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Islamic Teachings in Brief

By: Ayatollah Tabatabai

The Duty of Man Towards His Parents

Parents are the means of the creation of a child and the imparters of his initial education and training; therefore, the holy religion of Islam has placed a great deal of emphasis on children's obeying them and on their respect to an extent that the Almighty Allah has commanded the people to be kind and generous to their parents right after mentioning Tauhid (the Oneness of Allah) and states:
"And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and has commanded goodness to your parents..." (Qur'an, 17:23)
In a tradition (hadith) enumerating mortal sins, misconduct towards parents rank second to shirk (polytheism). The Almighty Allah states: "If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) "ugh" nor chide them, and speak to them generous words. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion and say:
"O my Lord! Have compassion on them, similar to what they had on me when they brought me up (when I was) little."' (Qur'an, 17:23-24)
How well did an old woman say to her child when she saw him powerful and bulky:
If you recalled your childhood,
When you were helpless in my arm,
You would not treat me unkindly today,
As you are a brave man and I am an old woman.

The Rights of Parents

In a family circle, the relationship of parents to their children is like that of the roots of a tree to its branches because the continuity and survival of the branches of the tree depend upon its roots. Parents are also the founders of the children's life. Since the human society is comprised of the two categories, i.e., parents and children, parents are the main roots of the human society.

Besides being an utmost ingratitude and cowardice, misbehaviour towards the parents and annoying them also cause the decadence of humanity and the annihilation of the society. This is because the disrespect of children towards their parents will be reflected by the parents in the form of unkindness and disfavour towards them. On the other hand, if the children look towards their parents with disrespect and lowliness, they cannot expect anything better from their own children and will not depend upon the help of their children when they reach the age of disability and infirmity. Thus, they naturally become disappointed to form a family, as is the case with many of the young people of the present age.

Generalisation of this kind of thinking will definitely obstruct the path of regeneration and reproduction, because a wise man will never devote his valuable life to nurture a young tree from whose fruits he will not benefit, under whose shadow he will not sit, and that looking towards it will render him no benefit but grief and anguish. We might assume that the governments can encourage the people to set up families by giving them various rewards and incentives and thus eliminate the problems of regeneration and reproduction; but it should be noted that the social methods and customs that are devoid of natural backing (like parent-children affection) cannot last.

Besides this fact, not benefiting from one of the natural instincts will inevitably deprive man of a series of pure spiritual pleasures.

The Rights of Children on Parents

The works that a man must perform for someone who is the beneficiary are called "Huquq" (rights) and the works that a person must perform are called duties, orders and obligations. For instance, it is the duty of an employer to pay the wages of his employee and it is the right of the employee to receive it after performing a task for him. If the employer does not pay the wages, the employee can demand it and defend his right.

Since man is created in such a manner that his life is not everlasting in this world and because willingly or not he dies after sometime, Allah has established the method of reproduction, has provided people with the means of reproduction, and has directed man's inner feelings towards it in order to safeguard the mankind from total annihilation.

It is because of this overall mobilisation that man naturally considers his child to be an inherent of himself and assumes his child's survival to be that of his own. For this reason, man goes through all kinds of endeavours and makes efforts for the comfort and happiness of his children and endures various hardships, for he considers the annihilation of his child or his child's personality to be his own annihilation or the annihilation of his own personality. Indeed, man obeys the order of the world of creation, which demands the survival of mankind. Thus it is the duty of parents to implement the order enjoined by conscience and religious laws with regard to their children and to bring them up very well, so that they may grow into decent human beings. Parents are also duty bound to rightful for their children those things that they rightful for themselves from the view point of humanity. Some of the duties of parents are as given below:
  1. Parents must establish and make firm the foundation of praiseworthy ethics and decent attributes in the natures of their children from the very first day that they being to understand words and signs. They must not frighten their children with superstitious subjects as much as they can. They must prevent them from committing evil and unchaste acts. The parents, too, must avoid lying, ill speaking, and using bad language and obscene words in front of their children. The parents should perform decent deeds, so that the children might be brought up as chaste and magnanimous people. Parents must endeavour and show motivation and justice, so as to transfer to their children the love for justice and humanity through the law of "the transfer of ethics" in order to keep their children away from oppression, meanness, and selfishness.
  1. Parents should patronise their children for their eating, sleeping, and other requirements for living until they attain the age of discernment. They must have consideration for the physical health of their children so that they may have a healthy body and a strong mind and temper ready to be educated and trained.
  1. Parents should put their children under the care of a teacher from the time they get aptitude for education (usually from the 7th year of their age). Parents should make every effort to place their children under the care of a decent teacher, so that they may get good and desirable impressions from what they hear so that such a teacher would become the source of inspiration and cause the refinement of their spirit, the purification of their soul, and the cultivation of their ethics.
  1. Parents should take their children along with them to gatherings in order to familiarise them with social customs and praiseworthy etiquette when their age calls for participation in social gatherings or family visits.

Respect for the Elders

It is also required to respect the elders, as the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) states: "The glorification and respect for the elders is the glorification and respect for Allah."

Man's Duty towards His Relatives

The paternal and maternal relatives, who have a consanguineous and near relationship, are the natural means for the formation of the society. Due to the similarity of blood and cells, man becomes part of a family. For the sake of this unity and natural relationship, Islam orders its followers to observe the kinship bonds with kindness. Strong recommendations have been made in the Qur'an and the ahadith of religious leaders in this respect.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) states: "I enjoin my Ummah (people) to observe the kinship bonds with kindness. Even if the relatives are separated from one another by a year long distance, they should not disconnect the kinship bonds of their relationship."

(Ref. Islamic Teachings in Brief (pp.186-190) - by Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai).

Adapted from: MAHJUBAH VOL No.8 (147) August 1996