"Whoever fails to show mercy to our children and honour to our elders ..."

Anas b. Malik (RA) relates that an elderly man approached, wanting an audience with the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam), but the people were slow to make room for him, so the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: "Whoever fails to show mercy to our children and honor to our elders is not one of us." (Tirmidhi) This hadith presents us with a vital set of relationships between the constituent members of Muslim society and particularly between members of the Muslim family. One of the essential values of Islam and one of the vital characteristics of the Muslim family is the concern and care that parents show for their children.

Parents sacrifice their strength, their rest, their time, and the wealth in order to provide a better future for their children. They labor and strive to provide the culture and education that their children need and that they themselves may never have had. They regard this as part of what it means to be a parent. At the same time, they also recognize it as their religious duty, because the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: "Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for those under your care.

A man is a shepherd, and he is responsible for those under his care. The woman is a shepherd in her husbands household and she is responsible for those under her care." (Bukhari and Muslim) Another most vital characteristic of the Muslim family is the deference and reverence that children show to their mothers and fathers.

About this, Allaah says: "And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning. Show gratitude to Me and to your parents. To Me is your final goal." (Q31 [Luqman]: 14). We can feel the affect of this when children behave towards their parents and grandparents with deference and deep respect. This becomes especially evident when these elders become advanced in age and can no longer work to support themselves. This is the time when the children work together to support their parents and grandparents and make sure that they are happy.

A child does this for them most gladly in recognition of the great care and favour that they had bestowed upon him in the past. This is something totally natural. It is not a contractual duty or a legally imposed one, but something we do willingly for our parents. Everything in society cannot be realized only through the force of law. There must also be the authority of moral values, customs, traditions, and religious consciousness. Each has its own sphere of effectiveness. Whenever someone departs from these norms, they are faced with either societys disapproval and censure or the threat of punishment in the Hereafter.

As for those who break the law, the government imposed upon them a physical or pecuniary punishment, usually set forth in a written legal code. Sometimes the force of custom and tradition is greater than the force of law. This is why Islam relies upon the Quran and Sunnah for its legislation, giving its injunctions and teachings the force of general, widespread customs for Muslim society. The Parental Relationship This is a natural, instinctive relationship that is further emphasized by Islamic teachings and societal norms. It is not a relationship that is established by contract or the force of law. Allah has made it obligatory upon children to be good to their parents. He says: "Worship Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents." (Q4[Nisa]: 36)

Also, He says: "Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents." (Q17[al-lsra]: 23) And likewise, Allah has obligated parents to show kindness to children. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: "Whoever is given daughters and treats them well, they will be as a barrier for him against the Fire." It is best when the relationship between parents and children exists on a basis of goodness, love, and the noble values of Islam and not on the basis of contractual agreements or legislation. This relationship is something natural for people. Placed in their hearts by their Creator, and this nature is what needs to be reaffirmed and reinforced. The civil law always places its obligations in the context of rights. The moral teachings of Islam impose duties without the existence of reciprocal rights.

We see that parents provide their children their rights continuously all the care, support, and upbringing that they provide without waiting for any duties to be carried out by the children in return. The only thing the parents can expect in return is their childrens obedience. It is the moral teachings of Islam, again, that oblige children to obey their parents, listen to them, and when they grow up - to consider their own wealth to belong to their parents. This is because of the great moral right that parents have over their children. A Mothers Love A mothers love is founded upon self-denial and sacrifice. Because of this, it is the purest kind of love. It is pure giving without anything being expected in return. In the same way, a fathers love is also above being mixed with any vested interests.

A father considers it his duty before Allah when he undergoes hardships toprovide food, clothing, shelter, care, and proper education for his children. Since a child is unable to take care of himself, Islam has placed the responsibility to do so upon his parents. The child has the right to be provided for, cared for, and brought up. Parents do not have to be compelled to carry out this duty, since Allah has placed a great love for their children in their hearts which makes them want to provide for their children every comfort and happiness. The factors that contribute to the mercy parents have for their children are many, including faith, instinct, social customs, and love.

Discipline and Upbringing It is the duty of parents to bring up their children well and to provide their children with discipline. This does not mean that parents should ever abuse or mistreat their children. Instead of arbitrarily hitting and punishing them, parents need to teach their children why it is best for them to obey their parents and the values of being honest and trustworthy.

Children need to have all the moral values of Islam instilled in their character. They need to be made aware of the benefits that good behavior has for them and for others in this world and the next. The parents should rely upon the Quran and Sunnah. The children need to grow up knowing that they please Allah by obeying their parents, and that they also gain the respect of the people by doing so. This gives the children, in turn, an awareness of their own value and a sense of honor. In this way, they will conduct themselves properly without having to be threatened by their parents with punishment.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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