Essential Differences

It is compulsory to define the real mean-ings of some concepts and words used in the family's circle in order not to misunderstand them or use them in an opposite way, and also not to intermingle terms thereby the guide -the father or mother - should not think that he/she doesn't breech the right of their children. Even though they make mistakes unintentionally.

1- Obedience and Good Deeds:

Many parents talk about the obedience of their children toward them and the necessity of obeying all their commands; this is their responsibility. And they didn't obey such orders, even if it be abnormal or against the law, they term them as sinners and disobedient, even though the Almighty Allah wants children to be obedient to their parents, but he didn't command them to obey them except of those things that doing them is an obedience to Him. The Almighty Allah said:

"And command your Lord has commanded that you shall worship not (any one) but Him, and goodness to parents;…" Holy Qur'an (17:23)

Therefore, worship and obedience are for Allah and good manners are for the parents. The word "good deed" is more inclined to the side of good morals rather than the side of necessity, or even there is no place of compulsion in it, because a kind person is the one who does good or the one who is obliged.

Thus, if the parents want to compel one of their children to do something, which is against the law, then it is the right of the children not to obey them, based on the saying of the Almighty Allah: "…and if they (either of them) strive (to force) you to associate (others) with Me (in worship) of which you have no knowledge, then you obey them not;…" Holy Qur'an (29: 8) This is goodness in return for goodness, the parents had done good at the time of childhood, thus, it is the duty of the children to do the same thing in old age.

Therefore, repaying of good - as is well known - is good. It is the duty of the children to repay the goodness of their parents toward them with equal or more than that, even, however, the amount of the children's goodness to their parents can never be compared with that of the parents. This is the saying of the Almighty Allah:

"…if either or both of them reach old age with you, utter not unto them (even so much as) "Fie" nor chide them, and speak unto them a generous word. And lower unto them the wing of humility out of compassion, and say you: 'O My Lord! Have mercy on them as they cherished me when I was little.'" Holy Qur'an (17:23-24)

Some parents deal with their children in the light of the necessity of repaying good in order to force their children to obey them. Maybe we may hear them saying: We had spent the flower of our youth for their sake, and is this our reward?! The reality of the matter is that we, as one of the wise men said: "They sow, we harvest and we sow, they harvest".

So this is the behavior of life of those who have passed and those who will come after us. Therefore, the matter is between good manners in supporting morals and good words, and relating with people with what is best. Because the prophetic narration is clear on calling not to obey any command that is against Allah's law: "There is no obedience in a creature who disobeys the Creator."

However, the command to obey Allah, His Messenger and the laws of the religion (Islam), as well as, refraining from sins, is not a parental command, rather it is obeying the commands of Allah. So this kind of command is compulsory on the parents and the children, equally.

In conclusion, what is required from the children is "good manners" toward their parents, but not "obedience" which is only for Allah. The parents are not legislators, thus, it is not their duty to force any obedience that is not declared by Islam. But, what was reported in some prophetic narrations about the obedience to the parents is obeying them in what Allah prescribed and not what is against the law. Maybe the meaning of obedience, here, is good manners and abiding by the law which strengthens good manners and is not opposite to Allah's commands.

However, the parent's consent is not contradictory with Allah's consent. If the children's relationship with their parent is based on good manners - as Allah wishes - then, definitely it will make them happy and this will attract Allah's consent and satisfaction. It is narrated in a Prophetic narration that: "Allah's consent is in the parent's consent and Allah's wrath is in the parent's wrath".

Thus, consent and wrath, here, are supported by obedience and disobedience, even if the parents are polytheists, it is necessary to have a good relation and show kindness to them "Obey them not, and consort kindly with them in the world." Holy Qur'an (31: 15), this will make them be satisfied with their children, and it may be a source of their guidance.

Indeed, in a narration of Zakariyya bin Ibrahim - a Christian who converted to Islam- there are lessons and teachings. He requested of Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq (a.s.) to stay with his parents who were Christians, because his mother was a half-blind woman. Then, the Imam (a.s.) answered him saying: "There is no problem, look after your mum and obey her, if she dies do not assign anybody to her, take care of her burial procedures yourself."

Zakariyya did what the Imam (a.s.) told him to do; he used to take care of her with kindness even more than before. Then, one day she asked him: "Oh my son! Why are you doing such good things to me now more than the way you used to do when we are in the same religion (Christianity). What am I seeing from you since you left our religion and accepted Islam?" Then he narrated to her the advice given to him by Imam Al-Sadiq (a.s.). She said:

"Your religion is the best religion, give it to me. He told her about Islam and she accepted it…and she died that night." And it is also narrated in one Prophetic narration that: 'Obedience to parents is among the best impression on the mind', and it is said in another that: 'Obey your parents, your children will obey you.'"

2- Determination and Strictness

Some parents are very strict and hard in their treatment with their children to the extent of restriction and harassment. And if you ask one of them: "Why are you doing so?" He/she will say: "It is necessary for a father to be determined…or it is necessary for a mother to be hard, if not, the children will not be under their control."

Yes, we agreed that control should not be out of the hand and that the family affairs should be arranged in a wise way, but there is a great difference between 'strictness' and 'determination'. We will underline it based on the psychological point of view, under the following points:

A- It is said that perceptive determination is the one attesting to the condition of the children and their environment, as well as, their psychological being, thus, it is moving under certain limits. But strictness is ignorance, which doesn't have any regard, that is why it doesn't have any limit.

B- Determination is the echo of wisdom and intellect, as well as, gives much consideration to the interest of youth, but strictness is the echo of emotion, which has the scent of anger and going out of hand.

C- Determination is meant for helping the youth to reform himself. It is a tool that helps a true love, whereas strictness is meant for taking away the will of the youth and making him unable to reform himself, because it is full of emotion. Thus, determination is a tool of development, while strictness is the tool of destruction.

D- Determination helps in attaining a sequential independence and extreme power, while strictness is nothing but slavery and lack of responsibility. In our relationship, if we cannot differen-tiate between strictness, as a negative tool, and determination, as a positive tool, then we don't need to emphasize on the necessity of determination.

3- Spying and Monitoring

The moment a boy or a girl reaches the stage of puberty, the parents will put them under surveillance and monitoring; at this stage, doubt overcomes certainty. But why is it so?

In the puberty stage, the young boy or girl will be living in a kind of independence from the parents, and this is natural. Because living on one's own self is a thing that the parents must encourage their children to do. This is a sign of sound health in the personality of the children, rather it will be of great concern to the parent if at this stage the children are directly under their care like the time of their childhood. Thus, it is the duty of the parents to try and remove them from such a situation.

Naturally, independence calls on the youth to have certain dealings that are related to his stage. They may not like anyone to know about this, but when they find out that their parents are searching their books and bags or their locker, it will be of great pain and anger to them, because they may regard this as a source of breaking their dignity and infringing on their rights.

And what happens if one the children faces his parents with this Qur'anic verse: "O you who believe! Avoid such suspicion, for verily suspicions (in) some (cases) is a sin, and spy you not…" Holy Qur'an (31: 12) Can they answer them that this is not spying? Then what is the meaning of spying if this is not one of them? Or would they say that they are his parents and they have the right to search and look into his personal belongings,

while he has no right to show his discontent? Wouldn't this thing make the children put more emphasis on hiding their affairs and committing bad actions out of the sight of their parents, which will not give the parents the chance for surveillance and monitoring?

Why do we do some things that will make them run away from us and go to some people who are not more than us in kindness and loving them? Is our action of searching books, albums, diaries, taping the telephone of our children not a method of dragging our children away from us and making our children fear us just the way they are fearing intelligence officers?

Maybe some parents may say: Can we leave them to do whatever they like and they are still children who don't know anything from life? Is not leaving them a means of encouraging them to do more crimes and bad things or even having bad relationships with others?

The answer is: We agree monitoring, but we oppose spying. Then, what is the difference between the two? Some parents may say what we are doing is 'monitoring', without differentiating between this positive condition and 'spying' as a negative condition. We will define what 'monitoring' is so as to become acquainted with it.

Monitoring is the condition of feeling from a distant place and observing, but not directing the movement of the young boy or girl in order to know that they are following the right path. This includes the places they are going, their friends and their staying alone, which if it is lost, it will cause misguidance or madness, God forbid. Based on this, it is possible to draw a line of relationship with reality and new things, and to rescue the youth from slipping at the right time.

Here, it is necessary to say that excess freedom or unaccounted freedom can turn into chaos, and likewise, total suppression…all these two have a negative impact on the youth without any difference.

However, the more the parents do a good monitoring, the best its outcome may be, is not the way some think. When you discuss with your son concerning his friends, or when a mother talks to her daughter concerning her friends, in such state, the relationship by the parents should be open and visible But, the question that requires more explanation is this: Where did you go? What did you do? Who was with you? What was your discussion all about? This may lead to more stories than the parents would like to hear, naturally.

No doubt practical methods have a positive effect on the youth, thus, the parents who are talking with all sincerity about where they went, when they came back home and what goes on there with their friends, may encourage the children to copy their example.

At last, however, the condition that forces us to monitor (our children), must not put them under siege unless we know their life or morals are in danger due to some condition, keeping in mind that a wise monitoring and observation will never give chance to such a state. Educating the children on the basis of self-monitoring, make them monitor their own actions and relationships in a good manner; this is of great importance and a source of power in the mind of the youth. If they feel that they are responsible for their own actions, morals and mistakes, then they will be more careful and responsible.

Teaching children, at an earlier stage, that the Almighty Allah has assigned two angels, who write down all our deeds: One of them writes good deeds and the other writes bad deeds. They always monitor and record all our actions and sayings, and the Almighty Allah after that witnesses all these and even what stays hidden from those angels. Also, knowing that the society is responsible for observing the enjoinment of good deeds and the proscribing of evil, will make the youth feel that they are under two observers: internal and external, which helps in controlling their actions based on the fact that it is in the interest of a Muslim, not against him.

4- Guardianship and Protection:

Parents are directly responsible for the protection and education of their children until they reach the age of puberty. But, if they reach such a stage, then the parents don't have the right to enforce their will and guardianship on them. Because they are now legal personalities that are responsible for their own civic action at the hand of the government and responsible personalities who bear their legal duty before the Almighty Allah.

There is no guardianship on the head of a rational and sane girl that can govern her own affair, and likewise, on a sane and rational boy, because a person who reaches a stage of puberty, is the possessor of his affairs. This is the saying of the Almighty Allah: "And test the orphans until they reach (marriageable age) if you find in them maturity, then make over to them their property." Holy Qur'an (4: 6) It is clear that, the freedom of spending wealth will give a sane and rational person the power of not using his wealth extravagantly as an insane person might do.

However, the precautionary measures prescribed by the jurists on the young girl at the time of her marriage, and which give her guardian - father or grandfather - the right to advise and consult, because the experience of the girl in evaluating the young boy who wants to marry her, is not enough, and which may cause the girl to be a victim of the society that is full of corruption and cheating. This, - as explained by the jurists- is not a shortcoming in her ability; rather it is a precautionary measure for her future.

Here, it is not good to abandon the guardianship and protection of our parents even at the later stage, because they are the most sincere persons towards us and their experience is much more than ours. The parents who respect their children will never practice guardianship power over them, rather they will act as guiders in their affairs and like helpers in solving their problems, that is, they may be the first resort to them. Indeed, there is a great difference between an 'adviser' and a 'guardian', guardianship is needed before maturity, but after that advice is needed.

In the short term, the 'guardianship' practiced by some parents, towards their children, will force hardship and interference into their minor and major affairs, whereas, 'advice' will put them at the point of counseling and correcting mistakes in their major affairs, and they will be able to take care of the minor ones, themselves.

5- Independence and Separation:

In western countries, when a child reaches the puberty stage, the local authorities and environment allow him to be separated from his parents due to his/her being an independent personality, using the example of a ripe fruit that must fall down from the tree.

Indeed, the example here is not full and correct, because a young boy is not like a fruit. The relationship between the fruit and the tree ends when the fruit falls, but the relationship of a young boy and his family - as it is the educative method in Islam - will remain firm even at the time of his independence from them in two phases; practically and legislatively. That is he will continue to be with his family, not even when they are alive, even after their death. It is narrated in a du'a (supplication): "Oh Allah! Forgive the believing men and the believing women, the Muslim men and the Muslim women, those who are alive and those who are not, Oh Allah! Extend between us and them goodness."

We are advocating independence, not separation in the western meaning, where a child will be stranger to his family and they also be strangers to him. A sane and reasonable father and mother are those who can help their children to be independent from them. This is what the psychologists call social and spiritual weaning, which builds a state of self-reliance and brotherly relation-ship.

Financial independence - for example - is an ambition that every youth aspires for, because it is part of his personality and self-reliance. Then, it is from here that the role of the parent, in pointing out a suitable thing to be done, will come. Based on this, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) is reported to have said: "The right of a child on his father is to give him a suitable name, educate him and put him in a sound condition". Therefore, guidance toward sound action and gaining lawful things is the responsibility of the parents, who help their children in order to be free from them financially, but they should not force a certain work or profession on their children.

Some psychologists differentiate between guardianship as a direct interference and protection as an indirect interference, with the following points:

1- 'Protection' requires help in work and conviction and contentment, while 'guardianship' requires force and obedience.

2- 'Protection' depends on certain used tools based on the place and condition, but guardianship, as a direct interference, doesn't believe in anything rather than force.

3- 'Protection' gives a developing understanding to man and requires partnership activities between the parents and their children, while guardianship opposes that.

4- Protection paves the way for certainty, but guardianship seizes personality and brings anxiety. This is because protection encourages the saying of opinions, but guardianship deprives man from this freedom.

In conclusion, one of the features of protection is that it secures the reality of personality, and the morals and activities of man come from himself, that is, the personality of a young boy or girl chooses its own way of life free from any external force. No doubt this will give the chance of development and growth, as well as, the feeling of responsibility.