Parents Opinion in Marriage

Question and answer details
Dear Scholar, This is a general question with personal interests. Where is the limit to listening to parents if they are wrong in their views? Can parents refuse a marriage for ethnic considerations only, for I want to marry a person with good character and religion but from different ethnic background, while my parents object to this.I don't want to disobey my parents and haven't up till this point, but now I need advice. I have prayed Istikharah (prayer for guidance in decision-making) a number of times and each time it’s positive but I just don't want to upset my parents. I am torn between my parents and the person I want to marry. What should I do? Please advise me.
Hwaa Irfan
Salam, Azra.

Thank you for your question.

The problem that you speak of is common when culture becomes more important than Islam. In Islam, marriage is not simply about the relationship between a man and a woman, but about being the primary social institution that nurtures a human being to become a well-adjusted social being that is able to contribute to his or her own society on ethical grounds. With these ethics comes a working understanding of compassion, justice, and reciprocal rights whereby each citizen is judged accordingly, with rights that are for all members of society and not just for sections of society.

For this reason, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her family status, her beauty, and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman [otherwise] you will be a loser” (Al-Bukhari).

This also holds true when choosing a husband. Philosopher and scholar Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali advised in his
Book of Etiquette of Marriage: “It is incumbent upon the guardian also to examine the qualities of the husband and to look after his daughter so as not to give her in marriage to one who is ugly, ill-mannered, weak in faith, negligent in upholding her rights, or unequal to her descent. … Whoever gives his daughter in marriage to a person who is unjust, licentious, heretical or inebriate commits a crime against his religion and exposes himself to the wrath of God for having severed his parental tie by having made a bad choice.”

Al-Ghazali refers to a hadith in which a man whose daughter had many suitors asked Prophet Muhammad on how he should decide. Prophet Muhammad said, "To the one who fears God; because if he loves her, he will be kind to her, and if he hates her, he will not wrong her," and "Whoever gives his daughter in marriage to a licentious man has betrayed her womb".

Regarding the woman’s consent, Prophet Muhammad warned, “A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her, and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! How can we know her permission?” He said, “Her silence [indicates her permission]” (Al-Bukhari).

As for your parents, they have an understanding that differs from yours, and it seems their experience of life has led them to living in seclusion, which adds to that understanding. You are young and the young are in need of the lessons of life but with the guidance of parents. This is how you achieve your independence and sense of responsibility.

However, out of fear for the children, sometimes parents can be a bit over-protective. It is not that the parents do not trust their daughter, but that they fear the outside world and the child’s ability to not be influenced by it. Parents sometimes forget that their children came through them but they are not of them.

This can be better explained by `Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth caliph, when he said,

“Do not force your children to behave like you, for surely they have been created for a time which is different than your time.”

At the same time parents want their children to be better than them and fear anything that might lead them in the wrong direction. It is a fine balance for you to not betray your parents and cause them pain, but estrangement from them is possible if you were to pursue someone when they find it difficult to accept anyone from a culture other than their own, and one can be sure that this is not what you are seeking. Consider well the marriage you seek. As `Ali ibn Abi Talib advised, “Whoever becomes involved in matters without considering their outcome, is certainly exposed to dire misfortunes.”

The Qur’an says what means:

*{And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve [any] but He, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them [so much as] “ugh” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word.}* (Al-Israa’ 17:23)

They fed and clothed you, cleaned up after you, witnessed you through your different periods of life, and were tolerant when you became a handful. So consider speaking to your mother about what you expect from marriage and the type of person who would suit you, avoiding to speak of a particular person because this will close them to your argument. Ask them what it means when the Qur’an says what means:

*{Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of the [guardianship of] Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully …}* (Aal `Imran 3:28)

With patience and love you can achieve much. Just take one step at a time. It is Allah's will, combined with your supplications and Istikharah that will guide you to make the right decision, a decision that is best for all concerned. During this process it might be that your parents will accept your choice or wait patiently for a Turkish boy who is a practicing Muslim, so do not feel that all is lost. Your parents’ role in your choice remains important. It could be that you met this boy you desire to marry through means that excluded them from that process; hence they’re rightly upset.

Their role remains important so that they can protect you and do what they consider to be in your best interest. With this in mind, listen to them as you wish for them to listen to you; and if you are sure, it will not harm anyone if your parents arranged to meet his parents, which can help in the decision-making process. They have the wisdom of age; you have the passion of youth. So, in consultation with your parents, be mindful of what they have to say. If your parents should prove to be unreasonable and expect you to marry their choice, then you also have a right to seek assistance from a
wali (guardian) to help resolve any unnecessary conflict. Be advised that this should be done with their agreement because there is potential to cause more harm to the situation than obtaining an amicable agreement.

I hope this is useful. In case you need any more advice, please do not hesitate to contact us again. You can also make use of consulting our colleagues in the Cyber Counselor section. The link is provided below.

Thank you and please keep in touch.


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