Date : 18-04-2021

Question :

Due to disagreements between parents, they could give contradicting orders to their children. Some of the children are minors (Haven't reached puberty) while others are adults. In the event of this contradiction, whose orders should the children follow, the mother`s or the father`s? Moreover, which parent is more entitled to be obeyed? 

The Answer :

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

Righteousness to parents (Birr al-walidayn) is a general concept that encompasses being kind to them and doing good things that please them. Allah the Almighty says {What means}: " Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy 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 thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood." {Al-Isra`, 23-24}. Here, good conduct towards one`s parents is mentioned alongside the worship of Allah.

Being kind to one`s parents includes obeying their orders in a way that doesn't cause them harm and, in the meantime, lies in the best of their interest. This is in the sense that if the child doesn`t obey the parent in something lawful, the latter could be really harmed as a result. Defining disobedience to parents (uquq), Ibn Hajar stated, "Saying  or doing that which harms them, except in case they asked for something sinful or an act of Shirk, and as long as they aren`t being adamant." {Fateh Al-Bari, V.10:406}.

In the event the mother ordered her child to do something while the father ordered just the opposite, the child has to try to please both and make reconciliation, which is the best course of action. However, if this wasn`t possible, then if the father`s order lies in the child`s best interest while the mother`s order is merely an act of stubbornness then the father`s order should be followed and vice versa.

In fact, close to this case is what Ibn Hajar stated in his book {Al-Fatawa Al-Fiqhiyah Al-Kubra, V.2:229}. He said {What means}: "A man banned his son from seeking knowledge under the pretext of fearing for him. Should the son obey his father in all matters, including seeking knowledge and Aqhida (Islamic creed), even if it displeases his father? In addition, in case the son was prudent, what is the dividing line between obedience and disobedience to his parents?

If there were evil people in the marketplace and the son was likely to get harmed if he went there, then he should comply to the order of his father and not go out, because the father knows what is in the best of his interest. However, if the father, out of foolishness, ordered his son to divorce his wife, for example, then he shouldn`t comply, as indicated by the scholars of Sharia. 

In addition, if the father ordered his son to do something permissible and involves no hardship, then he should comply since disobedience is that which leads to harming himself and his father in customary matters. Whereas, the son isn`t obliged to obey his father for no valid reason, such as being asked to divorce his wife. Another example is that the son isn`t obliged to respond to his father while performing obligatory prayer, unlike voluntary prayer. This is because the son should obey his father in matters that could cause harm to the latter. However, if such matter is likely to cause harm to the son, then he doesn`t have to obey his father in that respect.

In addition, obeying one`s father in all matters isn`t an obligation unless it was found out that the son doesn`t have the needed knowledge about them (all matters) or was negligent. In this situation, the son should obey his father since disobeying him involves serious consequences." 

However, if the commands of both parents lie in the child`s best interest or the latter couldn`t tell where his/her interest really lies, then he/she should give priority to the mother`s command because Abu Huraira reported that a person came to Allah, 's Messenger (PBUH) and said: Who among the people is most deserving of a fine treatment from my hand? He said: Your mother. He again said: Then who (is the next one)? He said: Again it is your mother (who deserves the best treatment from you). He said: Then who (is the next one)? He (the Holy Prophet) said: Again, it is your mother. He (again) said: Then who? Thereupon he said: Then it is your father.

An-Nawawi {May Allah have mercy on him} said: "This narration urges one to be kind to kith and kin and the mother is the most entitled to this then the father, then the closest of the relatives. According to the scholars, giving priority to the mother is because she has gone through a lot: pregnancy, nursing….etcetera." {Shareh An-Nawawi Ala Muslim, V.22: 83}. 

Ali Molla Al-Qari {May Allah have mercy on him} said, "This narration indicates that obedience to one`s mother takes precedence and clear proof against opposite views……." {Umdat al-Qari  Shareh Sahih Al-Bukhari, V.22:83}.

In conclusion, a child should obey his parents in that which lies in his/her best interest, in addition to pleasing them and bringing their hearts together. If he/she failed to do so, then he/she should obey his/her mother provided that her order isn`t merely an act of stubbornness or involves severance of kinship ties or disrespecting the father. And Allah the Almighty knows best.