“Paradise lies under your mother’s feet.”
We’ve heard this saying many times throughout our lives. We are raised to honor and cherish our parents, especially our moms. They are typically the parent who has sacrificed their own goals for us, endured challenges merely bringing us into the world, and gone through many tribulations raising us as committed Muslims. But does that imply that the mother alone is responsible for raising children to be healthy and productive in this life?
The short answer is no.
In several cultures and traditions around the world, the sole responsibility of raising the child falls on the mother. It is the mother that must not only ensure the child survives, but also be their friend, protector, and provider while the father is there to give the child his surname and provide financial support.
For many of us, the idea that a mother alone is responsible for her children has been ingrained in our minds. While to some level it may be true, a father has just as much responsibility for a child as a mother, albeit in different ways.
Clearly, these gender roles are set by society’s expectations of what each parent should be doing.
A mother is empathetic, tolerant, and nurturing – both physiologically and psychologically. She has a responsibility to raise the child in a positive way, but also to nurture the child, show them sympathy, and impart life lessons.
A father, on the other hand, serves as a mentor and defender. Teaching and creating a secure atmosphere for the kids to grow up in are his main responsibilities. Clearly, these gender roles are set by society’s expectations of what each parent should be doing.
what Islam says about parenting roles
Being a mother is an arduous role and comes with numerous trials and sacrifices, but not without reward. In fact, Allah (SWT) mentions in the Quran the value and honor a mother holds. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was once asked by a companion about who he should be good to more, and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) responded with the mother three times before mentioning the father (Sahih Bukhari, reported by Abu Hurairah.)
Allah (SWT) places great emphasis on the struggles a mother goes through to bring her child into this world and makes sure that child is fed and well cared for. Allah (SWT) tells us twice in the Quran, in Surah Luqman (ayah 14) and Surah Al-Ahqaf (ayah 15), to do good for our parents, to respect and love them, and to be grateful to them. But in both the ayahs, Allah (SWT) places greater emphasis on the mother than the father, specifically bringing up the difficulty a mother goes through during pregnancy and upbringing. A mother does hold greater regard and responsibility, but she is also rewarded more.
But in Islam, fathers share equal responsibility for raising their children, as is evident from studying the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH.) A father is a defender, a teacher, a guide, a provider, and most importantly, a leader and a role model for his children, even though mothers undoubtedly have a greater emotional and psychological connection with their children. In reality, fathers are the ones who teach children the most about our religion and the wider world. Unfortunately, it’s common for people to reduce the job of a father to merely a person who gives financial support.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a gentle and loving father and he shared great pieces of advice with his children, teaching them the ways of the world and the truths about Allah (SWT) and Islam. A father is also responsible for his actions towards his family, especially his wife, as children often mimic their fathers. Being a good person and showing your children good characteristics is something every father should think of as this can leave a lasting impression on the child.
Single parents often lose credit for being both mothers and fathers to their children, nurturing them to the best of their abilities.
One thing to remember is that sometimes, things aren’t always so black and white. While we’re talking about traditional parenting roles where a child has both healthy and able parents, in the end, the roles and responsibilities of parents are entirely dependent on the situation they are in. Single parents often lose credit for being both mothers and fathers to their children, nurturing them to the best of their abilities. Mothers or fathers who live in abusive households, have financial difficulties, or experience health issues will always have different responsibilities. We can’t judge someone for being less responsible or being a bad parent because we aren’t aware of their situation.
Islam has given us such beautiful ways to understand the roles both parents should take on. And perhaps the most “quintessential” role of a mother is to be just that – a comforting and nurturing figure to their child. But a father is someone who raises that child in a way that teaches them good morals, good character, love, and mercy. We should aspire to not only appreciate everything our parents do for us, but also learn from them and the Sunnah to become the best type of parent we can be when it’s our turn.