the high status that parents are given in Islam. So high, in fact, that in the Qur’an, Allah ﷻ mentions the rights of the parents immediately after His own rights.
“Your Lord had decreed, that you worship none save Him, and (that you show) kindness to parents.” (Qur’an 17:23)
Some thing you may not have heard in khutbahs, however, is that in other places in the Qur’an, Allah ﷻ mentions the rights of the family immediately after His own rights and the rights of the parents.
“And serve Allah and do not associate anything with Him and be good to the parents and to the near of kin” (Qur’an 4:36)
This ayah is even more striking when you keep reading it.
“And serve Allah and do not associate anything with Him and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy.” (Qur’an 4:36)
Allah ﷻ mentions the rights of orphans and rights of the needy after the rights of the family. Ponder on that for a moment. Even when a person prioritizes career or money over family, they will often acknowledge it is wrong. They will see it as a weakness and shortcoming that they need to fix. More insidious and dangerous, however, is the increasingly common situation where a person neglects their family under the guise of “da’wah” or “Islamic education” or “helping society.” In such a situation, the person may actually feel that they are doing something good by sacrificing family for “Islam” or for the “the needy.” The person may even humblebrag about how their dedication to a social justice cause or to Islamic work is costing them their family life.
Make no mistake, this is no less contemptible than prioritizing career or money or fame over family.
THE EXAMPLE OF THE PROPHET (S.A.W.S.)
A man once came to the Prophet ﷺ and informed him that he had traveled from a distant land to meet the Prophet ﷺ and become a sahabi. He told him, “I left my parents in tears so that I could come and be by your side.” The Prophet ﷺ firmly responded,
ارْجِعْ إِلَيْهِمَا فَأَضْحِكْهُمَا كَمَا أَبْكَيْتَهُمَا
“Go back to them and make them laugh just like you made them cry.”
Even the action of becoming a sahabi and being with the Prophet ﷺ was not something the Prophet ﷺ prioritized over family ties. Let that sink in. If that is not a sufficient justification to neglect family, what good deed can you or I possibly do in the 21st century that justifies neglecting family?
Unfortunately, many people think it is not only justified but commendable to put so much effort into “Islamic” causes that family ties suffer. Part of the reason behind this is sociological. Every action carries a certain amount of societal weight in its community. The Muslim community is no different. If someone memorizes the Qur’an, people are impressed. If someone is able to eloquently deliver a halaqah, people are impressed. If a person spends their free time volunteering at a foodbank, people are impressed. If a person organizes or participates in a rally for a Muslim cause, people are impressed. These actions are seen as noble and good actions.
Of course, all of these are good actions. We can strive and make space for each of them in our lives. But if our goal is emulate the Ideal Muslim Man, the Prophet ﷺ, our priorities must mirror his priorities.
Once, the Prophet ﷺ was leading the sahabah in salah and he was in sujood for a very long time. The sahabah began to wonder what was going on. Eventually, the Prophet ﷺ came out of the sajdah and finished the salah. The sahabah asked, “Ya Rasul Allah. Did something happen to you in that sajdah? Were you receiving revelation from Allah ﷻ?” The Prophet ﷺ smiled and responded, “No, nothing happened. My son (i.e. one of his grandsons) climbed onto my back when I was in sajdah and I did not want to hurry and end his fun.” Even in salah, the Prophet ﷺ showed how important his family was to him.
Aisha (RadhiAllahu Anha) narrates that after praying the two rak’ahs of Fajr salah, the usual habit of the Prophet ﷺ was to look to see if she was asleep. If she was asleep, he would lay down. If she was awake, he would stay up and talk to her. The entire Muslim ummah needed the Prophet ﷺ, but this specific time after Fajr salah, he set aside for his wife. It was her time, either for him ﷺ to lay down next to her or to stay up and talk to her.