Monday, 27 June 2011

Islamic Articles: A DEBT WE ALL OWE



In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficient, Most Merciful, Creator of the Heavens and Earth and all that lies in them, Sustainer of all life, He who has the Power over all things. I praise and thank Him with the most generous and sincere praises and thanks for all that He has blessed me with, and humbly ask that He shall bestow His mercy upon you, the reader, and myself, that He shall forgive us our sins and admit us into His highest paradise.

Peace and salutations upon His Beloved Messenger Mohammed, and his companions, and his family, and those that followed them.

I humbly dedicate this essay to the memory of my own parents, who brought me into this world, and sustained through many hardships and heartaches to help guide me towards adulthood. If it weren't for their kindness and loving support and guidance, perhaps I would not be the person that I am today. Of course, it is Allah alone who guides one to Islam or astray, and I cannot convey my thanks and praises enough to Him for having guided me to Islam.

It is said in Alalh's Book:

'And 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 wings of submission and humility through mercy, and say: 'My Lord bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.' ' (s. 17, v. 23-24).

The basic idea of these verses is directing us towards respectful and kind behavior towards our parents. And the key initiating factor in this is to be dutiful towards them, indicating that our respect of them and kindness towards them is indeed a duty we owe them; i.e., their rights upon us. It is not only an act of kindness that we treat them with respect and in a good manner, but it is in fact a duty we owe them. And if we ignore this and treat them otherwise, we are then doing ourselves harm by entering into a grave sin by outrightly disobeying a direct command from Allah.

Allah's Book says:

'And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years-give thanks to Me and to your parents.' (s. 31, v. 14)

Narrated Abdullah bin Mas'ud(Allahu radhi anhu): I asked Allah's Messenger(Salla Allahu alaihi wa salam), 'Which of the deeds is best loved by Allah?' Allah's Messenger (salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) said, 'As-Salat (the prayer) at it's proper time.' I asked, 'What next?' He (salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) replied, 'Kindness to the parents.' I asked, 'What next?' He replied, 'Jihad in the way of Allah.' (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) (Riyadh-As-Saliheen, v. 1, p. 295, #312)

To disobey one's parents is regarded as one of the major sins (al-Kaba'ir). And to accentuate the serious severity of this sin, it is important for us to note that it is mentioned among the first five of those major sins, usually mentioned immediately after that of associating partners with Allah. But we must also remember that we have been told by our prophet(salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) that there is no acceptance towards obeying any of Allah's creatures in something which is in direct disobedience of Allah. So, we must also keep in mind that if our own parents demand of us something which is in disobedience to Allah's commands, then we are not to obey their wishes in this respect. But, if we must disobey them in such a case, we should still treat them with the utmost respect and kindness and dignity, while turning to Allah in obedience to Him and His commands.

Narrated Abdullah bin'Amr bin Al-'As (radhi Allahu anhuma): Allah's Messenger (sallah Allahu alaihi wa salam) said, '(Of the) major sins are to join partners with Allah in worship, to disobey parents, to murder someone and to take a false oath (personally).' (Al-Bukhari) (Riyadh As-Saliheen, v. 1, p. 315, #337.

It is also evident that to spend time and energy in taking care of and helping one's parents is equivalent to or perhaps even greater than jihad.

Narrated Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-As (radhi Allahu anhuma): A man came to Allah's Messenger (salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) and said, 'I swear allegiance to you for emigration and jihad, seeking reward only from Allah.' He (salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) said, 'Is any of your parents alive?' He said, 'Yes, of course, both of them are alive.' He (salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) then asked, 'Do you want to seek reward from Allah?' He replied in the affirmative. Thereupon Allah's Messenger(salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) said, 'Go back to your parents and accord them kind treatment (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

In another narration it is reported that a person came to Allah's Messenger (salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) and sought his permission to participate in jihad. The Prophet(salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) asked, 'Are your parents alive?' He replied in the affirmative. The Prophet(salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) said, '(You should) consider their service as jihad.' (Riyadh As-Saliheen, v. 1, p. 302, #321)

It is important also to remember that although we have been commanded to not only respect our parents and treat them with kindness, we have also been commanded to obey their commands. But that does not go to the extent of obeying them if they may command us to do something in disobedience towards Allah and His commands. There is no obedience to any of Allah's creatures when that may entail disobeying Allah's commands. So, if our parents command or direct us to something which is in disobedience of Allah and His commands, we should not do it. But we should rather refrain from it in quite form, keeping in mind to treat them with respect and dignity all the while.

Please return with me now to re-examine the verse quoted at the beginning. I would like to emphasize the section where it is said '…say not to them a word of disrespect…' The original Arabic here goes 'wa laa taqul lahuma uff' (and don't say to them 'uff').

Note that one of the great majestical wonders and miraculous nature of Islam and the Quran is the original language of the Arabic in which it was first revealed. The basic nature of this language is what is called in Arabic as 'jawaami-al-kalaam'. Translated, that means that the basic quality of the language lends itself towards giving a very broad and deep meaning using a very condensed pressurized wording. That means that in translating the meanings of the words revealed, it takes much wording of explanation to try to reveal or explain the meaning. And even then, we may miss some of the meaning in that translation. Even for those who's language is Arabic, many times more wording is necessary to convey the more extensive meaning of the condensed manner of wording. This is what is meant by the miraculous nature of 'jawami-al-kalaam'.

Keeping all this in mind, I return once again to the wording of the verse, in which it is mentioned: 'wa laa taqul lahuma uff'. Translated, it usually reads something like: 'and do not say to them a word of disrespect'. But the Arabic says only: 'do not say to them 'uff''. In Arabic, the word 'uff' itself consists of only two letters. It's pronunciation is 'uff' with a soft 'f' at the end, similar to the English word 'off'. The word 'uff' itself is more an expression than it is a word. An expression to show one's disgust or unhappiness or perhaps even impatience with someone or something or a situation. A person may feel tired or worn out or simply impatient, and then they exhale, and with that outgoing breathe, they say 'uff', relieving a bit of that pressure building up inside. It is human nature, and most generally, all of us go through this from time to time. It is difficult to suppress. And it is alright for one to release that build up of pressure when we need to.

But, we must take care to know when and where to do so, so as not only not to be offensive or hurtful towards those around us, but also as a protection for ourselves so that we may not inadvertently encrue accumulation of sins upon ourselves. For surely, to even make the simplest exhalation with the expression 'uff' in response to our parents is a sin indeed.

Then what about those who dare to talk back to their parents in anger, or even some kind of defense or opposition towards their ideas or demands?

My dear brethren-as I'm sure those of you who have become parents themselves now know or are learning for themselves, your parents have gone through many hardships for you. And it is their right granted to them by Allah that you treat them with the utmost respect and kindness. So you should treat them in the proper manner as decreed by Allah, in the hopes that you will gain Allah's pleasure in doing so by obeying His command in this matter; and also in the hopes that you will be treated with respect and kindness by your own children when you yourselves reach old age.

Allah says in His Book:

'And let those who oppose the Messenger's commandment (i.e., his sunnah legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements) (among the sects) beware, lest some fitnah (disbelief, trials, afflictions, earthquakes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant) should befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them.' (s. 24, v. 63)

Narrated Abu Hurairah (Allahu radhi anhu): Allah's Messenger(salla Allahu alaihi wa salam) said: 'Verily, Allah the Exalted became angry, and His Anger is provoked if a person does that which Allah has declared unlawful.' (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) (Riyadh As-Saliheen, v. 2, p. 1347, #1806)

It is incumbent upon us all to learn and then obey the commandments of Allah, so that we may gain His pleasure and avoid His wrath, and we shall then reap the greatest reward of gaining access to His Heavens.


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