We got a kitten at my mom in law’s place a couple of days back. The first day, he was a bit anxious and timid. Two days later it seems that he has accommodated well. The playful self that kitten are. He has swept everyone off their feet and has been the center of attention ever since.
Last night, however, he went missing. I was amazed to see how anxious and depressed everyone became. Every member of the house was searching at every possible niche one could think of. Precisely why I dislike having pets. Not because of the responsibilities they bring but because they die too early. Ten to fifteen years down the line, they grow old and then they’re gone. And if they don’t die in front of your eyes, they just vanish one day- either abandoning you or perhaps falling prey to some bigger animal whilst on their regular stroll.
Pet lovers might not relate to my opinion. I know, the joy they bring might seem more. But I guess your childhood frames a major portion of how you think. When I was eight, dad brought home a mongoose. Apparently, its mother had died in the 1999 cyclone in Bay of Bengal coast. I don’t remember, how long we looked after it but the heart was attached. There are still so many moments with it I remember very well. We never kept it chained. It had free access to our lawn and so one day it went out and never came back. I remember how emphatically I searched for it. I still remember the moment when I last saw it.
Next came home an injured Jungle Babbler. Had fallen on dad’s factory window sill after being struck by something. When it came home, it was already pretty weak. We looked after it for some days. Feeding it grain by grain. Dripping water into its mouth with an ink dropper (90s kids will know). Five to seven days later, I found him dead. I remember screaming and calling my mom to find its head dangling down while I seemed perfectly perched on the bar.
A fish was what we adopted next. We got it from a local fisher-monger. Amongst his heap of dead fishes, this one was still breathing. Allah had destined a longer life for it. It stayed in our water tub for a couple of weeks until dad decided to free it in a pond nearby. And so we did. Perhaps as a kid, I was expecting a Free Willy come back. But that ungrateful fish dived in the pond and cut through the waters without even looking back. The first time I realized, not everyone loves you back equally.
This was too much pain for my eight year old heart. That’s when I decided I will never adopt any pet. Fast forward eight years, a dog gave birth to three pups in my garden and abandoned them.Much as I scorned at the idea of having pets again, I had to raise them lest they would die. One fine day when I was coming back from my school, one of the pups rushed towards me from across the road on seeing me. Half way through, a speeding car came from nowhere and rammed it. I froze as I watched it flung into the air and lying half dead on the further end of the road. It died in a few hours. Two days later, the second pup was found dead in his kennel. Didn’t survive the winters. The third just left after that.
As I write about this I wonder, how Allah fills our hearts with love for these beings. How we keep giving them without any hopes of returns from them. Yet, how less affection humans show to their own families. In my last post I spoke about goodness. When I think of this term, I realize how subjective it is. There were times when I have wanted to do things that I felt were right, yet many disproved saying those were ‘not the right things’. Who set these standards in the first place? Does good and bad (in personal choices like religion, clothing, spouse or food) really need social sanction even if it costs a lifetime of mental agony?
For me, I found solace in the good and bad set by my Lord. Goodness in Islam begins at home. Much like the very popular phrase of “charity begins at home”. In this rush of a chaotic life that can be proudly flaunted on social media, Islam gave me the true essence of life. Not only to read, but to inculcate in life. The society is moving towards a lifestyle where parents are being taken out of homes and children made to love things. Weekend time with parents is deemed to be something mention worthy! A lifestyle that is very youth centric but ignores the needs of children and the old. What is the need of these two classes? Time, love and affection- in ample!
The best man is he who is the best to his wife. The person worthy of your best behavior is your mother and thrice more worthy than your father! The amount you spend on your family is considered greater than charity. Loving your wife is quoted as Ibadah. Even putting a morsel in her mouth is rewarded by Allah. Looking after your children and raising them with the goal to contribute to the society beneficially is tagged Ibadah (worship). The right to first learn religion from you is of your family. Every shepherd is responsible for his flock and a man is the shepherd for his family, a woman of her home and children.
Men are advised live with their wives with kindness. They’re advised to overlook her flaws and focus on her goodness. Women are a trust from Allah to men, thus Allah tells men to fear Him with respect to women. They’re their protectors and maintainers.  Thus, they are required to look after the needs of their womenfolk.
Women, on the other hand, are called the twin halves of men. Allah says that it is He who fills the hearts of spouses with love and mercy so that they may dwell in tranquility. Yes, the word is not happy, together, or forever; the word is “tranquility”- an absolute sense of bliss. They are advised to be thankful for the hard-work their spouses puts in for providing the family. She is expected to be helpful to him in his faith. That includes, being his adviser in enjoining good and forbidding evil.
And a woman is shouldered with the biggest responsibility- to carefully raise the next generation of ummah! And how demeaned is this task. Considered to be so fickle that now nourishing a child’s mind, soul and heart is completely compromised for everything else that the society sanctions.
These are not just texts. These are instructions to integrate into your life and I see families thriving on it. Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasallam) was the perfect example of being kind and loving to his family. I remember a hadith where a man mentioned to the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam) that he has ten children but has never kissed them. Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam), who was holding and planting a kiss on his grandson, told him that whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy. 
I have seen closely knit families laughing for hours each day, sharing conversations about each ones lives, advising on how to move closer to Allah and never running out of words to express concern for each other. So I know it is possible. It is the parents who lay the foundations of a family. They get to decide right from the time they marry what the family framework will be. And most choose the path opposite to the straight and easy path given in Islam. How will then blessings and barakah (increase in goodness) come?
Ever thought why the fabric of family is disintegrating? It is because we are not providing the rights our families have upon us. Rights that Allah, Our Maker, placed for them. Then we remorse when we do not get our rights from them. We crave to earn fame and acknowledgement in the society but behind closed doors live strangers.
Perhaps that’s why we love pets- they never rebel no matter how much we ignore them. They always come back affectionately. We do not see the side effects of family negligence in them. No wonder, the moment parents see their adult kids wanting to live a life that does not fit their social strata, pop comes the famous Bollywood statement, “tum mere liye marr chuki ho.” . (you are dead for me). How easy an solution for dealing with differences of opinion but how grave the consequences of breaking family bonds. Bonds that we never valued in the first place.
The cat, to everyone’s much relief, was found selfishly sleeping in a inaccessible corner of the storage area. I, after settling to the idea of it being gone (inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon), clenched my jaws at the idea of going through it all over again.
1. Ibn Majah, 1977
2. Muslim, 2548
3. Muslim, 994
4. Bukhari, 6352
5. Qur’an, 4:19
6. Muslim, 1218
7. Qur’an 4:34
8. Abu Dawud, 236
9. Ibn Majah, 1856
10. Bukhari, 426/10
11. Qur’an 26:214
12. Bukhari, 7138