Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: My mother is a sayyed but she married my father who is not a sayed. As a result the majority of my mother’s family do not associate with us at all, they don’t even say salam to us even now, over 30 years later. Do they have a right to do this? Are we considered sayyed’s too? Is it better to be a sayyed (in the sight of Allah) or to be a practicing believer?
Answer: Walaikum assalam WarahmatAllah Wabarakatu,
1. The ascription of lineage to the family of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) is established paternally.
2. Despite this, the scholars mention that there is nobility and honor, though not lineage or the rank of being “sayyids”, even for those with maternal links to the family of the Chosen One (Allah bless him & give him peace).
3. This is an honor, but true honor lies in fulfilling the primary purpose of our creation: worshipping Allah as true servants, out of deep faith and true love.
4. The actions of your relatives are wrong. A Muslim, however, seeks to solve problems and improve things wherever he or she may be. “The one deals with others as they deal with him is not the one who maintains family ties. Rather, the one who maintains family ties is he who maintains ties when others cut them [with him].” [Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and others]
Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said,
“Whoever’s actions slow him down will not be speeded up by his lineage.” [Muslim 4867, Tirmidhi 1853, Abu Dawud 1243]
Imam Nawawi explained in his commentary on Sahih Muslim,
“This means that whoever’s actions are deficient will not attain unto the ranks of those of good works. Therefore, one should not merely rely on noble lineage and the virtuous forefathers while having shortcomings in one’s works.”
Mulla Ali al-Qari explained in his Mirqat al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih, as quoted by Allama Mubarakpuri in his Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi bi Sharh Jami` al-Tirmidhi,
“That is, his shortcomings [in performing good deeds] are not fixed by being of noble lineage among his people, for closeness to Allah is not through lineage but, rather, through good works. Allah Most High said, “Verily, the noblest of you to Allah are the most god-fearing.”
“A proof of this is that most of the scholars of the early generations (salaf) and later generations (khalaf) were not of lineages that are boasted about. Rather, a lot of the scholars of the early generations were freed slaves (mawali), and despite this there were leaders (sadaat) of our Ummah and founts of mercy. And those of high lineage who were not like this in this ignorance are long forgotten and ignored. This is why the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Verily, Allah raises peoples with this religion and abases others.”