Dutiful child: How dutiful can you be?

Q185 :My parents were very poor; they struggled hard to finance my education. My father's situation now is rather comfortable with a reasonable pension and some income from a piece of land. When I started my job here, I paid off all my father's debt. He, however, continues to waste his money on gambling, lottery tickets and other forbidden things. My mother also overspends, often buying unnecessary things. This always leads to their falling in debt. Am I required to pay off their never-ending debts? If I help them, will I be accountable for using money to pay for forbidden purposes?

A185 : You are to be congratulated on your dutiful attitude. Your worry about the present situation is also understandable. You do not wish to be party to an action which you know to be forbidden. On the other hand, you do not wish to see your parents committing things for which they will be accountable to Allah. On the other hand, you have your own responsibilities to look after your wife and children. What you have to do in this situation is to try to strike the right balance. In order to achieve that, you have to be very clear in your mind about a few very important elements. The way Allah has spoken about being dutiful to one's parents makes this duty so important that only when parents ask their children to deny Allah or to associate partners with him that they must not be obeyed. Furthermore, no one may be obeyed in what constitutes disobedience to Allah. But even in such a case when a parent is a confirmed disbeliever, kindness to him is urged by Allah. Allah says in the Qur'an: "If they (your parents) endeavor to make you associate with Me as partners, things which your mind cannot accept as divine, do not obey them; but even then bear them company in this world with kindness, and follow the path of those who turn towards Me" (31:15). Asmaa' bint Abu-Bakr, the Prophet's sister-in-law, reports: "My mother came to visit me during the lifetime of Allah's messenger when she was still a polytheist. I went to the Prophet and asked him: My mother has come to visit me and she wants some help. Should I be kind to her? The Prophet said: Yes, be kind to your mother" (related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Your own needs and commitments have to be given due priority. A person in your position who has a wife and children must look after them properly. He must not sacrifice their interests in order to bail off a father who wastes his money on gambling. A bachelor who is in need of marriage should continue to save some money for his future, even though his parents ask him for more than he gives them. This particularly applies in a situation like yours where the parents have enough to cater for their basic needs. In the light of the foregoing, your way should be very clear. You must continue to be kind to your parents and try to please them. At the same time, you must encourage them to stop their unacceptable habits. You should not forget that their habits might be a reaction to their early days when they were very poor. Now that they have some money in their hands, they want to enjoy it in whatever way they can. Unfortunately, this enjoyment is landing them in a difficult situation. Therefore, you must always remind them that in order to make their situation even more comfortable, they should thank Allah and show gratitude to Him by using what He has given them in a way which is acceptable to Him. There is nothing wrong in helping them. You will not be party to their guilt if you help them wisely. You do not wish to see your father overburdened by debt, or chased by creditors. You may help him indirectly, by paying off some of his debts without his knowledge. You ask his creditors not to advance more credit to him, as a condition of your payment of their outstanding debts. Try as much as you can to make your father hold a respectable position in his community, without landing himself into problems. But if he asks you to give him some money to spend on forbidden things, then do not give it to him. If he says to you, for example, give me ten Riyals to buy a lottery ticket, then you should not give that money to him. Instead, if you know that he has bought some necessary articles, as meat or other provisions, on credit, you go and pay off that debt. In this way, you know that you are helping your father in his legitimate practices. [ There may be yet other situations. Your father may demand ad-hoc money for expenses, and then spend part of it in ways that are unacceptable to Allah. You cannot exercise control over this. You should counsel your father against the evils of such spending. Your manner should be polite and that of a dutiful son. That is all that is required of you.] May Allah reward you for your attitude.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )