September 24, 2019•5438 words
Parents are a big deal in the Qur'an.
I've been blessed by two wonderful parents. Obviously, over the years, completely out of it kinda parents, however, also over the years, unbelievably loving, resilient, strong, principled and all sorts of other amazing qualities type of parents.
I did a quick "keyword search" for
parents in the Monotheist Group's translation of the Qur'an and these were the verses that turned up.
I've added my own "commentary" below, and it represents my thoughts as of this morning. May God increase me in wisdom and practical good behaviour well before I check out from earth.
2:83: And We took the covenant of the Children of Israel: "You shall not serve except God, and do good to your parents, and regard the relatives, and the orphans, and the needy, and say kind things to the people, and hold the Connection, and contribute towards purification." But then you turned away, except for a few of you; you were objecting.
What's interesting for me here, and this pattern is repeated in other parts of the Qur'an, is that God says, I'm translating into English, "do not associate partners with me", and then, basically, "be good to your parents".
That's pretty astonishing.
4:7: For the men is a portion from what the parents and the relatives left behind, and for the women is a portion from what the parents and relatives left behind, be it little or much; a forced portion.
This is actually, "technically", a beautiful verse.
God is saying, when your folks pass on, make a deliberate effort to split what's left behind between men and women.
I'm seeing an "equity" message here. God goes into more detail elsewhere in the Qur'an, so I don't want to get too caught up with the split ratio just yet.
Assuming that I only saw this verse and had to make a decision. Then I would interpret it as
- Split the stuff between men and women
- Do it (aka forced portion, aka strongly recommended)
- Parity? If I saw just this verse, I might go with parity
- Feminists in the audience will say, duh... obviously (yay Qur'an)
4:11: God directs you regarding your children: "To the male shall be as that given to two females; however, if the women are more than two, then they will have two thirds of what is left behind; and if she is only one, then she will have one half. And to his parents, each one of them shall have one sixth of what is left behind, if he has a child. If he has no child, and his parents are the heirs, then to his mother is one third; and if he has siblings then to his mother is one sixth. All after a will is carried through or a debt. Your parents and your children, you do not know which are closer to you in benefit-an edict from God, for God is Knowledgeable, Wise."
This is the technical stuff.
If you're reading this carefully, you'll notice that this translation is saying, that God is saying, in English,
All after a will is carried through or a debt. That's super important to pay attention to. For me it is.
What's being said here is that write a will, and execute a will, implicit according to the will.
If you don't have a will, and many of us don't, then follow the split that God is recommending. It has an algebraic feel to it, however to me, there has got to be wisdom to this. I haven't explored that yet because the math here is not fun.
4:25: And whoever of you cannot afford to marry the emancipated female believers, then from those committed to by your oath of the believing young women. And God is more aware of your faith, some of you to each other. You shall marry them with the permission of their parents, and give them their dowries in kindness. To be emancipated-not for illicit sex or taking lovers. Once they are emancipated, then any of them who comes with an immorality shall have half of what is upon those already emancipated of the punishment. This is for those who fear a hardship from among you, but if you are patient it is better for you. And God is Forgiver, Merciful.
So you and a love interest are getting, lets say, ready to take it to the next level.
God is recommending "meet the parents", if the gal is not independent yet. Wait, not just any gal, "believing women", they're different. So if this youngish not yet independent believing gal is your love interest, then you're gonna need her parents permission.
There's obviously a lot more going on in this verse, however that's the "parents" bit as I understand it.
4:33: And for each We have made inheritors for what was left behind by the parents and the relatives. And those bound by your oath, you shall give them their portion. God is witness over all things.
God is reiterating, that what's left behind from parents must be split. There is no good kid winner takes all kinda thing going on here. That's just a straight and plain reading.
4:36: And serve God and do not set up anything with Him, and do good to the parents, and the relatives, and the orphans, and the needy, and the neighbor who is a relative, and the neighbor nearby, and the friend nearby, and the wayfarer, and those committed to by your oath. God does not love the arrogant, the boastful.
Again, for me, this is astonishing. At 37 I've only just begun to notice this in the Qur'an. The high pedestal upon which parents rest in God's sight.
Why is this so astonishing for me? Because you've seen pictures of dads in superman suits. They look ridiculous. You've seen old mums, and how sweet they look. The years they've lived on earth, the hardships they've experienced, the yum food they cook, all the hassles they deal with both from men, and ungrateful kids. Apparently the teen years are going to be fun for me. My daughter is just 3 and counting right now. In the west, apparently, the teen years are pretty wild. Speaking from experience, I was one of those privileged kids who was loved by their parents, and I was and probably am to some degree still a "privileged kid". So what God is doing here is so bizarre. God, the entity that props everything up is saying, essentially, after you do your duty to me, be good to mum and dad, and other folks in your family.
4:135: O you who believe, stand with justice as witnesses to God, even if against yourselves, or the parents or the relatives. Even if he be rich or poor, God is more worthy of them, so do not follow desire into being unjust. And if you twist or turn away, then God is Expert over what you do.
Check God out here. God is basically giving you the license to disobey your parents if it is for a just cause. You'll obviously want to work out for yourself what "justice" means given the context you're dealing with, however God is prompting you to be just and to be mindful of God.
I hope one day that my daughter will cite this verse to me, and I hope on that day I am mature enough to handle it wisely and decently, and if God wills, favourably to God and all parties dealing with whatever is going on at that time. I pray that I am not in some arrogant state and that my daughter and I are still well wishers and good influences to each other at that time.
6:151: Say: "Come let me recite what your Lord has forbidden for you: that you should not set up anything with Him; and do good to your parents; and do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for you and for them; and do not come near immorality, what is public of it and private; and do not kill the life, as God has forbidden this, except in justice. That is what He enjoined you that you may comprehend."
This is that pattern again. Be good to God first, then be good to mum and dad. It's fascinating.
Also note the do not kill your children for fear of poverty. Lately, I've been reading this as abortion. Believe me, I'm as left leaning as the other nutjob you come across in your life, and I've been a proponent of "pro-choice" for the longest time.
Lately however, I'm beginning to see the abortion issue in this verse.
I have a 3 year old. I'm so glad she's here. And I literally didn't do a thing to give her the colour of her eyes, the hair on her head, the energy that propels her, her "default settings" and baseline health pattern. Zero. Pure God's grace.
7:27: O Children of Adam, do not let the devil afflict you as he evicted your parents from the paradise; he removes from them their garments to show them their bodies. He and his tribe see you from where you do not see them. We have made the devils as allies for those who do not believe.
In our present world, circa 2019, pornography is rampant. I remember the first dirty mag I came across when I was in grade 7 or 8. Those "innocent days" are nothing like what's here today. And yes, regrettably, I've seen stuff, and it's frankly bonkers.
Note what God is saying, in this English translation, that the producers of nudity I guess, can see you where you do not see them.
People tend to think that if they turn on "Incognito mode" on their browser, that they're okay! Nope. I have been led to understand that this is naive and not the case. At the very least your ISP knows exactly where you've been from the logs they have. Obviously the website owners have some sense of the traffic hitting their servers. And if the tech budget is good, you can commission obscure tracking cookies that fingerprint you apparently.
Plus, "data", your personal data is routinely sold on the web. Google, in 2018 "bought", as in exchanged cash for data legally, to buy your MasterCard transactions. Your so-called offline purchases. They'll augment it with all the Googling you do, and yeah, they have a good sense of who you are and what you like, and so on. This is just a trivial uncontroversial example.
You might say, TOR browser is the answer. Bad news. Apparently there are like 5K nodes upon which the traffic is anonymized. Yeah, that's probably better than nothing, however 5K for Putin and Trump, and heck any motivated 3rd party with enough cash, can probably work out the 5K node traffic issue.
Point being: God is aware, God is also telling us to be aware of what we're dealing with.
Parents? Right. If you read the verses leading up to
7:27 you'll see a simple moral story. There's God, you'll see God asking and recommending that we conform to His words and advice, and we see the result of not doing so.
If people can't believe that this occurred, that's fine. Let them ponder the meaning of the tale.
12:99: So when they entered upon Joseph, he took his parents to him and he said: "Enter Egypt, God willing, in security."
12:100: And he raised his parents upon the throne, and they fell in prostration to Him. And he said: "My father, this is the interpretation of my vision from before. My Lord has made it true, and He has been good to me that he took me out of prison and brought you out of the wilderness after the devil had made bitterness between me and my brothers. My Lord is Kind to whom He wills. He is the Knowledgeable, the Wise."
The story of Joseph is pretty fascinating. I was thinking the other day about the scene where Joseph sends a towel or cloth or something and asks for it to be put onto his dad's face. And his dad's "blindness" is lifted.
The story of a dad, who cares for his sons, and this son in particular, is pretty poignant.
For one, the dad knows that his other kids are up to no good, however isn't sure. The dad is sure of God's grace.
This dad waits years and years, his kids' lives go through lots of ups and downs, and he goes blind or blind-ish, and then after everything is reunited with his son.
God cites many stories like this in the Qur'an. Indeed, the story of Moses is pretty fascinating like this. On the "parent" front, Moses' mum drops him into a river out of a feeling of inspiration from God. The tyrant of the day was killing babies, and this mum didn't want her kid to suffer the fate of other kids, and it took her a lot of courage to do what she did.
Parents go through lots of trials. Buckle up.
14:41: "Our Lord, forgive me and my parents, and the believers on the Day the reckoning is called."
God here is narrating what Abraham asked. In this chapter, one of the takeaways is there is a day of recompense. Those who live their lives on this "assumption" to use philosophical argument speak, are hopefully going to make good calls vis-a-vis the hands they've been dealt.
Abraham was one of these types of people.
Abraham was driven mad by the folks around him in his day.
There's a real sad scene recounted in the Qur'an about the time when Abraham was, I guess a little out of it, and Abraham begins speaking to the statues and expects an answer. No answer. Then he flips out and destroys a few of the statues.
Abraham as a dad, is also hit with lots of dreams of killing his kid. And he quite innocently talks to his kid about it. But then God intervened.
Abraham as a dad, indeed in this chapter
14:37, is said to have left his kids in a pretty harsh environment. Freaky stuff. And here Abraham asks God to provide real fruit to them so that they learn how to be grateful.
Abraham's story, like many other parents' stories in the Qur'an is fascinating.
The contexts are all situated in what we might think of as these Game of Thrones scenery, however, the issues they're confronting and how they're dealing with them are basically still present.
Therefore, seeking forgiveness from God for oneself and ones folks is something to do when we're feeling sincere about it.
17:23: And your Lord decreed that you shall not serve except He, and do good to your parents. Should one of them or both of them reach old age, do not say to them a word of disrespect nor shout at them, but say to them a kind saying.
It's so easy to take out your frustrations on your loved ones. They allow it by God's will for some reason. At any rate, this is plain good advice: neither shout nor disrespect your elderly mum and dad. That's not okay.
18:80: "And as for the boy, his parents were believers, so we were concerned that he would oppress them by his transgression and disbelief."
This passage in the Qur'an is quite fascinating. It's a little known story of Moses that folks who've read this chapter of the Qur'an know about.
Basically, Moses witnesses a murder, and is puzzled by it. The perpetrator of the murder has an interesting justification. See
18:82. The English translation suggests, that God says, that this guy who killed someone said, among other things, "And none of what I have done was of my own accord."
We have to be kidding ourselves to act as if we don't know what that means. Except, for this guy, these so-called higher level executive functioning decisions also happened, I guess inadvertently or automatically, without his volition. That's interesting to me.
Parents? Make your peace with your situation with your kids. Someone can kill them with justification, and if God wills, you'll have a kid who will be alive, helpful, respectful and loving to you if you live to be elderly. God decides.
19:14: And dutiful to his parents, and never was he a disobedient tyrant.
This is a verse from a beautiful passage about John.
Many trinitarian Christians don't know that John and others from Christian lore feature in the Qur'an. God is recounting in this passage a reminder of His mercy on Zechariah, whom God calls His servant.
John was a good kid, and from the sounds of it, a great kid to have.
27:19: He then smiled, amused by what she said. And he said: "My Lord, help me to be thankful for the blessings You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may do good works that pleases You, and admit me by Your mercy with Your righteous servants."
This is a fun "fairy tale" kind of story to us who think we've got it all down with GitHub and nodeJS, and nutrinos and quarks, and dark matter and whatever else we seem to take for granted. I've been immersed in the world wide web and related geek tribes, web developers and software makers, and so these ideas jump to mind.
The above passage however relates to Solomon. Yeah, that Solomon who is credited to have penned the book of Proverbs, and the Song of Songs.
This Solomon, according to God in the Qur'an, says that he was able to decipher what birds were saying, and indeed from
27:16 we can infer he was able to impart this knowledge to others.
Look, my dad was a veterinarian. I had a fair bit of exposure to "animals" growing up. In the west, we eat animals a lot, and folks who live in urban areas think that eating meat is a right, and forget they're live creatures who are born and raised and slaughtered, and then through our supply chain end up as beef jerky in plastic bags.
The world we inhabit is, in many ways, a lot stranger than the one Solomon inhabited.
All of this aside, parents? Solomon's prayer to God here is quite nice. It's actually awesome. This is something I need to cultivate in my practices, to acknowledge not just the good things that have happened to me, but also to thank God for the good things that have happened to my parents.
29:8: And We instructed the human being to be good to his parents. But if they strive to make you set up partners with Me, then do not obey them. To Me are all your destinies, and I will inform you of what you used to do.
There, God is giving you explicit permission to disobey your parents if they're getting in the way of you cultivating a relationship with God.
31:14: And We enjoined the human being regarding his parents. His mother bore him with hardship upon hardship, and his weaning takes two calendar years. You shall give thanks to Me, and to your parents. To Me is the final destiny.
This pattern again. Where God puts parents up there in regard. I cannot believe I'm 37 and seeing this pattern almost as if it's the first time I've come across this.
Not that I've been bad to my parents (I'm sure there are plenty of episodes of that nature), however, it's just that I never associated their function as so important that God explicitly draws our attention to this fact, that parents ought to be treated well by their kids.
In the west, people are led to believe that everyone has a choice and can opt to do anything they want. Sure, there's no contradiction of this type of thinking as it relates to the Qur'an. What is interesting however is that God is prompting those who are attending to His words in the Qur'an that parents and parenthood is a different ball game.
Something happens in his "parenthood" world that God is reminding us to attend to them. Adam may have been the first orphan and indeed, the first dad. And Adam's kids were borne by a mother. Adam didn't have a clue about the hardships.
God is saying here, God is aware of the hardships of bearing and raising kids, and is reminding us that our journey on earth is something to be grateful to God about, and, is something to be grateful to our parents about, and, that there's an important meeting coming up when we wake from our death.
The certainty with which God speaks about this meeting in the Qur'an is like waking up from sleep. When we fall into deep sleep, well..., it's lights out. Then, we wake up. Exact same pattern, except, this is meant to happen after we die. Try and get comfortable with this idea, it's entertaining at the very least. It's freaky too.
34:43: And when Our clear revelations were recited to them, they said: "This is but a man who wants to turn you away from what your parents were worshiping." And they also said: "This is nothing except a fabricated lie." And those who disbelieved say of the truth when it has come to them: "This is nothing except evident magic!"
God is warning in the Qur'an about the peer-pressure of "tradition", and of norms in society. God here is giving you the talking points of people you're going to confront sooner or later in your journey of trusting God.
The situation is as follows. You may decide to believe in God (for which there's "abundant proof"), and you might decide to believe in a day of recompense (for which there is only a promise, no peer-reviewed empirical evidence cited in the journal of Nature), and you may opt to do good deeds and behave in ways you think aligns with these beliefs.
When you do that, you may be in contexts where the folks around you just don't seem to be onboard with your "beliefs" about God, the day of recompense, and how you're implementing "good deeds". At this point, you might hear stuff like what's in
34:43, basically all sorts of reasons, some of which might be compelling to not follow what God has revealed in the Qur'an.
This passage goes on to highlight and equip you with talking points regarding how to respond to folks in this situation. I unfortunately haven't committed those suggestions to memory just yet. May God make it easy for those who believe.
But parents? Just because your parents do something a particular way, doesn't mean it's right. As a parent encourage your kids to question your practices. As kids, question your parents practices. Bottom line.
37:69: They had found their parents astray.
This verse is from a passage in the Qur'an that's frankly quite disturbing. It's graphic horror. And the beauty of the Qur'an for the western audience that just doesn't have a clue is this: they're words, and the "visuals" that imprint in your imagination when reading the passage are unique to you.
You can go all out Marvel (Disney really) and imagine all sorts of lucid imagery, or you can opt for something different. These are the words in the Qur'an, rendered in English, by human translators.
To some sensibilities, yeah, this is going to be revolting. To some sensibilities (I've seen a bunch of "goth" stuff on Tumblr) it might actually be intriguing, and to yet other sensibilities, it might be bananas so to speak.
With this context aside, parents? God is saying in this passage that some kids will see their parents "off mark" so to speak. What's implicit here is that these kids know what their parents are doing isn't right. Yet, these kids voluntarily opt to follow their parents and their practices.
These kids are going to be in hot water. Bad scene.
46:15: And We enjoined the human being to do good to his parents. His mother bore him with hardship, gave birth to him in hardship, and his bearing and weaning lasts thirty months. So that, when he has reached his independence, and he has reached forty years, he says: "My Lord, direct me to appreciate the blessings You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and to do good work that pleases You. And let my progeny be righteous. I have repented to You; I am of those who have submitted."
This is a beautiful verse. It's the infamous "mid-life crisis" point that many experience at this age. It's definitely an age of maturity. If you've made it to age 40, somewhat intact, it means there's a good chance you've seen plenty of stuff in the world.
You've seen plenty of good, and plenty of bad. You've probably learnt a thing or two about how your world operates. If you're a plumber, you know stuff about that, and if you're a banker, you know stuff about that. You probably have positions about lots of things in life, some of them are grounded in fact, and some are grounded in fiction.
In addition to all of this, God is showing us that some of us will have the good sense of knowing our fragile relationship with the world in relation to God. Some of us will have the presence of mind and humility to seek guidance from God, and most importantly, in this context, to opt to live more responsibly.
46:17: And the one who says to his parents: "Enough of you! Are you promising me that I will be resurrected, when the generations who died before me never came back?" While they both will implore God: "Woe to you; believe! For the promise of God is the truth." He would say: "This is nothing except tales of old!"
God juxtaposes the wise 40 year old with one who is not. In this verse God is saying you'll come across individuals who cannot accept that some "tales of old" might actually be fact. God is assuring however in
46:19 that these folks have had plenty of runway to evaluate the evidence set before them, and that the destiny that awaits them is deserved.
That's the hard part to confront about this passage, and indeed, in many places in the Qur'an. That our behavioural choices matter, and that they're going to have serious consequences, and that the pleasures that await some of us, and sorrows that await some of us, is deserved, as in, earned.
I used to be a Baptist Christian in my teen years. They were amazing in many ways. Indeed, I sang "Do Lord, O do Lord, do remember me..." and other jingles and hymns. However, I was led to realize that something wasn't right about "A God", aka Jesus according to trinitarian Christian belief, that basically forgives anything and everything in perpetuity. That's how I saw it practiced. There's a weird vibe in some trinitarian Christian circles that dilutes the practice of repentance to God.
What ends up happening in trinitarian Christian schools of thought is all the horrors articulated in the Qur'an seems completely absurd, yet in parallel, we live in societies with conspicuously documented horrors of destitution, animal cruelty, obvious power imbalance injustices, and the list goes on.
God is reminding us in this verse that, yes, some folks are just not going to accept the narrative of parents who urge their kid to believe in the promise of God that these parents happen to be knowledgeable of. And the characteristic of this type of kid (who is now in their 40s)? "Tales of old, see yah!"
58:22: You will not find any people who believe in God and the Last Day leaning towards those who oppose God and His messenger, even if they were their parents, or their children, or their siblings, or their kin. For these, He decrees faith into their hearts, and supports them with a Spirit from Him, and He admits them into estates with rivers flowing beneath them; abiding therein. God is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him. These are the party of God. Most assuredly, the party of God are the winners.
Again, folks in the west who know very little about the Qur'an freak out with verses like this.
So lets break this down a bit.
What God is saying here is, when someone gets that God is real, and that this "Last Day" is a real thing, these individuals disengage, and don't enable whoever is getting in the way and attempting to obstruct "God and His messenger"; independent of relationship status.
The related verse is
The irony is, be with the Kumbaya crowd in the non-pejorative sense. Put more plainly: beware people who mock God. There is nuance to this "leaning towards" part of the verse.
God goes on to assert that it is God who strengthens someone's faith, and leads these individuals to a pretty sweet deal. God is also saying there's a mutual admiration kind of thing going on between God and these types of individuals.
Now, if you're a western English speaking reader, you might find the Song of Songs super interesting in this regard. One reading of Solomon's Song of Songs, and it cannot be too controversial is that Solomon is infatuated and sort of intoxicated with God. Indeed, the song is credited to have been authored by one person, Solomon, so it's plausible those are one individual's thoughts start to finish.
So what? Well for me, I see it as Solomon appreciating the dual nature of God, the masculine and feminine, and you have Solomon grappling with that problem as he's trying to convince others of who this "God" entity is. Of course, it's one of many interpretations.
The reason I favour this reading of the Song of Songs is because it's very Rumi'esque, and indeed, if you sample the works of scholars like Al Ghazali, you're bound to come across this mysticism that has a similar quality.
Point? As it relates to parents, beware leaning towards and enabling opposition to God and the messenger conveying God's messages. Which also means you citing the Qur'an to them. Every verse was uttered by both God and Muhammad. Guaranteed.
71:28: "My Lord, forgive me, and my parents, and whoever enters my home as a believer, and the believing males, and the believing females; and do not increase the wicked except in destruction."
God is recounting the plea of Noah.
The story of Noah is pretty freaky in many ways as it is revealed in the Qur'an.
For one, he lived for an inordinately long amount of time of earth. You're going to have to Google the weird physics of lifespan on this file, and arrive at your own conclusion.
For me the story of Noah is also interesting as a veterinarian's son. I wouldn't know the first thing about dealing with an ox for example. My dad does, and not just oxen. I've heard plenty of stories about plenty of different types of animals. Noah was kind of like a vet back in his day.
It takes time to understand animals, and heck, coax them to cooperate with you. Noah had to do that.
What's worse? He had to do that in his old age. It was like a second or third career of sorts. He went from preacher and teacher to boat builder and veterinarian. The thought experiment here is, yikes, imagine being in Noah's shoes? Nope.
So anyway, like Abraham, and others that God cites in the Qur'an, Noah also prays for his parents' wellbeing as it relates to God.
God is basically saying, all of this is going to be worth your while. Chapter 55 of the Qur'an expands on the perks.