Commentary Adil Salahi
A man came to the Prophet and asked; “Oh! Messenger of Allah, now that my parents are dead, is there any act of dutifulness left for me to do towards them?”
The Prophet answered; “Yes. There are four things; Supplication for them, praying that they are forgiven, fulfilment of their wills, being kind to their friends and maintaining good relations with those of your relatives with whom your kinship is established only through them.”
(Related by Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah and others).
We concluded our discussion earlier by explaining that when parents supplicate against their children as a result of being treated unkindly by them, Allah answers their supplication without fail. When parents pray Allah for the welfare of their children, Allah may defer answering their prayer, although He will definitely answer it. The question arises whether a child’s supplication and prayer for his parents benefit them. The answer is a most definite “yes”. Allah orders us in the Qur’an to pray for our parents, in these terms: “My Lord, have mercy on them (my parents) as they have brought me up when I was young.”
He would not have told us to pray Him for our parents if our prayers were not beneficial to them. Our supplication on their behalf, however, benefits us as well. It is a mark of being dutiful, and Allah rewards a dutiful child. In other words, when we pray Allah to be kind to our parents, to have mercy on them and to forgive them, He credits us with a good deed for being dutiful and He answers our prayer bestowing mercy on our parents. Hence, the Prophet who has taught us every good thing tells us to conclude our formal prayer, whether voluntary or obligatory, with this supplication: “My Lord, forgive me and my parents. My Lord have mercy on them as they have brought me up when I was young.” Thus, thinking of one’s parents and remembering their kindness and love to us when we were young becomes intertwined with worship.
What this means is that we can help our parents to a higher position with Allah by praying for them every time we stand in prayer, whether obligatory or voluntary, when they are alive and after they die. The Prophet mentions this specifically in a Hadith related by Muslim, An-Nassaie, Abu Dawood, as well as Al-Bukhari in “Al-Adab Al-Mufrad” on the authority of Abu Hurairah: “When a person dies, his actions come to an end, except in one of three ways: A continuing act of charity, (or sadaqah), or a useful contribution to knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him.” Al-Adab Al-Mufrad” which is considered to be of a slightly lesser degree of authenticity than his compilation of highly authentic Hadiths, known as the Sahih the following Hadith which is also related by Ibn Majah and Malik on the authority of Abu Hurairah; “The rank of a dead person may be raised after his death. He asks; My Lord, how does this come about? He is then told:Your child has prayed for your forgiveness.”
These two Hadiths need no comment. A child who does not pray Allah for his parents, particularly, after their death, when he knows that his supplication on their behalf benefits them and him is either undutiful or lacking in faith.
Again in this respect the whole question is one of debt repayment. When my children notice that I supplicate to Allah for my parents and ask Him to have mercy on them, they will supplicate on my behalf when I am dead. In the same way, if they see me treat them when they are alive as a dutiful child should treat his parents, it is more than likely that they will treat me in the same way. If they realize that I am undutiful (Allah forbids), the likelihood of them being undutiful to me is very high indeed. If I care for my children, then I would like them to be dutiful because of the reward a dutiful child earns from Allah. A dutiful child is to walks along the path which brings benefit to oneself, one’s parents and one’s children. In view of this, only a loser can be undutiful.
When one’s parents are alive, their presence may be a great motivator for one to be dutiful. When they die, we tend to think that we discharge our duty fully towards them by praying for them. The Prophet teaches us that there are other ways in which we demonstrate our dutifulness. The emphasis the Prophet puts on kindness to parents motivated his companions to be exemplary in their treatment of their parents.
They always came to him with questions exploring every way which may earn them greater reward. A man came to the Prophet and asked; “Oh! Messenger of Allah, now that my parents are dead, is there any act of dutifulness left for me to do towards them?”
The Prophet answered; “Yes. There are four things; Supplication for them, praying that they are forgiven, fulfilment of their wills, being kind to their friends and maintaining good relations with those of your relatives with whom your kinship is established only through them.” (Related by Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah and others).
It goes without saying that the Prophet considered supplication for parents and praying for their forgiveness as one, because, when we supplicate on behalf of anyone the first thing we ask is his forgiveness. It may be useful to point out that family relations may be established through breast-feeding, marriage and birth. If a child is breast-fed by a woman who is a stranger to him, he becomes related to her in the same way as he is related to his own mother. In this Hadith, the Prophet lays emphasis on the need to be kind to our relations with whom our tie of kinship is established through our birth.
In this Hadith and similar ones, the Prophet (Pbuh) explains to us a higher standard of being a dutiful child. While everyone appreciates the first two of these four actions the Prophet (Pbuh) mentions, the last two are not so easily appreciated. Someone may say: What claim can my father’s friend have on me when our ways hardly meet? I may have nothing to do with him. His way of thinking may be very different from mine. The Prophet (Pbuh) is stressing this point as a mark of good upbringing, good personality and dutifulness. We lose nothing by treating our parents’ friends with respect and kindness. Indeed, we gain a great deal as our reputation in our society is greatly enhanced.
The same applies, perhaps in greater measure, to our relatives who belong to the families of either of our parents. We should do like the companions of the Prophet (Pbuh) who learned this lesson from him did and acted on it. Ahmad and Muslim relate that Abdullah Ibn Umar, a companion of the Prophet (Pbuh) who achieved high renown as one of the best scholars among the Prophet’s companions, was travelling with a group of people when he met a bedouin who was a friend of his father. The bedouin asked him; “Are you not Umar’s son?” He answered in the affirmative. Ibn Umar then gave instructions that the bedouin be given his own donkey which he used to take with him in order to ride when he was tired of camel riding. He also took his turban off his head and gave it to the man. Some of his companions remarked that a couple of dirhams (the silver coin of the time) would have been adequate, since bedouins did not expect much.
Ibn Umar told them that the Prophet said: “Maintain your father’s friendly ties. Do not sever them lest Allah should put out your light.” A different version of the same Hadith is also attributed to Ibn Umar without the introductory account of his meeting with the bedouin. This version is even more authentic, as it is related by Muslim, Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhi, Ahmad and others. It is also related by Al-Bukahri in “Al-Adab Al-Mufrad”. It quotes the Prophet’s (Pbuh). Hadiths concerning being dutiful also applies, in no lesser degree, to mothers.