وَقَضَى رَبُّكَ أَلاَّ تَعْبُدُواْ إِلاَّ إِيَّـهُ وَبِالْوَلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَـناً إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلاَهُمَا فَلاَ تَقُل لَّهُمَآ أُفٍّ وَلاَ تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلاً كَرِيمًا وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِى صَغِيرًا
And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be excellent to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them, but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them Your mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.” (Isra 17:23-24)
Ihsan is a beautiful word, and the wisdom behind the use of this word with regards to parents is stunning. Ihsan comes from husn, which literally means beauty or to make beautiful. Ihsan means to do the UTMOST good and it is usually translated as excellence. When one does ihsan, they beautify their deeds to the fullest. They go “all out” and make sure every little detail is done properly. They do not do the least amount of good to get the job done, rather they do the utmost good–the greatest possible good they are capable of doing and they do not fall short in this.
Ihsan with people like our parents has three basic components:
1) To do utmost good in general
2) To still do good to them showing no signs of irritation if they respond to you with evil words or actions.
3) To do more than just good, to strive to do the most good you are able of.
The amazing thing about “birr al walidayn” (righteousness to parents) is that Allah ta’ala did not define what IHSAAN to them is. Usually, Allah azza wa jal gives us the definition or instruction on what we should do such as how to fast and who zakah is given too, but Allah ta’ala did not say “X, Y and Z acts” automatically means ihsan to parents. The word birr actually means a vast piece of land with all types of herbage, so birr is not just one good deed, it is all types of good deeds that lead to righteousness.
Out of Allah’s Knowledge, Wisdom and Mercy, He told us the goal (righteousness to parents) but leaves it up to us to figure out the means, because there are so many ways to be good to them and each parent has different expectations.
When Allah ta’ala commands us to do ihsan to our parents, He specifically mentions the mother in one ayah:
وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ إِحْسَانًا ۖ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ كُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ كُرْهًا ۖ وَحَمْلُهُ وَفِصَالُهُ ثَلَاثُونَ شَهْرًا
“And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship. And she birthed him with hardship, and the bearing of him, and the weaning of him is thirty months.” (46:15)
Allah ta’ala specifically mentions our mothers because it is easy for us to forget what they’ve done for us during our most vulnerable stage of life. Allah azza wa jal reminds us of a time that we cannot even remember: when we were fetuses, newborns and toddlers. We forget how weak we were and how our mothers did everything from feeding us, to changing us, to giving us clothing and comfort. The relationship between the mother and child is by far the greatest display of mercy between all of Allah’s Creation.
One way to better our relationship with our parents is to make duaa for them. We sometimes belittle the simple act of raising our hands and asking Allah to grant our parents success and guidance. We are so quick to complain about them when it comes to our own rights, yet look at what the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam relates to us:
إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَتُرْفَعُ دَرَجَتُهُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ فَيَقُولُ: أَنَّى لِي هَذَا؟فَيُقَالُ: بِاسْتِغْفَارِ وَلَدِكَ لَكَ”
“Indeed a man’s status will be raised in Paradise and he will ask, ‘How is this for me?’ He will be told, ‘By your child’s seeking forgiveness for you.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, no 3660; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1617)
Imagine your mother or father reaching a higher level of Jannah just because YOU made duaa for them. When is the last time you made duaa for your parents? What are you waiting for?
We ask Allah to guide and forgive all of our parents. may He guide the non Muslim parents of our brothers and sisters to Islam. Ameen.