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Be good to your parents whether dead or alive

Date: 23/03/2001 A.D Thul-Hijja 28, 1421 H

By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

Translated by: ManalSamhat

God says in His glorious book:“Your Lord has decreed that you should not adore anyone but Him. He has recommended kindness towards your mother and father. If one of them or both of them have grown old near you don’t even say ‘ouf’ to them and don’t shout at them but speak to them respectfully. Lower the wing of humility to them mercifully and say:‘Lord be merciful towards them as they were towards me when I was a child’”. (17:23-24)

He also says:“We have recommended to man whose mother carried him when she was extremely weak and he was weaned after two years. Be grateful to Me and your parents. You will return to Me. If both try to force you to associate anything with me that you know nothing about do not obey them. Behave well and be kind towards them in this world. Follow the path of those who return to me.” (31:14-15)

“We have recommended that man be kind towards his father and mother. His mother gave birth to him painfully. There are thirty months from his conception to his weaning. (46:15)

A few days ago we all celebrated Mother’s Day. Although the Quran does not distinguish between the father and mother, it does say that the mother suffers more:

“His mother carried him when she was extremely weak.” (31:14)

“His mother gave birth to him painfully.” (46:15)

Nevertheless, the idea is the same. Islam wants to emphasize the humanitarian side of man by being grateful to both God and his parents for the graces they have given him. The greatest gift to man is his very existence because when he finds himself on this earth he is prepared to attain the highest standards in this world and in the hereafter by making use of what God has given him: mind, spirit, will, senses and body, as well as heaven and earth that were created to serve him.

If man does all that, he will be doing what God has expected him to do and he will earn God’s satisfaction in the Hereafter. In this context, the importance of parents is that although God created man, they are the direct means of bringing him into existence. The mother has to suffer during pregnancy with all the changes that her body goes through. Then she faces pain and danger during the delivery and breastfeeds him. She then provides him with love, food and security. The father’s role is demonstrated by the efforts he makes to provide his family with an income to meet their needs.

Thus, parents sacrifice a lot for their children. They do their best to ensure that they have better and more fruitful lives. They are happy with all their sufferings and fatigue. As they watch their child growing, they feel joy in their pain, they sacrifice but they feel good about it.

If we imagine how much parents give, we can understand that no matter how much we try we can never repay them for all that they have done.

The Prophet (p.) was once asked by someone who had taken care of his parents and had done all he could to help them if he has repaid them, as they ought to be repaid, and the Prophet (p.) replied:“No, you haven’t, because they have served you and fought for you expecting you to live while you are doing that expecting them to die.”

That is why God has said that thanking your parents is thanking God because if man cannot feel gratitude towards his parents for all they have done, he cannot feel gratitude towards God either. God is the One Who has prepared them for this role, and He is the one who made the secret of life in the joining of the sperm to the ovule.

The Prophet (p.) and the Imams (a.s.) have often mentioned this subject. Imam Ja’afar As-Sadiq explains the verse:“He has recommended kindness towards your mother and father,” by saying that“being kind to your parents” means keeping them company and giving them what they want before they need to ask you for it, even if they are rich.”

In other words, you should anticipate what they want before they have to ask for it. And when they become old, “don’t even say ‘ouf’ to them and don’t shout at them but speak to them respectfully”, even if they hit you (according to the Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.)). This is because a child will always remain a child in the eyes of his parents even when he is fifty.

A father or a mother might hit their child even though it is not religiously allowed. That is why the Imam adds:“when they hit you tell them: ‘May God forgive you!’ For this is a good thing to say.”

“Lower the wing of humility to them” means that you should never look at them other than with a compassionate look and never raise your voice or your hands over theirs. Do not walk in front of them unless there is a need.

Imam Ja’afar As-Sadiq also said:“A man should be good to his parents whether they are alive or dead by praying for them, distributing charity, fasting and doing pilgrimages on their behalf, then God will do for him what he did for them and God will give him a great reward for his prayers”.

Imam Ali Ar-Rida(a.s.) was asked by someone if he should invoke God for his parents’ sake if they did not follow the right path, and the Imam answered: “Yes you should. You should give charity on their behalf, and if they are alive you should treat them well for the Prophet has said: ‘God has sent me with mercy not ingratitude.’”

Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir said:“There are three things that God does not permit: not giving back what you are entrusted with whether to a good or a bad person, not honoring your commitment and not being good to parents whether they are good or not.”

The Prophet (p.) advised a man, who came to him and asked to whom he should be good, to be good to his “mother”. He repeated this reply after being asked the same thing three times, and then after the fourth time he said “your father”.

There is a great difference between motherhood and fatherhood, as the mother has much more suffering and pain to bear than the father, and this is why the Prophet (p.) said “your mother” three times and “your father” only once.

A man came to the Prophet (p.) and told him: “I am an energetic young man and I’d like to fight for the cause of God but my mother hates this.”

The Prophet (p.) replied: “Go and stay with your mother because keeping her company for one night is better than a year fighting for the cause of God”. But this is in the cases where the Jihad is not a dire necessity for the Nation.

In conclusion, man has to be good to his parents, even if they are not Muslims. Secondly, the best way to call others to Islam is by adopting Islamic ethics. The better, more honest, truthful and pious you are, the more you will attract others to your religion. These are the morals of Islam and this is the heritage of Ahl El-Beit. If you want to follow the line of Muhammad (p.) and the infallible Imams you have to be ethical and humanitarian in all aspects of life.

*   The aforementioned is an edited Friday sermon by His Eminence, the late Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra). 

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