Clergy Corner

Rights of Parents

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

ImageWhen Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) was asked about the meaning of "and be kind to your parents," he said, "It means to have good interactions with them.  If they need something, then give it to them before they ask you.  And fulfill their needs even if they can do so on their own."

Sayyid Baqir Imrani

While stating the reason behind sending the prophets, God says, "Verily, We sent Our messengers with clear proofs, the heavenly book, and the distinguisher between truth and falsehood, so that people stand up with justice." (57:25)

The main purpose for sending prophets is the establishment of justice, both social and individual.  And one of the paths they have instituted for this goal was to familiarize people with rights.  God has rights over us, humans have rights over us, animals have rights over us, the Earth has rights over us, and even our body parts have rights over us.  Among the most important rights are those rights that parents have over their children.

The Holy Qur'an states, "And your Lord has commanded that you do not worship anyone except Him and that you are kind to your parents; if one of them or both of them reach old age with you, do not say the slightest disrespectful thing to them, do not raise your voice at them, and speak to them with polite words." (17:23)

There are at least five points in this verse which show the importance of this subject in the Islamic worldview:

1. The term Qadhaa used in this verse means command, as does the word Amr.  However, Qadhaa  shows emphasis and implies a definite and firm command.

2. Placing Tawheed, the most fundamental principle of Islam, next to kindness to parents also emphasizes the importance of this Islamic teaching.  In addition to this verse, the Qur'an has done this in three other verses, namely verses 2:83, 4:36, and 6:151.

3. The fact that kindness (Ihsaan) is mentioned unconditionally is another emphasis of this matter.  It includes all forms of kindness.

4. Use of the word parents is another emphasis.  It means that all parents, believers and nonbelievers, must be respected.

5. Ihsaan (kindness) has been used in the indefinite form.  The use of an indefinite in such cases states the importance of the subject matter.

In addition to respecting our parents, the verse tells us that we must also look after them.  When they reach old age, we must not say or do anything that will hurt their feelings.  We cannot shout at them and must speak politely to them.  Moreover, the next verse states, "And spread your wings of humility before them with love and mercy; and say: 'Lord, shower them with your mercy just as they raised me with love and kindness when I was a child.'" (17:24) 

When Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) was asked about the meaning of "and be kind to your parents," he said, "It means to have good interactions with them.  If they need something, then give it to them before they ask you.  And fulfill their needs even if they can do so on their own."

Concerning, "and speak to them politely," he said, "If they hit you, pray for their forgiveness."  And about "spread your wings of humility before them," he said, "Do not give them mean looks, do not raise your voices above theirs, do not walk in front of them, do not enter a gathering before them, and do not place your hand above theirs."  The late Majlisi has said in explanation of the last part of this statement that, while giving them something, place your hand underneath theirs so that they take it from above your hand.

And certainly, these verses and others like them stress that we must take care of our parents when they are old and we must never, under any circumstances, place them in nursing homes.  It is a despicable act to abandon our parents to such places.  If we are not willing to take care of our old parents, surely other people's children aren't willing to do so either.  We will list several crimes that take place in such institutions:

1. Physical and psychological abuses

2. Failure to provide proper and timely medical care and mental health needs

3. Failure to attend hygiene needs

4. Failure to provide adequate staffing

5. Failure to prevent malnutrition and dehydration

6. Falsification of patient's charts

7. Stealing from the patients

We must ask ourselves: is it an act of civility to abandon our parents to such potential harms?  Is it humane to leave them when they need us the most while they sacrificed so much for us when we needed them?  For this reason, the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said, "I warn you not to bother your parents.  Verily the fragrance of paradise can be smelled from a distance of one thousand years' journey, and the one who disrespects his parents will not smell it."

It must not go unmentioned that respect for parents includes all parents, not just those who are believers.  The Holy Qur'an states, "And if they strive to make you ascribe partners to Me that which you have no knowledge of, then do not obey them, and deal with them kindly in their worldly needs." (31:15)

This verse clearly shows that the only time we are permitted to disobey our parents is if they invite us to do something which goes against the teachings of Islam.  Even in this case, we are only to reject them kindly and the fact that they advice as to something as abhorrent as polytheism does not give us the right to disrespect them.  Therefore, the last part of the aforesaid verse commands us to deal with them kindly even if they try to influence us negatively.

In summary, the rights which the Qur'an and Islamic narrations have mentioned for parents are numerous.  We will mention some of them here:

1. No to address them by name

2. Not to walk in front of them

3. Not to start eating before them

4. Not to turn your backs to them

5. While speaking, not to raise your voice above theirs

6. Not place your hand over theirs

7. Not do an act which will cause people to blame your mother or father.  For example, if you are impolite and someone says "what kind of parents did he have that they raised such a bad child."

8. Get their permission before all affairs and tasks, except obligatory matters

9. Answer them when they call you, except if you're performing obligatory prayers. However, you must answer them immediately after you are done.

10. Provide their food, clothing, shelter and other needs

11. Not to bother them

12. Not to joke with them

13. Stand up before them when they enter the room

14. Speak politely to them

15. Be humble with them

16. Look after their affairs

17. When they pass away, shroud them, bathe them, and bury them, or hire someone to do so

18. Pray for their forgiveness

19. Visit their graves

20. Pay off their debts

21. Make up their missed obligations, such as prayers and fasts

22. Act according to their will and testament

23. Not forget them for as long as you are alive

24. Do good deeds in their names, such as giving charity, sponsoring orphans and the like.  In short, send spiritual gifts to their graves.

These were just some of the rights parents have over their children.  Certainly, they have more rights over us than these.  In whole, we must carry out all acts of kindness before our parents and refrain from anything that will bother them or hurt their feelings.

Sayyid Baqir Imrani is a popular speaker among North American Shia communities. Further articles and lectures by him can be found on


Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button