In the Qur’an, in Surah Luqman verse 14, we are enjoined to give thanks to God, and to give thanks to our parents immediately thereafter. It is as though they go hand in hand.
Some of us are blessed with supportive, truly loving parents who tried, to the best of their ability and knowledge at the time, to raise us as balanced, righteous individuals. We felt their genuine love & protection and no amount of due thanks is sufficient. On the other hand, some others may not have felt the same amount of love and support, while others are neglected, guilt tripped, black mailed, manipulated, and even abused, emotionally or physically, by the very people who were responsible for their protection & nurturing. I can’t speak for those individuals as I can’t understand their pain, nor am I a counsellor. All I can say is that one thing is clear; they were not in any way responsible for their mistreatment.
Even with parents, we have to set boundaries if there is harm involved. In Islam, respect to parents and their good pleasure is invaluable but this does not include obedience in things that are forbidden in the religion and therefore displeasing to God, and it does not include unhealthy relationship dynamics that hurt you in any shape or form. It has to be solved, either through honest dialogue or through distancing and protecting yourself if there is no other alternative. For people who have had severely hurtful experiences, I pray to God that He nurtures your heart with His love and care and fills it with serenity. Some things you may consider doing is reading His 99 Names and reflecting on their meanings. He is our true Guardian, Giver of Peace, Bestower of Favours, the Most Appreciative, the Most Loving and Gentle, our Guide. Send abundant salawat (prayers) on the Prophet Muhammad, who cared about us before he could meet us more than anyone you can imagine, and reflect on how with every salawat we draw nearer to him & we receive tons of blessings. Reflect on what those blessings could be.. protection, healing, peace. Our Prophet cares deeply for each and every one of us. He prayed for us at each prayer. Your salawat on him is a means of prayer for him and just like praying for anyone else brings you closer to that person, praying on the Prophet brings you closer to him.
Going back to most relationships with parents, even with healthier dynamics, we’ll have clashes from time to time. We are unique individuals from different generations. There may be generational trauma that your parents carried with them and things they may have gone through that will inevitably reflect on you. In the Book of Assistance, Imam al-Haddad cautions parents to be easy on their children. If we are parents ourselves, we need to reflect on how we can form a healthier, safer bond with our children without driving them away and without abusing our rights over them. Reflect on your upbringing and use it as a tool to do better yourself, to improve yourself, and to break the cycle instead of putting all your energy towards blaming your parents for their shortcomings and the impacts of those shortcomings on you. This will come in handy even if you are not a parent and don’t plan to be because –v whether we like it or not – we are impactful individuals, and even if our time here is temporary, our impact will carry on for longer after we have passed on. We have relationships outside of our families with other people, and most importantly we have our inner personal relationship that dictates our own happiness & felicity.
When we shift focus to our parents’ sacrifices, praiseworthy aspects and give thanks as the Qur’an orders the believers to do, we’ll experience a lot more tranquility. Remaining patient in the face of some disagreements or disagreeing respectfully, trying to maintain close ties with them and even helping our parents (physically as well as spiritually) is not always easy but it’s not necessarily meant to be. If not physically, it can take a mental toll but remember Allah’s pleasure and that this is a means of drawing nearer to Him. Attaining their pleasure is attaining the pleasure of God, and even when we have tried really hard and they do not seem appreciative, remember ash-Shakur, the Most Appreciative.