[Khaled Hamid, 48, is an American Muslim. He was born in Egypt but has lived in Canada and the United States for nearly 20 years. Since 2000 he has worked as a physician in St. Louis where he lives with his wife and two sons. He is especially interested in civil rights issues and inter-faith dialog.]
Sunday was Mother’s day. It is a day that is as popular in Muslim countries as it is in the USA and the West. In Egypt it is celebrated on the first day of spring as proposed by the first person to advocate setting up a day for that occasion in the 1950s. I believe many of the Arab countries adopted the same date. The symbolism of associating Mother’s day with the dawn of spring should be obvious. . .
Mothers have the same kind of esteem in societies’ hearts regardless of the dominant ideology. Islamic societies are no exception. In addition to the instinctive nature of our love for mothers, the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, have abundance of commandments of reverence and dutifulness to the mother.
One of the Prophet’s companions narrated what he told the Prophet, “O Messenger of God, I desire to go on a (military) expedition and I have come to consult you.” He asked me if I had a mother, and when I replied that I had, he said, “Stay with her because Paradise lies beneath her feet.“‘
Another companions said “I asked the Messenger of God, to whom should I be dutiful?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked again, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked a third time, “Then whom?” He replied, “Your mother.” I asked, “Then to whom should I be dutiful?” He replied, “Your father”
Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, narrated: “I asked the Prophet who has the greatest right over a man” and – as the reader may have guessed – he said, “His mother.”
The Prophet once posed a question to a man: “Is either one of your parents still alive?”. The man said: “My mother”. He said: “God has instructed us in devotion to her, so if you do thus, you are as one who has made the Pilgrimage, visited the Holy Mosque and participated in jihad.”
While the mothers occupies a special status as evident from the examples above, respect and devotion is not restricted to one parent only as shown in these examples.
The Prophet said “Shall I tell you what the worst of wrong deed is?” People replied, “Yes”. He said, “Associating something else with God and disobeying parents.” He had been reclining, but then he said up and said, “And false witness.”
Placing disobedience to parents right in the middle between associating other deity with God and bearing false witnesses – two of the most major sins – goes to show the status of parents in Islam. This is not surprising of the Prophet since many Quranic verses have similarly highlighted the special status of parents:
For example, in the Quran 6:151, “Say: ‘Come, let me convey unto you what God has [really] forbidden to you: ‘Do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him; and [do not offend against but, rather,] do good unto your parents…“.
A similar verse enjoins the same kind of care for parents when they reach old age, understanding that aging comes with its own problems (17:23) “for thy Sustainer has ordained that you shall worship none but Him. And do good unto [thy] parents.’ Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in thy care, never say ‘Ugh’ to them or scold them, but [always] speak unto them with reverent speech“.
Many moral lessons in the Quran come in the form of narrations about the great men of God. John the Baptist, a revered figure in Islam, is mentioned, amongst many other great things, as being “… full of piety towards his parents” (19:15). The Quranic version of the miraculous speech of Jesus, peace be upon him, in the cradle includes a mention of kindness to his mother, the Virgin Mary. In 19:31, the Quran narrates on the tongue of baby Jesus “… and [God endowed me with] piety towards my mother; and He has not made me haughty or bereft of grace”. (MORE)