By Nageen Khan
Importance of Parents In Islam
When asked about the people who taught us the most, who were there for us through hardships, who laughed with us during the good times, who put up with us on our off days, most of us think immediately of our parents. And it is true: our parents are the ones who have been with us through almost everything in our lives. Our mothers carry us for nine grueling months before we are born, and for at least eighteen years afterwards, our parents, to list a few things, take care of us, teach us, help us, and provide for us financially and academically. Without them, most of us would not be in the places we are today.
Unfortunately, however, many people do not treat their parents in the manner they deserve. Teenagers fight relentlessly with their parents, often over extremely trivial topics. Other young people ignore their parents, rather spending time with their friends or online. As we get older, we tend to forget that our parents are growing older as well, and they are pushed aside to living on their own or in nursing homes while we start our own families. Not only is this disregard unfair to our parents, it is also strictly forbidden in Islam. God has commanded us to treat out parents with utmost respect, no matter the situation we are in.
Respecting parents is one of the most significant aspects of Islam. God says in the Quran:
Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. (17:23)
The first decree in this verse is to worship none but God. This is the first and most important pillar of Islam, and enjoining partners with God is the only unforgivable sin. The order right after this is kindness to parents. There are other major sins in Islam that could have been mentioned here, but the one God has forbidden us against here is disrespect to parents. We are told not to speak contemptuously to them: the word given in Arabic is “oof,” and even this simple groan of scorn is forbidden. Instead, God has told us to address them with honor and deference.
The next verse tells us: “And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood’” (17:24). The phrase “lower to them the wing of humility” has been interpreted as an image of the way birds spread their wings out of protection and love for their young. Our treatment of our parents is shown in the same way: we should be humble, respectful, and loving towards them.
Moreover, the prayer in this verse (“My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood”) is extremely powerful, and many scholars say that Muslims should say this after every prayer. It is truly a beautiful prayer, as we are asking God to bestow mercy on our parents, as they were merciful to us when we were young.
Holding one’s parents in high esteem is so important that, even if they tell us not to obey God’s command, we are still to treat them kindly. God says in the Quran,
But if they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration). (31:15)
Even if our parents strive to make us commit the worst act in Islam, we must still treat them with justice. There is no concept of leaving our parents in Islam, even if they are disbelievers. To further elaborate this point, there is a saying from the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (pbuh), narrated by Asma, the daughter of the Prophet’s good friend, Abu Bakr. Asma once asked the Prophet (pbuh) how she should treat her mother, who was a polytheist. The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Treat your mother well.”
While we should obviously respect both our parents, our mothers are given special treatment in Islam. This is because our mothers carried us for nine months, and were our primary caregivers when we were children. In one saying of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), a companion asked him who deserves the most good treatment and respect. The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Your mother.” The companion asked again, and again the reply was “Your mother.” The companion asked a third time, and once more the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Your mother.” When the companion asked for the last time, the Prophet (pbuh) then answered, “Your father.”
Our mothers deserve the utmost respect and good treatment, and there is no excuse otherwise. We are told this three times over. In another narration, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that paradise lies under the feet of the mother. This further reiterates the fact that our mothers are to be the most revered and cared for people in our lives. In yet another saying, we are told that a man did the entire pilgrimage, Hajj, with his elderly mother on his back. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told him that this did not even repay his mother for a single kick the man gave his mother while she was bearing him in the womb.
This is not to say that our fathers do not deserve respect. The story of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) in the Quran tells us that his father was ready to kill him for destroying religious idols and abandoning the pagan religion. Abraham, instead of losing control, merely prayed to God to have mercy on his father and to help him find the truth. Many youth today shout obscenities if their fathers give them a stern lecture. From our prophet we learn that this is never acceptable, no matter the situation.
Finally, there are many ways to fix our relationships with our parents. First and foremost, of course, we must recall the importance our parents have in our lives, and the various verses that remind us to be kind to them. There are also many sayings from the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that teach us how to act with them. In one narration, he likened caring for parents to fighting for the cause of God, the best deed a Muslim can do in his life. In another, we are told that smiling kindly at our parents is as though we have done the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj. We should make it a habit to do these small things in our daily lives. Talking to our parents on a day-to-day basis, no matter our age, is also a way to close any gaps we may have with them. Lastly, it is always important to remember to pray for our parents. We have been told that several people’s prayers will always be answered, and among these is the child’s prayer for their parents.
May God help us all to be more respectful to our parents.
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Parents’ responsibilities for the care and upbringing of their children are mentioned in several verses of the Quran, as well as in the Hadeeth.
Allah Almighty Says (what means): “O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones…" [Quran 66:6]
How do we ward off that fire from our families? We need to show to them the right way and to teach them the difference between right and wrong. An excellent example of this is found in the words of Luqmaan to his son, related in the Quran, where he admonishes him:
1. Not to ascribe divine powers to anything other than Allah.
2. To be good and kind to parents.
3. To obey parents unless they command what is wrong.
4. To understand that all our deeds, however minor, are recorded and will be brought to light.
5. To be constant in prayer.
6. To enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong.
7. To bear what befalls him with patience.
8. To avoid pride, arrogance and boastfulness.
9. To be modest in manner and speech.
This is a model example of parental responsibility and advice. Luqmaan guides his own son on the path to paradise with simple but memorable words.
Children are a trust given to the parents. Parents will be held accountable for this trust on the Day of Judgment. Parents are essentially responsible for the moral, ethical and the basic and essential religious teachings of their children.
If parents fulfill this responsibility, they will be free of the consequences on the Day of Judgment. The children will become better citizens and a pleasure to the eyes of their parents, first in this life, and in the Hereafter.
Allah, Almighty Says (what means): “And those who believed and whose descendants followed them in faith – We will join with them their descendants, and We will not deprive them of anything of their deeds. Every person, for what he earned, is retained...” [Quran 52:21]
This parental responsibility belongs not only to the father. The Prophet is reported to have said: "Take care! Each of you is a shepherd and each of you shall be asked concerning his flock; a leader is a shepherd of his people, and he shall be asked concerning his flock; and a man is a shepherd of the people of his house, and he shall be asked concerning his flock; and a woman is a shepherd of the house of her husband and over their children, and she shall be asked concerning them.”[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Indeed the mother’s role may be even greater: while the children are young they are very close to her and dependent upon her, and they spend more time with her than with anyone else. There is an Arabic saying: “The mother is the first school”. She may be a good school, an indifferent or even a bad school. She may even be unaware that she is serving as a role model in her behavior, and her attitudes. Every mother should be conscious of her role and do her best to make it beneficial for the development of her children as they set out on the journey of life.
Parental care and guidance are fundamental to child upbringing. Some parents nowadays become so preoccupied with their jobs or with making money or with their social lives that children are often neglected. They may be ignored or left for hours with the television or computer or they may be sent to day-care centers at a very early age to be cared for in groups by other people.
The parents’ right to respect from their children is dependent upon the children’s right to loving care and guidance of their parents.
It is related that a man once came to ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab, the second Khaleefah (Caliph) of Islam, may Allah be pleased with him, complaining of his sons’ disobedience to him. ‘Umar summoned the boy and spoke of his disobedience to his father and his neglect of his rights. The boy replied: “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen (Prince of believers)! Hasn’t a child rights over his father?”
“Certainly”, replied ‘Umar.
“What are they, Ameer al-Mu’mineen?”
“That he should choose his mother, give him a good name and teach him the Book (the Quran).”
“O Ameer al-Mu’mineen! My father did nothing of this. My mother was a Magian (fire worshipper). He gave me the name of Julalaan (meaning dung beetle or scarab) and he did not teach me a single letter of the Quran.”
Turning to the father, ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “You have come to me to complain about the disobedience of your son. You have failed in your duty to him before he has failed in his duty to you; you have done wrong to him before he has wronged you.”
Education and bringing up in Islam
Allah Almighty Says (what means): “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion..."[Quran 5: 3]
Education is the process by which children are nurtured as they grow up to develop the Islamic worldview and the Islamic virtues.
Education means to look after, to nurture, to nourish, to help grow and flourish. It implies certain sensitivity towards the child under your care, his emotional and physical needs and capacities. It implies the ability to inspire confidence. It implies the courage to allow and promote creativity and innovation. It implies the ability to trust and not to stifle, to be firm when needed and even to impose sanctions when necessary.
The starting point for education is the example of parents. Small children take their parents as models. If parents are lazy and careless, the children will also take laziness and carelessness as normal. If they tell lies, children will regard lying as normal and acceptable. The same applies to smoking, drinking, rude manners, swearing and all other bad habits. There is no way parents can motivate their children to practice the Islamic virtues if they themselves do not respect the values and try to practice them also. As children grow up, they will only perceive the inconsistency or even hypocrisy in their parents’ approach.
It is important not to crush a child’s spirit and joy about life by terrorizing him/her, whether physically or psychologically. Children must play. It is the way they learn, and is not in itself something bad. Parents should give the child opportunities to play and to experience the excitement of exploration, of learning and of growing up.
At the same time, parents should teach children Islamic manners and etiquette in accordance with the beautiful example of the Prophet .
Such habits include truthfulness and honesty, gentleness, politeness, consideration for others, helpfulness, cleanliness and tidiness.
They also include:
1. Time management and doing things at the right time.
2. Physical exercise for fitness.
3. Mental exercise and developing an appetite for knowledge, understanding and skills.
4. Learning to read and recite the Quran from an early age when the child’s memory finds it easy.
5. Development of regular performance of Prayer between the ages of 7 and 10.
6. Taking on responsibilities in the family.
7. Taking on responsibilities in the wider community as children grow up.
Above all, correct education should ensure that children develop a love for Islam, a love for Allah and His Prophet and that they develop a feeling of pride in being Muslim and willingness to strive for the good of others. They need to realize the benefits of Islam, the foundations on which it is based and their need for Islam. They need to value Islam and live by Islamic values.
It is the responsibility of the parents to experiment with various ways of achieving those goals.
Islamic education and Muslim schools
If parents are to get the best results for their children in Muslim schools, they must know what the Muslim school is trying to do. Parents need to understand that while the school basically may be following a National Curriculum (which in some countries may be compulsory), the teaching approach is expected to be holistic. Therefore it is not just a matter of teaching Islamic Studies, Quran and Arabic under the same roof as Arts and Sciences, but of developing an integrated Islamic perspective on all forms of knowledge right across the curriculum. At the same time, the school is trying to cultivate good attitudes, behavior and manners in accordance with the teachings of Islam.
'Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, is reported to have said of the Prophet that: “His behavior was the Quran (in practice)”.[Ahmad] To take the Prophet as a “beautiful example” means not just to imitate his outward actions or practices but also to base our own motivation and actions on the Quran as he did, in a way that is appropriate to the place and time in which we happen to live.
The approach of a modern Muslim School, which may be located in a modern “secular” or non-Islamic type of environment, cannot be like that of Islamic education of the recent past, when teaching relied much on repetition and memorization and uncritical acceptance of the teachers’ word. The Islamic teaching must relate with the society in which the pupils live, with the state of modern knowledge and with the beliefs of other people (probably the majority) in the country where the school is located. If Muslim children are to grow up as witnesses to the truth in a non-Muslim society, they need to understand that society and to develop an objective and critical approach, so that they can appreciate whatever is good in it, avoid its evils and reach out to the non-Muslims, presenting the truths of Islam in a way they can understand Islam and relate to it.