By Musab Qureshi
In a country where many girls are still discouraged from going to school, Sushma Verma is having anything but a typical childhood. The 13-year-old girl from a poor farming family in north India has enrolled in a Master's degree in microbiology, after her daily-wage earning father sold his land to pay for some of his daughter's tuition.
Sushma finished high school at 7 and earned an undergraduate degree at age 13 — milestones she said were possible only with the sacrifices and encouragement of her uneducated and impoverished parents. When Sushma's father is asked about his thoughts, he says, “I can't tell you how much happiness it gives me to see my daughter excel. When my daughter studies well, all of my tensions wither away. The way I struggle with farming and labour work, I wish my children don't have to face these difficulties.”
When I came across this amazing story of a 13-year-old whiz kid, what struck me most was the key role her parents are playing in helping her fulfill her potential. Their commitment to their daughter's success is quite inspirational.
Living in Canada, a country which has one of the highest immigration rates in the world, I don't find this story too out of touch with realities here. One can see family after family immigrating here, sometimes even sacrificing what they've spent their entire lives working towards. I've always wondered why. Why would doctors, engineers or trained professionals sacrifice their careers to move here? Why would someone sacrifice everything they've worked for and choose to move to an alien country?
“We moved here for our children, so that they can have a better future.” Time and time again, we can hear this as being the sole motivation. This is perhaps why the Qurʾān places immense emphasis on parents, in many cases correlating “taqwa” or “God-consciousness” directly with being kind towards one's parents. In Surah Maryam, when describing the traits of Prophet Yahya , the Qurʾān makes special mention of his attitude towards his parents.
“And compassion from Our presence, and purity; and he was devout, And dutiful toward his parents. And he was not arrogant, rebellious.” [Surah Maryam; 13-14]
Prophet Muḥammad reinforced the duty to be kind to parents. A companion of the Prophet once asked him which of the many good deeds a man can do is the most loved by Allāh. Prophet Muḥammad answered him by saying, “To offer the prayer in its proper time.” The companion then asked, “And what is next?” to which the Prophet replied, “To be good and dutiful to your parents…” The responsibility to be kind and good to parents is placed right after the greatest duty in Islam, the prayer.
Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” In pursuit of fulfilling our potential, these giants more often than not turn out to be our own parents. Through life's ups and downs, highs and lows, these giants are always by our side. Giants, who in a heartbeat, would trade their own success for the success of their children.