“You’re Still My Parents”

By El-Sayed M. Amin

Islam, being the religion of morality, calls for and encourages healthy relationships among all members of the human family. This is simply because Islam considers all humans as sons and daughters of the same father and mother: Adam and Eve.

Muslims, in particular, are asked by Islam to perfect their manners and behavior. This is especially important in social relations. With friends, neighbors, acquaintances, relatives, and close family members, Muslims are ordered to avoid hurtful language.

To anchor this universal message, the Qur’an asks Muslims to speak kindly to all people, especially parents or other close family members. Allah Almighty says:

{…and speak kindly to mankind} (Al-Baqarah 2:83)

In regards to the parent-child relationship in general, and that between a Muslim and his or her non-Muslim parents in particular, the approach need be one of mercy and compassion.

Unfortunately, many young men and women break away from their families right after their conversions, saying that it is of no use continuing to associate or live with a “kafir” (disbelieving) family. They mistakenly think that rejecting their non-Muslim family is the only way to safeguard their faith.

There are successful examples of mercy and tolerance with non-Muslim parents. With patience and kindness, some sons and daughters have succeeded in removing the hatred from their parents’ hearts towards Islam and Muslims. Some others have even managed to win over their parents’ hearts as they eventually came to embrace Islam.

Of course, these approaches need time and wisdom to bring about fruitful results. The task is not an easy one. It was even practiced by Prophet Abraham with his father. The Qur’an referred to this saying,

{Also mention in the Book (the story of) Abraham: He was a man of truth, a prophet. Behold, he said to his father: “O my father! why worship that which heareth not and seeth not, and can profit thee nothing? O my father! to me hath come knowledge which hath not reached thee: so follow me: I will guide thee to a way that is even and straight. O my father! serve not Satan: for Satan is a rebel against (Allah) Most Gracious. O my father! I fear lest a Penalty afflict thee from (Allah) Most Gracious, so that thou become to Satan a friend.” (The father) replied: “Dost thou hate my gods, O Abraham? If thou forbear not, I will indeed stone thee: Now get away from me for a good long while!” He said: “Peace be on thee: I will pray to my Lord for thy forgiveness: for He is to me Most Gracious.} (Maryam 19:41-47)

If we ponder the meanings of the above Qur’anic verses, in the context of the father-son relationship whereby the latter has a new faith, we can deduce the following:

1. The Qur’anic discourse highlights the respectful and merciful attitude of a believing son (Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him) to his disbelieving and obstinate father. Throughout, the son tries his best to address his father in a very respectable and honorable way.

2. The second verse stresses the extent to which a believing son, whose heart is thoroughly penetrated by the light of guidance, is keen to snatch his father from the abyss of disbelief and bewilderment. The son addresses his father very politely. The son declares that he was blessed with a divine guidance that did not reach his father, and so he calls upon his dear father to follow this guidance.

3. The third and fourth verses describe the son. He is emotionally affected as a result of his father’s insistence on worshiping idols because such sins will lead to Allah’s punishment in the hereafter.

4. The fifth verse describes the father’s resentful reaction, to the extent that he threatens to isolate himself from his son or even stone him to death.

5. The sixth verse describes the positive attitude of the son. After trying all possible avenues to convince his father of the truth of the message, the son leaves his father with a peaceful farewell. The son leaves without either hurting his father’s feelings or imposing his ideology in any way.

From the above, we can summarize the Qur’anic lessons stated in the above verses as follows:

1. The Qur’an wants us to exercise patience in promoting our good causes and ambitions. This patience is especially needed when we are faced with possible confrontations with our parents upon choosing Islam as a new faith and way of life.

2. The Qur’an sets an example of how we should apply wisdom while tolerating the misbehavior of others. When it comes to parents, we need to be extra cautious in order to gain Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. Many Qur’anic verses urge us to deal honorably with our parents even if they happen to be non-Muslims.

3. The Qur’an urges us to endear ourselves to our close relatives, especially when they are non-Muslims who are prone to accept or reject Islam based on the responsible or irresponsible behavior they see.

4. The Qur’an wants us to tolerate and overcome differences. Diversity in opinions and differences in attitudes will always occur between different generations, but the most successful party is the one who easily tolerates the other. Thus, let us learn a true example of tolerance and understanding from Prophet Abraham’s example and the way he addressed his father in the above verses.

5. The Qur’an demonstrates wonderful examples in how to show gratitude and kindness. Prophet Abraham and his father both have two opposing dogmas, yet Abraham managed to demonstrate the gratitude and kindness due to his father. Therefore, the minor differences in daily activities and the lack of understanding between our parents and ourselves are problems with attainable solutions.

Finally, the Qur’an enjoins us in every age and time to exert our utmost to please our parents saying:

{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: (hear the command), “Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal.} (Luqman 31:14)

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