20 Muharram 1441

Rights of the Parents in Islam

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Jan 28th, 2015
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Today’s topic is about the status of parents in Islam. As we know that for everything, Allah azza wa jal has placed a cause, and the parents are the cause of an individual’s existence in this life. Hence, when we look at how we came into this world, we will find that our parents were the reason for that. This is why Allah azza wa jal made it essential and important for each one of us to take care of our parents, to obey them and to respect them to the extent that Allah azza wa jal has made this associated with Tawheed. As we know, Tawheed is the most important thing in a person’s religion; it is the essence of our religion.

Now, Allah azza wa jal says in the Qur’an, “Your Lord has decreed not to worship other than Him and to be good to your parents.” This shows us how important being good to our parents is. In the Sahih, Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “I asked the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, ‘Which deed is the most beloved to Allah azza wa jal?’ The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, ‘To pray on time.’ Then I asked, ‘then what?’ The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, ‘Birr Al-Walidain.’” This word, Al-Birr, is a very generic word that includes, under it, obeying the parents, respecting them, being kind to them, cheering them up, and doing all that you can to be kind to them. Then Ibn Mas’ud said, “Then what, O Prophet of Allah?” The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “Jihad in the Cause of Allah azza wa jal.” Therefore, being kind to your parents is far greater and more important to Allah azza wa jal than Jihad in His Cause.

There is a huge difference between the culture of a Muslim and of a Non-Muslim. In the West, we see how people treat their parents. Not all of them of course but, speaking generally, they mistreat their parents. Once an individual hits the age of puberty, he becomes independent. He becomes rebellious. He no longer listens to instructions or obeys, let alone respects, his parents. That is why, many of them move out of their parents’ houses. There is no respect, there is no obedience and if the parents grow old, he throws them in a special place where people pay the management to take care of the elderly, the places that they call as caring homes or whatever they call them. Now, this is totally a different case in the Muslim world and in parts of the Asian Non-Muslim world as well. Among the Muslims, the individual is considered a winner if he gets the honor of hosting his father or his mother or both of them. He would boast about it among his siblings because it is indeed a cause and a reason for boasting and being proud. The father or the mother, once they reach the age of retirement and they become old and weary, once they have many offspring and grandchildren, they become like a king and a queen. They move from one house to the other and their children treat them as royalty, not because of any other reason but the fact that Islam instructs us to do this.

Islam has declared certain rights for the parents and has instructed us to fulfill these rights. These rights make the son a captive and indebted to them, while they are alive and even after they die. To the extent that the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “Jannah would not be admitted to, would not be entered by someone who is disrespectful, disobedient and unkind to his parents.

People, based on how they treat their parents, are divided’ into three types. The first type includes those who are kind, obedient to their parents and do all what they can to make them happy and to fulfill their rights. These types of people are rewarded by Allah azza wa jal. The second type includes those who are not so kind and those who do not go out of their way to please their parents but at the same time, they do not do any harmful things to them, they obey them and they are not abusive to them. They do exactly what they are told to do, without any plusses or minuses. This type is sinful. This type will be punished on the Day of Judgement for not going the extra mile in seeking the pleasure of their parents and expressing their kindness to them. The third type includes those who combine between not being kind, not going out of their way to please them and being abusive, being disobedient, being disrespectful, always breaking their hearts and always making them depressed. This type is a goner, a loser. These people have committed one of the major sins in Islam.

Abu Bakrah Ath-Thaqafi, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “Should I not tell you about the most major sins of all?” and he salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “Associating others with Allah and being disrespectful and disobedient to your parents.” Imagine; it is the second in rank after associating others with Allah. This shows you the importance of obeying your parents, even regardless of their religion and this is something about which many Muslims and reverts are in error. They think, “Only if my parents are Muslims, I should be respectful and obedient to them, I should be kind to them and should be cheering them up all the time.” This is wrong. Even if your parents were Non-Muslims, you should do all these things. Not only that, if your parents are going out of their way to make you retreat from and go back on Islam, you should not obey them in this aspect but you still have to be kind and respectful to them.

Now, people may ask, “How can someone offer his parents Birr; how can he offer them kindness and obedience and respect?” Well, by default, being kind to them is something that comes naturally. This is a natural thing and because it is a natural thing, you can find this even in animals. Hence, this is possible even in animals; even they are kind to their parents. That is why it is a major sin to go against your nature. Whenever nature dictates that you do something and you go against it, you become sinful. Your nature tells you to be kind to your parents and if you are not, you are sinful. There is a Hadith of the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam in which he said that there are three people whom Allah will never look at or speak to or purify and they will be tormented greatly on the Day of Judgement:

1. A lying king: Nature states that a king has all the power in the world and he does not need anybody. He intimidates people with his army and his forces. Hence, nobody can go against him. Why would he lie? This is against nature.

2. An arrogant peasant: An arrogant and poor beggar, nature states that when you are in need you would accept anything that you are given. When a peasant, when a beggar is arrogant and you give him something and he asks, “What is this? This is not even sufficient to buy a pack of cigarette.” This is arrogance. This calls for a huge torment on the Day of Judgement.

3. An Old man who fornicates and commits adultery: Old men do not have the desire that young men do. “

If you go against nature, you start picking up Viagra or something or whatever and you try your level best to do something when there is no call for it, there is no desire for it, then this calls for the torment on the Day of Judgement.

How can we be obedient, respectful and kind to our parents? If you always try to recall the great reward that Allah will give you when you do that, everything will become easy and Allah azza wa jal will support you. You have to be kind to them. You have to remember that one of the greatest means and reasons for which Allah will admit you to Jannah, to Paradise and to erase your sins is to be kind to your parents. Once you remember this, it will become easy for you to seek their pleasure and tolerate whatever shortcomings they may have, just to gain this great reward. Among that is to speak softly with them. Imagine that speaking softly with your parents erases your sins! A man came to Abdullah ibn Umar {May Allah be pleased with him and his father} and he was terrified. He started to tell ibn Umar about his sins that he thought were major sins. The man was terrified about these sins and was afraid of entering the Hellfire. Ibn Umar asked him, “Are your parents alive?” The man said, “Only my mother, she is with me.” Ibn Umar asked the boy, “Do you fear the Fire, and would you love to enter Jannah?” The man said, “Yes, indeed, I do.” Ibn Umar said, “By Allah, if you speak to her softly, and you feed her food, you will enter Jannah, as long as you avoid major sins.” Allah azza wa Jall has forbidden us from expressing our anger even by simply saying ‘Uff’, which is not even a word. Allah says, “Do not say ‘Uff’ to them nor chide them, and say kind things to them with respect.” If this sigh that comes out of your chest when you are frustrated is forbidden for you to say, then what is the ruling on those who shout at their parents, or abuse them, or swear at them, or even beat them? There is no doubt that such acts would erase all of your good deeds. May Allah have mercy on us all!

Urwah ibn Az-Zubair, one of the great Taba’een {May Allah be pleased with his parents, and may He have mercy on him} said, “If your parents make you angry, do not look at them with that look of anger, because the first thing that announces a person’s anger is the way he looks at those who angered him.” He also said, “By Allah, whoever looks his father in the eyes, does not respect him, nor is he kind to him.” Muhammad ibn Sireen used to speak so softly when he was in the presence of his mother, to the extent that those who did not know him thought that he was ill. Of course, he used to do this out of respect. Among the Salaf was one who used not to eat with his mother from the same plate, fearing that his hand would reach out to a morsel that his mother had looked at and desired without him knowing. Abu Hurairah {May Allah be pleased with him} saw two men. He addressed the younger of them, “Who is this man to you?” The younger one said, “This is my father.” Abu Hurairah said to him, “If this is your father, do not call him by his bare name. Do not walk in front of him, and never sit before him.” [Meaning that he {the father} should sit first {before the son} and the latter should walk before the former as a sign of respect.] These are all rights of the parents, which we have greatly neglected. The father has great roles to play in the society and he has great rights over individuals. The Prophet Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said to one of the Companions, “The father is the middle gate of Paradise. So preserve that gate or lose it, it is up to you.” If you do not respect and obey your father, you are in great danger. The Prophet Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam told us that Allah definitely answers the supplication of a number of people, and that one of them is the supplication of a father against his son. This intimidates a believer, and he is always afraid of doing something that would anger his father to the extent that he supplicates against him and Allah answers him!

Though the father has great rights over an individual, by far the mother has greater rights. A man once came to the Prophet Salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, asking him, “Who among all people is more worthy of my companionship, my good companionship?” The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said for the third time, “Your mother.” The man then asked, “Then who?” At this, the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said, “Your father.” Therefore, the mother has 75% of our good companionship while the father has 25% of it. Allah says in the Quran, “And we have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bares him with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship. And the bearing of him and the weaning of him is thirty months.” Therefore, the mother suffers a lot, by conceiving him, by giving birth to him, by breastfeeding him and taking care of him. It was reported’ if I recall correctly, that a man came to Abdullah Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him and his father, and he said, “I have my mother with me. I wash her, I feed her, and I take care of her totally, as she is unable to do these things. Do you think I have compensated her and fulfilled my duties to her?” Ibn Abbas said, “No.” the man asked, “Why? What she had done to me when I was young, I am doing the exact same thing to her now.” Ibn Abbas said, “Yes, you are doing what you are doing hoping that she dies soon. But she did what she had done in the past hoping that you grow up to live and become a man.” There is a great difference between our intentions and our parent’s intentions.

Al Bukhari in al Adab al Mufrad reported that Ibn Umar, may Allah be pleased with him and his father, saw a man during the season of Hajj. The man was carrying his mother on his shoulders, going round the Ka’bah in Tawaf, and chanting, “I am her camel, I am her ride, and whenever other people’s camels or rides are threatened and frightened, I am not.” This means that he is protecting his mother. Then the man addressed Ibn Umar, “O Ibn Umar! Do you think I have compensated my mother? Do you think that I have fulfilled her rights over me?” Ibn Umar said, “By Allah, you did not. Not even by one of the cramps or the contractions that a woman gets while in labour!”

The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam was addressed by a man who wanted to go for Jihad with him. The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam asked, “Do you have a mother?” The man said, “Yes.” The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam told him, “Go back and be kind and obedient and respectful to her.” The man asked again, “O Prophet of Allah, allow me to go for Jihad.” The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam asked him about his mother and then repeated his instruction. Then the third time, the man is adamant, he wants to go for Jihad. The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said to him, “Be close to her feet, as Paradise is there.” This means stick with your mother, obey her, serve her, and be kind to her, because this would take you to Jannah. The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam did not take him with him. This is the ‘Birr’ that we are supposed to offer our parents. Not limited to a particular day, it is a 24/7 process, unlike what they do worldwide. They designate a day in the year and they call it ‘Mother’s Day.’ Then they buy their mothers a gift and this is as far as it gets. The rest of the year, it would be kind if they give them a call twice or three times a year not knowing anything what happens. So many parents die and get rotten in their bedrooms for days and no one notices until their neighbours find the smell and the children do not know about them. So many of them die and for months, the kids do not know that they had died, because they never contact them. In Islam, it is not like this. Allah has instructed and ordered us to be kind to our parents, even if they are evil, even if they are abusive, even if they say bad things about us or about Islam. We must be kind, respectful, and tolerant because this is what Allah azza wa jal has ordered us to do.

Being kind to your parents far exceeds than just saying good things to them in their life. It goes on even after their death. A man once came to the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam and he said, “My parents are dead, is there anything else that I can do so that I can be considered as being respectful and obedient to them?” Sometimes when our parents are alive, we may misbehave or be disrespectful. We may get so involved and indulged in life that we forget to give them a call, to sit with them, to see them and check whether they are happy or not. This negligence may continue until they pass away. Now, one finds an awful feeling of regret burning his heart, “I missed a gate of Jannah and now the gate is closed!” Hence, the man is asking, “O Prophet of Allah, what can I do? I have a problem.” The Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam answered the man by saying, “Yes, you can do something after their death. You can pray for them, seek forgiveness for them, execute their will, honor their friends and connect to your kinship, which you do not have except through your father and mother. This is what remains over you from their Birr after they die.” Therefore, it does not end when they die. It keeps on going because the gratitude one holds for his parents can never end, until our souls depart from our bodies.

Ibn Umar, {May Allah be pleased with him} once met a man while going from Madinah to Makkah, so he was travelling. When he saw this Bedouin, this nomad, Ibn Umar dismounted from his mule or donkey, greeted the man and spoke with him for a while. Then Abdullah ibn Umar gave the nomad the donkey that he was riding, the turban that he was wearing and was kind to him. Ibn Umar’s companions said, “May Allah forgive you. These are nomads. They are poor. They do not have anything. Had you given him something little (like some money or something little), that would have been more than sufficient for him. Why give him your ride and your turban, which costs so much?” Ibn Umar said, “This man’s father was a friend of Umar ibn Al-Khattab, my father.” From this, we understand that Ibn Umar did not know the man, this nomad. He said that ‘his father was a friend of my father’ and continued, “And I heard the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam say, ‘It is among the best of Birr (i.e. it is among the best of being kind, respectful and obedient to your parents) to connect to those who were friends with your father after he dies.’” This explains Ibn Umar’s generosity and kindness. This explains why he gave that nomad so much. It is because he wanted to be kind, obedient and respectful to Umar, who had died, and Allah would grant him the greatest reward for this.

We could go on and on with this because the Prophetic tradition is filled with beautiful examples about the status of the parents in Islam. However, if we manage to benefit from this lecture, from these words, from this advice by implementing what we have learnt, that would be great. If we manage to immediately go and look for our parents, kiss their feet, give them their due respect and obedience, this would in sha Allah benefit us. Call them every day and, if we can, see them every single day, check up on them, sit with them for an hour or two, cheer them up, bring good news to them, if we can do this by learning from this lecture, this would make the day and would benefit us in this life and in the Hereafter. Moreover, Allah azza wa jal knows best.

The quotations from the Qur’an and Hadiths in this article are a rough translation of the meanings of the original text!

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