Dutifulness and disobedience.

Q186 :I met my husband when he was studying in the United States. He gave me literature about Islam and I became convinced of its truth. Shortly afterward, I became a Muslim. However, when we got married, my father-in-law did not approve of our marriage. He continues to be angry with his son. My husband has tried hard to persuade his father to accept our marriage. Still the same attitude persists. My husband is deeply hurt because he wants to show his dutifulness to his father, but he is rebuffed every time. Do you think we have done something wrong? Is my husband in a sinful position for disobeying his father?

A186 : We have to distinguish between dutifulness and absolute obedience to one's parents. You can be highly dutiful, but you do not necessarily obey everything your parents say. After all, parents are not infallible. They are human beings who are liable to err. If you know that your father is mistaken, or in error, and you follow what he says, then you are accountable for his bidding. He does not bear the responsibility for your action, although it is he who has ordered you to do it. He is responsible for his action, which is telling you to disobey Allah, but you are also responsible for what you do, which is disobeying Allah. Again, it is highly important from the Islamic point of view to strive to please one's parents. Kindness to parents is often mentioned in the Qur'an next to believing in the Oneness of Allah. The translation of the following verse is but one example: "Your Lord has decreed that you worship none other than Him, and that you show kindness to your parents" (17:23). Unfortunately, some people interpret that as a sort of negating of a son's or daughter's character and responsibility. This is not so. Ultimately, each one of us is accountable for his or her action. Hence, we must do only what we are convinced to be right and to please Allah. In order to be dutiful to his parents, a grown-up son must treat them with kindness and respect. If he shows disrespect to his father in public, he is guilty of grave sin. If he is disrespectful to his father at home, he incurs Allah's displeasure. Now, deference to a father's opinion and proper respect of one's father do not necessarily mean total obedience in everything he says. A father may tell his son to do something in a particular way, but the son may find that it is far more beneficial to do it differently. He knows that his father would disapprove, but he may still do it. He can try to win his father's acceptance, expressing respect and explaining the reasons for acting against his wishes. Quite often, a father would be willing to change his views. However, some people think that they are always right and they always know better. This is just too bad. If you have to contend with a father of this sort, you have to accept that you may have to disobey him on some occasions. If you do, Allah will judge your motives; not your father. In your particular case, what you and your husband have done is right. Your husband simply married a woman of his choice, knowing that she is virtuous and a good Muslim. If his father disapproved, his father's opinion is only an advice. It is not the prerogative of a father to choose his son's wife. That prerogative belongs to the son, because he is old enough to be responsible for his actions. Moreover, marriage is a relationship for life and the view of the persons involved, i.e. the husband and wife, have paramount importance. If a father is not allowed to marry his daughter away without her consent, then a father has no authority to impose his view on his son with regard to his marriage. Yet, your father-in-law's view is understandable if he simply had wanted his son to marry from his own country. Nevertheless, he should broaden his mind to accept that it is not nationality which makes a woman more suitable as a wife. It is her character, her strength of faith and the care she takes of her husband. If your husband has no complaint on any of these counts, your father-in-law has nothing to justify his objections. I believe that I have made it quite clear that your husband's position is not a sinful one for disobeying his father. Indeed, his father cannot order him to marry a particular woman. Moreover, now that your husband is married, his father must reconsider his position. He should realize that his son has not willfully disobeyed him but has given due importance to a certain fact, such as the position of his wife and the way he feels toward her. That is perfectly legitimate.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )