The Prophet ﷺ said thrice,
“Should I inform you out the greatest of the great sins?” They said, “Yes, O Allah’s Messenger ﷺ!” He ﷺ said, “To join others in worship with Allah and to be undutiful to one’s parents…”[Sahih al-Bukhari 2654 (Partially quoted)]
As people age, they experience an increase in health problems, whereby their productivity and the ability to execute their personal needs become compromised. As they weaken, they become more dependent on their children for care and sustenance. While there are some in their old age who manage to keep in touch with society by volunteering at the local Masjid and visiting relatives and neighbours, there are also others who withdraw from society and lack communication due to a multitude of reasons—such as declining physical health, inadequate financial resources, and varying psychological factors.
Allah ﷻ says,
“Allah is the One Who created you from weakness, then made after weakness strength, then made after strength weakness and white hair. He creates what He wills, and He is the Knowing, the Competent.”[Qur’an 30:54]
Reasons for Neglecting Parents
1. The Sandwich Generation
The effect of the generation caught between taking care of their elderly parents who live with them and supporting and caring for their own growing children is known as the Sandwich Generation Effect. Research concludes that due to late marriages, people have to manage their kids and their aged or sick parents, at the same time, while facing the pressure of earning an income.
While juggling these responsibilities may be overwhelming for an individual, we should remember that Allah ﷻ does not burden a soul with what it cannot bear.
2. The Busy Lifestyle
The younger generation most often become occupied with their lives: they have their own hectic schedules and multiple responsibilities of—but not limited to—their spouse and children. In turn, they end up neglecting their responsibilities towards their parents, with or without the intention of doing so.
In some instances, both spouses contribute to earning a living; either to make ends meet or to provide the family with additional comforts. This busy lifestyle of both spouses working may also be a contributing factor to why the offspring are not able to accommodate their parents in their lives.
The Prophet ﷺ said,
“…Every one of you is a shepherd and every one is answerable with regard to his flock…”[Sahih Muslim 1829a]
Allah ﷻ strengthens people along with their responsibilities. People should seek ways to balance their responsibilities. Parents care for their children irrespective of their obligations, and the children should serve them in the same manner to seek the pleasure of Allah ﷻ.
3. The Marriage Conflict
People often blame the offspring’s spouse, too. It is commonly claimed that spouses are unwilling to accommodate their parents-in-law. It is also said that spouses do not allow their partners to visit or care for their parents.
Firstly, the offspring should educate themselves on the rights of their spouses and the rights of their parents. They must balance and uphold both their rights fairly. They cannot compromise one party’s rights to please the other.
Next, they must realise that it is the responsibility of the offspring to care for their parents, and not their spouse’s. Spouses must also help their partners fulfil their responsibilities towards their parents instead of preventing them from doing so.
Above all, both parties must learn that everyone is answerable to Allah for how they fulfil their duties as children to their parents. Thus, they must handle and maintain their relationships with care and thought.
4. The Trend of the Modern World
The modern world has set the nuclear family as an ideal standard, which has led to many problems. Living with parents is not viewed as a standardised lifestyle. It has also become common for parents to be insulted, abandoned, or abused by their own children.
In today’s economy, where the rising cost of living results in most people opting to build a smaller family home and have a minimal number of children, there are only a few children to share the responsibility of their parents.
Following the societal norms that discourage parents from living with their children, some ageing parents do not live with their children and opt for living alone instead. Eventually, they end up feeling lonely and isolated.
Due to various factors, people guiltlessly claim the care of parents to be a burden. They forget that Allah ﷻ commanded man with regard to his parents.
“And your Lord has decreed that you worship not except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age (while) with you, say not to them (so much as), ‘uff,’ and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.”[Qur’an 17:23]
The Importance of Caring for Parents
Allah ﷻ emphasises that obeying parents is obeying Him, except in associating partners with Him.
“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. But if they endeavour to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them, but accompany them in (this) world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me (in repentance)…”[Qur’an 31:14-15]
The Prophet ﷺ said,
“The Lord’s pleasure is in the parent’s pleasure, and the Lord’s anger is in the parent’s anger.”[Jami at-Tirmidhi 1899 | Grade: Hasan]
Taking care of parents is considered to be one of the best deeds.
“The best of the deeds or deed is the (observance of) prayer at its proper time and kindness to the parents.”[Sahih Muslim 85e]
A sahabi (may Allah be pleased with him) asked the Prophet ﷺ,
“Which deed is loved most by Allah?” He ﷺ replied,“To offer prayers at their early (very first) stated times.” Then he asked, “What is the next (in goodness)?” The Prophet ﷺ said, “To be good and dutiful to one’s parents,” Then the sahabi asked, “What is the next (in goodness)?” The Prophet ﷺ said,“To participate in jihad for Allah’s Cause.”[Sahih al-Bukhari 5970]
Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that a person said,
“‘Allah’s Messenger, who amongst the people is most deserving of my good treatment?’ He ﷺ said, ‘Your mother, again your mother, again your mother, then your father, then your nearest relatives according to the order (of nearness).’” ][Sahih Muslim 2548b
Allah ﷻ orders us to treat our parents with mercy and kindness. We do not get to choose our parents and nor do they. They have loved us irrespective of our faults and raised us with great difficulty.
Sa’id ibn Abi Burda said,
“I heard my father say that Ibn ‘Umar saw a Yemeni man going around the House while carrying his mother on his back, saying, ‘I am your humble camel. If her mount is frightened, I am not frightened.’ Then he asked ‘Ibn ‘Umar? Do you think that I have repaid her?’ He replied, ‘No, not even for a single groan.’”[Al-Adab al-Mufrad 11, Grade: Sahih (Al-Albani)]
Talking to our parents, spending on them, spending time with them, making arrangements to ease their worries, making du’aa for them, and connecting with their loved ones and friends are small acts of kindness that are pleasing to Allah ﷻ and add value to our and our parents’ lives.
Irrespective of one’s condition, kindness and mercy are all that are needed to take care of parents. Let us be thankful for our parents and remember them in our du’aas!
“My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up (when I was) small.”[Qur’an 17:24]
Written by: Zaithoon Zakariya
Edited by: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog