Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

MUHARRAM - SAFAR 1424 H
MARCH 2004
Volume 17-03 No : 207

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Are You Taking Care of Your Parents?

Are You Taking Care of Your Parents?

A man complained to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about his son who was not giving part of his earning to his father. The Prophet held the hand of the young man and gave it in the hand of his father and said to the young man: " You and your wealth belong to your father."

By Dr Gohar Mushtaq

When we compare verses of the Qur'an dealing with social, economic and political systems of Islam, we find out that the most number of Quranic verses deal with the social system, then comes the economic system and the least number of verses deal with the political system. The reason is clear. While there is room for evolution in political ideologies as the awareness of people increases with the progression of time, the social system does not undergo noticeable changes with the passage of time. The nature of relationship of parents to their children or husband-wife relationship or sibling ties or our obligations towards our relatives is not different from the one 1400 years ago or 5000 years ago. Attention should be focused on the status of parents in Islam and the scientific basis of our relationships to our parents, especially our mothers, as it has been shown by modern research.

In Qur'an, Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah: "Worship none but Allah and be dutiful and good to parents." (Surah Al-Baqarah [The Cow] 2:183) Similarly, Allah commands us in Surah Al-Isra': "And your Lord has commanded that worship none but Him, and that you be dutiful to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them, and speak to them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: 'My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy, as they did bring me up when I was small." (Surah Al-Isra' [The Night Journey] 17:23-24) In Qur'an, the commandment for being kind and dutiful to our parents occurs more than 10 times. It is interesting to note that, in the Qur'an, it has been stressed more to love our parents than to love our children or our wives. The reason is that it is in our nature to love our children and wives. But as people grow older having their own families, their love for their old parents diminishes most of the times. Therefore, the Qur'an tells us to cultivate the love of our parents in our hearts.

There are several traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in which he stressed the importance and status of our parents. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: "Paradise is at the feet of mothers." (Al'Nisa'i, Ibn Majah). Similarly, a man complained to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about his son who was not giving part of his earning to his father. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) held the hand of the young man and gave it in the hand of his father and said to the young man: "You and your wealth belong to your father."

A man performed hajj while carrying his old mother on his shoulder. At the end of hajj, he asked Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) if he had repaid his mother for the favors she had done to him when he was a child. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) replied to him: "Not even a little bit. You did not repay her for that one night when you were a little kid and you urinated on the bed and made it wet. Your mother placed you on the dry place on the bed and she herself slept on the wet spot." In one tradition, he (peace be upon him) is noted to have said: "The prayer (supplication) of a father for his son is equivalent to the prayer of a prophet for his nation."

Teen-age Liberation Movement

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in one of his traditions said regarding one of the signs of end of times: "That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress." According to the Islamic scholar, Izz ud din bin Abdus Salaam, this means the complete inversion of the social order. Daughters are the ones who are usually the last ones in the home to be disrespectful to their mothers but, as we approach the age of Dajjal (anti-Christ), they will happen. American author Robert Bly in his book "The Sibling Society" writes: "The popular heroes of the late 1950s, James Dean, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Jack Kerouac, all took part in that struggle to loosen everyone up, and were loved for it..." [i] The media, which includes TV, magazines, cinema, internet, all played their part in providing the role models to the youth to make them rebellious to their parents and consider their parents as stupid. This is the youth worshipping culture in which the old people have no place. Unfortunately, the Muslim youth were also, directly or indirectly, affected by that phenomenon. The sociologists tell us that what the youth call teen-age liberation is only liberation from parents and moral values. Otherwise, those teen-age youth are engaged in the blind following and imitation of the people of their age or their media-role models. Those youth are shackled in the bonds of peer-pressure, both mentally and physically.

Biological Basis of Our Relationship to Our Mothers

In the Qur'an, Allah says: "And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship (during pregnancy) and stopping of his breastfeeding is in two years - Give thanks to Me and your parents - Unto Me is final destination." (Surah Luqman 31:14)

In these verses of the Qur'an, the pregnancy period and the period of breast-feeding are specifically mentioned. This is an important point that needs further clarification. Allama Ibnul Qayyim al-Jawziyyah in his book "Kitaab ur Rooh" (The Book of Soul) mentions that the human soul has five kinds of connections to the body and the first connection between the soul and body of a person occurs while the person is in the womb of his/her mother. [ii] This has profound implications in the later life.

Recently, interesting scientific research has been done regarding the relationship between the pregnant mother and the unborn child (known as fetus in the scientific terminology) in her womb. We now know that the heart of the unborn child develops and starts pumping long before the brain comes into existence. Even though the actual factor that triggers the heartbeat of the unborn child is unknown, it is very likely that the mother's heart-beat triggers that of the unborn child who is in her womb.

At the time when the unborn child (fetus) is four and half weeks old in the womb of the mother, its sense of hearing (auditory system) is complete and according to a hadith, that is about the time (four months) when the angel blows 'ruh' (soul) into the unborn child. At that point, the unborn child can hear the sounds produced in the body of the mother. Of all the sounds that the child hears in the womb of the mother, the most predominant and common one is the continuous rhythmic sound of its mother's heartbeat. As long as the mother's heartbeat is normal and regular, the unborn child feels safe. In 1940s, Lester Sontag, M.D., was the first scientist who discovered that the mother's heartbeat affects the heartbeat of the unborn child in the womb in many ways.[iii] The unconscious memory of the mother's heartbeat, while the child was in the womb, remains in the child even after the birth of the child and for the rest of his or her life. Several scientific researches support this view. It was shown that when the heartbeat sound was played on a tape-recorder in a hospital nursery, it reduced the infant crying in the nursery. Thomas Verny, M.D. in his famous book "The Secret Life of the Unborn Child" has mentioned that it is due to unconscious memory of the mother's heartbeat that, after the birth, a child feels comforted when it is held to somebody's chest or an adult goes to sleep while listening to the steady ticking of the clock and that could possibly be the reason why people in the office are very rarely distracted by the rhythmic clacking of typewriters or other such things.[iv] Some people who suffer from insomnia (loss of sleep) use sound machines, which actually mimic the sound of a heart beat. Similarly, the most soothing music usually beats at about 70 to 80 tones per minute, which resembles the natural rhythm of a heartbeat. The most definite characteristic of jazz (a type of music popular in the whole world) is its pulsating rhythm. The drumbeat in jazz resembles the heartbeat.

The sacrifices of the mother for her child not only include the long and painful pregnancy period, but also the moment of delivery (giving birth to the child), which is equally painful. In Surah Al-Ahqaf, Allah says: "We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him (during pregnancy), and in pain did she give him birth." (Surah Al-Ahqaf [The Curved Sandhills] 46:15). According to a tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), a woman who dies while giving birth to a child is considered to be a "shaheeda" (a martyr in the sight of Allah). As compared to all the animals, the human beings are large brained and large skulled. For this reason, as Robert Bly writes about the human beings, "The large head, as it is and has been, makes birth an intensely painful experience for the human female".[v] Again, this is a sacrifice the mother gives to bring her child into this world.

Research done by psychologists and other social scientists has also shown that the body contact of the child to its mother is extremely important in the mental development of the child. One of the ways this mother-child body contact can be accomplished is when the mother is breast-feeding her child. That is why, the reference to breast-feeding the child for about 2 years is specifically made in the Qur'an itself (Surah Luqman 31:14). About fifty years ago, in the wave of modernism, many mothers in Europe and America started to bottle-feed their children because they thought it backward to breast-feed. They are still paying the price of that in the form of breast-cancer. Research has shown that breast-fed infants are more intelligent than bottle-fed infants. There are myriads of other obvious benefits of breast-feeding over bottle-feeding.[vi] According to psychologists, 75% of the child's personality is shaped in the first 3 years of its life. Robert Bly, commenting on the brain development of human infant after birth, writes: "At birth, the rhesus monkey, for example, has a brain that is already 65 percent of its final size; the chimpanzee brain is 40.5 percent of its final size; but the human baby's brain is only 23 percent. That means that three-quarters of the skull growth takes place after birth." [vii] The normal development of human brain cannot be accomplished without the help of parents. That must be the reason why Carl Jung, the famous American psychologist, once said: "The human infant lives in the shadow of his parents." And that is precisely the reason why Qur'an commands us to be dutiful, kind and thankful to our parents.

Law of the Circle of Life

The above-mentioned research shows us from Islamic as well as scientific evidence how important are our parents to us and the physical and mental strength that we have today as adults is the result of the sacrifices our parents made to us. If we do not pay attention to the commandment of Allah and we neglect our duty towards our parent, we will suffer for our mistake in this world as well as the Life Hereafter. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has told us in a tradition narrated by At-Tabaraani, which I consider as the "law of the circle of life". The hadith goes as follows: "If you do good to your fathers, your sons will do good to you." (Narrated by At-Tabaraani)

I would like to end this article with a Chinese story because the Qur'an tells us to learn from the stories of previous people. The story goes as follows:

Once upon a time, a man had a father who was very old. He also had a son and a wife. His wife got tired of serving the old man. Hence, she asked her husband to get rid of the old man in some way. They finally decided to leave the old man in the jungle. The man put his old father in a basket (since the old man could not walk) and told his father that they are going on a picnic to the jungle. He also took his 5-year old son with him and he secretly told his 5-year old son: "Your grandfather is very old so we are leaving him in the forest forever." When the man left his old father in the forest and he was about to go back to his home, the little child innocently said to his father: "Daddy, let's take the basket with us home because when you get old, I will also put you in that and leave you in the jungle.

The writer holds a Ph.D. (Biochemistry, U.S.A.) and can be reached at gmushtaq2000@ yahoo.com

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