Bukhari on Filial Piety

Muhammad ibn Isma`il al-Bukhari (d. 256H / 870CE), most famous for his Sahih al-Bukhari (the actual title of the book was longer), also compiled a number of other hadith works. One of these is a compilation of 76 narrations (mostly hadiths, ostensibly) on filial piety (birr al-walidayn).

The compilation includes four types of hadiths:

(A) many hadiths that are obviously pertinent to the subject,
(B) general hadiths about maintaining ties of kinship,
(C) common deeds that take on an added dimension when they involve parents, and
(D) some hadiths that at first glance appear to be out of place.

Below are a few examples of each (for the full text of the hadiths, and relevant commentary, see the published version of the book, by Mufti Yusuf Shabbir and his team, recently published by Turath Books, available from https://www.amazon.com/Birr-al-Walidayn-Being-Dutiful-Parents-ebook/dp/B08LDVY1FB ):

 

A) Hadiths directly relevant to filial piety include:

  • That filial piety is ranked as the most important deed after on-time prayer (salah).
  • Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas’ story of how his mother tried to get him to renounce Islam.
  • That your mother is the most deserving of your good companionship, followed by your mother, followed by your father.
  • Disobedience to parents (normally) being a major sin.

B) Some general hadiths on the importance of ties of kinship, e.g.

  • Maintaining ties of kinship leads to blessings in this life.
  • Severing ties of kinship prevents entry to Heaven.
  • Ties of kinship have been given a name derived from one of God’s names, indicating their importance.

C) Common deeds that are not specifically related to parents, but could involve them, e.g.

  • Don’t get angry, the implication being that one should be especially careful to avoid getting angry at a parent.
  • Telling someone that you love them.
  • Being merciful to an animal, i.e. so then what about being merciful to parents?
  • Sin is that which troubles you internally, and you would not like for people to see it.

D) Let us now look at some of the apparently irrelevant hadiths, and see why Bukhari might have included them.

  • Advice to pray 2 rak`as if one enters the mosque while the imam is delivering the Jumu`ah sermon (#41). The answer probably lies in a hadith not in this compilation (‘Filial Piety’) but which is included in the Sahih: the hadith of Jurayj not heeding his mother’s call to him while he was praying, and his mother subsequently supplicating (making du`a) against him. Ibn Battal (d. 449H, who wrote a commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari) was of the view that the reason that Jurayj suffered as a result of his mother’s supplication was that at that time it was permissible to talk during prayer (i.e. he could have responded to his mother without breaking his prayer). Perhaps Imam al-Bukhari shared the same view, in which case he would be intimating that if your parent calls you while you are praying, then you should finish the prayer quickly and then respond. Even though this hadith does not mention that the 2 rak`a during the sermon should be quick, this was mentioned by Imam al-Bukhari in the relevant chapter heading in the Sahih, and is explicitly mentioned in one of Imam Muslim’s version of the hadith.
  • Hadiths about fitna Fitna has a variety of meanings, but Bukhari probably intended the meaning of political strife, given that right after this he mentions a hadith that couples rebellion and severing ties of kinship. So, perhaps he is intimating that political differences with one’s parents should not lead one to be disrespectful to them.
  • A hadith about Lady Khadija’s response to the Prophet’s first revelation, and her subsequently taking him to her uncle Waraqa. In addition to the overt mention of ties of kinship in the hadith, we might additionally venture that Imam al-Bukhari might have been intimating the desirability of seeking advice from parents (or other elders, in the case of one whose parents have died).

Finally, a reminder again about the published version of the book (by Mufti Yusuf Shabbr et al): is it a valuable book, which not only includes the hadiths and useful commentary, but also the translations of the many hadiths on the topic which Imam al-Bukhari mentioned in two of his other books (the Sahih and al-Adab al-Mufrad). 

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