Answer to those who say "I want to live as a Muslim, but I am worried about my family's and my circle's reactions."
Before experiencing the morality of the Qur'an, people live according to some social false rules outside of the criteria that Allah has laid out in the Qur'an. Many false rituals formed in a society that is heedless of religion define the relations of its members with other people.
However, the only guidance for humanity is Allah, His Book and the sunnah of Allah's Messenger (pbuh). Those people who grasp this fact have to leave the period of ignorance behind, abandon all behaviors related to ignorance, and follow only the path revealed in the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). This surely also applies to one's relations with his or her family and circle.
In some countries, some families may react negatively to family members who want to live by the Qur'an's values. Some families might have severe reactions if their children display even a small amount of interest in religion. Moreover, in order to keep their children away from religion, they distort some religious commands. Trying to draw them back to ignorance, they tell their children that "The rights of the parents upon their children are above anything else," "It is the greatest sin to oppose parents," and similar unfounded assertions. The resulting psychological pressure may well engender feelings of guilt in children who are not well informed about Islam.
However, as is the case with every other issue, the right thing to do is to resort to the Qur'an. In the Qur'an, Allah reveals the ideal attitude that believers must assume toward their parents, as follows:
However, this does not mean that children must fulfill or obey all of their parents' wishes unconditionally. Rather, they are to assume a respectful, measured, tolerant, and kind attitude, and to avoid doing anything that will hurt or bother them. But this does not extend to making concessions in matters concerning Allah's commands and prohibitions. In the latter part of the above verse, Allah defines the limits of this respect and understanding in the following terms:
As explained in the Qur'an if parents say that: "You have to comply with my wish rather than Allah's," which clearly means, "Your deity is not Allah but me," their children should disobey them, for adopting such an attitude means associating partners to Allah, which is forbidden.
However, along with disobeying one's parents if and when they encourage rebellion against Allah, He encourages believers to be kind to them, although they are unbelievers, and to be tolerant toward them in mundane matters:
When discussing one's parents, Allah especially calls upon believers not to ascribe partners to Him and not to serve anyone or anything other than Him. As the verse above also makes clear, believers must not obey their parents if they ask them to return to their old ways; rather, they must remain among those who turn to Allah.
We see in the examples given in the Qur'an that some believers, including the Prophets, were tested through their families or close relatives. Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh), for instance, employed the Qur'an's method of "not obeying yet getting along well" against his father, who called him to the ignorant way of living:
The wives of Prophet Lut (Lot) (pbuh) and Prophet Nuh (pbuh) also became unbelievers, and thus Allah punished them. Allah warned Prophet Nuh (pbuh) that his son was an unbeliever: "Nuh, he is definitely not of your family. He is someone whose action was not righteous. Do not, therefore, ask Me for something about which you have no knowledge." (Surah Hud, 46)
While fulfilling his duty of communicating Islam's message, our Prophet (pbuh) also faced the severe reactions of his close relatives, reactions that extended to the point of hostility. His uncle Abu Lahab, who had a great aversion toward and grudge against our Prophet (pbuh), made propaganda against him and in their foolishness tried to impede his efforts by placing various difficulties and hardships in his path. Indeed, Allah devoted a special chapter in the Qur'an to denouncing this man. During the first years of Islam's spread, many Muslims endured similar reactions and torments from their own families, yet never swerved from the true path. Later, many parents who had been influenced by their children's resoluteness and sincerity embraced Islam.
The relentless commitment of Muslims in this matter stems from the Qur'an's encouragement of rationalism, as opposed to sentimentality. Muslims are kind, humble people full of love. But once Islam's interests are concerned, they show not the slightest emotional sentiment and never swerve from following Allah's guidance. Since their main goal is to earn His good pleasure, they harbor no prejudice or fixed ideas about any issue, person, or thing. What lies at the bottom of sentimentalism is channeling love to the wrong people. Real believers show their love only to Allah and to those with whom He is pleased. Any love nourished by something other than Allah's good pleasure is associating partners with Allah. In the Qur'an, this situation is explained in the following verses:
The Qur'an refers to believers who had to abandon their homes and families in order to fulfill Allah's commands. One of these people was Maryam (Mary) (pbuh), a young and unprotected woman, who trusted only in Allah and took refuge in Him. She abandoned her family and people in order to attain His good pleasure. The Qur'an refers to her in the following terms:
Another example is a group of young people called "the Companions of the Cave." Since their people rebelled against Allah, they abandoned their people and took refuge in a cave. The Qur'an provides the following account:
In brief, new Muslims who have abandoned their former ignorance need to communicate the true path to their parents if they are bereft of the Qur'an's values and try to block their children from earning Allah's good pleasure. If this communication is ineffective, then again they must be treated with courtesy and patience. But if they strive to make a believer associate others to Allah, then the correct attitude is not to obey them.