All religions of the world have laid great emphasis on the rights of parents and the duties of children towards them. According to Islamic teachings, to be obedient and to show kindness to parents has been enjoined in the Qur’an in such a manner as to say that among the noble deeds, to obey parents, treat them respectfully and to show kindness to them, is next to worshipping Almighty Allah. The Holy Qur’an says:
(Your Lord has ordained that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents....) (2:83).
According to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his household), the parents of a certain person are his Heaven or Hell. What this means is that if a person obeys his parents, attends to their needs and keeps them happy and comfortable, he will attain Paradise.
On the other hand, if he is disrespectful and rude to them, offends them by ignoring their needs and feelings or causes them grief in any manner, his place shall be in Hell.
In modern times, a trend has arisen where parents have come to be seen as a liability because of old-age and physical weakness. They are then sent to ‘old people’s home’. But the stricture ordained by Islam makes it clear that shrugging off the responsibility of old parents serves as an invitation to Hell.
The time that parents need to be looked after most, is in their old age. To serve them devotedly at that stage of their lives is the best way of pleasing Almighty Allah. It is also one of the easier ways of attaining Paradise.
A Companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) has said that: “A person is indeed disgraced, who doesn’t earn Paradise by caring for his parents during the lifetime and old-age of his or her parents.”
OOnce a man asked the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his household): “Who has the greatest claim on me with regard to service and kind treatment?’ The Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) replied: “Your mother and again your mother and once again your mother. After her is the claim of your father, then that of your relatives, and then of the relations next to them.” This shows that the claim of a mother is greater than a father over the care that you endow upon them in their old-age.
Serving and obeying parents is a matter of give and take. Those who treat and obey their parents can rest assured that their children will also show kindness and compassion to them. Respecting and caring the parents is a virtue of the highest order that continues to transcend generation after generation.
Asma bint Abu Bakr relates that her mother had come from Mecca to Medina to meet her. Her mother wasn’t a Muslim and followed pagan tribal customs and beliefs. Asma inquired from the Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) - how she was supposed to treat her. The Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) told her to be kind and considerate and to behave towards her as was a mother’s due from a daughter.
Obeying one’s parents and treating them with respect and affection is a great virtue and it serves as repentance for a person’s sins. Similarly, to ask Almighty Allah to have mercy on them after death is an act that brings them comfort in their graves. It is the duty of sons and daughters to pray for the forgiveness of their parents after their death and treat their relatives and friends with due respect. In the Qur’an, Muslims have been urged to pray for the salvation of their parents as shown in the following verse:
(... And say, ‘O my Lord! Have mercy on both of them as they cared for me when I was little.’) (15:24)
The Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) has said that to abuse one’s parents is a major sin. So much so that if a person abuses someone else’s parents and that person, in retaliation, abuses his parents, then it is as though he himself has abused his parents.
On another occasion, when asked about the major sins, the Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) replied: “To associate someone with Almighty Allah, to disobey parents, to kill unlawfully, and to give false evidence.
In the light of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s (peace be upon him and his household) sayings, one can understand that the respect for parents occupies a special place in the moral and social teachings of ISLAM.