The Importance of the Mother in Islam

Yesterday, many parts of the world celebrated Mother’s Day, focusing on mothers and their contributions to their families. Since there is a negative stereotype of how Islam views women, many people may not know that mothers specifically and parents in general are held in very high esteem in the faith. There are verses in the Qur’an and hadith that emphasize the burdens that a mother carries and the respect that should be accorded to her. In this post, I will focus on the importance of mothers in Islam.

The verses of the Qur’an that address the mother emphasize the difficulties of pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding and the need to respect one’s mother. These verses many times mention parents in general but go into detail in regard to the mother because she faces challenges that a father does not. Verse 15 from chapter 46 illustrates this point.

And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months. [He grows] until, when he reaches maturity and reaches [the age of] forty years, he says, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You will approve and make righteous for me my offspring. Indeed, I have repented to You, and indeed, I am of the Muslims.

This verse begins with a command for both parents, but goes into detail in regards to the mother and the difficulties she endures. The command to treat parents with kindness means to treat them with respect under all circumstances, to obey them unless it goes against an edict of the faith, and to care for them in old age as they cared for you as a child.

How a Muslim should treat their parents, especially the mother, is further underscored in the hadith. There are many instances that the Prophet Muhammad commanded believers to respect their mothers. Here are a few examples:

A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet (PBUH) said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim)

A man once consulted the Prophet Muhammad about taking part in a military campaign. The Prophet asked the man if his mother was still living. When told that she was alive, the Prophet said: “(Then) stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

On another occasion, the Prophet said: “God has forbidden for you to be undutiful to your mothers.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

In the first hadith, the Prophet highlights the importance of the mother over the father by repeating “your mother” three times and then saying “your father” once in response to the man’s question. The second hadith illustrates the significance of the mother by placing caring for her over going to war to defend Islam. In other words, caring for his mother is also a way for a man to serve God. By saying that entrance into paradise is linked to caring for and respecting a mother, the Prophet accords them a great honor. In the last hadith, the Prophet asserts that disobedience of mothers is a sin.

All the verses and hadith on mothers demonstrate the importance of this figure in Islam. They also show that the mother is accorded a higher honor than even the father because of all the responsibilities she has towards her child. The Prophet never saw his father because he died before his birth and he lost his mother when he was six years old. Yet many hadith show that he understood the importance of one’s parents, especially the mother. Many Muslims will say that Islam emphasizes the importance of the mother so much that Mother’s Day is not one day a year but should be everyday.

Did you know how mothers are viewed in Islam? Does this position on mothers challenge the negative stereotype of women in Islam? Why do you think that mothers are accorded so much respect in Islam? How do other faith traditions view the figure of the mother? Please share your comments below.

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