When May Parents Be Disobeyed, and How?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalam’aleykum

A sister is facing difficulties with her parents. It seems nothing she does pleases them. She is organizing a fundraiser but her father accuses her of using it as a means to do wrong. She also teaches 13-15 year old girls in an Islamic school; her father does not want her involved in this either. What can she do?

Answer: Wa alaikum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

Obedience to parents is a general obligation, and one of the most central social injunctions of Islam. Being bad to one’s parents is one of the greatest of the major sins, as the Qur’an and our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) repeatedly explained.

Not Unconditional

HOWEVER, obedience is not unconditional and absolute. If parents forbid one from one’s fard, wajib or confirmed sunna duties, one may not listen to them, as is the case if they order one to do something haram or prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman).

If parents forbid one from something recommended (mandub) or permitted in which there is a personal worldly or religious benefit, then there is detail concerning this point:

-If doing this act leads to the non-fulfillment of one’s obligation or duty to one’s parents, such as financially providing for them or serving them if they are old and have no means but you, then you HAVE to obey them;

-If doing so does not lead to such non-fulfillment, or if they are not dependent on your providing or service, then if obedience to them will lead you to forgo real personal worldly or religious benefit, then one may disobey them, though, as some scholars clarify, this would have to be done with respect, politeness and in an indirect, non-confrontational way, because any show of disrespect, or impoliteness to one’s parents is a grave sin. [Culled from Ibn Abidin’s Hashiya, al-Tahanawi’s Imdad al-Fatawa, Shaykh Taqi al-Uthmani’s Commentary on Jami` al-Tirmidhi, and Imam al-Saffarayini al-Hanbali’s Ghidha’ al-Albab]

At the same time, it is especially important for sisters to realize that Islam generally discourages women, especially young women, to spend unnecessary time outside the house, especially when there is fitna or danger, and, as such, some of the parents’ fears about the sister may stem from this, and have some justification. Therefore, while she should not give up doing such Islamically praiseworthy activities, they should not lead her to spend undue time outside the house, and she should do them in a way that keeps her parents happy.

Usually, being exceptionally good, well-mannered, and loving with parents (and others) makes them so grateful to one that they just cannot be upset with you, even if they disagree with your actions. After a while, they will even grudgingly accept that your religious practice has made you a better child and a better human being. This is what we should seek, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I was only sent to perfect noble manners,” And, “The most weighty thing on one’s scales on the Day of Judgement is good character.”

And Allah knows best.

Wassalam,
Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Jim Boud