Character Development through Prayer and Dutifulness

Muslim child making dua to Allah

In the rich tapestry of Islamic ethics, two aspects stand out for their profound impact on the believer’s life: the importance of prayer and the significance of being dutiful to parents. These aspects are not just religious obligations but pathways to a deeper understanding of the essence of tarbiyah (cultivation) to nurture and form the Islamic shaksiyah (personality).

Salah (prayer) is more than a ritual; it’s a manifestation of devotion and a barometer of a believer’s emaan. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) emphasised its importance, placing it at the top of deeds beloved to Allah. Abdullah ibn Mas’ood reported:

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The most beloved actions to Allah are three: Prayer at its time, dutifulness to parents, and Jihad in the way of Allah.” (Muslim)

Yet, the contemporary Muslim world often witnesses a lax attitude towards this pillar, with many delaying or neglecting prayers, contributing to a spiritual decline. The Prophet’s guidance to pray on time, preferably at the beginning of its time, is a reminder of the need to rekindle this fundamental practice. 

The above hadith prioritises the need to safeguard one’s salah alongside the importance of being dutiful to one’s parents, or ‘birr al-walidayn,’, something deeply embedded in Islamic teachings. The Quran frequently associates this duty with the worship of Allah, highlighting its significance:

“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], ‘uff,’ and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small.'” Surah Al-Isra (17:23-24)

This duty towards parents extends beyond mere obligation; it encompasses a spectrum of kindness, respect, and care. Sadly, in Western education models of schooling, very little emphasis or next to none can be found in fulfilling the rights and obligations of parents. In the absence of a sound divine authority to instruct and regulate worldly matters (e.g. social, economic, political, environmental etc.), many rights and responsibilities are abandoned, eventually leading to societal disorder. Education becomes a ‘playground’ for policy makers in a system that will enable the few elitists to maintain control of the majority.

Islamic education is the only system that genuinely works towards a just and fair balanced society, beginning with those who have the most right upon others. After Allah (the Most High) and the Prophet (peace be upon him), Islamic tradition holds the mother in particularly high esteem, as evidenced by the Prophet’s advice to a companion, emphasising the mother’s rights three times before mentioning the father. Abu Huraira reported that a person came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and said:

“Who amongst the people is most deserving of my fine treatment?” He said: “Your mother.” He again said: “Then who?” He said: “Again, your mother.” He said: “Then who?” He said: “Again, your mother.” He again said: “Then who?” Thereupon he said: “Then your father.” (Bukhari)

This prioritisation is rooted in the mother’s sacrifices, from enduring the pains of childbirth to the years of nurturing and caring for her child. The mother endures physical and emotional challenges, from pregnancy to the sleepless nights of early parenthood. Her love remains unwavering, regardless of her child’s successes or failures, making her deserving of utmost respect and kindness. This is starkly contrasted with the father’s role, often perceived as more authoritative and less emotionally involved.

While the mother’s role is accentuated in terms of emotional support and sacrifice, the father’s role in Islamic teaching is equally crucial. He is often seen as the family’s provider and protector, deserving of respect and obedience. Narrated by Abu Usaid Malik ibn Rabiah As-Sa’idi: 

“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “He who wishes to enter paradise at the best gate must please his father.”” (Sunan Abu Dawood)

The balance between the mother’s nurturing and the father’s authority is a unique aspect of Islamic family dynamics, emphasizing the importance of both parents in a child’s life.

The companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) exemplified the highest standards of parental respect. Their interactions with parents were marked by humility, soft speech and lowering one’s voice, and avoidance of direct eye contact during disagreements, reflecting deep reverence. 

Prayer and dutifulness to parents are not mere rituals but pathways to spiritual growth and societal harmony – a clear objective missing from the state schooling programmes, whilst a priority as part of an Islamic Education curriculum. By understanding and implementing these teachings, Muslims can cultivate a deeper connection with their Creator and foster a community built on respect, compassion, and piety.

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