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Respect for Parents

By Ejaz Naqvi

If the world’s religions, whether monotheistic, eastern or otherwise, agree on one thing, it is respecting and serving the parents. Sadly in today’s fast-paced world, we see an erosion of the age-old tradition of honouring the parents. Here are 20 reasons (besides a million other) why we should serve our parents. Over the last 25 years or so, there has been a rapid growth of elder care homes and assisted living homes, as the children are unable and/or willing to take care of their elderly parents, who end up spending their last few years of life living with strangers, rather than among the very people they spent their entire life raising. The parents are served by the strangers rather than their children, who miss out on this great opportunity to payback!
To be fair, putting their parents in an elderly care home is not often their children’s first choice, dictated usually by their inability to take care of them as both husband and wife work and can’t stay home to take care of their aging parents. But this is a good time to reflect upon how we were brought up and cared for.
When we did not know how to eat or drink, they taught us how to eat. They fed us, when we could not feed ourselves.
When there was not enough to eat, they fed us first even if it meant they might not have enough to eat.
When we did not know how to clean after ourselves (or we could not), they cleaned us up.
When we did not know how to talk, they taught us how to talk.
When we did not know how to walk, they taught us how to walk.
When we were sick, they nursed us, never worrying that they could catch our germs.
When we did not know how to read, they taught us how to read.
When we could not drive to school, they drove us to school (or walked us to school).
When everyone was ‘mean” to us, they showed kindness and mercy towards us.
When we could not count on anyone, we knew we could count on them- no matter what.
When we could not pay for our education, they paid for our education, even if it meant sacrificing their own comfort.
When we were happy, they were happier- for us. When we were sad, they were more sad- feeling our pain even more than we did.
When we were down, they lifted us up-physically, emotionally, and sometimes spiritually.
They did something for us that no one else could do, without wanting any anything back. No one else could have so selflessly cared for us than they did:
They loved us more than anyone else has, or could, or will.
They wanted us to have a better job than them.
They wanted us to be more educated than them.
They wanted us to be more handsome and good looking than them.
they wanted us to be more healthy than them.
They wanted us to be more comfortable than them.
They wanted us to have a better life than them.
They wanted us to be more comfortable, more at peace than them.
Not just that, they actually worked hard to accomplish all that! Who else in our lives can we say that about?
No wonder, serving one’s parents and respecting them is considered paramount and is frequently emphasized in the Qur’an, the Hebrew Scripture, New Testament and Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
The verses are self-explanatory:
Come, I will rehearse what Lord has (really) prohibited you from: Join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents…. The Qur’an 6:151
Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt (even ‘ugh’), nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. 17:23
Serve Allah and do not commit shirk and be good to your parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, near and far neighbours who keep company with you, the travellers in need, and the slaves you own. Allah does not love those who are arrogant and boastful. 4:36
Associating other gods with God (Shirk) is the greatest sin according to the Qur’an. It is very interesting to note that in many of these verses, avoiding Shirk and showing kindness to parents are ordained side by side, highlighting Qur’an’s emphasis on respecting and serving the parents. This is not surprising since parents are the closest things to God on this earth- they gave birth to us and cherished us and love us and show us mercy, even when we don’t behave well. They keep giving and they keep forgiving. Indeed God made our parents in His image!
Loving, respecting and serving the parents is considered a foremost duty for the children. There are numerous passages in the Bible on the importance of serving and honouring the parents and here is a tiny sample.