Every religion and culture agrees about treating the parents respectfully. However the approach of Quran is unique. Whenever Allah (SWT) reminds the people about His obedience and worship, it is usually followed by the guidance about the obedience and respect for the parents, For example in Luqman # 14
Give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination.
We should not forget that just as the rights of Allah (SWT) are obligatory, the rights of people are also important. But among the people, the rights of parents are the foremost. Al-Ahqaf # 15-18
And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship. And she brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of him is thirty months, till when he attains full strength and reaches forty years, he says: “My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your Favour which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may do good deeds, such as please You, and make my offspring good. Truly, I have turned to You in repentance, and truly, I am one of the Muslims (submitting to Your Will).” They are those from whom We shall accept the best of their deeds and overlook their evil deeds. (They shall be) among the dwellers of Paradise – a promise of truth, which they have been promised. But he who says to his parents: “Fie upon you both! Do you hold out the promise to me that I shall be raised up (again) when generations before me have passed away (without rising)?” While they (father and mother) invoke Allah for help (and rebuke their son): “Woe to you! Believe! Verily, the Promise of Allah is true.” But he says: “This is nothing but the tales of the ancient.” They are those against whom the Word (of torment) is justified among the previous generations of jinn and mankind that have passed away. Verily, they are ever the losers.
Allah (SWT) has ordered and has insisted upon the people to treat the parents with dignity and respect. Among the parents, the mother has more rights than the father for the reason mentioned in above verses. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said :
“Serve your mother, then your mother, then your mother, then your father, then nearer relatives then those who came after them as relatives.”
Allah (SWT) has indeed given this status of high dignity and respect to every mother for several reasons.
1. She experiences extreme hardship in bearing and in giving birth to the child.
2. She provides pre birth and post birth nourishment to the child.
3. Mostly the woman brings her child up and serves the need of the child day and night.
4. She teaches and trains the child. The psychologists say that the education and training during the first few years of a child’s life is the determining factor in making his future personality. True all great men have great mothers.
Above all, this respect for a mother is mandatory because Allah (SWT) has ordered us so. Unfortunately many mothers misuse this privilege and honor accorded to her by Allah (SWT). Many mothers take partial or total control of the children and they prefer to follow the dictates of their mother. It makes the father somewhat ineffective. So much so that such mothers pitch the children against the father in various family matters and the family structure is somewhat weakened and at times it collapses. These mothers forget the other instructions of Allah (SWT) in the same Quran. An-Nisa # 34.
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allah and to their husbands), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allah orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband’s property). As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.
Allah (SWT) has given more instructions in the Quran about the family life than any other matter since the stability of the family life is the most important thing in the eyes of Allah (SWT). This unislamic behavior of some mothers and their harassment towards their husband is very destructive. It decreases the reward of such mothers with Allah (SWT) for the various services they have rendered to the family. Some mothers realize their mistake in the later part of their lives when they are caught up in the problems originated by them. It is too late to mend the damage since the destruction is done. The children whom they love are the biggest losers.
In fact any mischievous plot or a practice against the teachings of Quran and Hadith fires back on the maker of such plot. Fatir # 43
But the evil plot encompasses only him who makes it.
I am sure many would agree with the above analysis but it requires great courage and consciousness of Allah (SWT) to avoid this self created destruction of family life and the Muslim society.
Very detailed instructions are given for our duty to our parents in Al-Isra # 23-25
And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.” Your Lord knows best what is in your inner-selves. If you are righteous, then, verily, He is Ever Most Forgiving to those who turn unto Him again and again in obedience, and in repentance.
Again in these verses Allah (SWT) has instructed the respect of parents along with His order to worship Him alone. Hence respect for the parents is incumbent upon a person. There are several traditions to further educate us about it.
One time a person asked Prophet Mohammad (SAS), “What action, on part of a person, Allah (SWT) loves the most?” Prophet said, “To pray at its appointed time, “The person asked, “What action Allah (SWT) loves next in this order?” Prophet (SAS) said, “To treat your parents nicely.”
Abdullah bin Omer (RU) narrated that one person requested Prophet Mohammad (SAS) to allow him to join the jihad. Mohammad (SAS) asked him, “Are your parents alive?” He said, “Yes, indeed.” Mohammad (SAS) said, “Serving your parents is the jihad for you.” (Bukhari)
Quran is instructing and insisting on showing the maximum possible respect for the parents. It also means that we should show respect to those who are related to our parents and those who are close friends of our parents.
Abdullah bin Omer (RU) narrated that Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, “If you show respect to the friends of your father, you have, in a way, displayed respect for your father.” (Bukhari)
In the above verses of Al-Isra, Allah (SWT) has reminded us about our helplessness and total dependence on our parents during our childhood. Our parents fulfilled our wishes cheerfully and lovingly. It is mandatory for the children to treat their parents accordingly.
Although, parents must be respected all the time, extreme care, consideration and love must be accorded to the parents if they happen to be old.
Very specific and important instructions are given by Allah (SWT) :
1. Don’t say even a word of disrespect to them.
2. Don’t shout at them.
3. Talk to parents very humbly and kindly.
4. Act very submissively and gently to them. This humility should display mercy for them. The humility should be from your heart and not as a show business.
5. It is not possible for a person to give all kinds of comfort to his parents, since you can only serve them to the best of your ability. Hence, it is necessary to make the following supplication.
“O Allah (SWT), please show mercy to my parents as they used to show mercy to me in my childhood.”
We should continue making this supplication even after their death. We should not forget that Allah (SWT) taught this beautiful Dua to us for our beloved parents.
In the above quoted verse # 25 of Al-Isra, Allah (SWT) is consoling us that if something comes out of our mouths about our parents because of our carelessness or extreme hardship, Allah (SWT) will not punish us for it as long as we repent. Allah (SWT) knows what is deep in our hearts.
Old age is a very difficult stage of life. Ya-sin # 68
And he whom We grant long life – We reverse him in creation (weakness after strength). Will they not then understand?
Osman (RU) narrated that Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, “When a believer is forty years old, Allah makes his accountability easier. When he reaches sixty, Allah (SWT) turns his attention more to Him. When he reaches seventy, all those in heaven start loving him. When he is eighty years old, Allah (SWT) makes his good deeds stand out and erases his bad deeds. When he is ninety years old, Allah (SWT) forgives all his previous sins and bestows upon him the right to make recommendations for his relatives on the day of judgement. It is noted in the heavens that he is like a prisoner of Allah (SWT) who is stationed on the earth.”
(Ibn-e- Kathir and Musnad Ahmad)
Obviously it applies to a believer who has spent his life in the obedience of Allah (SWT).
Qurtubi has mentioned a very interesting event, narrated by Jabber bin Abdullah (RU).
One person came to Prophet Mohammad (SAS) and complained that his father had taken over all his wealth. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said to him, “Go and bring your father with you.” In the meanwhile Jibreel (AS) came to Prophet Mohammad (SAS) and said to him, “When his father comes here, ask him about the words he uttered to himself which even his own ears didn’t listen”. When the young man brought his father, Prophet Mohammad (SAS) asked him, “How come your son is complaining that you have usurped all his wealth?”
The father requested the Prophet (SAS) “Please ask my son where do I spent this money apart from spending it for his aunt and for my personal need?”
The Prophet (SAS) said, “That’s it. Everything is clear to me now.”
The Prophet (SAS) asked the father, “What words did you utter to yourself which even your own ears did not hear?”
This person was amazed at this remark and said, “It is indeed a miracle that you know about it. The fact is that I did utter some pieces of poetry in my heart quietly which even my own ears did not hear.” The Prophet (SAS) asked him to recite this poetry for them. This person recited a beautiful poetry in Arabic. The translation of the poem is as follows:
I gave you food in your childhood and supported you even after you had attained youth. All your expenses were on my shoulders.
I used to be awake all night and used to be very perturbed when you fell ill at night. It was as if your illness was my illness and wept for it all night.
The fear of your death was always haunting my mind although I knew that death will occur only at its appointed time which can’t be altered at all.
When you reached this mature age, which I always longed for, you usually reacted to me harshly and always gave me bad talk. You behaved to me as if you were doing some sort of personal favor to me.
Alas! If you did not wish to fulfil my rights as your father, you could have treated me like an acceptable neighbor.
I wish that you should have at least fulfilled my rights as your neighbor and not acted as a miser in spending my own money on me.
On listening to this thrilling poem, the Prophet Mohammad (SAS) grabbed the neck of this young man and said to him,
“Go, you and your wealth all are for your father.”
In another Hadith, Abu Hurairah (RU) narrated that Prophet Mohammad (SAS) rose to the first step of his pulpit for an address and said:“He ruined himself totally.”
Then he rose to the second step and repeated these words. Finally he rose to the third step and repeated these words the third time. His companions asked, “Dear Prophet, who ruined himself?” Mohammad (SAS) said, “A person who witnesses the month of Ramadhan and does not get his sins forgiven from Allah (SWT). A person who doesn’t send salam to me when he hears my name. A person who sees his old parents and could not enter paradise.” (Muslim)
In other words all these three things would definitely lead a person to paradise if he followed Allah’s guidance.
May Allah (SWT) create sincere respect for our parents in our hearts and show His Mercy on them just like our parents showed Mercy to us during our childhood. (Ameen)