Walking outside this past weekend, I realized we are indeed in the midst of spring. The trees, no longer bare, boast several bright green leaves, the colorful tulips are in full bloom, and the sun’s warmth kisses the skin in a way unlike any other time of year. Swinging hand-in-hand with spring in the United States is of course Mother’s Day, a single Sunday dedicated to appreciating moms. Buy her a beautiful spring bouquet, an engraved charm bracelet, or any other gift advertised on the pastel-colored print and digital catalogue pages of each and every department store this time of year.
While the celebration of Mother’s Day varies from one Muslim family to another, with some celebrating it full-swing and others overlooking it all together, something that all will agree on is that Islam mandates the honor and respect of mothers. Below are four examples that show just how highly mothers are held in the Muslim faith.
1. Your Mother, Your Mother, Your Mother
A very famous narration from the Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) reads as follows: A person came to Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) and asked, “Who among people is most deserving of my fine treatment?” He (blessings and peace be upon him) said, “Your mother.” He again asked, “Who next?” “Your mother,” the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) replied again. He asked, “Who next?” He (the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him)) said again, “Your mother.” “Then who?” Thereupon he (blessings and peace be upon him) said, “Then your father” (Bukhari).
The mother is emphasized here three times before the father’s name is even mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him). Across time, fathers are often given all the credit and an unfortunate stereotype is that Muslim fathers are overbearing and totally control very timid and quiet mothers. However, this narration shows that the mother is supposed to be given even kinder treatment than the father. Her role is not one to be downplayed by any means.
2. Where Paradise Lies
Another popular teaching in Islam is the fact that Paradise lies beneath the feet of your mother. The Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) told one of his Companions: “Paradise is beneath [your mother’s] feet.” What is one to do with this information? Care for her, for your treating her with kindness and patience may just be your ticket to Paradise.
3. Hidden Comforts
Mothers go through a tremendous amount of physical, emotional, and mental challenges when they bear children. Islam recognizes this and mothers are reminded that none of this is in vain; rather, it is a means for one’s rank to be raised when she endures the hardships patiently.
A Companion named Anas bin Malik narrates from Salamah, wife of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), that her husband said, “Will one of you not be content [to know] that when she is pregnant by her husband and he is happy with her, she gets the same reward as one who is fasting the day and praying the night in the path of God? [That] when she has labor pains, those who are in the heaven and the earth do not know what comfort has been hidden in store for [her]? [And that] when she delivers the child, for every sucking that child does, she has a good deed [added to her reckoning]? [And that] when the child causes her to wake in the night, she gets the reward [the equal of] of freeing seventy slaves in the path of God? Salamah, do you know, who I mean by this great reward? It is for those women who are pure, righteous, obedient to their husbands and never ungrateful to them” (Ma’rifat al-Sahabah V. 253).
4. Not Even “Ugh”
Respect to elders, and specifically parents, is greatly emphasized in Islam. In the Quran, it is said to not talk back to your parents even in the slightest way: “And honor your parents. If one or both of them reach old age in your care, never say to them [even] ‘ugh,’ nor yell at them. Rather, address them respectfully” (Quran 17:23).
It is an unfortunate reality that many of us are quickest to lose our cool and snap at those whom we are around and love most. This verse reminds us to always treat our parents with kindness, and do not talk badly to them or even express disrespectful frustration.
5. Honor Them, No Matter What
It must be acknowledged that not every person has a mother who treated them in the best of ways. The reality is abusive parents exist. Islam is not blind to this reality. However, Muslims are taught to still maintain a level of honor for even these parents, but when they pressure you to do wrong, you respectfully disobey.
The Quran says, “And We have commanded people to [honor] their parents. Their mothers bore them through hardship upon hardship, and their weaning takes two years. So be grateful to Me and your parents. To Me is the final return. But if they pressure you to associate with Me what you have no knowledge of, do not obey them. Still keep their company in this world courteously, and follow the way of those who turn to Me [in devotion]. Then to Me you will [all] return, and then I will inform you of what you used to do” (Quran 31:14-15).
This Mother’s Day—and every day—know that Muslim mothers are held in the highest regard, treated with the greatest respect, and looked after with the utmost care whether or not their families celebrate the spring holiday in the traditional American way.