Relationship With Parents

Q21. A lady I know converted to Islam, but her Christian parents want her to visit the church with them. If she denies, then they have family problems. Can the lady go to church, just to have normal relationship with the parents?                                                                                    - mrsakhan@rediffmail.com

Ans21. Islam instructs Muslims to be extremely respectful towards their parents, regardless of their religion. Goodness towards one's parents is one of the most essential commandments of Islam. Many verses of the Qur’an stress the importance of being kind towards one’s parents. The Glorious Qur'an says:

“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life say not to them a word of contempt nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. And out of kindness lower to them the wing of humility and say: "My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood." (Al-Qur'an 17:23-24)

A similar message is repeated in the following verse:
“And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him and in years twain was his weaning: (Hear the command) "Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal.” (Al-Qur'an 31:14)

However, Allah continues in the next verse:
“But if they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge obey them not; Yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration) and follow the way of those who turn to Me (in love)…” (Al-Qur'an 31:15)

The rights of Allah take precedence over everyone else's. Therefore it is prohibited in the Qur’an for a Muslim to visit a place of polytheistic worship (or to visit a place where any besides Allah are worshipped) in order to please one’s parents or out of fear that not doing so would lead to strain in family or social relationships.

Allah repeats in the Qur'an:
“We have enjoined on man kindness to parents: but if they (either of them) strive (to force) you to join with Me (in worship) anything of which you have no knowledge, obey them not. You have (all) to return to Me and I will tell you (the truth) of all that you did.” (Al-Qur'an 29:8)

In the verses quoted above, the Muslims are commanded to show respect and gratitude to their parents, irrespective of whether their parents are Muslims or non-Muslims. They are also instructed to obey their parents unless they ask one to violate the commandments of Allah and His Messenger. For example a Muslim should not obey his / her non-Muslim parents when the parents want their Muslim children to worship anybody or anything besides Allah, the Creator of all. Indeed what can be a greater sin than associating partners with Allah? Thus it is prohibited in Islam to accompany one’s parents in the matters of Shirk (polytheism), including visiting a place of polytheistic worship (or visiting a place where any besides Allah are worshipped).

It should however be borne in mind that a neo-Muslim should strive to invite one’s parents to the truth which is Al-Islam. Even if one finds one’s parents reluctant and unwilling to accept Islam, one should not get frustrated as they may take some time to understand your ‘new’ religion, nor should you cut off relationships with them because the verse of the Qur'an does not ask you to ignore or neglect them but rather commands you to refrain from obeying them in matters of Shirk (polytheism, including trinity or the concept that God begot a son).

In order to avoid family problems, the revert (neo-Muslim) should be dutiful and kind towards them in other aspects of day-to-day life, which may not cause him/her to compromise with his/her religious beliefs or practices, as the verse of the Qur’an quoted earlier states, “Yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration)”. One should not be arrogant or insolent but rather be kind, considerate and courteous towards them. This display of kindness towards one’s parents not only fulfills our obligation towards our Lord and the Creator but also becomes the means through which the parents may accept Islam and achieve salvation.  Indeed, such beneficent teachings are not to be found in any other religion.