I just got back from a condolences reception for the mother of one of our friends. (She passed away and was buried on Wednesday, but they were receiving visitors this weekend.) I didn’t really want to go to the reception, who would, really. What do you say to someone when their mother has died? Formally, you say, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss,’ etc, but what you’re really thinking is ‘Thank God my mother is still alive.’ And then you feel guilty because really there’s no way you can begin to even relate to the person who lost their mother because you still have yours.
It was awkward, but I‘m glad I went. It’s true, you know, remembering death polishes the heart. I’m thinking about what it would be like if either of my parents died and suddenly I’m feeling guilty. The Qur’an orders Muslims to be super-good to their parents, “And say not to them a word of disrespect, nor rebuke them…”
The ‘word of disrespect’ mentioned in the Qur’an is ‘uff!’ (fa la taqullahuma uffin wa la tanharhuma). Every culture has their uff!, the little noise that people make when they’re exasperated or irritated. In English I think you say ‘tsk,’ and then you roll your eyes for good measure. In Urdu it’s ‘oof!’ and then you slap your forehead. I’m guilty of rather a lot of both, being bi-lingual and all, English disrespect for my mother and Urdu disrespect for my father. Shame on me, really. Especially since I know better.
My nephew (say MashaAllah!) and his mother (my sister-in-law) lived with us for five months. He came when he was five months old, and at that stage he fussed a lot and had to be changed every few hours and fed all the time. Even with my mother, my sister and I helping my sister-in-law out, she still had quite a job on her hands. A kid, at any age actually, is a lot of work. My parents raised four of them, each one two years apart. It blows my mind when I think of how anyone manages to take care of one kid let alone four of them. The love and devotion that a parent puts into each and every kid pales in comparison to the pathetic amount of love we give back, and yet we have the nerve to say uff.
I’m going to go hang my head in shame now. And I’m going to try to be much more patient with my parents. I shouldn’t have to wait for one of them to die before I remember that I love them.
“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you show kindness to your parents. Whether one or both of them attains old age, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor rebuke them, but speak to them a gracious word. And lower to them a wing of mercy and compassion and say, ‘My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was young.’” The Holy Qur’an, 17:23-24