Tafseer Surah Luqman (Part 3): The Rights of Allah and the Right of the Parents

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Adapted for Hiba Magazine by Shaheera Vakani (Jeddah)

وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَانُ لِابْنِهِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ

And (remember) when Luqman said to his son when he was advising him: “O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily! Joining others in worship with Allah is a great Zulm (wrong) indeed.

وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَانُ لِابْنِهِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ

“And (remember) when Luqman said to his son when he was advising him…”

Allah is telling us what Luqman said to his son while advising him. Those who are wise teach their wisdom first to their children. The closest to you are those who should be advised first. Your children are a perpetual charity and if you raise them with the right manners and creed, your deeds continue to increase.

The most important lesson we learn from Luqman’s manner of speaking to his child in this verse is his gentleness: he does not scorn his son; rather, he begins by using an endearing name showing love and affection. Raising children is an act that should be done for the sake of Allah.

How did Luqman preach to his son?

He spoke casually and did not underestimate him just because he is his son. The word used here is “وعظ” which is to advise with the prohibitions and commandments of Allah. It includes warning and encouragement. We should tell them that these actions bring the pleasure of Allah and these actions bring on the wrath of Allah. A lot of times we just give ambiguous commands and make up rewards and warnings. We should instead give rationale based on the Quran and Sunnah and not invent new things.

What was his first advice?

يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ

“O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah.

This is the first and foremost advice that Luqman gave to his son. His first advice pertains to tawheed. The most important lesson we learn from Luqman’s manner of speaking to his child in this verse is his gentleness: he does not scorn his son; rather, he begins by using an endearing name showing love and affection. Raising children is an act that should be done for the sake of Allah.

What is the reasoning behind this warning?

إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ

Verily! Joining others in worship with Allah is a great Zulm (wrong) indeed.

This is the warning that follows the advice. He tells his son that Shirk is great injustice; and injustice is putting something in the wrong place. Shirk is injustice and imbalance while Tawheed is justice and balance. It is the most severe injustice and it is the only sin which Allah will never forgive. This injustice, however, does not harm Allah. It is the slave that harms himself and puts himself in danger of the punishment of Allah.

What is Shirk anyway?

Shirk is to associate partners with Allah in:

  1. His Lordship- to believe that there is someone besides Allah who creates, sustains and provides.
  2. His worship- to worship others besides Allah; and directing acts of worship such as supplication, vows, sacrifice, hope, fear, trust and all other acts done to seek nearness
  3. His Names and Attributes: to elevate someone’s status to the level of Allah’s perfect Names and Attributes

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَىٰ وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ

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; give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination.

What was his second advice?

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ

And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents.

The second advice pertains to being dutiful to parents. The wording of this verse tells us that it is Allah who is giving this advice, He said “وصينا” meaning “We enjoined”. Additionally, the advice that comes from Allah is called “وصية” which is a will, or a covenant. It is a command from Allah that makes it obligatory upon us to obey and be kind towards our parents.

This advice is not directed to Muslims only, it is directed to all of humanity, whether believer or disbeliever. This relationship can never be changed or cut off.

حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَىٰ وَهْنٍ

His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship,

He specifically mentions the mother because of the pain she suffers in bearing children, raising them and taking care of them. His mother bore him in weakness upon weakness; from the time of conception to labor, she becomes weaker by day. She is elevated in ranks as a result of this hardship.

Allah orders us to thank our parents. This does not mean to just verbalize a few sweet words; rather, gratitude should be expressed through actions.

وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ

and his weaning is in two years

And his nursing is for two years; there was hardship at conception and birth, and now there is hardship in raising the child. She suffers exhaustion upon exhaustion in bringing the child up. He constantly needs to be with the mother because he needs to be fed. Allah plants mercy in the heart of the mother and she is able to tolerate this work.

أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ

Therefore, give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination.

Allah commands us to be grateful and thankful towards Him since He is the One who is laying down all of these rights and rules and sowing mercy in people’s hearts.

How do we thank Allah?

  1. To worship Him in the way He loves
  2. Fulfilling the rights He has enjoined upon us
  3. To use His blessings to obey Him

Allah orders us to thank our parents. This does not mean to just verbalize a few sweet words; rather, gratitude should be expressed through actions.

The final return is to Allah; He is our destination. He will then hold us accountable for these deeds.

Etiquettes of Answering the Call of Nature

  1. Avoid spoiling water that is beneficial to people, such as springs and wells.
  2. Avoid spoiling the streets and pathways that people walk on and pass through.
  3. Avoid spoiling the shade under the trees that people might relax under and enjoy.
  4. Avoid urinating in stagnant water like a pond or fountain.
  5. It is not allowed to enter into the bathroom with anything that mentions Allah’s name
  6. It is not allowed to speak in the bathroom.
  7. While defecating or urinating, the person should not face the Qiblah nor should he give the Qiblah his back.
  8. When entering the bathroom, say “بسم الله اللهم إني أعوذ بك من الخبث و الخبائث”“Bismillah, O Allah I seek refuge with You from the devils, male and female.”This creates a barrier between the person and the Shaytan.
  9. To enter the bathroom with the left foot and exiting with the right
  10. When exiting the bathroom, say “غفرانك” “(I seek) Your forgiveness” when exiting the bathroom.
  11. To place a barrier between himself and the people in order not to be exposed
  12. To use the left hand to clean after answering the call of nature
  13. To use the two methods of cleansing; Istinjaa (using water to cleanse yourself) and then Istijmaar (using tissues to cleanse yourself).

An Open Letter to the Family’s Elders

Open Letter to Family Elders

In Pakistan, discussions in social gatherings often turn towards the ‘pathetic’ economic and political situation of the country, with elders at the fore in criticizing the leaders and masses for their misdeeds. It is now fashionable not only to disparage Pakistan’s leaders, but to also consider one’s self justified in doing it.

A reminder: criticizing and lampooning figures of authority behind their backs is Gheebah. Just because our leaders are corrupt doesn’t mean we are allowed to sling mud upon their honour.

That being said, Islam has not stopped the common masses from correcting their leader directly, preferably in private, when he makes a mistake. For this reason, even if the Imam makes a mistake in obligatory Salah, his followers in the congregation are obliged to point it out to him by saying, “Subhan’Allah.”

There are levels of leadership in an Islamic society, and they all involve authority and accountability. For example, families have leaders, too, who are accountable before Allah (swt) for their mistakes. Advancement in age doesn’t change the seriousness of this accountability before Allah (swt).

What happens as family leaders age, however, is that they eventually have no one older than them alive, who can scold and correct them, which might give them a false sense of absolute authority over their younger subordinates. This can make it easier for them to go on making mistakes, until the younger ones in the family muster up the courage to try and correct them.

Result? Often, denial.

Undercurrents of tension in joint families

The scores of emails and comments I receive on my blog from the ‘middle generation’ – married Muslims with young children – point towards a reality that no one today likes to talk about: family problems that exist in almost every outwardly smoothly running joint family household.

Rights in Islam that elderly parents do not possess

Most of us are well-aware of the extremely high rights to obedience and good treatment that Allah (swt) has afforded to parents in Islam. Even if they are oppressive, cruel, sinful, outright misguided or non-Muslims, their children, young or old, cannot rebuke, insult or mistreat them in any way. I will not detail these rights here, because most of us are aware of them.

What I would like to do, instead, is address our society elders and remind them of the rights that they, as parents, do not have, especially if they are financially self-sufficient and physically healthy:

(1) Elderly parents do not have the right to control their adult, married offspring in the realm of permissible things in Islam, such as what style, colour, or brand of clothes they wear, which car they buy, or whether they eat cereal or eggs for breakfast. They can give consultation and wisely-worded, appropriately-timed advice, but in the end, the adult son or daughter cannot be manipulated or coerced to do exactly as they please.

(2) Parents do not have the right to insult, deride, ridicule or humiliate their married son or daughter in front of others, especially before the latter’s spouse, children or in-laws. Maligning another’s honour is a sin in Islam, and parental authority is not a ticket to absolution from other sins. So, what can be said about scolding a daughter-in-law or son-in-law for falling short in tasks that are not even their obligatory Islamic duties, such as accidentally burning the rice or wearing their own choice of clothes to a dinner party?

(3) Parents do not have the right to walk into their married son’s or daughter’s private bedroom area without prior permission. Any area, in which a husband and wife enjoy exclusive privacy, is off-limits by default, until permission is given, even for their parents. On the same token, the parents of adult children should not go through the cupboards, wallets, handbags, bank account statements, attaché cases or dressers of their married son or daughter without permission.

(4) Just as elderly parents have exclusive rights upon their adult children, they too, have exclusive rights upon theirs. Grandparents do not have the final say about decisions related to grandchildren; the children’s own parents, especially their mothers, do. Yes, this means that a daughter-in-law has greater rights over her children than her parents-in-law do. If there is ever any worldly matter, in which she wants her child to do one thing, and a grandparent wants him or her to do another (such as what food to eat and what television programme to watch), then according to Allah’s (swt) laws, she deserves to be obeyed by her child three times more than not just the grandparent, but also their son (i.e., her husband).

(5) Elderly people should fear Allah (swt) regarding their children. An elder above the age of sixty or seventy is like a valuable gem for their family. They are indeed fortunate, if all of their children are well-settled, happily married and enjoying loving marital relationships. Elders should not let their authority, advanced age or personal insecurities initiate problems in their children’s homes.

(6) Age is nothing but a number. When a parent crosses the age of sixty, if they are financially self-sufficient and free from physical domestic duties (especially of raising children), they should try to keep themselves occupied in positive work and beneficial hobbies. They can attend new courses, teach/mentor others, volunteer at welfare organizations, and revitalize their worship of Allah (swt). For example, Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the head of the 1000-year-old Al-Azhar University, was eighty-one, when he died in Madinah, where he had travelled to attend an award ceremony. Japanese doctor, Shigeaki Hinohara, is still working as a physician and professor at age of one hundred. Wahiduddin Khan is still writing Islamic books at the age of eighty-seven.

(7) If elders have any surviving elderly relatives of their own besides their parents, such as an ailing aunt, uncle or distant cousin, they should visit them and help them. It will take their mind off from worries of when their son or daughter last visited and prevent them constantly missing their out-of-town grandchildren.

The more mental and physical independence, space and respect elders will give to their adult, married offspring (and their spouses), the more love and joy they will enjoy in their homes, Insha’Allah.