ISLAM has laid great stress on the rights of parents and the duties of children. To be obedient to parents and to show kindness to them has been enjoined in the Holy Qur’an in such a manner that it appears that among human deeds, to obey parents and treat them with respect and kindness is next only to Divine worship.

The Holy Qur’an says: “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be dutiful to your parents.” (17;23)

According to a Hadith (saying of Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him), the parents of a person constitute his Heaven or Hell. This implies that if a person obeys his parents and attends to their needs and comforts and keeps them happy, he will enter into Paradise. On the other hand, if he is rude and disobedient to them and offends them by ignoring their feelings or by causing them grief in any other way, his place shall be in Hell.

Anyone who seeks to please Allah should earn the good pleasure of his parents. To keep the parents well-pleased is essential since their anger and displeasure will lead to Allah’s anger and displeasure.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said: “In the good pleasure of the father lies the good pleasure of the Creator and in his displeasure lies the displeasure of the Creator.”

Here the mother has not been mentioned but, according to many other Ahadith, the rights of the mother with regard to service and kind treatment is even higher than that of the father. Therefore, her pleasure or displeasure will carry an equal significance.

The time that the parents need to be looked after most carefully is in their old age, and to serve them devotedly in that state is most pleasing to Allah and it is an easy way to attain Paradise.

Abu Hurairah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “May he be disgraced, may he be disgraced, may he be disgraced.” “Who?” the Companions asked. “The person whose parents, or anyone of them, attain old age during his life-time and he does not enter Paradise (by being kind-hearted and dutiful to them)!”

Therefore, anyone who gets an opportunity to serve his parents in their old age and does not avail himself of this reward (to attain Paradise), undoubtedly, he is a most wretched person.

Abu Hurairah narrates that a person asked the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him): “Who has the greatest claim on me with regard to service and kind treatment?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “Your mother, and again your mother, and once again your mother. After her, is the claim of your father, then that of your near relations, and then of the relations next to them.”

This shows that where care and kind treatment are concerned, the claim of the mother is greater than that of the father.

It appears to be the same in the Holy Qur’an too. In many instances, the pain and the suffering which the mother has to bear during pregnancy, at childbirth, and in the bringing up of the children, has been mentioned along with the importance of showing kindness to parents.

In one Hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) has clearly stated that a person’s Paradise lies at his mother’s feet. By serving her well and being obedient to her, one can attain Paradise.

In some other Ahadeeth, the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that serving the mother, maternal aunt and maternal grandmother are among the acts by virtue of whose merit even the repentance of a great sinner and evil-doer is accepted and he is forgiven.

If one’s parents are polytheists and they want one to follow their faith, one should refuse to do so but should continue to be kind and respectful to them.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: “Obey your parents and treat them with kindness, your children will be kind and obedient to you.”

Asma Bint Abu Bakr relates that her mother had come to Madinah, from Makkah, to meet her. Her mother followed the Pagan customs and beliefs, so Asma enquired of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as to how she was to treat her – whether she should have nothing to do with her, as she was a Pagan, or treat her like a daughter should, and show kindness to her. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told her to be kind and considerate and to deal with her as was a mother’s due from a daughter.

The rights of parents do not come to an end with their death. In fact, some of their rights take effect even after their death, and it is a religious obligation of the children to fulfill them.

Obeying one’s parents and treating them with respect and affection is great virtue and it expiates one’s sins. Similarly, to pray Allah to have mercy on them after their death is an act which brings comfort to them in their graves and serves to atone for one’s sins.

After the death of one’s parents one’s duties among others should be to pray for their forgiveness and treat their relatives and friends with due respect.

In the Holy Qur’an, Muslims have been urged to pray for the salvation of their parents as shown in the verse “And say, ‘My Lord. Have mercy on both of them, as they cared for me when I was little’.”

The real reward for serving the parents, with great care, is Paradise and the pleasure of Allah. But the Almighty bestows a special favor, in this world too, on the believer who discharges obligations towards one’s parents’ with devotion. Jabir reports that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah prolongs the life of a person who obeys his parents and serves them devotedly.”

Just as the Prophet (peace be upon him) declared that serving one’s parents well is an act of great virtue, he condemned showing of disobedience to them, or harming them, as a most serious and detestable sin.

When asked about the major sins, the Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “To associate anyone with Allah, to disobey parents, to kill unlawfully and to give false evidence.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, “To abuse one’s parents is also a major sin.” He was asked: “Can anyone abuse his parents?” “Yes,” the Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “If a person abused someone else’s parents and that person, in retaliation, abused his parents, then it is as though he himself had abused his parents.”

One can conclude from this what an important place respect for parents occupies in the moral and social teachings of Islam, and how careful one should be about it.