Answered by Ustadh Shuaib Ally
Question: As salam alaikum,
I grew up with my father, stepmother, stepsister, stepbrother, brother and sister. My sister and brother would call my stepmother mom. My stepsister would call my father Dad. In light of the following Hadith is it permissible to call them dad or mom when they are not really their dad and mom?
The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam) said, “If somebody claims to be the son of any other than his real father knowingly, he disbelieves in Allah, and if somebody claims to belong to some folk to whom he does not belong, let such a person take his place in the (Hell) Fire.” (Bukhari)
Answer: wa `alaykum assalam
Yes, it is permissible to do so, if real effective meaning is not intended, and one is using the terms for another reason.
Permissible Usage of such Titles
It is permissible to call a stepmother or stepfather (or father or mother in law) ‘dad’ or ‘mom’. Conversely, it is permissible for the adults in a similar scenario to refer to others as ‘son’ or ‘daughter’. This is often done out of a combination of respect, love and a desire to demonstrate that one is as close to them as one is with one’s own parents. It is not done to confuse lineage. In the scenario you’ve described, none of the children involved would claim that the stepfather or stepmother is their actual father or mother, or vice versa. It thus remains permissible.
The Meaning of the Textual Prohibition
What is prohibited in the narrations you mentioned (Bukhari, Muslim), as well as the first few verses of al-Ahzab (33:4-5), is the pre-Islamic practice that continued with the advent of Islam of confusing lineage by, for example, calling another a son and treating him as one in all legal respects, including inheritance and matters related to marriage.
Pretending in a real manner or claiming that someone other than one’s father or mother actually is so, especially when there is some lack of clarity regarding lineage, is therefore not permissible.
Sources: Fath al-Bari; Fath al-Mulhim; al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir