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What Does Obeying Parents Mean?



Abdullah ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) told a person that one who awoke in the morning as obedient to his parents, according to the commandments of Almighty Allah, was like one who found two doors opened for him in Heaven. And he will find one door opened if ant one of his parents was alive. But one who broke the day as disobedient to his parents defying the orders of Allah the Almighty, was like one who found the two doors opened for him in Hell. And he will find one door opened if any one of his parents was alive. The man asked the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam), if one should be obedient to his parents even if they were insensible to him? The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam), replied, "Yes , even if they are insensible ; yes, even if they are insensible; yes, even if they are insensible."


Parents are to be obeyed in matters that are permitted in Islam whether they demand you to perform them or to leave them, as long as it does not endanger your life or limb.

If they order you to commit as act of disobedience -whether it be to leave something obligatory (like hijab) or to commit something harmful (like dealing in interest) there is no obedience to them. If they order you to leave something mustahab(like giving up the night prayer or recitation of the Quran) for some benefit they may get out of it, like companionship, then it is obligatory to obey them. If they order you to leave the fard kifayah (like washing a dead body, or offering the funeral prayer on it , or Jihad, etc.) and there is no one else to do it or not enough people to do it, then they are not to be obeyed. If enough people are taking care of the matter, then they must be obeyed. Even though obedience is crucial to being a good Muslim and in fulfilling our duty to Allah, it should be clear that its objectives are to show kindness and achieve better individuals, families and society. Common sense good interest must prevail. Here are two examples to ponder:

1 - Going for Jihad:

The lengthy discussions of the scholars on this point can be summarized as follows: If the Jihad has become fard ain (obligation on every individual Muslim), then obedience to the parents is over-ruled and Jihad requirements must be fulfilled. This rule is general for all obligations like offering the salah or performing Hajj; one does not need their permission unless their livelihood and well being depend on their son.

If, on the other hand, Jihad is fard kifayah (obligation on Muslims as community or group), then -as held by the majority of the scholars- their permission must be sought before going for Jihad.

A man came to the Prophet(sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam),and said, "O Messenger of Allah, may I take part in Jihad?" He asked , "Do you have parents?" He replied, "Yes". He said, "So strive for them." (Abu Dawud) In another hadeeth , a man migrated to the Messenger of Allah from Yemen. He asked, "Is any of your relatives in Yemen?" He replied, "My parents." He(sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) asked, "Did they permit you to come?" he replied, "No". He said, "Go back to them and ask for their permission. If they permit you, then right, otherwise be devoted to them." (Abu Dawud)

2- Divorcing your spouse:


Abdullah ibn Umar said, "I had a wife whom I loved but Umar disliked. He told me to divorce her, and when I refused, Umar went to Allah's Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam), and mentioned the matter to him. Allah's Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam), then told me to divorced her." (Abu Dawud and Tirmithi) In a more recent case, reported by the Detroit News, April 5, a wife was ordered to leave the home of her husband by her father. The article states: "The parents of the Saudi septuplets have separated because of the publicity generated by the births, further delaying their babies' homecoming, the father said Saturday, "Abdullah Mohammad Ali said pictures of his wife appeared in Saudi magazines and on Arab satellite TV channels seen in the Kingdom - and angered his in-laws so much that they are refusing to allow their 40-years-old daughter to return to her husband's home.

"Tradition in the conservative southern city of Abha, where the babies were born, dictates that women must cover their faces in public. "Her family says I am not a worthy husband because I have allowed everyone to see my wife. They say I have besmirched my wife's honor. "In the photograph, Abdullah's wife, Humair, wore a high-necked, long-sleeved, floor-length dress. A veil covered her hair- but not her face." What should a person do in such a situation? The strongest opinion - and Allah knows best - is that if the father is like Umar, i.e., he judges and weighs the matters in the scale of the Shari'ah and not his personal desires, then the son (or daughter) must obey the father. In such a case, the father would be ordering his son (or daughter) to divorce perhaps because of some shortcoming in the spouse's practice of Islam. If the father is driven by personal desire, blind following of customs, then the child does not have to obey him.

- Sumayyah bint Joan

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