Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
This lecture is brought to you by the Memphis Islamic Center (MIC). For more information about MIC, please visit www.memphisislamiccenter.org
We just finished Sūrat'l-Isrā', and I thought it would really not be appropriate to let this sūrah go by without talking about some of its salient verses, in particular those that talk about the rights of Allāh and the rights of the parents. Allāh says in the very famous verse: “wa-qaḍa rabbuka alla ta'budu illa iyyāhu wa bi'l-wālidayn iḥsāna (Your Lord has decreed…).” Allāh didn't say, “I am decreeing this upon you” or “this is the ruling upon you.” Allāh is speaking as if this is a done deal and there is no dispute.
“It has been decreed before you came onto this earth.”
It is not a subject of dispute, and there are no negotiations here.
What has He decreed? “Alla ta'budu illa iyyāhu wa bi'l-wālidayn iḥsāna (that you worship Him alone and that you show iḥsān to your parents)”. As we know in the Qur'ān and the Sunnah, the rights of parents are second only to the rights of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta'āla) and this is enough of an indication of how important and sacred the rights of the parents are.
There is no secondary right after the rights of Allāh other than towards the parents. After Allāh, the parents immediately come. This is the message throughout the Qur'ān. Allāh 'azza wa jall even says, “wa bi'l-wālidayn.” In other words, worship Allāh and be good to parents. He didn't say 'and then be good.' He said wow, which is ḥarf 'aṭf. It is as if they are being equated even though we know that they are not equivalent. Worshipping Allāh is more important than being good to parents, but Allāh made it so important that it is as if it is almost the same.
The very famous scholar of the Arabic language and on of the earliest linguists is Al-Raghib al-Asbahani (d. ~482A.H.). Regarding the phrase 'wa bi'l-wālidayn iḥsāna' (that you should have iḥsān to your parents), he said the definition of iḥsān is that you give more than what is expected and you are content with getting less than what is required upon you. The state of iḥsān is when you give more and are content with receiving less. This is the highest verb in the Arabic language to show the proper treatment.
Allāh says 'imma yablughanna' (when either one or both of then reach kibar (old age) then do not say uff to them and do not rebuke them, rather speak generous / marvelous words to them).
A note on 'uff' here: Uff in the Arabic language originally referred to the dirt that was collected under nails; it is an irritation and is disgusting. It was then used to express the slightest level of contempt. Ibn ʿAbbās said that had there been a lesser word than uff that the Arabs knew, then Allāh would have used it here. There is no word lesser than uff to show your irritation. When do you say uff? When you are frustrated and irritated – it is not an expression of anger but rather an indication of your own frustration. Allāh says to not even say this to them.
Allāh then goes further than this. “Do not rebuke them, and say to them the most generous (karīm) of words and lower over them the wings of mercy.” This is a metaphorical language. Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta'āla) is saying that just like the mother bird protects and shelters her infants with her wing from heat, cold, and enemies. Notice that this is a parable with an implicit message. Your parents did the same for you, and you should do the same for them. It is the parents who lowered the wings of mercy on the infant, but in this verse, Allāh is saying to the children that they need to lower the wings of mercy on their parents. There is reverse psychology here. They did it for you, and now it is your turn to do it for them. It is beautiful imagery here because, as we said, it is not the child who lowers the wing on the parents but the parent who does it to the child. Allāh commands in this verse that the child do it to the parent – i.e. us to our parents. Why? To remind us that once upon a time it was the other way around. Now it is your job to do that.
“And pray to Allāh: 'O Allāh have mercy on them, as they raised me when I was a child.'”
Concept of being good to parents is because of all that they have done for us
Most of us here are parents, and you know how much love a parent has for a child. I have said this many times before that this love is a miracle from Allāh without which life on earth would cease to exist. Muslim or non-Muslim, kāfir or mu'min, the love that comes from the heart of a parent is a miracle from Allāh. This love is a type of love that is unparalleled in human existence. No one loves you like your parents do – not your wife, not your husband, and not even your child. The type of love that a parent has is a selfless love; they will give and give and give and expect nothing back in return. If you think about, it is a miracle because look at how much time, effort, and frustration the kids bring, but still the parents continue to give and give. If Allāh had not created this love in parents, then humanity would cease to exist because children do drive parents crazy. Children are an incentive for us to go to work. It is because of the children that we want to work overtime.
Allāh is saying: “This love I created in your parents, and now you need to give it back to them.” Allāh knows that the reverse love is not as pure as the love that came from top down. The love we give back is not the same. We all love our parents, but it is a love that you struggle with and remind yourself about. You need to control your tongue. Allāh has given us all of these incentives.
The Qur'ān and Sunnah are full of the rights of the parents
Our Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, “The pleasure of Allāh is found in pleasing the parents, and the anger of Allāh is found in making the parents angry.” [Musnad of imām Aḥmad]. The pleasure of Allāh is found in pleasing the parents and the anger of Allāh will be incurred in displeasing them.
In the famous ḥadīth, a man came to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) and said, “O Messenger of Allāh, how do I enter Jannah?” The Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, “Is your mother alive?” The man said, “Yes, she is alive.” The Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, “Find her feet and stick yourself [izlimhā] to them; there you will find Jannah.” This is an expression in Arabic meaning to 'humble yourself to her service.' This is where we get the common phrase that Jannah is underneath the feet of the mother. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) didn't quite say that phrase but said a similar phrase of sticking yourself to her shin or her legs because Jannah will be around that area. He gave this metaphor of lowering and humbling yourself to service your mother.
In a famous ḥadīth reported in Sunan Al-Nisā'i for this wording (it is also in Bukhāri): A man came to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) and said, “Ya Rasūlullāh, I have come all the way from Yemen to dedicate myself to you. I have come to dedicate my life to whatever you want, and I want to do jihād fi sabīlillāh. I even left my parents who are old and weak even though they need me and are crying out of their need.” In other words, he is boasting that he left his parents crying to come to him to show his sincerity. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, “Do you really want the pleasure of Allāh?” The man said, “Yes.” The Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, “Go back to them right now! Make them laugh just as you caused them to cry. That is how you will reach Jannah.”
Notice that this man became a ṣaḥābi by coming to Madīnah because he met the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam). He was so happy that he will dedicate his life to the service of Islam, but he said he left his parents crying, so the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, “Is this your version of Islam? Is this how you think you will enter Jannah? By causing your parents to cry and coming to me?” There is something more important than jihād fi sabīlillāh and that is giving the rights of the parents. He said, “Go back to your parents and make them laugh just as you made them cry.” This is the month of Ramadan, brothers and sisters, which is a month where we after the worship of Allāh, the second right that we need to do is remember the rights of the parents.
There is a very beautiful incident from the life of Ibn ʿAbbās (raḍyAllāhu 'anhu). Ibn ʿAbbās was doing ṭawāf around the Ka'bah and there was a man doing ṭawāf carrying an elderly lady on his back. When he recognized Ibn ʿAbbās, he came running to him and said, “O Ibn ʿAbbās, I have come from such-and-such a place (a faraway place in the area of Iraq) and this lady on my back is my mother. She had the desire to come for Hajj for so many years, but we couldn't afford a camel or a horse, so I put her on my back and have come from that place in order to perform the Hajj. Have I now fulfilled the rights of my mother on me?” Ibn ʿAbbās smiled and said, “What you have done is good, but you haven't even fulfilled a fraction of what your mother did for you.” The man said, “Ya Ibn ʿAbbās, I have come walking from that place with my mother on my back and you say that I haven't even done a fraction?”
Psychology that will make us shudder
Listen to what Ibn ʿAbbās said, showing he was a person who understands human nature. He said, “You haven't done a fraction because when your mother took care of you, she did it out of genuine love wanting to see you flourish, grow, and live for a long time. Now that you are doing it back, you are doing it as a burden and as a favor back to her waiting for her to die. How can you compare the two? How can you compare that attitude of love and compassion with your attitude of 'I will pay you back'? You have done good, but you haven't done a fraction of what she did for you.”
This is the reality of the rights of our parents, brothers and sisters.
In a final ḥadīth: A man came to the Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) and said, “O Messenger of Allāh, my father has died, is there anything I can do to bring him benefit?” If your parents are alive, you need to do as much as you can physically and financially, be in touch with them, call them, have good relations with them, and visit them as frequently as possible. If one or both of them have gone on, the rights of the parents don't end even after they have left this earth. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, “Of course, there is so much you can do. You can make du'ā' and istighfār for them and seek forgiveness for them – O Allāh, make their qabr a vast place, O Allāh increase their ranks in Jannah and O Allāh forgive their sins, O Allāh put away any evil they have done' – and you can give ṣadaqah on their behalf and you can give udhiyah on their behalf and you can go for Hajj on behalf of your parents (this is one of the best things you can do for them as long as you have done Hajj for yourself), and you can do 'umrah on behalf of them. Visit the relatives and friends your parents had who you do not have much relationship with but you resurrect those relationships and friendships in order to bring about the memory of your parents.” One of the things we can do is if your parents had distant relatives or friends who are not a part of your circle of friends, visit them for the sake of birr of your parents.
The bottom line, brothers and sisters, is that there is a never ending job, we have to repay back to our parents. Never ending ṣadaqah, never ending du'ā', never ending istighfār. This is part and parcel of being a righteous Muslim. In this month of Ramadan, let us see what our relationship is with our parents and what we can do to increase and better that relationship if they are alive. If they have left this world, then there is much that we can do for the akhirah.
One last incident comes to mind. A ṣaḥābi's father passed away and he was crying very much at the funeral. One of the other ṣaḥābah came and comforted him and tried to console him and said, “O so-and-so, I am not crying just because my father died. I know inshā'Allāh he is in a better place now than he was in this world. I am crying because my biggest door to Jannah has now been shut.” Think about this, brothers and sisters, for those of you whose parents are alive that this is your easiest door to Jannah. This is the largest and middle door to Jannah. Think about this, and do whatever you can to help your parents to have that good relationship with them. The du'ā' for the parents is the best thing that you can ask for in this world.
May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta'āla) make us righteous children and righteous progeny. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta'āla) forgive our parents. May Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta'āla) cause us to be resurrected with our parents and be with our parents in Jannat Al-Firdaws Al-'Ala.