Summary of 7.42 “Rights of Parents”
In last week’s program we discussed what is mentioned in the Quran and Prophetic Tradition concerning the rights of parents and their treatment.’ We indicated that the Arabic word birr which translates to kind treatment, respect, obedience and financial help.’ We indicated that these elements are applicable and still hold true even if the parents were not Muslim and if they were not fair especially when they attain old age and are impatient and irritable.’ We indicated that there are several Prophetic tradition which warn us against being disobedient and inconsiderate towards our parents.’ The only case when a person can disobey their parents is when they command him to do something which is contrary to the commands and teachings of God.

7.43 Rights of Relatives

Host:’ Is there anything that can be done or should be done for one’s parents after their death?

Jamal Badawi:

There are Prophetic Traditions which teach us that there are certain obligations that should be done even if one’s parents are dead.’ In one narrated in Altabarani a person is obliged to try his best to fulfill their parent’s oath or commitment that they could not fulfill during their lifetime.’ To pray for them, to pay off their debts, not to expose them to any curses by engaging with someone who may curse them.’ If the person does these things he would be regarded as someone who was kind to them even though during his lifetime he may not have been to kind to his parents (God would forgive them).’ In another saying narrated in Al Tabarani and Albihaki the Prophet recommended that one should make prayers for their parents souls after their deaths and if possible visit their graves and make prayers there.’ In one very interesting saying of Prophet Muhammad narrated in Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawood he says that when a person dies everything is finished for him and he can not get anymore good deeds to his credit except in three cases: if he leaves behind charity which is constant, if he leaves behind him useful knowledge and thirdly if the person leaves behind pious children who keep praying for him.’ In other words the father or mother would still benefit from the prayers of their pious children after their death.’ One of the very moving prayers which is recommended in the Quran (recommended to be recited after every one of the five daily prayers) in (14:40-41) ‘O my Lord! make me one who establishes regular Prayer, and also (raise such) among my offspring O our Lord! and accept Thou my Prayer.’ O our Lord! cover (us) with Thy Forgiveness – me, my parents, and (all) Believers, on the Day that the Reckoning will be established!’

Host:’ In addition of a Muslim towards his wife, kids and parents are there any obligation towards other relatives?

Jamal Badawi:

In the Quran as well as in the Prophetic tradition there is emphasis on being kind to one’s kin or relatives and to keep one’s ties with them.’ In chapter 4 it discusses this issue and encourages the believer to keep good relationships with their relatives.’ In (47:22) there is warning against breaking ties with relatives analogous with making corruption on earth.’ In one of the sayings narrated in Bukhari or Muslim he says ‘He or she who believes in God or the hereafter should be: generous and hospitable to his guests, to say useful and good things or to keep quite and last to keep kind cordial ties with kin and relatives.

Host:’ What about the situation where one has relatives who are not kind?

Jamal Badawi:

Yes, it is consistently analogues to what we discussed before and in fact reciprocity is not a necessary condition for the person to be kind to his relatives.’ There is an interesting exhortations that Prophet Muhammad was telling Ali which was narrated in Al Tabarani, Al Bazar and Alhakim.’ But basically he said to Ali ‘Should I tell you Ali about the most noble of characters in this life and in the here after? It is to be kind and to keep cordial contact with kins and relatives or with anyone who breaks his ties with you, give he who deprived you and forgive he who oppressed or had been unjust to you.’ In Bukhari and Abu Dawood the Prophet even more explicitly said that a person who keeps his cordial ties with his relatives is not the one who simply reciprocates, because they are doing the same, but the true person is one who keeps the ties even though they try to break those ties.

Host:’ Are these teachings a question of moral or legal obligations?

Jamal Badawi:

There is no difference in accordance to Muslim Jurists.’ The minimum is that they are religious moral teachings.’ In terms of translating this broad obligation into a sort of financial responsibility for maintenance we find there are differences of opinion.’ The category of parents, children and spouses have no dispute because the obligation is moral, religious and financial.’ In terms of financial obligations towards relative we find that there are two basic interpretations.’ Among the Shafi’i, Maliki and Ja’fari Muslim jurists they interpreted this text to mean a general concern for the welfare of relatives from a moral/religious obligation but not a fixed legal financial responsibility towards relatives.’ The ultimate responsibility in this case for poor relatives is not on one specific individual but on the collective society.’ The are not denying it but they say it is a shared responsibility.’ The Hanbali and Hanafi jurists view this obligation to be more than moral and religious but that the person is obliged legally to financially support relatives other than parents, children or spouses.’ They indicated that the extent of this responsibility could be determined by the potential share of inheritance if you die or you take from them if they die.’ Hanafi says it depends on the degree of mahramiah (marriageable eligibility).’ Whatever the basis they all say there is a criteria that determines to what extent one is responsible for needy relatives.

Host:’ If one were to take the second opinion that one is responsible legally for taking care of needy relatives, what kind of conditions are required for such an obligation?

Jamal Badawi:

For relatives who are not parents, children or spouses there are broadly five basic conditions.’ One they should be a relative.’ Second that relative should really be in need.’ Third, he should be unable to earn on his own (not because of laziness).’ Fourth that you should have the ability to provide that help (you have beyond the basic needs of your won family).’ Fifth condition is that they should also be Muslim.’ Most of these conditions, especially the last three, are waived in the case’ of parents, children and spouses.’ If a wife is not Muslim the husband is still responsible for her financially.’ A person is responsible for his daughters even if they are adults and not married, Islam does not require a woman to work against her will and should always be taken care of.’ It applies sons if they are minors, but an able bodied son could be asked to support himself.’ It applies to parents even if they are not Muslims.’ Even for other relatives where difference of religion may bar the legal obligation to support it does not bar the moral obligation to support them if the person is able to provide help and support.

Host:’ What is Islam’s views of divorce compared to other religious and legal systems?

Jamal Badawi:

In any society we are told by sociologists there must be some kind of mechanism to end marriage which is not successful, a marriage which is no longer achieving its purposes.’ However in societies past and present with many religious doctrines and legal systems we find that the difference is not the basic principle but rather in the extent to which divorce may become permissible and differences to the mechanism or procedure through which divorce may be sought.’ Among those societies, religious doctrines and legal systems there were those who narrowed down divorce and made it very restrictive where it was only permissible in the case of death and adultery.’ In some cases even if a couple was separated because of adultery they would not be permitted to remarry.

There were those who liberalized divorce to an extent that made it very easy and simple to perform without any procedures or precautions.’ This included people in the past and the present.’ People before Islam in Jahiliya used to look at things very lightly: a matter based on whims.’ In the present time we read about what happens in some states like Nevada where one could theoretically marry and divorce many times in one day.’ It is treated in these cases as a simple civil contract.’ Neither of these approaches seem to succeed in addressing the practical and difficult problems faced in human societies.’ On the other hand the over restriction of divorce regardless of the reason leads to many difficulties.’ It is very good of there is no divorce at all but it is to idealistic and knowing human nature with their shortcomings it is just something beyond human ability.’ The result of over restriction is that people abuse the rule, ignore the rule or defy the rule.’ We also find that too much liberalization also results in chaos, disintegration of the family and as such disintegration of society (the family is the corner stone of society).

Islam has a moderate position compared to these two extremes.’ First, Islam emphasizes the importance and sanctity of marriage.’ There is no question about that whatsoever.’ We several programs in the past we have discussed the position of marriage in Islam, what was mentioned about it in the Quran and Prophetic Tradition and it suffices to recall in the Quran (4:21) where marriage is described as ‘a solemn covenant.” In Islam the ideal is not to have divorce but to have continuity and permanency of marriage.’ The second point is that taking into account human nature we can not expect a hundred percent of marriages to be successful.’ There may be marriages that are unsuccessful and miserable for both sides and if there is no way out of this situation after trying to resolve the problems it may result in permanent suffering for the rest of one’s life which is beyond tolerance for most people.’ As a result of this there must be some recognition of divorce, a last resort, to solve these types of problems.’ It is better not to put ones head in the sands but rather to face the problems head on and try to regulate the, rather than to ignore them.’ Fourth, while Islam acknowledges the permissibility and legitimacy of divorce in some cases does not encourage divorce.’ In fact, Islam discourages divorce.’ One of the most eloquent sayings about divorce by the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) found in Abu Dawood and Alhakim in which he says ‘the most repugnant act that God has allowed is divorce.” This does not mean that any divorce is detestable but this saying is interpreted to refer to divorce when there is no good reason for it.’ One of the great Muslim jurists, Amad Ibn Hanbal, put it very nicely he said ‘divorce like many other acts in Islam could fall into the category of obligatory, commendable, permissible or forbidden.” To give examples he said ‘Divorce may even by obligatory or almost obligatory in the case where no chance for reconciliation is there despite several attempts to reconcile husband and wife.’ It could be a commendable act if the wife neglects her religious duties and there is fear that their children would grow up irreligious and all attempts to help her become a true believer did not succeed.’ Divorce could be permissible if there is good grounds for it.’ Divorce could be in the category of forbidden if there is no good reason for it.” He refers to a saying of the Prophet (PBUH) narrated in Al Tirmithi that if a woman asks her husband or pushes him to divorce her without good reason then she will not smell Paradise.’ In Abu Dawood and Nassa’i the Prophet (PBUH) says he is not one of us he who tries to ruin a relationship between a wife and her husband.’ Seeking divorce without a strong and good reason without exhausting other options is something that would not be acceptable in Islam.

Host:’ Some say that divorce in Islam is much to easy because by simply saying ‘I divorce you’ three times and it is over, how would you respond to this?

Jamal Badawi:

This is a myth.’ I used an analogy once about women in Islam and marriage and I said that some people may claim that marriage is so easy, all you have to do is to simply say ‘I do.” We all know that the words ‘I do’ in marriage are the climax of so many things that have taken place prior to the utterance of this statement.’ We know that first there is the search for the proper spouse, the engagement, negotiations, discussion, getting to know each other, basic commitment and then finally when the contract is negotiated they say ‘I do.” Some people may abuse divorce by taking it to lightly, but so is the case when someone takes marriage lightly also.’ It is as if someone meets someone for the first time says hello I like you, lets get married and ‘I do.” This is rather silly and takes something that is serious and treating it lightly.’ There are definitely some individuals who may be so unscrupulous and not God fearing and treat divorce lightly as some people may treat marriage.’ These people could be Muslim or non-Muslim, it doesn’t matter, it is abhorred either way.’ It is important to make a distinction between what people do by way of abuse and between what Islam teaches.’ Unfortunately, many writers over emphasize the cases that abuse divorce and they really concentrate on it and present it to Western readers as if this were the ideal Muslim society or as if it were the manifestation of the teachings of Islam.’ As one sociologist put it ‘You can not fairly compare the professed moral values of one system with the behavioral practices of another system.” Either you compare the professed moral teachings of both or you compare the behavior of both but to compare the professed teachings with actual behaviors with some other society is unfair and bias.

It is true that the procedures for the procedures in Islam may be relatively simpler, less bureaucratic than we find in other legal systems but this does not mean that they are taken lightly.’ The procedure for marriage in Islam are relatively simpler in Islam too.’ The procedure for revocation of divorce (reconciling) in Islam is also simple and informal.’ It follows that the procedure for divorce is consistent with this overall approach of Islam of reducing bureaucracy and publication of something that pertains to private aspects of family life.’ To say that it is less bureaucratic and less complex is one thing and to say it is taken lightly is another.

Host:’ Are there any specific measures placed to avoid abuse or haste of divorce?

Jamal Badawi:

There are measures taken in the initial selection of one’s future spouse to avoid problems from arising.’ There are teachings pertaining to what to do when problems arise between husband and wife.’ There are certain measures to be taken when the wife is at fault and what to follow before getting to the point of divorce.’ There are measures to be taken when the husband is at fault before getting to the point of divorce.’ There are regulations that prevent divorce from being effective immediately, there are certain procedures and waiting periods that may allow for a possibility of reconciliation between the two parties involved.