The Story

It had been a few days since Salman thought about telling his parents. He had received a full scholarship from Columbia University to study journalism, a subject he was insanely passionate about and which had already given him a jump start in a career. He was the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, wrote numerous editorials for the town paper, and had a published online magazine. Though he knew he could be extremely successful as a journalist, Salman's parents were very set on sending their son off to medical school.  The problem was that Salman had absolutely no interest in pursuing a career in medicine.

In that vein, he brought the Columbia acceptance letter to his parents and told them what he really wanted to do. Without flinching, his mother reminded him about how the community saw their family, what their relatives' expectations were, and how, as his parents, they knew better than Salman what was good for his future. Even though his education would be free with Columbia, his parents wanted him to take out student loans to pursue a medical career – yet another huge reason Salman shied away from medicine.  They added that he was free to pursue any career he wanted after becoming a radiologist. A short debate led to an argument, and Salman's mother finally said that if he pursued the journalism path, she would never speak to him again. Standing at the crossroads of a major life decision, Salman went into his room bewildered and lost as to what would come next.

Trampled Ambitions

 

surah17“Say: Everyone works according to their niche, and your Lord knows best who is on the right path.” (17:84)

The above situation is a fictitious representation of very real events that many of us have experienced or know of others who have. We are all created with various pursuits, abilities, and talents. Failure to understand that leads to a failure of understanding our existence. In the verse above, Allah clearly highlights that every soul is unique in what it offers the ummah in its expertise and service. All humans cannot be medical doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Parents must understand this. This can also lead to a better understanding of what type of people could be suitable for each other in marriage (a topic for another time).

When speaking with young Muslims who are beginning their lives in college or the workforce, and have the opportunity to explore different careers, many have expressed how their dreams are crushed when their parents limit their career paths. The hypocrisy is that many of our elders came to this country for one common reason: opportunity. When that same spirit of choice is not extended to their offspring, an unfair double standard is created within the community.
At the same time, many youth experience a heavy load of insults and criticism for pursuing careers that don't come with a high-salary or fall within their parents' recommendations. I am sure we all know someone that can relate to Salman. The constant belittlement of one's aspirations or choices by their parents leads to feelings of insecurity, worthlessness, lack of self-confidence, and at times even depression. When a child is emotionally invested in their parents, of course their disappointments will only further that child's sadness. Now let us talk about the reality of parental relations, as Salman may end up throwing out his career while being “guilt-tripped.”

Relationships are a 2-Way Street

“Whoever does not show mercy to our young and revere our elders is not of us.”Tirmidhi, Book 27, Hadith 2046

Notice in the above hadith how the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) teaches the ummah that respect towards elders and mercy towards the young is a two-way street. It is a reciprocal equation to act upon. Any and all relationships in life require both parties to put forth an effort for them to succeed. The parent/child relationship is one of those as well. Though my goal is not to detail those rights one by one, it is an important point to remember while reading the rest of this post. Growing up within the Muslim community, many youth are told over and over again that parents are to be adhered to unconditionally, since all of their choices are meant to be good for the child. Although initially it is easy to dictate such rules to a child since they have not reached an age where they can reason, many parents find themselves in a bind as the child gets older. Emotional blackmail of religious texts starts to become a norm in some families, to the extent that the child's life choices of marriage, career, college, what car to buy, etc. are all held at ransom. Just as our deen lays down certain rights to be shown to our parents, it does the same for children.

The Reality of 17:23 – Birr al-Waalidayn

surah17_23

“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and to exercise excellence with your parents. If one or both of them reach old age in your life, then do not say so much as “uff” to them nor repel them. Rather, speak to them with nobility.” (17:23)

Islam takes the concept of respecting one's parents very seriously. The Qur'an discusses the worship of Allah and showing respect to one's parents as dual concepts which directly intertwine in the religion.

Traditionally, when a parent wants to remind a child about the rights they have over them, ayah 23 of Surah 17 is referenced. Every child has probably heard: “be good to your parents.” Though that is correct, it is important to look at what comes after: “when one or both of them reach a senile age.”

Think about this, it is not as common for an 18-year-old to have parents who have reached a senile age. The reality is that this ayah is not intended for a teenager or child in their early 20s necessarily. Parents usually reach old age when the child is more established in his or her life, with a job, family of their own, and a house. So the reality is that the same parents who are trying to advise their young, need to change the audience of this ayah to themselves, if their own parents are still alive. The audience is not unestablished youth; rather it is established men and women whose parents are reaching old age.

 

54 Responses

  1. awez

    assalam alaikum.
    i’m 18 years old and i live in india.
    I passed my 12th grade in 2013 and decided to drop a year for preparation of engineering becoz i thought that i need more time to prepare.I have filled many forms of engineering but now I heard of this course and I love this course- “2 Years #Diploma in # Arabic with Islamic Studies & Da’wah DIPLOMA FOR ‘DUNIYA’ AND ‘AAKHIRAH'” PLANNED BY DR ZAKIR NAIK.i want to do this course.,but my parents want me to do engineering.i am not a bit interested in engineering and i want to do this course and get a job there and i don’t want to become an engineer.so please please tell me what should i do?
    SHOULD I DO AS MY PARENTS SAY OR SHOULD I DO THIS DIPLOMA?
    your article came when i needed it the most,so please please tell me what should i do

    PLEASE REPLY FAST.

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    Reply
    • shine

      Asalaamualaikum i am doing eng but i am not bit satisfied by it nd the irony is i realised this in 8th sem

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    • Salman

      Wow if i had known about that course iwould have done it after my 12th. I have just finished my graduation. And i don’t know what to do now. Even i live in Mumbai. Brother can u please give some details of that course ?
      Jazakallah khayr

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    • Fatima Khan

      Wa alaikum salaam Awez,
      If you want to do this diploma for Allah’s sake, go ahead. Start to be really good to your parents, make lot of dua’a for them, they will turn round once they see that the islamic studies are making you a better son with excellent manners. Allah Ta’ala will help you in an endeavour like this.
      If they are not helping you financially, look for an evening job or scholarship.
      Tell them you will go into engineering after this diploma, if it interests you then. There are a lot of youth in USA now who are doing both religious & secular studies & turning out more complete.
      This is coming from a parent.

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    • Nihal Khan

      Wa Alaikum as Salam Awez,

      Follow the steps in the article and try to sit down and discuss this with your parents. See where it goes from there. There’s always barakah in taking Shura.

      Nihal

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      • benj (@lifecrack)

        Please brother, If you can manage to convince Muslims around the world to make a topic on this one. To enlighten both the children and the parents.

        No wonder why most child gets rebellious! Parents takes small phrase from the Qur’an and threatened the child.

        Now they’re getting old and about to resign from the job. I work with my father, I didn’t choose to come here in Saudi Arabia but he told me that I’ll stay here only for two months but he lied because he said that he already performed Istikarah.

        It felt really unfair. Its like I’ll do istikarah too and then leave them without telling them. Thats not right.

        I need more on this topic please.

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      • benj (@lifecrack)

        I believe that Islam is made by Allah for us as a perfect guidance/religion and way of life.

        Its not that I promote hatred for parents but the rights of each party. Its naturally to feel guilty, be rebellious, and later be disrespectful because what their parents do to them isnt right.

        Before when I was young, they always told me that if I don’t “OBEY” my parents then I’ll go to Hell. Simple as that. And then I thought to myself, Islam is cruel, If I remember correctly “Allah is unjust or something” (May Allah Forgive Me and my parents).

        If they said that Qur’an is just and fair then I shouldn’t feel guilty, harassed, threatened, or something like that. Then I said to myself that I would love to learn this Qur’an.

        Now im 26, I feel ignorant. I always stays at home. This is insane.

        I really wish I could explain all here but I couldn’t to my current knowledge and experience.

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  2. mahmoud

    Your translation of “kibar” as senile is very interesting. I have never heard any of the mufassirin commenting on the ayah in the way you have that birr al walidayn is only when the parent’s grow “senile.” This type of self-interpretation is very dangerous. I have noticed that many of our leadership these days seem to be making the parents of individuals the “bad guys,” and this is very unfortunate since in fact, birr al walidayn would preempt this very type of dismissive tone that is present throughout this article, given the numerous examples of that in the Quran and hadith. If the child listens to his parents regarding a career choice, rather than discourage the child, one should mention all the baraka and ni’mah that Allah would put in his career for being so obedient to one’s parents. This is the selflessness that our Prophet has taught.

    The initial fictional story is only that–fiction. I doubt the author really has an inkling what he is talking about since none of the elite institutions of higher education including the ivy leagues such as Columbia offer full scholarships or any other merit based aid. They only offer financial aid to those who need it: https://cc-seas.financialaid.columbia.edu/forms/outside So the author’s fraudulent story whose purpose was solely to illustrate the difficulty this very gifted individual who is getting a full scholarship as opposed to the loans he would accrue in medical school falls short of its point. In reality, most Muslim students that I have met were sub-par students and could not end up making it to medical or law school anyway, so fell back on other careers their parents did not want them to pursue, not because they were gifted enough to excel in that field, but because they had no other choice. Or, they simply went to the Caribbean medical schools and came back to the US, when if they had stayed in the US, there was no other field they would have excelled at, let alone found such a stable and lucrative job, so their obedience to their parents actually played to their advantage.

    This entire article makes a joke of the intelligence of parents, rather than addresses the true concerns. The radiologist statement, for instance, is a mockery of most parents in an attempt to highlight their narrow-mindedness who in reality are not so demanding of something that specific. The truth is that the situation is much more complex, and many other factors such as job suitability and marriage appeal also play a role. I have talked to many parents, for example, who have told me that they wanted their daughters to get a certain education only to make them more attractive as marriage candidates. Given the number of Muslim women who cannot get married here in the US, a concern that many of the writers on this website have decried, this is a legitimate concern. It is not always a hypocritical desire of the parents that their child makes a lucrative salary, and many times the parents are just as much a victim of our cultures as the child–and the difference is that they have to think of the long-term benefit of the family in a practical manner rather than idealistically, and the child is only thinking for himself or herself. I was recently talking to a woman who conceded that she wished she had listened to her parents’ career choice earlier, as that would have made her life easier (not because her parents would have treated her better, but because of numerous other factors). So there may be wisdom in the advice of our parents who have so much more experience than us, and that may be difficult for this author, in his early teens to appreciate.

    What the author should be highlighting is the real problem which is not that parents demand a certain profession of their children, but that many cultures stratify careers into various social classes, and this extends into our generation that has been born and raised in the US. Just go to any matrimonial service, where many US born citizen Arab Americans or Indian Americans demand that they will only get married to a doctor or engineer, and desire a woman of fair skin. This is a much deeper problem than parents demanding a certain career of their children: this is in fact the very jahala that our Messenger was sent to stamp out. Wallahu a’lam.

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      • Fatima

        As salam alaikum Brother Mahmoud,

        With due respect I amazed,absolutely amazed at your total lack of understanding of a person’s passion(or lack of) for a career or for a life partner!!

        Can I give you a few examples where parents’ unwillingness to consider the child’s capabilities has actually led to ‘pure hell’ for years and years?
        well,I can assuredly tell you of many,many medical school fellows of mine,both junior and senior,who were forced into medical school by their parents and they agreed coz they couldnt say no.What happened?they have taken close to 10 years to complete med school,hate medicine now and yes,were very very miserable during their med school years AND a few have dropped it completely.

        And I seem to be surrounded by mismatched marriages,especially of the yesteryears,where the personalities clearly don’t match,when all efforts ‘to patiently love,adapt and work hard’ at the marriage have yielded nothing but a sort of inspid compromise that routinely manifests as countless deep sighs during the course of the day.And yes,these marriages were absolutely of the type where the boy and girl simply signed on the dotted line without their preferences being taken into account.

        On the contrary,its just the other way round.I think its crucial,absolutely crucial,that parents think a million times esp in matrimony matters,if the two are compatible or not,owing to the high rate of divorce right now.(Please,this is in no way advocating unislamic stuff like dating etc..)

        I do not know what profession you are in but one of the cruelest things I have seen is a totally uninterested student being forced to learn the Kreb’s Cycle,the Oxidative Phosphorylation pathway,the Non Oxidative phosphorylation pathway,mix i and feeling miserable that he could have done something better elsewhwere

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    • Nihal Khan

      Assalamu ‘Alaikum Mahmoud. Thanks for your feedback.

      – If you take a look at the lexical meaning as well as many books of tafsir such as Tafsir al-Qurtubi and the other sources I listed in the article, you’ll see that “senile” is the closest meaning that has been adopted for كبر. It’s not self-interpretation at all.

      – The article is written from the point of view of a child and not that of a parent nor third person narrator. The truth is that the points presented in the article are valid contentions which many people face. Perhaps not myself nor you, but the type of thinking that the article seeks to address is definitely out there. Yes, not all parents are of this nature, but many are.

      – If a child pursues a certain career based on his/her parents’ choice that is fine. The article addresses that choice of the parents to overbearingly exert their child in a certain direction which directly affects that child’s happiness. Following one’s parents’ desires in this area would perhaps be rewarding, but at the same time it could be pure hell for that child for many years of his/her life to come.

      – Yup, the story is fiction, but the message is true. I think I have just an inkling as to what I am speaking about as I have family that studied at Columbia with a full scholarship. None the less, the story is used to illustrate a point.

      – What you are doing is using this article as a measuring stick for situations you yourself are coming up with. This article is seeking to provide a perspective to hopefully lead to a solution of opening up dialogue; it is not meant to be an academic article covering anything and everything on the subject.

      – I feel you are attempting to generalize all situations under the same umbrella, but the reality is that it is not so.

      – Yes, there are points of humor to keep the article entertaining for the reader to keep it light-hearted.

      – Yes, getting married is getting tougher and tougher for many, but parents rejecting proposals simply based on someone being “of a certain profession” is just a tad bit vain? We’re suppose to look at deen and character before anything else.

      – You are correct, there are many children who get married and are very selfish in that regard and harm their families in the process. That should be noted for those of us seeking to marry to keep our parents in mind.

      – Parents do have experience, much more than their children. No one ever said to not take from that experience, but what is being discussed is the totalitarian nature of a black and white “yes” or “no” culture between parents and children. I consult my parents all the time with major life decisions and alhamdulillah take them very seriously. But this article is not about me, it is about people struggling between following their ambitions and keeping their parents happy. Seems you just wanted to take a jab below the belt here.

      – This is definitely worthy of giving attention to as it is an issue. Certain jobs have created social classes which we need to get rid of in our communities.

      Jazakallahu khair.

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      • mahmoud

        Jazakallah for your reply

        I appreciate your accepting that there is a deeper cultural jahala here that underlies this problem.

        Just a few comments: your quoting Qurtubi and Razi’s tafsir where they give examples of obedience does not restrict obedience to only those types which you have mentioned. To restrict obedience to one’s parents only in the case of senility is just preposterous, since most individuals do not even become senile in their old age. This is just a manipulation of the ayah. Even if kibr does mean senility, the ayah is saying not to say “uff” in that case when they might demand your patience. Before that, when it says to be good to one’s parents, it does not mention their old age at all. Ibn Kathir and Tabari, who place no such restrictions of senility that you did, say that Allah mentioned old age (not senility) because that is when they become weak and cannot protect themselves against the child if the child hurts them. And this is the opinion of Ikramah and Mujahid, the student’s of Ibn Abbas, the great mufassir.

        Many ahadith that you did not mention, which are needed to elucidate this ayah, clearly indicate obedience to one’s parents in ALL situations except when it is against Allah’s commands; I will not mention all of them, but one in particular which al-Bayhaqi and Ibn Asakir narrated:

        Ibn Abbas narrates that Rasulullah said “for one who disobeyed his parents, two gates of Hell shall remain open, and if he had just one father or mother, then one gate.” Thereupon someone asked, “Is this true even when the parents have been unjust to this person?” whereupon he said three times, وإن ظلما وإن ظلما وإن ظلما (even if they were unjust). Many of the commentators of this hadith have mentioned that even if the parents are unfair to the child, he must obey them in ALL things as long as it is not in contradiction to the dictates of Allah. Following a career choice does not fall in that category. Yes, parents should be more accepting of their children’s career choices, but in the situation that they don’t, the child MUST obey according to these ahadith and athar.

        In addition, I have two other major contentions with your article: First that in our generation, the problem is not that children are giving too much respect to their parents, but too little. I personally know of several instances where children have physically abused parents; many throw their parents in nursing homes when they grow older (during this so called “senile” phase you are so strongly advocating), and this is a very common phenomenon in the US. So to highlight this issue is in my humble opinion, a problem of lack of priorities (not that it is not an issue, but just that it is trivial compared to some of the issues out there, and that composing articles like these will cause these individuals to swell their chests and be even more aggressive to their parents than they might have been).

        The second is this concept that “it may be pure hell for the child for many years to come” because he/she obeyed his or her parents. Apart from the fact that nothing can match the intensity of hell and so your statement is outrageously hyperbolized, it is articles like this that in fact generate this “hellish” disenchantment. If obedience was advocated as an ideal instead of idealizing disobedience and mockery of parents as you are, then the child would feel great satisfaction in his career because it was in obedience to his parents. A career is just that–a career, and twenty years down the line, no one will care what career they chose. It will just be the norm for them, and no one will love or hate their job with the same intensity that they did originally, and it will just be part of life. No one feels strong emotions for that long, and this is just the nature of human beings. It is the same issue within marriage (I keep mentioning this, because this is the other major issue people clash with their parents over): when parents ask their child to marry an individual, a common argument is that it will be a loveless marriage. But this is only because these children, due to their feeling so unjustly treated never give the marriage a chance, and never try to love their spouses. There is no single perfect career or spouse out there. Love is to take care of and treat with honor, something that develops over time and requires work, not on first sight of a perfect soulmate. (Incidentally, this line of thinking that there is a perfect spouse out is probably partially responsible for the high rate of divorce in this country, since the second some problem arises with the spouse, the person thinks “hey, this is not a perfect spouse and he/she is not the one for me, so I must divorce and find my perfect match who is still out there waiting for me.”) It is similar for one’s career.

        As a side note, this is not something hypothetical that I am talking about, but something that I have first hand experience with. My father asked me to choose a certain profession, and although my original intention was to pursue another line of work, I obeyed him and pleased my father, and have found great satisfaction in my work over time because I gave it a chance. I could have instead railed against my father, and argued, bringing both myself and him great distress, but alhamdulillah it worked out well for the both of us. Inshallah, this might be something that saves me from the real hell (which is not the hell of a lifetime of disappointment due to something as trivial as a career choice). Wallahu a’lam.

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      • Sarah

        Assalamu alaykum,

        I see where you’re coming from, but everyone else’s experience is not limited to your experience. I have personally known many people who ‘gave in’ to their parents and were miserable for many years, as well as having wasted talents that could have been EXTREMELY useful to the Muslim community. And I’m not saying this from the point of view of ‘a rebellious teenager’ – this is a phenomenon that my religious parents observed amongst their own generation and even siblings, and were determined not to see again in their own family.

        There’s a difference between parents advising someone to take a certain career path in order to be able to earn for themselves (especially when it’s from a realist perspective of providing for yourself vs. not being able to do anything with your major), and between blindly forcing someone even when they have shown you that they are responsible adults and have a good plan to earn money Islamically for themselves.

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      • Nihal Khan

        - Obedience to parents was not considered restricted to the scenario of parents becoming old nor did I say that, nor did Qurtubi or Razi say that. That’s your own statement. At the same time though Ibn Kathir or Tabari may not have mentioned it, it does not mean that the commentary of others is not adhered to. Various tafasir have various functions. Ibn Kathir is more historical while Razi makes one think. Tafasir are interpreted holistically. This is an article seeking to provide perspective, not a fully blown historical or academic discussion. If you bring the discussion of parents forcing children into a career/marriage they are not satisfied with in front of an Imam, he would perhaps have a different view then yours on this subject.
        – Yes, parents do deserve respect. Yes, there are places parents are not respected. I never negated having respect for one’s parents nor did I ever advocate to throw them in a nursing home in senile age–astaghfirullah. Look up the definition for senile in English and co-relate it to the meaning of كبر in Arabic with a lexicon. It’s a basic rule of understanding sarf/nahw and a little bit of balagha.
        – “Pure hell” is an English phrase of speech. It is commonly used in the English language to refer to a high state of anguish. Again, look it up.
        – Many would disagree when understanding what a career is…it’s something you will do every day for 20-30 years of your life. And yes, many do feel strong emotions about it after they’re done. You’re generalizing everyone based on your own feelings.
        – Much of the criticism you are posing is an imposed version of your life experiences with the subject matter we are speaking about, but with all due respect your and my experiences do not speak for every single person struggling to balance the love of their parents and the love of what they wish to do in life. You’re making everything out to be black and white when it is not.

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      • mahmoud

        With all due respect, you simply just don’t get it. I am not making things black and white, nor denying that some of these people will hate their careers because they obeyed their parents in choosing it. But that’s the point: they hate it BECAUSE their parents made them do it. Many of them would have had no problem with it if they simply gave it a chance. And the others who truly did not like it would have come to terms with it because they were satisfied with pleasing their parents, rather than hate something that their parents commanded them to do their entire life (it’s like hating to wake up for Fajr everyday, and resenting Allah for commanding us to do it). It is articles like these that fill people with anger towards their parents, and with this victimized approach, hate their jobs and parents, subhanallah.

        Apart from your misquoting of tafsirs (the historicity of which play no role in the fraudulent restriction of obedience to parents in those situations which you are now retracting), mistranslations (kibar means “old age” according to the Hans Wehr dictionary page 810 and Lane’s Lexicon page 2586 see here: http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume7/00000114.pdf which are two of the most reliable lexicon’s of the Arabic language, and neither of which mention senility which implies a concomitant mental and physical decline, so either you don’t understand the nuances of Arabic balagha or English or both), and your unpolished usage of phrases such as “pure hell” (which I obviously understand is used in colloquial English figuratively and not literally, but should not be used by anyone who understands the gravity of hell just like the term “Jesus” is used lightly in lieu of “god” as an exclamatory expression by some Muslims), simply answer this question: do you agree with the hadith of rasulullah that a person has to obey their parents for anything that does not contradict the commands of Allah? If you agree with Rasulullah, then what do you say in the case that the individual asks his parents to let him pursue his own career, and they deny him that? Should he obey them, or disobey them? Make your position on this clear rather than beating about the bush.

        Wallahu a’lam

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      • Nihal Khan

        - “they hate it BECAUSE their parents made them do it.” That can definitely be an issue to speak about, but that is not the subject or focus of this article. Again, more can be written about the subject, but I have not done that here. Just because something has not been addressed does not mean the issue does not exist.

        – “It is articles like these that fill people with anger towards their parents” Actually, one can derive whatever they wish with the right/wrong intentions from the same piece of literature. We are speaking about a real issue which many people face in their day to day lives–so the same article which you feel will cause people to feel anger towards their parents will actually motivate others to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with them. To each their own.

        – “Apart from your misquoting of tafsirs (the historicity of which play no role in the fraudulent restriction of obedience to parents in those situations which you are now retracting), mistranslations” I did not misquote any tafasir nor did I advocate to restrict obedience to a certain area. We are taking a problem within a certain frame and examining it. If you are fluent in Arabic you can reference what I wrote from the tafasir. I’ve also passed this perspective by my own teachers and they have not objected to it. Perhaps you can do the same?

        – ” (kibar means “old age”)” If you read some of the tafasir which I have quoted in the article you will see that reaching old age carries some senile traits which the commentators in their tafasir spoke about. If you do not want to use the word senile that is fine, but then one would have to define old age and what comes with it. Again, check out the tafasir listed in the article. It’s not that they reach a certain number, rather it’s a certain milestone which leads to many other things.
        – “do you agree with the hadith of rasulullah that a person has to obey their parents” Read the article fully and you’ll have your answer. If you did you wouldn’t be asking this question.
        – If you’d like to focus on the subject of the article feel free to do so. If you’d like to aggressively argue for the sake of aggressively arguing, then consider this the last comment of yours that will be approved.

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      • mahmoud

        As a side note, the Arabic word for senile is خرف; see Hans-Wehr dictionary page 235 (who due to his preciseness actually uses the word “senile” in his definition), and Lane’s Lexicon page 725 http://www.studyquran.org/LaneLexicon/Volume2/00000361.pdf
        since this word implies mental deterioration, not just old age, unlike the word كبر

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      • ZAI

        ” when parents ask their child to marry an individual, a common argument is that it will be a loveless marriage. But this is only because these children, due to their feeling so unjustly treated never give the marriage a chance, and never try to love their spouses. There is no single perfect career or spouse out there. Love is to take care of and treat with honor, something that develops over time and requires work, not on first sight of a perfect soulmate.”

        Br, Mahmoud,
        You may have a legitimate point when it comes to careers…I think it’s an issue that can be debated atleast. You are on completely shaky ground
        asking for obedience when it comes to unwanted marriages though. That definitely falls under the standard you yourself have mentioned of “…except if it goes against what Allah commands”. No one can be married without willing consent.Parents can try to convince a child or make their opinion known…but they absolutely cannot contract the marriage w/o consent and the child has no obligation whatsover to feel guilty or bad for rejecting the choice.

        Your analysis of working on the marriage and giving love time to grow is simplistic and restricted to an ideal world brother. Sorry, but things like physical attraction or compatibility of temperments/personalities are a reality that contribute a lot to the success of a marriage. These are legitimate issues that can’t just be explained away by saying the kids are only against it because the parents wanted it. You say some of the commentators are being too hard on parents, but you yourself are being too hard on and dismissive of childrens concerns as well.

        There are hadith of the prophet(s) asking not parents but person getting married to see a woman and see if they are attractive and also hadith that prophet allowed a woman to get divorced from Thabit(R) because she wasn’t physically attracted to him, despite she herself admitting he was great in every other sense. He didn’t tell her to ask her fathers opinion before granting her the divorce. To dismiss this all and boil it down to getting used to a spouse and giving it time is too simplistic. Real life does not work that way.

        My own parents wanted me to marry a female cousin, but I was disinclined because I knew her to be very hot-tempered and have a general attitude whereas I’m mild and laid-back by temperment. If I married her I would be faced with a choice of being a doormat or fighting every day. 10 years later my own parents thank God they gave me a choice and didn’t try to force it because the guy she DID end up marrying went through exactly what I thought I would, and they’re now divorcing because he couldn’t take it any more.

        Yes, love-grows and is not based purely on the superficial…but the key word is PURELY. A mature and realistic appraisal doesn’t succumb to overly-romantic superficial traits, but it doesn’t totally dismiss desires either. It strikes a balance between the two. Children have every right to
        say no to parents in this regard and their concerns cannot be dismissed as simply being caused by their having been brainwashed into rebellion.

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    • ZAI

      ” none of the elite institutions of higher education including the ivy leagues such as Columbia offer full scholarships or any other merit based aid. They only offer financial aid to those who need it: https://cc-seas.financialaid.columbia.edu/forms/outside So the author’s fraudulent story whose purpose was solely to illustrate the difficulty this very gifted individual who is getting a full scholarship as opposed to the loans he would accrue in medical school falls short of its point. In reality, most Muslim students that I have met were sub-par students and could not end up making it to medical or law school anyway”

      Br. Mahmoud,
      I agree with the points you made in the latter part of your comment.
      This part here is inaccurate though. I dunno what Muslims you’ve met wherein
      this is true, but plenty of Muslims get great grades and get into law or med school.
      Muslims are disproportionately represented at most professional schools…as are
      Hindu Indians and Asians. Further, plenty of ivy league schools give out scholarships
      and grants. Infact, my sister chose her law school because she got a grant for
      1/2 the tuition that would save money from taking out loans.

      In any case, the author is using a hyperbolic example to make a point
      about the unreasonable conduct of SOME Muslim parents. It’s not meant
      to be 100% accurate, but to get the point across regarding some parents
      behavior and how they misuse Islam and employ threats/guilt to get what they want.

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  3. 'Aaishah

    I am looking to marry someone as his second wife and my parents are not pleased. Though they haven’t progressed to the silent treatment (yet) they have made clear that it is not an option and I can forget about it.

    I’ve tried to communicate the benefits of this kind of relationship, but they do not want to listen. They claim it is not in Islam to harm another family (his first wife and children) and that what I am suggesting is completely absurd.

    I have thought about it numerous times and am content with the decision I have made. I feel that he is the right partner for me (compatibility, character, religiousness), but my parents bring in my age and demeaningly say I am young, stupid, and brainwashed and that ‘they know better’. They have threatened to just marry me off if I keep pushing the subject, and say that I am sinful for doing so when they are not pleased. They have voiced their disappointment in me, though I am not pursuing anything haraam.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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    • arbadar

      ASAK Aaishah, my question to u would be… Is the first wife also fine with this decision?
      I can understand your point plus it is not haram for you nor it is for the guy, BUT I also believe that if the first wife is kept in the dark about this or is against this then there are many other issues you are not considering. Plus I think the guy does need to follow the Islamic criteria in this regard and involve his first wife in this, so that she can also make a decision that is in her and her children best interest. My sincere advice… Please look at this from all angles and from every point of view before u move ahead !

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      • 'Aaishah

        Walaykum asalam Arbadar,

        The first wife is aware of his intentions to marry again. She is not totally happy about it (though he did not expect her to jump up and down with joy – can’t imagine any woman that would!), but as far as I know from him, she understands from a religious perspective and is okay to a degree any woman would be on having to share her husband. I don’t think the children know yet but he will tell them if my parents agree.

        The problem is that I cannot speak on the first wife’s behalf to my parents, since I have not spoken to her myself. They have said they will go and talk to her, but not for a discussion, rather to tell her how ‘dumb’ her husband is being and how he has ‘brainwashed’ me also.

        I think, however, even if they heard it from her that she is okay with it, they still would come up with something to stop it – illegal in the West, it’s the 21st century, etc. My problem lies in whether or not I would be sinful for pushing it (as they have led me to believe) since they are obviously not pleased. It is a struggle, yes, and I may hurt them in the process, but many things are not easy yet their results are fruitful if done for the pleasure of Allaah.

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      • Umm ZAKAriyya

        How is being a second wife more rewarding than being the first /only wife ?

        I understand that marrying him is the best option if there are no other religious single men.

        Why does he not marry divorced / widows? That would be more rewarding for him .

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      • 'Aaishah

        Of course it is not ‘more rewarding’ to be a second wife. But it is undoubtedly the sunnah of the Messenger ﷺ. As slaves our intention is purely for the sake and pleasure of Allaah ‘azza wa jal; all else is in His Hands.

        I don’t know about rejecting the proposal because ‘he is not the only one out there’, neither do I know about how much reward there is in marrying a widow or divorcee versus marrying a virgin. The Prophet ﷺ did both.

        If anyone has suggestions from an Islamic standpoint, please do not hesitate. Barakallaahu feekun.

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      • Sarah Deen

        Sister ‘Aaishah,

        I am concerned that you seem unconcerned by the illegality factor if you are living in the West. Does it not bother you (Islamically or otherwise) that you will have absolutely no protected rights in this ‘marriage’ either during the relationship or if (Allah forbid) there were any problems?

        You should take some time to ponder why Islam demands marriage as the only halal form of relationship if we are free to enter into situations that have no legal existence in our jurisdiction?

        It is also an Islamic principle to follow the laws of the country you live in, so long as they do not force you to do something haram.

        I think you should really take your parents’ advice more seriously and think about all these issues. Another very important question is why this brother wants a second wife in the first place. Does he have a legitimate reason?

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    • ElvenInk

      Sister Aaishah the way you talk about second marriage is a little worrying. Please keep in mind that in Islam marriage between one man and one woman is the basis of the family and men were allowed to marry more than one in exceptional circumstances/to solve problems. For example after battle when many men died and many young women were left helpless/unable to support themselves (as at the time when Islam was new it was very difficult for a woman to survive on her own). Also, please keep in mind that in the Quran when this permission was given the ayahs say that it is allowed only if the man can treat his wives with complete justice and then right away Allah azza wa Jal says that men will not be able to do so. So it’s a loophole for extreme circumstances, not something to be desired or accepted as normal.

      Also, if you are living in the west then your parents are right. The reason a second marriage is good sometimes is that it allows the woman to have an official, legal status as a wife instead of being a mistress or something and being easily cast aside – it gives a woman rights. If you’re living in the west then it is not legal for a man to have a second wife and so you will be losing out on the RIGHTS that you would otherwise have.

      It’s a Sunnah for a man to keep his first wife only and treat her well. The prophet Muhammad stayed with his first wife Khadija and never married another woman as long as she was alive.

      Finally, I would ask you consider the fact that you will be hurting the first wife no matter what justifications you or the husband put forth. When you’re settled in your life as the second wife will you be happy to go and find a third wife for your husband? Please be honest with yourself in this as you are undoubtedly hurting someone else (and if they already have children then you are hurting the children as well)

      It’s my opinion that your parents are right in opposing this. They are looking our for you and trying to protect your rights. This situation is very different from the one described in the article about choosing a profession.

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      Reply
      • 'Aaisha

        In regards to your comment about the Qur’an and justice:

        Sheikh ibn Baz explained: There is no contradiction between the two verses. There is also no abrogation by one Verse of the other. The justice that is mentioned in the first Verse is the justice within one’s ability, which is related to being fair in division of time and in maintenance. As for being just with respect to love and sexual relations, this is not within one’s ability. This is what is being referred to in the Verse: “You will never be able to do perfect justice between your wives even if it is your ardent desire.” [An-Nisa: 129].

        In a hadith of the Prophet ﷺ, Aishah (RA) stated, “The Messenger of Allaah ﷺ used to divide his time between his wives and he was fair. He used to say, ‘O Allaah, that is my division with respect to what I have control over. Do not blame me for what You control and over which I have no control.” [Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah]

        Yes, it is a sunnah to marry one wife and stay with her. The Prophet ﷺ demonstrated that and I have no qualms with that.

        Not something to be desired or accepted as normal? I know that living in the West, we sometimes start assimilating into the culture and so it plays a huge role in how we perceive certain things. When you go abroad to other Muslim countries, this is a norm. Would it be okay for me to enter into a polygynous relationship if I moved from the States to a Muslim country? Or would the stance of ‘only in extreme circumstances’ and ‘a woman is helpless and can’t support herself’ still come up?

        I understand the part about hurting his wife and children, I do. I am not a heartless person, however much it may sound like it in written form; if you meet me I would buy you ice cream :). Seriously. But wouldn’t a wife and children feel kind of hurt no matter who the woman was? Whether she was divorced or widowed or there was another issue that led the man to marry again? Does that hurt not factor in because there is now some sort of ‘extreme circumstance’ behind the marriage? Are the wife and children now supposed to be understanding to the second wife and the husband? In reality, a practicing, God-fearing man’s decision to practice polygyny has nothing to do with the first wife’s ability/inability in anything. Not whatsoever. It may feel like it for a little while to the first wife, and it may seem like it to the casual observer (my father actually cited this as a reason – that the first wife is lacking), but that is not the case. A lot of the hurt stems from the first wife’s feeling that she was obviously lacking in something for her husband to want to go out and marry again. Self-esteem and self-confidence take a hit no matter what the situation is – if the second wife is widowed or divorced or in need (“Why do YOU have to be the one to marry her? Why can’t so-and-so do it?”) – if not in the beginning, then somewhere along the line. In fact, self-esteem and self-confidence can take a hit in any marriage, single or plural.

        I understand where my parents are coming from and why they are upset. I do not doubt they have only my best interests at heart and the best interests of those involved (his wife and children; especially the children). They worry about my rights and all their anger is just proof of their love for me as their child. If they do not accept it and I don’t end up marrying him, then so be it. QadrAllaah. There is good in everything for the believer. I just don’t want their outright defiance to be uninformed or misguided; I would rather any proposal be accepted or rejected based on character and religion, and for the sake of Allaah ‘azza wa jal.

        P.S. Nothing I said above was in any way meant to be demeaning, and I did not say anything in anger or with the intention to argue and disprove your point. I understand where you’re coming from and take your opinion as advice from my brother/sister (sorry, can’t tell by your name!). I brought up the subject under this forum because there were mentions of marriage in the article, which parents play a huge role in and can be an issue for Muslim youth as well as their profession. All good I’ve said is from Allaah ‘azza wa jal and bad from myself and Shaytan.

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      • Umm ZAKAriyya

        Dear Sister Ayesha ,

        If you observe the norm within our religion , you would have no trouble understanding .

        Let righteous single men and women get married to eachother first . Then comes everybody else.
        Do you remember how the rasoolullah advised a newly wed young man ( who had married a previously married women) why he hadn’t married a virgin like himself since it’s better in many ways. ( the rasoolullah pbuh however supported him because he had married the older woman for a noble cause. To take care of his young orphan siblings)

        If you are young, unmarried and pious , a similar single unmarried pious man is more deserving of you than a man who already has a living wife.

        I think for a first wife, it would be more hard on her if her husband married a virgin/unmarried rather than a widow or divorcee. So yes it matters who her husband marries.
        And caring for how the first wife might feel is very important as a muslim. Remember how rasoolullah (pbuh) prevented Ali (ra) from taking abu lahab’s daughter as his second wife ? Because he knew how much it would hurt Fathima(ra).
        So yes , if there’s more harm than good in the marriage , it must be avoided for the greater good.

        I understand in certain circumstances , being a second wife may be the best option . But your case doesn’t seem to be one of those.

        How are you in anyway following the sunnah of the prophet by being a virgin co-wife? He was a man.

        If this indeed was more rewarding , The prophet would have got his most beloved daughter Fatima ( leader of the women of paradise) married to someone who already had one or more wives.

        Bottom line : being a second wife is not more rewarding .

        If you do really want a polygynous marriage related reward , the best thing to do is – marry a single pious brother , and then find a widow/divorcee as his second wife.
        This way you are happy and your parents are too.

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      • Abu Muhammad

        It is very sad to see all these muslims discouraging this Muslim sister. Now I don’t know how good of a Muslim this brother is that she plans on marrying. However, with the condition of the ummah today, if I had a sister I would happily marry her to a pious man who was already rather than almost everyone I know. The reason being is because men are not real men today. Alhumdulillah I was blessed to have a lot of friends and know a lot of people, and to be honest I would never get my sister married to any of them.

        I have also been blessed to be around of ulema, and the stories they tell me are just ridiculous. Not only that, but alhumdulillah I know Muslim psychologists who tell me the reality of the problems their clients deal with.

        My point is that if a Muslim sister wants to protect her iman and marry a person who is married, then who are we to intervene? Is it better that she marries an unmarried person? Perhaps. However, do you know how hard it is to find a good pious unmarried man? My wife was telling me that she had many marriage proposals before she married me and every single guy wanted to change her. Almost every single guy didn’t except her for wearing niqab and said that they wanted her to not wear it after marriage.

        Not only that, but my female cousin is having such a hard-time to find a good pious Muslim man. They aren’t looking for anything spectacular, but rather a brother who prays 5 times, wants to learn his deen, and stays away from haram. Now we can say “I know a lot of people who fit that description.” However there are two problems:

        1. Either the guy isn’t interested
        2. When digging deeper, you find out that guy is involved in some un-acceptable things.

        In the end, as long as the man who this sister is God-fearing and treats both wives equally, we shouldn’t tell her what she should or should not do. We don’t know her circumstance.

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      • 'Aaisha

        Umm Zakariyya,

        I know it’s been nearly a month since you replied and I am kind of late, but there is something about your comment that struck me:

        “If you are young, unmarried and pious , a similar single unmarried pious man is more deserving of you than a man who already has a living wife.”

        Your comment above is precisely the reason we have a stigma in our society and Ummah about marrying widows and divorcees, male or female. “young and unmarried, check, check, so is he/she.” Maybe it does not align with your views, but marriage was never (or shouldn’t be, anyway) about seeking compatibility in those areas. There are cultures across the world who look down on divorced women and men and refuse to marry them just for this fact, toss everything else aside. It’s the reason women and men stay in unhappy and unhealthy marriages, to avoid the reputation divorce carries and comments very similar to yours that people make if divorcees ever decide to attempt proposing to a single woman/man.

        Marriage for Allaah’s sake was ordained by Islam, and it is sad to see the cultural ideologies that have riddled our perception of it. May Allaah guide us all to that which is good and better and increase our understanding allahumma ameen!

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      • Sarah

        I really hate polygamy more than anything in the world and I sometimes hate being female because of it. Before you all jump down my throat and tell me that Allah (swt) allowed it I want you to know that I accept it, but it doesn’t change my emotions towards it. I’ve heard too many horror stories about it ( i.e. men leaving their wives after they dedicated their youth to them and had children for them and then, after tasting some success in their careers, leave and marry a younger women purely for their own hormones under the guise of Islam) and frankly I think it’s insensitive, and hurtful. I’m glad I live in the west where it is illegal so I don’t have to put up with it. Besides, I don’t really see men out there who are qualified to even live up to those standards as outlined by the Qur’an and Sunnah. Our men are basically divided into two camps with a small portion in the middle. Either they’re religious and not educated or they are educated and not religious. Not to mention the losers who are addicted to pornography or end up in jail for selling/buying drugs or being in gangs which for my ethnicity is REALLY true. I notice that people are quick to claim there God-given rights but nobody really discusses their responsibilities and our men tend to fail tremendously in this category. In short my rant is to say that I want to see men man up and treat our Muslim women with dignity and respect and as human beings with emotions and intelligence that can not be glossed over. Rant over.

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      • Abu Muhammad

        To Sarah,

        As a man, I agree with a lot of what you have said. However, that still doesn’t make it okay it okay to say you hate polygamy. Rather we should say I would rather not participate in it. The Prophet (SAW) was very particular in never saying that he hated something which Allah (SWT) made permissible.

        If we don’t want to partake in it, fine. However, we should be careful with our words.

        Anyways, I agree that majority of men marry second wives and don’t treat either of them properly. The problem is with the men, not in polygamy. Polygamy has many benefits and I believe should be practiced more. However, the problem is that men need to be real men and treat both equally.

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      • ElvenInk

        The stance of only in extreme circumstances comes directly from the way the permission was given in the Quran, as I explained in my post above and as you can see in more detail if you study the context of the revelation of those verses. It has nothing to do with the west or the east!

        I agree with Umm ZAKAriyya that it is very important for you to think about the first wife’s feelings and consider them. This is not theoretical, her feelings WILL be hurt and the lives of their children WILL be turned upside down and saying that “someone else will do it if I don’t” doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to make sure you consider your decisions carefully.

        I know someone who had an attitude very similar to yours and a few years later all her justifications and excuses flew out the window when her life and her children became the ones under threat so I’m not just talking theoretically. The way it is applied today just shows how far we are from the justice and manners and sunnah of the prophet and his companions.

        Sister Sarah you don’t need to be in the west to be protected from polygamy. A woman has every right in Islam to put a condition in her marriage contract saying that she doesn’t accept polygamy in her relationship with her husband among many other things that the potential husband and wife can agree on together! It is perfectly within your rights as a Muslim woman to protect yourself from something you find objectionable and/or demeaning. As I said in a previous post if you really study the circumstances surrounding the revelation it’s clear that polygamy is there for extreme circumstances. In fact in many Muslim countries and societies today it is a very rare extreme and those who practice it aren’t regarded highly at all, it’s only a few countries in which it’s normalized in the culture.

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      • Abu Muhammad

        To ElvenInk,

        We should be very careful before we speak, especially if we haven’t studied Islam in depth. A man is allowed to marry up to 4 wives at time regardless of the time. This was not limited to extreme circumstances. I won’t go into much detail, but check any tafsir you want or ask any scholar.

        Now what the scholars do say is that if a man cannot treat his first wife justly, then he has no business marrying a second one. However, to say that a man is not allowed to marry more than once at time is very dangerous. We should not be giving our opinions if Allah (SWT) himself has allowed it.

        Will the first wife’s feelings be hurt? Perhaps. However, this is not a reason for getting married a second time. Yes the 2nd wife should do everything to win over the first wife and make her become more accepting of the marriage.

        If we look into the life our beloved Nabi (SAW), we will see that his wives were also a little envious of each other. They all wanted to spend time with the Prophet (SAW). This is just a natural tendency that all women have. However, we cannot change our religion and what Allah (SWT) has made permissible due to our desires.

        I understand your concerns for the sister. However, my point is more that we shouldn’t look down on the act of polygamy and say that this is not acceptable in our times. The problem is the men who are practicing it. Majority of them are not able to justice. However, this is not to say that other men cannot be just to multiple wives.

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      • ElvenInk

        Salam Brother. Please don’t assume things. I have studied this issue carefully and sought interpretations from scholars. I never said a it isn’t allowed what i’m saying is that if we look at the context of that permission being given and the way in which it was applied at the time of the prophet we will know that it wasn’t just “we’re allowed, so let’s do it” as the sister’s attitude seems to be.

        Also, we are giving her advice based on what she has told us about her situation. She seems to be using the sunnah as an excuse to justify entering into this marriage when not only her parents’ objections but also her own rights(as she seems to be living in the west from what I understand this marriage will not be recognized under the law and this could cause her many problems) and the well-being of the first wife and children are not being considered.

        Look at the ayah again. Allah Azza wa Jal is saying to men that they will not be able to be just within the very verse. People have to think twice and three times deeply before making such decisions and we are merely giving the sister advice.

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  4. Hassan

    I give advice to young people, the advice my father gave me, whatever you want to do, be the most qualified and best in it, mediocrity is not acceptable.

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  5. Umm Yasa'ah

    Assalamu Alaikum

    I totally understand this article and have a real story to go with it.

    My grandfather had 4 children around the same time. He told all 4 of them to become doctors, so they worked hard and tried to get into med school. All, except for one, didn’t make it. The one who made it became a mediocre nurse. My father was one of the ones who didn’t make it. He struggled for a long time, working as a cashier at the age of 30 and slowly climbing up the career ladder of the corporate world. When he had enough money he did a few courses. But because he doesn’t have formal education for his current profession- because he wordlessly obeyed his father back then- he struggles even now at the age of 50.

    Please don’t force your kids to go into a specific career path.

    Wassalam

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  6. ZAI

    Part of fiqh is having the wisdom to apply the deen according to context,
    culture, and situations. The “listen to your parents even if they’re oppressive
    or you’re going to hell” approach is NOT going to work here in the West.
    Infact, it is a sure fire way to practically promote apostasy. This type of dichotomous
    and stark black/white application of Islam is counterproductive in our
    current environment.

    I am not saying the deen should be discarded or that Qur’an should be
    ignored. Not saying parents should be disobeyed or disrespected. AM
    saying that some priority from scholars, leaders, et. al needs to be given to PARENTS and teaching
    them not to be tyrannical, oppressive and controlling of adult children while
    at the SAME time kids are taught respect. It has to be a two way street here
    to maintain the deen and preserve the community.

    I found the article informative and agreed with most of it…
    Will agree with part of Br. Mahmoud’s comment above though and point
    out that must make clear MOST parents(leaving aside obviously abusive ones)
    just want the best for their kids….and part of why they insist on certain
    careers is because of the marriage issue, as Br. Mahmoud pointed out.

    We have a huge problem with attraction to wealth, status, etc. in the Muslim
    community and let us be blunt: A rich guy has many more options and will hear
    many more positive replies from prospective proposals. That is simply
    a FACT among Muslims…ironically EVEN MORE SO when you go the halaal
    arranged marriage route. So a lot of the parents demands here are out
    caring about their kids, not wanting them to be hurt/disappointed later on, etc.
    because they know the reality of the world as opposed to idealistic and impulsive
    ideas youth sometimes have.

    To alleviate this issue, would therefore require a community wide transformation.
    Not just one among families. I have heard a lot of students say “I went to med school because I won’t get the pretty girl otherwise”. Yup. That IS the environment the various Muslim communities have created. Br. Mahmoud is right on about that one.

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    • RCHOUDH

      I agree that both Muslim parents and their kids should learn how to have meaningful, respectful dialogue with each other about important matters such as this. I also agree that Muslims should re-evaluate the reasons why they perceive certain professions to be more “valuable” than others. Due to our own adoption of materialistic, capitalistic values, Muslims have also fallen into the trap of believing that becoming rich is the end-all, be-all of existence and the key to happiness in this life. Besides believing that a good job can help us become good marriage candidates, Muslims also equate having a good job with prestige, wealth, and emotional/physical security. While there’s nothing haraam about wanting those benefits from having a good job, Muslims shouldn’t feel forced into wanting these things if they feel they can still live a good life without such material benefits.
      Also I’ve heard of there being another extreme amongst some Muslims, which is that they don’t become ambitious about providing for their family, instead being satisfied with living off government welfare because they want to live “as simply as possible”. That’s another misunderstanding that has to be cleared up within the Muslim community. Just because you don’t want to feel pressured into attaining a high-paying job in a competitive field, doesn’t mean that you can’t work at some other type of job, that while not as prestigious (such as a trash collector), still helps to support your family and is a halal source of income..

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  7. RCHOUDH

    Mash’Allah this was a very good, informative article. I believe that the underlying problem behind why some Muslim parents push their kids into certain professions over others has to do with the way capitalist societies have stratified different professions into different social hierarchies, so that some professions garner more prestige and financial benefits than others, which is something that has to change.
    I remember, for example, when I told my parents about my intention to studying nursing, they expressed their disappointment and told me to aim for higher and become a doctor. Mind you, nurses are always in demand and their salaries and benefits are quite good compared to other middle class professions, but in my parents’ eyes nurses didn’t quite evoke the same amount of admiration and prestige as doctors could.
    Also I think culture plays a part in causing some Muslim parents to dictate which professions they wanted their children to get into. It’s more common to hear of immigrant parents wanting their kids to go into specific professions (such as medicine, engineering, or law) than American born parents. While American born parents may also encourage their kids to go into the abovementioned professions, they are more lenient about letting their kids ultimately decide what they want to study. I’ve noticed that Americans have a great respect for certain solidly middle class professionals, such as nurses, teachers, firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians among others.
    One concern I do understand parents having, particularly immigrant ones, is that certain professions can also be difficult to get into due to racism and/or a lack of professional networks, while other professions are highly unstable in terms of offering long-term employment or fair wages, such as freelance work. These are all also shaped by the current capitalist structure and until this changes I believe that parents and children will continue to have this same issue come up again and again.

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  8. Latest Study Abroad With Scholarship News

    […] “Dad, I'm Not Going to Medical School” – Real Talk with our Parents It had been a few days since Salman thought about telling his parents. He had received a full scholarship from Columbia University to study journalism, a subject he was insanely passionate about and which had already given him a jump start in a career. Read more on MuslimMatters […]

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  9. Mohamed

    I think the biggest problem is that parents today, at least the ones above a certain age who STILL have kids, don’t read such websites and just adhere to tradition, what society decides and “what auntie Whatever will say about you?”

    Before I could leave medicine in my 4th year to pursue my career as a filmmaker, I had to learn the following:

    1. Parents are not gods. Parents can be wrong, sometimes very wrong. Parents are to be respected, there are people we should listen to, hear their advice, and then see how it aligns with our vision of the world. If it works, that’s great; we have the same opinion. If it’s not the same, then we have to say no. Respect means nonviolence: cooperation when possible, and resistance when necessary.

    2. Each person has a unique goal in this life. Each person has a gift from God; some talent, something that makes him/her very happy when he/she does that thing. For me it was filmmaking, for others it can be photography, journalism, architecture or even (ironically) medicine. Now, when a person knows his/her goal, he/she can make the decision to follow that goal or not. But here’s the fact: if that goal is not followed, he/she will not be truly happy. It’s as simple as that, there will always be a void. Therefore, the responsible thing is to follow that goal.

    3. Listening to parents and following their wishes is a good thing, even when we don’t necessarily get pleasure out of following their orders. But, and this is key; listening to parents is not worth being unhappy in life. It’s not worth depression. It’s not worth taking medication to prevent suicidal attempts. Because all these things lead to losing faith in God, little by little. One can argue that not listening to parents might lead a person to hell, but what about losing faith?

    4. Leaving university takes a while. Explaining/convincing parents takes another while. Recovering from the all the drama takes even more. Years may pass without any progress in one’s desired career. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

    Basically, there are a few cancers in Muslim communities called “society” and “people”. People with kids feel they have to be a certain way to please society. But what I found was that it’s so hollow it’s actually laughable (not to someone who’s depressed though): nobody’s perfect, and yet when all these people get together, they all act as if they were perfect. It goes beyond parenting. I was actually told by someone not very close to me that I would bring shame to my family if I leave medicine. Utter rubbish. It’s a job, to me a doctor is like a plumber, a pilot and a photographer. They’re all doing their job.

    So why medicine? Money? Graduates from medicine start their internship after 5 years minimum, and then they have to specialize in something. Some start earning money after the age of 29. Prestige? Who cares… It takes years for that “prestige” to show. And once you lose your job there will be no prestige. Oh, but medicine is a noble job… Well every job that earns you money to have a roof over your head and protect your family is noble. God doesn’t care about a PhD.

    I’ve known a lot of students of medicine. Quite a few admitted they’re doing it for the prestige, and to have the upper hand when they want to get married. Others said it’s for the money. I have respect for the third category: the ones who are doing it because they want to. Because when we’ll have a new epidemic on our hands, it’s not the prestige-loving of the rich doctors who will cure it. It’s the ones who don’t sleep at night until they have the job done. And with medical errors being an epidemic in Arab countries, people should think twice about who goes to med school, and who comes out of it wearing a white cloak and a stethoscope around his neck.

    Finally, a word about faith and religion: we need to examine our society, examine how much of it is Islam, and how much is blind backward tradition and culture, that can sometimes even be against Islam. It’s our duty as Muslims to refuse this culture, to combat it with whatever means we have, and to remember that respectful resistance is not a sin. It’s simply letting people who think they’re gods know where they stand, in the same way Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, behaved with the girl who came to him after her father nearly forced her to marry someone she didn’t want to marry. What he did was bring her and her father, and then told her she has the choice, over her father, to either marry or not marry that man. It was all to make it clear, that parents do not have full control over their kids. If that’s not a strong argument, I don’t know what could be one.

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  10. Zaid Mohammad (@ZaidMohammad95)

    Your last set of points were spot on. Most often we tend to lose our cool when our parents want to us to go down a certain path and we don’t. It just becomes ridiculous, like who has more of an authoritative voice and what not. Your parents are human, they’re not oblivious to the idea of logic and rationality. Sit down and speak to them in a calm and well prepared manner.

    If my parents had forced me to get into the traditional med school idea, I would not only have struggled but I would have failed. I could hardly ever get passed the 60s in terms of my average in math or at times even in science. Once I was able to go for what I was actually good at, and what I was interested in, I was able to get my overall average into the 90s. The irony of this article is that I’m actually in Journalism as a program. Yes my parents didn’t initially like that. But I find that they were able to accept it. This is because of two factors:

    1.) I had focused a lot of my time developing a strong relationship with them. I know not all parents are the same, but your focus should be in becoming friends with your parents. I can consider both of them to be among my best friends. Stop trying to become friends with strangers, work on those at home first.

    2.) I talked to them about my interests/goals and plans at length. If your parents see that you have some logic, and plan behind what you’re doing, there’s no way they can not let you do what you want. Their concern is your financial status, you need to reassure that you have the ability to maintain a stable financial life. Which can also come by you working and trying to obtain a somewhat even minor financial life prior to making such big decisions. Just don’t sit down with them about your life and not have any idea of what you want to do with your life. Have a strong idea of what you want to do, then go speak with them.

    At the end of the day, the person that finds it really difficult with their parents may just be the person that didn’t work too hard prior to their confrontation. And I may be a bit unfair, I know, but I just find a lot of us youth slacking when it comes to our relationships with parents. Yes, again, parents don’t make it easy, but if you’re the one who realizes the importance of this relationship in terms of being on the same page, then I would say that you’re more responsible than your parents in fixing this tense relationship.

    Being on the same page can sometimes be in your hands.

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    • Mohamed

      Very good point, although I slightly disagree about parents always agreeing if you already have a plan and if your argument has some logic. There’s also society, and no logic can get past that thick wall. Having a good relationship with parents doesn’t help one bit when it comes to society, unless parents don’t care about what auntie and uncle’s neighbor has to say. This happens in more traditional environments of course; people just sit down and discuss their kids, then a consensus is reached about what each kid should do.

      And the arguments aren’t aways good; sometimes it can be something as silly as a relative opening a new college so family members encourage him by sending their sons and daughters there. Sometimes it’s a it’s a parent finding a very good university nearby so his kids don’t have to study very far away, and granted sometimes it’s good safety-wise, but if safety is the priority, then studying long-distance is better and safer. But then auntie wouldn’t approve; the 21-year-old daughter sitting at home in front of the computer all day, while girls her age go to college. Then you get to certifications; it’s not good enough that people could be learning something useful to them, it has to be a B.A. or a Master’s degree.

      The reason I’m emphasizing on society is because it influences a parent’s thinking, sometimes massively. I wouldn’t compare listening to society and consuming alcohol, but they do share the judgement clouding effect. I’ve known countless young people whose dreams were crushed just because of relatives. I know a lot of young people make mistakes and are bad to their parents, but here’s the way I see it: the moment a parent-child relationship starts is at birth. At that time, only the parents have the choice what to put in that child’s head, and how to treat him/her. The child tries to satisfy his parents’ needs and make them happy; the child wants to be loved. If the father says “go to med school”, the good girl will do it. And then she’ll get depressed. Parents should find out what their kids want, spend time with them, play with them, laugh with them and cry with them. A child innately loves his parents, it’s their job to be friends with him/her, before it’s too late.

      There aren’t a lot of people who can tell us their failure stories with parents, partly because some stay depressed and become bad people in the process, and partly because a few of them commit suicide. As long as we have society and relatives not mind their own business, relying on parents to be logical isn’t a strong bet.

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  11. Zaid Mohammad (@ZaidMohammad95)

    I had written a long response to this, but it got deleted. Not writing it again, but in summary I stated:

    1.) Being friends with your parents makes you part of the environment, therefore you have the ability to influence your parents thinking.

    2.) Try to reach out and discuss your choices with your extended family (I did this), be persistent with this. This may serve to desensitize both your parents and extended family.

    3.) The child may not know what he/she is good at. For example, most of the time, a child may have an idea of what she/he likes, but isn’t too sure. For example, is a girl liked to write and loves history, this would be an incentive for her to let her parents know this fact. To couple this, the girl would have to her marks at least in high 80s and the 90s. If this is the case, she wouldn’t simply listen to her parents but actually try to convince her parents. Otherwise they are not confident with themselves and therefore allow their parents to dictate their paths.

    4.) To counter the above problem, it would be the school’s and of course the parent’s job to let their children explore and identify their strengths. If this is the case we would have to change the discussion from how children can approach their parents (which is what the article is discussing) to how parents should let their kids choose their paths.

    Parents play a huge role, and I’ve heard students who have failed university because they were in a field of study that they didn’t excel in only because of their parents. So no doubt there’s a lot on the parent’s shoulders. It may be unfair to expect high school students to be mature enough to become friends with their parents (although Islamically they should be) but this is the best way to go about dealing with their parents in my opinion. Bring in facts and research to the table. Parents may tend to view this society to have a much better education than ‘back home’. So bring in facts like how Liberal Arts students are more likely to earn more mid way through their careers than engineer students which is not something I made up.

    At the end its a test from Allah(Swt) and its not easy. Yet, its possible to help your parents see eye-to-eye with you.

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  12. sanya

    So what are we supposed to do then? If our parents want to dictate who we marry and what career we pursue, Islam says its wrong, but should we still follow our parents anyways? What are we supposed to do? Especially if talking doesnt help? Whenever I try to talk with my father, he ends up yelling and not talking to me for days.

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    • RCHOUDH

      I understand where you’re coming from sister, since I also had stubborn parents who were determined to make me major in pre-med despite my protestations. It wasn’t until I wound up flunking my pre-med courses that they finally realized the futility of forcing me to become something I wasn’t meant to be! If you haven’t already, maybe you could tell your father that you don’t want to major in something that you might risk doing badly in, thereby messing up your college GPA. May Allah make things easy between you and your parents.

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  13. Debbie Al-Harbi

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