HUMAN life is all about relationships. The moment a child is born in the world he is connected to different types of relationships. He is connected to his mother, father and other immediate family members.
There exist many types of relationships. Our relationships with our parents and other family members are based on ties of blood. We have biological connections with them. Nobody can alter their status nor be selective in this matter. One has to accept these relationships as they are, without question.
However, there are other types of relationships where everyone is free to create and connect. This includes relationships with work colleagues, community members, friends, neighbours and other individuals. Society thus becomes a web of relationships. The more closely we are connected to these relationships, the happier and more satisfied we feel in life.
Some relationships act like a magnet attracting people to them, thus creating a more united, peaceful and cohesive society. Hence no society exists without relationships which, in fact, facilitate society. Nurturing, maintaining and strengthening relationships leads to peace as people become mutually supportive.
Relationships are much like the weather.
These relationships are important as far as the worldly life is concerned. Albeit in the Hereafter, regarding the Day of Judgement the Quran says “That Day shall a man flee from his brother. And from his mother and his father. And from his wife and his children” (80:34-37).
For this material life, the Quran is very emphatic about maintaining all relationships. It says “…And do not forget Liberality between yourselves. For Allah sees well all that ye do,” (2:237). At another place it says “So give what is due to kindred. …” (30:38). Therefore, it is incumbent upon every believer to accord full respect and dignity to all these relationships.
However, constantly maintaining cordiality and warmth in these relationships is an uphill task because at times, they are volatile in nature. Like no rose is without a thorn, similarly no relationship exists without a challenge. Some major challenges in maintaining relationships come from the very fact that every person has a different source of income, a different lifestyle, a different level of understanding. Each person thinks according to his own perspective and weighs relationships keeping in view his own interest.
Sometimes an opulent lifestyle plays a detrimental role in deciding the nature of these relationships as it has also been observed that affluent families often turn a blind eye to those relatives who do not match their ‘standard’.
Besides, many people enter into relationships with self-centred motives to get worldly benefits. Usually, all near and distant relatives come closer to one who gets some attractive political position, wealth, power and influence in society; it is like flies attracted to some sweet matter, while in difficult phases of life all kith and kin can become strangers.
The only way a relationship lasts is if one observes a selfless approach. One has to be upright with an attitude to forget and forgive to keep relations warm and lasting. In the absence of such an attitude, relationships suffer from uncertainties. These may not stand the test of time but remain asymmetrical, incongruent and transient.
There are some other factors that can result in a relationship cooling. For instance, people move from one place to other, they change their residence, profession and also interests. As time goes by, relations with old friends and relatives lose warmth, while new friends are made. For example, after Partition, thousands of people were divided. They maintained contacts with some of their friends and relatives in the ‘old country’, but as time went by their relationships became weaker.
The stresses of modern life have also affected relationships more than anything else. It has made people too busy and self-centred. The traditional joint family system has been replaced by the nuclear family. This has made many senior members of society lonely and their relationships with their near and dear ones have also come under pressure.
In short, relationships do not remain static. They are much like the weather. Sometimes they are bright, at other times they are dull. Similarly, in relationships there may be periods of warmth, but these can be punctuated by the shadow of mutual distrust. Thus, there are times when one witnesses fluctuations in relationships with others. Perhaps these are necessary for dynamism in life. Otherwise, life would be a plateau and we would be living like robots.
Moreover, relationships are neither permanent nor of sufficient interest to keep a person happy all through life. One must have something else to turn to. This need may express itself in the form of art, scientific studies or mysticism but more often it takes the form of a search for a higher purpose in life.
The writer is an educationist with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020