On the Shoulders of Giants

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 Quran 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), the Quran makes special mention of his attitude towards his parents.

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“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 Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reinforced the duty to be kind to parents.  A companion of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)once asked him which of the many good deeds a man can do is the most loved by Allah.  Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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.

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7 responses to “On the Shoulders of Giants”

  1. June says:

    Assalamu alaykum,
    It’s always interesting to learn about these gifted children. I like how you made the focus of the article about the loving sacrifice of the parents and not about the girl herself. If this is a Muslim family, I do hope they are also thanking Allah and not neglecting her religious education.

  2. Ahme Anees says:

    When Islam is said to have placed a great emphasis on kindness to parents, it was not taken into consideration that not all parents are same in treatment of their children. Islm wrongly presupposes all will follow its precepts without a means of ensuring it.

    • June says:

      You are right that not all parents are same in treatment of their children. Islam in fact also teaches parents the rights that their children have over them. However, Islam is not wrong or wrongly presupposing because Islam is a perfect religion. The defect comes from the people themselves. Islam did take into consideration that not all parents are the same in treatment of their children. There is a means of ensuring all will follow its precepts and that is the Qur’an and Sunnah. Once again, it’s when the people choose not to heed the warnings that we find children mistreated by parents and parents mistreated by children. There is a reward or punishment for them depending on their treatment.

  3. Riz Khan says:

    Mashallah! great article but I found it a bit short. Parent always seek best for their children but the idea of raising children in west is not my cup of tea. West would be the last place on earth where muslims would want to raise their children.

  4. balkan says:

    This is cute but what I find sad is that parents are willing to break their backs for their kids worldly matters but are not so concerned about their Islsm. Akhira and finding the right environment for their kids must be out primary goal.

  5. Arbab Shazan says:

    Come on West is not such a bad place. There are every kind of human liberties and West welcome all without any prejudice. There is no better place on earth than West regarding the health and education matters of kids. There are many devout muslims even shaikhs and imams who grew up in West. If a muslim wish to raise his children islamically, he can do this easily so why West would be a bad place for muslim children?

    • Halimah says:

      i agree because although i do often wish i was on the eastern side of the globe, im a revert(convert) to Islam and i am raising a family here, and hoping to raise an imam Inshallah. so Allah tells us to face the east as guidance but Allah’s mercy extends in all directions, even in the west.

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