Looking in the mirror, I can see that I am getting older. I remember when Faatiha would sit on me to count the white hairs in my beard. Now she sits on me and complains that there are too many white hairs to count. Insha’allah a time may arrive when it is easier to count the remaining black hairs in a predominately white beard.
Another sign of ageing is manifest in my children. I got married at 29, which is fairly late and my eldest is now 9. My other friends, who got married earlier, have teenage kids and one of my friends even became a grandfather this year.
With age comes another reality. Over the past few years, many of my friends have lost either one, or both, of their parents. Death is an eventuality which can strike at any time, whether you are old or young. However, my generation has reached an age where this eventuality is becoming common. Not a month goes by without receiving a text message informing me that a father, or mother has passed away, with a reminder to make dua for them and the next stage of their journey.
The death of a loved one is a most humbling experience. The mother who went through the pangs of labour, fed you, cleaned you, clothed you – now gone. The father who provided for you, supported you, disciplined you, taught you the meaning of life – now gone. Undoubtedly you reflect upon the good times you shared together and fond memories flood your mind. You also reflect upon the relationship you had with your parents, because alongside the good memories are those moments when you raised your voice, showed anger and acted in a manner that displeased your parents and hence yielded the anger of Allah (swt).
Out of all our worldly relationships, the relationship between the child and parent is one of the most important. It forms the fabric of the society, and, in fact, forms a measure of the society itself. The converse is also true. The society we reside in will also shape how we view the relationships we form. Currently, the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim is dominated by secularism and hence we find disobedience of parents prevalent in the World today.
Popular culture promotes personalities that are free and enjoy freedom. As a child growing up in the 80’s many Hollywood movie scripts revolved around teenagers rebelling against their authoritative parents. The parents in teenage angst movies were portrayed as being ‘not with the times’ and stifling the child’s creativity and individualism, hence arguments, disobedience and general rudeness of parents was the norm. Programs like ‘The Inbetweeners’ still promote that view today. Parents are viewed as a burden and a spoiler of pleasure, as epitomised in the famous John Smith TV ad in which Peter Kay decides to put his mother in an old people’s home so he can put a snooker table in her room. At the time it was funny, but now we see that image being played out in houses up and down the country, even in Muslim households.
As Muslims growing up in secular society, we are caught in the cross-roads between our general Islamic culture and the prevalent atmosphere in the society. We all have examples when the prevalent atmosphere dominated our relationship with our parents and we spoke harshly and rudely to our parents, to such an extent that they were visibly upset with us. Most, if not all, of us are caught in this battle until the battle ends. It is unfortunate that many of us, whilst in our youth, are unaware of the importance of our parents. Perhaps we only fully appreciate this when we become parents ourselves, or when our parents die, and with that closes the door to the mercy and forgiveness of Allah (swt).
Reading the book “The Son – with His Father & Mother” by Sheikh Yusuf Badarani has forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with my parents. My deficiencies have always been apparent to me, however I was not fully aware of the weight that Allah (swt) gave to pleasing your parents, equating it with obedience to Allah (swt) himself. The companions of the Prophet (saw) went to extremes to manifest this obedience and kindness and I can only weep when I consider myself in comparison.
This blog post, split into three parts, is primarily written as a reminder to me of what I need to aspire for. Hopefully others may benefit and go against the grain of secular society and produce a relationship with their parents that allow them to enter into the highest levels of Jannah amongst the righteous.
Defining the relationship
Being dutiful to your parents is a basic duty in Islam.
Allah (swt) says: “And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years, give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination. But if they endeavour 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.” [TMQ Luqman: 14-15]
This verse starts by Allah (swt) defining that He (swt) has ordered the child to be dutiful and good to his parents, an order that is strengthened when He (swt) reminds the child of all that the parent has done for them. Allah (swt) says in the above verse “His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years”
As a child, I never fully appreciated what my parents had done for me. During my youth, I would think about myself and give lip service to the hardships my parents underwent to raise me and my sister. However, when I became a parent myself, I started to appreciate them in light of this verse.
My children occupy a vast amount of time and effort, whether it is looking after them, feeding them, clothing them, taking them out etc. Parenting involves sacrificing your own for the sake of your children. We sacrifice our time, our sleep, our money, our energy for them. I’ve lost count the number of times that I’ve come home only to find that my children have finished my share of food.
Thinking of others goes against the very concept of individualism as propagated in capitalist societies. People are encouraged to think about themselves and not the favours that others have bestowed upon them. The fruits of such thinking are selfish individuals, even in their relationship with their own parents.
Allah (swt) then states “give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination. This is a very humbling statement, in which Allah (swt) associates kindness to parents as an act of worship, with gratitude to parents being analogous to gratitude to Allah (swt).
As a weak human being, it is impossible for me to truly thank Allah (swt) for all that he has given me. Allah (swt) is the one that created me in perfection, keeps me alive, provides me with air to breathe, food and water to consume, as well as giving me my family. None of us can praise Allah (swt) as He (swt) deserves to be praised.
In a similar vein, comes gratitude to parents, which Allah (swt) has linked to thanking Him (swt), together with the warning that our ultimate accountability is with Allah (swt). All this raises the importance of treating parents kindly, as an act of worship for which we will be judged in the hereafter.
Finally Allah (swt) informs us of the limits of kindness and obedience to parents that it should not cross the limits set by Allah (swt). He (swt) said “But if they endeavour 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].”
There is no obedience in disobedience to Allah (swt), however, this should not lead to confrontation, arguments, anger and a severing of relationship. Often we find the most petty of disagreements getting blown out of proportion in the family unit, resulting in the son not talking to his father, or mother not talking to her daughter and vice-a-versa. Here Allah (swt) is informing the child that, forget the minor inconsequential issues, even if they command you with a prohibited matter, you do not obey, but still treat them with kindness, warmth and humility.
In Part Two I will outline how kindness to parents is manifested in our daily lives.