A verse from the Qur’an says “turn away from the ignorant.” (Araf, 199) If our mother and father do not know how to write and read and dispute with us on the subjects of religion, should we turn away from them and leave?

Details of the Question
A verse from the Qur’an says “turn away from the ignorant.” (Araf, 199) If our mother and father do not know how to write and read and dispute with us on the subjects of religion, should we turn away from them and leave?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The people who are mentioned as ignorant in the verses are mostly unbelievers, cruel people and wrongdoers rather than illiterate ones. If the mother and father wish something that is against the orders of Allah (SWT), then their children should not perform their wishes. The expression stated as turning away does not mean leaving completely but avoiding to perform their requests that are haram and unjust. However, it is necessary to show them their mistakes and try to correct their false beliefs because this way is suitable for the cause of the existence of Islam and, in general, the wisdom of the prophets’ being sent.

According to a narration reported by Tabari, when this verse was sent down, Jibril explained it by giving an example “Your Lord orders you to do good against evil, give something to someone who does not give you anything and to continue the brotherhood and kinship relations with those who keep themselves away from you” (See Kur’an Yolu, Heyet, Interpretation of the relevant verse) 

Asma Bintu Ebi Bakr (May Allah be pleased with her) narrates:

"My mother came to see me while she was still a polytheist. She had come to demand something from me. I inquired the prophet (pbuh), "My mother has come to see me and she is expecting something from me. Shall I treat her well?" He said, "Yes. Be kind to your mother." (Bukhari, Hiba 28, Adab 8; Muslim, Zakah 50; Abu Dawud, Zakah, 34)

It is understood that even if a mother and father are unbelievers, we should treat them in accordance with humanistic values and respect them and take care of them as their children. The fact that giving nafaqah (sustenance) to parents even if they are unbelievers is wajib is deduced from this hadith.   

The importance of giving nafaqa to the parents and respecting them even if they are unbelievers is understood from this fact: revelation came because of the incident above and the subject was judged in the Qur’an.

 “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” (Surah al-Mumtahina, 60/8)

This verse is more clear about respecting the parents even if they are unbelievers:

"But if they strive to make the join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge obey them not; Yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration) and follow the way of those who turn to Me…” (Surah Luqman 31/15)

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