By Taha Ghayyur
I have always wanted to do one extraordinary thing for my dad to express my deep appreciation for his every little and munificent act of kindness and affection towards me.
I looked for material gifts, unique private moments, ways to fulfill his dreams for me, and every opportunity to win over his heart.
I often recall the things that my father did for me that only a loving and caring father could do: waiting patiently for hours at the doctor’s office when I was sick after an excruciatingly long day at work; making special efforts to help me learn the rules of Quran recitation and beautifying it; encouraging me to write and speak as he spent weekends editing my writings and speeches when I was 12 years old; walking around the Kaba in the jam-packed season of Ramadan with me on his shoulders; driving me to my friends’ parities and Islamic events in the middle of a blizzard; gently advising me when I got into trouble at school; his teary eyes as he raised his hands asking Allah to guide me and to make me an achiever in this life and the hereafter; and countless other sacrifices that even a book won’t be able to justice to.
You may be able to list similar favours that your dad has showered on you throughout your life.
Of course I realized I can never make up to my parents for their lifelong care and training, which is affirmed by the words of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
But I wondered, how could I truly implement God’s command: “We have enjoined on man and woman (to be good) to his/her parents; show gratitude to Me and to your parents; to Me is (your final) Goal” (31:14).
As I grew up, graduated, got married and became a father myself, I realized there really isn’t just “one special thing” you can do to express your gratitude to your father. There isn’t “one special day”, such as his birthday or the Father’s Day, that you can set aside to celebrate fatherhood. It would be unfair to “payback” your father with a material gift or a celebration once a year for his years of devotion and painstaking efforts to raise you and to transform you into a successful person.
It is supposed to be a lifelong commitment on your part to take care of your father, his needs, and his wishes. It is the little things you can do for him on regular basis that really count.
There are many genuine and proven ways to connect with your dad, to sincerely thank him for the remarkable sacrifices he has made for you, to raise his spirits, and to assist him as he ages.
1. Understand Your Dad’s Nature: Dealing with father is quite different from dealing with mother, especially in the traditional families. Father is commonly perceived to be emotionless, difficult to comprehend, and hard to please.
You may not ever be able to discover your dad’s true feelings at times for multiple reasons:
- Like many traditional fathers, your dad usually holds his composure and rarely reveals his emotions;
- He may not be able to spend as much time with you as your mother due to long work hours and community work commitments;
- He is an introvert and a quiet person by nature;
- He may not consider spending quality time with children a priority for one reason or another.
This fundamental understanding of your father’s nature and expressions will help you connect with him more effectively.
2. Acknowledge Your Dad’s Worries and Concerns for You: What is the utmost concern as your father jumps out of his bed every morning? What stresses him out the most as he juggles multiple tasks at work? What goes on in his mind when he prays? What emotions and fears make his nights sleepless at times? What are his aspirations?
Chances are a majority of his anxieties, stress, prayers, and hopes involves you. Whether your father regularly shares his feelings or concerns with you and the family, make sure you make an attempt to identify and recognize his worries for you and your future. As parents grow older, they want to be heard. You may not agree with everything, but this simple gesture of listening to your father will give him the respect and sense of authority he deserves.
3. Involve Your Dad in Decision-Making: When was the last time you consulted your father regarding your academic or career goals? Did you ever update him on school grades (apart from the reason that the grades may be floating ‘below the C level’)? Do you discuss with him the criteria that you wish to use in selecting your marriage partner? Did you get his suggestion on naming your child?
This process of mutual consultation or ‘Shura’ is not only healthy, but it is a right of every family member, specially your parents, to be part of. Of course, you can’t incorporate everyone’s wishes in the making of you career or marriage, but the fact you sought your dad’s feedback and gave it a serious thought should be enough to ease his heart.
4. Fulfill Your Dad’s Dreams for Success: If there is one paramount concern shared by every father in the world, it is his son’s or daughter’s success. How often do you hear your dad say, “The only thing I want for you is success,” or “I want you to focus on building your career so you can be successful”.
While you may consider such wishes as insignificant, it is essential to pay due attention to his genuine desires. No doubt, most immigrant Muslim parents exhaust their time, energies, and finances to get their kids the best level of education. This is their way of contributing to your success.
Learn to show gratitude and concern. You cannot always fulfill your dad’s academic or career dreams for you by becoming either a doctor or engineer, but you can certainly excel in a profession that you are passionate about and could specialize in. Prove to him that you are ‘successful’ in your own way. Explain to him that ‘success’ is relative. What could be of greater joy to a father to see his son or daughter a winner in both worlds? Showing your dad you are achiever is a sure heart pleaser.
5. Attribute Your Positive Traits and Success to Your Dad: Many of us think that our success in life and positive qualities are exclusive to us. We ‘earned’ all the fame ourselves. We deserve all the credit.
If you are a successful business person, recall how your father trained you to deal with people and transferred his business acumen to you. If you are a charismatic leaders today, recognize the confidence your dad instilled in you to lead and move people. If you are a rising artist, remember how you father encouraged you to express yourself and helped you practice. If people praise you for gentle demeanour and honourable character, recount the noble manners of your father.
Studies on parent-child relationships and child welfare show that father’s love is a vital factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.
Give your parents the credit they deserve. Say it publicly. Let people around you, who benefit from your success and positive qualities, about the source of your success. Even if your father didn’t play a direct role in your success and fame, acknowledge your father’s patience, support, and love in getting you there. Nothing could win over a father’s heart faster than a simple credit to his lifelong commitment to your development.
6. Spend Quality Time with Your Dad: It is strange that many of us, including practicing Muslims, could hang out at events and parties, or simply chat over the phone with friends for hours, yet have no time to spare for our parents. Such an attitude indeed reminds me of the reality of Prophet’s, peace be upon him, statement about the Day of Judgement: A time will come when people will greet their friends warmly, and approach their parents with a cold attitude (Bukhari).
Carve out a day and time at least once a week to visit your father and have a heart-to-heart conversation with him. Go on a long walk or take him out for lunch.
7. Express Your Gratitude: How often do you say a simple “Thank You” or “Jazakallahu Khayran” to your father for daily favours? What about expressing your gratitude to him for raising you as a good Muslim? You owe him big Jazaks, every breath of your life!
As the Prophet stated, “The one who does not give thanks for a small blessing will not give thanks for a great blessing, and the one who does not give thanks to people will not give thanks to Allah” (Abud Dunya).
Be a little creative when you really want to express your gratitude to your dad. Say it with a personal thank you card. Show it with flowers. Accompany it with a genuine smile. Charge it with emotions. Enhance it with a meal or a meaningful gift.
8. Be Extra Caring and Concerned in Your Dad’s Difficult Times: Whether it is an illness, chronic depression, or a job loss, this is the phase of life when he really needs you and your time. Your presence, physical help, comforting words, and prayers are crucial to his healing and happiness. Remember, nothing would hurt him more than him witnessing your insensitive attitude and indifference to his trying situation. These moments would haunt him for the rest of his life. Don’t delay your service to him. The Prophet, peace be upon him, once warned us, “May he be disgraced,” repeating it three times, “who finds his parents, one or both, approaching old age, and he does not enter Paradise by serving them.” What other chance will you have to serve your father?
As your father’s strength fails, he would require more attention and care, and more consideration of his even more sensitive feelings. He may become irritated and uneasy much quicker now. It’s regarding this phase of life, Allah tells us, “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. If one or both of them attain old age with you, do not say a word of annoyance (Uff) to them nor repulse them, but speak to them in gracious words and in mercy lower to them the wing of humility and say, My Lord, bestow Your mercy on hem, as they cherished me when I was little” (17:23-24). A practical example to illustrate the import of this verse would be if your father is ill and unable to go to washroom by himself, you don’t make an undesirable facial expression or say ‘uff’ in annoyance as you clean up after him. That is a true test of your gratitude towards your father.
9. Ease Your Father’s Transition into Retirement and Senior Phase: Every aging father has a fear of the unknown and financial insecurity, as he approaches 60’s. Comfort him constantly that you will do your best to support him in your capacity. Request him not to stress over the retirement phase. Brainstorm ideas and develop a plan and budget together so he feels secure. Also suggest creative projects and community activities for him to get involved as he retires. Knowing he has a loving and caring companion to rely on in the arduous journey ahead should be heartening and reassuring enough for him.