All religions of the world have laid great emphasis on the rights of parents and the duties of children towards them. According to Islamic teachings, to be obedient and to show kindness to parents has been enjoined in the Holy Quran in such a manner as to say that among the noble deeds, to obey parents, treat them respectfully and to show kindness to them is next to worshipping Almighty Allah.
The Holy Quran says, “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor.” – (17:23).
According to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the parents of a certain person are his Heaven or Hell. What this means is that if a person obeys his parents, attends to their needs and keeps them happy and comfortable, he will attain Paradise. On the other hand, if he is disrespectful and rude to them, offends them by ignoring their needs and feelings or causes them grief in any manner, his place shall be in Hell. In modern times, a trend has arisen whereby when parents come to be seen as a liability because of old age and physical weakness. They are then sent to ‘old people’s homes’.
But the stricture ordained by Islam makes it clear that shrugging off the responsibility of old parents serves as an invitation to Hell. Both the father and mother are equal when it comes to caring for them and providing them all possible physical comforts and mental peace. The time that the parents need to be looked after most, is in their old age. To serve them devotedly at that stage of their lives is the best way of pleasing Almighty Allah. It is also one of the easiest ways of attaining Paradise. Abu Hurairah, a companion of the holy Prophet, has said that “a person is indeed disgraced, who does not earn Paradise by caring for his parents during the life time and old age of his/her parents”.
A person once asked the holy Prophet, “Who has the greatest claim on me with regard to service and kind treatment?” The Holy Prophet replied, “Your mother and again your mother and once again your mother. After her is the claim of your father, then that of your near relatives, and then of the relations next to them”. This shows that the claim of a mother is greater than a father over the care that you endow upon them in their old age. Serving and obeying parents is a matter of give and take. Those who treat and obey their parents can rest assured that their children will also show kindness and compassion to them. Respecting and caring the parents is a virtue of the highest order that continues to transcend generation after generation.
Asma bint Abu Bakr relates that her mother had come from Makkah to Madinah to meet her. Her mother was not a Muslim and followed pagan tribal customs and beliefs. Asma enquired from the holy Prophet how she was supposed to treat her. The holy Prophet told her to be kind and considerate and to behave towards her as was a mother’s due from a daughter. Obeying one’s parents and treating them with respect and affection is a great virtue and it serves as repentance for a person’s sins. Similarly, to ask Almighty Allah to have mercy on them after death is an act that brings them comfort in their graves. It is the duty of sons and daughters to pray for the forgiveness of their parents after their death and treat their relatives and friends with due respect. In the Holy Quran, Muslims have been urged to pray for the salvation of their parents as shown in the following verse: “And say, My Lord, Have mercy on both of them as they cared for me when I was little”.
The holy Prophet has said that to abuse one’s parents is a major sin. So much so that if a person abuses someone else’s parents and that person, in retaliation, abuses his parents, then it is as though he himself has abused his parents. On another occasion, when asked about the major sins, the holy Prophet replied, “To associate someone with Almighty God, to disobey parents, to kill unlawfully, and to give false evidence”.
In the light of the Holy Quran and holy Prophet’s sayings, one can understand that the respect for parents occupies a special place in the moral and social teachings of Islam.
Allah Knows Best