Increase the Length of Your Life: Be Good to Your Parents
Brothers and Sisters,
My message to you in this edition of our monthly newsletter is a topic that is an emotional one for many people. Unlike some western societies and cultures that propagate the belief that parents are a burden on the individual’s sense of autonomy, Islam sends an entirely different message of both duty and compassion.
As Muslims, we are obligated to evaluate our relationships with our parents regularly and ask ourselves what more we can do to receive their pleasure. In order to do this sincerely, we must purge ourselves from the notion that our parents’ needs have a lesser or even equal footing with our own needs. We should not be on a constant quest to point out their shortcomings but rather question what more we can do for them as this is the decree of Allah (SWT).
He (SWT) states, "And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, "My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] young.” (Al-Israa’ 23-24)
Allah (SWT) commanded us immediately after the command of worshipping none but Him (SWT), to treat our parents with the utmost kindness. He did not include conditions for this good treatment, such as whether they are Muslim or not, or even whether they are good parents or not. Allah (SWT) also commands that we are humble and merciful to them especially in old age.
The only condition He (SWT) placed was that if their pleasure contradicted the first decree of worshipping Him alone, then we must disobey them. And even if that was the case, Allah (SWT) emphasizes that we must continue to treat them with kindness.
“But if they endeavor to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance]. Then to Me will be your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do.” (31:15)
Such is the divine wisdom of our Creator (SWT) who commands us to do what is good for our own emotional well-being and to maintain the social fabric of the Muslim community as a whole.
So what constitutes kind treatment? It comprises doing everything in your power to ensure their comfort and refraining from harming them in any way. Al-Bukhari narrated the story of the three men who sought shelter in a cave when a huge rock blocked the entrance of the cave. They then implored Allah to save them by virtue of their good deeds. One of them said, “O Allah! I had two old parents, and some young children. I took the profession of grazing (sheep or cattle) to earn a living. Whenever I returned home, I used to provide milk for them, beginning with my parents. One day, I went too far in pursuit of wood. I did not return home until it was night. I found my parents asleep. I milked as usual and brought milk and stood beside them, refraining from either awakening them or beginning with my children, who were suffering from hunger. Thus continued our state of affairs until it was dawn.”
Treating our parents kindly also means consistently addressing them in a kind and polite way. Umar bin Dharr, a righteous predecessor, was asked: “How was your son kind to you? He replied, “Whenever I walked during the day, he would walk behind me, and whenever I walked at night, he would walk in front of me.” We must humble ourselves to be respectful in both word and deed when interacting with them. This includes obeying them when we disagree with them in a polite manner so long as it does not contradict Islamic principles like, for example, forfeiting the rights of others. If this is the case, then we must explain to them that we value their pleasure but we cannot disobey Allah (SWT).
Kind treatment of parents includes supporting their every need whether it is spiritual, physical, emotional, or financial according to one’s ability. It was narrated that during the Caliphate of ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan (R) the price of palm trees reached one thousand dirhams. Usamah bin Zaid (R) headed for a palm-tree that he cut off, extracted its core and fed to his mother. The people said to him, “What made you do that, while you know that the price of a palm-tree has reached one thousand dirhams, while its core does not equal to even two dirhams?” He said, “My mother asked me to bring it to her. I always bring her anything she asks me, as long as it is in my capacity.”
We should also visit our parents and communicate with them regularly to ensure their needs are met. We should also kindly remind them to worship Allah (SWT) in every way and spend in His cause.
More than often seeking the pleasure of ones parents is not easy. Therefore we should make dua’a to Allah (SWT) to make seeking their pleasure easier and continue to seek it even if it is difficult, because if we neglect it, we will be punished severely. Prophet Muhammad (S) was reported to have said, "Allah delays the punishment of sins according to His Will until the Day of Resurrection, except for unkindness to parents, Allah hastens its punishment for the one who is guilty of it before his death."
Even after their death, we must be good to our parents by making dua’a for them, giving charity on their behalf, visiting their friends, and fulfilling vows they have made. May Allah (SWT) grant us His pleasure and the pleasure of our parents. May He (SWT) forgive them, bestow mercy upon them, and forgive us for our shortcomings.
Sh. Jamal Said