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Changing Guard With Our Parents

عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال رغم أنف، ثم رغم أنف، ثم رغم أنف قيل: من يا رسول الله! قال من أدرك أبويه عند الكبر، أحدهما أو كليهما فلم يدخل الجنة

Abu Hureirah related that the Prophet said:

"Someone who sees the old age of his mother and father or just one of them and does not enter heaven - may he be wretched, may he be wretched, may he be wretched."

(Muslim, Birr 9,10)

Our parents are "hands" that knead our personalities by distilling their own existence. From the day that we leap into the world from the quiet and safe environment of our mother's womb, as symbols of love, self-sacrifice, trust and protection, how big a share they have in our joining life. In their own style, each has invisibly made his/her imprint and left indelible traces on our life journey. We learn from them how one life is dedicated and passed on to another life. We see in them how voluntary giving with no expectation of return can exalt a person. Perhaps what exalts them is, while holding on to life with us, their effort to fulfill as much as possible the responsibility they have taken on, gaining courage from our existence.

While Allah draws limits on a diagonal of responsibility on such subjects as protecting children's right to live (17/31), fulfilling the duties of breast-feeding and care (2/233), not allowing children to obstruct worship (63/90), children being adornment of worldly life (18/46), and their being a test (64/15), He made no warning in regard to treating them well, because it is natural for a person whose nature has not been spoiled to treat with love and compassion his/her child, which is a part of their own being. With the effort they spend for their child, parents knit love, loop by loop, as if they are proving their love as much as possible with everything they do; whereas, a child does not make any effort to obtain the love of its parents. Like those who waste inheritance, they sometimes exhaust compassion. It is just at this point that the command of Allah and the Prophet to treat parents well comes in. While there is no need for a distinct warning for parents to treat their child well, a warning is made to the child.

In Surat Al-Bani Israil good treatment to parents is mentioned as the second command after belief and worship of God. "Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood." For the sake of not missing the fine emphasis here, it is necessary to point out: The thing commanded is good treatment and doing what is possible (material-spiritual) regarding the matters of care, health and subsistence so they can spend their old-age in peace. Revenge, animosity, hatred and mercilessness should not be resorted to regardless of what kind of events took place in the past. We do not have to love someone in order to behave respectfully, tolerantly and responsibly towards them. However, in order to sustain human relationships, we have to display good behavior towards one another. Someone's having acted negligently for this or that reason regarding the fulfillment of duty should not be a vehicle for our making the same mistake.

In one narration it is stated that behaving well to parents is the act most loved by Allah after timely-made ritual prayers and that it is directly related to a person being appreciative of others (Buhari, Adab 1). Those who believe that they deserve the things they possess in this world anyway can easily fall into rebellion when they encounter events they do not believe they deserve. Where, actually, those who believe in a teaching that sees the approval of Allah in the approval of parents (Tirmizi, Birr 3) should avoid receiving the curse of the Prophet.

When we look at the exemplary life of the Prophet, we see that his losing his mother at a young age made his already tender spirit fully sensitive. As a person of loyalty, he cried when he visited his mother's grave at Abva and never hesitated to show his wet-nurses the necessary respect and consideration. Commanding a Companion who wanted to join the fighting to remain at the side of his mother who was dependent on him for care (Buhari, Jihad 138), the Prophet pointed out to us that when we are fulfilling our responsibilities we should begin with our closest in kin. We understand here that by serving our parents and gaining their approval, we will have gained a type of jihad reward.

As a result of an evaluation of the past, we might sometimes face some mistaken attitudes of our parents or some of our own mistakes as a child. Just as judging or feeling guilty because of them has no benefit for today, they can prevent our taking on the responsibility for changing our attitudes.

Being a parent means finding a means for keeping our ledger of good works open. It does not mean being a person with a diseased compassion who, mortgaging the whole existence of his child, drowns it with love and does not give it a chance to grow and develop and become a real adult. While raising a child, parents should not see the child as insurance for their future and consider it as a source for all their hope and expectations related to the future. It should not be forgotten that after necessary effort has been made, the only trustworthy door of refuge is Allah's door.

Of course, family life, the richest channel for our discovering and perceiving the world,  has been affected by the rat-race of selfishness, self-interest and running after pleasure that the modern would has thrown at us. We no longer understand what it means to "not prefer yourself over others." Perhaps the road opened by the principle, "Do not want for others what you do not want for yourself" (Buhari, Iman 7), can make a new opening for today's people to advance by trying to see each other as a vehicle to heaven.

When the time comes for us to change guard with our parents who are holding on to life through us, we should embrace our responsibilities with patience and determination, deriving strength from the love and compassion engraved in our hearts that make us a trust to one another. Knowing that asking to be candidates for heaven without gaining their approval will remain as a rudimentary dream, we should not leave them with tears in their eyes and broken hearts.



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