Allah says, "Your Lord has ordered that you serve no one except Him, and that you be good to your parents. If one or both of your parents become old, never say disrespectful things to them. Instead talk to them with noble words. And out of kindness lower your wing to them humbly and say, 'My Lord, give them Mercy even like they cared for me when I was a child.'" (17:23-24)
My brothers and sisters, Allah in this Ayah gives us directions on how to treat our parents, especially if they become old and need us. Allah tells us that we must speak kindly to them and ask for Mercy for them. He even shows us an important lesson in the words He gives us for prayer. The prayer says, "My Lord, give them Mercy even like they cared for me when I was a child."
The way Islam sees a family is simple: a mother and father living together, taking care of their children. And when the children grow up and the parents are old, then the children should help take care of their old and weak parents. And when the children who grew up have kids of their own. The grandparents help take care of the new little ones. And so it goes on and on and on. New babies come in, the older respected grandparents and great grandparents, start to leave this life and go into the next.
I'm sure a lot of you adults and kids know what I'm talking about the endless cycle of life. And it seems to be still working okay in Muslim countries for the most part. But what happens when you take a Muslim family and put them in a place where people look at parents a little differently? What happens when you raise Muslim kids in the country where parents are not so valuable? And what happens if you come here and you don't practice Islam and you don't teach it to your children?
Let me tell you what I mean, in the United States today, the divorce rate among married people is 50 percent. What that says is that for every 100 couples who get married, 50 will get a divorce within a few years. And what's worse, many of these divorces involve children. And then you have the whole other problem of all the kids born to a mother and father who were never married in the first place. For example, today, 80 out of every 100 black children are born to parents who are not even married. 40 out of every hundred white kids are born this way and 60 out of every 100 Latino kids are born without married parents. Most of these kids will never know their fathers or at best, they'll see one parent one week and another parents the other week.
Why should these kids who grow up feel like their parents are special or deserve respect? After all so many parents aren't even around for their kids so do you think the kids will ever want to be around for them? And what about kids who have a married mom and dad? Do they get any more special feelings for their parents? Look what happens today, you have so many working mothers and fathers that the poor young kids are usually put in day-care centers.
Do you know what a day-care center is? It's a place where a bunch of little kids are put to be watched all day while mother is at work. But according to a recent national survey, most day-care centers (2 out of 3) in this country are not run right, they are not safe, and some kids even make little baby gangs to bully around the other 3,4,5 and six-year-old's. As one writer put it, "In day-care centers, it's the law of the jungle among the children." Big kids push around little ones and the people who work there don't care all that much.
So the average little kid is going to grow up knowing that when his parents were too busy for him, they put him in a place to be watched by strangers. Later on in life, when his parents are old and retired, and he's too busy to take care of them, he's going to put them in an old folks home to be watched by strangers. And he won't see anything wrong with it.
This is the normal way in this country, because parents are just people you need for a few years and then you don't need them anymore nor do you have to care for them, or at least that's what this culture teaches. In fact, this culture finds parents so unimportant that parents can even be insulted and no one has a problem with that. I know from talking with people that in Muslim countries almost no one will insult a persons parents. But here, almost all the Muslim children pick up all the bad habits of the society and the parents don't even realize it.
It seems hardly a week goes by without meeting one kid who says to another, your Mama is this or that so the other kid makes fun of the first kid's mom and then they start shoving and punching. You students, boys mostly, you know what I'm talking about. But our Islam teaches us that it's bad to insult someone's parents. The prophet said, "It is one of the greatest sins that a person should insult his parents." Then someone asked, "Messenger of Allah, how could a person insult his own parents?"
The prophet replied, "A person curses the father of another person during an argument and he curses his father back and also curses his mother."
Do you see how that works? When you insult another person's parents, they insult yours back. It's almost as if you made them do it. It's like you asked for your parents to be bad-mouthed. And another bad habit that people seem to have all over the world is to be too generous to their children. The parents will give their kids money, all the toys and clothes they want; the parents will drive around the fanciest sports cars and eat in the finest restaurants. All this goes to make the kid a whiny, spoiled brat who always looks for shiny, pretty things.
And because this culture says that money and things are the best goals to have, the kids buy into this idea lock, stock and barrel. They see their parents giving them lots of stuff, so they come to expect and demand lots of goodies. So when the parents are old and weak and can't give things anymore, who needs them?
Like one teenage kid was telling me, if the call for Jihad came out, these parents and kids would do nothing but make excuses. And because all life is a form of Jihad, a struggle, are we raising a generation of people who will only have Muslim names, but not Muslim hearts?
Once a king said to one of his wise ministers, "Show me the people who think they have sweet parents and those who think they have mean parents."
The Minister took the king to a market and pointed to a person who was pushing a hand cart. He told the king that this person thought he had very sweet parents. But because his parents always fulfilled his demands, he did not learn to provide well for himself. After the death of the parents he could not live the same kind of life. Now he was forced to do a tough job in order to meet his needs. The Minister pointed to another well dressed person who was riding on a carriage which was followed by many horse riders. The Minister told the king that this person was successful because his parents had strict rules for him and that he used to think that they were very mean parents because of the rules he hated. But the rules he hated made him a successful person.
This example is true: I know a man, he owns a whole village back in Pakistan, but living here, he has a small house and has made his son pay for everything on his own. His son hates him, but guess what? The son is the hardest, smartest worker I've ever seen. He's only 18 and he's in the honors program at a major university. And my own father was so hard on me, but now I'm glad he was. The best thing that can happen to you is if your parents push you and stay hard on you. The Hadith of the prophet states that even if you slave for your parents your whole life, you still wouldn't be able to pay them back for what they did for you.
It's sad to think that when you're a kid, you don't realize this. My brothers and sisters, if you are a parents, are you raising your child as a non-Muslim, by letting them pick up the non-Muslim culture they see on television or at the mall or wherever?
If you're a kid, are you letting yourself get sucked into an attitude that says parents are only important for a few years?
Let me tell you, if you ever start thinking your parents are a pain, that they get in the way, then you lose, because when you put your parents in an old folk's home and forget about them, you can be sure that your kids will put you there one-day too and forget about you. Islam means family, and families stick together and you cannot be Muslim if you forget the love and respect of your parents.