Short Answer: Please know that your parents have limitations on what they are entitled to tell you to do or not do. When one is told to “obey,” the only being we should ever obey wholly and without question is Allah! Parents cannot force you to marry a certain person, or force you to study a certain subject, or forbid you from practicing your religion. But as long as your parents are not violating your rights, they must be respected and listened to. It is not always easy to do so, but there is great reward in being good to them.
As-salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah
Peace and mercy of God be upon you.
Thank you so much for reaching out to us with your question. It is so thrilling to hear from a young person who is interested in Islam. I, myself, became Muslim when I was 19 years old. We are very excited to have the opportunity to answer your questions and assist you on your journey.
Having Patience in the Face of Adversity
I am going to start by recounting a story from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
There is a well-known story from his life of a neighbor of his who hated him for the message he brought. (This is a larger topic for a different time, but, like many messengers before him, he was rejected and hated by his neighbors and community.) She was an old lady and liked to throw garbage at him and at his house.
One day he noticed that she was not around – no one was throwing trash at him! To most of us, this would bring nothing more than relief that the abuse had stopped. But the Prophet (pbuh) was concerned.
He learned that she was sick. It would have been a very human reaction, indeed, to feel ever so slightly satisfied that she was now suffering as she had caused him to suffer. But Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) showed his outstanding character by instead looking in on her and offering her any care and assistance that she might require.
The woman was so humbled by his selfless actions that she became convinced that he must be a true messenger of God and she accepted Islam.
Lead By Example
This story shows us that by staying strong and being kind and patient though we may face adversity, we show others the true essence of Islam.
If someone is being disrespectful or rude to you, the best course of action is to rise above it. Don’t allow them to drag you down to their level. Take the high road, and match their disrespect with patience and calm. Match their intolerance with kindness. Show them what being Muslim has done to your character. Even if they are unmoved, insha Allah (God Willing) Allah will be pleased with you and you will be rewarded.
Do not Take Abuse Lying Down
There is a line, however, that does need to be drawn. If you are being abused or if you are in danger, you are in no way obligated or encouraged to endure this abuse.
This is a huge misconception amongst Muslims!
Many Muslims like to say that we must have “sabr” (loosely translated to “patience”) when facing adversity. They define this as being calm and patient and enduring in silence.
This advice enables abusive behavior and is not acceptable in Islam.
The reason that the word “patience” is a poor translation for “sabr,” is because patience in English often implies a lack of action. Sabr is active. Sometimes sabr is having the fortitude to stand up to abuse even when it is hard. Sabr is taking steps to remove yourself from a dangerous situation.
The story of the Prophet (pbuh) and his elderly neighbor is one that clearly demonstrates the virtues of patience, kindness, and respect. But we should also keep in mind the story of the Hijrah.
There came a time when the Muslims were so hated and persecuted that they were forced to flee Mecca. The Prophet (pbuh) himself fled as well, when he learned that there was a plot to assassinate him. He did not encourage his followers to “be patient” and remain in a situation in which their lives were in grave danger. He did not wait around to be killed. He left and told others to leave as well.
A Final Word: Parents
As you mentioned that you are a teenager, I am going to presume that you still live at home with your parents. I am sure that you know that parents are held in a very high place in Islam – including non-Muslim parents. We are told to obey our parents and do our best to please them.
Please know that your parents have limitations on what they are entitled to tell you to do or not do. When one is told to “obey,” the only being we should ever obey wholly and without question is Allah! Parents cannot force you to marry a certain person, or force you to study a certain subject, or forbid you from practicing your religion.
But as long as your parents are not violating your rights, they must be respected and listened to. It is not always easy to do so, but there is great reward in being good to them.
Again, I would like to sincerely thank you for reaching out to us. Please submit any and all questions and we will be delighted to try to help you along your journey to Islam.
And Allah knows best.
I hope this helps.
Salam and please keep in touch.
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