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Introduction

Family is a sacred unit within Islam. There are important social dynamics in a family unit which are of the husband-wife and Parent-child relationships. Within this, there are distinct and reciprocal rights and obligations that both parties have over one another. Parents have rights over their children and so too do children have rights over their parents. The rights of either of the parties become an obligation to the other. I.e, the parents rights are an obligation to the children and the children’s rights are an obligation to the parents. These obligations are duties to be fulfilled to the best of our abilities.

Allah the Almighty enjoined honour, kindness, obedience and respect from children to their parents. Allah (S.W.A) says in the Noble Quran regarding respect to parents in these words.

وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوٓا۟ إِلَّآ إِيَّاهُ وَبِٱلْوَٰلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَـٰنًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ ٱلْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَآ أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُل لَّهُمَآ أُفٍّۢ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلًۭا كَرِيمًۭا (٢٣)
وَٱخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ ٱلذُّلِّ مِنَ ٱلرَّحْمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ٱرْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِى صَغِيرًۭا (٢٤)

“For your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And honour your parents. If one or both of them reach old age in your care, never say to them ˹even˺ ‘ugh,’ nor yell at them. Rather, address them respectfully. And be humble with them out of mercy, and pray, “My Lord! Be merciful to them as they raised me when I was young.”’ (Al-Isra 17:23-24)

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو حَفْصٍ، عَمْرُو بْنُ عَلِيٍّ حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدُ بْنُ الْحَارِثِ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ يَعْلَى بْنِ عَطَاءٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ رِضَا الرَّبِّ فِي رِضَا الْوَالِدِ وَسَخَطُ الرَّبِّ فِي سَخَطِ الْوَالِدِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said, “The pleasure of the Lord lies in the pleasure of the parent. The anger of the Lord lies in the anger of the parent.” (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 2; Book 1, Hadith 2)

The only exception to the rights of the parents is where they direct you to haram (sinful) actions, particularly, that of committing shirk (enjoining others on to Allah). Only in such instances should you object to them, and with reasonable behaviour even in such instances:

وَوَصَّيْنَا ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ بِوَٰلِدَيْهِ حُسْنًۭا ۖ وَإِن جَـٰهَدَاكَ لِتُشْرِكَ بِى مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِۦ عِلْمٌۭ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَآ ۚ إِلَىَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (٨)

“We have commanded people to honour their parents. But if they urge you to associate with Me what you have no knowledge of, then do not obey them. To Me you will ˹all˺ return, and then I will inform you of what you used to do.” (Al-‘Ankabut 29:8)

The rights and respect of parents is one of the fundamental values when it comes to tarbiya (development and the training) of children. Here is another verse from the Quran commanding that we obey our parents unless it is something that Allah (S.W.T) has forbidden.

وَوَصَّيْنَا ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ بِوَٰلِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُۥ وَهْنًا عَلَىٰ وَهْنٍۢ وَفِصَـٰلُهُۥ فِى عَامَيْنِ أَنِ ٱشْكُرْ لِى وَلِوَٰلِدَيْكَ إِلَىَّ ٱلْمَصِيرُ (١٤)
وَإِن جَـٰهَدَاكَ عَلَىٰٓ أَن تُشْرِكَ بِى مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِۦ عِلْمٌۭ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا ۖ وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِى ٱلدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًۭا ۖ وَٱتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَىَّ ۚ ثُمَّ إِلَىَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ ( ١٥)

“And We have commanded people to ˹honour˺ their parents. Their mothers bore them through hardship upon hardship, and their weaning takes two years. So be grateful to Me and your parents. To Me is the final return. But if they pressure you to associate with Me what you have no knowledge of,1 do not obey them. Still keep their company in this world courteously, and follow the way of those who turn to Me ˹in devotion˺. Then to Me you will ˹all˺ return, and then I will inform you of what you used to do.” (Luqman 31:14-15)

We can further look towards ahadith for guidance on the rights of the parents and how to treat them.

حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، حَدَّثَنَا بِشْرُ بْنُ الْمُفَضَّلِ، حَدَّثَنَا الْجُرَيْرِيُّ، عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ أَبِي بَكْرَةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ أَلاَ أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِأَكْبَرِ الْكَبَائِرِ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالُوا بَلَى يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ الإِشْرَاكُ بِاللَّهِ، وَعُقُوقُ الْوَالِدَيْنِ ‏”‏‏.‏

Narrated Abu Bakra: Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W) said, “Shall I inform you of the biggest of the great sins?” They said, “Yes, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “To join partners in worship with Allah, and to be undutiful to one’s parents.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 6273; Book 79, Hadith 47)

حَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو أُسَامَةَ، عَنْ هِشَامٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ أَسْمَاءَ بِنْتِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَتْ قَدِمَتْ عَلَىَّ أُمِّي وَهْىَ مُشْرِكَةٌ، فِي عَهْدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم، فَاسْتَفْتَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قُلْتُ ‏{‏إِنَّ أُمِّي قَدِمَتْ‏}‏ وَهْىَ رَاغِبَةٌ، أَفَأَصِلُ أُمِّي قَالَ ‏ “‏ نَعَمْ صِلِي أُمَّكِ ‏”‏‏.‏

Narrated Asma’ bint Abu Bakr: My mother came to me during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (S.A.W) and she was a pagan. I said to Allah’s Apostle (seeking his verdict), “My mother has come to me and she desires to receive a reward from me, shall I keep good relations with her?” The Prophet (S.A.W) said, “Yes, keep good relations with her.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 2620; Book 51, Hadith 52)

The special place of a mother

Within such values that Muslims hold towards parents, mothers are given a much higher status than those given to fathers. This is as stated in one of Hadith of our beloved Prophet Muhammad S.A.W

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو كُرَيْبٍ، مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْعَلاَءِ الْهَمْدَانِيُّ حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ فُضَيْلٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ عُمَارَةَ، بْنِ الْقَعْقَاعِ عَنْ أَبِي زُرْعَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَجُلٌ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ مَنْ أَحَقُّ بِحُسْنِ الصُّحْبَةِ قَالَ ‏ “‏ أُمُّكَ ثُمَّ أُمُّكَ ثُمَّ أُمُّكَ ثُمَّ أَبُوكَ ثُمَّ أَدْنَاكَ أَدْنَاكَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Abu Huraira reported that a person said: Allah’s Messenger, who amongst the people is most deserving of my good treatment? He said: Your mother, again your mother, again your mother, then your father, then your nearest relatives according to the order of nearness. (Sahih Muslim 2548b; Book 45, Hadith 2)

The importance of serving one’s mother is more than Jihad as paradise lies beneath her feet:

أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ الْوَهَّابِ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْحَكَمِ الْوَرَّاقُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا حَجَّاجٌ، عَنِ ابْنِ جُرَيْجٍ، قَالَ أَخْبَرَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ طَلْحَةَ، – وَهُوَ ابْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ – عَنْ أَبِيهِ، طَلْحَةَ عَنْ مُعَاوِيَةَ بْنِ جَاهِمَةَ السُّلَمِيِّ، أَنَّ جَاهِمَةَ، جَاءَ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَرَدْتُ أَنْ أَغْزُوَ وَقَدْ جِئْتُ أَسْتَشِيرُكَ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ هَلْ لَكَ مِنْ أُمٍّ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ نَعَمْ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ فَالْزَمْهَا فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ تَحْتَ رِجْلَيْهَا ‏”‏ ‏.‏

It was narrated from Mu’awiyah bin Jahimah As-Sulami, that Jahimah came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said: “O Messenger of Allah! I want to go out and fight (in Jihad) and I have come to ask your advice.” He said: “Do you have a mother?” He said: “Yes.” He said: “Then stay with her, for Paradise is beneath her feet.” (Sunan an-Nasa’i 3104; Book 25, Hadith 20)

It is ingrained in Islam that we show humility & kindness to our parents, and to be respectful, dutiful and obedient to them. Honouring parents is an act of worship if the intention is to please Allah (S.W.A) by following His commands.

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