In this counseling answer:
• You can respectfully decline a request from your parents or show them kindness and care without obeying them.
• It is important to discuss with the brother your future family culture.
• In making this decision independently, you must realize it may come with consequences of damaging family ties.
As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,
Islam is a path to God (swt). The purpose of your religion and spiritual path is to have a Divine relationship first and foremost. When parents seem to contradict what Islam teaches, the human heart must make its own decisions before God (swt) in the knowledge that one day they will be asked alone about their life choices.
Muslim cultures emphasize obedience to parents as a religious duty. Contrary to what many Muslims believe and have been taught, the Qur’an does not have any verses that use the exact word of obedience (ateea’) regarding parents. The word in Arabic for actual obedience is not found in any verses that mention one’s parents. This is a cultural custom that people have used or have interpreted as such with the Quran to justify cultural expectations.
All the verses in the Qur’an, according to my knowledge and research, that talk about parents says in Arabic “bil walidayn HUSNA” and with your parents have HUSNA which comes from hasana, meaning beauty, excellence, and goodness. The word for obedience is not found. HUSNA can be understood in many ways. Is part of being beautiful and good with parents obeying and being dutiful? Sure, sometimes it is, but it is not the whole picture.
This makes a lot of sense considering if our parents were not Muslims or corrupt people who called us to wrong, it would not befit God (swt) to command us to obey our parents blindly no matter what they say or call us to do.
However, the meaning of having IHSAN and HUSNA towards our parents despite their belief and character makes more sense. If your parents are bad or not Muslims, you should have goodness and respect towards them, but that is not the same as obedience. You can respectfully decline a request from your parents or show them kindness and care without obeying them.
“And We have enjoined on humanity to be good and excellent to his parents; but if they strive to make you join with Me (in worship) anything (as a partner) of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not. Unto Me is your return and I shall tell you what you used to do.” (Quran 29:8)
The above verse and hadith cited is telling us to be good, excellent and dutiful as long as you are not disobeying God (swt) and His messenger (saw).
“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you; then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the last day; this is better and very good in the end.” (Quran 4:59)
In this verse, the word “to obey” is “ATEEA’” which is not found in the verses talking about parents.
That being said, you must have husna with your parents no matter what decision you make. Next, consider the following steps:
The brother you intend to marry should participate in softening the hearts of your parents as he did with you. If his knowledge is sufficient and clear enough for you then perhaps he can help your parents open up to the idea of marriage. This is not to say he should convince them of whether or not to be “Shia or Sunni” as this is an individual choice.
It is important to discuss with the brother your future family culture. Although you have adopted Sunni as your path, your family may still put pressure on you when it comes to your children and what beliefs and values they should have.
It is important to emphasize balance when discussing these differences with your future husband and family. Each school of thought has differences in performing rituals like prayer and fasting. I am sure you are becoming aware of these differences and have chosen to follow the Sunni interpretation; just remember that this can be an opportunity for a union of the pros and cons of each culture.
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Ultimately, we are Muslims if we follow the prophetic guidance and Quran to the best of our abilities. Socio-political and religious labels can be a deterrent to the concept of just being Muslim. We often emphasize these labels in order to maintain self-definition. In the end, we are servants of God and will be accountable for our intentions and efforts.
The Qur’an should be your tool as this is the Divine book that has no doubt, regardless of sectarianism. “Sunnis” and “Shia” alike will honor the Divine word when used properly to make your arguments as to why you feel this brother is a good suitor.
In the end, marriage is your choice. If parents do not support it based on reasons that contradict divine principles, ultimately, you must decide what is best for your life here and the next.
In making this decision independently, you must realize it may come with consequences of damaging family ties. Are you strong enough in your conviction to marry this brother and defend your religious methodology? Are you willing to choose what you feel is right, despite the losses that may occur?
If you have friends who are reliable and you trust their counsel, have them get involved as well as Imams (Sunni and Shia, if possible) in your area that could help your family and you make the best decisions based on Islamic values and Quranic guidance.
In our age, with all that is happening in the ummah, I pray you and your family can reconcile and transcend the evils of separation and bigotry towards those that are different, especially our own Muslim brothers and sisters.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.