Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother May I?

My oldest daughter recently got a taste (long-lasting, I hope!) of the blessings that come from respecting her mother's decisions.

For months she begged for gymnastics classes, which I flatly refused. After getting her nth mother-knows-best schpeel, she finally acceded to my authority one day and threw in the towel.

Shortly thereafter, an ace gymnast transferred to her third grade class and started giving lessons for fun to all wanna-be tumblers during recess. Before she knew it, my daughter was doing splits and handstands!

The importance of showing obedience, love and respect to one's parents is a lesson that ought to be learned at an early age. That's because disobedience to parents is ranked amongst the greatest sins, right up there with the unforgiveable evil of associating partners with God (shirk in Arabic). Obedience to parents is only exempt if it contradicts God's laws or will cause undue hardship or harm.

God says: "And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) "uff" nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion, and say: 'O my Lord! Have compassion on them, as they brought me up (when I was) little.'" (Quran 17:23-24)

"So God is demanding from us nothing short of our best when it comes to our parents," says lecturer Nouman Ali Khan. "What that means is you have the potential to be good, to be patient, to be merciful, to have kind words, to be charitable or to have courtesy. The best of your courtesy, the best of your words, the best of your patience should go to whom? Your parents."

Some of the ways of showing parents respect include not addressing them by their names, not walking in front of them or sitting before them, not sitting with one's back towards them, not raising one's voice in front of them and not beginning one's meal before them.

Most of us have heard traditions of Prophet Muhammad (S) such as "Heaven lies under the mother's feet" that indicate immense rewards in the Hereafter. But many don't realize that the consequences of our attitude, words, gestures and behavior with our parents begin immediately in this world.

Prophet (S) said: "There are three kinds of sins which are punished in this world rather than being given respite until the Day of Judgment. The first is disobedience to parents, the second, injustice upon men, and the third, thanklessness for favors."

Indeed, many of us could have avoided some of the twists and turns in our lives had we better understood and fulfilled our duties to our parents. While we can't undo the past, we can ask for forgiveness and vow to do better, God willing.

We can learn how through the suppliction of Zain-ul-Abideen (grandson of Fatima, one of the four perfect women) for his parents:

"O God,
fill me with awe of my parents,
so that I may prefer their inclination to my inclination,
set their satisfaciton before my satisfaction,
make much of their devotion to me though it be little,
and make little of my devotion to them though it be great."

Those of us now blessed with motherhood ourselves must pay homage to our status by training the next generation properly. As Imam Khomeini said:

"You ladies have the honor of being mothers, which puts you ahead of the men. You have the responsibility of training children in your laps. While in her lap, the child will begin to imitate his mother, so that if he sees she is good-natured, her words and actions kind and good, he too will behave likewise....It is possible that a child whom you have trained well will save a nation. Take care to hand over good children to society, and let your teaching be accompanied by training."

That training includes teaching obedience to parents. That's what I call a win-win situation!


Hooma said...

This is a good reminder! I think that a return the basics is always helpful, because so often we forget them.

While your daughter is still young, I think one of the things that I have struggled with as an adult (and I am being totally honest here) is how to strike a balance between listening to my mother and make my own decisions. The line is very murky. I think in one's quest for independence, people quite frequently, and wrongfully, think that there comes a point where listening to your parents or respecting their opinions isnt necessary anymore. Certainly not true.

Your blog has emphasized for me personally that while I might not want to do exactly what my mother is suggesting, that doesnt mean that I should stop respecting her or treating her in the manner that I am obligated to do so.

Salina Khan said...

Interesting point, Hooma. What is beautiful is that this duty applies to sons and daughters equally. It was Jesus, son of Maryam (one of the four perfect women), who said: "And He has made me dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me insolent, unblessed.
When one gets married, the dynamics change and so do the rules..I hope to write about that one day, God willing.