RIGHTS OF PARENTS ON CHILDREN

Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, laid great stress on the rights of parents and duties of children in that regard in the same way as he stressed on the rights of children and duties of parents. In fact, he has given this relationship the place of an article of faith in his teachings. In the Qur’an, the rendering of obedience to parents and showing kindness to them has been enjoined along with the Oneness, and worship, of God in such a way that it appears that among human deeds, to obey one’s parents and to treat them with respect and kindness is next only to Divine worship. To quote from Surah Bani Israel: “The Lord has ordained that ye worship none but Him; and to show kindness to your parents” (Qur’an XVII: 23). While describing the rights of parents at another place in the Qur’an – in Surah Luqman – it is even stated were one’s parents to be Polytheists who wish their children to follow their faith, one should decline to obey them, but still continue to behave towards them with justice and consideration (cf. Qur’an XXXI: 15). What is told in the Traditions that follow is simply an elucidation of these commandments.

(1)  It is related by Umamah that (once) a person asked the Apostle of God: “How much is the claim of parents on their children?” “They are your Heaven and Hell,” the Apostle of God replied.

        –  Ibn Majah

Commentary

It shows that if a person obeys his parents and attends to their needs and comforts and keeps them happy, he will attain Paradise. On the other hand, whoever is rude and disobedient to his parents and offends them by ignoring their feelings or causing them grief in any other way is destined to make his home in Hell.

(2)  It is related by Abdullah b. Amr b. al-Aas that the Apostle of God said: “In the good pleasure of father lies the good pleasure of God, and, in his displeasure, the displeasure of God.”

–  Tirmizi

Commentary

The purport of it is that anyone who seeks to please God should earn the good pleasure of his father. To keep the parents well-pleased is essential to the earning of the countenance of the Lord while the anger and displeasure of the father leads to His anger and displeasure. In it, the word Walid is used which means ‘father,’ while the equivalent for ‘mother’ in Arabic is Walidah. Thus, mother is not specifically mentioned in this Tradition, but as it is distinctly stated in the Tradition we are now going to discuss, the position of mother is even higher than that of father and, as such, her pleasure or displeasure will carry an equal significance.

(3) Narrates Abu Hurairah that (once) a person enquired from the Apostle of God: “Who has the greatest claim on me with regard to service and kindly treatment?” The Prophet replied: “Your mother; and again, your mother; and once again, your mother. After her, there is the claim of your father, and, after it, of your near kinsmen, and, then, of the kinsmen who are next to them.”

–  Bukhari and Muslim

Commentary

The name of the questioner is not given in Abu Hurairah’s narrative, but in Tirmizi and Abu Dawood, it is related, on the authority of Bahez b. Hakeem b. Muawiya Qushairi, that his father, Muawiya b. Haidah Qushain, had asked the Apostle of God: “Man Abarro (Whom should I serve and take care of)? (Whose claim to my thoughtful attention is foremost)?” The Prophet replied, “Ummaka (Of your mother).” He then asked, “Summa Man? (Who comes next)?” The Prophet replied, “Ummaka.” He, once again, asked, “Summa Man” “Ummaka,” the Prophet replied again. After it, he asked for the fourth time, “Summa Man?” “Abaka Summal Aqraba Fal Aqraba.” (After your mother is the claim of your father, and, then, grade by grade, of your relatives to loving kindness and affection),” the Prophet replied.

The subject-matter of both the narratives and even the phrasing of the questions and answers is almost identical. It is, therefore, highly probable that the questioner referred to in Abu Hurairah’s narrative was Muawiya b. Haidah Qushairi, on the authority of whose grandson, Bahez b. Hakeem, the other report has been quoted in Tirmizi and Abu Dawood. Anyhow, the purport of both the Traditions, evidently, is that where care and kindly treatment are concerned, the claim of mother is greater than that of father. From the Qur’an, too, it appears to be the same for at many places in it, the pain and suffering the mother has to bear during pregnancy and at childbirth and in fostering and bringing up the children has been mentioned, in particular, along with the exhortation of showing kindness to parents.

(4) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “May he be humiliated; may he be disgraced; may he be brought low.” “Who?” the Companions enquired. “The unfortunate person whose parents or anyone of them attain to old age in his lifetime and he does not earn Paradise (by being kind-hearted and dutiful to them).”

–  Muslim

Commentary

We have already seen Abu Umama’s narrative that “parents are the Heaven and Hell of their children.” It, too, is obvious that parents need most to be looked after carefully in old age and to serve them devotedly in that state is most pleasing to the Lord and an easy way to attain Paradise. Hence, anyone who gets an opportunity to serve his parents in the declining years of their lives and does not make the best use of it, as a means to the attainment of Paradise, undoubtedly, is a most wretched person.

(5) Abdullah b. Amr b. al-Aas narrates that a person (once) came to the Apostle of God and said that he wanted to participate in Jihad. “Are your parents alive?” enquired the Prophet. “Yes,” he replied. “They are alive.” The Prophet thereupon, observed: “Then strive in their service and bring aid and succour to them. (This is your Jihad).”

–  Abu Dawood

Commentary

Perhaps, there was reason for the holy Prophet to believe that the parents of the person concerned were in need of his help and attention and he had left them and come out for Jihad without taking their leave. That is why, he told him to go home and take care of them for, in those circumstances, the service of the parents was more important. It must, however, not be supposed that anyone whose parents are alive should not take part in Jihad, and only those were to do so whose parents had died. In fact, the parents of a large number of the Companions who joined in Jihad along with the Apostle of God were living.

(6) Muawiya b. Jahima related to us, saying: “My father, Jahima, went to the Apostle of God, and said: ‘I intend to go on Jihad and have come to seek your advice.’ The Prophet asked him: ‘Is your mother alive?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Then stay with her and look after her needs. Your Heaven lies under her feet,’ the Prophet said.”

–  Musnad Ahmad and Nassai

Commentary

Apparently, the mother of Jahima needed attention, and, hence, the Prophet gave him the advice.

(7) Narrates Abdullah b. Omar that a person came to the Apostle of God and said: “I have committed a deadly sin. Can my repentance be accepted (and my sin forgiven)?” “Is your mother living?” asked the Prophet. “No. She is dead,” he replied. Upon it, the Apostle of God enquired: “Is there a sister of your mother?” “Yes,” replied the man. “A sister of hers is living.” “Then treat her kindly and well. (God will accept your repentance through its propitiousness and forgive you your sin),” the Prophet observed.

–  Tirmizi

Commentary

Though all good deeds annul evil deeds, some are more efficacious. The above Tradition tells that the service of parents, maternal aunt and maternal grandmother are among the acts by whose propitiousness even the repentance of the worst of sinners and evil doers is accepted and they are forgiven.

(8) Asma bint Abu Bakr narrated to us, saying: “During the days of the Treaty (of Hudaibiyah) between the Apostle of God and Quraish of Makkah, my mother who still followed her Paganish creed came to me (travelling all the way to Madinah). I then informed the Apostle of God that my mother had come and that she was in need, and asked him whether I could help her? The Apostle of God replied: ‘Yes, help her (and treat her as a daughter should treat her mother).’”

–  Bukhari and Muslim

Commentary

Asma was the daughter of Abu Bakr and an elder sister of Ayesha Siddiqa from a different mother. Her mother’s name is given in the narratives as Qutaila bint Abdul Uzza, and Abu Bakr had divorced her even during the Age of Perversion. Anyhow, she had ceased to be his wife before the dawn of Islam and had held fast to her Polytheistic creed. When, after the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, it had become possible for the Pagans of Makkah to go to Madinah and for the Muslims of Madinah to go to Makkah, she had come to Madinah to visit her daughter. It was then that Asma enquired from the Apostle of God how she was going to treat her: whether she should have nothing to do with her, as she was a Pagan, or treat her like a daughter and show kindness. The Prophet told her to be kind and considerate and behave towards her as was a mother’s due. Earlier, we have quoted the Qur’anic verse that if anyone’s parents were Polytheists, and they also wanted him to follow their faith, he should decline to do their bidding, but continue to be kind and respectful to them.

(9) Abu Usaid Sa’idi narrates: “Once we were sitting with the Apostle of God when a person belonging to the tribe of Bani Salma came, and said to him: ‘O Apostle of God! Are there some rights of my parents on me which I have to fulfill even after they have died?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the Prophet. ‘(These are) to pray for mercy and forgiveness on their behalf, to fulfill the promises they may have made to anyone, to pay due regard to the bonds of relationship that are from their side, and to be respectful to their friends.’”

 – Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah

(10) It is related by Abdullah b. Umar that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever wishes to give comfort to his father in the grave should treat his (i.e., his father’s) brothers kindly and well after his death.”

 – Sahih Ibn Hibban

(11) It is related by Abdullah b. Umar that the Apostle of God said: “An excellent way to serve one’s father and show kindness to him, after his death, is that one behaved towards his friends with respect and politeness and discharged the claim of one’s father’s affection and friendship.”

–  Muslim

Commentary

In both of these Traditions only the friends or brothers of the father have been mentioned, but as already stated, the claim of the mother is even greater with regard to it. Besides, in Abu Usaid Sa’idi’s narrative we have just quoted, it is clearly told that both father and mother have the claim on their children after their death that they treat their relatives and friends with attention and honour.

(12) It is related by Anas that the Apostle of God said: “It also happens (sometimes) that the parents of a person, or one of them, die and he has been disobedient to them in their lifetime and incurred their displeasure but after their death, he prays to God (with a sincere heart) to have mercy on them and forgive them their sins (and, thus, tries to make amends for his impudence), and the Lord, thereupon, declares the disobedient child obedient (and, thus, he is saved from punishment for being rude to his parents).”

 –  Baihaqi

Commentary

Just as to obey one’s parents and treat them with respect and affection is a virtue of the highest order and becomes an atonement even for major sins, to beseech the Lord earnestly, after their death, to show mercy to them also is an act which, on the one hand, brings comfort to them in their graves and, on the other, serves as an expiation for the wrongs the children may have committed in that respect, and they become worthy of Divine mercy and beneficence in the Hereafter. In the Qur’an, the Muslims have been exhorted particularly to pray for the salvation of their parents. It says: “And say: ‘My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little’ (XVII: 24).

(13) Jabir related to us that the Apostle of God said: “God prolongs the life of a person ‘who obeys his parents and serves them devotedly.’”

–  Musnad lbn Man’ee and Kamil lbn Adee

Commentary

Traditions like it are not inconsistent with the doctrine of predestination. It was known to God from the beginning of time that such-and-such a man will be kind and obedient to his parents and, therefore, the span of life alloted to him was greater than that it would have been were it otherwise. All the Traditions in which tidings of abundance in sustenance are given should, also, be seen in the same light though prosperity or poverty, too, is determined beforehand.

(14) It is related by Abdullah b. Umar that the Apostle of God said: “Obey you parents and treat them with kindness, and your children will be kind and obedient to you; and live with purity, your wives will stay pure.”

 –  Tabrani

(15) Anas related to us, saying that (once) the Apostle of God was asked about the major sins. He replied: ‘To associate anyone with God; to disobey the parents and cause them pain or injury; to kill unlawfully; and to give false evidence.’”

Bukhari

Commentary

In another report appearing also in Bukhari, the aforementioned acts have been condemned as Akbarul Kaba’ir the most deadly among the deadly sins. The order in which the holy Prophet has set them forth shows that the disregard and violation of the rights of parents is next in gravity only to Polytheism, and even more serious than murder.

(16) It is related by Abdullah b. Amr b. al-Aas that the Apostle of God said: “To abuse one’s parents, also, is a major sin.” “O Apostle of God,” it was asked. “Can anyone abuse his parents?” ‘Yes,” the Prophet replied, “It is like this: a person abuses another’s parents and he, in retaliation, abuses his parents. (It would mean that he himself had abused his parents).”

–  Bukhari and Muslim

Commentary

It shows that to say or do anything to anyone as a result of which he may start abusing one’s parents is, in effect, similar to abusing one’s own parents and belongs to the category of major sins. We can imagine from it what an important place respect for parents occupies in the moral and social teachings of Islam and how careful should one be about it.