Saturday, June 17, 2017

Be kind to parents, enjoins the Quran

How many of us Malaysians, both Muslim and non-Muslim, can say that we have heard about what the Quran and the Prophet say about our responsibility to our parents in most of the national discourse concerning Islam? 
In the past few decades, the national discourse about Islam by “Islamic” political parties and some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has been about so-called criminal laws in Islam which the scholars choose to call as “hudud”. Granted there are a few criminal penalties that have been mentioned in the Quran. Sadly however, many other injunctions and commandments in the Quran that not only have a universal appeal but actually improve the quality of life of all human beings, both Muslim and non-Muslim, are hardly highlighted. 
With respect, the public may misperceive that only the enactment and implementation of these “hudud” punishments is what makes up an “Islamic” society. This cannot be so as the concept of Islamic justice is much more than that and goes beyond secular understanding of “criminal justice”. There are greater noble ideas of social, natural, economic and “human” justice in the Quran.
How much of justice have we done for the aged, the senior citizens, single mothers and the neglected parents in our society? Would it not be refreshing for Malaysians if some Islamist NGOs or political parties canvass these issues in the name of “Islamic mercy”?
Malaysia has long left being a dominant agricultural country. We have moved into modernised living and the functioning of the family unit as we knew many decades ago has considerably altered. The nature of economic activities that citizens indulge in has changed, cost of living has gone up and in turn family values too have changed. In fact, the occupational circumstances of our capitalist economy bring forth realistic challenges to take care of parents especially those who require constant care and attention.
If we were to honestly appraise the development of our towns, cities, buildings and roads, can we say that we have made it user-friendly to the older folks? I humbly state that much of our town planning and construction efforts, whether residential or commercial, does not express the compassion factor the Quran repeatedly emphasises. Even in China you can find parks and places specially built for senior citizens to mingle and exercise. 
Our economy is very much biased towards the youth and in the process, the value of senior citizens has diminished. I am afraid that our national policymakers have not given proper attention to the maintenance of the family unit, especially the care and respect for senior citizens and parents. 
We have simply left it to the individuals and communities to sort it out according to their own values. However, this overlooks the fact that drastic transformation of the economy has changed our values. The State has a duty to balance this anomaly because much of the economic and social changes are brought about by the State’s approval and many times, by its designs.
The Quran explicitly places great importance of being good to parents. In fact in surah Al Baqarah verse 83 (Quran 2:83), the Quran says, among other things, “worship none save Allah and be good to parents”. 
There are many other verses in the Quran with the same theme of being kind and caring of one’s parents. Furthermore, the Quran in many instances also appeals to logic as to why we have to be kind to them. One reason being that it was our parents that have taken care of us and dedicated parts of their life to raise us. 
While the Quran speaks of kindness to both parents, it gives special attention to mothers. Every time I read these verses, I ask myself: What have we done for the single mothers who are fated to live the life they never chose? Why are the Islamist political parties and contemporary Muslim scholars not championing their plight? 
When parents reach old age, this presents the greatest opportunity to the Muslim to care for his parents to earn the pleasure of Allah (Quran 17: 23-24). 
Muslims are reminded that parents have a right over their children for care and love as they have been showered with when they were children. The love, care and respect for parents specifically and aged citizens generally ought to be evolved into a natural, national value until it becomes a norm. 
It is with shame that I see many parts of England are more senior citizen-friendly than Malaysian economic development! And yet, political Islamists unashamedly keep giving sermons on the “mercy of Allah” while not choosing to champion the same injunctions in the Quran.
I do hope that Islamists will be in the forefront to champion the cause of senior citizens’ care and push for legislation and State assistance for children who are unable to provide for their parents. These are the good things that I want political parties that claim to represent Islam to do. 
I can understand the challenges, financial, psychological and physical, faced by children who have to care for their aged parents. I have a sister who has been caring for my very old mother for years and I simply am moved by her love, patience and dedication. 
However, I also know some children who are unable to do so or cannot provide the quality care due to various constraints. I urge the contemporary Islamic scholars to debate on how best the individual citizen together with the State can provide for quality care for old folks and parents. 
If there is a need for legislation and policies to be made, then it needs to be done if we call ourselves a caring society, what more some claim that we are an “Islamic State”.  
I believe such a move, even in the name of Islam will be supported by the non-Muslims as it will provide benefit to all, irrespective of religious differences.
* Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement which encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.
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