Throughout our lives, there are two individuals who Allāh ﷻ chose to be the means by which we came into this world. They are the means by which we attained sustenance when growing up – both physical and emotional. A boy looks to his father for guidance and support for every action he takes when growing up. He looks to his mother for love and warmth, the likes of which only a mother can give. All these aspects show the immense need that everybody has towards their parents. In this short article, the importance of parents will be discussed by studying a single Qur’ānic verse.

One of the most important verses in the Qur’ān which show the importance of parents is:

وَقَضَى رَبُّكَ أَلاَّ تَعْبُدُواْ إِلاَّ إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلاَهُمَا فَلاَ تَقُل لَّهُمَآ أُفٍّ وَلاَ تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلاً كَرِيمًا ۝

Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour.

Qur’an (17:23)

Allāh ﷻ begins the verse by mentioning the most important tenet of faith – Tawḥīd. To believe in the oneness of God, and not associate any other deity with him. Immediately after, Allāh ﷻ mentions how we should behave with our parents. That we be kind to them; be good to them; honour them. The Arabic word used is احسان, which gives the added meaning of doing everything you possibly can for them, without expecting anything in return.

The verses carries on, giving detail towards the extent to which we should carry out this command by the means of an example of them reaching old age. When our parents, who gave their youth and energy, and spent their wealth in raising us, reach an age when they themselves need looking after, that we should not even go as far as to say the word “Oof” to them. A simple groan of displeasure is not even allowed by us towards our parents.

In addition, we should not get angry at them either. The word used by Allāh ﷻ is نهر, which means to scold. If any of their actions do make us angry with them, we should not even respond towards them in a harsh manner. And finally, we should talk to them with goodness and honour. Dealing with parents, especially elderly parents, can be frustrating and tiring. They may do things which make us annoyed, angry, or upset. But Allāh’s ﷻ simple command is to not express those feelings in such a manner which may cause discomfort to them.

وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ

and lower your wings in humility towards them in kindness

Qur’an (17:24)

Allāh ﷻ states a principle by which we should act towards our parents – that of being humble. At times, a person when in the prime of his youth, will rise up and want independence from his parents. Once completely dependent on them, he now wishes to be considered older, and will see the frailty of his parents as weakness; their thoughts as outdated; their concerns as burdens. When this happens, he will start to become arrogant towards his parents, raising his tone, and not giving them the respect they have been granted by Allāh ﷻ, thinking that he is doing them a favour by his mere existence.

It is at this moment that we should remember this command of Allāh ﷻ, that of lowering our wings in humility towards them. The example of “wings” is given to demonstrate how we should behave with them. It leads to a sense of respect that we should afford our parents, by lowering our shoulders and chest when addressing them, and to not look at them in a demeaning and degrading manner.

وَقُل رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا 

… and say, ‘Lord, have mercy on them, just as they cared for me when I was little.’

Qur’an (17:24)

The verse then finishes off by reminding us that now, similarly to how our parents have reached an old age and are unable to look after themselves, there was a time when we too were unable to look after ourselves, and were completely reliant on them.

Being good to one’s parents is in essence a way for us to earn our own Jannah (paradise). The Prophet ﷺ said,

The pleasure of Allāh ﷻ is in the pleasure of the parents, and the anger of Allāh is in the anger of the parents.

Jami al Tirmidhi

Whether they be Muslim or not, we are commanded by Allāh ﷻ to try our best and be respectful towards them.

If our parents are alive, we can show goodness towards our parents and fulfil the commands of Allāh ﷻ by firstly ensuring that they are financially secure, especially when they’ve reached an age where they’re unable to work and earn for themselves.

Secondly, we can fulfil our rights towards our parents by ensuring their physical needs are met. To help them around the house is something that everybody, regardless of their financial capability, can do. Even a simple task of getting some water for them can be included within this. And finally, we can ensure that we treat them with kindness and respect, and to not get angry at them or speak to them harshly.

For those whose parents have passed away, we can ensure that any debt they may have had is repaid on their behalf. Secondly, if they have not had the chance to perform Hajj, we can perform a Hajj in their name, with the hope that Allāh ﷻ grants them the same reward. Finally, we can continuously make du’ā for them, contributing to acts of continuous ṣadaqah in their name such as building a masjid or donating a well on their behalf.

May Allāh ﷻ allow us to be good towards our parents, just as they were good to us. May He ﷻ make us into dutiful sons and daughters, and allow us to fulfil the rights upon our parents. Amīn.