Birr al-Walidayn: Islam’s Emphasis on Parents

عن أبى هُرَيْرَةَ عنِ النَّبِي صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ: « لَمْ يَتَكَلَّمْ فِى الْمَهْدِ إِلاَّ ثَلاَثَةٌ: عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ ، وَصَاحِبُ جُرَيْجٍ. وَكَانَ جُرَيْجٌ رَجُلاً عَابِدًا، فَاتَّخَذَ صَوْمَعَةً، فَكَانَ فِيهَا، فَأَتَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهُوَ يُصَلِّى. فَقَالَتْ: يَا جُرَيْجُ.  فَقَالَ: يَا رَبِّ أُمِّي وَصَلاَتِي. فَأَقْبَلَ عَلَى صَلاَتِهِ، فَانْصَرَفَتْ.
فَلَمَّا كَانَ مِنَ الْغَدِ أَتَتْهُ وَهُوَ يُصَلِّي، فَقَالَتْ: يَا جُرَيْجُ. فَقَالَ: يَا رَبِّ أمي وصلاتي، فَأَقْبَلَ عَلَى صَلاَتِهِ، فَانْصَرَفَتْ.
فَلَمَّا كَانَ مِنَ الْغَدِ أَتَتْهُ وَهُوَ يُصَلِّي، فَقَالَتْ: يَا جُرَيْجُ . فَقَالَ: أَي رَبِّ أُمِّي وصلاتي، فَأَقْبَلَ عَلَى صَلاَتِهِ.
فَقَالَتِ: اللَّهُمَّ لاَ تُمِتْهُ حَتَّى يَنْظُرَ إِلَى وُجُوهِ الْمُومِسَاتِ.
فَتَذَاكَرَ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ جُرَيْجًا وَعِبَادَتَهُ، وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَةٌ بَغِىٌّ يُتَمَثَّلُ بِحُسْنِهَا، فَقَالَتْ: إِنْ شِئْتُمْ لأَفْتِنَنَّهُ لَكُمْ. قَالَ: فَتَعَرَّضَتْ لَهُ، فَلَمْ يَلْتَفِتْ إِلَيْهَا. فَأَتَتْ رَاعِيًا كَانَ يَأْوِي إِلَى صَوْمَعَتِهِ، فَأَمْكَنَتْهُ مِنْ نَفْسِهَا، فَوَقَعَ عَلَيْهَا، فَحَمَلَتْ. فَلَمَّا وَلَدَتْ ، قَالَتْ: هُوَ مِنْ جُرَيْجٍ.
فَأَتَوْهُ فَاسْتَنْزَلُوهُ، وَهَدَمُوا صَوْمَعَتَهُ، وَجَعَلُوا يَضْرِبُونَهُ، فَقَالَ: مَا شَأْنُكُمْ؟ قَالُوا: زَنَيْتَ بِهَذِهِ الْبَغِي فَوَلَدَتْ مِنْكَ.  فَقَالَ: أَيْنَ الصبي؟  فَجَاءُوا بِهِ، فَقَالَ: دعوني حَتَّى أُصَلِّىَ، فَصَلَّى. فَلَمَّا انْصَرَفَ أَتَى الصَّبيَّ فَطَعَنَ فِى بَطْنِهِ، وَقَالَ: يَا غُلاَمُ مَنْ أَبُوكَ؟  قَالَ: فُلاَنٌ الراعي.
قَالَ: فَأَقْبَلُوا عَلَى جُرَيْجٍ يُقَبِّلُونَهُ، وَيَتَمَسَّحُونَ بِهِ، وَقَالُوا: نَبْنِي لَكَ صَوْمَعَتَكَ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ.  قَالَ: لاَ أَعِيدُوهَا مِنْ طِينٍ كَمَا كَانَتْ، فَفَعَلُوا» . رواه البخاري ومسلم.
قال النووي: وفي حديث جريج هذا فوائد كثيرة؛ منها عظم بر الوالدين، وتأكد حق الأم، وأن دعاءها مجاب.  وأنه إذا تعارضت الأمور بدئ بالأهم.  وأن الله تعالى يجعل لأوليائه مخارج عند ابتلائهم بالشدائد غالبا . قال الله تعالى: {وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا} [الطلاق 2]، وقد يجري عليهم الشدائد بعض الأوقات زيادة في أحوالهم، وتهذيبا لهم، فيكون لطفا .


Narrated Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “None spoke in the cradle except three (persons): Jesus the son of Mary, and [the second one is] the companion of Jurayj.  Jurayj was a man [from the Children of Isra’il] who devoted himself to worshiping God.  He confined himself in a hermitage and used to worship God in it.  His mother once came to him as he was busy in prayer and called him: ‘Jurayj.’  He said: ‘My Lord, my mother [is calling me while I am engaged in] my prayer.’  Then he chose to continue with the prayer, and she left.

She returned the next day and he was busy in prayer, and she called him again: ‘Jurayj’.  He said: ‘My Lord, my mother [is calling me while I am engaged] in prayer,’ and he chose to continue with the prayer, and she left.

She came back the third day as he was busy in prayer and called him: ‘Jurayj.’  He said: ‘My Lord, my mother [is calling me while I am engaged in] my prayer,’ and he chose to continue with the prayer.  So she said: ‘My Lord, do not let him die until he sees the faces of prostitutes.’

The Children of Isra’il talked about Jurayj and his great worship. There was a prostitute who was known for her beauty who said [to the people]: ‘If you like, I can entice him.’  She presented herself to him but he paid her no heed.  So she went to a shepherd who used to live near the hermitage and offered herself to him. The shepherd shared bed with her and she became pregnant.  When she gave birth to a child she said: ‘This is from Jurayj.’

People went to Jurayj, asked him to get down, demolished his hermitage, and began to beat him.  He said: ‘What is the matter with you?’  They said: ‘You have committed fornication with this prostitute, and she has given birth to your child.’  He said: ‘Where is the baby boy?’  They brought the baby boy and he said: ‘Let me offer prayer to my Lord.’  He observed prayer and when he finished, he went to the baby boy.  Juriaj struck his stomach and said: ‘O boy, who is your father?’ The baby boy spoke and said: ‘So and so the shepherd.’  Thereupon, the people turned towards Jurayj, kissed him and touched him [seeking blessing].  They said: ‘We will construct your hermitage with gold.’ He said: ‘No, just rebuild it with mud as it had been,’ and they did that.” Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.



The above hadith indicates the great emphasis Islam has placed on the obligations and rights of parents.  In Islam the concept of gratefulness to God is stressed time and again. Thus, the Muslim should feel and express gratitude to Allah, Who has granted him innumerous blessings and countless favors.  As mentioned in the hadith, each blessing requires thankfulness and gratitude.  And the more the slave thanks Allah and admits his constant need of Him, the more Allah grants the slave; meanwhile, the ungrateful slave will find his recompense both in this life and the Hereafter.

Parents have been given such high status in Islam partially due to the concept of gratitude.  It is logically explained in the Qur’an that as the mother bears her child for nine months, and endures the hardships throughout her pregnancy, and then both parents take care of the baby while he or she is growing up, the parents deserve a similar attitude of care and respect from the child. In the Qur’an, Allah the Exalted states: { And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and good to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years.  Be grateful to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination} (Surah 31, verse 14).

Thus, Allah the Exalted ties giving thanks and being grateful to Him, to giving thanks and being grateful to one’s parents. The scholars said that this verse indicates that the opposite is true, too. So the person who does not thank his parents and does not express gratitude by taking care of them, and does not show respect and reverence to them–that person has not expressed real gratitude to God. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ called undutifulness to one’s parents a major sin, and one of the seven deadly sins in Islam. The following hadith in fact tells us that the greatest major sin after disbelief is bad treatment of parents (‘uquq):

عن عبد اللَّهِ بنِ عمرو بن العاص رضي اللَّه عنهما عن النبيِّ صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم قال: « الكَبَائرُ: الإِشْرَاكُ بِاللَّهِ، وعُقُوقِ الوَالِديْنِ، وقَتْلُ النَّفْسِ، واليَمِينُ الغَمُوسُ» .  رواه البخاري.

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-‘Aas, may Allah be pleased with them, that the Prophet ﷺ said: “The major sins are: Associating any partner in worship with Allah (shirk), undutifulness to one’s parents (uqooq), killing the soul, and taking a false oath that will take him deep into Hell (Al-Yameen Al-Ghamoos).”  Related by Al-Bukhari.

Despite this emphasis in the religion on parents’ rights, we see some abandoning this Divine command and preferring self-interest and personal family needs over their parents’ needs.

It is as if they have forgotten the extra care their parents took and the years they spent to raise them.

Thus, not only do they neglect an honorable duty and a moral obligation, but they also end up committing a major sin whose consequences are felt both in this life and the Hereafter–may Allah keep us safe.  The following hadith conveys some of the gravity of the matter:

عن جابِرِ بنِ سَمُرَةَ رضي اللَّهُ عنه قالَ: ( صَعِدَ النَّبِيُّ صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم الْمِنْبَرَ فَقَالَ: « آمِينَ، آمِينَ، آمِينَ». فَلَمَّا نَزَلَ سُئِلَ عَنْ ذَلِكَ ؟ فَقَالَ: « أَتَانِي جِبْرِيلُ، فَقَالَ: رَغِمَ أَنْفُ مَنْ أَدْرَكَ رَمَضَانَ فَلَمْ يُغْفَرْ لَهُ، قُلْ: آمِينَ، قُلْتُ: آمِينَ.  وَرَغِمَ أَنْفُ رَجُلٍ ذُكِرْتَ عِنْدَهُ فَلَمْ يُصَلِّ عَلَيْكَ، قُلْ: آمِينَ، فَقُلْتُ: آمِينَ.  وَرَغِمَ أَنْفُ رَجُلٍ أَدْرَكَ وَالِدَيْهِ أَوْ أَحَدَهُمَا فَلَمْ يُغْفَرْ لَهُ، أَوْ لا يُدْخِلانِهِ الْجَنَّةَ، قُلْ: آمِينَ. قُلْتُ: آمِينَ»). رواه البزار واللفظ له، ورواه الترمذي وابن حبان والطبراني وأحمد.

Narrated Jabir Ibn Samurah, may Allah be pleased with him: “The Prophet ﷺ climbed the pulpit once and then said: ‘Amen. Amen. Amen.’  When he climbed down, he was asked about that, so he replied: ‘Gabriel came to me and said: ‘Humiliated is he who attained the month of Ramadan, but was not forgiven, say Amen.’  I said Amen.  He said: ‘Humiliated is he in whose presence you are mentioned, but he does not send prayer upon you, say Amen.’  I said Amen.  He said: ‘And humiliated is he who is with his parents or one of them, but was not forgiven, or they did not make him enter Paradise, say Amen.’  I said Amen.’ ”  Related by Al-Bazzar (his narration), as well as Al-Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibban, Al-Tabarani, and Ahmad with good narration.

Respect for parents extends to the degree that Allah has prohibited us from even expressing annoyance to them.  Rather, the Muslim should be patient with his parents and swallow any anger or frustration he may feel and remember their great rights and obligation. Allah the Exalted says: {And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be dutiful to your parents.  If one of them or both of them attain old age while with you, say not to them a word of disrespect (uff), nor reprimand them but address them in terms of honor.  And lower to them the wing of humility and mercy, and say: “My Lord, bestow upon them Your mercy as they brought me up when I was young.”} (Surah 17, verses 23-24).

Ibn Kathir said: “The meaning of the verse is: Do not let your parents hear any bad speech from you, not even to say ‘Uff’, which is the mildest level of disrespect and bad speech.

On the other hand, a great reward and good recompense is promised to the one who treats her parents with good manners, obeys them, and tries to fulfill their needs.  Such a dutiful child is promised goodness in this life and great reward in the Hereafter, as the following hadith shows:

عن أنس بن مالك رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسولُ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم: « مَنْ سَرَّهُ أَنْ يُمَدَّ لَهُ فِي عُمُرِهِ ويُزَادَ فِي رِزْقِهِ فَلْيَبِرَّ وَالِدَيْهِ وَلْيَصِلْ رَحِمَهُ» .  رواه أحمد.

Narrated Anas Ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Whoever wishes for his age to be extended, and for his livelihood to be increased, then let him be dutiful to his parents and maintain relationship with his kin.”  Related by Imam Ahmad.

This goes to the extent that some scholars said that being dutiful to parents erases major sins.  It is related that Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said: “Dutifulness to parents is an expatiation of major sins.”   And great stories have been narrated of the Companions of the Prophet and how they used to respect their parents and do everything they could to serve their parents and fulfill their needs.  Indeed, the righteous people realized the great reward in treating parents with good manners and being dutiful to them, and learned of its benefits both in this life and the Hereafter, so they took every effort to fulfill their parents’ needs and spent what they had to serve their parents.

Finally, we see the keenness of Companions to be dutiful to their parents even after death, as the following hadith shows:

‏عن أبي أُسَيْدٍ مالكِ بنِ ربيعةَ السَّاعِدِيِّ ‏قال: بَيْنَا نَحْنُ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم إِذْ جَاءَهُ رَجُلٌ مِنْ ‏بَنِي سَلَمَةَ فَقَالَ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ هَلْ بَقِيَ مِنْ بِرِّ أَبَوَيَّ شَيْءٌ أَبَرُّهُمَا بِهِ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهِمَا؟ قَالَ: « ‏نَعَمْ الصَّلَاةُ عَلَيْهِمَا، وَالِاسْتِغْفَارُ لَهُمَا، وَإِنْفَاذُ عَهْدِهِمَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِمَا، وَصِلَةُ الرَّحِمِ الَّتِي لَا تُوصَلُ إِلَّا بِهِمَا، وَإِكْرَامُ صَدِيقِهِمَا».  رواه أبو داود وابن ماجه.

Narrated Abu Usaid Malik Ibn Rabi’a Al-Sa’idi : “While we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, a man from the tribe of Bani Salama came to him and asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah, is there anything of filial devotion left with which I can be dutiful to my parents after their death?’  He replied: ‘Yes, praying for them, asking Allah to forgive them, fulfilling their pledge after them, maintaining relationship with the kinfolk not maintained except by them, and honoring their friends.’ ”  Related by Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah.

Islam has thus placed enormous emphasis on respect for and obedience to parents, with great rewards promised to righteous children, and severe punishment in both lives warned of those who mistreat their parents. We ask Allah to forgive us in our shortcomings to our parents, and we ask Him to reward them and raise their ranks for all their services on our behalf.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s