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Articles Section > The Generation Gap [Part 4 of 5] by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui Sahib

The Generation Gap -- Part 4 of 5:
by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui Sahib
The Light (July 1, 1976)

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Also Read Parts: || 1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 ||

[Readers are requested to read, if they have not done so already, the previous three instalments of this article] 

I have heard many young men say, "Our parents brought us into this world in having their sexual fun: so it was incumbent upon them to look after us. What special favour have they then done to us?" It would have been better if such unworthy children had not been brought into this world. So far as sexual satisfaction is concerned, it would have been had without incurring the life-long liability to bear and rear the children. What suffering and sacrifice the mother goes through to bring a child into this world is well known. And what the father undergoes, in the way of life-long expenditure and liabilities, not to speak of the burdens of care and anxiety, is also well known. All this to bring an ungrateful (and later rebellious) child into this world is enough favour. But consider what happens afterwards. 

Responsibility or Favours?

If bringing up was the responsibility of the parents, they could have discharged it through somebody else or an orphanage. Why should they have denied themselves everything of this life to bring up such an unappreciative child? Why should they have given so much love, affection, tenderness and everything they possess in the way of money and time, and denied themselves a comfortable and luxurious life, to provide comfort and luxuries to their children? Why should they, if the need arises, sacrifice their own lives gladly to save the lives of their children? 

So that what the parents do, is much beyond the call of any responsibility that may fall upon them. It is overwhelming favours next only to Allah’s favours. The Holy Qur’an says: "Is the return for favours anything but favours?" (55:60). That is why. It requires the children, in the verse I quoted in the earlier parts of this article (17:23), to do goodness and favours to their parents as they did to them. 

Expenditure on Parents: 

The modern youth say: "We can hardly live in what we earn. How can we keep our parents with us and incur the resulting expenses?" I say to them: " When you were living with your parents, did they ever consider for a minute that you were a liability on them? Did they not make extreme financial sacrifices even to the extent of taking loans, to finance your upbringing and well being? Did they not go without food, clothes or their own much needed medicines or comforts to provide your needs? Then why do you think of the financial burden (mostly of food or medical treatment when the parents are ill) of keeping your parents with you? Can there be any greater ingratitude than your attitude?" 

Why Should Parents be Kept with Us? 

The modern youth say, "Very well, we will give our parents some money to live on. But let them stay separately." In pursuance of that thinking, in Europe and America there are old people’s, homes or hostels, where they are kept on payment. 

But I ask those intolerant youth who think on these lines, "Did your parents ever think of putting you in an orphanage or any place other than their homes, unless it was for your own good that you should stay in a hostel? Their motive always was your good, not their convenience. Then why do you throw your parents into an old people’s home or insist that they live separately, for your own convenience?" 

In the old people’s homes, there is no affection or care or even companionship with one’s near and dear ones. In the world famous Readers Digest I once read letters from old parents living in such homes. They said that if their grown-up children had put them in such commercially run homes they were reconciled to their lot (look at their unselfishness!). But their children should be so good as to visit them periodically or occasionally. If they cannot even visit them, they said, they should at least write to them so that they know that they are well. 

No Visits, Not Even Letters:

But it does not happen like that. Life in modern times has become so busy, in the West today, in the East tomorrow, that it is difficult to take time off to visit people not needed, nor necessary for your profit, like old parents; nor can people find the time to write letters to them. But the real reason for such neglect is the selfishness and hard-heartedness, which makes the younger generation, put its old parents in such homes in the first instance. 

If the parents are living with you, they can see you or talk to you during such time as you spend at home. That is sufficient for their dear hearts, which hunger for the love and affection of their children. In old people’s homes, or living alone, the old parents are not only broken-hearted, but they begin to suffer from depressions, melancholia, and other mental derangements. Some of them put an end to their own lives, because they feel that they are no longer wanted and are a burden on their ungrateful children, or because they suffer from depressions, melancholia, etc. 

It was also reported that in such old people’s homes, if the old parents fall ill, which they frequently do, they do not get adequate medical attention or care or nursing. Nor can they get special food, which they need because of their failing digestions or their physical deficiencies, even if they are not ill. 

Younger Generation’s Attitude: 

The trouble is that the younger generation also dislikes having old people in failing health around it. But may I remind these youth that when they themselves needed looking after, when they were weak or sick, their parents used to leave no stone unturned and spared no effort, nor their own comfort or money, to look after them. No doctor or medicine was too expensive, no special food too costly, no nursing impossible, which they did procure or provide whatever the consequences to their resources or their own health. They kept awake at nights, after a long day of worry and effort, after a strenuous day in office, to look after you. And all this was done most willingly and gladly. Can there then be any more heartless ingratitude than that of the grown-up children who would not mind if their parents suffer alone when they are weak and frail in body and mind, and cannot look after themselves, but they (the grownup children) would not like to spoil their own pleasure or comfort? 

Live Separately:

In our country, we have not yet got old people’s homes. So a few youth, who are more generous than most, are prepared to give some money to their parents provided they live separately, even their lonely widowed mother, within my knowledge! However, these young people do not realise what hell they compel the old parents to live in. 

Firstly, houses or flats are now very expensive. So how can old parents, who either have no income of their own or have at the most a pension, afford them? Even if they have a roof of their own, how can they afford to keep servants or even one servant, whose assistance they need badly in their old age and failing health? The servants are now very expensive, and soon they will not be available at all except to the very rich. Such servants as can be had are no more honest, by and large. Cheating in the daily shopping they do is almost universal. And now it is quite common for them to take advantage of the old age, infirmity or other disabilities of the old master or mistress to rob them and decamp with the loot. They even kill the old master or mistress before ransacking the house so that there is no witness left to guide the police. 

The Trump Card:

The younger generation now plays its trump card. If the servants are becoming scarce, they ask, do you want us to serve as servants to the old parents when we can hardly manage ourselves without servants? My answer is, "Yes. When you were infants or children, did not your parents serve you as servants? Unlike the present day servants, did they ask for fixed hours of duty, weekly off-day and one month’s paid leave every year, that is stretched to the extent the servant pleases. Where there is no water-borne sanitary system, even the present day Bhangis (scavengers) refuse to clean the latrines. But your parents performed even such obnoxious duties for you without hesitation. They would take your vomit on their hands, and wash your dirty person and dirty clothes. Then why do you cavil at serving your parents when they are in their own second childhood?" 

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said wonderfully wise things. He has called service of the parents as a Jihad or a struggle. It is really a struggle for the children against their own bloated egos. They have to struggle with their arrogant selfishness to serve their parents. 

Other Considerations:

The servant problem or the high cost of living is not the only factor weighing against parents living by themselves in their old age. There are several other considerations. It is becoming impossible for a person on pension to buy or maintain a car these days. Even if they have cars in their old age or poor health, the parents may not be able to drive themselves. Can they afford a chauffeur? Do you then expect them to stand in queues for a bus or wander in search of a taxi/yellow-cab/rickshaw? Or do you want them to foot it in their frail, tottering condition?

"But we can’t afford a driver either, and drive ourselves. Do you want us to act as our parents’ driver or to find time or spare the car for them, when we need it ourselves?" they ask. My answer is, "Yes. Didn’t your parents do that for you willingly?"

Burglaries, robberies, murders and similar other crimes are now growing appallingly throughout the world. Do you want to expose your parents living alone to these grave dangers? Did they expose you to them for the sake of their own comfort and convenience? 

Taxes are now multiplying throughout the world. Young people in business or service, who have subordinate staff to employ for paying these taxes, do not realise what a nuisance it is to pay them. You have to queue up outside an office, bank or post office. And if you are over-assessed, you have to go from pillar to post to get them reduced. Do you feel no compunction in exposing your old parents to these worries and impossible exertions by making them live separately? Would they have even thought of it when you were weak and frail? 

I could go on giving reasons after reasons in support of the Quranic injunction that when your parents, one or both, grow old they must live with you (17:23). But I must now conclude this part of the Divine commandment. 

Kind Words: 

The next verse is, "Do not say ‘Fie’ to them, nor chide them and speak to them kindly and respectfully" (17:23). That the teenagers are rude to their parents even when living with them and sponging upon them for all their needs and extravagances is well known. But if the parents are thrown upon the grown-up children's mercy or hospitality, the position gets much worse. The son or his wife vents her resentment over the old parents living with them by being rude to them most of the time. This breaks their heart and they sometimes leave even if living separately has all the discomforts and pain described above. The old parents are hungry only for love and affection in their last days, and nothing pleases them more than a kind and respectful word from you. Give them that, a small return for life-long love, affection and endearing words, which your parents gave you. 

Bird’s Wing: 

Next, the Holy Qur’an uses a curious metaphor when it says: "And lower to them [the parents] the wing of humility out of mercy" (17:24). The Arabic word "jinah" means a bird’s wing. Why has this metaphor been used? A little reflection shows what a wonderful book the Holy Qur’an is. In the case of all forms of animal life, the young one after birth soon gets up on its feet and can walk about. However, it does not desert its parents. The only exceptions are the birds. Their young ones, after being hatched, cannot fly because they have no wings. So they sit in their nests with their mouths wide open clamouring for food whenever they see their parents. And the poor parents have to search all day for food for their hungry young ones. However, the moment the latter get the wings, they fly off and away, thus deserting their parents. The Sublime Qur’an says to the young ones of human beings, "Don’t behave like young birds and desert your parents the moment you are able to do so, but keep them with you as already directed." 

Prayer for Parents: 

The next injunction in the Holy Qur’an is, "And say: My Lord, have mercy on them [my parents] as they brought me up (when I was) little" (17:24). In other words, the children can never fully repay the kindness and favours of their parents. There is only One Being Who not only appreciates them fully but is Omnipotent and All Resourceful so that He can repay them adequately. Beseech Him for merciful treatment of your parents, as they were merciful to you throughout life. Also, remember, if you happen to know it, how your parents prayed for you day and night and wept their hearts out for you, particularly when you were in the slightest trouble. You should not also forget them in your prayers. And if they are dead, which often is the case, then they are in the Hands of Allah. 

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) gave us this prayer in the following form: "O Allah! Forgive me and my parents and have mercy on them as they brought me up when I was young." What deep insight the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had in matters spiritual! The biggest obstacle in the way of a prayer being accepted is the sinfulness of the person praying. Therefore, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) taught us first to seek forgiveness for our own sins. The next obstacle can be the possible sins of the parents. Therefore, their forgiveness is next sought. And we are taught to beseech the Merciful Providence that as our parents over-looked and forgave our weaknesses and faults, and overwhelmed us with their love and favours because of their mercy for us, thou may also be pleased to treat them in the same way of forgiveness and unlimited favours, out of Thine much greater mercy. 

The Promised Messiah (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib of Qadian) has written that after a person is dead only two things of this world can reach him or her: 

(1) Any on-going charity that he or she may have left behind, and 

(2) prayer for the deceased. 

Therefore, we can make amends for all our defaults in serving our parents by praying for them or by setting up a charity in their name. 

A Secret Exposed: 

The last part of the verses I quoted say: "Your Lord knows best what is in your minds. If you are self-correcting, He is surely forgiving to those who turn (to Him)" (17:25). What a wonderful insight this verse gives into one’s innermost recesses of the heart! However much may the children outwardly respect, or treat well, their parents, they cannot help feeling in most cases some inner resentment or anger or revolt against their parents for what they do or say to them even if it is for their good. So the Holy Qur’an says: Do not let even these inner reactions stay in your breasts. If you do, sooner or later they may burst out into open disrespect or ill-treatment. These reactions within you are due to your selfishness, short-temper, lack of broadmindedness, etc. So seek the purification of your inner soul by removing these inner reactions and seek Allah’s help for this purpose. He will accede to your prayers if you turn to Him whenever such reactions occur. 

The End: 

One could go on enlarging on the sublime wisdom of the Holy Qur’an, but I do not wish to tire my readers. So I end with the prayer that the Merciful Providence may enable me and my readers to benefit fully from the sublime guidance He has graciously given us, before our time is over.


Please read part 5 of 5 of this article, too.

Also Read Parts: || 1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 ||


Articles Section > The Generation Gap [Part 4 of 5] by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui Sahib


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