When I began to prepare for this series of articles, my thoughts absorbed by the contemplation of a Hadith which I have quoted on several occasions without truly appreciating its full significance. This goes to show that, like the Qur’an, the sayings of the Prophet do not yield all their fruit except to one who gives them their due of careful study and appreciation
The Hadith is related by Al-Bukhari on the authority of Abu Mas'ud Uqbah who quotes the Prophet as saying “A part of what people have learned of the sayings of Prophets is that if you have no sense of shame, then do whatever you like.”
That the Prophet repeats this rule, attributing it to earlier Prophets, enshrines it as part of Islamic teachings. If it were something he disapproved of, he would have indicated that clearly. The fact that it had been said by another prophet, or a number of Prophets, proves that it remains valid. We also note that the prophet says that the people have come to learn this from Prophets & that it has remained with them over succeeding generations. This indicates that it has met with unanimous approval. That the Prophet phrases his statement in this way serves to give more emphasis to the message included here. What we have is a moral value which has been taught by one Prophet after another, to a variety of nations and generations, and it has been received well by all nations in one generation after another. It ranks, then, with the most fundamental of moral values taught by prophets.
The Prophet’s statement means that a person who has no sense of shame will not hesitate to do what he likes, in total disregard of the feelings of others. To be shy, or to feel ashamed if one does something wrong, is then a virtue to be cultivated. It is this sense, which causes a person to hesitate before doing something harmful or forbidden. His sense of shame then, keeps him on the right path. We note here that the Prophet has used the form of an address in order to convey the meaning he wants. He has chosen this phraseology in preference to the statement of a rule, such as: “A person who has no sense of shame may do what he likes.” The adopted phraseology makes the Hadith much richer in meaning. We can interpret it in a variety of ways. Firstly, if one is not ashamed of doing something wrong, and does not worry over being held in contempt by other people, then he may do whatever he wants to do, whether good or bad. After all, he will have to face God who will reward or punish him according to what he has done. Secondly, one may say that the prophet means that if you are certain that there is nothing to be ashamed of in what you are doing, because it is right and conforms with the teachings of Islam, then go on and do it without worrying over who may disapprove. Thirdly, the Prophet’s statement may be taken as stressing the gravity of losing one’s sense of shame. In other words, to lose one’s sense of shame is worse than any wrong one may commit.
Its message is that if we are about to do something, we should consider whether it is a matter, which causes us to be ashamed. If so, then we should leave it. If there is nothing to be ashamed of, then we may go on and do it. This in fact applies to all Islamic matters. One feels ashamed of doing something, which God has forbidden or discouraged. On the other hand, one does not feel ashamed if he does not do what God has ordered or recommended him to do. There is no doubt that the Hadith in question commends the virtue of feeling ashamed on doing something wrong.
Someone may suggest that if a person has a strong sense of shame, he may be unable to stand up for what is right. He may, therefore, refrain from enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, a duty, which is incumbent on us all. Furthermore, his sense of shame may cause him to be reserved and not to speak up for the truth or for the cause of Islam.
Here we confuse weakness with being shy. Such a person is weak, although he may apologize for his weakness by claiming to be shy. We must always be guided by the prophet. He was known to have a very refined sense of shame to the extent that Abu Saeed Al-Khudri, his companion, describes him in these words: “The Prophet (peace be on him) was more shy than a virgin in her own room.” Yet the Prophet never hesitated to stand up for the truth he was preaching or to face anyone with the word of God. While he never demanded anything which belonged to him by right, preferring to forego it, he never hesitated to speak for God’s rights and for the tights of other people. He was so polite that he did not say to anyone anything, which the other person might dislike. If he himself disliked something, his feeling would be apparent on his face but he would not express it in words. In short, we have to differentiate between weakness and shyness. The Prophet was very shy but he was at the same time most courageous of people. His courage was most apparent when the case in question was a case of principle, i.e. something which is relevant to Islam itself.
We mentioned last week that it is important for a believer to have a keen sense of shame, for it is a great help in avoiding what is forbidden, We quoted a Hadith in which the Prophet clarifies that even the earliest of Prophets have stressed the importance of this virtue. He quotes them as saying: “If you have no sense of shame, then do whatever you like.” We also mentioned that since the Prophet was the best example of a man who practiced what he preached, he himself had a refined sense of shame which manifested itself in the fact that he never demanded anything which belonged to him by right, and the fact that if he disliked something, he would not express his dislike in words, but his feeling would be apparent in his face. We carry on with our discussion today, hoping to throw more light on this virtue and how it is translated in practical life, on the basis of the Prophet’s guidance. We have a story, related by Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, which states that her father, Abu Bakr, who was the Prophet’s closest companion and a man who enjoyed great respect in the Muslim community, asked permission to see the Prophet. The Prophet was reclining on Aisha’s bed, wearing a woolen jumper, which belonged to her. The Prophet allowed Abu Bakr to come in without changing his position. Abu Bakr spoke to him about whatever he wanted, and left. Later, Umar who was the second closest companion to the Prophet and was later to become the second Caliph to succeed him, also sough to see the Prophet. Again, the Prophet allowed him to come in maintaining his reclining posture on his wife’s bed. Umar explained his business and left. A short while later, Uthaman came and asked to see the Prophet. The prophet sat up and told his wife to tidy up her clothes before he allowed Uthman to come in. After Uthman had left, Aisha asked the Prophet why he did for Uthman’s visit what he did not do for the visits of Abu Bakr and Umar. He explained: “Uthman is a shy person. I felt that if he were to come in when I was in that position that he might be too shy to explain to me his business”.
In this story we see the prophet taking quick measure so that his visitor would not be overcome by his shyness if things appear too causal. The Prophet would not have done this. If it was wrong to be too shy the prophet would probably have mentioned his position and encouraged his visitor to explain the purpose of his visit trying to show him how to overcome shyness. The Prophet ‘s teachings, however, show that he valued shyness as a virtue, which is a credit point for any person to have. Anas ibn Malik quotes the Prophet as saying, “Shyness would adorn any situation, and aggressiveness would detract from any situation.” The same story of the Prophet’s attitude to a visit by Uthman is releated in a different way, which perhaps explains better how highly the Prophet valued shyness. It is again attributed to Aisha who states:” The Prophet was in a rposition in my home, with his thigh uncovered Abu Bakr sought to see him and left him come in. Abu Bakr explained what he came for. Umar then was admitted and he talked to the Prophet. Uthman later sought to see the Prophet. The Prophet sat up and tidied up his clothes before letting in Uthman and talking to him. When left I said: Messenger of God, Abu Bakr came in and you remained in your casual position. Umar then came in and you maintained the same position. When Uthman came in, you sat up and, tidied up your clothes.” He answered: “Would I not feel shy in the presence of a man who inspires shyness in angels?’
Perhaps we cannot appreciate the importance of being shy and having a keen sense of shame until we have reflected on this Hadith by the Prophet. “Faith is divided into 70 odd points. The most important of which is to believe that ‘there is no deity except God’ and the last of which is to remove what is harmful from the path of people. To be shy is one of the characteristics of faith.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
We note here that the Prophet singles out shyness as a branch of faith although he mentions that faith has more than 70 points. This highlights its importance. There is, however, a special reason for the specific emphasis laid on shyness in this Hadith. Everything related to faith is normally a conscious effort. One has to take a positive action in order to fulfill it. This is clearly the case with the two points the Prophet mentions in his statement: One has to state clearly that he believes in the Oneness of God in order to fulfill the most important point of faith. Similarly, he has to take a positive action in order to remove what may be harmful to others, from their way. To be shy, on the other hand, is a personal characteristic. It is normally an instinctive attitude. This may cause some people to overlook it as a part of faith. Shyness, however, is not always instinctive. A person may make an effort to acquire such a habit, in the same way as he trains himself to do habitually any good thing, such as a person making an effort to be generous. Even when ‘shyness comes naturally to a person, using, it in accordance with Islamic values requires a conscious attitude of mind which ensures that a person is rewarded for it. It is indeed what a person does consciously that merits reward from God. It is in this respect that shyness is considered a characteristic of faith and a person is rewarded for it. There is no doubt that a naturally shy person finds it easier to have this Islamic virtue. This applies to many other virtues. Generosity, for example, comes much easier to certain people than others. That does not detract from the value of their generosity.
Some people suggest that a shy person may put himself at a disadvantage, by not claiming what is rightfully his. A person may lend another some money but feels too shy to claim it back when he needs it, or when the borrower delays repayment unnecessarily. The lender may prefer to borrow the same amount of money from a third person to asking the first borrower to pay him back. Even in such a situation, the Prophet tells us that to be shy is preferable. Abdullah ibn Umar relates that the Prophet passed by a man who was speaking to his brother and counseling him not to be too shy. The Prophet said to him: “Leave him alone. Shyness is a part of faith”. Perhaps the Prophet noticed that the man was in a difficult position, listening to his brother’s advice. He wanted both of them to realize that a balanced attitude was preferable. He, therefore, counseled the first one not to be too hard and explained the virtue of being shy.
All people agree that to be kind to one’s parents is the proper attitude. All societies including those where family ties have become too loose, agree that sons and daughters must always be kind to their parents. Perhaps no one needs to be told that parents sacrifice a great deal to bring up their children. They take pains to provide for them the happiest life they can achieve and afford. There is no denying that not all parents provide their children with the same standard of care and love.
Some children are more fortunate than others in this respect. But, in normal circumstances, however, parents do care for their children and look after them. In doing so, they have to work hard and sacrifice much of their time, efforts, money and physical and mental rest.
We hear from time to time about cases where a parent is very cruel to his or her children. Cases have been reported of parents who have killed their children, or at least caused them to die. These cases however, are exceptions, which do not invalidate the rule.
If you examine any such case you will find that the person is far from normal. The healthier and more virtuous a society is, the less frequent and more far between such cases of perversion become. The closer a society moves to Islamic life, the more likely such cases become virtually non-existent.
It is because parents sacrifice a great deal in order to bring up the children that all religions tend to emphasize the virtue of being kind to parents. Islam requires such a kind treatment of parents as a personal duty of every son and daughter, allowing no exceptions whatsoever.
A number of Qur’anic verses place kindness to parents as a universal requirement which is second only to believing in the Oneness of God. We read in the Qur’an such verses as: Say: come let me tell you what God has forbidden to you: “Do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to anything beside Him; and do not offend against, but, rather, do good to your parents; and do not kill your children for fear of poverty, for it is We who shall provide sustenance for you as well as for them; and do not commit any shameful deeds, be they open or secret; and do not take any human being’s life, otherwise than in the pursuit of justice...”(6:151).
We also have a large number of Hadiths by the prophet, which encourage, in all manners of persuasion and emphasis, kind treatment of parents and the need to overlook their shortcomings. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at some of these Hadiths in order to establish the value Islam attaches to this virtue.
We will begin today by quoting the prophet as saying: “One of the worst of all cardinal sins is for a person to curse his own parents.” The prophet’s companions asked: “How would anyone curse his parents?” The Prophet explained: “ He curses a man and the man retaliates by cursing his father and mother”. (Related by Al-Bukhari )
In order to appreciate the significance of this Hadith, we have to remember that the prophet was addressing an audience in a society, which valued family and tribal relations as higher and more important than any other relations. Although Islam has replaced tribal loyalty with one of its own, i.e. loyalty to the Muslim community, Islam has never hesitated to express approval of any virtue, which exists in any society. In the case of being kind to parents, Islam simply emphasizes what is universally agreed to be good and puts it on a much higher level than other societies tend to do.
Those who heard this Hadith from the Prophet were obviously surprised at the way it has been phrased. They expressed their surprise by asking would anyone contemplate cursing his own parents.
The Prophet’s answer suggests that it is highly unlikely that a person directly curses his own parents. Even when relations in the family are far from healthy, there always remains a lingering feeling of respect to one’s own parents which prevents a person from abusing them verbally.
There are certainly children who may be very unkind to their parents but there is an intrinsic inhibition which makes verbal abuse of parents come at a later stage in a family where relations between parents and children are exceptionally bad.
Hence, the surprise of the Prophet’s audience was only to be expected. The Prophet’s answer shows that kindness to parents must include a positive attempt to guard them against abuse by others, as a result of one’s own actions. In other words one avoid any action and refrain from using any words, which are likely to cause another person to abuse his parents. By cursing another man, we only invite him to retaliate and curse us or curse our parents. Hence, we must avoid that.
We know that the Prophet has employed this indirect manner in order to bring home to his audience the need to refrain from abusing others.
On this occasion, he does not simply counsel them against retaliation when abused; he is telling them that abusing others will only invite their retaliation. In other words, they bring on themselves and on their own parents the curses of others. This method is highly effective, as it makes everyone in the audience keen to understand how people may curse their own parents. The explanation given by the Prophet is both simple and logical. Hence, it achieves the dual purpose of showing the need to refrain from abusing others since such abuse will only lead to more abuse and certain retaliation. When we refrain from verbally abusing others, we promote good relations in society. However, we are only doing a kindness to ourselves since we avoid other people’s abuse of our parents. The Prophet describes inviting other people’s curses of our parents as one of the gravest of the cardinal sins. Perhaps no other religion describes cruelty to parents in these terms. No other religion places kind treatment of parents as second only to its main article of faith. We will look at this fact in more detail next week, God willing.
If we were to ask people where do they place jihad for God’s cause in their list of virtuous actions, most of them will undoubtedly place it at the very top. Jihad requires a person to recognize the fact that Islam is the religion of the truth, accept it and hold firmly to it, and to convey it to others. In order to do this; a person may have to sacrifice his wealth and his life. Jihad means to accept these risks willingly. Although most people understand the term to mean fighting the enemies of Islam in order that Islam may achieve supremacy over all other philosophies and creeds, its significance is much wider than its erroneous translation as “holy war.” Every action, which serves the dual purpose of establishing Islam firmly in its own land and conveying it to others, including an information campaign, is part of jihad.
Whether we take Jihad in this widest sense or restrict it to the narrower sense of fighting the unbelievers in battle, it ranks with the majority of people as the most important action, which earns reward from God. Since jihad requires a positive effort, which involves sacrifice of one’s time, money or life, it tends to overshadow other virtuous actions, which bring us reward from God.
The companions of the Prophet were in the habit of asking him about everything, which relates to religion. They realized that Islam is a complete way of life which required them to modify, or amend, or totally change the practices so that they are brought in line with what God requires of us. Hence, they went to the Prophet asking him about anything on which they did not have clear guidance. At times, they put their questions in general terms in order to establish a certain principle or a definite list of priorities. Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, who achieved great renown as one of the leading scholars among the companions of the Prophet, reports that he asked the Prophet once: ‘‘which action is most pleasing to God?” He answered: “To pray on time.” I asked: “What comes next?” He answered: “Then comes kindness to one’s parents.” I said: “What comes next?” He said, “Next comes jihad for God’s cause.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.)
We note that the Prophet mentions first a pure act of worship, which falls, in the area of personal relationship with God as the act most pleasing to Him. He follows that with an action, which falls in a very narrow section of social relations, i.e. family relations. He places both actions above the one, which has more to do with public life and with the common welfare of the Muslim community. Moreover, the two first actions require much less effort and sacrifice than the third one. This Hadith reveals that the Prophet had a keen insight in what motivates people to work and sacrifice.
We know that prayer is the most important duty Islam requires. It does not impose a very heavy burden on the individual. It is an easy and pleasant duty, which makes man constantly aware of what God requires of him and keeps him on his guard against falling in sin.
It is only natural that the fulfillment of the top and most frequent duty should earn the greatest reward from God. What the Hadith tells us is that prayer must be offered on time in order to earn that great reward and be most pleasing to God. In other words, punctuality is of essence for prayer to be so highly rewarded.
Kindness to parents is placed second in importance. There is no doubt that our parents have the greatest claim on our love and kind treatment. Nothing that we may do for them in their old age, when they grow weaker and more dependent on us compensates them adequately for the kindness and love they show us when we are young and totally dependent on them. We need only to look at any child being cared for by his mother in order to appreciate how great the mother’s sacrifice is and how little the child can offer in return.
People may not argue about the claim of parents on their children’s kindness. Islam, however, makes this kindness a duty, which earns reward from God. God rewards us for our good actions although we may do them only by way of duty. But the emphasis placed by Islam on this kindness to parents is due to two different considerations. Firstly, it is easy for a child just reaching adulthood to be preoccupied with his own affairs, looking after his own interests, and to be proud of his strength, youth, position, etc. It is very easy for such a person to be negligent of his duty toward his parents. Some people find it very difficult to part with their money, even when they have to pay it to their own parents.
They may have more than enough for their own needs, and their parents may be poor, but nevertheless they find it extremely difficult to help their parents financially. It is not uncommon to hear about cases of unkind treatment of parents. Hence the reminder is needed and the Prophet reminds us in the most effective of ways. Secondly, with such a great claim on our kindness and love, which our parents possess, if we do neglect this duty, we are bound to neglect other duties, which our religion imposes on us. We will definitely be less inclined to be kind to others who are not related to us. We will be hesitant to extend our help and support to those who need it and have no immediate claim on us.
Such an attitude is totally alien to Islamic behavior. Hence, the Prophet stresses this duty. He says in another Hadith reported by Al-Bukhari on the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar: “God’s pleasure is dependent on the pleasure of parents, and His displeasure is caused by the displeasure of parents with their child.” In this hadith the Prophet shows that the surest way to earn God’s pleasure is to be kind to one’s parents. If one is unkind to them to the extent that their love is replaced by displeasure, anger or bitterness, then this is the surest way to earn Clod’s displeasure. There can be no gloomier prospect than this.
We have established over the last two weeks that Islam lays great emphasis on the rights of parents to receive kind treatment from their children. We have mentioned that Islam considers unkind treatment of parents as one of the worst sins a person may commit.
On several occasions the Our’an ranks unkindness to parents as one of the gravest sins second only to associating partners with God. Considering the importance Islam gives to this aspect of family relations, we need to establish what constitutes kind treatment and whether both parents enjoy the same claim to their children’s kin. As for what constitutes kindness, we will only say in brief now that it includes everything, which tends to please parents and makes them happy, without being guilty of any disobedience to God in the process
It also includes looking after them and supporting them financially if they need support. We will discuss this at greater length later, God willing. In order to determine which of the two parents have a greater claim on the kindness of their children we may quote the Hadith reported by Abu Hurairah who mentions that someone asked the Prophet: “Messenger of God, to whom should I direct my kind and dutiful treatment?” The Prophet said: “To your mother.” The man asked: “Who next?” The Prophet answered: “Your mother”. The man asked: “Who next?”and the Prophet answered again “Your mother”. The man still asked: “Who next?” The Prophet answered: “Your father.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad and others.)
This Hadith is related in different versions and on the authority of various reporters. In all its versions, the Prophet mentions three times that the mother deserves kind treatment by her children before he mentions the father.
In one version, the Prophet mentions the father at the fifth one, giving the mother the first four ranks. In another version, the questioner asks who comes after the father and the Prophet says that kindness then should be addressed to the most immediate relatives, according to their degree of close relation.
Muslim scholars have spoken at length on this point and we can conclude from what they say, that the mother takes precedence over the father in her claim to her children’s kindness. That does not mean that the father has a lesser claim. Indeed, many scholars consider that the father has even greater rights than the mother to their children’s kindness. That, however, does not contradict her right to take precedence, Perhaps we need to elaborate on this fine point
The Prophet emphasizes the mother’s right to be the recipient of kind and dutiful treatment from her children for a number of reasons. There is firstly the fact that people tend to take the mother’s right lightly. They are more negligent of their duties toward her. Relationship between a mother and her children, including her sons, is normally confined within the walls of the family home. A child may be unkind, disobedient and even insulting to his mother without anybody outside the home knowing anything about it. He continues to enjoy the respect and Friendliness of other people. If, on the other hand he is unkind to his father, the likelihood of people in the neighborhood getting to know about it is much higher. Social embarrassment is an inevitable result. Hence, there is a definite social inhibition against showing disrespect toward one’s father.
There is secondly the element of physical strength. A father’s strength may deter his undutiful child from going too far in his unkindness. There is no such deterrent in the case of the mother. Hence the emphasis by the Prophet on the mother’s great claim to her child’s kind treatment.
What normally happens if a child abuses his father is that the mother, aware that she cannot match her son’s physical strength, prays God to punish him for his unkindness. Such a prayer will always be answered. In order to avoid this the Prophet stresses the mother’s right so emphatically in order to create in every Muslim’s consciousness an awareness that, in no circumstances is he allowed to abuse his mother or be unkind to her. Once this awareness is present, its effect is beneficial to both mother and son. It spares the son his mother’s anger which is bound to be detrimental to him since it causes God’s displeasure with him. It also ensures that even the most ungrateful of people hesitate before adopting an undutiful attitude toward his mother.
We see how Islam takes all factors into consideration when it puts a stronger emphasis on a certain element. We know that both parents' sacrifice a great deal in order to bring up their children. They spare no effort or expense in order to see their children successful. The least they are entitled to in return is kind and dutiful treatment. Human beings, however, tend to think of their own interests first. Some children go so far as to actually abuse their parents when they feel that their claims on them stand between them and what they want.
In order to protect the rights of the parents to provide the incentive for children to be kind to them God promised great reward for anyone who is very kind to his parents. This is in fact a unique aspect of God’s grace. When we are kind to our parents, we are only repaying a debt. They have been kind to us when we were helpless. When they are old and in need of our help, we are simply paying them back when we do provide that help. Indeed, we cannot pay them back in full, no matter how obedient, dutiful and kind to them we are. But for all this good treatment of our parents God promises us great reward.
According to a Hadith related by Al-Baihaqi, a man came to Abdullah ibn Abbas, the Prophet’s cousin, who is considered one of the greatest scholars among the Prophet’s companions, and told him that he proposed to a woman for marriage but she refused him. She accepted another man instead. Blinded by jealousy, he killed her. He then asked him: “Will God accept my repentance?” Abdullah ibn Abbas asked him: “Is your mother alive?” The man answered in the negative Ibn Abbas said to him: “Make your repentance sincere and try as hard as you can to be closer to God by doing every good action you can do.” The reporter of this Hadith, Attaa ibn Yassar, asked ibn Abbas after the man had left: “Why have you asked him whether his mother was alive?” Ibn Abbas answered: “I know nothing which earns God’s pleasure more than being kind and dutiful to one’s mother.”
This conversation shows very clearly that a no lesser authority on Islam than Ibn Abbas feels that nothing would ensure forgiveness of a murder better than kindness to one’s mother.
The articles which we have carried over the last couple of weeks make it absolutely clear that parents are entitled by right to kind and dutiful treatment by their children. Since this is an important duty which God has taken care to emphasize so strongly, it is for every human being to know what constitutes kind treatment of parents. It is no exaggeration to say that for a believer, to be a dutiful son or daughter is to take the way, which surely leads to heaven.
We note first, that Islam uses the Arabic word “birr” in connection with children’s attitude toward their parents. The term connotes kindness, compassion, benevolence and almost every aspect of good and generous treatment of others. One of God’s own attributes is derived from this root. God is the “Barr” which means that His kindness, compassion, graces and generosity never fail. Scholars say that this term includes everything, which is good.
Muslim scholars divide birr into two main branches: Financial and non-financial. In respect of Child Parent relationship, if either or both parents are poor, a child must support them according to his means. This is not a matter of choice. Islam makes it a duty incumbent on Sons and daughters to look after their parents, providing them with the same standard of living as they provide for their own children. If a son is well off, he should go beyond the mere provision of what is necessary for a decent living so as to allow his parents to share in the comforts and luxuries which he can afford. When he does so, he actually makes an investment for the hereafter. Nothing goes amiss with God. He is so pleased with any son and daughter who please their parents.
Looking for God’s reward, some people make their parents feel that whatever they own is theirs as well. They can use it in the way they please. Although some people are careless how they spend their money, most parents are more careful when it comes to spending their children’s money than spending their own. Hence, to make one’s parents feel that they do not on their son’s charity is to give them that little extra which makes the difference between feeling oneself to be a burden and feeling perfectly at home. The more a parent feels happy and contented with his child, the more God is pleased with that child. Moreover, a parent pays his child back immediately. This takes the form of praying God for him. Such a prayer by parents for their children, which for Muslims, normally takes the form of “May God be pleased with you”, is certain to be answered. When God is pleased with someone, He helps him or her overcome their difficulties, eases their hardships and guides them to success in life.
The duty required of children with respect to financial support of their parents is to provide them with what is reasonable according to their means. A son of moderate means can not be expected to provide his parents with the same standard of living as a much wealthier son. Although we speak of this as kind treatment by children, it is indeed a repayment of a debt. Parents look after their children when they are young and helpless. They provide them with all they need according to their means. Moreover, they do it willingly. A child takes what he or she is given unaware of how much effort his father puts in order to earn his money. When the child grows up and his parents are in need of his support, that support must come naturally, without letting the Parents feel themselves to be a burden on their children.
Apart from financial support, a child must respect and honor his parents and extend to them the sort of treatment, which befits their position as parents. In any social occasion, and even when they go out together on the street, a son must not precede his father or take a higher or more favorable position than his. He should always allow him to take precedence. In Muslim society, that sort of treatment always earn the child more respect. Muslim society looks down on anyone who does not extend to his parents the standard of honorable treatment expected from children.
Moreover, a child is expected to do as his parents tell him. From the Islamic point of view, this does not apply only when a child is young. As long as a Son or a daughter is able to grant the wishes of their parents, and by doing so they neither incur any sin, nor jeopardize any greater interest, then they should do so as if these wishes of their parents were commands. There is nothing excessive in this. It does not impose a great, heavy burden. Normally, a parent is easy to please. Even when parents ask for something, which is difficult to obtain, a child can maneuver his way to please his parents without undertaking any great difficulty.
Some parents may be unreasonable in their demands, especially when they live with their son in his home. Relations between his wife and his mother may be occasionally strained.
A mother may feel that her daughter-in law takes her son away from her. That may lead to friction between the two. A wise son tries his best to reconcile his mother’s rights with those of his wife. He must not be unfair to either. Should his mother ask him to divorce his wife, he must not do so if his wife fulfills her duties toward him and his mother. All that a daughter-in-law is required to do toward her mother-in-law is to respect her and to look after her in a reasonable manner.
Even when extending such a kind treatment, a child is only paying back a debt to his parents. No matter how great a burden he bears, he does not pay them back adequately. It is rare that a parent is so ill and handicapped that he or she needs to be looked after in the same way as a baby is looked after by his parents. Abdulla ibn Umar, a leading scholar among the Prophet’s companions, once saw a man from Yemen carrying his mother on his back and going around the Kaaba in his tawwaf. Rather than showing any sign of complaint, the man was happy, repeating a line of poetry in which he likened himself to a camel his mother was mounting.
The only difference is that a camel may be scared by something and goes out of control. He would never go out of her control. He looked at Abdullah ibn Umar and asked him. Whether by doing so he discharged his debt to his mother. Ibn Umar said: No, you have not even paid back one twinge of her labor pain when she gave birth to you.”
That is not an exaggeration by Ibn Umar. The Prophet defines the only way through which a child repays his parents fully. He says, as related by Al-Bukbari in his book “Al-Adab Al-Mufrad” and by Muslim and others on the authority of Abu Hurairah: “ No child repays his parents fully unless he finds him a slave and then buys him and sets him free”
At, the end of our article last week, we mentioned nothing a child normally does for his parents may be considered adequate repayment for the love and kindness they showed him when he was young. Indeed, parents’ love, care and kindness overshadow throughout their lives. We also quoted the Hadith in which the Prophet specifies the only way to pay back one’s parents in full. The Prophet says: “No child repays his parent fully unless he finds him a slave, then he buys him and sets him free.
It is not difficult to appreciate why the prophet considers this as full repayment of a father’s kindness. Incidentally, this applies to the mother as well. A slave is committed to obey his master, whatever he order him. He cannot choose how or where he lives, and what job to do. He simply does what he is told. By setting him free, his son earns him back his freedom. He gives him a feeling of being reborn. Nowadays, we can’t imagine what it is like to be a slave, considering that slavery is non-existent. We can, however, imagine what it means to be committed to obey someone else every day of one’s life, to the extent that one is told what to eat when to sleep and wake up.
It is important to note here that when a son buys his father or mother who have been slaves, the moment they come into his possession they are set free. He does not need to grant them their freedom, as it were. Even in the blackest days of slavery, the mere fact that a father comes to be owned by his son or daughter means, according to Islam, complete freedom to him. No slave can be owned by his own child. This is most noticeable in the case of a slave woman who gives birth to a child by her master. Once the child is born, she can no longer be sold to anyone. She remains, however, the slave of her master. When he dies, she is technically inherited by the child who is her Own. That sets her free. This is one of the surest ways through which Islam reduced the slavery. It is clear that nowadays no one can achieve full repayment of his parents. Since slavery no longer exists, except perhaps in very remote and small areas of the world. It is possible, however, to be a dutiful child who tries hard to make his parents happy. We can achieve this better if we have a clear idea of how being dutiful compares with other Islamic duties.
At the time of the Prophet emigration to Madinah was the mark of being fully committed to Islam. It signified that a Muslim who emigrated disregarded totally all his past loyalties, including his tribal loyalty which used to be thc most important bond in his life. By emigrating a Muslim declared that he was fully committed to Islam, to the exclusion of every other commitment. A man came to the Prophet and said: “I have come to pledge to you my loyalty and to emigrate. I have led my parents in tears.” The Prophet said to him: “Go back to them and make them smile as you have made them cry.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.) In other words, the Prophet gave a very clear indication to the man that if his parents would be so miserable as to cry because he was leaving, them in order to emigrate, then he was better off staying with them in order to make them happy. The Prophet did not wish that sadness should be felt by parents as a result of a duty Islam required of its followers.
Someone may ask how does the Prophet order someone not to emigrate, when emigration earns a great reward fGod. The answer is that to be kind and dutiful to one’s parents can compensate for that. Consider this Hadith reported by Ibn Abbas: “For any Muslim who has two Muslim parents and who goes to them every morning obeying their requests, God opens two doors to heaven. If he has one parent, God opens one door to heaven for him. If he displeases either of them God will not be pleased with him until that parent of his is pleased with him.” Someone asked: “Even when they are unjust to him?” He answered: “Even if they are unjust.” (Related by Al-Baihaqi and Al-Bukhari in “Al-Adab Al-Mufrad”). This is another of the many ways by which the Prophet explains to us that one of the surest ways to be admitted into heaven is to he a dutiful child. In this Hadith we are told that we must even tolerate injustice by our parents. There are certainly occasions when a parent may be unjust, if we can tolerate that unjustness, then we should do so.
But we should not obey them when their injustice is inflicted on someone else. In that case, we should counsel them against it. This is because injustice is forbidden. When we help them to do something forbidden we are their partners in that. It is more dutiful to try to dissuade them from committing that injustice. Where we must not obey our parents is when they order us to do something unlawful. If a parent commands a child of his to do something forbidden, then the child must not do it. The Prophet says “No creature may he obeyed in what constitutes a disobedience of the Creator”. If something ordered by the parents is suspiciously wrong, then we should still do what they ask us, because we are not certain that it leads to something forbidden.
Sometimes parents disagree with each other. Each one of them may ask their child to do something, which displeases the other. How does a child behave in this case? Muslim scholars’ answer that he should give priority to his father’s right to be honored and respected, because he adopts his name. At the same time, he gives priority to the mother’s right to be served and supported. If both of them enter his home or his room, he stands up to show his respect to his father. If both of them ask him to give them something, he begins by giving his mother. If he has to support them both financially and he can support only one of them, he gives priority to his mother, because a woman is normally supported by her relatives in Islamic society. The other reason is that one’s mother takes more trouble on herself looking after her child from pregnancy to birth to breast feeding and then bringing him up through the different stages of his childhood looking after him when he is ill and so on. This shows how Islam takes a reasonable, practical and balanced attitude of looking after parents.
Numerous are the Hadiths which speak of the importance of being kind to one's parents. This suggests that the Prophet spoke at different times and on numerous occasions about this duty. That in itself is a clear indication of the great importance the Prophet attached to its fulfillment. We have already quoted and commented on a few of these Hadiths. From them we learn that to be kind and dutiful to one's parents is a personal duty incumbent on every Muslim. It is well known that certain duties are imposed on the Muslim community as a whole.
This means that if a group in the community fulfills that duty then the community as a whole is deemed to have fulfilled it. If no one comes forward and does it the whole community is Guilty of negligence an example of such duties in the field of worship is prayer for a deceased person (i.e. Janazah prayer). Moreover, any branch of science or knowledge which is needed by the Muslim community especially in its relations with non-Muslim communities or states including its enemies imposes on the Muslim community the duty to acquire full knowledge of it. If any group of Muslims acquire that knowledge, the community has discharged its duty if only one person is able to excel in it, it becomes a personal duty on him to do so, and the community is required to help him achieve that excellence.
To be dutiful to one's parents is a personal duty. That is to say it is required of every son and every daughter. If a married couple have, say 10 children, nine of whom are dutiful and exemplary in their treatment of their parents that does not reduce in any way the duty of the 10th child to also he kind and dutiful to his parents. Mothers and fathers look after each one of their children. As such, they have an equal claim on each of them.
In fact children should compete in being kind to their parents. When parents are treated kindly by their children they are happy. They go through the remaining part of their lives feeling contented that the hard work they put in looking after their children has not been wasted. When any of their children is successful in life, they are overjoyed. Being a dutiful child however brings its own rewards to the child himself. There is firstly that happy feeling which is generated by the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere at home resulting from the parent and child. That happy feeling is strengthened by the sense that one is doing his duty toward someone so close to him. A much more important aspect of reward however is that God is pleased with every son and daughter who are kind to their parents. We have to remember here that God's pleasure is the most coveted prize of all. It is the only way which leads to heaven .The prophet explains the relationship between God and the one who does not treat his parents well in these terms, "Despised and humiliated he is! Despised and humiliated he is! Despised and humiliated he is!” When the companions asked him to whom he is refering the Prophet answered: "A person whose parents or one of them, attain to old age living with him and they do not cause him to be admitted into heaven." This hadith is also related by Al-Bukhari in his book "Al-Adab Al-Mufarrad" in a slightly different version in which the Prophet is quoted to have said in his answer: "A child whose parents or one of them attain to old age at his place and he is thrown in hell " This Hadith is highly significant, it shows beyond any shadow of doubt that the surest way to book one's place in heaven is to be exemplary in one's kindness to his parents especially when they have attained to old age. This means that the reward of kindness to parents is essentially to offset any sin one may commit provided that he believes in the t oneness of God and the message of the Prophet. If a person holds himself in such a situation looking after either one or both of his parents when they are old and cannot do much for themselves, it should be easy for him to win God's forgiveness of his sins through his kindness to his parents. If in spite of his situation he is thrown in hell, it means that he is either unkind to them or that he is so wicked a person that he commits grave sins every day of his life. In both cases he is despised and humiliated. He will certainly be so when he ends himself in hell in the hereafter.
It is well known that to take part in a campaign of jihad or struggle for God's cause is one of the most highly rewarded actions a Muslim may do. He is prepared to sacrifice his life for the cause of God. God is certain to reward him amply. In this light, consider this Hadith related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others on the authority of Abdullah ibn Amr. "A man came to the Prophet (peace be on him) declaring that he wished to go on a campaign of jihad. The Prophet asked him: Are your parents alive, he answered: yes. The Prophet said: Then go and do jihad in their service. Linguistically speaking jihad means to exert one's best efforts. The Prophet's instruction to this man was to go and try as hard as he could to please his parents. The more kindness he showed them the better for him. What is more is that to do so is equivalent in reward to fighting the enemies of Islam.
One may ask how can kindness to parents compensate for fighting the enemies when God states in the Qur'anwarning the believers against sitting back when it is time to fight the enemies: "Unless you come forward (for jihad) He will inflict on you grievous suffering " (9:39) There is certainly no contradiction in the teachings of Islam. Jihad is a community duty. Like we said earlier, if a sufficient number of Muslim go on jihad, the others are not deemed to have absconded the duty.
Over the last few weeks we have been discussing kindness to parents as a personal duty imposed by God on every son and daughter. We have explained that to be a dutiful child is to ensure that one is closer to God. It makes it easier to win God’s pleasure and be eventually admitted into heaven. We have also explained that parents must be obeyed unless they order us to commit a sin. This is based on the Prophet’s Hadith that no creature may be obeyed in what constitutes "disobedience to the Creator”. All this assumes that the parents are Muslims. It may happen, however, that a Muslim child has non-Muslim parents. What should his attitude be towards them?
Asma’ bint Abu Bakr was the Prophet’s sister in-law. She was the daughter of his closest companion and the sister of Aisha, his wife. Her mother, however, did not become a Muslim for quite a long time. Asma states, my mother came to me during the time of the Prophet, hoping to get something from me; I asked the Prophet whether I should be kind to her. He answered: Yes. (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.)
The way this Hadith is phrased suggests that her mother had not yet become a Muslim when she came to her. Another version of this Hadith states clearly that the mother was hostile to Islam. Had she shown any inclination to become a Muslim, Asma’ would not have needed to ask for the Prophet’s permission to be kind to her. Many Muslims at that time were extra kind to their parents and relatives who were not Muslims, hoping to win them over to Islam. The significance with this particular Hadith is that even when a parent is determined not to become a Muslim, we still should treat him or her kh1dly.
God later revealed in the Qur’an: As for such of the unbelievers as do not fight against you on account of your faith, and neither drive you forth from your home land, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave toward them with full equity. Indeed, God loves those who act equitably”(60:8)
It is clear from this Qur’anic verse and the Hadith quoted above that to show kindness to parents who are non Muslims is also a duty on children, provided that such parents do not fight against Muslims and do not chase them out of their land. This is further supported by a Hadith, which mentions that Umar saw a silk suit being sold in the market place. He suggested to the Prophet to buy it in order to wear it on Fridays and when he received delegations from other tribes. The Prophet said: “Only a person deprived of goodness wears such a suit.”
Sometime later, the Prophet received a number of similar suits. He sent one to Umar. Umar asked: “How can I wear it when you have said. What did you said?” The Prophet answered:” I have not given it to you to wear, but to either sell it or give it as a present.” Umar sent it to a friend of his in Makkah who was not a Muslim. This Hadith suggests that kindness to unbelievers is also recommended if they do not take an attitude of active hostility toward Islam.
Kindness to non-Muslim parents does not depend on what religion they follow. Even if they worship idols, we are supposed to be kind to them. It is true that such kindness may help win them over to Islam. This is, however, not the only reason. The parent-child relationship transcends matters of personal inclinations, desires, habits, creeds and faith. It is well known that a parent tries hard to overcome his prejudice against something if he feels that his son or daughter likes it. Islam does not like to stir trouble in every family where the parents are not Muslims. It recognizes that the parent-child tie need not be broken on account of faith. It, therefore, instructs its followers to be kind to their non-Muslim parents.
Only when such parents try to persuade their Muslim son or daughter to turn away from Islam that God commands us not to listen to them or obey them. God states in the Qur’an: We have enjoined upon man goodness toward his parents: His mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his weaning is within two years. Be grateful toward Me and toward your parents with Me all journeys end Yet should they (your parents) endeavor to make you ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them. But even then bear them company with kindness in the life of this world and follow the path of those who turn toward me.” (31:14-15) It is reported that these verses were revealed when the mother of Sa’ad ibn Abu Waqqas, who was a companion of the Prophet was so upset when she learned that he had embraced Islam. She tried to persuade him to revert to his old faith. Realizing that he was determined to follow the Prophet? She tried to increase the pressure on him. She knew that he was a most dutiful child and he loved her dearly. She thought that if she brought hardship on herself, he would feel sorry for her and might listen to her. She swore that she would not taste any food or drink until he had left the Prophet.
The judgment in his case was given by God in the above quoted verses. Sa’ad did not listen to his mother and continued to be one of the best companions of the Prophet. He was later given the happy news by the Prophet that he was certain to be admitted into heaven.
It is clear from this story and the verses revealed by God concerning it that when it comes to matters of faith, a non-Muslim parent may not be obeyed. That, however, does not mean to be unkind to such a parent. We are required to still be kind to him or her, hoping always that they may recognize the truth of Islam
We do good if we pray God to enlighten our non-Muslim parents and guide them to accept Islam. We cannot, however, pray God to forgive them. God forgives all sins with the exception of associating partners with him. All non-believers do associate partners with God in one form or another. It is, therefore, futile to pray Him to forgive what He has told us He would not forgive. Moreover it is an affront to God.
It may be hard for a Muslim child to be unable to pray for the forgiveness of his non-Muslim parents. Let us remember that the Prophet’s own parents were non-Muslims. He tells us that he asked God’s permission to pray Him to forgive his mother. His request was declined. We know that God granted every prayer the Prophet made either for himself or his companions or, indeed, Muslims generally.
The fact that God did not permit the Prophet to pray for the forgiveness of his own mother suggests that this is not a trifling matter at all. It is indeed much more beneficial to one’s non-Muslim parents who are alive that he prays God to guide them to Islam.
When a person believes in Islam, he develops a permanent close relationship with God. To him, this relationship is more real than any relationship he may have with his relatives, neighbors, friends or colleagues. He feels that God watches over him, knows what thoughts he may entertain, his fears, hopes and ambitions. He knows his weaknesses and points of strength, motives, temptations and innermost thoughts and secrets. The stronger the faith of a Muslim is, the more real and vivid his relationship with God becomes. He turns to God at every point and prays Him for guidance, help, mercy and forgiveness.
If he does something good he thanks God for enabling him to do it. If he makes a mistake, he prays Him for forgiveness. If he hopes to achieve something, he prays God to fulfill it. If he stands in fear of something he prays Him to protect him against it. This sort of prayer, or ''supplication”, is the companion of a Muslim throughout his life. He resorts to it like a soldier resorto his weapon when he goes to fight. Supplication provides a Muslim with unfailing support. He feels that he does not stand alone against the problems of life, whatever they are. A Muslim fears nothing more than being abandoned by God. When he prays God he feels that He would not abandon him. After all, he says in the Qur'an: "Your Lord says: pray Me and I will answer you." (40:60)
This verse from the Qur'an suggests that our prayers will always be answered. The Prophet tells us, however, that when we pray God, He either grants us immediately what we have asked Him, or he may store it for us till the Day of Judgment when He gives it to us multiplied several times. When we are given it, we wish that God has deferred granting us everything we prayed Him for in this world. We may discuss this point in detail at a later time. This means that some of our prayers God will answer in this world. We feel that they are answered and we see the results with our own eyes. This enhances our feeling that our relationship with God is not something abstract. It is so real that it has its marked effects in our real lives.
The Prophet tells us in several Hadiths which prayers are granted straightaway. One of these Hadiths is related by Ahmad At-Tirmidhi and others on the authority of Abu Hurairah, who quotes the Prophet as saying '`Three prayers are answered with out doubt: A prayer by a person suffering injustice, and a prayer by a traveler, and a prayer by parents against a child of their own." All three types of people share in common that they have no one around to turn to for the fulfillment of their legitimate needs or requests.
When a person suffers injustice and finds people turning away from him, his last resort is God. He turns to Him and prays Him with sincerity, hope and faith that He alone can restore justice to him.
Similarly, a person who has traveled away from home feels himself a stranger among people with whom he may have little in common. That gives him a real sense of weakness. When he prays God, he does so with devotion and sincerity. Parents do not normally pray God against their own children unless they are genuinely and deeply hurt by them. Nothing hurts a human being more than ingratitude. When he does someone a good turn, he expects his good turn to be appreciated. If instead, the other person is ungrateful, he feels deeply hurt. Parents normally do every kindness they can to their children. They have a double motive to do so: Their natural inclination as parents, and their hope to be rewarded by God.
To his parents, a child represents hope for the future. When the helpless young boy of yesterday is a man going through life with confidence and ability, benefiting by his upbringing, his parents may stand in need of him because they have grown older and weaker. When the kindness they expect does not materialize, still they hope that their son will soon recognize his duty toward them. At first their forgiveness is easily forthcoming. Repeated unkindness by the son however, is bound to leave a growing sense of disappointment. If he hurts them so badly they give up on him they feel that no one can restore their rights except God. They turn to Him with supplication. If they pray God against their own child, it means that they have been so hurt by him that their sense of injury becomes much stronger than their natural love of their own child. Such an injury cannot escape punishment by God. No one who has a shred of faith In God would cherish the prospect of having his parents praying God for support against him. If a Muslim finds himself in that position, he must immediately go back to his parents, ask them to forgive his mistakes and try as hard as he can to compensate them for his past unkindness. Normally, parents will easily forgive, even if their son or daughter has deeply offended them.
The Prophet gives us an example of how God answers a parent's supplication to Him against their own children without fail. Both Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate a Hadith on the authority of Abu Hurrairah who mentions that he heard the Prophet saying: "No human child spoke in his cradle except for Jesus, son of Mary, (peace be on him) and the friend of Jurayj. The Prophet was asked: 'Who was the friend of Jurayj?' The Prophet answered: 'Jurayj was a monk who lived in his hermitage. A cowherd used to make his abode at the foot of Jurayj's hermitage. A woman from the village used to come to the cowherd (having an affair with him.)
One day his mother came and called ‘Juraij’, When he was at his prayers. He said to himself while praying 'Should I answer my mother or continue with my prayer?' He preferred to continue with his prayer. She shouted to him a second time, and he thought, 'My mother or my prayer'?' He again thought it better to continue with his prayer. She shouted to him a third time and he again thought: 'My mother or my prayers?' Again he thought it better to continue with is prayer. When he did not answer her, she said: 'Jurayj, may God not let you die until you have looked in the laces of prostitutes.' She then left. (Perhaps we should explain here that his mother did not pray that he should commit any sin, but rather that he should be humiliated among people before he died.)
Later, a village woman was taken to the king after she had given birth to a child. The king asked her who was his father. She answered, 'it is Jurayj's. He asked: 'The man in the hermitage?' She answered, 'Yes.' He ordered that the hermitage should be destroyed and that Jurayj should be fetched to him. They hacked at his hermitage with axes until it collapsed. They bound his hand to his neck with a rope and took him along. They passed with him by the prostitutes. When he saw them, he smiled. They were looking at him along with other people.
The king asked him: 'What do you say to that which this woman claims?' He said: 'What does she claim?' He said: 'She claims that you are the father of her child.' He asked her, 'Do you claim that'?' She answered in the affirmative. He asked, 'Where is the little one?' They replied that it was in her lap. He turned to the child and said 'Little one, who is your father'?' The child answered: "The cowherd.'
The king said to him: 'Shall we rebuild your hermitage with gold?' He replied, 'NO'. He said, 'With silver, then'?' He answered, 'No'. The king asked, 'Then of what shall we make it?' He answered, 'Put it back as it was.' The king asked him, 'What made you smile?' He answered, 'Something which I recognized. My mother's supplication has been fulfilled He told them the story."
In this Hadith, the Prophet teaches us that even a man who has dedicated himself to prayer could not escape the consequences of his mother's supplication against him, if she has a genuine grievance. Jurayj did not make any mistake by continuing with his prayer. His mother might have been unaware that he was in the middle of his prayer. She was genuinely annoyed when he did not answer her after she had called him three times. Her supplication was not extremely serious. She felt a little humiliated and she prayed that her son would be humiliated in return. God granted her prayer in the terms she wished. We should, then, be careful how we treat our parents. Whatever we do, we must not let them feel offended by our attitude toward them, We should guard against them coming to feel hurt by us that they would turn to God for justice As it has been explained earlier, God grants a parents' supplication against his child without delay. God also answers the supplication of parents for their children. This however may be deferred. A dutiful child, however, will certainly feel that his parent’s supplication on his behalf brings him immeasurable benefits. He will undoubtedly be successful in life.
This is the last article in our series how a Muslim should treat his parents. We have explained in our articles that to be undutiful to one's parents is considered in Islam a very grave sin indeed.
We concluded our discussion last week by explaining that when parents supplicate against their childras a result of being treated unkindly by them, God answers their supplication without fail. When parents pray God for the welfare of their children, God may defer answering their prayer, although He will definitely answer it. The question arises whether a child's supplication and prayer for his parents benefit them. The answer is a most definite "yes". God orders us in the Qur'an to pray for our parents, in these terms: "My lord, have mercy on them (my parents) as they have brought me up when I was young."
He would not have told us to pray Him for our parents if our prayers were not beneficial to them. Our supplication on their behalf, however, benefits us as well. It is a mark of being dutiful, and God rewards a dutiful child. In other words, when we pray God to be kind to our parents, to have mercy on them and to forgive them, He credits us with a good deed for being dutiful and He answers our prayer bestowing mercy on our parents. Hence, the Prophet who has taught us every good thing tells us to conclude our formal prayer, whether voluntary or obligatory, with this supplication: "My Lord, forgive me and my parents. My Lord have mercy on them as they have brought me up when I was young.'' Thus, thinking of one's parents and remembering their kindness and love to us when we were young becomes intertwined with worship.
What this means is that we can help our parents to a higher position with God by praying for them every time we stand in prayer whether obligatory or voluntary, when they are alive and after they die. The Prophet mentions this specifically in a Hadith related by Muslim, An-Nassaie Abu Dawood, as well as Al-Bukhari in "Al -Adab Al-Mufrad" on the authority of Abu Hurairah: "When a person dies, his actions come to an end, except in one of three ways: A continuing act of charity, (or) sadaqah), or a useful contribution to knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him." Al-Bukhari also relates in his book "AI-Adab Al-Mufrad' which is considered to be of a slightly Iesser degree of authenticity than his compilation of highly authentic Hadiths known as the Sahih the following Hadith which is also related by Ibn MaJah and Malik on the authority of Abu Hurairah : "The rank of a dead person may be raised after his death. He asks: My Lord, how does this come about? He is then told: Your child has prayed for your forgiveness."
These two Hadiths need no comment. A child who does not pray God for his parents, particularly after their death, when he knows that his supplication on their behalf benefits them and him is either undutiful or lacking in faith.
Again in this respect the whole question is one of debt repayment. When my children notice that I supplicate to God for my parents and ask Him to have mercy on them, they will supplicate on my behalf when I am dead. In the same way, if they see me treat them when they are alive as a dutiful child should treat his parents, it is more than likely that they will treat me in the same way. If they realize that I am undutiful (God forbids), the likelihood of them being undutiful to me is very high indeed. If I care for my children, then I would like them to be dutiful because of the reward a dutiful child earns from God. In short, to be a dutiful child is to walk along the path which brings benefit to oneself, one's parents and one's children. In view of this, only a loser can be undutiful.
When one's parents are alive. their presence may be a great motivator for one to be dutiful. When they die, we tend to think that we discharge our duty fully toward them by praying for them. The Prophet teaches us that there are other ways in which we demonstrate our dutifulness. The emphasis the Prophet puts on kindness to parents motivated his companions to be exemplary in their treatment of their parents
They always came to him With questions exploring every way which may earn them greater reward. A man came to the Prophet and asked: "Messenger of God, now that my parents are dead, is there any act of dutifulness left for me to do towards them?" The Prophet answered: "Yes. There are four things: Supplication for them, praying that they are forgiven, fulfillment of their wills, being kind to their friends and maintaining good relations with those of your relatives with whom your kinship is established only through them.'' (Releated by Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah and others.)
It goes without saying that the Prophet considered supplication for parents and praying for their forgiveness as one, because, when we supplicate on behalf of anyone the first thing we ask is his forgiveness. It may be useful to point out that family relations may be established through breast-feeding, marriage and birth. If a child is breast-fed by a woman who is a stranger to him he becomes related to her in the same way as he is related to his own mother. In this Hadith, the Prophet lays emphasis on the need to be kind to our relations with whom our tie of kinship is established through our birth.
In this Hadith and similar ones, the Prophet explains to us a higher standard of being a dutiful child. While everyone appreciates the first two of these four actions the Prophet mentions, the last two are not so easily appreciated. Someone may say: What claim my father's friend may have on me when our ways hardly meet? 1 may have nothing to do with him. His way of thinking may be very different from mine. The Prophet is stressing this point as a mark of good upbringing, good personality and dutifulness. We lose nothing by treating our parents' friends with respect and kindness. Indeed, we gain a great deal as our reputation in our society is greatly enhanced.
The same applies, perhaps in greater measure to our relatives who belong to the families of either of our parents. We should do like the companions of the Prophet who learned this lesson from him and acted on it. Ahmad and Muslim relate that Abdullah ibn Umar, a companion of the Prophet who achieved high renown as one of the best scholars among the Prophet's companions, was traveling with a group of people when he met a Bedouin who was a friend of his father. The Bedouin asked him: "Are you not Umar's son?" He answered in the affirmative. Ibn Umar then gave instructions that the Bedouin be given his own donkey which he used to take with in Order to ride when he was tired camel riding. He also took his turban off his head and gave it to the man. Some of his companions remarked that a couple of dirhams (the silver coin of the time) would have been adequate, since Bedouins did not expect much. Ibn Umar told them that the Prophet said: "Maintain your father's friendly ties. Do not sever them lest God puts out your light " A different version of the same Hadith is also attributed to lbn Umar without the introductory account of his meeting with the Bedouin. This version is even more authentic as it is related by Muslim, Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhi, Ahmad and others. It is also related by Al-Bukhari in " Al-Adab Al-Mufrad". It quotes the Prophet as sayng 'The highest form of dutifulness is when a man maintains good relations with the people his father loved."
It goes without saying that whatever applies to fathers in the Prophet's Hadiths concerning being dutiful also applies, in no lesser degree, to mothers. We conclude this series of articles by praying God to help us be truly dutiful children, whether our parents are alive or dead.