The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, told us that the next best of all actions is to be dutiful to and honor ones parents, and, again, this same commandment is clearly spelled out in the Quran.
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship 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.
وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُل لَّهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا
It should come as no surprise that the Prophet echoed what came in the Quran.
Your companion [Muhammad] has not strayed, nor has he erred, Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination.
مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمْ وَمَا غَوَىٰ
وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ
So when the Prophet speaks, we should listen, and much of what he spoke was collected for posterity by some of the righteous predecessors in the books of Hadith. Alhamdulillah we are blessed with volumes of clear guidance.
I, for one, fail this all the time. I mentioned before that my Mom is largely out of sight and out of mind, and I haven’t had much of a relationship with my Dad in decades. I don’t know where this came from: my parents were good to their parents in their middle and old age, they called them time to time, and visited them when opportunities arose, so it’s not something I was taught. I think of them daily, and I make dua for them, but I rarely send them a text or pick up the phone.
May Allah guide me to better.
As far as I can see, there are three phases to the parent/child relationship. It goes something like dependence, equality, dependence.
When we’re young, we depend entirely on our parents for everything, food, shelter, instruction, character building, etc. Then, once we get out on our own, we move into a period of equality, where I’m independent, and my parents are independent, and we can interact as equals, more or less. And then, after many years, our parents become old and in need of assistance, and they become dependent on us. Through all of this, there is only one reason to disobey them: when and if they call to worship other than Allah, and may Allah protect us.
On that count, I’m fortunate that I converted in my 30s, and that I wasn’t the closest to either of them at the time. If either parent has a problem with my Islam, they haven’t said anything. But others are not so lucky: there are revert sisters and brothers in the local community who were kicked out of their homes, cut off from their families entirely, disowned, in effect, for converting to Islam. There are reverts that are hiding their Islam, lest their parents do something drastic. There are revert sisters praying in the bathroom (there received specific fatwas on this, and they put a cover over the toilet: we don’t normally pray in spiritually filthy places).
Even in such cases, though, we shouldn’t break ties with them, much less yell at or argue with them, or even groan.
So what can we do to be better to our parents.
Well, at minimum, children can obey, adolescents can avoid arguing, adults can call them time to time, and caretakers can be generous and kind. But I’m really not the best judge of this. I really have no idea.
If you have some recommendations for how I, as an adult child of adult parents, can be more dutiful to them, please advise us. And if you have specific ideas for being better to parents at any age, please pass them on! Calling more often is a good start, and may Allah get me to pick up the phone more often…
May Allah guide me to be better to my parents and the rest of my kinfolk, and may He forgive me for being less than the best to them both. May he reunite me with my Dad and draw me closer to my Mom. Ameen, ameen, ameen.