“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents…” (Al-‘Isra’:23)
In the above verse, Allah (SWT) places duty to the parents next to singling Him out in worship, which truly emphasises the high status He has given our parents. Furthermore, when one of the companions asked the Prophet (SAW) about the deeds most beloved to Allah (SWT), after mentioning performing prayers upon their stated times, he mentioned being good and dutiful to one’s parents. (Bukhari)
Having reminded ourselves of the true importance we should place upon striving to attain the most excellent of adab with our parents, let us now take each manner step by step…
Spending on them
When Allah (SWT) answered the question of the Muslims regarding whom should receive their voluntary charity, the first category He mentioned was parents, which shows the great virtue of spending our wealth on our parents.
“They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend. Say: whatever you spend of good must be for parents and kindred and orphans and al-masaakeen (the poor) and wayfarers, and whatever you do of good deeds, truly, Allah knows it well.” (Al-Baqarah:215)
Giving thanks to them
Having grown up, married and started families of our own, it is very easy to forget to thank our parents for the great sacrifices they made to bring us up. Yet, Allah I reminds us of our duty to thank them in the following verse:
“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, and his weaning is in two years. Give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination” (Luqman:14)
So, let us remember to thank Allah (SWT), primarily, and our parents, whose fundamental role in our upbringing is often forgotten.
Honouring and obeying them, except in what Allah (SWT) forbids
“…but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy…” (Al-Isra’:24)
In the tafseer of Ibn Kathir, “terms of honour” is explained as “gently, kindly, politely, and with respect and appreciation.” When Abu Hurayrah (RA) advised a man regarding his father, he was reported to have said: “Do not call him by his own name nor walk in front of him nor sit down before him.” (Al-Adab al-Mufrad, Bukhari)
Let us humble ourselves towards our parents, honouring them and obeying them. This obedience, however, is only in what pleases Allah (SWT), for there is no obedience to the creation if it entails disobedience to our Creator. Just as Allah (SWT) commanded us:
“But if they (both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly…” (Luqman:15)
Speaking to them with softness and respect
“… If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them.” (Al-Isra’:23)
As highlighted in the above verse, a major aspect of adab with our parents is the manner in which we speak to them. It goes without saying that this includes addressing them in honourable terms and not calling them by their names. Furthermore, we should not raise our voices above theirs, even if their actions or words go beyond the limits set by Allah (SWT).
It is also important to note that aiding our husbands to treat his parents in the best of manners is also a great source of reward. Let us remember that our husbands’ parents, especially their mothers, have a greater right over our husbands than ourselves. It is therefore incumbent upon us to strive to give utmost respect to them if we are to attain exemplary adab with others from the creation.
Responding immediately to their call
In a well known incident recorded in Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (SAW) told us about the case of a devoted slave of Allah (SWT), named Jurayj. While he was in voluntary prayer, his mother came to him, calling him: “Oh Jurayj! I am your mother, speak to me.” Not knowing whether to respond to her or continue praying, he decided to continue praying. This happened a second time, upon which he made the same decision. Consequently, his mother made the following du’a against him, which Allah (SWT) responded to: “Oh Allah, this is Jurayj and he is my son, and I spoke to him but he refused to speak to me. Oh Allah, do not let him die until he has seen prostitutes.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
From this narration alone, Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (RA) and other scholars have discussed that responding to the call of one’s parents while performing voluntary prayer takes precedence over continuing. Why? The reason scholars gave was because “…he was offering a voluntary prayer and continuing with it is voluntary and not obligatory, whereas answering one’s mother and honouring her is obligatory, and disobeying her is forbidden…” (Fath al-Baari by al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar)
Making du’a for them
One of the fundamental aspects of displaying excellent adab with our parents is making du’a for them, as Allah (SWT) encouraged us to do in the following verse:
“…and say, ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.'” (Al-Isra’:24)
If, however, our parents are not Muslim, we should make du’a for their guidance, as there is no greater blessing than guidance.
Offering them our company
How can we, as daughters, attain excellent adab with our parents, if we do not offer them our company? A lofty and fundamental aspect of adab with our parents is to keep them company and look after them. If we live far from them, this means visiting them frequently. If this is difficult, rather than seeing this as an obstacle, let us remember that the greater the struggle we undergo to carry out this great deed, the higher the level of adab we will be able to reach.
When a man came to the Prophet (SAW), swearing allegiance to him for emigration and jihad, the Prophet (SAW) asked him if his parents were alive. When he replied in the affirmative, the Prophet (SAW) questioned him again, asking him: “Do you want to seek reward from Allah?” Once again, the man replied in the affirmative. The Prophet (SAW) then instructed the man to: “Go back to your parents and keep good company with them.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
So, whilst other aspects of the religion may appear more rewarding in our eyes, in offering companionship to our parents, we will reach a level of adab that is unattainable through other means.
It is important to mention, however, that regardless of whether our parents are alive or have passed away, we can display excellent adab towards them. If our parents have passed away, and were Muslim, we can benefit them by demonstrating the following manners towards them:
Giving sadaqah on their behalf
It was reported that when the mother of Sa’d ibn ‘Ubaadah (RA) died while he was away from her, he asked the Prophet (SAW) if it would benefit her if he gave charity on her behalf. When the Prophet (SAW) replied in the affirmative, Sa’d ibn ‘Ubaadah (RA) then gave his garden in charity on her behalf. (Bukhari)
Staying in contact with their friends and close ones
After the death of Khadijah (RA), when the Prophet (SAW) made a slaughter of a sheep, he would send her friends a portion of it (Bukhari). Furthermore, it was narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said: “The best of righteous deeds is for a man to keep in touch with his father’s friends after he dies.” (Muslim)
Making du’a for them
The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “When a person dies, all his deeds are cut off except three; an ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, and a righteous child who prays for him” (the deceased).” (Muslim)
Making du’a for the forgiveness of deceased parents is an exemplification of excellent adab towards them, since it is one of the three ways in which they benefit after death.
Paying off debts on their behalf
Debts can be divided into two categories: debts to people, and debts to Allah (SWT). Debts to Allah (SWT) that can be paid back on behalf of the deceased include obligatory acts of worship which were not performed in their lifetime when they were able, such as performing Hajj. Debts to people include monetary debts. It is a virtue for debts of either category to be paid off on behalf of the deceased.
It was reported from Ibn ‘Abbaas (RA) that a woman came to the Messenger of Allah (SAW) and said, “My mother has died and she has one month’s fasting outstanding.” He said, ‘Do you not think that if she was in debt, you would pay it off for her?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘The debt owed to Allah is more deserving of being paid off.’” (Bukhari & Muslim)
So, let us strive to attain an exemplary rank of adab with our parents, and let us not forget that our dealings with our parents can either be a cause for us to enter Hellfire or Paradise.
Ummu Abdir-Rahman explores adab with our precious children.
Ummu Abdir-Rahman looks at beautiful examples from the past and explains how we can display exemplary adab with our spouses.
Ummu Abdir-Rahmaan is a freelance writer, based in the UK. She hopes to give inspiration and encouragement to fellow believers through writing about the heart-softeners.