The Limit of Children's Obedience to Their Parents


Bassam Zawadi

The Quran and the Bible order us to obey our parents. However, limits must be set when commanded to obey our parents.

Paul says:

Colossians 3:20

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

How can you obey EVERYTHING your parents say? What if they command you to sin? There have to be limits when you are commanded to obey your parents. Christians might argue that a child doesn't have to obey his parents if they order him to sin against God, for God would never order such a thing. Fine, but what if the parents order their child to do something that might be detrimental to their health? What does Paul mean by 'everything'? Who sets the objective standard by putting the limits to this teaching?

This is unlike Islam, which makes itself clear:

Surah 29:8

We have enjoined on man kindness to parents: but if they (either of them) strive (to force) thee to join with Me (in worship) anything of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not. Ye have (all) to return to me, and I will tell you (the truth) of all that ye did.

Saheeh Bukhari

Volume 9, Book 89, Number 258:

Narrated 'Abdullah:

The Prophet said, "A Muslim has to listen to and obey (the order of his ruler) whether he likes it or not, as long as his orders involve not one in disobedience (to Allah), but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed one should not listen to it or obey it. (See Hadith No. 203, Vol. 4)

Volume 9, Book 91, Number 363:

Narrated Ali:

The Prophet , sent an army and appointed some man their commander The man made a fire and then said (to the soldiers), "Enter it." Some of them intended to enter it while some others said, 'We have run away from it (i.e., embraced Islam to save ourselves from the 'fire')." They mentioned that to the Prophet, and he said about people who had intended to enter the fire. ''If they had entered it, they would have remained In it till the Day of Resurrection.'' Then he said to others, "No obedience for evil deeds, obedience is required only in what is good ."

Saheeh Muslim

Book 020, Number 4535:

It has been narrated on the authority of Abu 'Abd al-Rahman from 'Ali that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a force (on a mission) and appointed over them a man. He kindled a fire and said: Enter it. Some people made up their minds to enter it (the fire), (carrying out the order of their commander), but the others said: We fled from the fire (that's why we have come into the fold of Islam). The matter was reported to the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). He said to those who Contemplated entering (the fire at the order of their commander): If you had entered it, you would have remained there until the Day of Judgment. He commanded the act of the latter group and said: There is no submission in matters involving God's disobedience or displeasure. Submission is obligatory only in what is good (and reasonable).

Here, we see that the child only obeys reasonable and good requests and does not disobey God.

See this article for more details.

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