A man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and asked:
Oh! Messenger of Allah, now that my parents are dead, is there any act of dutifulness left for me to do towards them? The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) answered, “Yes, there are four things; supplication for them, praying that they are forgiven, fulfillment of their wills, being kind to their friends and maintaining good relations with those of your relatives with whom your kinship is established only through them.” (Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah)
The best du`aa’ one can get is that by satisfied parents to their dutiful children. Allah may defer answering their prayer, though He will definitely answer it. But does the same apply when a child supplicates for his parents? Will his du`aa’ get answered too? The answer is a most definitely “yes”. Allah orders us in the Qur’an to pray (make du`aa’) for our parents, in these terms,
(And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little. ) (Al-Israa’ 17:24)
Almighty Allah would not have told us to pray Him for our parents if our prayers were not beneficial to them. Our supplication on their behalf, however, benefits us as well. It is a mark of being dutiful, and Allah rewards the dutiful child. In other words, when we pray Allah to be kind to our parents, to have mercy on them and to forgive them, He credits us with a good deed for being dutiful and He answers our prayer bestowing mercy on our parents.
Hence, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who has taught us every good thing tells us to conclude our formal prayers, whether voluntary or obligatory, with a supplication for our parents. Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an,
(…O my Lord! Have compassion on them, as they brought me up (when I was ) little) (Al-Israa’ 17:24)
Thus, thinking of one’s parents and remembering their kindness and love to us when we were young, making du`aa’ for them in obligatory and voluntary prayer becomes intertwined with worship. It can help our parents attain a higher position in their relation with Almighty Allah during their life and even after death.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) mentions this specifically in a hadith related by Muslim, An-Nassaie, Abu Dawood, as well as Al-Bukhari in “Al-Adab Al-Mufrad” on the authority of Abu Hurairah,
“When a person dies, his actions come to an end, except in one of three ways: a continuing act of charity, (sadaqah), a useful contribution to knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him .”
Although this hadith has been quoted in “Al-Adab Al-Mufrad” which is considered of a slightly lesser degree of authenticity than Al-Bukhari’s compilation of highly authenticated hadiths, known as the “Sahih”, the following hadith also reinforces it:
“The rank of a dead person may be raised after his death. He asks; My Lord, how does this come about? He is then told: Your child has prayed for your forgiveness. ” (Related by Ibn Majah and Malik)
These two hadiths need no comment. A child who does not pray Allah for his parents, particularly, after their death, when he knows that his supplication on their behalf benefits them and him also, is either undutiful or lacking faith.
A Role Model for Dutifulness
Again in this respect, the whole question is about debt repayment. When my children notice that I supplicate to Allah for my parents and ask Him to have mercy on them, they will supplicate on my behalf when I am dead. In the same way, if they see me treat them as dutiful child should treat his parents, it is likely that they will treat me in the same way.
If they realize that I am undutiful, (May Allah forbids), the likelihood of them being undutiful to me is very high indeed. A dutiful child is to walk along the path which leads to the benefit of oneself, one’s parents and one’s children. Given this, only a loser can be undutiful.
When one’s parents are alive, their presence may be a great motivator for their son or daughter to be dutiful. When they die, we tend to think that we fully fulfill our duty towards them by praying for them. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) teaches us that there are other ways in which we prove our dutifulness. The emphasis the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) puts on kindness to parents motivated his companions to be exemplary in their treatment of their parents.
We lose nothing by treating our parents’ friends with respect and kindness. Indeed we gain a great deal…
They frequently came to him with questions exploring every way which might grant them greater reward.They (may Allah be pleased with them all) were very keen to do their best to please their parents even after their death and the previous hadith clearly shows this.
Towards Widening The Term
It may be useful to point out that family relationships may be established through breast-feeding, marriage and birth. If a child is breast-fed by a woman who is a stranger to him/her, he/she becomes related to her in the same way as his/her own mother.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also explains to us a higher standard of being a dutiful child. While everyone appreciates the first two of these four actions “…supplication for them, praying that they are forgiven, fulfillment of their wills …” the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) mentions that the last two are not so easily appreciated “…being kind to their friends and maintaining good relations with those of your relatives with whom your kinship is established only through them . ”
Someone may say: what claim can my father’s friends have on me when our ways hardly meet? I may have nothing to do with them. Their way of thinking may be very different from mine. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) emphasizes this point as an evidence of good upbringing, good personality and dutifulness. We lose nothing by treating our parents’ friends with respect and kindness. Indeed we gain a great deal as our reputation in our society is greatly enhanced.
Abdullah Ibn `Umar, who is highly renowned as one of the best scholars among the Prophet’s Companions, was traveling with a group of people when he met a Bedouin who had been a friend of his father. The Bedouin asked him: “Are you not `Umar’s son?” He answered in the affirmative. Ibn `Umar then gave the Bedouin his own donkey and took his turban off his head and gave it to the man. Some of his companions remarked that a couple of dirhams (the silver coin of that time) would have been adequate, since Bedouins did not expect much.
Ibn `Umar told them that the Prophet said,
“Maintain your father’s friendly ties. Do not sever them lest Allah should put out your light.” (Muslim)