Part One discussed how Allah (swt) made it an obligation to be dutiful to our parents.
In this post I will outline how kindness to parents is manifested in our daily lives.
Kindness in our lives
Being dutiful to your parents is one of the deeds most loved by Allah (swt).
Abdullah bin Mas’ud (ra) said, ‘I asked the Prophet (pbuh), Which deed is loved most by Allah?’ He replied, ‘To offer As-Salat (the prayers) at their early (very first) stated times. Abdullah bin Mas’ud asked, ‘What is next (in goodness)?’ The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘To be good and dutiful to one’s parents.’ Abdullah bin Mas’ud asked, ‘What is next (in goodness)? The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘To participate in Jihad for Allah’s cause.’ Abdullah ibn Mas’ud added, ‘The Prophet (pbuh) narrated to me these things, and if I had asked more, he would have told me more.’” [Bukhari].
After performing the obligatory prayers on time, the next deed most liked by Allah (swt) is kindness to parents and then taking part in Jihad (N.B. this is when Jihad is Fard Kifayah (obligation of sufficiency) as opposed to when Jihad is Fard ‘Ayn (an individual obligation)).
In another narration Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (ra) said, “A man came to the Prophet, (pbuh), and said, ‘I have come to make you a pledge that I will do hijra although I have left my parents in tears.’ The Prophet said, ‘Go back to them and make them laugh as you made them cry.'” [Bukhari]
In life we often have to prioritise. When I reflect upon my relationships in this world, I often reflect upon my role as a husband, a father and a son. Subconsciously when I typed the above sentence, it was in the following order, husband, father and son. When I look back at my prioritisation in reality, in most instances, it has been in that order. As a male, I have a duty to my wife, children and parents which I need to fulfil. However, the saying of the Prophet (saw) makes my duty to my parents higher than that to my wife and children.
Striking the balance is key, as is upholding the truth and justice, but in hindsight, I am guilty of viewing family time as being spent with the wife and kids, whereas in reality, my parents have more right over my time. Alhamdulillah, my wife and parents get on fairly well. My parents are self-sufficient and rarely call upon me for help, but the issue is more than whether they need my assistance. My natural disposition should be that I go above and beyond the minimum and be there for them to share in all their joys and sorrows and not only those that I have been exposed to.
Not only is dutifulness to parents a means of attaining Jannah, the one who neglects this duty is destined for humiliation.
Abu Hurayrah (ra) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saying: “May his nose be rubbed in the dust, may his nose be rubbed in the dust, may his nose be rubbed in the dust. It was said: Who, O Messenger of Allah? He said: The one whose parents, one or both of them, reach old age during his lifetime and he does not enter Paradise.” [Muslim].
In another narration Abu Bakr narrated that the prophet (pbuh) said: “Do you want to know the greatest sins of all sins? – Polytheism and impiety towards parents”
These narrations contextualise the issue of piety towards parents. As a revert from a Hindu background I am acutely aware of polytheism and associating partners in worship. It is the worst of actions a person can perform for which no good deed can compensate. To find impiety to parents in the same sentence as polytheism shows the seriousness of the issue. It is a great sin, which will prevent a person from entering into paradise, unless the sinner repents and asks for forgiveness. Often we can fall into the trap of shaytaan and view sins as minor. The close relationship we have with our parents can fool us into being overly relaxed with our parents to such an extent that we do or say that which causes them anger and sadness. The closing of the door to Jannah and the opening of the doors of Hellfire is sufficient reminder for the one who has fear of Allah (swt) of the need to be careful regarding his parents.
Dutifulness to parents is not an easy task. It is a lifelong struggle, requiring the believer to constantly be aware of his parents’ needs and wants in order to readily work to fulfil them. It requires the believer to be constantly conscious of what he is saying, how he is saying it and how it will be perceived by his parents.
Allah (swt) informs us: “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 (fie / uff), nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour.” [TMQ Isra: 23].
Looking after parents is a constant struggle whether they are healthy or old and frail. However, it is in their old age that they may require us more and be needier of our help and support. As a person ages they are often more difficult to please and look after. I find this with my own parents and I witnessed this when they had to look after my grandfather. With age comes the realisation that you are unable to do the things that you used to. Your body weakens and your mind becomes more forgetful. This is hard for parents to acknowledge as they don’t wish to become a burden. Older aged parents are stubborn. My wife thinks I’m stubborn now, who knows what I will be like if Allah willing, I attain old age.
Parent’s will do and say things that you will find troublesome. Whether you are 30, 40, 50 or 60, you parents will always think they know what is best for you. They will feel they know what is best for them, irrespective of whatever advice you give them. Dealing with the elderly can be frustrating, hence Allah (swt) reminds us in the above verse “If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect (fie / uff), nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour”.
Ad-Daylami narrated from Al-Husayn ibn Ali that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “If Allah knew any smaller than uff to be disrespectful to parents, He would have decreed it to be haram!”.
Uff is such a small expression which is forbidden, yet how many times may I have said much worse? Uff, by itself is an expression of an emotion or sentiment. It indicates insolence, derision, displeasure and disobedience, thus contradicting “address them in terms of honour.” All of this is prohibited for the child and, upon reflection, memories flood the mind that fill the heart with regret.
The child needs to develop thick skin and a short memory in dealing with their parents.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: Whoever rose up in the morning pleasing to his parents, he would have two open doors to Paradise, and if in the evening, the same, is to one (parent), then one door). The Prophet (pbuh) was asked: “Even if they were unfair to him?” He (pbuh) answered: “Even if they were unfair to him” [Bayhaqi]
We live in a culture of reciprocating love and hate. We treat people well, only if they are good to us and if they are bad we treat them badly. In addition, the society pushes us to seek interest and benefit, so often people are befriended if they may be of some use. Sometimes we find this criterion deployed to parents.
Our parents may say some hurtful words to us, or even be negligent towards us. However, irrespective of what they do, or how it makes us feel, our kindness and obedience to them should be absolute, unless they command with a prohibited matter. Holding a grudge against your parents is not allowed, especially if it affects your relationship with them. Every interaction with them should be viewed as a new interaction and opportunity for reward and forgiveness, and that can only be achieved with thick skin and a short memory in forgetting any previous confrontations.
In life, we will have many grudges and disputes, however with parents, this should be avoided. Our kindness towards them needs to be manifest, so that they feel the kindness. The issue is more than just treating them well, but they need to feel that they have been treated well. This is not an easy task, it is a lifelong endeavour and hence it is no surprise that the reward is analogous with performing Jihad for the sake of Allah (swt). It is the action which qualifies our other deeds and will raise us righteous and God-fearing
Amr narrated that a man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and you are the Messenger of Allah. I pray the five (daily prayers), I give zakat and I fast Ramadan.” The Prophet (pbuh) said to him “Whoever dies doing that will be, on the Day of Resurrection, in the company of the Prophets, the martyrs and the righteous – provided he was not unkind to his parents.” [Tabarani]
Examples from the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh)
Dutifulness to parents is easier said than done. In fact much in life is easier said than done and often we can ‘talk the talk’ but fail to ‘walk the walk’. It is sometimes difficult to comprehend what it means to be dutiful to parents. Does it manifest in visiting them often? Buying them gifts? Doing their weekly shopping? Taking them out? In reality it manifests in whatever will make them happy and smile, as kindness relates to how they feel about you and not whether you feel you have achieved making them happy.
Abu Hurairah (ra) lived in a house next to his mother. Whenever he went out he would say, “Peace be unto you, my mother, and Allah’s mercy and blessings. May Allah grant you His Mercy for raising me when I was young.”
His mother would reply, “May Allah grant you His mercy for being dutiful to me when you grew up.”
Here we find that Abu Hurairah (ra) achieved the desired aim of being dutiful to his mother and this is manifest in his mother’s praise of him. This is music to the ears of the believer. I wonder if my parents have ever said anything similar to indicate their pleasure in me. If they have I can’t remember it, may Allah (swt) forgive me and strengthen me.
The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) understood the status of parents in Islam and were meticulous in ensuring that they fulfilled their rights. When we look at the lengths they went to regarding their parents, you will feel that your efforts have been insignificant, and indeed our efforts are insignificant in comparison.
Ayesha (ra) said: “Of this Ummah (Muslim community) two companions of the Prophet (pbuh) were kindest to their mothers. Uthman ibn Affan and Haritha ibn al-Nu’man. As for Uthman, he said ever since I became I could not contemplate the face of my mother (i.e. the act of kindness demanded lowering his head in the presence of his father and mother and not looking directly at them). For this indicated submission and acceptance in executing any order or request. As for Haritha, he used to look for lice in his mothers head and feed her with his own hands. He never asked her to explain an order she made. After leaving her, he would ask those who were with her, what did my mother want.”
Ayesha (ra) then relates that the Messenger (pbuh) said: “Whilst sleeping, I saw in my dream that I was in Paradise and I heard someone reciting (the Qur’an). I asked ‘who is that?’ and I was told Haritha the son of al-Nu’man as a recompense for his kindness to his mother”
The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) would go to extremes in obedience to their parents, going to all lengths possible to execute any command.
Anas (ra) relates that the mother of Ibn Masood one night asked for some water to drink. Her son went and got her some but found her fast asleep. So he remained there till the morning standing at her head, holding the water.
This extreme would also stretch to the permissible matters, such was their fear of upsetting their parents.
It was narrated that al-Hasan the son of Ali (ra) would refrain from eating with his mother, even though he was most kind to her. When he was asked about it, he answered: “If I eat with her I fear that maybe, without my knowledge, she might have her eye on some food that I may inadvertently eat, and thus I would no longer be a kind son to her.”
The companions prioritised their parents above all other relationships, even above their wives and children.
Hafsa (ra) used to say of her son Huthail: “He used to peel the reeds and leave them to dry in the summer so they would not smoke. Then in winter, he would come and sit behind me while I was praying and light a gentle fire that would warm me without harming me with its smoke. I used to tell him: O my son go home to your family tonight. He would say: O Mother I know what they want. So I would leave him till the morning. He used also to send me the milking of the morning and I used to tell him: O my son! You know that I do not drink milk during the day. He would reply: the best milk is that which stays in the udder overnight, and I would give precedence to no one over you. So send it to whomever you wish.”
The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) set a very high standard for us to emulate. Truly they are the best of generations.
In Part 3, I will outline how we can gain reward for ourselves and our parents after their death