The Muslims today are living at a critical juncture of Islamic history, for we are witnessing before us a great Islamic awakening and one that is primarily occurring the youth of this Ummah. To the well wishes of Islâm and the Muslims, this is heartening news for it gives us hope of a better future ahead of us, Insha’Allah. Unfortunately though, there is also a down side to this revival of Islâm amongst the youth, and that is that we are seeing the appearance of conflict in many Muslim homes. The son/daughter prays, the parents don’t; the daughter wears hijaab, the mother doesn’t. The youth become strangers in their own homes and everyday, they find themselves torn between obeying Allah or listening to their parents. This ‘clash’ between obedience to parents and obedience to Allah is difficult and sensitive subject. In many cases there are no straightforward answers. However, two important matters must be borne in mind whenever one discusses the issue: the first is tremendous rights which parents have; and second, the limits to this obedience.
Rights of Parents
The rights of parents and the enormous obligations we have towards them were mentioned in the previous issue of the magazine and it is advised that anyone who seeks a correct balanced perspective on this issue of obedience to parents vs. obedience to Allah first fully appreciates the rights that parents have and the gravity of the sin of disobedience towards them. As a brief reminder, here are two proofs to show the esteemed position that parents have in Islam.
1) Allah says what means:
“Worship none but Allah (alone) and be dutiful and good to parents..” [SURAH-AL BAQARAH: CH-2: VER-83]
Allah has mentioned His right first of all (which is to worship Him alone) and then the right of the parents. This shows us that our obligations towards our parents is second only to our obligations towards Allah (as the scholar of the Qur’an, Ibn Katheer (d.774H) mentiones is his tafseer).
2) In support of this ayah and to further emphasize the importance of servitude to the parents, the Prophet (SAAWS) said :
“The satisfaction of the Lord is (in) the satisfaction of the parents and the displeasure of the Lord is (in) the displeasure of the parents.” [Saheeh – narrated by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al – Aas & collected in at – Tirmidhee. Authenticated by al – Albani in his as – Saheehah-516]
This hadeeth shows that the pleasure or displeasure of the parents goes hand in hand with the pleasure and displeasure of Allah. But what about those cases where there is a clear disparity between what pleases Allah and what pleases the parents?
Limits to Obedience to Parents
As Muslims, part of our struggle to revive Islam and return it to the original state of affairs involves overthrowing established customs and ridding Islam of all the innovations which have tarnished its purity. It is therefore quite natural to find that very often the first resistance to this change should come from the parents and elders in general. And we find that the arguments that the Prophets encountered from the nations of the past are the same as what our peers throw at the youth today:
“When it is said to them: Follow what Allah has sent down, they say: No! We shall follow what we found our fathers following. (What!) Even though their fathers did not understand anything nor were they guided?” [SURAH-AL BAQARAH: CH-2: VER-170]
This is exactly the kind of argument that we find the parents presenting to their children today; the very argument that Prophet’s Ibrahim’s father and elders presented to him when he was inviting them to Tawhîd. He was faced with the same dilemma that so many Muslims are faced with today. But of course, being a Prophet of Allah, he stood firmly with the truth. However, this sort of conflict between parents and their children came to a head during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAAWS) where just as we are finding today – it was the youth who responded firth to the call of Islam. Many of these young Companions had to make bitter decisions between loyalty to their faith or loyalty to their parents. One such Companion was Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas. He said:
“I was very faithful to my mother. When I embraced Islam, she said to me: “What is this I notice in you? Leave this Religion of yours or I will refuse to eat or drink until I die.” People started to blame me, saying ‘O killer of your mother.’ I told my mother not to continue as I would never leave me Religion. She passed a day without food or drink and suffered as a result of that. Another day passed and her suffering increased. The third day was very hard for her. On seeing this I said, “O my mother, you know that I will not leave my Religion, even if you had a hundred souls each suffering death. So eat if you wish and abstain from eating if you wish.” So she finally took some food” [Narrated by Mus’ab ibn Sa’d & collected in SAHEEH MUSLIM: VOL- 4]
Truly this is an excellent example of the conviction and firmness that these Companions had. Despite his mother’s threatening stance, Sa’d did not waver for a moment and made it clear to his mother that her threats would come to no avail. As a result of this trial which Sa’d encountered, Allah revealed some ayaat in the Qur’an for him. (As mentioned in the Tafseer of at-Tabaree, Qurtubee, and Ibn Katheer)
He said what means:
“And We have enjoined on a man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness upon hardship, and his weaning is in two years – Give thanks to Me and to your parents – unto Me is the final Destination. But if they strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly.” [SURAH-LUQMAAN: CH-31: VER-14-15]
Here, Allah makes clear that kindness and obedience must be shown towards parents, but that they must not be obeyed in that which constitutes disobedience to Allah. Nonetheless, they should still behave well towards them. Therefore even under the most strained of circumstances, the sons and daughters must do their best to behave kindly with them and not allow the situation to get the better of them.
Thus obedience to parents is subservient to obedience to Allah. The Prophet (SAAWS) said:
“There is no obedience to the created if it means disobedience to the Creator.” [Saheeh – Narrated by Imraan ibn Husain & collected in Musnad Ahmad. Authenticated is al-Albani’s as Saheehah-179]
This is one hadîth that we should always bear in mind, because the relationship of a person with his parents is such that it becomes all too easy for us to consider their claim upon us to be greater than any other claim. After all, they have done so many favors towards us and given us so much. As Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728H) says: “Part of giving thanks for the good that someone does is the thanks due to the parents and others who do good to you, since: ‘He who does not thank the people, does not thank Allah.” (This Hadîth is reported in Aboo Dawud. (Saheeh). But he then goes on to point out: “The right of no person, nor his favors can ever reach the level that they be thanked with disobedience to Allah, or that he be obeyed in disobedience to Allah since Allah is the One who sends down all the great blessings, which none of the creation are able to. And even favors done by any of the creation are from him also, as He says:
“And whatever of good things and blessings you have, it is from Allah.” [SURAH-AN NAHL: CH-16: VER-53]
And He says:
“And (He) has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and the earth; it is all as a favor and kindness from Him.” [SURAH-AL JAATHIYAA: CH-45: VER-13] [Majmoo al Fataawaa (18/ 339 – 340) of Ibn Taymiyyah]
So how can it be that someone is prepared to forsake Allah’s commands in order to obey his or her parents?? So often we hear people taking great pride in saying how totally devoted and loyal they are to their parents and their family. Ofcourse this is all well and good … provided that this loyalty does not become so great that we blind ourselves to the Truth. The Prophet, (SAAWS), has made the matter very clear to for us:
“He who orders you with disobedience to Allah, then do not obey him.” [Hasan – Narrated by Aboo Sa’eed & collected in Musnad Ahmad. Authenticated in Saheehul – Jaami-6099]
This ruling applies to anyone: parents, husbands, rulers, or whoever. No one is to obeyed at the expense of disobedience to Allah, since loyalty to parents is conditional; and loyalty to parents is absolute.
To test this absolute loyalty which must have towards Allah, we should remind ourselves of that one simple yet profound question that Allah confronts us with in His Book:
“Say: if your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred; the wealth which you have gained; the commerce in which you fear a decline; and the dwellings in which you delight – (if these) are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger (SAAWS) and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait till Allah brings about His Decision. And Allah guides not the people who are rebellious and disobedient.” [SURAH-AT TAQBAH: CH-9: VER-24]
It is in this love which lies at the root of everything. If we truly love Allah and His Messenger (SAAWS) above everything else, then we will be able to make a firm stand upon the Truth. We would not live a life of compromise, only practicing Islam to the extent that it pleases our parents: whatever the parents like, we do and whatever our parents don’t like, we don’t do. Instead, all our actions would be purely for Allah’s sake: whatever He likes, we do and whatever He dislikes, we refrain from doing! Just as Allah commands:
“Worship Allah, making the Religion pure for Him. [SURAH-AZ ZUMAR: CH-39: VER-2]
And we have such inspirational examples in the illustrious Companions their loves for their family did not make them flinch on bit from the path of Allah. Without doubt, some were tested very severely in this respect.
Aboo ‘Ubaidah ibn al – Jarrah for instance, was forced to kill his own father who was on the side of the pagan Quraish against the Muslims at the battle of Badr. Aboo ‘Ubaidah tried many times to avoid a confrontation with his father and whenever his father would appear in front of him Aboo ‘Ubaidah would turn the other way. However he was unable to avoid what Allah had decreed and father and son came face to face. When Aboo ‘Ubaidah saw there was no escape this time, he had no other choice but to take the life of his father. [al Isaabah 2/243 -244, no 4400) and its isnad is declared good by Ibn Hajar]
It is reported that it was about him and others who made sacrifices like him that Allah revealed the following ayah (as mentioned in the tafseer of Ibn Katheer and others)
“You will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day making friendship with those who oppose Allah and His Messenger (SAAWS), even though they were their fathers, or their sons or their brothers or their kindred. For such, He has written Faith in their hearts and strengthened them with Rooh, (proofs, light, and True Guidance) from Himself. And We will admit them to gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein (forever). Allah is pleased with them, and they with Him. They are HizbAllah (Party of Allah). Verily it is the Party of Allah that will be successful.” [SURAH-AL MUJAADILAH: CH-58: VER-22]