The Muslim and His Parents

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He is extremely reluctant to disobey them

If we turn from the commandments to treat parents with kindness and respect, and look at what Islam says to discourage disobedience towards one's parents, we find teachings that are aimed at making the disobedient child realize the error of his ways. Disobedience towards one's parents is likened to shirk, just as treating them with kindness and respect is connected to belief in Allah. Disobedience towards one's parents is a heinous crime that the true Muslim fears to commit, because it will diminish his reward and is, in fact, viewed as one of the worst sins.

Abu Bakrah Nufay' ibn al-Harith said: ´The Messenger of Allah (s) asked us three times, 'Shall I tell you the greatest sins?' We said, 'Yes, O Messenger of Allah (s).' He said: 'Associating partners with Allah and disobeying one's parents.' (Bukhari and Muslim)

His mother comes first, then his father

In order to avoid any imbalance, such as the child treating one parent well at the expense of the other, the Islamic teachings concerning one's relationship with one's parents deal with the mother and the father individually. So, as we have seen, when the man came to give bay'ah and pledge to take part in jihad, the Prophet (s) asked him, "Are either of your parents alive?" This indicates that the Muslim is obliged to treat both parents equally well. Similarly, Asm , was ordered to keep in contact with and help her mushrik mother.

A man came to the Prophet (s) and asked him:

´O Messenger of Allah, who among people is most deserving of my good company?' He said, ´Your mother.' The man asked, ´Then who?' The Prophet (s) said, ´Your mother.' The man asked, ´Then who?' The Prophet (s) said, ´Your mother.' The man asked, ´Then who?' He said, ´Then your father. (Bukhari and Muslim)

This hadith confirms that the Prophet (s) gave precedence to kind treatment of one's mother over kind treatment of one's father, and the Sahabah used to remind the Muslims of this after the death of the Prophet (s). Ibn 'Abbas (r), a great scholar of this Ummah, considered kind treatment of the mother to be the best deed to bring one closer to Allah. A man came to him and said: "I asked for a woman's hand in marriage, and she refused me; someone else asked for her hand, and she accepted and married him. I felt jealous, and killed her. Will my repentance be accepted?" Ibn 'Abbas asked, "Is your mother still alive?" He said, "No." So he told him: "Repent to Allah and do your best to draw close to Him." 'Ata' ibn Yassir, who narrated this report from Ibn 'Abbas, said: "I went and asked Ibn 'Abbas, 'Why did you ask him if his mother was still alive?, He said, 'Because I know of no other deed that brings people closer to Allah than kind treatment and respect towards one's mother.,"2

Note: 2. Reported by Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad.

Imam Bukhari opens his book al-Adab al-Mufrad with a chapter on respect and kindness towards parents (birr al-walidayn), in which he places the section on good treatment of the mother before the section on good treatment of the father, consistent with the teachings of the Prophet (s).

The Qur'an evokes feelings of love and respect in the heart of the child, and encourages him to treat his parents well. It refers to the mother being given precedence because of pregnancy and breastfeeding, and the pains and trials that she suffers during these two stages, in a most gentle and compassionate way. It recognizes her noble sacrifice and great tenderness and care:

( And We have enjoined on man {to be good} to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: [hear the command]: 'Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is [your final] Goal.') (Qur'an 31:14)

What supreme teaching! What humane, compassionate direction: ( Show gratitude to Me and to your parents.) Showing gratitude to parents for what they have done for their child comes second only to showing gratitude to Allah, and is one of the best righteous deeds. What a high status this religion gives to parents!

Then the child makes his way in the world and becomes rich, and his wife and children distract him from caring for his parents. He forgets how much his father spent on him, so he fails to spend on his father, thus earning the anger of Allah. But the true Muslim is safe from this, because he is constantly aware of the wise teachings of Islam, and responds to the words of the Prophet (s): ´You and your wealth are for your father.'3

Note: 3. Reported by Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah with a hasan isnad. The full text of the hadith is: ´A man came to the Prophet (s) and said: 'O Messenger of Allah, I have wealth and children, and my father wants to take all of my wealth.' The Prophet (s) said, 'You and your wealth are for your father. Your children are among your best earnings, so take from what your children earn.'' In another report he said: ´Take it and enjoy it.'
Imam al-Khattab¯ commented: "'He wants to take all my wealth, means that he wanted to take it all and leave nothing. It appears that the reason why the man asked this question was that he was having to spend on his father, and the amount required would consume all of his wealth, not just what he had to spare. The Prophet (s) did not give him permission to stop spending on his father, but told him, 'You and your wealth are for your father,, which means that if your father needed all of your wealth, he will take as much as he needs, as if he were taking from his own wealth. If you do not have any accumulated wealth, but you have an income, you should earn money and spend it on him."

The true Muslim is struck by these teachings of the Prophet (s) and his heart is filled with love, respect and kindness towards his parents. Thus he is protected from falling into the sin of disobedience, and he will truly be as the Prophet of Islam wanted him to be: he and his wealth will be for his father.

He treats his parents' friends well.

Islam did not stop at teaching its followers to treat their parents with kindness and respect, but it also enjoins them to show respect to those whom their parents love.

Ibn 'Umar (r) reported that the Prophet (s) said:

´The best kind of goodness (birr) is that a man should keep in touch with and respect his father's friend.' In another report: ´One of the best kinds of goodness (birr) is that a man should keep in touch with his father's friend even after his father has passed away.' (Muslim)

'Abdullah ibn 'Umar (r) met a friend of his father 'Umar (r), and went out of his way to treat him well and show him respect. Some of those who were with him said, "Is it not enough that you gave him two dirhams in charity?" Ibn 'Umar (r) said, "The Prophet (s) said, 'Keep in touch with your father's friend and do not break your tie with him, or else Allah will extinguish your light.'' (Muslim)

A man asked the Prophet (s): "O Messenger of Allah, is there any act of kindness or respect that I can do for my parents after they have died?" He (s) said:

´Yes, there are four things: praying and asking forgiveness for them; fulfilling their promises; respecting their friends; and keeping in contact with your relatives, for you have no relatives except through them.' 4

Note: 4. Reported by Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.

The highest form of love, faithfulness and respect that a child can show to his parents is to keep in touch with their friends, both during their lifetime and after their death. The true Muslim always seeks to strengthen the ties of friendship with those whom his parents love. He continues to care about his parents even after they have died, so he never forgets those old friendships and he maintains his ties with the circles of friends forged by his parents. Noble human feelings such as these, and sincere friendships, add beauty and enjoyment to life, and all of this depends on the presence of true Muslims in this world.

In the West, the child leaves his parents when he reaches the age of maturity and breaks the ties of kinship, never meeting his parents or showing any compassion or feelings towards his father or mother. The child goes his own way, scarcely looking back with love or respect to those who sacrificed so much and are now facing the worst time of their life, after they gave the best days of their lives for their children who were just starting out on life.

What comparison can there be between the ungrateful, disobedient attitude of the child in the West towards his parents, and the respect, kindness, affection and love shown by the dutiful Muslim to his parents during their lifetime and after their death, and keeping in touch with their friends? Surely no other system or way of life has ever equalled the unique way in which Islam moulds people and instills humanity in them.

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