[Explanation in the light of Surah an-Nisa Ayah 36]
It will be noticed that human rights have remained the main focus of attention since the beginning of Surah an-Nisa up to this point. These related to orphans, the women and inheritance. Taken up now are rights of parents, relatives, neighbors and those of human beings in general.
Since a perfect fulfillment of these rights is possible only at the hands of a person whose orientation to Allah, His Messenger and to the answerability of the Last Day is correct and strong, and who avoids miserliness, arrogance and affectation, being impediments to all positive efforts, the text presents the need to believe in the Oneness of Allah, to avoid any association with His pristine divinity, and to stay away from the rejection of the meeting on the Last Day. Also taken to task are ways of the disbelievers who disobey the Messenger of Allah sallallahu aalyhi wa sallam and revel in their miserliness.
The Reason Why Tauheed Precedes Rights
There are many wise considerations in opening the roster of rights with the exhortation to worship Allah alone and not to associate with Him anything in that worship. One of these, and a basic one indeed, is having the fear of Allah and the conscious concern to fulfill His rights.
A person who is neglectful on that score can hardly be expected to remain particular about fulfilling the rights of anybody else. He will find one or the other excuse to satisfy his immediate circle of relatives and friends, to keep his prestige in the society or to escape the law of government. What really forces him to honor human rights, watched or unwatched, is nothing but the fear of Allah and the sense of responsibility before Him. This fear and this taqwa is achieved through nothing but tauheed, the firm belief in the Oneness of Allah to the total exclusion of everything else in that unicity. This is why it was appropriate to remind man about the Oneness of Allah and the need to worship Him before describing the rights of relatives and others.
The Rights of Parents Come First After the Message of Tauheed
By taking up the rights of parents immediately after the command to worship Allah as is His due, it is being suggested that, no doubt all blessings and favors are really from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, yet seen in terms of worldly means, the frequency of favors received by man, closest next to those of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, are those he receives from his parents. This is because they are, given the chain of causation, the very fountain-head of their being. And in all those stages of trial from the birth of a child to his young age, the parents are the ones who take care of the being, sustenance and growth of man to the best of their ability and God-given means. This is why the command to worship and obey Allah has also been supplemented with the mention of the rights of parents at other places in the Qur’an. At one place it is said:
Be grateful to Me, and to your parents [31:14].
At another place, it is said:
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَـقَ بَنِى إِسْرءِيلَ لاَ تَعْبُدُونَ إِلاَّ اللَّهَ وَبِالْوَلِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا
And [recall] when We took the covenant from the Children of Israel, [enjoining upon them], “Do not worship except Allah ; and to parents do good….[2:83]
In the ayaat quoted above, the text does not say that one should fulfill the rights of parents or serve them. The word used here is Ihsan (doing good) which, being far more comprehensive, includes spending to support them as needed, to be of service to them physically when so required, not to talk to them in a voice too sharp or two loud causing disprespect, not to say anything to them which may break their heart, and not to treat their friends and well-wishes in any manner which hurts them. On the contrary, one should do everything possible to comfort and please them. Even if the parents have fallen short in fulfilling the due rights of children, the children should never take it as an excuse for their own ill-treatment.
Mu’adh ibn Jabal radhiAllahu anhu says that, out of the ten things the Prophet salAllahu aalyhi wa sallam had asked me to be particular about, one was: ‘do not associate anyone with Allah even if you are killed or burnt alive’; and the second was: ‘Do not disobey or hurt your parents even if they ask you to leave your children and family’. [Musnad Ahmad]
Besides the great emphasis laid on obedience to parents and on treating them well as in the sayings of the Prophet salAllahu aalyhi wa sallam there are countless merits and grades of reward promised for those who do so.
A hadeeth in al-Bukhari and Muslim reports that the Prophet salAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said:
“One who wishes to have his earnings and life increased by the blessing Allah should fulfill the rights of his relatives.”
A narration in Tirmidhi says:
“The pleasure of Allah lies in the pleasure of the father and the displeasure of Allah, in the displeasure of the father.”
Al-Baihaqi reports in Shu’ab al-Iman that the Prophet salAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said:
“When a son who is obedient to his parents looks at them with love and regard, every glance of his brings forth for him the reward of an accepted Hajj.”
According to another narration from al-Baihaqi, the Prophet salAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said:
“Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala forgives most sins but one who disobeys and hurts his parents is condemned to face all sort of unforeseen troubles right here in this mortal world, much before the ultimate reckoning of the Hereafter.”
[Taken from Maarif-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]