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How do I respect parents I feel don’t deserve respect?

How do I respect parents I feel don’t deserve respect?


Salam alaykum. How do I respect a parent when I feel like there is nothing respectable about them?

Wa alykum as-salaam,

I will be honest, a question like yours depends on who your parents are and most importantly, what the situation is.

Most Islamic resources, scholars, Imams, etc will assume that your parents are–generally speaking–good people, and so will underline that you are probably misunderstanding them or being unappreciative, and many times that’s the correct assumption. When we are young we seldom recognize the sacrifices our parents have made for us, especially Muslims in the West, we take for granted what our parents went through, not just as parents, but just to get here.

Also, many times we make these complaints precisely because we are young. We blow things out of proportion, not because we are stupid (well, actually, when you grow up you’ll think your young self was stupid) but because we lack the experience, and because our world is constructed by what we know: which isn’t that much. When you were a little kid, if someone said “next month” you would writhe on the ground in pain because “next month” might as well have meant in another lifetime. Why? Because that’s all you knew, your perception of things were profoundly different, on the most basic level.

While most (not all) of the time, the issue is rather mundane and rooted in our youth and a fundamental misunderstanding between our cultural assumptions and those of our parents as they clash relative to the reality of the society we live in, which we blow out of proportion because, well, we’re young.

Therefore, I’d suggest that you talk to someone who doesn’t have their parents, see if your complaints are really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, see if you are taking your parents for granted.

And yet, there is the other side of the coin: parents who truly are abusive and/or negligent.

The Qur’an touches upon this topic:

“’[Revere thy parents;] yet should they endeavour to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something which thy mind cannot accept [as divine], obey them not; but [even then] bear them company in this world’s life with kindness, and follow the path of those who turn towards Me. In the end, unto Me you all must return; and thereupon I shall make you [truly] understand all that you were doing [in life].’” [31:15] Muhammad Asad

So, what do we see here? We see that God is telling Muslims who have parents that are trying to steer them away from God, from committing Shirk, a grave sin, and even in the face of such a difficulty, God exhorts us to be respectful to our parents.

Is this to hurt us? Is this to put parents’ concerns over our own? No, it is for ourselves because the connection between the child and their parent is crucial, we need our parents, even if they do things that are highly distasteful to us.

Also, there is a value to learning from these mistakes of your parents, because you will be a parent one day (insha Allah) and you will put into a situation and the question you have to ask yourself is: did you learn from your hardship? Are you going to deal with your children how you were treated? Are you going to end the cycle?

However, it also underlines that even in the face of those who seek to deny us our rights, in this instance the right of a child to parents who love and care for them, that we should not transgress or violate the rights of others, because if we do that, the entire system falls apart.

However, that does not mean that you should tolerate abuse, I want to be quite clear, and if this is the case, you should seek out help from local authorities, other members of your family, and your community.

So outside of truly serious situations, at the end of the day, you and I, we aren’t parents, we haven’t been put into the situations are parents have, we didn’t have the guts to leave everything we knew to come to another country to start a life, to try and teach our values and culture to our children when they are surrounded by things that seem to contradict, and even worse, reward behavior that contradicts our values. I mean, yeah we go through a lot as Muslims, but, I think very few of us really know what it took for our parents to do what they did.

It’s all about perspective, really, and frankly, as I don’t know your situation, you have to be the judge of whether you are actually assessing your parents correctly, did you ever think that maybe you’re the one who should reconsider their position? Just a suggestion, again, without any knowledge of what you are talking about, which is what makes answering these sorts of questions a nightmare, but I hope you understood what I was getting at, insha Allah.

I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.

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