Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: I am living in Australia. My parents live in Bangladesh. I am the only son in my family whilst my 3 other sisters are married.
Who is going to stay at home to look after my ageing parents?
Now that I have my daughter and wife here in Australia, it is not a simple decision to relocate to Bangladesh. However, the guilt of being negligent towards my parents has been haunting me for years. I can’t sleep anymore.
What should I do?
Answer: In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate
Thank you for your question. May Allah grant you the best of states and guide you to what is pleasing to Him.
Balancing the rights and happiness of one’s parents with the needs and practicalities of one’s own life can be a difficult balance, especially for Muslim families in the West. I admire your desire and concern over your parents wellbeing. May Allah reward you immensely for efforts.
RIGHTS OF PARENTS IN THE QUR’AN AND HADITH
God tells us, ‘We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents’ [46:15], and ‘Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. 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]
Likewise, the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) when asked about which deed is most beloved to Allah, he (peace and blessing be upon him) replied that the second deed most loved by God was ‘to be good and dutiful to one’s parent’s.’ [Sahih al Bukhari]
From the many references to parental rights in the Qu’ran and Hadith, what becomes clear is that the duty of the child to a parent is that the child treats the parent with kindness, gentleness and goodness.
RIGHTS OF PARENTS IN SACRED LAW (FIQH)
While most references in the Qur’an and hadith deal with the emotional relationship between child and parent, the books of sacred law deal with the practicalities of this relationship.
The fuqaha state that it is the right of a parent that their children provide for them on the condition that they (the parents) do not have enough money to support themselves and fulfill their needs, and that the child has money that is surplus to his own needs and that of his dependents. This is the case, even if the parent is physically able to work. If the parents have enough money to fulfill their needs, then it is not obligatory on the child to provide for the parent.
‘Need’ here means that the parents have enough food to satisfy themselves for one day and night (each day becomes a new obligation to provide this, though practically speaking one would rarely give sustenance for a day and night only). ‘Need’ also includes clothing, shelter, a servant if needed, and medical care. [Tuhfa al Muhtaj, Yaqout al Nafis]
If there is more than one child, then the obligation is shared between the siblings, regardless if they are male or female (as long as they have surplus money above their own needs). In the Shafi’i school the male(s) would contribute two thirds of the total amount, and female(s) one third. In the Hanafi school it is shared equally between sons and daughters, though another Hanafi opinion concurs with the Shafi’i opinion. [Abyani, Sharh al Ahwal al Shakhsiyyah, al Fatawaa al Hindiyaah].
There is actually no legal obligation that the parents live with one of the sons only, or one of the daughters only, or indeed any of them. Rather it is what is most practical and most satisfactory, even if the parents live by themselves (in which case if a servant is needed to help the parent then this must be provided).
The above is a brief outline of the fiqh rulings pertaining to parental rights. However, while it is important to know the fiqh rulings, it’s rarely possible or advised to go by fiqh rulings alone. This has to be executed with the kindness and goodness towards parents obligated in the Qur’an and hadith. The culmination of these obligations should lead to ‘Ihsaan’, having excellence in all that one does, which is the true spirit of Islam that should adorn one’s daily dealings and human relations.
BALANCING PARENT’S RIGHTS AND YOUR NEEDS
The personal situation that you have described is challenging as it seems it will be very difficult to please your parents fully without causing a great deal of stress and long term upheaval in yours and your family’s life.
As mentioned above, the obligation upon you (and your able siblings) towards your parents is that you financially provide for their needs (if they do not have their own means already) and to treat them with goodness and in a gentle manner. It seems to me that you are fulfilling these need, or at least working out the means to, as well as providing financial support for you sister, which is not obligatory on you, but is nevertheless a very honourable thing to do.
We have also explained that you are not obliged to move back to your home country, more so due to the fact that you have employment and your family is settled where you are now. It is unlikely you will have such opportunities in your home country. Whilst this may not solve the issue of your parents not being entirely happy without you living with them, at least you know that you are not doing anything sinful. You also said that they did not want to leave their country to come to you due to their relations in back home, which makes it more problematic.
You now know what you need to provide for your parents if need be, and that you are not obligated to leave and go back home, but there is however the aspect of wanting to please your parents as much as possible, despite not being in the same country. Perhaps the following will be of help:
· Speak to them on the phone or Skype regularly, daily if necessary, so they never feel far away. Speak to them lovingly and patiently. Ask them if they need or want anything. Perhaps call them before you go to bed each or most nights so you can all feel that you have connected with each other before retiring for the day. This may help with the guilt and sleeplessness.
· Go to visit them as much as you can with the family and grandchildren. This will bring a lot of pleasure to them. When they see you and your family happy and that you are making the effort to visit them as much as you can, they will see that where you are is better for you and they will be more content with you staying where you are.
· Invite them to your country when possible and spend quality time together.
· Send gifts or extra support (if viable) above and beyond the obligatory financial support they may need. This will make them feel comfortable and a reminder of how much you love and care for them.
· Make du’a for them each night before bed (and any other time). This may also help with the sleeplessness and guilty feelings.
In this way, not only will you be fulfilling your obligations towards your parents, but also providing a lot of happiness to them.
FEELINGS OF GUILT AND SLEEPLESSNESS
Many of us will feel guilty for not always being able to do the everything right for our parents. The love and sacrifice of a parent is deeply felt in the child, and this is ingrained even through adulthood. For many, circumstances in life make it very difficult to create the ideal setup for everyone.
However, if you do the above, you should know that you are doing all that you can. It is not a clear cut or easy situation. It is test from Allah. During a test, it is how we deal with it and our intentions and actions that count. The result of that striving is only seen at the end. For now, be patient and work with balancing your parents needs and happiness where they are, alongside your own needs and that of your family’s, where you are. Remember the words of Allah, Most High, ‘On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear’ [2.286]
Before you go to sleep, recite the following supplication,
اللَّهُمَّ غَارَتِ النُّجُومُ وَهَدَأَتِ الْعُيُونُ وَأَنْتَ حَيٌّ قَيُّومٌ * لَا تَأْخُذُكَ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ يَا حَيُّ يَا قَيُّومُ أَهْدِئْ لَيْلِي وَأَنِمْ عَيْنِي
‘O Allah, the stars have receded and the eyes rested. You are Alive and Infinite, neither slumber or sleep overtakes You. Oh Alive and Everlasting One, grant me rest tonight and let my eyes sleep.’ [Hisnul Hasin]
Continue to be sincere and ask God to help you fulfill everyone’s right. You never know, the situation may change and a resolution found, insha’Allah.
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Away from the Islamic sciences, Jamir is a qualified homeopath and runs a private clinic in Amman.