The importance of respecting one’s parents is a major theme of many religions, particularly the Abrahamic faiths. This is especially true for the religion of Islam. The Holy Prophet and his family (pbut) and the Holy Quran repeat a singular directive from the Almighty: “Be kind to your parents.” While most Muslims have this message ingrained in their minds (often with the help of the very parents Islam directs them to honor), there is something we can understand from this general directive. Furthermore, according to Islam we see an additional level of veneration when it comes to the status of the mother.

Kindness toward Parents in the Holy Quran

At the outset, it is helpful to gain a proper perspective of God’s command when it comes to believers and their parents. We see this in the Holy Quran:

Your Lord has ordained that you must not worship anything other than Him and that you must be kind to your parents. If either or both of your parents should become ad­vanced in age, do not express to them words which show your slightest disappointment. Never dispute with them, but always speak to them with kindness.  Be humble and merciful to­ward them and say, “Lord, have mercy upon them as they cherished me in my child­hood.” (17:23-24)

The only sin which God does not forgive, according to the Holy Quran, is the act of considering something as His equal: “God does not forgive the sin of considering others equal to Him, but He may choose to forgive other sins. Whoever believes in other gods besides Him has indulged in a great sin.” (4:48) In fact, the foremost tenet in the Islamic faith is to acknowledge the Oneness of God. Therefore, from the verses above, we can easily see that God is issuing His most important and serious command when He says, “Your Lord has ordained that you must not worship anything other than Him.” It makes sense that if the Quran gives another directive immediately following this singularly important one, let alone in the same sentence, it is also a matter of great importance. In this case, God commands His creatures to worship Him alone and immediately adds the additional command to “be kind to your parents”.

Emphasis on Mothers in the Holy Quran

Now that we are beginning to see the status parents have in the sight of God, it is interesting to note that He places an additional level of veneration on the mother. We see this in the Holy Quran in a rather beautiful continuation of the original theme of kindness:

We have advised the human being to be kind to his parents; his mother bore him with hardship and delivered him while suffering a great deal of pain. (46:15)

In another chapter, it reads:

(Concerning his parents), We advised the man, whose mother bears him with great pain (weakness after weakness) and breast-feeds him for two years, to give thanks to Me first and then to them; to Me all things proceed. (31:14)

In both instances, God speaks of parents, but then He specifically mentions the hardships and suffering of the mother in bearing and raising her child. This is an extraordinary clarification. Put it this way— from the perspective of the faithful, we are reading the words of the Creator of everything, including planets, stars, galaxies, and beyond. His power is immeasurable, and His dominion is vast. Yet here, the Creator of the heavens and the earth has chosen to speak to His creatures of the plight of the mother and to do so repeatedly and in detail. No other person or creation receives such recognition. This speaks volumes about the status and importance of the mother in God’s sight.

In addition, according to the same verse, God commands that His creatures give thanks to Him and then to their mothers. For the faithful, this establishes that the right of mothers to receive thanks from their children is divinely ordained.

Show kindness to your parents

According to the Holy Quran, as seen above, the emphasis on being kind toward parents is clear. But how should we go about showing this kindness?

A person once said to Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p), “My father has become very old and weak. We pick him up and help him [use] the restrooms.” The Imam said, “If you can, you should do all of this for him and feed him with your own hand; it is paradise for you tomorrow.”1

In this one narration, we can see how personal and extensive a level of expectation God has set for us when it comes to our parents, as relayed to us by the infallible ones. At the same time, the sixth Imam (p) cautions against causing parents suffering or disappointment. In fact, this consideration is so extensive, that He even forbids the slightest form of ill-mannered behavior:

Narrations tell us that Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) said, “The minimum form of causing suffering and disappointment to parents is the [verbal] expression, Uff. Had God known anything less disappointing than Uff, He would have prohibited it.”2

This is a very important message to the believers. If God does not tolerate even saying Uff, which is a verbal expression of disappointment or disapproval, toward one’s parents, what would He say of those deeds or actions that go beyond this?

Be kind to parents who have passed away

Many people are extremely fortunate to have one or both parents alive and well. However, others of us may have parents who have left this world. In this case, is the opportunity to show kindness to our parents lost? The answer is no. In a narration, we learn that Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (p) said the following:

A servant (of God) may have been kind to his parents during their lifetime but when they die he does not pay their debts and does not ask forgiveness for them. God [records his deeds] as [being one who was] unkind to [his] parents. One may have been unkind to parents during their lifetime, but after their death, when he pays off their debts and asks forgiveness for them, God, the Most Majestic, the Most Holy, [records his deeds] among the people who are kind to their parents.3


1. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 162, ch. 70, h. 15.
2. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p. 348, ch. 144, h. 1.
3. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 163, ch. 70, h. 21.


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