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Rights of Parents
Social Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَى وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنْ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ  وَإِنْ جَاهَدَاكَ عَلى أَنْ تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَيَّ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ (٣١: ١٤-١٥)

We enjoined man to show kindness to his parents, for with much pain his mother bears him and he is not weaned before he is two years of age. We said: ‘Give thanks to Me and to your parents. To Me shall all things return. But if they press you to serve besides Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. Remain kind to them in this world, and turn to Me with all devotion. To Me you shall all return, and I will declare to you everything you have done’. (31:14-15)

 All divine scriptures instruct man to show kindness to the parents. Various verses of the Qur’ān also direct the believers to be well behaved to the parents1. The above quoted verses however specifically determine the limits of good behaviour with the parents. The details of this directive as stated in these verses are:

1. It is the parents who bring into existence a new life and become the means to nourish it. No doubt, the care and affection of the father is quite a lot, however the hardships a mother encounters in bringing up the child starting from her pregnancy, to childbirth and then breast feeding the child are unmatched and no child can repay her for this great service. On these very grounds, the Prophet (sws) has regarded the right of the mother as three times that of the father.2 Consequently, the Almighty exhorts man to be the most grateful to his parents after his Lord. This gratitude must not be expressed merely by the tongue. It should manifest into good behaviour towards them. He should respect them and never become fed up of them. He must not utter a single word of disrespect to them. Instead, he should be soft, sympathetic, loving and obedient to them. He should listen to them and be caring and affectionate to them in the tenderness of old age. The Qur’ān says:

وَقَضَى رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِنْدَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُلْ لَهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُلْ لَهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا  وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنْ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُلْ رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا  رَبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا فِي نُفُوسِكُمْ إِنْ تَكُونُوا صَالِحِينَ فَإِنَّهُ كَانَ لِلْأَوَّابِينَ غَفُورًا (١٧: ٢٣-٢٥)

Your Lord has enjoined you to worship none but Him, and to show kindness to your parents, If either or both of them attain old age in your dwelling, show them no sign of impatience, nor rebuke them; but speak to them kind words. Treat them with humility and tenderness and say: ‘Lord, be merciful to them. They nursed me when I was an infant’. Your Lord best knows what is in your hearts. If you remain obedient, He will forgive those that turn to Him. (17:23-25)

 Ibn Mas‘ūd (rta) narrates that he asked the Prophet (sws): ‘Which deed does God like the most’. The Prophet (sws) replied: ‘To say the prayer on time’. I inquired: ‘After that’. He replied: ‘To be well-mannered with the parents’.3

Abū Hurayrah (rta) reports from the Prophet (sws): ‘Humiliation to that person, humiliation to that person, humiliation to that person’. ‘For whom’, asked the people. He replied: ‘Whose parents or any one of them reached old age in his presence and he in spite of that could not enter Paradise.4

‘Abdullāh Ibn ‘Umar (rta) says that once a person asked the Prophet (sws) to participate in Jihād. At this the Prophet (sws) inquired: ‘Are your parents alive?’. The person replied in the affirmative. The Prophet (sws) then remarked: ‘Keep serving them. This is Jihād.5

Abū Sa‘īd Khudrī (rta) says that a person from the people of Yemen migrated and came to the Prophet (sws) in order to participate in Jihād. The Prophet (sws) asked: ‘Do you have any relative in Yemen?’ He replied that he had his parents there. The Prophet (sws) remarked: ‘Did you ask their permission?’ He said: ‘No’. The Prophet (sws) then said: ‘Go back and seek their permission and if they grant permission then only should you take part in Jihād, other wise keep serving them’.6

Mu‘āwiyyah narrated from his father Jāhimah that he came to the Prophet (sws) and said: ‘O Messenger of God! I would like to participate in Jihād and have come to consult you [regarding this]’. The Prophet asked: ‘Is your mother alive?’ He said: ‘Yes’. At this the Prophet said: ‘Stay with her and serve her because Paradise is beneath her feet’.7

‘Abdullāh Ibn ‘Umar (rta) narrates from the Prophet (sws): ‘The pleasure of the Almighty resides in the pleasure of the father and the wrath of the Almighty resides in the wrath of the Almighty.8

Abū Dardā (rta) says that he heard the Prophet (sws) saying that the best door to Paradise is the father; so, if you want you can waste him and if you want you can protect him.9

‘Umar Ibn Shu‘ayb narrates from his mother who narrates from her grandfather that once a person came to the Prophet (sws) and said: ‘I have some wealth and I also have children but my father needs this wealth’. The Prophet (sws) replied: ‘Both you and your wealth belong to your father’.10

2. In spite of the status that Islam confers upon parents they do not have the right to force their children to baselessly associate someone with the Almighty. The Prophet (sws) has said that showing disobedience to parents is the greatest sin after polytheism11; however the above quoted verses of Sūrah Luqmān say that the children should openly disobey their parents with regard to polytheism and should follow the way of those who follow God. Any calls to evade the Almighty must not receive any positive response even if it is parents giving the call. On these very grounds, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: ‘No one can be obeyed if he calls to disobey the Almighty; one can only obey what is good’, (Bukhārī, No: 7257).

Consequently, all other directives of the Almighty shall also be considered subservient to this directive, and one cannot disobey these directives if the parents ask them to do so.

3. Even if the parents force their children to commit a sin as heinous as polytheism they must always be treated in a befitting manner. Their needs should be met as far as possible and a prayer of guidance be continued to be made for them. This is what the words ‘وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا’ (Remain kind to them in this world) of the verse quoted above entail. The children may have a right to disobey their parents if they insist upon disobedience to the directives of religion but they must still not be slack or indifferent, in any way, to their duty towards their parents.

The last part of the verses ‘ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ’ caution a person that one day he has to return to the Almighty to give account of his deeds. While commenting upon this part of the verse, Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

This part of the verse addresses both the parents and the children and carries both a warning and an assurance. One day, each person will have to return to the Almighty. Whatever he would have done would be brought before him. If some parents had violated the rights given to them regarding their children by making them deviate from the path of the Almighty, they will have to face punishment for this attitude and if children duly recognized the rights of the Almighty together with those of their parents, as well as remaining steadfast in following the obligations these rights entail, they will be rewarded for their perseverance.12

 (Translated by Shehzad Saleem)



1. See for example 17:23-4, 29:8 and 46:15

2. Bukhārī, No: 5971

3. Bukhārī, No: 5970

4. Muslim, No: 4627

5. Bukhārī, No: 5972

6. Abū Dā’ūd, No: 2530

7. Nasā’ī, No: 3104

8. Tirmadhī, No: 1899

9. Tirmadhī, No: 1900

10. Abū Dā’ūd, No: 3530

11. Bukhārī, No: 5976

12. Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 6, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 130


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