Allah Ta‘ala has sent Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) with Islam, the complete and perfect code of life. The prophethood of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) is universal and thus extends to all nations, through all eras, until the day of Qiyaamah. Hence, the religion of Islam is a universal religion that will stand the tests and challenges of all times. The comprehensive guidance which Islam provides man with, to lead him through every moment in his life, is unparalleled and unprecedented. Among the salient features of Islam is showing compassion towards the creation. The Holy Qur’an and the Mubaarak Ahaadith of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) are replete with commands and exhortations regarding fulfilling the rights of the creation and showing kindness to them. Islam is second to none in sympathising with the orphans, widows, destitute and taking care of the old, the sick and all those in financial constraints and difficulties. Islam teaches us to pour out our hearts to the creation and assist – to the best of our ability – those who are in need, morally, financially or physically, regardless of whether they enjoy family ties with us or not. This aspect of kindness and compassion formed a prominent part of the noble character of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and was among his sublime qualities throughout his mubaarak life, even before prophethood.
After the first encounter with Hazrat Jibreel ‘alaihis salaam, when prophethood was conferred to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) , Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was greatly concerned regarding how he would fulfil the mission of prophethood. On that occasion, Hazrat Khadijah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) comforted him and reassured him that Allah Ta‘ala’s divine help was with him on account of the noble qualities and praiseworthy attributes he possessed. Hazrat Khadijah (radhiyallahu ‘anha) said to him: “Nay! Accept the glad tidings (of Allah Ta‘ala). By Allah! Allah Ta‘ala will never ever disgrace you, for by Allah, you are the one who maintains good ties with your family, you always speak the truth, you carry the burden of the one in difficulty, you earn for the one who does not possess wealth, you extend hospitality to your guests and you always assist those who are afflicted with natural disasters and calamities.”(Bukhaari #4953)
Taking Care of the Widows and Orphans
Special rewards have been promised in the Mubaarak Ahaadith for those who take care of the orphans and widows and fulfil their needs. Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “The best home is the home wherein an orphan child is taken care of with love and compassion, and the worst home is the home wherein an orphan child is ill-treated.” (Abu Dawood #3679)
In another Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) mentioned: “The one who takes care and looks after the orphan will be this close to me in Jannah,” and he indicated by bringing his two fingers, the index finger and the middle finger, close to each other, showing the proximity they will enjoy with him in the Aakhirat. (Bukhaari #6005). In another Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “The one who fulfils the needs of the widows and destitute will receive the reward of one striving in the path of Allah Ta‘ala, or one who stands in Salaah during the night and fasts during the day.” (Bukhaari #5353)
Fulfilling the Rights of Parents
As far as the rights that one owes towards his parents are concerned, Allah Ta‘ala states in the Qur’an: “Allah Ta‘ala has ordained that you worship Him alone and show kindness to parents.” (Surah 1 7:23). In this verse, we notice that after commanding man to worship Allah Ta‘ala, the Qur’an immediately thereafter commands him to show kindness towards his parents. We thus understand that kindness towards parents has been afforded such a lofty position in Deen that it has been joined to the worship of Allah Ta‘ala.
It is reported in the Hadith that one’s parents are his Jannah or Jahannam. (Ibnu Maajah #3652) By obeying them and showing kindness to them, he will earn Jannah, and by disobeying them and ill-treating them, he will earn Jahannam. Special mention is made in the Qur’an regarding showing love and affection towards one’s parents when they reach old age and are unable to fend for themselves. Allah Ta‘ala says: “If any one of them or both reach old age, do not say to them words of contempt, and do not scold them, and address them with words of honour. And lower your side of humility for them out of compassion, and say: My Lord! Bestow mercy upon them as they have raised me (with mercy) in my childhood.” (Surah 1 7:23-24)
On one occasion, during the Mubaarak era of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), a Sahaabi came to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) seeking permission to go out in Nafil Jihaad. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) asked him if he had parents and whether they were in need of his service. The Sahaabi replied that he had aged parents whom he had left crying, due to them not wanting him to go in Nafil Jihaad as they were in need of his service. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) instructed him to remain behind and serve his aged parents. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Make them happy as you had made them cry.” (Ibnu Maajah #2782) In a similar narration, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said to another Sahaabi who wanted to leave his parents and participate in Nafil Jihaad: “Serve them, for your Jihaad lies in serving them.” (i.e. through serving them, Allah Ta‘ala will grant you the reward of Nafil Jihaad). (Bukhaari #3004)
Imagine the great rewards one will reap through participating in Nafil Jihaad. Yet, despite that, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) informs the Sahaabi that serving his aged parents who were in need of his service was more pleasing to Allah Ta‘ala than participating in Nafil Jihaad.
The Need of the Time
In this belated era, where every effort is directed towards worldly progress and material acquisition, we find Muslims drifting from the Mubaarak way of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and the Sahaabah. The rapid degeneration of Islamic values is being witnessed around the globe due to Muslims being consumed by the alien culture of the West. As a result, taking care of one’s parents, grandparents or any old member of the family has become a major problem and is viewed as a burden. This lamentable situation has reached the point where people regard taking care of the old to be an obstacle in the path of their worldly pleasures and comforts. This becomes more evident during the vacation period when people embark on holiday trips and abandon the old to feel neglected and distraught, whereas taking care of the old and ill are among the great, blessed opportunities that Allah Ta‘ala offers for one to earn His divine pleasure and the great rewards of the Hereafter. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “You gain divine assistance and are blessed with sustenance from Allah Ta‘ala on account of the weak (and old) among you.” (Bukhaari #2739)
On one occasion, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) informed the Sahaabah that he had seen a dream wherein he was taken to Jannah and shown the various bounties therein. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “While I was in Jannah, I heard the recitation of the Sahaabi, Hazrat Haarithah bin Nu’maan (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) ”, whereas this Sahaabi was still alive in this world. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) thereafter mentioned that Allah Ta‘ala had granted him this honour on account of his obedience and kindness to his mother.(Musnad Ahmad #24080)
Fulfilling the Rights of Family Members and the Muslims in General
In the aforementioned verse, after commanding man to fulfil the rights he owes towards his parents, Allah Ta‘ala commands him to fulfil the rights he owes to his family. Allah Ta‘ala says: “Give your family their rights, and the poor and the traveller (who does not have provisions), and do not waste. Those who waste (their wealth) are in reality the brothers of Shaytaan.” (Surah 17:26)
The commentators of the Qur’an have explained that the link between both commands (i.e Allah Ta‘ala commanding man to fulfil the rights he owes towards his family and thereafter cautioning him against wastage of wealth and calling such people who waste “the brothers of Shaytaan”) is that when Shaytaan encourages one to spend his wealth in amusement, entertainment and avenues that Allah Ta‘ala did not allow, he begins to neglect his responsibility towards his parents, family members and the poor and needy of the Ummah and thus deprives them of their haqq (rights). As a result, he resembles Shaytaan who was ungrateful to Allah Ta‘ala for the favours with which Allah Ta‘ala had bestowed him.
If each person in the Muslim Ummah leads his life in accordance to the spirit of Islam, fulfilling the obligations that he owes towards Allah Ta‘ala and the creation (his family and the Muslims in general), this world will be an abode of happiness, peace and comfort for one and all. During the reign of Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz (rahimahullah) , when Islam was followed and upheld throughout the length and breadth of the Islamic world, and the rights of each Muslim were respected and fulfilled with honour and dignity, people witnessed the wolves grazing with the sheep on account of the justice that prevailed in the land, and people would come out to pay their zakaat, yet they would struggle to find any recipient, as people would say that they have sufficient wealth and are not eligible for zakaat.(Tabaqaat Ibn Sa’d 5/301 )