All religions and cultures around the world teach that respecting parents is a fundamental lesson of good character. We have all heard about it, and know it, and believe that we follow it. But do we really? If we really did follow this fundamental tenet of being a good human being, then there would be no homes for the aged, and no 80-year-olds working and laboring for their survival.
There would be no eloped marriages, nor would there be the ungratefulness and arrogance towards them despite their gift to you of your very existence. So although we all know that it is required of us to respect our parents, let us refresh our memories about how important it is according to Islam, and what Allah and the Prophet (saws) said on the subject.
Being good to parents is an obligation.
It is obligated by Allah in a unique way. In more than one place in the Quran, Allah talks about the obligation of respecting the parents right after He talks about the obligation of Tawheed.
Do not worship except Allah ; and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good [words] and establish prayer and give zakah. [Quran, 2:83]
Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. [Quran, 4:36]
Say, ‘Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited to you. [He commands] that you not associate anything with Him, and to parents, good treatment, and do not kill your children out of poverty;’ [Quran, 6:151]
Look at the order of the obligations mentioned in the above verses. Good treatment to parents comes right after Tawheed and before everything else.
Say Not to Them ‘Uff’
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.” [Quran, 17:23-24]
Saying ‘uff’ includes showing any kind of irritation, rudeness or anger towards them.
The one who doesn’t respect his or her parents is a Jabbar
Allah says while describing the character of Yahya (as) that he was
وَبَرًّا بِوَالِدَيْهِ وَلَمْ يَكُن جَبَّارًا عَصِيًّا*
… dutiful to his parents, and he was not a disobedient tyrant. [Quran, 19:14]
The same thing is said in the same surah by Jesus (as) about his mother:
وَبَرًّا بِوَالِدَتِي وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْنِي جَبَّارًا شَقِيًّا*
And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant. [Quran, 19:32]
*In order to understand Quran better, learn Arabic at UQ Academy. Start with our course Learn 50% of the Quran in 9 hours.
Al Jabbar is one of the beautiful names of Allah (swt), but when applied to human beings it is a derogative term, as if he/she is trying to compete with Allah in His power. And this is the term given by Allah to the one who is not dutiful to one’s parents. If we can’t be humble in front of our parents, whom we have grown up seeing everyday, how can we be humble in front of Allah who is unseen? And if we’re not humble in front of Allah, then we are committing kibr which is an act of disbelief. That’s why 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]
Consider the story of a man who killed another man in jealousy. He asked the Prophet if there is a way for him to make amends. The Prophet asked him if his mother was alive. She wasn’t. So the Prophet asked him to ‘repent to Allah Almighty and try to draw near Him as much as you can.’ The man then went to Ibn Abbas (ra) and asked him, ‘Why did you ask him whether his mother was alive?’ He replied, ‘I do not know of any action better for bringing a person near to Allah than dutifulness to his mother.’ [al Adab al Mufrad]
Parents are the Keys to Two Gates of Jannah
Ibn ‘Abbas said, “If any Muslim obeys Allah regarding his parents, Allah will open two gates of the Garden for him. If there is only one parent, then one gate will be opened. If one of them is angry, then Allah will not be pleased with him until that parent is pleased with him.” He was asked, “Even if they wrong him?” “Even if they wrong him” he replied. [al Adab al Mufrad]
In the Quran there is the story of Ibrahim (as) talking to his disbelieving father in the kindest manner, although the father was a manufacturer of idols, and eventually kicked him out of the house for believing in Allah alone. Compare that to what our own parents have been doing for us months before we were even born, and how much importance we give to them in our lives.