Putting One's Son in a Difficult Position
Q. Whenever my father wants to make sure that I comply with his wishes, he makes me swear on the Quran that I will do what he wants. Certain things he wants are hard to observe, and this places me in real difficulty. I do not wish to disappoint him, but sometimes he resorts to this method for some trivial things. I also feel very scared of breaking an oath I make on the Quran. Please comment.
A. Your father is certainly wrong to require you to swear on the Qur’an, or by God, in order to ensure your compliance with his wishes. This is an indication of a fundamental weakness in the way he is bringing up his children. A father should develop a level of trust between him and his children so that they can lead a proper and happy life. Unless such trust exists, difficulties arise.
What the father is doing by making his son swear on the Quran to comply with whatever he wants is to introduce an additional element of fear in his son’s mind. It is not merely that the child fears to upset his father, or fears to be punished by him; it is a fear of God Almighty. Non-compliance means punishment by God, and that is too hard for the child. The father may think that in this way he does not merely make his son do what he wants, but he also keeps him always aware of the need to please God. But this is not the proper way. When God states His requirement that people should believe in Him as the only God in the universe, He does not threaten them with punishment. Indeed, He promises them a very rich reward for their faith, and warns them against what they incur if they do not. Thus, He relies on both elements of hope and fear, which are parallel elements in the human soul.
Besides, what does the father think will happen if the son yields to temptation and disobeys him? He will be in mortal fear for a while, but then Satan will begin to whisper to him that he has got away with it. A second violation of the oath will be easier, and the third easier still. Within a short while, the oath becomes a meaningless statement. One day the father will discover this and he will be very upset, then he will find himself unable to remedy the situation. If this does not happen and the son struggles to comply, time after time, he will begin to hate the very process and may be this will affect his feelings towards his parents.
Having said that, we should remember that an oath must always be taken seriously. Hence, Islam does not encourage it at all, except where it is necessary, such as in the case of giving testimony in court. Islam relies on driving home to its followers the need to tell the truth in all situations. This should become part of the nature of all Muslims: They tell the truth regardless of what may happen as a result. In a family situation, a father must encourage his children to always be truthful. They should develop a sense of shame, should they ever be found out lying. To avoid that is easy, and complete avoidance is easily achieved by not telling a deliberate lie, even when such a lie will serve a good purpose. In fact a better purpose is always served by sticking to the truth.