The Muslim and His Parents

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How does he show kindness and respect towards them?

The Muslim who has been moulded by Islam is truly a man who is kind towards his parents. He shows them the utmost respect, stands up for them when they enter the room where he is sitting, kisses their hands, lowers his voice out of politeness when he speaks to them, is humble towards them, speaks to them in gentle tones, never lets harsh or hurtful words cross his tongue, and never treats them in a disrespectful manner, no matter what the circumstances. In all of this, he is following the command of Allah:

( Your Rabb 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 your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: 'My Rabb Bestow on them Your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.') (Qur'an 17:23- 24)

If parents are deviating from true Islam in some way, the dutiful Muslim son should, in this case, approach them in a gentle and sensitive manner, so as to dissuade them from their error. He should not condemn them harshly, but should try to convince them with solid proof, sound logic and wise words, until they turn to the truth in which he believes.

The wise Muslim does not forget that he is required to treat his parents well even if they are mushrikun. While he is aware that shirk is the greatest of sins, he still fulfils his own responsibility, following the command of Allah:

( 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. But if they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice [and consideration], and follow the way of those who turn to Me [in love]: in the End the return of you all is to Me, and I will tell you the truth [and meaning] of all that you did.) (Qur'an 31:14-15)

Parents are the closest and most beloved of kin, but the bond with them, although it is regarded very highly, still comes second to 'aqidah (correct belief). If the parents are mushrikun and tell their child to join them in their shirk, he must not obey them in that, for the Muslim must not obey a fellow-creature in disobeying the Creator. The demands of faith take precedence over all human relationships. However, the child is still obliged to treat his parents with kindness and respect, and to take care of them.

Hence the true Muslim treats his parents with kindness and respect in all circumstances, doing whatever he can to make them happy, within the limits laid down by Allah. He spares no effort to show honour and respect towards them, providing the best food, clothing and housing that he can afford, appropriate both to their social status and environment, and to Islamic standards. Above all, he should speak kindly to them, present a pleasant and smiling face, and show love, tenderness, faithfulness and gratitude towards those who are most deserving of this good treatment: his parents.

The respect and duty of the true Muslim towards his parents extends even beyond their death: he should give money in charity on their behalf and pray often for them, as Allah says:

( And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: 'My Rabb Bestow on them Your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.) (Qur'an 17:24)

This, then, is the nature of the Islamic teaching concerning the respect and kindness to be shown towards parents, and the nature of the dutiful Muslim who is guided by it. But are Muslims today following this teaching after being overtaken by materialism and blinded by the glare of modern civilization? Nowadays our main concern is focused on wives and children, not on our parents. Caring for our parents comes after our concern for our wives and children, and parents may not even have that, unless their children happen to be among those who have that sense of duty and deep taqwa .

The modern Western social structures that have taken over the minds of many Muslims, do not include kindness and respect towards parents, caring for them in their old age and protecting them from neglect in their later years. This makes the man who is convinced of Western ideas think only of his wife and children, and he hardly ever takes the time to look back with love and kindness in gratitude to the generation that came before, those who stayed up so many nights to care for him and who spent so much on his upbringing and preparing him for life. When he thinks of a comfortable home, fine clothes, good food and travel, he thinks in terms of providing them for his wife and children; he barely gives a thought to the share his parents should have in these luxuries, when they are most in need of receiving them from the hand of their beloved son.

Treating parents with kindness and respect, giving generously to them, speaking to them gently and politely, and smiling at them... This is the essential attitude of the Muslim. Muslims should never abandon this attitude, no matter how complicated life gets, or how it develops, or how many imported habits they accumulate. This attitude is one, which will protect them from hard-heartedness and selfish behaviour, and will return them to their original character, humanity and faithfulness, so that they avoid sinking to the depths of selfishness and ingratitude as others have done. And, above all, this attitude will open the doors of Paradise to them.

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