Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
My mom swore by Allah (Wallahi/اقسم بالله ) that: “if you tell your husband anything about our family it won’t go unnoticed and I will take you apart.” She swore that I was not allowed to tell him anything, referring to inner family conflicts. Do I have to obey that?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah guide us to that which pleases Him, Amin.
We pray that Allah facilitates love and mercy between you, your mother, your husband, and all your relatives, Amin. While obedience to one’s parents is of utmost importance in Islam, according to Sacred Law, such obedience pertains only to what is lawful. There is no obedience to the creation in the disobedience of the Creator, and Allah knows best.
Concerning conversations that would be backbiting (ghiba) about your family, you should indeed refrain from indulging in that with anyone unless there is a specific need. Everyday family matters that are innocent and free from backbiting, however, are lawful to discuss with your husband, and Allah knows best.
What is Backbiting (ghiba)?
Backbiting (ghiba) means speaking about a Muslim in his absence and saying things he would not like to have spread around or mentioned.
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Do you know what backbiting (ghiba) is?” They said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “Saying something about your brother that he dislikes.” It was said, “What if what I say about my brother is true?” He said, “If what you say is true, then you have backbitten about him, and if it is not true, then you have slandered him.” [Muslim]
If what your mother refers to involves backbiting, you should refrain from this as it entails obeying Allah, His messenger (may Allah bless him and give him peace), and your mother, and Allah knows best.
When Is It Not Backbiting?
Imam Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his commentary on Sahih Muslim:
“But ghibah (speaking about a person in his absence) is permissible if it is for some legitimate (shar’i/prescribed) purpose, which includes six reasons:
- Complaining about unjust treatment: it is permissible for a person who has been mistreated to complain to the ruler or judge or other people who have the authority or power to deal with the person who has mistreated him. He can say, so and so mistreated me, or he did such and such to me.
- Seeking help to change some evil action and bring a sinner back to the right path: so he may say to the person he hopes can help: so and so is doing such and such, so try to stop him, and so on.
- Seeking a religious ruling or fatwa: whereby a person may say to the Mufti (scholar): so and so – or my father, brother, or husband – has treated me unjustly by doing such and such; does he have the right to do that? How can I deal with this and protect myself from his mistreatment etc.?
The above is permissible in cases of need. However, in the case of a family member, it is preferable to say, “someone did such and such [i.e., describe it indirectly].” Although naming names is permissible, because of the hadith (report) of Hind who said (to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “Abu Sufyan is a stingy man.” [Bukhari; Muslim]
- To warn the Muslims against some evil. Such warnings may take various forms, such as mentioning the faults of narrators, witnesses, and authors.
Warnings such as those are permissible by scholarly consensus. It is, in fact, obligatory to protect the Sacred Law. These warnings include describing faults, when one is consulted, about a person’s integrity for business and marriage. As well as speaking up if one sees someone buying faulty goods or a slave who steals or commits zina (adultery) or drinks wine etc. – he should mention that to the would-be purchaser if he does not know about it.
Such warnings should be by way of sincere advice, not to cause harm, offense, or corruption. Also, if you see a seeker of knowledge frequently visiting an immoral person or who follows innovations and takes knowledge from him, and you fear that he may be harmed, you must advise him by explaining the situation to him to offer sincere advice.
- A person is openly committing immoral deeds or following bid‘ah (innovation): drinking wine, confiscating people’s property unlawfully, collecting extortionate taxes, being in charge of illegal activities, etc. Speaking of what he is openly doing is permissible, but speaking of other [private] things is not permissible except for another reason.
- Purposes of identification: if a person is known by a nickname such as Al-A‘mash (rheumy-eyed), Al-A‘raj (lame), Al-Azraq (blue), al-Qasir (short), Al-A‘ma (blind), Al-Aqta‘ (missing a limb), etc., this is permissible for purposes of identification, but it is impermissible to use such names to belittle a person, and if it is possible to identify them by using other words, this is better. And Allah knows best.” [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim]
Based on the above, when there are legitimate reasons, one may speak about things that would otherwise be considered backbiting, and Allah knows best.
When Parents Command the Unlawful
Allah says: “We have commanded people to honor their parents. But if they urge you to associate with Me what you do not know of, then do not obey them. To Me, you will ˹all˺ return, and then I will inform you of what you used to do.” [Quran, 29:8]
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “There is no obedience to any created being if it involves disobedience towards the Creator.” [Ahmad]
If your parents command you to do or refrain from something that would cause you to disobey Allah’s law, then you should not obey them in that, but you should still maintain the highest degree of respect and mercy towards them, and Allah knows best.
I pray this is of benefit.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.