Honouring one’s parents is one of the greatest means of drawing close to Allah and one of the best acts of obedience. It is an important right that they are given in Islamic sharee’ah (law), so much so that Allah has mentioned obedience to parents alongside obedience to Him, and their rights alongside His rights, in more than one place.
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years - give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination.” [31:14].
Al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his Tafseer (exegesis): The scholars said: Those who are most deserving of gratitude, kindness, honour and obedience after the Creator are those whom Allah mentions kindness towards alongside worship, obedience and gratitude to Him; namely one’s parents. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Give thanks to Me and to your parents.” [31:14].
It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The Lord is pleased when the parents are pleased and He is angry when the parents are angry.” Al-Albani said: It is hasan li ghayrihi (sound because of corroborating evidence).
Clearly expressing gratitude to the parents and acknowledging their virtue is undoubtedly included in the meaning of the verse, but the verse should not be understood as meaning this only, rather what is meant by giving thanks here is more general than that: a person should fulfil the rights that his Lord has over him in his heart and his words as well as his physical actions, and he should fulfil his parents’ rights over him in a like manner.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Madarij al-Salikeen:
Gratitude is based on five foundations:
Humility of the thankful one towards the One Who is thanked, his love for Him, his acknowledgement of His blessing, his praise of Him for that and not using it for anything that He hates.
These five are the foundations of gratitude which is built on them. If one of them is missing, then one of the foundations of gratitude is missing. Whoever (of the scholars) speaks of gratitude as an independent quality must be referring to all of these five foundations.
Gratitude is shown in the heart by humility, on the tongue by praise and acknowledgement, and in one’s physical actions by obeying and submitting. End quote.
In his commentary on this verse, al-Shaykh al-Sa’di (may Allah have mercy on him) said: When He enjoined fulfilling His rights by giving up shirk, which means establishing Tawheed, He also enjoined fulfilling parents’ rights, and said: “And We have enjoined on man” i.e., We have commanded him and made it an obligation upon him, and We shall question him about his fulfilment thereof, did he fulfil it or not? And We have enjoined on him “(to be dutiful and good) to his parents” and have said to him: “give thanks to Me” by worshipping Me and fulfilling your duties towards Me, and not seeking the help of My blessings in disobeying Me; “and to your parents” by treating them kindly, speaking gently to them, treating them nicely, being humble towards them, honouring them, respecting them, taking care of them and avoiding mistreating them in any way, in word or deed.
We have enjoined this upon him and We have told him that “Unto Me is the final destination” i.e., you will return, O man, to the One Who enjoined this upon you and ordained these duties for you, and He will ask you: Did you fulfil them? In which case He will reward you greatly, but if you failed, He will punish you severely. End quote.
There is nothing wrong with accompanying thanksgiving to Allah with thanksgiving to one’s parents, and combining the two, but he should not do that all the time as if it were a dhikr (form of prescribed remembrance) narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), because there is no such report from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
And Allah knows best.