Obedience, kindness and thankfulness to the parents
By: Allamah Sayyid Sa'eed Akhtar Rizvi
“The Lord has commanded that ye worship none but Him, and that ye show kindness unto your parents ….. (Qur’an, 17:23).
The spiritual and moral duties are Laid down side by side here. We are to worship none but Allah, because none is worthy of being worshipped but Allah. Then we are told to be kind to the parents. The ‘ayat’ goes on to say: whether any or both of them attain old age with thee, wherefore, say not unto them ‘Oh’; neither reproach them; and lower unto them the wing of humility out of compassion, and say thou: “O” my Lord, Have mercy on them as they cherished me in my childhood”.
The metaphor brings to our mind the picture of a high flying bird which lowers her wing out of tenderness to her off spring. There is a double aptness:- When the parents were strong and the child helpless, parental affection was showered on the child: now that the parents are weak and helpless and the child has grown up o a strong man, can he do less than bestow similar tender care to the parents?
But more to the point are the words ‘humility’ and ‘compassion’. The child must approach the parents with gentleness, humility and love: for, does not parental love remind him of the great love with which cherishes His creatures? There is something here more than simple human gratitude. It goes up into the highest spiritual regions.
Note that we are asked to honor our father and mother upon so high and lofty grounds. In the first place, not merely respect, but cherishing kindness and humility to parents are recommended. In the second place, this command is bracketed with the command to worship the only True God; parental love should be a mirror to the divine love. Nothing that we can do will ever really compensate for that which we have received from them.
“And be thankful to Me and to thy parents” (Qur’an 31:14).
Obedience, kindness and thankfulness to the parents are amongst the most important commandments of Islam. Allah is the Creator; he is the Helper; he provides us with the sustenance. But he has made the parents the means of that creation, help and sustenance. No wonder, in three places- in Qur’an, the commandment of obedience and thankfulness to the parents has been mentioned next to the commandment of worshipping Allah alone.
Obedience to the parents is not in conflict with obedience to God, because it is based upon the command of God. The help obtained from the parents is not against asking help from God alone, because God has made them his agents. Thanking the parents is not against thanking God, because God has ordered us to thank them; and, now, if we refuse to thank them, if will be a revolt against God. That is why Imam Ali Al-Raza (A.S.) told: “God has joined the orders of thanking him and thanking one’s parents in one ayat. If a man thanks God, but does not thank his parents, his thanks to God also will not be accepted”.
The Holy Prophet was preparing to meet an enemy of Islam in a war. A young man came and asked permission to join in the militia. The Prophet (S.A.) allowed. Then during the conversation, the young man said: ‘I have old-aged parents who think that my presence gives them satisfaction and content, and, they do not like this journey of mine’. The Holy Prophet (S.A.) at once told him to stay at home with his parents, saying: “The satisfaction which your parents derive from your presence one day and night is better for you than the fighting in the way of God for one whole year”.