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Assalam O Alaikum
*A woman is naturally endowed to endure the physical, mental, and emotional stress of bearing a child in her womb for nine months. She has a heart endowed with love and compassion, and as a new mother, her eyes are made for sleepless nights, while her days are filled with worry and concern. She is, by instinct, a mother.
Great poets have written about the mother’s love – how she gives without limits, teaches so much, seeking nothing from her children in return. Our mothers have always been honored.
Times, alas, are changing. The new generation is neglecting its mothers like never before. Children have begun to leave their aging mothers in nursing homes, often abandoning them there, not even visiting them.
We spoke to one mother living in a nursing home in Cairo. She admits that her children are punctual in sending her the money that she needs to pay for her apartment at the nursing home, but she says that there is something more important than that. She needs to be treated with. She needs her children’s love and support.
She says: “I chose willingly to live in a nursing home after my husband’s death, my children being so busy with their lives. What makes me angry was how eagerly my children accepted the idea. None of them even offered to live with them at their home. That is when I realized how much a burden another person is – even a mother. At the home, I have made friends with other old ladies, and they save me from loneliness, but I still give the door a lot of long looks, hoping that one of my of my children will come visit me.”
We met with another, in this case a woman whose children were the ones who decided to put her in the nursing home, because they were all too busy to take care of her. Those children completely forgot their mother’s rights over them. They became so busy with their own lives that they that they neglected their mother entirely. They did not even remember her on `Îd. The mother has fallen into a deep silence. She does not speak at all. She just cries when her children are mentioned to her.
Fâtimah Rayyis, 75, is a mother of three. She says: “These days, the old idea of mothers and children has been turned on its head. In the old days, an elderly mother was revered and cared for in every way by her children. Today, children deny their parents everything.”
About her own experience, Fâtimah says: “Among my own children, there are some who – praise Allah – treat me well, care for me when I am sick, and always show me attention. Then there are others who never even ask about me except maybe once a year. I understand that he is busy, but it seems like he has forgotten that he even has a mother. His coldness and indifference really hurt. He is my oldest son. Nevertheless, I pray for him. I never let myself get angry with him, because I am scared that Allah might punish him.”
Widâd `Abd al-Ghaffâr, over seventy years old, has a son and a daughter. She considers the neglectfulness of children these days to be the most negative development in contemporary Muslim society. She claims that children need to realize that elderly mothers have needs, especially if they are widows, living all alone at home while her children are busy with their own lives. This is very bad for her mental and emotional state.
Children need to understand that their mothers’ psychological needs are greater at this time in their lives. A mother may not demand anything from her children, but at this sensitive age, she merely needs emotional support. The simplest show of kindness can make her happy. At the same time, a simple act of neglect can make her feel like a burden.
Najwâ al-`Ishmawî, a mother of four who has recently seen her seventieth birthday, points out that children, from an early age, watch how their parents treat their grandparents. This is how they learn what is expected from them when their parents grow old. A lot of people who neglect their parents find themselves, when they grow old, neglected in turn by their children. It is a case of “what goes around, comes around”.
Najwâ mentions one such case, a women who devoted everything to her children, even forsaking remarriage for the sake of her children. However, she died alone and neglected.
Najwâ, speaking about her own situation, adds: “I praise Allah that my own children treat me well. They never neglect me. I believe this is because I instilled in them strong religious values since they were very small.”
Islam Enjoins Kindness to Parents
Sheikh Mahmûd `Âshûr, former rector of al-Azhar University, believes that is a religion of social support in every way, and that the family is a key unit of mutual support. Islam lends strength to the family, so that it will have the strength to fulfill this important role. The Qur’ân speaks at length about the family, outlining the religious teachings that govern it. It encourages kindness to parents and commands that family ties be upheld. It makes neglecting parents a sin. Islam directly addresses the rights of the family. Islam is not merely a set of beliefs, but it is also a social system that addresses every aspect of society. This is why we still see in Muslim societies around the world a greater level of care for parents, children, and grandparents than we see elsewhere.
Allah says: “Worship Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess: For Allah loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 36>
Allah also says: “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” [Sûrah al-`Ankabût: 8>
We see that Islam enjoins kindness to parents and close relatives. It does not stop their. It even commands that we show kindness and honor to our parents’ friends, extending the sphere of the elderly people who receive attention from the younger generation to include all of the elderly.
Indeed, Islam describes the person who fails to acknowledge the rights of the elderly to be someone undeserving of attribution to the Muslim community. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “He is not one of us who fails to show mercy to our children and honor to our elders.”
The elderly need to be shown kindness and affection. They need to be given cause for joy. Islam regards making other people happy to be one of the greatest acts of religious devotion to Allah. The duty to honor the elderly falls on each of us, starting with our closest relatives – our parents – and then extending from them to others.
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