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 A virtue of Universal Acceptance

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PostSubject: A virtue of Universal Acceptance   Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:43 pm

A virtue of Universal Acceptance

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.

When it is virtue to be shy

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.

Why Curse Your Parents

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.

Unusual list of priorities

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.

Which Parent deserves more kindness

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.

A Practical Definition of Kindness to Parents

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”

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A virtue of Universal Acceptance
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