Affection toward Parents
[from The Letters, the Twenty-first Letter]
In His Name, glory be to Him.
There is nothing that does not glorify Him with His praise.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
Your Lord decrees that you worship only Him and be good to [your] parents. If one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say even a single word of contempt to or chide them, but speak to them in terms of honor. Lower unto them the wing of humility out of mercy, and say: “My Lord, have mercy on them, as they took care of me when I was young.” Your Lord knows best what is in your minds [hearts]. If you are righteous, He is All-Forgiving to those who are patient. (17:23-25)
You who are unaware of filial responsibility toward parents, whose house contains an elderly parent, a helpless and invalid relative, or a brother or sister in faith unable to earn a living. Heed these verses and see how they insist in five ways that you show filial affection.
As paternal affection for children is a sublime reality of worldly life, filial gratitude is a most urgent and heavy duty. Parents lovingly sacrifice their lives for their children. Given this, children who preserve their humanity and have not become monsters of ingratitude should try to please them and gain their approval by showing them sincere respect and serving them willingly. Islam assigns uncles and aunts the same honorable value as parents.
Know, you who neglect such duties, how terribly disgraceful and unscrupulous it is to be bored with their continued existence and so hope for their deaths. Know this and come to your senses! Understand what an injustice it is to desire the deaths of those who sacrificed their lives for you.
O you immersed in earning your livelihood! Know that your disabled relative, whom you consider a burden, is a means of blessing and abundance. Never complain about the difficulty of making a living, for were it not for the blessing and abundance bestowed upon you, you would face even more hardship. If I did not want to keep this letter brief, I would prove this to you.
I swear by God that this is a reality that even my devil and evil-commanding self accept. All existence can see that the infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Creator of Majesty and Munificence sends children here along with their sustenance: their mother’s breast milk. He sends sustenance for the elderly, who are like children and even more worthy and in need of compassion, in the form of blessing and unseen, immaterial abundance. He does not load their sustenance onto mean, greedy people.
The truth expressed in: God is the All-Providing, the Possessor of Strength and the Steadfast (51:58) and: How many an animate creature bears not its own provision, but God provides for it and you (29:60) is proclaimed by all living creatures through the tongue of their disposition. So not only is the sustenance of elderly relatives sent in the form of blessings, but also that of pets, created as friends to people who feed and take care of them. I have personally observed this: Years ago, my daily ration was half a loaf of bread. I barely managed with this until four cats became my daily guests. As soon as they began sharing my bread, the same ration was always enough for all of us. I saw this so often that I became convinced that I benefited from the blessing coming through the cats. I declare that they were not a burden upon me; rather, I was indebted to them.
O people, you are the most esteemed, noble, and worthy-of-respect of all creatures. Among people, believers are the most perfect. Among believers, the helpless and elderly are the most worthy and in need of respect and compassion. Among the helpless and elderly, relatives deserve more affection, love, and service than others. Among relatives, parents are the most truthful confidants and most intimate companions. If an animal is a means of blessing and abundance when it stays as a guest in your house, consider how invaluable a means of blessing and mercy your elderly parents are if they stay with you. The following Tradition shows what an important means for removing calamities they are: “But for the old bent double, calamities would pour down upon you.”28
So come to your senses. If you have been assigned a long life, you also will grow old. If you do not respect parents, then, according to the rule that one is rewarded or punished in accordance with one’s action, your children will not respect you. Further, serious reflection on your afterlife shows that gaining your parents’ approval and pleasing them through service is a precious provision for your afterlife. If you love this worldly life, please them so that you may lead a pleasant life. If you consider them a burden, break their easily offended hearts, and desire their deaths, you will be the object of the Qur’anic threat: He [She] loses both the world and the world to come (22:11). So, those who wish for the All-Merciful’s mercy must show mercy to those entrusted to them by God.
I noticed that Mustafa Cavus, my brother in religion, usually succeeded in both his worldly and otherworldly affairs. I did not understand why until I learned that he strictly observed his parents’ rights. Whoever desires prosperity in both worlds should follow his example.
O God, bestow blessings and peace on him who declared: “Paradise is beneath the feet of mothers,” and on his Family and Companions. We have no knowledge save what You have taught us. You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
28 Al-Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, 2:163.