1

I recently learned from a well-read lecturer in my community that the Prophet (PBUH) once sat reiterating something along the lines of "Be good/obedient/dutiful to your parents" and someone asked, "Even if they abuse you?" And he said, "Yes, even if they abuse you."

Please note that I heard this in a different language and I may have mistranslated the word 'abuse' but the meaning is more or less the same hence the reasoning behind my query

I was upset, because this is something that hit close to home. My mother, now deceased, was extremely abusive of me, not in the traditional sense in that she beat me and was an alcoholic, but she abused me psychologically and emotionally so that it's had severe repercussions on my life, both personal and social, ever since.

So I want to ask whether or not Islam excuses abusive parenting? Because everywhere I've read it only says that you can disobey your parents if they tell you to do haraam things/things that are un-Islamic in nature. But I don't see anywhere that says anything about abusive parenting, and I only see both hadith and Quranic verses stressing on the importance of being good and thinking well of your parents always. It upsets me because I think Allah would never hold my mother accountable for damaging me like this but rather turn it on me for daring to think ill of her.

3

This is an excellent and important question. First of all, abusive behavior falls under the category of oppression. By treating you this way, your mother oppressed you. And the Quran has very strong condemnations is oppressors. It does not single out any specific category of oppressor, be they parent or child, sibling or person of authority, friend or foe, relative or boss. But the act of oppression is associated with denying someone their rights. It also includes oppression of someone under one’s authority or control, which would include parents.

Holy Quran 16:90 ------------------ ۞ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.

Holy Quran 4:75 ------------------ وَمَا لَكُمْ لَا تُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالْمُسْتَضْعَفِينَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ وَالنِّسَاءِ وَالْوِلْدَانِ الَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا أَخْرِجْنَا مِنْ هَٰذِهِ الْقَرْيَةِ الظَّالِمِ أَهْلُهَا وَاجْعَل لَّنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ وَلِيًّا وَاجْعَل لَّنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ نَصِيرًا

And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, "Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?"

This aya actually implies that the Muslim community is responsible to “fight” oppression when they see it, whether they see it coming from a whole people, as per the aya above, or from individuals such as parents toward their children. In the case of families or oppressive parents, neighbors or other Muslims should try to speak to the oppressive parent to stop their behavior. If it verges on criminal behavior, they should contact the proper authorities. This would count as “fighting”. But such behavior is not condoned. The aya indicates we as Muslims are required by Allah to help the oppressed in whatever way we can. Abusive behavior is also dereliction of responsibility. Children are vulnerable and their parents are responsible for their actions.

Now it still is true that the Quran specifies that the child must respect and honor their parents, regardless of their behavior, but it does not say anywhere the child must submit to abuse. Rather he should complain to others about this, such as other family members or members of his community. Of course, many children have no such person they can talk to, especially in cases of abuse where the abuser may try to isolate the child. Even to complain to authorities at school in this case would be not only permissible but encouraged. In a sense, it is important for oppressed people generally to fight their oppression. A child could take some measures against the parent’s abuse without insulting or acting hostile to them.

But the Quran in no way condones abusive behavior from any person, especially not to a vulnerable person such as a child. One last aya about the eternal consequences of committing injustice (and abuse is certainly a form of injustice:

Holy Quran 20:111 ------------------ ۞ وَعَنَتِ الْوُجُوهُ لِلْحَيِّ الْقَيُّومِ ۖ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ حَمَلَ ظُلْمًا

And [all] faces will be humbled before the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of existence. And he will have failed who carries injustice.

This aya is more powerful in Arabic, but the word for “failed” is a much more total catastrophic failure than this word in English conveys. It means whoever committed injustice in this life and did nothing to amend it or repent, will find in the Hereafter a total catastrophic failure which means, of course, hell, and separation from Allah and His mercy.

So if you did not find justice in this life, there certainly will be justice in the next.

4

if you do not see any texts on proper parenting then you are not looking hard enough. The Prophet (ﷺ) told a man who never kissed his own children, "verily, whoever does not show mercy will not receive mercy." This would apply to your parents as well!

Islam does not excuse any wrongdoings, including the abuse that parents may inflict upon their children.. which is contrast to Islamic texts and the Sunnah. So the parents who harmed their children either physically or emotionally will have to answer to Allah (ﷻ) about this.

That said, despite the abuse, your parents showed mercy to you while you were helpless as a baby. So as much as you may hate them for the abuse, you still are expected to be grateful and be dutiful towards them and treat them with kindness in return (as two wrongs don't make a right).

When good people continue to show kindness and compassion towards those who are cold to them, this increases those good people in good deeds and is humiliating for those who are cold.

Abu Huraira reported that a person said: Allah's Messenger, I have relatives with whom I try, to have close relationship, but they sever (this relation). I treat them well, but they treat me ill. I am sweet to them but they are harsh towards me. Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: If it is so as you say, then you in fact throw hot ashes (upon their faces) and there would always remain with you on behalf of Allah (an Angel to support you) who would keep you dominant over them so long as you adhere to this (path of righteousness). [Sahih Muslim (2558)].

I know- it definitely can sting the heart when someone oppressed thinks of showing kindness towards the person who abused them, but righteousness is to overcome that, as pointed out above.

And you are not the only one who has been through this cycle; for everyone, our parents are still humans and they are not perfect. NOR will you be perfect towards your own children, either. (They will feel hurt by some of the decisions you make, even if they are for their own good). Parents just have to strive towards being better and children should be patient.

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