In part 1 we met Sadia and Rayhaana, two ladies caring for their elderly parents. Both of them were fighting an emotional battle within themselves, a battle between their nafs and their desire to be a good daughter. Sadia is a wife and mother of three young children. She was also caring for her elderly mother and a father who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Sadia found herself torn between her own family and her duty towards her parents to the point that it had begun to strain her marriage.
Rayhaana had gone through a period of inner turmoil when her father disallowed her marriage to a white revert man. Since that time, Rayhaana had distanced herself from her parents although she still lived with them. Her unhappiness was growing and her yearning to be closer to her parents was bearing heavy on her heart.
How do they learn to overcome their nafs and care adequately for elderly parents – and not out of a sense of duty, but with a love and commitment that only our parents deserve from us?
What was the turning point in your relationship with your parents?
Sadia: My life had become too routine. I was carrying out my duties towards my parents in an almost robotic state, which wasn’t bringing any contentment or happiness to either of us. I was falling further into sadness. My relationship with my husband suffered and I was very irritable with my children. I realised then, by the Will of Allah (SWT), that I needed to see the whole situation with fresh eyes.
Rayhaana: I think I just “grew up”! It was a sad state really. I was living in the same house as my parents but as a stranger to them. My mother’s love for me never changed. My father continued to care for me as he had always done. I realised then that it was me. I had created this hostile atmosphere between us. And it was I who could either change it for the better or continue down this path that was hurting my parents and displeasing my Rabb.
How did you go about initiating the change in your life?
Sadia: I made so much du’a to Allah (SWT) to help me see the positives in my situation and He did. I stopped seeing my father’s illness as a tragedy for my family. I vowed to myself that I would begin caring for my father and supporting my mother in a less sombre way. I started to take pleasure in everything I did for my father, from feeding and changing him to just sitting and talking to him – something that I didn’t do before, as he couldn’t communicate any more.
Rayhaana: I turned to the deen in a big way. It was almost as though I was desperately looking for something that would help me see sense, because my conscience knew that I was doing an injustice – not only to my parents but also to myself. Here I was, with the opportunity to earn so much reward from Allah (SWT) and to repay some of the love my parents had given me. Yet I was allowing this opportunity to pass by so miserably. On a more “dunya’ level, I would see my sisters and their children having such a loving relationship with my parents and I yearned for that too. I felt the need to move on with my life now, get married, have children. And I wanted my parents to be a huge part of that.
What practical steps did you take to ensure your relationship with your parents was strengthened and remained so?
Sadia: I stopped criticising myself for not doing enough for my parents, my husband and my children. I started to gain confidence in the fact that I was only human and Allah (SWT) was testing me and I just needed to fulfill my roles and responsibilities to the best of my abilities. Once I stopped being too hard on myself, I found that I was more content and happier in every relationship I had. The change in my attitude really helped my mother too. She started being less depressed and stressed about my father’s deteriorating health. In fact we would often sit with him and reminisce about days gone by and I could see how her eyes would just light up. Surely this was another act of ihsan to my elderly mother; making her feel happy whenever I could.
Rayhaana: It wasn’t easy as I am very stubborn. But I started by sitting with my parents for an evening cup of tea, joining in their conversations and even praying salah with them – just like we used to when I was younger. I wanted to erase the “bad” time and go back to those moments when I had enjoyed a comfortable relationship with my parents – when I was just their child, not this rebellious daughter who was full of resentment and bitterness. Alhamdulillah for the coming of Ramadhan quite soon after, as I used that holy month to build bridges between myself and my parents – waking for suhoor with them, sitting for iftar with them, joining my mother in the kitchen and then planning a lovely ‘Eid for us all. It all seemed to fall into place by the Grace of Allah (SWT).
What advice would you give to others who are going through a testing relationship with their parents?
Sadia: I would say take each moment as it comes and don’t be too hard on yourself. Always remember that Allah (SWT) places us in testing situations all through our lives and accept your lot in life with gratitude. If you have been chosen by Allah (SWT) to care for your elderly parents then be thankful for the opportunity. May Allah (SWT) keep our parents healthy and happy, but if one of them should require your help in their old age then be there for them graciously and happily. It may not always fit in with your current lifestyle or other relationships, but it is an honour that will pave your path to Jannah insha Allah. Once those parents have gone from this dunya, that is when we have a void in our lives forever and we should fill it with the knowledge that we did whatever we could to fulfill our obligations to our loving parents.
Rayhaana: Empathy, empathy, empathy! You have to empathise with your parents as this will equip you with the ability to deal with challenging times in your relationship with them. My sincere advice to others would be to always remember that whatever is going on between you and your parents is how it was decreed because it is your reaction to the situation that will be judged by the Almighty. So if things are strained between you then look within yourself and seek out the child in you who once held your father’s finger and fed from your mother’s hand. It will be those insightful moments that will bring about the motivation to do ihsan to our parents and there is no way that your conscience and nafs will allow you to continue hurting your parents or yourself for that matter, because you are a part of them.
Subhan Allah, what good advice from Sadia and Rayhaana. In the same way that we are born with the natural fitrah and God-consciousness, we are also born with a bond with our parents. It is the trials of this life that either bring us closer to or pull us away from them.
Becoming a parent yourself gives you the wisdom to recognise the miraculous gift given to us by Allah (SWT) in the form of our parents. No matter which direction our lives take, by the will of the Almighty we seem to naturally drift back to our parents. Those parents in whose arms our lives once began.
There is no greater honour we can give our beloved parents than to make du’a abundantly for them, a du’a that Allah (SWT) has narrated in the Noble Qur’an;
“And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.” (Al-Isra:24).
May Allah (SWT) protect and preserve our beloved parents and always keep us loyal and obedient to them, Ameen.
Shahin Vohra is an aspiring writer and mother of three young boys. She wishes to instill “the power of the pen” in her children and would like to help other women to reflect within themselves through the written word.