“One who resembles his father has done no wrong…”
Its said that Ru’ba b. Ajjaj once saw the generosity of ‘Adi b. Hatim, and so he recited this line:
بأبه اقتدى عدي في الكرم *** ومن يشابه أبه فما ظلم
“It was his father that Adi followed in generosity *** and one who resembles his father has done no wrong.”
This line of poetry and its related story came to mind today as I was scrolling through my phone. I came across a photo collage made by my phone that had “matched” two pictures of the same person. To my surprise, the two pictures my phone said matched were a picture of my father and one of me. After remembering this line of poetry, another memory came to mind. One of my sons – known for being particularly animated and somewhat of a busybody, always “into stuff” – used to jokingly be called “Fa maa Zalam” i.e. “has done no wrong” by one of my teachers, who would recite this line and nod at me as if he knew exactly how I was as a child as well when he’d see him playing in the background during classes.
With these memories in mind, I decided I’d take a moment and talk a little about the respect due to parents in general and particularly fathers as a core of Islamic character. We often hear the texts about respect for mothers, that they are three times more deserving of our companionship, etc. There is no doubt that that is the case. Having lost my father over a decade ago, I thought it was a good reminder to remind others that fathers too are due respect and are doors to Paradise. If your father is still alive, make sure you use that opportunity to gain Paradise.
“Dumb Ole Dad” & The Culture of Disrespect
In times when rights are neglected and responsibilities are shirked, it becomes a must to highlight the respect and veneration due to our parents, and specifically our fathers. This, to me, is particularly important because we live in a media saturated world that inculcates a culture of disrespect for both parents, and for “dumb old dad” especially. A cursory glance at TV programs show the kids as smart (or smart-asses), the mother as doting but clueless, and the father as either a) absent, b) an imbecile, or c) an abuser.
We can change this culture of disrespect by teaching our values to our children, putting the sanctity of the family before the recreation and ease of children, and by holding each other as spouses to a higher standard of respect as well. Children will often reflect what is happening at home, and so when one parent is disrespected by the other – secretly or even worse openly – it is only a matter of time that they will not only disrespect the parent who encouraged such behavior but then also other figures who are due respect such as grandparents, teachers, and employers. This reciprocity in treatment is echoed in another related text, narrated by Al-Bukhari from Abdullah b. Amru, where the Prophet said “No one should curse his parents.” Surprised, as if to say this was inconceivable to his companions, they asked how that could be? He replied: “One of you curses another’s father, and so he curses your father. You curses another’s mother, and so he curses your mother.”
This is a recipe for societal disaster, one that cuts to the bone and slowly saps us of our energy to be better and do better, by slowly chipping away at the sanctity of the family. In fact from the signs of the Day of Judgment is that “the slave-girl will give birth to her master” interpreted by some scholars to mean that children would become so oppressive to their parents that they would order them around like slaves. Children must be taught that disrespect of parents is a major sin, and parents themselves must remain cognizant of the fact that by encouraging disrespect, they are complicit in their children committing a major sin, and earn the same sin for doing so.
Here are some texts about respect for parents in general, and in particular fathers.
The Imperative of Filial Piety: A Focus on Fathers
Filial Piety (Birr al-Walidayn), the fancy term for “treating your parents well,” is an obligation that follows immediately after worship of God alone.
وَقَضَى رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَاناً إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِنْدَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلاهُمَا فَلا تَقُلْ لَهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُلْ لَهُمَا قَوْلاً كَرِيماً
“And your Lord decrees you worship none but Him and show excellence with your parents. If they were to reach old age – one or both of them – then don’t say ‘uff’ to them or chastise them; instead speak to them kindly.” Surat al-Isra 23.
Muslim narrates from Abu Hurayra from the Prophet who said: “Ruined is the one, ruined is the one, ruined is the one that finds his parents in old age – one or both of them – and they are not cause for him to enter Paradise.” (1)
Al-Tirmidhi and Ahmed both narrate from Abu al-Darda who said: I heard God’s Messenger say: “The father is the middle most door of Paradise, so neglect that door or preserve it.” (2) Commenting on this, scholars said that the “middlemost” in Arabic is a phrase reserved for those things which are easily accessible and best. Respect for one’s father then is easy to achieve and best if you want to make it to Paradise, and by extension respect for mothers even more so.
Al-Tirmidhi narrates from Abdullah b. Amru b. al-’Aas from the Prophet who said: “The Lord’s pleasure is in your parent’s pleasure, and the Lord’s anger is in your parent’s anger.” (3)
al-Hakim narrates from Anas that God’s Messenger said: “Two doors that open up expedited punishment in this world: oppression and disrespect for parents..” (4)
al-Daynuri mentions that Umar b. AbdulAziz said: “Don’t show love to one who is insolent to their parents. How could they love you back, when they’ve disrespected their own father?” (5)
Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi mentions a question posed about respect for parents: What if a person’s parents have passed away and they were angry with them? What do you do in that situation? Can they be pleased even after their death? The response: Yes, you can please your parents and show them respect in three ways: 1) That you yourself be a righteous person, because parents wants anything more than for their child to be a good person, 2) stay connected to their relatives and friends, 3) seek forgiveness for them, pray for them, and give charity in their name. (6)
References with texts:
(1) روى مسلم عن أبي هريرة عن النبي ﷺ قال: رغم أنف، ثم رغم أنف، ثم رغم أنف من أدرك أبويه عند الكبر أحدُهما أو كلاهما فلم يدخل الجنة.
(2) روى الترمذي وأحمد عن أبي الدرداء قال: سمعتُ رسول الله ﷺ قال: الوالد أوسط أبواب الجنة، فإن شئتَ فأضع ذلك البابَ أو احفظه.
(3) روى الترمذيُّ عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو بنِ العاص عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ: رِضَى الرَّبِّ فِي رِضَى الْوَالِدِ وَسَخَطُ الرَّبِّ فِي سَخَطِ الْوَالِدِ.
(4) روى الحاكمُ عن عَنْ أَنَسٍ، رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: بَابَانِ مُعَجَّلَانِ عُقُوبَتُهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا الْبَغْيُ وَالْعُقُوقُ
(5) وذكر الدينوري عن عُمَرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ رحمهُ اللهُ قوله: لَا تَوَدَّنَّ عَاقًّا، كَيْفَ يَوَدُّكَ وَقَدْ عَقَّ أَبَاهُ؟!
(6) قَالَ أَبُو اللَّيْثِ السَّمَرْقَنْدِيُّ رحمهُ الل في تنبه الغافلين: فَإِنْ سَأَلَ سَائِلٌ أَنَّ الْوَالِدَيْنِ إذَا مَاتَا سَاخِطَيْنِ عَلَى الْوَلَدِ هَلْ يُمْكِنُهُ أَنْ يُرْضِيَهُمَا بَعْدَ وَفَاتِهِمَا، قِيلَ لَهُ بَلْ يُرْضِيهِمَا بِثَلَاثَةِ أَشْيَاءَ: أَوَّلُهَا أَنْ يَكُونَ الْوَلَدُ صَالِحًا فِي نَفْسِهِ؛ لِأَنَّهُ لَا يَكُونُ شَيْءٌ أَحَبَّ إلَيْهِمَا مِنْ صَلَاحِهِ. وَالثَّانِي: أَنْ يَصِلَ قَرَابَتَهُمَا وَأَصْدِقَاءَهُمَا. وَالثَّالِثُ: أَنْ يَسْتَغْفِرَ لَهُمَا وَيَدْعُوَ لَهُمَا وَيَتَصَدَّقَ عَنْهُمَا.