“Your Lord has decreed that you shall worship none but Him, and show kindness to your parents; if one or both of them attain old age with you, never say to them ‘Ugh” nor scold them. Speak to them graciously, and lower for them the wing of humbleness, for mercy’s sake, and say: ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, as they raised me up when I was small.” [17:23-24].
In a noble Tradition, the blessed Prophet said: “Paradise lies at mothers’ feet.” What a great tribute to womanhood! This noble Tradition proclaims the high standing of a mother’s approval in the sight of Allah, and declares that only with her approval may one enter His promised Paradise. Furthermore, if anyone should worship his Lord and then make a supplication, praising Allah and His blessed Messenger, but without praying for his mother and father, and without asking divine forgiveness for them, his supplication will not even reach the All-Glorious One.
“And We have charged man concerning his parents – his mother bore him in weakness, and his weaning was in two years – Be thankful to Me, and to your parents; to Me is the homecoming” [31:14].
Thus, Allah links gratitude to parents, to mother and father, with the gratitude to Himself. Anyone who offers thanks, yet is not grateful to his parents, has not really thanked at all. As our blessed Prophet said, “If anyone pleases his parents, my Lord is certainly pleased with him. If anyone offends his parents, the Creator certainly takes offense. Allah’s approval is linked to that of one’s parents. If they are pleased, Allah is pleased also. If they are offended, Allah is offended too.”
One day, a noble Companion asked: “O Messenger of Allah, who has the greater right over children, the mother or the father?” The Chief of the Two Worlds vouchsafed this reply: “The mother’s right is greater than the father’s.” The question was repeated three times, and each time the reply was the same. Only at the fourth asking did the answer change to: “The father’s right is greater.”
The companion then inquired: “O Messenger of Allah, why do you give the mother three rights to the father’s one?” To this he replied: “Your mother carried you for nine months and ten days in her womb, then gave you birth. After that she gave up her sleep for you, suckled you, carried you in her arms for three years, and cleaned up your mess. For seven years she carried you on her back. She did your laundry. She cooked and served you food for eighteen years. When you were forty, fifty, sixty she still followed your progress with interest. As for your father, he sowed you in your mother’s womb, provided your food and made sure you had clothes to wear. Can this be compared with your mother’s role?”
The Companion then went on to ask: “Well, O Messenger of Allah, I wonder if I could ever repay my mother for all the help and service, however much I might do for her?” The Messenger replied: “You could not repay so much as one night’s due!” – “But suppose I carry my mother on my back for years, clean up after her, cook for her and feed her. Suppose I attend to those same services as long as she may live?” – “There will still be this difference between you: your mother looked out for you to live, while you are waiting for her to die.”
A mother means pure tenderness. A mother means the source of compassion. A mother means loyalty and hospitality. How can she be paid her due? A man dies once, but a mother dies each time she gives birth. The venerable Ali (ra) tells us that giving birth is as painful as death. Is it not she who shields you from all misfortune when you are helpless? Is it not she who spends long sleepless nights for your sake? Is it not she who breaks her rest at least three or four times to feed you at her breast? Is it not she who does without clothes to clothe you, who conceals from you the pains she has to bear? Is it not she who quickly hides her tears with a smile, lest her children notice and feel sad? Is it not she who cannot bear to wake her children when they are sleeping, who does not see their faults, or does not draw attention to them when she does see them, who promptly pardons her children for the pain they cause? How could you repay what you owe your mother? Is it possible to do so? Mother, such is mother. A partner in our grief, a balm to our wounds…Is it not she who is ready to sacrifice her very life to save her children?…