This story started a few years ago, when none of us took it seriously, but perhaps we should have. One of my youngest cousins has just returned from a four-month long tableegh run — and he’s been at this for the last two years. While I was once proud of him, his behavior upon his return has left me wondering just how grand the idea of tableegh is. Forget the fact that the kid — and that is all he is — spent four months preaching Islam in a Muslim-majority country. Forget the fact that he shunned his education during this time. Even forget that he returned on a peculiar high horse that he feels is justly allotted to him by virtue of his piousness. What I can’t forget is his mother — my maternal aunt. The first time this cousin decided to leave, the elders in the house asked him to stay. His father had a more practical approach and said it was more important to study Islam before he left for tableegh. His mother, who was more emotional, begged him not to go — the eldest and only son leaving for a month was too much for her. From the moment he began walking on this path his relationship with his family has gone downhill. At one point, my aunt grew so frustrated with him that she asked him to bring her the books and teachings he was acquiring during his time at tableegh. Granted she found a whole host of beautiful teachings, the one thing she was unable to spot entirely was Islam’s emphasis on family — what Islam says about parents. The Quran says, in Sura Bani Israil: “Your Lord (The Creator) has ordained that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to the parents.”However, these religious trips do the opposite of putting your parents right after the Almighty — they take you away from them completely. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) is known to have said that parents are a person’s heaven or hell. When you obey your parents, attend to their needs and keep them comfortable, you can then enter heaven. However, if someone is disobedient and rude to their parents, hurts their feelings or causes them grief, then they will earn themselves a ticket to hell. This time my cousin is gone for four months. The last time it was 40 days. The next time it may be four years. What should his parents do while he goes around the country speaking with Muslims, hoping to ‘convert’ them into the right kind of Muslims? Abu Hurairah (RA) relates that the Prophet (PBUH) said “May he be disgraced, may, he be disgraced, may he be disgraced.” “Who?” The Sahaaba enquired. “The person whose parents, or any one of them, attain old-age during his life-time and he does not earn Paradise (by being kind-hearted and dutiful to them)!” So instead of true paradise, my cousin is right now sitting in some mountains up north trying to find the hoorein he deserves. Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates that a person asked the Prophet (PBUH) “Who has the greatest claim on me with regard to service and kind treatment?” The Prophet replied, “Your mother, and again your mother, and once again your mother. After her, is the claim of your father, then that of your near relations, and then of the relations next to them.” Islam recommends balance and moderation in all things. However, if we continue to cherry pick and opt for things that only make us look ‘great’ then whose fault is it? When we were younger, there was a much softer version of Islam that was taught. There was a lot of emphasis on Haqooq-ul-Ibaad. I remember this being one of the main ways through which my mother taught me empathy. I knew for a fact that no matter how much I prayed, hurting someone would mean that it was game over for me. And with respect to my cousin, it isn’t even just people that he is hurting — it’s the people that gave him the life he has. Right now, my uncle is nearing retirement and does not know what to do. The child he spent so much trying to educate is running amuck, his worldview distorted by delusions of grandeur. If he retires, he does not know who will pick up the bat after he completes his inning. How can someone be convinced to abandon his parents in this age, just so he can fulfil some imaginary duty? And my aunt and uncle are extremely good parents. Islam tells you even to honour bad parents! Asma bint Abu Bakr (RA) relates that her mother had come to Madinah, from Makkah, to meet her. Her mother did not believe in Islam and was a pagan worshipper. Asma (RA) enquired from the Prophet (PBUH) how she should behave with her mother and whether she should shun her because of her pagan beliefs. The Prophet told her to behave towards her mother as is her mother’s right to be treated, to be considerate and behave! The Prophet has outlined the following as the biggest sins: “To associate anyone with Allah, to disobey parents, to kill unlawfully and to give false evidence.” This time, my cousin is gone for four months. The last time it was 40 days. The next time it may be four years. What should his parents do during this time while he goes around the country speaking with Muslims hoping to “convert” them into the “right kind of Muslims?” Somewhere along the line, the idea of tableegh went very wrong. And while we can discuss these issues all we want, there’s little we can do to return a son to his aging parents. The writer is a journalist based in Lahore Published in Daily Times, June 20th 2018.