I am not someone who prefers to engage in religious debate, but some of the fatwas that have recently appeared have begun to affect vital parts of our lives, and our social relations, to the degree that much will be influenced[by them] in a complex world that will not tolerate any form of flexibility.
The latest of these controversial fatwas was issued in Saudi Arabia. The fatwa claims that if a parent only occasionally prays, or not at all, then his children are forbidden from kissing him on the head. According to the fatwa, this is not permissible “because this is love…to kiss [your parents] is an act of love, and this is not permissible [if the parents are not pious]. This doesn’t prevent [you] from treating them well, albeit in a secular fashion. Yet manifestations of love, kissing the head and so on, are not permissible”.
Therefore, the question is: If an individual has ravaged the land with corruption, theft, murder and so on, but remains committed to his prayers, fasting, and religious rituals on the whole, then would it be permissible for his children to kiss him on the head, and glorify him with their love? Is this the way things are measured? Is it permissible to tell Osama Bin Laden’s sons that they can kiss his head, to show their respect and love, because he prays, despite all the damage he has done to religion and the world? This is a puzzling matter.
The problem with these fatwas, and more so than other ones, such as those prohibiting women from working as cashiers, is that society will ignore them because they are out of touch with the realities of society, and the notion that we are informed about religious matters. However, a fatwa prohibiting kissing the head of a parent, if they are not sufficiently pious, will pose a significant threat to the family, society and the state.
Matters such as this fatwa infringe upon the relationship between parents and children, and this is not a matter to be taken lightly. It makes the child the overseer of his parents’ behavior and practices, and makes young people vulnerable to temptation and extremism, led by others who are interpreting religion as they please. This is something that we witnessed in our Saudi society, when the seeds of extremism were spread. We witnessed our friends flee the homes of their parents, after they thought they could not longer stay there, because of their parents had “strayed from the right path”. Unfortunately, these people have ended up in the caves of Afghanistan and elsewhere.
I will never forget the sad and emotional words of a bereaved parent, after the outbreak of a wave of terrorism in Saudi Arabia. He said, regarding his son who was lost in the midst of extremism and terrorism: “I raised him for 18 years, and they changed him in 6 months”. We all remember when terrorism erupted in Saudi Arabia, and afterwards when several young Saudis went to [join extremist groups in] Iraq. Some parents claimed they had known nothing about their children for months, or even a year. Their children went to war zones, driven by the conviction that their parents were misguided, and that they would exchange their parents for pious guardians, who would set them on the right path.
Today, amidst this controversy, one only has to remind themselves of what God Almighty said in the Koran: “Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour”.