Principles of Obeying Parents

تعديل حقوق الوالدين

لحكيم الامة مولانا اشرف علي التهانوي

Allah Ta’ala states in the Quran: “Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice.” {An-Nisaa: 58}

From the general purport of this verse, two legal principles are derived. Firstly, that it is compulsory to fulfill the rights of those who are entitled; and secondly, that it is impermissible to neglect the right of one person in order to fulfill the right of another.

I wish to discuss here two specific topics that are related to these general principles.

The first deals with the rights of parents – essential and voluntary. The second addresses discharging essential duties to one’s parents justly when their rights clash with those of one’s spouse or children.

The reason I wish to discuss these issues in particular  is due to the innumerable cases through which it has been noticed that just as some people are extremely disobedient to their parents and disregard the many divine injunctions that legislate their obedience, thereby inviting the curse of their disobedience on themselves, there are also those (apparently) pious ones who exceed the bounds in obeying their parents to the extent of trampling the rights of others, such as their spouse(s) and/or children. They, on the other hand, disregard the divine injunctions that legislate the fulfillment of the rights of these people. In so doing, they invite the curse of destroying these rights. There is another group of people who do not trample the rights of anyone but they consider even voluntary acts of kindness to be essential and thus take it upon themselves to carry them out diligently. In many cases, they are simply not able to cope with this (additional) responsibility and they inevitably fall into difficulty. As a result, they begin entertaining doubts concerning the laws of Shariah, that they are unbearably harsh and difficult, etc.  In this manner, the religion of these naive people is affected. This situation is also a form of ‘trampling the rights of others’. Here the entitled one is the ‘self’ (nafs) of the person. The self also has some compulsory rights. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Surely your self has rights over you.” [Bukhari #1968, Abu Dawud #1369].  The most important right is the protection of one’s religious affairs and since the inability to differentiate between the essential and voluntary rights of the parents can lead to the above mentioned sin, it is compulsory to learn this distinction. After realizing this distinction, if a person makes a voluntary right binding on himself, understanding that it is not compulsory, he will not fall into the above sin (i.e. doubts concerning the laws of Shariah). He would understand that the difficulty experienced is a result of his own ambition; if he bears it, it would be due to his great courage. This insight also gives a person a sense of personal satisfaction in that he understands that even though this isn’t his responsibility he is observing it voluntarily. Whenever he wishes he can also give up the responsibility.

In summary, there is only benefit in knowing the laws of Shariah and there is only harm in being ignorant.

The purpose of writing this article, therefore, is to outline this distinction. Firstly I will present the relevant prophetic narrations and legal references and thereafter I will mention the laws that are derived from them [i]. [i] It would be appropriate to entitle this piece Ta’deel Huquq al-Walidayn (i.e. Equitable Discharge of The Rights of Parents). Allah is the One I seek assistance from; and in Him I place my trust.

The following principles are established from the prophetic narrations and legal references[ii]:

1.) If one’s  parents forbid or hinder him from carrying out some compulsory duty then it is not permissible for him to obey them, let alone being essential.

  • The following situations will come under this principle:
  1. A person is so financially straitened that if he was to spend on his parents then his wife and children will suffer, it will not be permissible for him to harm his wife and children in order to spend on his parents.
  2. The wife has the right to demand from her husband to live in a separate quarters away from his parents. Therefore, if she requested this right and his parents want to reside together, it is not permissible for him to keep them together, rather it is compulsory on him to grant her separate quarters.
  3. If one’s parents do not allow him to perform [Fardh] Hajj[iii] or seek that amount of religious knowledge which is essential upon him, then it is not permissible to obey them.

2.) If one’s parents order him to do something which is impermissible, it is not permissible for him to obey them.

  • For example:
  1. They command him to get employed in an unlawful occupation.
  2. They command him to join in a custom of ignorance,

3.) If one’s parents order him to do or refrain from an act that is not obligatory or prohibited, rather it is permissible (mubah) or even recommended  (mustahab), then there are a few details regarding this situation:

1. If the situation is such that the person will encounter a lot of difficulty if he does not do it, then it is permissible for him to do so in spite of his parent’s refusal.

  • For example: He is poor, he has no money and cannot secure employment in his own city (and wishes to travel abroad) but his parents refuse to give him permission, then he does not have to obey his parents in this case.

2. If the situation is not so dire or difficult for him, then one will look at both the work the person intends to perform and condition of his parents:

(1) → whether in performing that work there is any danger to the person or not. For example:

  • a) He wants to fight in an expedition that is not wajib (essential).
  • b) He wants to travel by sea (in a vessel that is not safe).
  • c) He wishes to accept a job that involves high risk to his life and/or health. For example, coal-mining.

(2) → whether his occupation with that work or travel will lead to difficulty for his parents or not. For example:

  • The parents are poor and there are no arrangements for their expenditure or they are weak or sick, and he is neither able to care for them nor can he arrange for someone else to look after them.
  • In both of the above situations [(1) & (2)], whether there is danger in the work or travel he is undertaking or proper arrangements for his parents’ care cannot be made, it will not be permissible for him to perform that work if they do not permit him to do so.

3. If the situation of the person is neither dire nor is there any danger in the work or travel he is undertaking and there is no apparent difficulty for the parents in what he is doing then in this situation it will be permissible for him to go against their wishes, yetmustahab to obey them even in this regard.

  • From the above principle the following rulings are understood:
  1. If the parents ask the son to divorce his wife without any justifiable reason, then obeying them is not compulsory. The hadith of Ibn Umar رضي الله عنهما is based on either istihbaab or that there was a justifiable reason.[iv]
  2. If the parents demand that he spends all his earnings on them, it is not compulsory on him to obey. If they force him, they will be sinful. The hadith “You and your wealth belong to your father” [Ibn Majah #2251] is based on need. And why not, when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم)  said: “The wealth of any person is not permissible unless it is from the pleasure of his heart.” [Ahmed 5/72 #20695] If without a real need the parents were to take extra money, without permission, then this would be a debt on them which can even be demanded in this World. If they don’t pay it here, they will have to pay it on the Day of Judgement. The explicit statements of the fuqaha are sufficient, as they are the ones who accurately understand the meanings of the ahadith, especially since in the hadith of Hakim the restriction of “When he cups” is explicitly mentioned.

[Risalah Ta’deel Huquq al-Walidayn from Imdaadul Fatawaa Vol.4 Pg.480-485 and Bawaadirun Nawaadir Pg.483-487. The complete Urdu risalah was translated. However the sequence in the third long principle was changed for easier understanding. This new sequence was taken from here. Darse Tirmithi Mufti Taqi Usmani 3/503-506]

N.B. – However, at all times and in all situations, the son or daughter is obliged to address and treat the parents with respect and honor even if they are wrong or unjust.

Details concerning Divorce on Demand of Parents

From the above discussion it becomes easy to understand the following:

If someone’s parents are being harmed by his wife and his parents instruct him to divorce her, then in such case it is compulsory on him to divorce her. [Al-Miskuz Zaki 1/329 Makhtoot][v] [Translator’s Note: One should consult a reputable scholar before pronouncing divorce in the same manner Ibn Umar رضي الله عنهما consulted the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) .]

However, if in reality the parents are not being harmed by the wife, rather they are saying to divorce her without any valid reason, then in such a case it will not be necessary to carry out the parents command. Rather divorcing his wife in such a case is an act of oppression. Divorce is a very bad thing in the sight of Allah. It has only been made permissible in dire situations.[vi] To divorce without a valid reason is an oppression and highly reprehensible (makrooh tahrimi). Nikah (marriage) was created to combine. How can separation without a valid reason be permissible? [vii],[viii]

Hazrat Shaikhul Hind Maluana Mahmood Hasan Deobandi explained this issue of divorce in a similar manner in his lecture on Jame’ Tirmithi.[ix]

And Allah Ta’ala knows best.


[i] [i] Here we have produced the hadithi and fiqhi narrations that Hazrat mentioned in the last endnotes.

[ii] See endnote i.

[iii] Here Hazrat Thanvi had ‘Hajj and Umrah’. The addition of ‘Fardh’ and subtraction of ‘Umrah’ above was taken from Darse Tirmithi of Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani.

[iv] In a hadith of Tirmithi #1200, Ibn Umar mentions that he loved his wife. Hazrat Mufti Saeed Palunpuri explains that this love had exceeded its bounds to the extent that it had become difficult on him to part from her for even Salah. Such a love is truly detrimental. This is why Umar رضي الله عنه instructed him to divorce her. [Tuhfatul Alma’I 4/54]

[v] Al-Miskuz Zaki is Hazrat Thanvi’s transcribed lecture on Jame’ Tirmithi. It has been edited by Mufti Abdul Qadir on the request of Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani and published by Idara Taleefaat Ashrafiyah, Multan. Pg.353

[vi]  وإيقاع الطلاق مباح وإن كان مبغضا في الأصل عند عامة العلماء ومن الناس من يقول لا يباح إيقاع الطلاق إلا عند الضرورة لقوله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “لعن الله كل ذواق مطلاق” وقال صلى الله عليه وسلم: “أيما امرأة اختلعت من زوجها من نشوز فعليها لعنة الله والملائكة والناس أجمعين” المبسوط للسرخسي 6:2 اول كتاب الطلاق

[vii] Islahi Nisab by Hazrat Thanvi 412-413

[viii] Darse Tirmithi of Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani edited by Maulana Rasheed Ashraf Saifi Vol.3 Pg.504-505

N.B. – As for the story of Ibn Umar رضي الله عنهما, where hazrat Umar رضي الله عنه instructed his son to divorce (his wife) and then the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم)  second his opinion by stating: “Divorce your wife”, then obviously there was a valid reason, otherwise, to divorce without a valid reason is oppression. How could a great Sahabi like Hazrat Umar رضي الله عنه oppress anyone! And if we were to assume the impossible, then how could the Nabe Kareem (صلى الله عليه وسلم)  allow it! Surely the noble Nabi (صلى الله عليه وسلم)  was at ease that Umar’s instruction of divorce was based on a sound reason and in such a situation it is necessary to obey one’s parents, as has been mentioned above.

A question arises that if in this case it was necessary on Ibn Umar to obey his father’s instruction, then why did he initially refuse to divorce his wife? This was to the extent that Umar رضي الله عنه had to inform the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم)  about it and then the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم)  commanded him to divorce her.

The answer to this is that on one side was the obedience of his father but on the other hand there was the dislike of divorce. He was not able to determine which was the lesser of the two evils. Due to his love for his wife he was unable to recognize the valid reason of divorce that was in Umar Farooque’s sight. This is why he hesitated in divorcing his wife initially but did such after the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم)  instructed him. (الكوكب الدري 2:268) [Darse Tirmithi Vol.3 Pg.505-507]

[ix] Taqarir Hazrat Shaikhul Hind Pg.134 Maktabah Imdadiyah.

[last endnote] The prophetic narrations and legal references from which Hazrat Thanvi derived the above principles are in the pictures below:

ref 1

ref 2

ref 3

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