A newborn baby who opens his/her eyes to this world is tiny and weak at first; like a rosebud that appears in spring. It is then a burden upon the parents in Islam to take care of this fragile gift, like a compassionate gardener, until the baby grows up and flourishes.
Knowing that our parents as a team have provided for all our needs till we grow up, we naturally respect them. But this becomes of paramount importance when we come to know that how strongly Islam emphasizes parents’ rights and respecting them.
Islam has placed such a strong emphasis on the parents’ rights and worth that showing gratitude and being grateful to them are commanded to, right after Monotheism (Tawhid) in several verses of the Quran [i].
In the nineteenth chapter of the Quran, Surah Maryam, where some moral virtues of Prophet Yahya (PBUH) are mentioned, it is said that he was “good to his parents” (19:14). We also read that Prophet Jesus (PBUH) introduces himself as the servant of Allah who: “[made me] be good to my mother” (19:32).
In a narration, Imam Sadiq (AS) is asked about the best deeds; Imam (AS) answers: “Prayer (Salat) in its stipulated hour, goodness towards parents and Jihad in the way of Allah” . Bringing respect for parents, after prayer (Salat) and before Jihad indicates the high-value Islam places on caring for parents.
In another narration from Imam Sadiq (AS), doing good to parents, whether they are among believers (Mu'min) or disbelievers (Kafir), is known as a duty that no one can be exempted from . He also said that: “Whoever satisfies the parents has satisfied God; and whoever annoys them, has annoyed God” .
Respecting the rights of parents in Islam, whether alive or dead, is highly advised. These rights include:
Obedience to parents as far as it is not against God’s orders or unjust; a situation that one is forbidden to obey his/her parents is: “if they urge you to ascribe to Me as a partner that of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them”(31:15). But even in this case, one should treat them kindly: “Keep their company honorably in this world” (31:15). Another case where parents’ disobedience is allowed, is when they invite to something unfair: “Be maintainers of justice and witnesses for the sake of Allah, even if it should be against yourselves or [your] parents and near relatives” (4:135).
Respecting them deeply, looking at them with affection, being humble and talking to them with a gentle voice and kind words: “Keep their company honorably in this world” (31:15); “[He has enjoined] kindness to parents. Should any of them or both reach old age at your side, do not say to them, ‘Fie!’ And do not chide them, but speak to them noble words” (17:23); “And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy” (17:24). In a narration from Imam Reza (AS), saying “Fie” to parents is believed to be the last thing that bothers them; hence, anything greater than that must be definitely avoided. Of other narrations in this regard are: “If your parents upset you, do not react badly; if they hit you, do not react the same but tell them ‘May God forgive you’”; “… do not look at your parents except with a kind look, do not raise your voice on them, nor your hands over their hands, nor walk further than them ” ; “whoever looks at his parents with hatred, even if they oppress him, Allah will not accept a single prayer from him” ; “Insolence includes a man’s looking at his parents with a sharp gaze” .
Being humble regarding parents: “Lower the wing of humility to them, mercifully” (17:24). This humility must arise from deep in your heart and originate from your real affections.
Treat them well: "When We took a pledge from the Children of Israel: ‘Worship no one but Allah, do good to your parents” (2:83). This verse of the Quran reveals that everybody, whether Muslim or not, must treat the parents well.
Imam Hussain (AS) was asked about the meaning of treating well in this verse. The answer was briefly that it means to treat them with ultimate compassion, to show them great respect during their companionship, not to oblige them to ask for what they need but provide them before they mention it . One of the best deeds in Eid al-Adha is said to be doing good to parents .
Being beneficent to parents is a duty upon children when they are alive as well as after they pass away. Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “What prevents you from doing good to your parents? Pray [ii], donate, perform the holy pilgrimage (Hajj) and fast (Sawm) in their place because God awards you a lot in return for your good deeds” . It is also said that: "Whoever visits his parents' grave on Fridays, will be forgiven and will be among the virtuous" .
And be thankful to them: “Give thanks to Me and to your parents” (31:14).
Praying and asking mercy for them [iii]: “and say, ‘My Lord! Have mercy on them, just as they reared me when I was [a] small [child]’ ” (17:24).
Continue Reading: "What are the Rights of Parents in Islam? Part 2"
Islam is a comprehensive way of life, and one of the characteristics through which it is distinguished from many other religions is that it encompasses every aspect of a Muslim’s life. Islam teaches Muslims to respect the elderly whether they are parents, relatives, or any other old person. This is because caring for the elderly in Islam is considered an important obligation through which one seeks closeness to Allah.
There is no doubt in the special status of the elderly in Islam, as there are several texts, which urge Muslims to respect and honor them. An elderly person has a high status before Allah and His Prophet particularly if he is a believer.
In the Quran, Allah says:
“ And whomever We give a long life, We cause him to regress in creation. ; …?”(36:68)
From the verse, it is obvious that the inception of old age is a period of decline – decline comes partly from physical and partly from psychological factors. Thus, at this critical stage of life, Islam recommends adequate caring for them because they are like a prophet in a family and a blessing in the society. The Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) said:
“The elderly among his family is like a Prophet among his community” 
Moreover, honoring the elderly is synonymous with honoring Allah and His Prophet. In this regards, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was reported to have said:
“Honor the elderly because honoring them is part of honoring Allah” 
Meanwhile, Imam Sajjad (AS) while describing the right of the elderly in his book ‘Treatise on rights’ said:
“The right of him who is older than you is that you show reverence toward him because of his age and you honor him because he entered Islam before you. You leave off confronting him in a dispute, you do not precede him in a path, you do not go ahead of him, and you do not consider him foolish. If he should act foolishly toward you, you put up with him, and you honor him because of the right of Islam and the respect due to it”.
Similarly, Islam commands a Muslim to honor and respect senior citizens because honoring the elderly will guarantee the protection against every calamity on the Day of Resurrection. The Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) said:
“Whoever honors the gray hair due to an old age, Allah will definitely save him from the panic of the Day of Judgment”.
Islam is the fountain of mercy, sentiments, and sympathy. Hence, it is not strange to see Islam paying attention to the elderly and instructing a Muslim to give them compassion. There are texts from the Quran, the sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his pure Household (AS) on how a Muslim should treat an elderly person. These include:
Always honors and be merciful to the elderly. For respecting them is considered a form of worship in the sight of Allah while disrespecting them is absolutely rebuked, and it is against the pristine teachings of Islam.
In case of necessity, always render assistance to the elderly .
Consult the elderly for guidance on personal and collective decisions, for they are guides in a family and the society similar to a Prophet of God.
Never insult or scold an elderly. Because a disrespect to them is reprimanded by Allah, the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his pure Household (AS).
Allow our elderly to live with us. It is a bad habit to send them to nursing homes just because they are considered as nuisances to the society.
Respecting the elderly and honoring them are among the characteristics of a Muslim society. Therefore, it is expected of every Muslim to imbibe the culture of respecting old people whether they are parents, relatives or not. Likewise, we should always acknowledge and appreciate their presence within us especially our parents. The presence of the elderly either in the family or the society is a blessing from Allah. Their presence will bring peace, happiness, concord, tranquility, mercy, and reward from Allah. It is indeed an un-Islamic practice to consider our elderly a public nuisance and eject them from our midst.
- Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 72, P. 137.
- Wasail al-Shiah, Vol. 12, P. 100.
- Treaties on Rights, Right 44 (i.e. The right of the one older than you)
- Mustadrak Wasail, Vol. 8, P. 391.
- Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, P. 165; Jami at-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1919.
Many incidents happen in societies which make so many children orphans, Incidents such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, or smaller events. Thus, the issue of taking care of these orphan kids becomes a challenge that should be dealt with. Many of these children may be sent to orphanages by the government.
And they keep waiting for some family to adopt them and take care of them. But, there are many parents who cannot give birth to a child and they wish to adopt one and make their family bigger. Some parents may have children of their own, and they want to adopt a child to help and take care of him/her.
This text explains the rulings of adopting a child according to the Islamic law.
There are four major differences in Islamic law between adoptive and biological children:
1- Adopted children are better to be named after their biological parents. If they are named after their adoptive parents, the foster parents should not precisely introduce them as their own child. (This is forbidden (Haram) since it is a lie.)
2- Adopted children do not automatically inherit from their adoptive parents. Unless it is mentioned in the parents’ will.
3- When adopted children become mature (Baligh) they will become of the marriageable kin (non-Mahram) to their adoptive family (parents, brothers/ sisters, uncles/ aunts).
4- The property of an adopted child (provided by his/her biological parents or family members) belongs to him/ her. Adoptive parents will keep it as mere trustees.
Islam has careful considerations towards orphans. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) himself had adopted a child and was fed by an adoptive mother during the first two years of his life.
It is narrated by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that “‘ The one who sponsors an orphan and I are like these two in Paradise.’ Then he joined his index and middle fingers” .
Orphans are so important in the eyes of God that Allah says in the Holy Quran “Indeed those who consume the property of orphans wrongfully, only ingest fire into their bellies, and soon they will enter the Blaze.” (4: 10)
There are specific rules in Islam with regards to adopting children.
In Islam, biological parents and the family lineage are of great significance. So, child adoption must not occur in a way that children lose their filiation. It is essential to keep in mind that according to Islam, filiation will be inherited from biological parents. Thus, by making a child adoption contract, the adoptive family will not be the child’s filiation.
According to Islamic law, child adoption is forbidden (Haram). But child protection (Kifalah) is highly recommended. By child adoption we mean, accepting a child and considering him/her as the adoptive parents’ real child. By child protection, we suggest that the child is being taken care of by his/ her foster parents. And at a suitable age, he/ she will be informed of his/her real filiation.
Thus, there is no problem in accepting a child as his/ her protector (Kafil). It becomes problematic when adopted children are not told the truth about their biological parents. It is understandable that it would be hard to tell any child that he/ she is not a family’s real child. But, consultations can help parents to find a proper way of telling the truth to their adopted child.
Besides, it is highly recommended in Islam to protect and support orphans, which means giving them financial and spiritual support in all aspects of their lives.
One of the points that Islam has in this regard is that the adopted children are of unmarriageable kin (non-Mahram). So when they grow up, they may face problems within their adoptive family.
Also if the adopted child is not aware of his/her real identity, there would be a chance of him marrying a marriageable kin (Mahram) of his/her biological family line without being aware of that. In Islam, like every other Abrahamic religion, it is forbidden to marry a marriageable kin (Mahram) [ii].
There is a tradition in some cultures that women do not feed their own children. Instead, they choose a wet nurse to breastfeed the child. The child who is breastfed from another woman, for a specific duration, will become of marriageable kin (Mahram) to the woman and her family.
Thus, if the adopted child is under two years old, and if the adoptive mother or her sister or her mother can breastfeed the child for a specific duration, a Foster (Ridha’) relationship will be created. As a result, the child will become of marriageable kin (Mahram) [i]. But the rulings with regards to inheritance is still the same.
[i] For exact information about foster (Ridha’) you should refer to your own source of emulation (Marja’ taqlid)
[ii] Read more about marriageable kin (mahram) at http://salamislam.com/content/who-are-mahrams-islam/4
- Humairi, Abdullah bin Ja’far, Qurbul Isnad, p. 9, hadith 315, Aalul-Bait (a.s.) Institute, Qom, first edition, 1413 A.H.
- Chapter Yousuf. verses 23 - 32