Many young muslims who grew up in western societies think that the idea of respecting the parents comes from their old cultural beliefs but they should understand that it’s actually an obligation according to the Islamic teachings. The Quran has guided us on how to treat our parents many times but the most well-known verses are mentioned in chapter Al-Israa verses 23-24: “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and do good to parents. If any one of them or both of them reach old age, do not say to them uff (an Arabic word that was commonly used to express anger or contempt) and do not scold them, and address them with respectful words, And be humble and tender to them and say Lord, show mercy to them as they nurtured me when I was small”. If you pay more attention to the above two verses and try to investigate them further, you’ll notice that Allah is telling us THREE IMPORTANT messages on the topic of parents. The first one is that the parents hold a very high and special status and they are most worthy of your obediance after the obedience of Allah and his messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him). The second message is that respecting the parents and treating them with kindness is a must in all situations even in times of disagreement. The third message is that just like your parents were obliged to raise you and take care of you when you were young, it’s your obligation to take care of them when they are older.
The third point above resonantes in the modern world as many muslims get distracted by wordly matters and forget about their elderly parents and in some cases even place their disabled parents in senior homes. Little do these muslims know, they are actually committing a MAJOR SIN and sacrificing their akhira (next eternal life) for the dunya (this life). The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Should I not inform you about the gravest of the major sins? They replied Yes O Messenger of Allah then the prophet said, it’s associating anyone with Allah and being undutiful to the parents” (Sahih Al-Bukhari).
How to Treat Non-Muslim Parents?
Many new muslims are presented with the dilemma of how to treat their non muslim parents, especially the ones that oppose their conversion and beliefs. We can learn from an incident that occured with a famous sahabi. Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqas, the Prophet’s uncle and the third or fourth person to enter into Islam faced a situation where he had to select between Islam and his mother. His mother went on a hunger strike and refused to eat food until Sa’ad leaves Islam. Sa’ad loved his mother and was very close to her but once this incident occured, he responded to his mother with anger and said if you die from hunger a hundred times, I will not leave this religion. During this time, Allah revealed a verse to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in chapter Al-Ankboot verse 8 which states “We have enjoined man to be good to his parents. But if they urge you to ascribe to Me as partner that of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them. To Me will be your return, whereat I will inform you concerning what you used to do”. Allah also reveals in chapter Luqman verses 14-15 the following “We enjoined upon man to be dutiful to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning lasted two years. (We, therefore, enjoined upon him): “Give thanks to Me and to your parents. To Me is your ultimate return. 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”. What new muslims can take way from these verses is that it is obligatory upon every muslim to respect their parents and treat them with kindness, regardless of their faith or religion. Their non belief in Allah does not mean that they do not deserve your love and obedience. However, this is only true when it comes to worldy matters. When disputes arise relating to the commandments of Allah and matters of faith, Allah’s word should be taken first and foremost.
Rewards for Respecting the Parents
Obeying and respecting the parents is considered as the greatest obligation on muslims because it’s the most rewarding way to achieve success in this dunya and akhira. If your parents are alive then it’s your golden opportunity to get the blessings of Allah in your health and wealth as the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever is pleased to have his provision expanded and his life span extended, let him keep good relations with his family” (Sahih Muslim). And more importantly, how can Allah accept your prayers and grant you happiness and success in this life or the next one if He’s not pleased with you? The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The pleasure of the Lord is in the pleasure of the parents, and the displeasure of the Lord is in the displeasure of the parents” (Al-Tirmidhi).
May Allah make us amongst those who treat their parents with kindness and respect and grant us Jannah (paradise) through their blessings…AMEEN!