Love for one’s Parents as taught in Islam

A Talk presented at our Family Day (6 August 2006)

by Bushra Ahmed

The Light (UK), September 2006 Issue (p. 5)

Note by the Editor: This talk was presented at our Family Day gathering in Darus Salaam, London, on 6th August [2006], by one of our young, enthusiastic members in the presence of Hazrat Ameer Prof. Dr. Abdul Karim Saeed.

Who is it that looks after you through thick and thin? Who are they who spend their days working hard to bring in food to fill your stomach and then spending their nights worrying about you?

My parents are certainly devoted to me. I have a lot to be grateful for. Through my personal experience there is no one in life who will love you more than your beloved parents.

It is repeatedly stated in the Quran that we can discover God through His many signs. To me, one of the signs is that even after the severity of birth pain that a mother has to endure, she can still feel bliss at the birth of her child and selfless love all throughout its life. Therefore, it is no wonder that it is said in the Hadith:

“Heaven lies beneath the feet of the mother.”

There is a special bonding emotionally as well as physically between mother and child that is symbolised through the placenta which is attached to both mother and child while the infant is in its enclosure. It is such a unique relationship that throughout one’s life no other relationship will fall in its category partly due to the unconditional love a mother establishes and also the sacrifices she makes.

It is related in a famous anecdote: A boy was asked by his mother to bring her a cup of water in the middle of the night. As he returned, she had fallen asleep. He stayed up by her bedside till she was awake. There is another story where he held a loose door open for her all night because she needed fresh air. This is an ideal type of behaviour.

We know perhaps that we cannot live up to such expectation. But the reason why examples are used where someone acts in the extreme is so that we all strive to reach this potential that we all have inside us. After all he was human, therefore we all have the capacity to be just as good, if only we work towards it.

It is stated in the Hadith that a man asked the Holy Prophet [Muhammad (pbuh)], to whom in this world he should give the utmost respect? The Prophet replied:

“Your mother.”

He asked:

“Who next?”

The Prophet said again:

“Your mother.”

When asked the same question yet again, the Prophet still said:

“Your mother.”

When asked a fourth and final time, then the Prophet replied:

“Your father.”

This means that although the father is the breadwinner and, in most cases, older than the others in the household, the highest respect in the eyes of children, family and God goes to the mother.

Also, respect is given to an aunt. Someone approached the Prophet and told him that during his mother’s lifetime he had not shown her respect unfortunately, so how should he make up for it? The Prophet asked:

“Has your mother a sister?”

When the man replied in the affirmative, he said:

“Go and show her all your respect!”

Let us see what the Quran has to say about this:

وَ قَضٰی رَبُّکَ اَلَّا تَعۡبُدُوۡۤا اِلَّاۤ اِیَّاہُ وَ بِالۡوَالِدَیۡنِ اِحۡسَانًا ؕ اِمَّا یَبۡلُغَنَّ عِنۡدَکَ الۡکِبَرَ اَحَدُہُمَاۤ اَوۡ کِلٰہُمَا فَلَا تَقُلۡ لَّہُمَاۤ اُفٍّ وَّ لَا تَنۡہَرۡہُمَا وَ قُلۡ لَّہُمَا قَوۡلًا کَرِیۡمًا ﴿۲۳﴾

“And your Lord has decreed that you serve none but Him, and do good to parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say no word of frustration to them, nor rebuke them, and speak to them a generous word.” (The Holy Quran, 17:23)

This refers to the general attitude and behaviour of children of whatever age towards their parents, especially the part referring to parents reaching old age. There are various ways of worshipping Allah. Kindness to parents is an individual act of piety. A point to note is that acts of worship can be individual or collective.

However, it is written in one passage:

وَ وَصَّیۡنَا الۡاِنۡسَانَ بِوَالِدَیۡہِ حُسۡنًا ؕ وَ اِنۡ جَاہَدٰکَ لِتُشۡرِکَ بِیۡ مَا لَیۡسَ لَکَ بِہٖ عِلۡمٌ فَلَا تُطِعۡہُمَا ؕ اِلَیَّ مَرۡجِعُکُمۡ فَاُنَبِّئُکُمۡ بِمَا کُنۡتُمۡ تَعۡمَلُوۡنَ ﴿۸﴾

“And We have enjoined on man goodness to his parents. But if they strive to make you ascribe partners to Me, of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. To Me is your return, so I will inform you of what you did.” (The Holy Quran, 29:8)

The underlying principle here is that God is above all. Obedience is to be shown only to a limit where it does not override God’s injunctions. This means authority can be rejected if it is in stark contradiction to God’s commands.

So, take heed. However, nagging, annoying and irritating your parents may seem, they have been placed on this earth for your benefit. So, grit your teeth, control your anger, and strive to learn the art of patience. We cannot all be ideal human beings as prophets and imams before us, for they have been made that way, we have to work at it. But I believe we can all reach that potential with some effort in the right direction. Show obedience and kindness to your parents, but beware, not over and above God.