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How Does Islam Honor Parents?

How Does Islam Honor Parents?
Respecting parents is one of the most significant aspects of Islam.

When asked about the people who taught us the most, who were there for us through hardships, who laughed with us during the good times, who put up with us on our off days, most of us think immediately of our parents.

And it is true: our parents are the ones who have been with us through almost everything in our lives. Our mothers carry us for nine grueling months before we are born. And for at least eighteen years afterwards, our parents, to list a few things, take care of us, teach us, help us, and provide for us financially and academically. Without them, most of us would not be in the places we are today.

Unfortunately, however, many people do not treat their parents in the manner they deserve. Teenagers fight relentlessly with their parents, often over extremely trivial topics. Other young people ignore them, rather spending time with their friends or online.

As we get older, we tend to forget that our parents are growing older as well. And they are pushed aside to living on their own or in nursing homes while we start our own families. Not only is this disregard unfair to our parents, it is also strictly forbidden in Islam. God has commanded us to treat out parents with utmost respect, no matter the situation we are in.

Respecting parents is one of the most significant aspects of Islam. God says in the Quran:

Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. (17:23)

The first decree in this verse is to worship none but God. This is the first and most important pillar of Islam. Enjoining partners with God is the only unforgivable sin. The order right after this is kindness to parents.

There are other major sins in Islam that could have been mentioned here, but the one God has forbidden us against here is disrespect to parents. We are told not to speak contemptuously to them. The word given in Arabic is “oof,” and even this simple groan of scorn is forbidden. Instead, God has told us to address them with honor and deference.

The next verse tells us:

And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood’ (17:24).

The phrase “lower to them the wing of humility” has been interpreted as an image of the way birds spread their wings out of protection and love for their young. Our treatment of our parents is shown in the same way: we should be humble, respectful, and loving towards them.

Moreover, the prayer in this verse “My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood” is extremely powerful, and many scholars say that Muslims should say this after every prayer. It is truly a beautiful prayer, as we are asking God to bestow mercy on our parents, as they were merciful to us when we were young.

Holding one’s parents in high esteem is so important that, even if they tell us not to obey God’s command, we are still to treat them kindly. God says in the Quran:

But if they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration). (31:15)

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