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The Rights of Our Parents

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"So where do you put your parents when they get old? Do you guys have like a Muslim-only nursing home or something?" Whenever we get into the adventurous conversation about the treatment of Muslim parents with non-Muslims, this is officially one of the most frequently asked questions. With a beaming smile, not we, but our parents with their adorable strong accents answer, "We are Muslim parents, and we have Muslim children. We don't go to nursing homes! We live with our children! First we take care of them, and then when they grow up, they take care of us!" Standing in the background, we turn a bit red and mumble something along the lines of, "Okay dad, let's go now..."

Doesn't it seem magical? The world thinks we are the perfect Muslim families who are full of hugs and kisses all year round. For crying out loud, we'd rather die than disrespect our parents! For we are Muslim, and we are followers of the Holy Prophet and his Holy Household (peace be upon them all). We learn from the Holy Qur'an: "And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and that you shall show goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) 'Ugh' nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word." (17:23)

Simply put, as Muslim children today, we are disrespecting, disobeying, and mistreating our parents. It doesn't matter how religious or God-gifted we are, even the most pious of today's youth are failing when it comes to treating our parents as prescribed by the Qur'an and the Ahlul Bayt.

According to narrations, the priority given to respecting and loving our parents is second only to offering prayers on time and far greater than Jihad. Even if our parents are polytheists, it is compulsory upon us to treat them with the utmost respect and obedience (unless, of course, they are asking us to do something un-Islamic). Because we don't always agree with our parents, or perhaps because our parents don't always bow down to our every request, a lot of the time we are disrespecting our parents, not to mention the ungratefulness factor. The unfortunate thing is that a lot of us actually don't think we are doing anything wrong. We don't intend to be rude to our parents, so we don't acknowledge the fact that we are disrespecting them, as that was never our intention...right? But turning a blind eye to the fact that we are not exactly the world's best children doesn't help the situation at all.

These days we are so easily annoyed by our parents that it's second nature to bite their heads off the minute we think they are far from the ideal parents, leaving them overly upset. We think "Surely they will get over it!" However, Imam Ali (peace be upon him) tells us that children who cause their parents to become sad have indeed been disowned by them. In regards to being disowned by one's parents, Imam as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said that it is "a sin that darkens the skies." So why are we committing such a grave sin so frequently?!

The problem is that many of us don't exactly see eye to eye with our parents on most aspects of life. Our parents want us to study medicine or law, we wish to follow our passion of travelling the world or attempting to clock every PlayStation 3 game invented. Our parents want us to buy a reliable vehicle, we wish to go for the sports car. Our parents want us to save money for our future, we want to spend it all on a BlackBerry or a two thousand dollar laptop. We may want to marry some really good person, but due to the difference in culture and nationality, our parents may absolutely refuse. We may want our younger siblings to attend Islamic schools so we don't have to teach them everything, but due to the lack of after-school activities at Islamic schools, our parents disagree. When we're getting a really high-paying job offer, our parents won't agree because it's too long of a drive to get to work. Then we just stand there thinking, "How old am I again...?"

It's these small things which build up inside us and are taken out in the form of rude remarks, fierce fights, raised voices, rolling eyes, disrespectful attitudes, and a whole heap more. Sure, sometimes there may be unreasonable expectations and understandable letdowns, but what about everyday things like speaking politely and saying a friendly good morning and good night to our parents? Forget about saying "Salam Mom, Salam Dad!", these days our parents are lucky if they get some sort of mumbled acknowledgement when we get home tired from school and work.

For example, a lot of the time our parents ask us to do things, either go buy groceries or clean up after ourselves around the house, and we say something along the lines of "Mom, football is on...I'll do it during the break!" Then our parents say, "No! Do it NOW!" "Ugh...FINE!" and we stomp out of the room. (Notice how easy it is to let the forbidden "Ugh/Ouf/Gah" escape our mouths? Shaitan is getting the better of us!)

Not only is it compulsory for us to treat our parents with love and affection, but if we don't, we are in fact only lowering ourselves in the eyes of Allah. Imam Ridha (peace be upon him) is narrated to have said, "Allah, the Mighty, the Glorious, has associated gratitude to Him with gratitude towards parents, such that one who is grateful to Allah but ungrateful to his parents will be deemed as ungrateful to Allah."

We are literally missing out on countless blessings by behaving poorly with our old folks. A child who looks at his/her parents with love is performing an act of worship! The Messenger of Allah said, "Every righteous child who casts a look of mercy and affection upon his parents shall be granted, for every look of his, rewards equivalent to that of an accepted Hajj." The Prophet went on to explain that even if we look at our parents lovingly a hundred times a day, we will still receive the blessings equivalent to a hundred pilgrimages!

For those of us who think "I've done ENOUGH for my parents!", one of the companions of the Holy Prophet once told him that he had taken care of his mother for a very long time and in fact had carried her on his back so she could perform Hajj. The Prophet said, "All you have done for your mother does not even equate to one night's service that she provided for you while you were an infant!"

It's true, our parents aren't always right, their ideas aren't always reasonable, and their opinions aren't necessarily the same as ours, but we must be forever grateful for their services, and if not, it's only our own loss. By being patient, enduring the difficult times we may have with our parents, by taking care of them in their old age, and by not neglecting them by forcibly tossing them into an elderly people's home (or any other place where they don't want to go), we are in fact being rewarded by gaining closeness to Allah.

And if that doesn't sound convincing enough, then today's economically-conscious generation can refer to the saying of the Holy Prophet, "Be good towards your parents, and your children will be good towards you", and see that it's really a simple cost-benefit analysis!

Author of this article: Zara Syed
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