In this big bright beautiful and scary world, everyone needs someone to depend on, people to trust, to help us hold our heads above water when the ship sinks, to pull us aboard when we jump ship, to have a laugh with when we sit on deck, and with whom to have a heart to heart when we’re not sure how to steer the infuriating thing without the map.
That’s why Allah gave us parents. They teach, they guide, they get annoyed with futility, but mostly - they love unconditionally. So it follows naturally that their interests and treatment are so highly regarded in this beautiful religion of good advice.
Looking through the Book of Good Behaviour in the Bukhari hadith compilation, the first few Hadith pertain to kindness toward parents and the ties of kinship. It is fantastic to note that this is what the chapter begins with.
So, what is kindness exactly? Let me offer a thesaurus’s rendition : goodwill, hospitality, understanding, charity, grace, humanity, affection, patience, tolerance, generosity, indulgence, tenderness, clemency, gentleness, philanthropy, compassion.
It seems to be a word armed with powerful ammunition, its important focus further highlighted by the following hadith:
Narrated Al-Walid bin 'Aizar: I heard Abi Amr 'Ash-Shaibani saying, "The owner of this house." he pointed to 'Abdullah's house, "said: ‘I asked the Prophet (Allah’s blessing and peace be on him): “Which good deed is the dearest to Allah?” He replied: “To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times.” I asked: “What is the next (in goodness)?” He replied “To be good and dutiful to your parents.” I asked again: “What is the next (in goodness)?” He replied: “To participate in Jihad (Holy War) in Allahs cause.” Abdullah added: “I asked only about that and if I had asked more, he (The Prophet) would have told me more.” [Sahih Bukhari, Book 73, No. 1]
Did anyone know that? I might have thought the second most beloved act to be one of the five pillars of Islam, or some form of great sacrifice, like fasting for a long period. (Of late that seems to be a sacrifice for me- given my great love of the food and all that.) It’s quite amazing that being kind to the two people who are most kind to us, an easy act to reciprocate, would be so highly rated on the good deed scale. Makes one think that Allah may be giving us an easy way to gain score.
Look at the following ayahs, from surah Al- ‘Isra’ (The night Journey, chapter 17). Again a correlation where being kind and respectful to parents is rated second only to worshipping none but Allah – this being the prime key to faith. Note also that these two ayahs are mentioned quite frequently by scholars when teaching us about the importance of kindness towards parents.
Surah Al ‘Isra’ verse 23 and 24
Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt [not even ‘uff’], nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour.
And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, "My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small."
The second verse also displays within it a supreme prayer, an action easy to perform yet regarded highly, invoking mercy equal to that mercy shown towards each one of us as a small, vulnerable, naive, and innocent child in need of great kindness.
And for those who have lost parents, I would think reciting this prayer for them would be a huge gift to them. And for those who have been orphaned, or have never met their parents, I would think that asking Allah to show mercy to your parents as your mum bore you in suffering and as they hold love for you in their hearts placed there by Allah, wherever they may be, would be a beautiful means of maintaining a connection with them. Allah knows best.
Now, given the current incidences of child abuse in its many forms, is it not fantastical that anyone of us had an inkling of love from one or both parents? I mean, exploring this subject has formed a realisation for me. The realisation being: where does this mercy come from?
I look at my darling nephew who melts my heart with that look in his eyes, every time he asks me a question like, “do 15 year olds have all their permanel tooths (permanent teeth)?” after he lost his first tooth two weeks ago. Or my niece who screamed out in terror when the door began to close as she brushed her teeth before bed, the shrieks that made my heart cringe in deep pain. This love I feel. This tenderness. How can I have these feelings for knowing these small people for just 6 years and less, in a relationship from which I receive no emotional support, or tangible benefit?
Not that I’m asking for this. But it almost stuns me to feel these profound emotions for these tiny sincere good souls, without feeling the human need to establish ‘rules of engagement’ as it were in adult interactions, or boundaries for that matter.
Truth be told, I almost feel I derive more joy from these interactions. Maybe there is a much larger benefit I seem to receive than I am aware of. Than we all are. And I’m not the parent. I guess Allah places these beautiful recognitions of joy in us, as a mercy and blessing to those who are in positions of nurturing, so that there is mutualistic blessing for those who endeavour to develop these wondrous relationships.
So what do the ayahs mean? (coming up in Part 2 inshaAllah)
I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)