Be kind to your parents even if they don’t share your faith (DW#600)

Today’s verse makes a distinction between respect and obedience towards parents.

And if they (both) contend with you that you should associate with Me what you have no knowledge of, do not obey them, and keep company with them in (this) world kindly [Quran 31:15]

So while the general injunction is to obey parents, this verse lays out an important exception to the general rule.

If your parents are forcing you towards disbelief or encouraging you towards polytheism, you may not obey them. Parents have more rights over you than anyone else. But this right does not include the right to come between you and your relationship with God.

However, this exception does not absolve children from the duties of showing excellent conduct and compassion towards their parents.

According to scholars, this verse was revealed when some new converts to Islam were emotionally blackmailed by their parents to give up the faith. These new converts were in a very challenging situation since the faith of Islam laid such great emphasis on the duties and obligations towards parents. How were they to deal with parents, who were encouraging and commanding them to move away from the very faith that asked the children to respect them? This verse made it clear that obedience towards God supersedes their duty to obey parents.

The verse also made it clear that even if the parents are of a different faith or were manipulating their children towards leaving the faith, the duty of children to treat their parents with respect and kindness remained intact.

The verse is a beautiful reminder of three important principles:

1) Each of us has the obligation to forge our own relationship with God and we cannot let anyone come in between that
2) Regardless of the faith or behaviour of others, we need to focus on our behaviour and actions which need to be maintained at the highest level of courtesy
3) The relationship between our parents and their faith is their business. We can continue to have a great relationship with our parents even if they don’t subscribe to our beliefs.

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