Abu Bakr (ra) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (saw) asked: “Shall I not tell you about the biggest of the major sins?” They said: “Of course, O Messenger of Allah!” He said: “To join partners with Allah and to disobey one’s parents.” Abu Bakr (ra) said: “He (the Prophet) sat up, and he had been reclining. He said: “And false testimony, or false speech. And the Messenger of Allah (saw) would not stop saying it until we said to ourselves: We wish that he would stop.” (Tirmidhi). 

The above hadith tells us that disobedience to parents is a destructive element in a society that loudly proclaims children’s rights. Yet children’s disobedience to their parents is such a serious sin in Islam that it comes second only to the greatest sin: shirk or associating partners with Allah.

A person comes into this world through the parents, especially the mother, who goes through tremendous difficulties throughout the gestation period and during childbirth, so much so that if she loses her life, she is regarded as a martyr.

Ubadah Ibn as-Samit narrated that the Messenger of Allah (saw) asked: “Who is counted as a martyr among you?” They replied: “The one who fights and is killed for the sake of Allah.” The Messenger (saw) said: “Then the martyrs among my ummah would be few. The one is killed for the sake of Allah is a martyr, the one dies of plague is a martyr, the one who dies a stomach disease is a martyr, and the woman who dies with a child in her womb is a martyr.” (Ahmad).

Allah (swt) said: “And We have enjoined upon man (care) for his parents. His mother carried him, increasing her in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the final destination.” (Qur’an 31: 14). He (swt) also said: “And We enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship and his gestation and weaning (period) is thirty months…” (Qur’an 46: 15).

From these reasons, we can understand why the second greatest sin, after ascribing partners with Allah, is disobedience to parents. This disobedience is manifested in many ways in the lives of people today, some of which include the following:

  • Ingratitude: failing to thank them for all their sacrifices while raising us as responsible human beings
  • Disrespecting them by being rude and defiant.
  • Treating them cruelly and harshly.
  • Not showing them love or treating them kindly.
  • Annoying and displeasing them.
  • Abusing them, as indicated in the hadith under discussion
  • Abandoning them when they need their children the most.

All forms of disobedience to parents have been aptly described in the verses of the glorious Qur’an, in the most sublime and a beautiful term, by the One Who created us and knows us best: “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whatever one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: My Lord! Bestow on them Your mercy even as they cherished me in childhood. Your Lord knows best what is in your hearts. If you do deeds of righteousness, verily He is Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again in repentance.” (Qur’an 17: 23-25)

For us, Allah’s pleasure is an indication of the pleasure of our parents. The opposite is also true – that Allah’s dismay, wrath, and displeasure befall us due to the dismay, displeasure and anger of our parents. Abdullah Ibn Amr (ra) narrated that the Prophet (saw) said: “The Lord’s pleasure in the parents’ pleasure and the Lord’s anger is in the parents’ anger.” (Tirmidhi)

Furthermore, those who get the opportunity to be with their parents in their old age but do not gain paradise by dedicating their time and resources in serving them are doomed. The Prophet (saw) indicated that paradise lies at the feet of the mother, in particular. Therefore, those who disobey their parents will not enter paradise.

A man came to the Prophet (saw) and asked: “O Messenger of Allah! I intend to go on a military expedition, but I have come to ask your advice.” He said: “Is your mother alive?” The man replied: “Yes”. The Prophet (saw) said: “Then stay with her, for the garden is under her feet.” (Ibn Majah).

May Allah (swt) help us to be of those who earn His pleasure by obeying and serving our parents. Aameen.

Prepared by Abdul Muhaemin Karim