We will now examine the Qur’anic teachings on the ad- ab toward parents. In the Qur’an God commands, “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him
alone, and treat parents with the best of kindness…” (Isra 17:23). It is notable that two of the central themes of the Qur’an are men- tioned one after the other. The first is tawhid (divinity, God’s Oneness and Absolute Unity), which is the most important theme of the Qur’an. Immediately after tawhid, God decrees that we must treat our parents well. “Treating parents well” is further explained in the Qur’an (17:23–24) with five main principles. If one or both of (your parents) grows old and is still with you:
- Do not be impatient when caring for them.
- Do not reprove them.
- Speak to them in a gentle, endearing manner.
- Lower the “wing of humility” to them.
- Pray for them thus: “My Lord, have mercy on them in the way that they cared for me in childhood (and reward them for the way they cared for me and raised me).”
Abu Baddah al-Tujibi recounts that he asked Said ibn al- Musayyab, “I have learned all the verses regarding goodness to par- ents. But there is one I do not understand. What does ‘address them in gracious words’ mean?” The scholar answered, “This means that you should speak to them as an employee speaks to the employer, and not be harsh to them.” (As with everything in Islam, intention is also extremely important.) Parents sacrifice their lives lovingly for their children, and what the child must do is to show sincere respect for the parent, to serve them willingly, and to try to gain their approval. They should always say gentle and endearing words to their parents. After setting these principles for how children should treat their parents, God also warns those who insincerely or unwillingly care for their parents that their inner situation is not hidden from Him: “Your Lord best knows what is in your souls (in respect of all mat- ters, including what you think of your parents). If you are righteous (in your thoughts and deeds), then surely He is All-Forgiving to those who turn to Him in humble contrition” (Isra 17:25).
God Almighty further says in the Qur’an, “We have enjoined on human in respect of his parents: his mother bore him in strain upon strain, and his weaning was in two years. (So, O human,) be thankful to Me and to your parents. To Me is the final homecoming” (Luqman
31:14). This verse orders that we treat our parents well, and men- tions the physical hardships that mothers undergo such as preg- nancy, childbirth, and nursing, as well as the emotional bond be- tween mothers and children during the first years of life. The verse then goes on to enumerate the adab or principles of etiquette that one must use towards parents:[Revere your parents;] but if they strive with you to make you associate with Me something of which you certainly have no knowledge (and which is absolutely contrary to the Knowledge), do not obey them. Even then, treat them with kindness and due consideration in respect of (the life of) this world. Follow the way of him who has turned to Me with utmost sincerity and commit- ted himself to seeking My approval. Then, (O all human beings,) to Me is your return, and then I will make you understand all that you were doing (and call you to account). (Luqman 31:15)
This section of the Qur’an shows that we are to care for the needs of our parents and treat them with gentleness and respect, even if they are not Muslims. Islamic scholars pay great attention to the interpretation of the following sentence: “treat them with kindness and due consideration in respect of (the life of) this world.” Generally, it is agreed that one should spend time with parents, seeing to all their needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and so on. We should never speak harshly or cruelly to our parents, but ensure that their medical needs have been provided for and assist them in all they require in this life. This is confirmed by the fol- lowing episode from the time of the Prophet:
Abu Bakr’s daughter Asma relates: “My mother, who was still an unbeliever, came to me. (Unsure of how to treat her,) I asked God’s Messenger, ‘My mother has come to see me; she wants to talk to me. Should I be kind to her?’ God’s Messenger answered, ‘Yes, show her the respect and kindness she deserves.’”45
The following verse, just like the fourteenth verse of Sura Luqman, states that the weaning period for a child is two years and refers to the pregnancy and nursing of a child as consisting of thirty months:
Now (among the good deeds) We have enjoined on human is the best treatment towards his parents. His mother bore him in pain, and in pain did she give him birth. The bearing of him and suckling of him (until weaned) is thirty months…. (Ahqaf 46:15)
The verses we have examined so far emphasize the difficulty that mothers undergo in pregnancy, birth, and nursing as the basic reason for the order to treat one’s parents well. If we make some effort to understand more deeply, there are more important in- sights to be gained. We can see that the verse at hand begins with the same command that is found in the fourteenth verse of Sura Luqman; however, it then continues along quite different guide- lines. This difference, as I will attempt to explain, takes the form of a prayer, which includes four parts:
When he has reached full manhood and forty years of age, he says, ‘My Lord! Arouse me so that I may be thankful for all Your favors (life, health, sustenance, faith, submission, and more) which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and so that I may do good, righteous deeds with which You will be pleased, and grant me righteous offspring (so that they treat me righ- teously, as I treat my parents). I have turned to You, and I am one of those who have submitted to You.’ (Ahqaf 46:15)
Adults can use this prayer to ask for God’s mercy and bless- ings, for a closer bond with God, and a peaceful and balanced social life. Ibn Abbas said he heard the Prophet say, “Whoever looks at his mother or father with mercy, God grants him the reward (for that gaze which will be the same) for a valid hajj.”46
In connection with not upsetting or disobeying one’s father, Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of God, peace and bless- ings be upon him, said, “When a father looks at his child and the child makes the father happy, the child is given as much reward as if he or she has freed a slave.”47 Abu’d Darda heard the Prophet say, “The father is a major door into Heaven. A person can choose to abandon this door or choose to protect it (keep it open).”48 Another important hadith on the topic of pleasing fathers is con- veyed by ‘Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-As: “The Prophet said, ‘The pleasure of God lies in pleasing one’s father and God’s displeasure lies in the father’s displeasure.’”49
Adult children can still gain blessings in the name of their par- ents after they have passed on, according to God’s word. A hadith explains this:
Abu Usayd Malik ibn Rabi’a al-Saidi recounts that a man asked the Prophet, “O Messenger of God, after my mother and fa- ther are gone, is it still possible for me to do good for them? What can I do for them?” The Messenger replied, “Yes, you can.” He went on to advise us to:
- Pray for them, ask God to forgive them,
- Carry out their last will and testament,
- Remember to visit our parents’ relatives,
- Send gifts to our parents’ friends.50
God’s Messenger also warned those who did not visit their parents or care for them while they are still alive.
Abu Hurayra related the following hadith of the Prophet: “Woe to him, woe to him, woe to him!” said the Prophet. When they asked, “Woe to whom?” he gave this explanation: “Woe to the one who has one or both of his parents grow old with him, and (still) cannot make it to heaven.”51
Gulcu, Dr. Musa Kazim. “Good Character” Tughra Books Press. February 2009.
- November 13, 2013
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