The Wings Of Humility
وَقَضٰى رَبُّكَ اَلَّا تَعۡبُدُوۡۤا اِلَّاۤ اِيَّاهُ وَبِالۡوَالِدَيۡنِ اِحۡسَانًا ؕ اِمَّا يَـبۡلُغَنَّ عِنۡدَكَ الۡكِبَرَ اَحَدُهُمَاۤ اَوۡ كِلٰهُمَا فَلَا تَقُلْ لَّهُمَاۤ اُفٍّ وَّلَا تَنۡهَرۡهُمَا وَقُلْ لَّهُمَا قَوۡلًا كَرِيۡمًا وَاخۡفِضۡ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحۡمَةِ وَقُلْ رَّبِّ ارۡحَمۡهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيٰنِىۡ صَغِيۡرًا ؕ
Your Lord has decreed:25 (i) Do not worship any but Him;26 (ii) Be good to your parents; and should both or any one of them attain old age with you, do not say to them even “fie” neither chide them, but speak to them with respect;
and be humble and tender to them and say, “Lord, show mercy to them as they nurtured me when I was small.”
The above verses make for us abundantly clear the great status of parents in the eyes of Allah ﷻ. Islam spares no efforts in emphasizing both the joint and individual rank of the mother and father in every person’s life. From the fact that right after the most integral command of our faith, worshipping Allah ﷻ alone, our Lord ﷻ attaches goodness to parents as an extension of that command to the use of the word “uf” in reference to not harming one’s parents even in the slightest verbal rebuke, Allah ﷻ has left no margin for simply entertaining the passing idea that we might abandon or shun our parents. Rather, He ﷻ commands us to speak to them with respect, show them humility, and treat them with the utmost kindness.
وَقُلْ رَّبِّ ارۡحَمۡهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيٰنِىۡ صَغِيۡرًا
In an eloquent manner, Allah ﷻ reminds us of all the sacrifices our parents have made for our sake which have allowed us to grow into the people we are today. In a sense, through this dua, Allah ﷻ is reminding us of our place: today, if you happen to be in a position in life where you feel like you can scold your parents or throw them away, remember how they treated you when you were a burden on them. Yet, because we as children could never extend the same level of love and mercy that our parents showered us with, we are left with only the option to beseech Allah ﷻ to show them mercy; because even if we attempted to measure up to our parents’ love, we would fall desperately and pathetically short.
Growing up in NY, we are taught to love our parents but not necessarily to obey or particularly respect them. As teenagers, our lexicon is filled with digs towards the “rents.” We truly believe they could never understand our world view, that they aren’t even able to try. Many times, guidance counselors will advise highschoolers to apply for colleges their parents disapprove of because, “you’ll be eighteen by then, they can’t stop you.” But the reason we follow our parents’ guidance isn’t because they are our legal guardians and have rights over us in court; we do so because our religion has stipulated that we follow them in all matters of goodness. Just like a manufacturer best knows how its product works, our Creator ﷻ knows what is best for us. Thus, if Allah ﷻ has commanded us to listen to our parents so long as they don’t call us towards sin, that must be for our own benefit.
Does this mean that our parents always know what’s best for us? Of course not! They’re just as human as we are and there is a great deal about the world even our dear mom and dad do not know. Many children struggle with the idea of listening to their parents after obeying them once, often against the children’s wishes, leads to struggles and strife within their lives. However, the truth is our parents are bound to make mistakes and sometimes they might advise us to do something that we go on to find harmful. Just because they don’t always know what’s best for us does not mean that they don’t want what’s best for us. We need to trust that whatever our parents say and do is what they truly believe will bring us the most benefit and joy. Personally, my late teens felt like a crash course in parental failure in which I got to see my mom and dad mess up firsthand, and quite a lot. I even had to ask myself the question, “Should I even take up their advice or listen to them when they keep steering me into these holes?” And yet, the answer was a resounding, “Yes, always listen to Mama and Baba.” The reason was simple: I know they definitely want what’s best for me, which means they will only tell me what they think is the absolute best advice in any given situation. If it works out as I expected to, I reap the rewards. If it causes me setbacks, my parents will be there to support me through it and I will still be rewarded by Allah for listening to them and keeping them happy. No parent wants to see their child suffer. So when we push back against their desires for us, we are often hurting them and, without realizing it, ourselves as well.