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Treatment of Parents - Islamic Teachings

Shiraz Ahmad - Madras, India
The Review of Religions, August 1995

Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:

The Lord has decreed that you worship none save Him alone, and behave beneficently towards parents. If either or both of them should attain old age while you are alive, say not `ugh' to them, nor chide them, and speak kindly to them. Lower to them the wing of humility out of tenderness and pray: Lord have mercy upon them as they brought me up when I was little. (17:25)
These verses are most significant on this subject. After the unity of God, human beings should, through their attitude of love, affection, and kindness, give priority over all other things to their parents who have reached an old and difficult age.

Further, the verses speak of the situations when the behaviour of one or both of the parents becomes extremely trying and sometimes offensive. In response to that, not even a mild expression of disgust or disapproval should pass one's lips. On the contrary they should be treated with profound respect.

Importance of Parents

(a) Hadhrat Abu Umamah narrated that once a man asked the Holy Prophet (saw) about the rights of parents upon their children. He replied that: `The parents are the Heaven or Hell for their children.'

(b) Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Amr narrates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said: `The pleasure of Allah lies in the pleasure of father and displeasure of Allah lies in the displeasure of father.'

(c) Once a person came to Holy Prophet (saw) and sought his advice about taking part in Jihad with him. The Holy Prophet (saw) asked him whether his mother was alive? He answered `yes'. The Holy Prophet (saw) then told him `Go back home and server her as Heaven was under her feet'.

(d) Hadhrat Abu Hurairah narrates: The Holy Prophet (saw) cursed the person three times whose old parents (both or one) were alive and he still did not earn Heaven (by serving them).

Rewards for Serving Parents

Holy Prophet (saw) once told a very interesting anecdote to his companions about three persons. According to him, the three persons were once traveling when heavy rains began to fall. They took shelter in a cave. Incidently, a big stone came hurtling down and blocked the opening of the cave. All the three travellers lost the hope of their survival. One of them told the rest not to lose hope and pray to Almighty Allah, by describing the most virtuous deed of their lives, for enabling them to get out of the cave.

One of them addressing Almighty Allah, submitted that he had old parents and several small children. When he would come back home after grazing the goats he would first offer the milk to his old parents and then to his children. Once when he came home quite late, his parents were asleep. He milked the goats as usual and taking the cup of milk went to his old parents, but did not disturb their sleep. The whole night he stood near his parents (to give them milk whenever they get up). He prayed to Allah to enable them to come out of the cave. Allah was pleased with the act of this man and the stone moved a little. Similarly, after the other two related their tales, the stone was fully moved and they were able to come out of the cave.

Nice Behaviour with Parents

  1. Once Hadhrat Abdullah-Bin-Masood asked the Holy Prophet (saw) to tell him the deed liked by Almighty Allah. The Holy Prophet (saw) replied. `To offer prayers in time.' He asked him to tell the second best. He was told `to behave nicely with parents'.

  2. Conduct of Hadhrat Abu Hurairah with his mother: Once Marwan appointed Hadhrat Abu Hurairah to officiate him for some days in his absence. At that time he was in ZUL Hulaifah and his mother was living in another house at some distance from him. Whenever Abu Hurairah went out he would first come to the house of his mother and say `My dear mother peace be upon you and may Allah be merciful to you.' The mother would reply, `My dear son, peace be upon you too and may Allah be kind and merciful to you.' He would say, `May Allah be kind to you as you have been kind to me in my childhood.' She would reply, `My dear son, may Allah be kind to you as you are kind to me now in my old age.'

Respect for Father

Once Hadhrat Abu Hurairah came across two persons. He asked one of them about the other. The person replied that the other one was his father. Then Hadhrat Abu Hurairah strictly advised the son never call his father by name and neither to walk ahead of him nor to take seat before the he takes the seat first in a gathering.

Behaviour with Father

Once a man complained to the Holy Prophet (saw) about his father who took his belongings whenever he liked. The Messenger of Allah called for his father, who was a very old man, and asked him the details of the matter. The father said, `O, Messenger of Allah, a time was when my son was weak and helpless and bare handed while I had strength and wealth. I never hesitated to give him my belongings whenever he needed them. Today I am weak and bare handed while he is rich and now he keeps his belongings from me.' Hearing this, tears came to the eyes of the Holy Prophet (saw) and he said to the son: `You and your belongings belong to your father. You and your belongings belong to your father.'

Behaviour with Mother

  1. Hadhrat Abu Hurairah relates that once a person came to the Holy Prophet (saw) and asked, `O Holy Messenger of Allah who is the most deserving person to get nice treatment from me?' He replied, `Your mother.' He asked, `Who next?' To this, he got the same reply. When he repeated this question for the fourth time, he was told by the Holy Prophet (saw), `Your father.'

  2. Compensation for mother: Once Hadhrat Abdulla-Bin Umar saw a Yemenite doing Tawaf of Holy Ka'aba with his mother on his back. Seeing Hadhrat Abdullah he asked that had he not compensated for the rights of his mother? Hadhrat Abdullah replied that it was not the compensation even for a single birth pang of his mother.

  3. A person came to the Holy Prophet (saw) and complained that his mother was ill-tempered. The Holy Prophet (saw) of Allah said, `She was not ill-tempered when she kept you in her womb for nine months.' The person insisted, `Sir, I am telling you the truth that she is ill-tempered.' The Holy Prophet (saw) said, `She was not ill-tempered when she used to keep awake the whole night for your sake and fed you.' The man replied, `I have recompensated all the favours of my mother.' The Holy Prophet (saw) then asked: `How have you recompensated her?' He replied, `I have helped her perform Hajj by putting her on my shoulders.' After hearing this, the Holy Prophet (saw) put a question to the complainant, `Can you recompensate the painful pangs your mother bore at the time of your birth?'

Treatment of Non-Muslim Parents

Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, says her mother (who was a non-Muslim) came to her. Asma came to the Holy Prophet (saw) to ask her whether she should do her some kindness. The Holy Prophet (saw) replied, `Yes, show kindness to your mother.' Then this following verse of the Qur'an was revealed:
Allah forbids you not respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you out from your homes, that you be kind to them and deal equitably with them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable. (60:9)

Abusing the Parents

The Holy Prophet (saw) said: It is a grievous sin for a person to abuse his parents. Someone asked: Would a person ever abuse his parents? Yes, said the Holy Prophet (saw). If a person abuses another's father, his own father will be abused in return and if he abuses the other's mother the same abuse will be returned.

Disobedience to Parents

  1. Hadhrat Bakr narrates that once the Holy Prophet (saw) asked that should he not warn them against three major sins? All of them said. `Certainly, O Prophet!' He then said. `To ascribe partners with Allah, to disobey parents'; getting up as he was reclining, he said `to tell a lie or to give false evidence'. He went on repeating his words for such a long time that we wished him to be silent.

  2. Hazrat Abu Bakr narrates that Holy Prophet (saw) said, `Allah postpones the punishment for one's sins till the day of judgement, if He so desires. But He awards the punishment for disobeying the parents during this life, before his death.'

    Sauban narrates that the Holy Prophet (saw) said:

    There are three sins which nullify all other virtues:
    1. Ascribing partners with Allah
    2. Disobedience to parents
    3. And fleeing from Jihad
  3. Once, when the Holy Prophet (saw) was talking to his companions, a man came and addressed him: `O, Messenger of Allah! A young man is breathing his last. People are asking him recite Kalima but he is unable to do so.' The Holy Prophet (saw) asked, `Did this man offer prayers?' and the man said `Yes'. Then he accompanied the man to the house of the dying young man along with others present at that time. The man was at the end of his life journey. The Messenger of Allah advised him to offer Kalima. The man replied that he was unable to do so as the words would not come out of his mouth. The Holy Prophet (saw) then called for the mother of the dying man whom he had disobeyed persistently. When his aged mother came, the Holy Prophet (saw) asked `Respected lady is he your son?' She replied `Yes'. He then put her a question, `O Respected lady, if we threaten to throw your son in a raging fire, will you recommend him to be forgiven?' The lady replied that she would definitely do so at that time. The Holy Prophet (saw) then said to her, `If so, declare, making Allah and me your witness that you are now pleased with him.' The old woman readily declared, `O Allah, you and your messenger be my witness that I am pleased with this beloved son of mine.'

    Just after that the Holy Prophet (saw) turned to the dying man and asked him to recite `Kalima'. By the virtue of the forgiveness of his mother he found the words flowing out of his mouth and he recited the Kalima. Seeing this the Holy Prophet (saw) praised Almighty Allah saying `Thanks to Almighty Allah that He saved this man from the fearful fire of Hell through me.'

Respect for Wives' Parents/Friends' Parents

The Prophet's own parent and grandparents had died while he was still a child. The parents of some of his wives were, however, alive and he always treated them with great consideration and respect. The occasion of the surrender of Mecca when the Holy Prophet (saw) entered the town as a victorious General, Abu Bakr brought his father (Ayesha's grandfather) to meet him. Holy Prophet (saw) said to Abu Bakr: `Why did you trouble your father to come to me? I would gladly have gone to him myself.'

Incident about the Promised Messiah

The Promised Messiah instilled in his children great respect for their mother, recalling the saying of Holy Prophet (saw) that `paradise lay under the feet of mothers'. Once when his wife and her (wife's) mother had a disagreement and were both in tears, he took his wife and led her in front of her mother where she bowed her head, her mother immediately raised her daughter's head and embraced her. All annoyance was gone.

Debts of Parents after their Death

Hadhrat Abdullah bin Zubair never neglected the rights of his parents even after they were dead. Hadhrat Zubair was a very rich man. Usually as soon as any rich father dies his children start clamouring for their shares from the belongings of the deceased. But Hazrat Abdullah was not at all worried. He could have been well anxious to get his share which amounted to millions. But his only anxiety was about the debt, of his father which he wanted to repay without any exception.

Consequently, he first cleared the debts of his father from the left property. Immediately the other legal heirs started scolding him for getting their shares from the property of the deceased. But Hadhrat Abdullah strictly told them to wait for four years. During these years, he said, he will announce on the occasion of Hajj to the people to come and collect their debts, if any is due upon his departed father till not a single debt remains unpaid. Only after that he would distribute the property.

Other Duties of Children after the Death of Parents

A man asked the Holy Prophet (saw): `Do I owe a duty to my parents after their death?' The Holy Prophet (saw) said: `indeed yes, in four respects:
  1. that you should pray for Allah's forgiveness for them and call down His blessings upon them,
  2. that you should carry out whatever they undertook to do,
  3. that you should honour their friends,
  4. that you should strengthen the ties of kinship with those who are related to you through them. This is what you owe them after their death.'

Two incidents

  1. Once Hadhrat Abu Darda fell critically ill. Knowing this, Hadhrat Yousuf-bin-Abdullah came to enquire about his health, travelling a long distance--Hadhrat Abu Darda was surprised to see him there and asked, `How did you come here?' Hadhrat Yousuf replied `Sir, I came here only to enquire about your health, for my respected father had most friendly relations with you.'

  2. Hadhrat Abdullah-bin-Umar once met a bedouin (an Arab desert tribe person) on his way to Mecca. The bedouin looked minutely at him and asked whether he was the son of Hadhrat Umar. Hadhrat Abdullah replied `yes' and gave his turban to the bedouin and made him sit respectfully on his donkey. According to Hadhrat Ibn Dinar who was one of the co-travellers, all of us were surprised to see it. They asked Hadhrat Abdullah the reason for giving so much respect to a bedouin. Hazrat Abdullah replied that he bedouin's father was a friend of Hazrat Umar and then quoted the Holy Prophet (saw) `Maintain the friendship of your father and do not let it be finished otherwise Almighty Allah will put off the light (noor) for you' and `The greatest virtue is to favour the son of one's father after gaining power to do so'.

Charity of Behalf of Dead Parents

Narrated Aisha: A man said to the Prophet. `My mother died suddenly and I thought if she had lived she would have given alms. So, if I give alms now on her behalf will she get the reward?' The Prophet (saw) replied, `yes'.

Praise by Children for Their Dead Parents

Hadhrat Abu Hurairah narrates that the Prophet (saw) said that when a person died, his period of activity was over. But there were three things which remain benefiting him even after his death.
  1. Lasting act of welfare.
  2. His knowledge beneficial to people.
  3. His/Her righteous children who pray to Allah for his/her deliverance and forgiveness.



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