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Teachings of religion on children responsibilities towards

parent (Part 3)
EXAMPLES FROM ISLAM
The Status of Parents in Islam
By Syed Hasan Akhtar, M. D. Austin, Texas
"Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to
parents. Whether one or more attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of
contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of
kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say, "my Lord! bestow on them
Thy Mercy, even as they cherished me in childhood." (Quran 17: 23,24)
All religions and all societies have given parents an honorable status. From a purely material
viewpoint, we find ourselves indebted to our parents, particularly our mother. She not only
nourished us in her womb, but went through pain and suffering. She loved us even before
we were born. She toiled when we were totally helpless infants. She spent sleepless nights
caring for us. Our parents as a team provided for all our needs: physical, educational,
psychological, and in many instances, religious, moral, and spiritual. Our indebtedness to
our parents is so immense that it is not possible to repay it fully. In lieu of this, it becomes
obligatory for us to show the utmost kindness, respect, and obedience to our parents.
The position of parents, and the mutual obligations and responsibilities, have been
addressed in Islam in great detail. The Qur'anic commandments, as well as the sayings of
Prophet Muhammad
guide us in this matter. The parent-child code of behavior in Islam
is unique, since rules were laid down by divine command.
References to parents have been made at least 15 times in the Holy Qur'an. There
are numerous traditions of the Prophet Muhammad
on this subject. I will first quote
some of the Qur'anic verses here:
"And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents. In travail upon travail
did his mother bear him, and in two years was his weaning. Show gratitude to Me
and to thy parents; to Me is thy final goal." (Chapter31: verse14)
According to the above verse, gratitude to God and to parents go hand in hand.
Gratitude to God is incomplete without showing gratitude to one's parents. Since
being grateful to God is a form of ibadah (worship) which earns heavenly rewards,
it can therefore be said that being grateful to one's parents also earns heavenly
rewards.
"Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents.
Whether one or more attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor
repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the
wing of humility, and say, "my Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy, even as they cherished me
in childhood." (17: 23,24)
"We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents; in pain did his mother bear him, and in
pain did she give him birth." (46:15)

Thus, God has enjoined on us to show kindness, respect, and humility to our parents. We
are commanded to do this, even though they may have injured us. The only exception
to the above command is made in the following verse:
"We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents; but if they strive (to force) thee to join
with Me anything of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not." (29:8)
Some of the traditions of Prophet Muhammad

, and of the learned members of

his family, about our responsibilities toward our parents are quoted here:
"Paradise lies under the feet of the mother."
"God's pleasure is in the pleasure of the father, and God's displeasure is in the
displeasure of the father."
"He who wishes to enter Paradise through its best door must please his parents."
"It is a pity that some people may not attain Paradise, on account of not serving
their old parents."
"If a person looks with love at his parents, God writes in his favor the reward
equal to the performance of one Hajj."
[Someone asked, "will this promise be good if one looks at his parents one hundred times a
day?" The Holy Prophet (pbuh) replied, "even if one does so a hundred thousand times a
day, God gives the reward accordingly."]
"A man or woman is bound to be good to his or her parents, even though they may have
injured him or her."
Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (A.S.), the great-great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad

is

reported to have quoted Imam 'Ali (A.S.) that, "disobedience to parents is a major sin."
He also stated that, "if a person looks at the face of his or her parents with
wrathful eyes, despite the fact that injustice was done to him or her by the
parents, his or her salah (prayer) will not be accepted by God."
According to one of the Hadith-e-Qudsi, the following is reported about the status of
parents:
"God has commanded that if anybody prays equal to the invocations performed by the
prophets, such prayers will do no good if that person has been cursed by his or her
parents."
It has also been related that the very first words which have been written on the Lauh-eMahfuz (The Heavenly Preserved Tablet) are:
"I am God, and there is no deity except Me. I am pleased with those with whom
their parents are pleased, and I am displeased with those with whom their parents
are displeased."

Prophet Muhammad

is reported to have said: "On the Day of Judgment, my person will

not be seen by those who drank liquor, those who on hearing my name did not invoke the
blessings of God on me, or those who were cursed and disowned by their parents."
'Ali ibn al-Husain (A.S.) is reported to have said: "The right of your mother on you is that
you should know that nobody could endure the trouble and the conditions under which she
protected you and nourished you with the juice of her life, and tried with her heart and soul
to satisfy all your needs in relation to hunger, thirst, dress, etc. She passed sleepless nights,
suffering anxieties. She provided you with shelter against heat and cold, and protected you
from ailments. It is not possible for you to compensate her, or thank her enough for all the
services, except that God may give you guidance for that. The right of your father on you is
that you should know that it is he who brought you into existence, and you are a branch of
the tree of his life."
According to a reliable tradition, it is related that a man came to Prophet Muhammad
and asked him to whom he should render kindness. The prophet told him to be kind to his
mother. Three times he put the same question to the prophet, and three times he got the
same answer. When he asked the question the fourth time, he was told to be kind to his
father, indicating that the mother's right took precedence over that of the father.

CHRISTIAN TEACHINGS
The Children's Responsibilities to Their Parents
Children Should Listen to Their Parents' Instruction.
Society encourages children to disregard their parents' teachings and make their own choices.
Young people often think their parents are unreasonable or do not understand.
Proverbs 6:20-23 -- Listen to the instruction of parents, do not forsake it. Remember that
parents are older and more experienced. They may not be perfect (neither are the kids!) yet they
are still wiser.
(See also Prov. 1:8; 15:5; 23:22).
Children Should Respect Their Parents.
Young people today mock, ridicule, and openly flaunt their parents. Such conduct is encouraged
by many aspects of society and is ignored by many parents.
Ephesians 6:2,3 -- Parents have God-given authority and have generally done much good for the
children. They deserve to receive respectful treatment, including respectful speech and attitudes.
(Cf. Matt. 15:4; Prov. 6:20-23; 15:5; 23:22.)
Children Should Obey Their Parents.
Rebellion is admired and encouraged by many. Acts that parents have disapproved are yet
practiced -- openly or by deception -- because "everybody's doing it" or for a hundred other
excuses. Some accept such conduct as inevitable. But all such is disobedience and rebellion.

Ephesians 6:1 -- Children are commanded by the Lord to obey their parents. (See also Col. 3:20;
2 Tim. 3:1,2).
Luke 2:51 -- Jesus set the example of subjection to his parents.
Romans 1:30,32 -- One who refuses to obey his parents is worthy of death, and so are those who
approve of such conduct (cf. Deut. 21:18-21).
Children should obey all parental instructions unless they are told to do something sinful (Acts
5:29).
The fact that the parents may have made some mistakes or even sinned does not justify
disobedience by the children (Rom. 12:17-21; Luke 6:27-35; etc.)
Children Should Care for Elderly Parents.
Elderly people today are often neglected or shipped to nursing homes, not because this is really
needed for the proper care of the parent, but because the children do not want to be bothered.
1 Timothy 5:4,8,16 -- When children are unwilling to care for their elderly parents, they lack
appreciation for what their parents did for them, and they also deny the faith. (Cf. Matt. 15:4-6;
Ruth 4:13-15; John 19:25-27.)
Making happy homes is not easy, especially in a corrupt society. But God's plan is always
best, and the homes that accomplish the most good are those that learn and do His will.
Ephesians 6:1 -- Children are commanded by the Lord to obey their parents. (See also Col.
3:20; 2 Tim. 3:1,2).
Luke 2:51 -- Jesus set the example of subjection to his parents.
Romans 1:30,32 -- One who refuses to obey his parents is worthy of death, and so are those
who approve of such conduct (cf. Deut. 21:18-21).
Children should obey all parental instructions unless they are told to do something sinful
(Acts 5:29).
The fact that the parents may have made some mistakes or even sinned does not justify
disobedience by the children (Rom. 12:17-21; Luke 6:27-35; etc.)

How to Show Respect for a Parent: A Jewish View


It's not only what you do for your parents that counts, but how you do it as well.
By Rabbi Nachum Amsel

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The Torah makes general demands that we treat our parents with respect and reverence.
Rabbinic literature attempts to spell out the details. Reprinted with permission from The Jewish
Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues (Jason Aronson).
The classic text defining the specific requirements to fulfill [the biblical commandments] "Honor
your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12) and "You shall fear your mother and your father"
(Leviticus 19:3) can be found in the [Babylonian] Talmud [abbreviated as BT], Kiddushin 31b.
"Fear" is defined as not sitting or standing in a parent's designated place and not contradicting a
parent, while "honor" is defined as feeding parents, clothing parents, and helping them come in
and out.
On the face of it, it does not seem that a person is being honored by making sure they are fed or
clothed. These are acts of charity usually reserved for homeless or poor people. How can this be
called honor? The Hebrew word in the Torah in the verse regarding parents, kavod, does not
really mean honor, which is a poor English translation. In another talmudic statement (BT
Berakhot 19b), this same word is used to say that human dignity is extremely important.
Therefore, the true meaning of the word kavod is dignity. Thus, the mitzvah is to dignify one's
father and mother, to keep their dignity.
We can now understand the specifics mentioned in the Talmud. Keeping parents clothed and fed
when they can no longer do so for themselves indeed retains their dignity. Similarly, helping
them in and out of the house preserves their dignity. Thus, the first mitzvah is to preserve a
parent's dignity at all costs.
The other term, morah, does not really mean fear or awe as is usually translated, but this is the
real word for honor and respect. We show respect and honor by not interrupting or by not sitting
in someone's seat.
How Not to Show Respect for a Parent
The idea of keeping a parent's dignity as the essence of the mitzvah is borne out by a passage in
the Jerusalem Talmud, which says that it is possible to feed one's parent succulent hens and still
inherit hell, while a person can make his parent work on a grindstone and still inherit paradise.
The passage continues to explain that the child gives a father succulent food, but when the father
asks where the food is from, the son answers "Quiet, old man. A dog eats quietly, so you eat
quietly." This son inherits hell. However, the second case involved the son who worked at the

grindstone. When the king summoned grindstone workers to the palace to endure back-breaking
work, the son told the father to take the son's place at the family?s own grindstone and to work,
so that the father would not suffer or be treated in an undignified manner before the king. This
son inherits paradise.
Therefore, it is clear that if the context diminishes the dignity of a parent, any act is worthless
and violates the spirit and intent of Jewish law. Similarly, even if an act seems demeaning
objectively, if it preserves a parent's dignity, it is to be praised.
This is also the reason one may not curse a parent even after his or her death (Maimonides,
Mishneh Torah, Laws of Rebels 5:1). Although the parent will not hear it and will not suffer
because of the curse, the parent's dignity is still being compromised, and it is, therefore
forbidden. The Torah verse (Deuteronomy 27:16) cursing a person who dishonors a parent also
refers to the child who compromised a parent's dignity.
Sometimes It's All About Attitude
Now that the importance of maintaining the dignity of one's parents has been established, it can
readily be understood that many of the arguments between parents and children today are about
tone of voice and indignity, rather than about substance. A child must maintain the parent's
dignity and respect at all times, even when disagreeing. That is the intention of kavod.
This is proven in the law regarding a parent who does not observe a commandment. A child
should point out to a parent if he or she is committing a sin. However, Maimonides codifies how
a person should address a parent who violates the Torah (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Rebels 6:11):
One may not say "Dad, you are wrong and doing a sin," but rather, "Let's look up the law
together and see what it says." The [standard code of Jewish law from the 16th century] Shulhan
Arukh (Yoreh De'ah 241:6) codifies this as well, quoting Maimonides almost word for word, but
then adds an explanation "in order not to embarrass the parent." Therefore, even when
disagreeing with a parent, which a child often has a right to do, he or she must do so in a
dignified manner, to preserve the parent's dignity.
Honoring one's parents, that is, keeping their dignity, continues after their deaths, not only by not
cursing them, but also by mentioning them prominently in conversations. During the first year of
mourning, one should say each time a parent's words are recalled, "that is what my father, my
teacher said" and "let me be an atonement for him (or her)." After the first year, a child adds the
words "may his (or her) memory be a blessing" each time the parent is mentioned (Shulhan
Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 240:9).

Buddhism and Respect for Parents


Compiled by Dr. Ron Epstein
Philosophy Department
San Francisco State University
Please send all comments, suggestions, and corrections to namofo@jps.net.

CONTENTS
o

"The Sutra about the Deep Kindness of Parents and the Difficulty of Repaying
It" translated by Upasika Terri Nicholson

Filiality: The Human Source

Bodhisattva Nagarjuna on Respecting One's Father and Mother

Itivuttaka

Sutta-Nipata

The Path of Purification

Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's Commentary to "Universal Worth's Conduct


and Vows"

Teachings on Kindness to Mothers from Meaningful to Behold

Heng Sure (Bhiksu). Buddhist Education into the Year 2000: Affirming the
Virtue of Filial Respect. [slow download, Acrobat file]

Jan Yun-hua. "The Role of Filial Piety in Chinese Buddhism: A


Reassessment." (Yun-hua, Jan) [slow download, Acrobat file]

Schopen, Gregory. "Filial Piety and the Monk in the Practice of Indian
Buddhism: A Question of 'Sinicization' Viewed from the Other Side." T'oung
Pao LXX (1984). [slow download, Acrobat file]

Strong, John. "Filial Piety and Buddhism: the Indian Antecedents to a Chinese
Problem." Traditions in Contact and Change, 1983. [slow download, Acrobat
file]

Itivuttaka:
This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "Living with Brahma are
those families where, in the home, mother & father are revered by the children. Living with the
first devas are those families where, in the home, mother & father are revered by the children.
Living with the first teachers are those families where, in the home, mother & father are revered
by the children. Living with those worthy of gifts are those families where, in the home, mother
& father are revered by the children. 'Brahma' is a designation for mother & father. 'The first
devas' is a designation for mother & father. 'The first teachers' is a designation for mother &

father. 'Those worthy of gifts' is a designation for mother & father. Why is that? Mother & father
do much for their children. They care for them, nourish them, introduce them to this world."
Mother & father,
compassionate to their family,
are called
Brahma,
first teachers,
those worthy of gifts
from their children.
So the wise should pay them
homage,
honor
with food & drink
clothing & bedding
anointing & bathing
& washing their feet.
Performing these services to their parents, the wise
are praised right here
and after death
rejoice in heaven. (106)
Sutta-Nipata:
Though being well-to-do, not to support father and mother who are old and past
their youth -- this is a cause of
one's downfall. (I:6, Narada Thera, tr.)
...a wise man...should support his mother and father as his duty....(II:14, John
D. Ireland, tr.)

For example, teaching living beings who do not understand filial piety to be filial
is a method to cause them to plant good roots. There is a saying,
Of the ten thousan evil acts, lust is the worst;
Of the one hundred wholesome deeds, filial piety is foremost.
What makes people different from animals is that people understand how to be
filial to their parents and respectful to their teacher and elders. People are different
from animals, who do not understand filiality, yet even
The lamb kneels to nurse;
The crow returns to feed its parents.

The young lamb kneels when it takes milk from its mother, and when the young
crow grows up, it returns to care for its parents. Filial piety, therefore, is basic to
being human. Those who are not filial to their parents do not have good roots, but
one who is filial certainly does have good roots. (Flower Adornment Sutra, Ch 40,
pp. 115-116)

Hinduism

Excerpt from The Laws of Manu

Excerpt from The Laws of Manu


The father [is] the physical form of the Lord of Creatures, the mother the physical form of the
earth... The trouble that a mother and father endure in giving birth to human beings cannot be
redeemed even in a hundred years. He should constantly do what pleases the two of them.... (The
Laws of Manu, 2:226

Respect for Parents in Sikhism


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The Sikh religion is one that believes and actively advocates family life and community
cohesion. The family unit plays an important part in a viable happy and sustainable community.
Respect for ones parents is an inherent part of good community relations. If a child cannot learn
how to live amicable in a family situation and have a good and vibrant relationship with his or
her parents then it follows that the person will not be able to live and have a positive contribution
in a community. A community is a scaled up family unit; the behaviours and communication
skills learnt in the family can equally well be applied to relations in a community situation.
Varan Bhai Gurdas
Vaar 37 Pauri 13: Pities of one who ill-treated the parents are in vain


maan piu parahari sunai vaydu bhaydu n jaanai kadaa kahaanee
Renouncing the parents, the listener of Vedas cannot understand their mystery.


maan piu parahari karai tapu vanakhandi bhulaa dhirai bibaanee
Repudiating the parents, meditation in the forest is similar to the wanderings at deserted places.


maan piu parahari karai pooju dayvee dayv n sayv kamaanee

The service and worship to the gods and goddesses are useless if one has
renounced his parents.

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