wattabi‘ sabīla man anāba ilayya
Follow the path of those who turn to Me.
(Sūrat Luqmān, No.31, Āyat 15)
This verse is part of a longer verse that talks about the rights of parents. Parents must be obeyed unless they command that which is disobedient to Allah. Then it is their right that their children keep company with them in this world and show them kindness and respect. Beyond that, the children would only follow those who turn towards Allah ‘azza wa-jall.
‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī in Tafsīr al-Mīzān states that it is obligatory for children to obey parents in worldly matters. They should be treated with love and respect and whatever difficulty that has to be borne in that way must be tolerated. It is after all to do only with this world and will end one day. Such hardships cannot be compared to that of the Hereafter which is a life of eternity. For that life only those who turn towards Allah must be followed. Love for parents and the obligation owed to them cannot be a barrier for eternal happiness. If the parents are from those who turn to God they should be followed. But if they are not, then others who are must be followed.
The short Quranic injunction above shows the balance of the rights of Allah and the rights of parents. Parents must be accompanied in this world pleasantly. The interaction with them, looking after their needs, attending to them, etc. all should be done well. But they cannot have dominance of the mind and soul if they are not from those who turn to the Lord. That type of obedience can only be given to the virtuous believers who are close to Allah.
An interesting point that this verse brings out is that it is possible sometimes that people may be in a close family relationship such as parent and child but it is only a physical and worldly relationship. In thought and behavior there is a rift between them, a schism that stems from differing world views. That is acceptable, even necessary sometimes, so long as worldly ties are maintained correctly. It shows that human beings are unique individuals and must follow the dictates of their God given instincts that lead them towards truth and virtue. If people close to them have turned away from it, they cannot follow them under the guise of maintaining family ties.
The verse also shows the need of following others who are greater in faith and virtue. There must be models whose path should be treaded in order to reach the correct destination with Allah. Following those who are higher up in the ladder of perfection leads to inspiration and motivation to keep climbing. It is the only way to rise.
Recite this verse to remind you of the need to follow only those who turn to Allah. It is not family that always must be followed. The ties must be maintained appropriately without letting that affect the mental and spiritual paths taken in life.
Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr