The Status of Parents in Islam

Our indebtedness to our parents is so immense that it is not possible to repay it fully. In lieu of this, it is obligatory for us to show the utmost kindness, respect, and obedience to our parents. The position of parents, and the mutual obligations and responsibilities, have been addressed in Islam in great detail. The Quranic commandments, as well as the sayings of The Prophet (pbuh) guide us in this matter. The parent-child code of behavior in Islam is unique, since rules were laid down by divine command.

One of the most powerful verse of the Quran that enforces deep sense of respect for parents is the following:
“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour.” ~ Quran 17:23

Elsewhere the Quran goes on to say...
“And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents. His mother carried him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning was in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is your final return.” ~ Quran 31:14

According to the above verse, gratitude to Allah and to parents go hand in hand. Gratitude to Allah is incomplete without showing gratitude to one’s parents. Since being grateful to Allah is a form of ibadah (worship) which earns heavenly rewards, it can therefore be said that being grateful to one’s parents also earns heavenly rewards.

It is also narrated that in one occasion when the Prophet (pbuh) ascended the pulpit he said 'Ameen' thrice. Since this was unusual his (pbuh) companions asked what made the Messenger of Allah say Ameen thrice. The Prophet (pbuh) replied,
"Verily, Jibreel came to me and he said: Whoever sees his parents in their old age, one or both of them, and he does not honor them and he dies, then he will enter Hellfire and Allah will cast him far away, so say ameen." To that I said 'Ameen'.

The Status of Mother in Islam

Between parents, the status of mother in Islam is higher as compared to the father. This is clear from the following words of The Prophet (pbuh)
A man came to the Prophet and said, "O Messenger of Allah! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?" The Prophet said: "Your mother." The man said, "Then who?" The Prophet said: "Then your mother." The man further asked, "Then who?" The Prophet said: "Then your mother." The man asked again, "Then who?" The Prophet said: "Then your father". ~ Bukhari 5971 & Muslim 7/2

Paradise lies under the feet of the mother: A companion of the Prophet came and said,
"O Messenger of Allah! I want to go out and fight (in Jihad) and I have come to ask your advice." He said: "Do you have a mother?" He said: "Yes." He said: "Then stay with her, for Paradise is beneath her feet." ~ Ibn Majah 25/20

The Status of Father in Islam

If beneath the feet of the mother is Jannah, father is the gateway to heaven. That is the status of the father in Islam. There was an instance when a Sahabi came to The Prophet (pbuh) and said,
“O Messenger of Allah, I have wealth and children, and my father wants to take all my wealth [to spend it on his own needs] and leave nothing.” The Prophet (pbuh) said: “You and your wealth belong to your father.

Abu Hurairah, one of the close companions of The Prophet (pbuh), always encouraged other people to be kind and good to their parents.  One day he saw two men walking together and inquired of the younger one, “Who is this man to you?” to which the young man replied, “He is my father”.  Abu Hurairah advised him by saying, “Do not call him by his name, do not walk in front of him, and do not sit before your father does”.

Performing Hajj on your parent's behalf (if they did not perform Hajj)

A companion of The Prophet asked, “O Messenger of Allah, the command of Allah has come for His slaves to perform Hajj, but my father is an old man and cannot ride. May I perform Hajj on his behalf?" The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Yes, because if your father owed a debt you would pay it off.” ~ Ibn Majah 4/25/2909

As for after the parents have died, the child can do many things, such as the following:
  • If he has wealth, and his parents were in debt, he can discharge their duty by paying off the debt for them. 
  • If he has wealth and his parents had not performed Hajj, he may perform Hajj on their behalf, or pay for someone else to perform Hajj on their behalf. More on Hajj here
  • He may pray for forgiveness for them and pray for mercy for them. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young" ~ Quran 17:24 
We should pray for our parent's mercy when they are alive and after they die.

Sharia ruling on respecting non-Muslim parents

Even if your parents do not believe in Allah, the ruling of Islamic law [aka Sharia] is that the Muslim child should respect his parents. Asma bint Abi Bakr (ra) said,
"My mother came to visit me when she was still a polytheist and she was living amongst Quraish. She was desirous, meaning in need, so I asked the Prophet (pbuh) and said: "O Prophet of Allah my mother came to me and she is a polytheist and she needs help. Should I keep a good relationship with her?"
He (pbuh) said "Yes maintain a good relationship with her." ~ Muslim 1003
One of the individual obligations upon every accountable individual is honouring his parents irrespective they are Muslims or not. Thus imperative for a Muslim to treat their parents kindly so long as they do not coerce their believing child to perform Shirk.

>> Click here to know more about how non-Muslims were treated in Islamic history.

But the final word of caution from Allah

The highest level of unpardonable sin is polytheism (believing in any other God except Allah) or associating partners with Allah, aka Shirk. No matter how high is the status of parents in Islam, Quran is explicit in quoting...
"And We have enjoined on man to be good and dutiful to his parents, but if they strive to make you join with Me (in worship) anything (as a partner) of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not. Unto Me is your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do." ~ Quran 29:8

There are several other narrations that describes the status of parents in Islam but for the sake of brevity, we will limit to the above Quranic verses and hadith for now.

Related Posts:
  1. The Ideal Muslim Husband
  2. Women in Islam - the wife, mother, sister, daughter, widow, orphan etc.
  3. Muslim Marriages: Five Major Sins to Avoid
  4. Maintaining ties with kinship 

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