To whom should I be dutiful?

– Shaykh Hāroon Ibn Ebrāhim Sīdat (حَفِظَهُ اللهُ) –

In The Name of Allāh, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful.

On the 30th of December 2013, Allāh Almighty blessed us with an adorable daughter. She has been a blessing for us ever since the day she came in to this world and a means of ceaseless joy. However, in our excitement of such a blessing, we often find ourselves forgetting about the ones who went through the great difficulty and pain in order for this child to come into this world. I guess this is a human trait; by becoming focused on the result, we seldom reflect on the difficulties endured in reaching our destination.

We will never truly appreciate what our mothers have gone through for us. They say labor is often thought of as one of the more painful events in human experience, it ranges widely from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. For me, experiencing my wife go through the gruelling, long, exhausting days of labour immediately brought the reality of the following tradition to mind:

Bahz ibn Hakim’s grandfather said, “I asked, ‘Messenger of Allāh (PBUH), to whom should I be dutiful?’ ‘Your mother,’ he replied. I asked, ‘Then whom?’ ‘Your mother,’ he replied. I asked, ‘Then whom?’ ‘Your mother,’ he replied. I asked, ‘Then whom?’ ‘Your mother,’ he replied. I asked, ‘Then to whom should I be dutiful?’ ‘Your father,’ he replied, ‘and then the next closest relative and then the next.’” [1]

The rights of parents have such precedence in Islām that the Qur’ān mentions in various places the rights of parents immediately after the rights of Allāh.[2]

You may ask, but why the emphasis on the mother? Why three times?

Ibn ḥajar, stating Ibn Baṭāl states that this indicates that the mother deserves kindness (from her children) three times as much as the father – because of the hardships of pregnancy, delivery, and nursing. The mother suffers alone in these three situations, and she further shares with the father in raising the children.[3]

There is reference to this meaning in Allāh Almighty’s saying:

“And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination”[4].

Clearly, Allah Almighty requires us to show kindness equally to both parents but distinguishes the mother because of the same three situations. Al-Qurṭubi mentions that this means that the mother deserves the greatest amount of kindness, and she should be given preference over the father in disputable situations. Moreover, there is a consensus among the Scholars that the mother takes precedence over the father when it comes assisting and aiding her [5].

As our parents grow older and require more of our attention this responsibility takes on a greater significance.

In the UK, how we cope with an increasingly lonely population of over-65s is a key economic and social question. We as Muslims need to maintain and strengthen the social contract between generations, which we, as Muslims generally perform really well with the grace of Allāh Almighty. Our role as children is to continue with this rich legacy of taking care of our parents and become examples for others to follow. If the UK is to tackle the challenge of an ageing society, it will only start with changes in the way we personally treat our own parents and grandparents.

Here are some practical ways we can all take steps towards fulfilling the rights of our parents:

To strive to serve them financially and physically as much as possible and to always keep them happy.
To love them with our heart and to honor them.
After their demise, to constantly remember them in your prayers.
If they have any outstanding obligations or commitments, to fulfill them.
To maintain ties and honor their friends and family.

Shaykh al-Sha`rāwi says, “Just as they showed you iḥsān (the best form of kindness), you must do your best to do the same. But your mercy alone is not enough to compensate for what they did for you. Therefore seek the best form of mercy for them from Allāh Almighty [by saying] ‘My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small,” [6]

May Allāh have mercy on our parents.

And Allāh knows best.

Hāroon Ibn Ebrāhīm Sīdat (January 29, 2014)

[1] Abū Dāwood, Tirmidhi

[2] See Qur’ān 17:23, 31:14.

[3] Fathul-Baaree 10:493

[4] Qur’ān 31:14

[5] While there is a consensus among the Scholars that the mother takes precedence over the father when it comes assisting and aiding her, the father takes precedence when it comes to obedience (Fatāwa Alamgīri).

[6] Qur’ān 17:24