Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of humility through mercy, say: My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young. (17:23-24).

In the West, most children can’t wait to reach the legal age and move out of the house. Parents are seen as a hindrance to one’s freedom. Aged parents are seen as a burden that should be shoved onto the shoulders of a nursing home.

For a Muslim, being kind to parents is much more than remembering them on their birthdays or Mother’s or Father’s Day. Being kind to them means listening respectfully to their opinion and obeying them in everything that is not disobedience to God. For an adult child it means to see that they have the necessities of life and whatever more one can afford; to keep them under one’s roof when they are elderly without grudge; to never speak unkindly to them or physically abuse them.

Nursing homes are almost unheard of in many Muslim countries. (Alzheimer’s disease is also rare.) In an Islamic society, parents are respected for their wisdom and experience. Adult children might move out in search of work, but they still turn to their parents for advice and visit or communicate with them as much as possible. It is a Muslim’s honored duty to lovingly care for his or her parents in their old age. Parents sacrifice so much for their children when they are small; a Muslim is happy to return that sacrifice when his or her parents can no longer care for themselves. It is not a burden but a means of winning a great reward in Paradise.

In many Muslim societies, the extended family lives together. As parents become grandparents, they may help in looking after or educating young children. And even when they are no longer “productive”, they continue to be loved and respected for their humanity, and for their wisdom and experience.

A Muslim’s duties to his or her parents do not end when they die, for one thing, that benefits the dead is the prayers of their righteous children.

A man asked the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “Whom should I honor most?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Your mother.” “And who comes next?” asked the man. He replied, “Your mother.” “And who comes next?” asked the man. He replied, “Your mother.” “And who comes next?” asked the man. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “Your father.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)