Family

Over the past 2 years, I have really come to understand what I believe to be the most important pillar of a functioning society:

A large, harmonious, loving family.

In the western world, we grow up and often have the urge to move out of our parents’ home as soon as possible. I think it is a natural and healthy urge.

It reminds me of the story of Abraham (Genesis 12:1) where God says, “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s household for the land I will show you.

It is something I did as soon as I graduated from high school, and it led me to Australia, on the other side of the planet. An urge that brought me to Tenerife, also thousands of kilometers away from my family. And I also believe that it is this natural urge that motivates us to travel the world.

My life so far is a mirror of the story of the prodigal son told by Jesus in the book of Luke (Luke 15:11), where a son leaves his father’s house, squanders his inheritance in a distant land, and then decides to return home. Upon his return, he is warmly welcomed by his father.

It is only by leaving our own country, our own family, that we can see our own country and our own family with much-needed clarity. It allows us to appreciate — and it allows us to criticize, to return and to improve.

Distance brings that much-needed clarity. Clarity to honor your family and your homeland. Clarity to truly understand one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12): “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you”.

Attending my best friend’s wedding and being generously hosted by his family introduced me to the concept of Silat Al-Rahm, an Islamic practice of maintaining strong family ties — similar to, but even deeper than, this commandment. My friend also left his native Uzbekistan to study and live in Germany, only to return to his family. Despite all the opportunities he could have had in Germany, he moved back. And when I visited him, I could feel how his noble personality really blossomed when he connected with his relatives, met them, and helped them.

Silat Al-Rahm includes actions such as greeting, socializing, caring for relatives, providing financial and personal help, and upholding their honor.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “Whoever wants to have more income (Rizq) and to leave a better legacy (or a better life), he must connect with his Rahm.

Hinduism also views family life as a sacred activity and an important environment for passing on dharma (karma) from one generation to the next.

As recently as two years ago, I felt that I needed some distance from my family to protect myself and especially my children from generational trauma and beliefs.

But I learned that by seeking distance from our family, we create an even greater distance within ourselves. We cannot heal generational trauma by running away from it. No matter how great the physical distance, we are always connected to our family on a metaphysical level.

We are one.

There is an inherent unity, a deep connection between all beings – especially to our family.

This unity and interconnectedness is found in many spiritual and philosophical traditions: the Buddhist teachings of interdependence, the Hindu concept of Brahman, the Christian idea that all believers are united in Christ, and the Islamic concept of Tawhid: the indivisible unity of God.

In the face of deep – possibly generational– trauma or intense conflict within the family, love and unity for one’s family may seem impossibly difficult.

Gaining some distance – as in the story of Abraham or Luke – gives us the ability to uplift ourselves, to gain the much-needed clarity and strength to return to and unite with our family.

A story found in both the Bible and the Quran is that of Joseph or Yusuf. Joseph’s/Yusuf’s brothers sell him into slavery out of jealousy. He later rises to a position of power and is able to forgive his brothers and provide for them during a famine, demonstrating the power of forgiveness and reconciliation within families.

The Tao concept of Wu Wei (non-action) can help to forgive and achieve family reconciliation. We leave behind the big list of how our family “should be” and accept them as they are.

By practicing loving kindness to everyone around us, we will eventually find ourselves in a paradise of unconditional love.

We are all one.


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