Answered by : Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam
Question : Rights of Children in Detail
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Answer : Children are a mercy and a gift from the Almighty Creator to the parents. They serve as a means of coolness for the eyes. Just ask those who have not been so fortunate with this great gift of Allah. As such, Shariah has set certain rights of the children that must be fulfilled by the parents.
Below is a brief look at some the fundamental rights of a child:
1) The first and foremost right of a child is that he/she has an Islamic upbringing. Parents are responsible for their religious and spiritual training.
Allah Most High says:
“O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones.” (Surah al-Tahrim, 6)
The above verse clearly states that it is not sufficient for an individual to achieve salvation in the hereafter by implementing the laws of Shariah on himself and not saving the family from the fire of Hell. Rather, in order to save oneself from the punishment of the hereafter, one must ensure that his children have a correct Islamic upbringing.
Many times it is observed that the father is actively involved in religious matters, yet his children are not even aware of the basics of Islam. He is very punctual with his Salat, Fasting, Zakat and the other aspects of Deen, whilst the son/daughter is engrossed in wrongdoings and sins, and the father is content with his personal actions.
It must be remembered that to save yourself from the fire of Hell, you must direct your family members towards good and forbid them from evil.
At times, people say that we have tried but the child does not want to listen, so it is not our fault. It is true that if the parents fulfilled their responsibility of good Islamic upbringing and the child never took heed of it, then the responsibility will be lifted. However, in the verse of the Qur’an, the word ‘fire’ was used indicating that you must try and save your offspring from the punishment of the hereafter as you would try to save them if they were entering into fire in this world. If you failed to do this, then you will also be held responsible for their actions.
2) The parents are responsible for the religious education of the child. Children must be taught the basics of Islamic doctrine that includes Aqida, oneness of Allah and his attributes, Sirah of the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), basics of what is lawful and what is unlawful, the Fiqh with regards to Salat, fasting, etc…
3) Parents are also responsible for the moral training of the child which is to learn and put into practice the principles of morality and ethics. They should be taught that telling lies, deceiving, backbiting, quarrelling, fighting, theft, abusive language, etc are not acceptable in any way, and the parents must themselves set a good example.
4) Physical training of children is also an important parental responsibility, which ensures children remain alert and healthy. They should be encouraged to take part in physical exercises that are beneficial for the body.
5) Parents must ensure that they select good and pious friends for their children, and prevent them from evil and bad company.
6) Children must be shown love, affection in every possible way. Parents should spend time with them and not let them feel neglected in any way.
7) Finally, the father is responsible for the financial support of his children. However, there are few situations here:
a) If the son or daughter is rich due to acquiring wealth by inheriting or receiving a gift, then the father is not responsible to provide for them financially, rather, their expenses will be paid from their own money.
Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“It is necessary upon the father to financially support his children (male or female) if they are poor and have not reached puberty.” (Durr al-Mukhtar)
b) If they don’t possess wealth and have reached puberty, then there are two possibilities:
Firstly, if they are able to work and provide for themselves, then the responsibility from the father will be lifted.
Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“If they are able to work, then the father will be obliged to find work for them and their expenditure will be from their own earnings…..This also includes females in that she will find a job that suits her such, such as sewing and weaving.” (Radd al-Muhtar, 3/612)
Secondly, if they are unable to work, then the father will be responsible for supporting them financially.
Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“Similarly, providing financial support for a grownup is necessary if he is unable to earn.” (Durr al-Mukhtar)
c) In the case where the child has not yet reached puberty (and has no wealth), then if the father is alive, he will have to provide, and if he has passed away then the mother will be responsible along with other immediate members of the family.
It should be remarked here that the fuqaha have mentioned that acquiring religious knowledge is a good enough excuse for the son/daughter not being able to earn, thus (in light of ‘C’) the father should be responsible for maintenance. However, Ibn Abidin mentions that this was when students were serious and genuine with regards to their studies, whereas now, most of them waist their time and eventually money. However, if the child is intelligent and serious in studying, then his maintenance will be upon the father.
However, this is with regards to essential and basic Islamic knowledge. The Fuqaha have mentioned that acquiring the essentials is personally obligatory (fard ayn), thus parents can not prevent the child from acquiring it. In order to study beyond the essentials, the permission of the parents must be first sought.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK