Rights of Parents & Children in Islam

Islam recognises family as a basic social unit. Along with the husband-wife relationship the Parent-child relationship is the most important one. To maintain any social relationship both parties must have some clear-cut Rights as well as obligations. The relationships are reciprocal. Duties of one side are the Rights of the other side. So in Parent-child relationship the Rights of parents are the obligations (duties) of the children and vice versa, the Rights of children are obligations (duties) of parents. Islam clearly defines the Rights of Parents (which mean duties of children) and obligations of parents (which means Rights of children).


Rights of Parents

It is clear that after Allah parents are the persons who give us innumerable favors. They provide protection, food and clothing to the newly born. The mother sacrifices her comforts and sleep to provide comfort to her children. The father works hard to provide for their physical, educational and psychological (and spiritual) needs. It is a matter of common courtesy that if a person does you some favor you feel obliged to him. Verbally you say ‘thank you’ to him. You try to repay and compensate him for his gifts and favors. You feel a sense of gratitude towards him. So it is with Allah and with parents. Allah’s favors cannot be counted or repaid except by thanking Him and obeying His orders. After Allah our parents deserve our thanks and obedience for the favors they had done us. That’s why Quran lays stress on feeling grateful to parents, and doing good to them.

“And your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none save Him and shall do your parents a good turn.” (Surah Al Isra’ 17:24)

What does a ‘good turn’ mean? It includes obeying and respecting them, speaking softly and kindly, avoiding harsh words or harsh tone, giving them company when they are lonely, caring for their physical and psychological needs (especially in their old age), and praying to Allah that He may bless them and have mercy on them.

The only thing above respect to Mother, is the worship of Allah (SWT) – It is mentioned in Ch.17, Verse No.28-29, it says that:

“Allah has ordained for you, that you worship none but Him, and to be kind to our parents And if any one or both of them reach old age do not say a word of contempt or repel them but address them with honour, and speak to them with kindness, and lower your wing of humility and pray to Allah (SWT) -‘My Lord, bless them as they have cherished me in childhood.” (Surah Isra 17:28-29)

Surah Nisa, Ch. No. 4, Verse No.1 says: “Respect the womb that bore you.” (Surah Nisa 4:1)

Surah A’nam, Ch.6, Verse No.151, says: “You have to be kind to your parents.” (Surah A’nam 6:151)

Again in Surah Luqman Ch.31, Verse No.14; it again says the same thing that: “We have enjoined on the human beings to be kind to his parents. In travail upon travail, did their mother bore them and in years twain was their weaning.” (Surah Luqman 31:14)

A similar thing is repeated again in Surah Ahqaf, Ch.46, Verse No.15: “We have enjoined on the human beings to be kind to his parents. In pain did their mother bore them and in pain did she give them birth.” (Surah Ahqaf 46:15)

According to a Hadith related in ‘Ahmed’, as well as in ‘Ibn-e-Majah’ – It says ‘Paradise lies at the feet of the mother’.

That  does not mean that if my mother is walking on the road and if she steps on muck and filth – that thing becomes Paradise. It means that after you fulfill your basic duties, if you respect your mother, if you are kind to your mother, If you are honorable to your mother, you will Inshaallah enter Paradise.

Another Hadith related in Sahih Bukhari in Volume 8, Ch. No. 2 Hadith No. 2, as well as in Sahih-Muslim – “It says that a man asked the Prophet: ‘Who requires the maximum love and respect and my companionship in this world? The Prophet replied – ‘your mother’. ‘Who is next’? – ‘your mother’. ‘Who is next?’ – ‘your mother’. The man asked for the fourth time, – ‘Who is next’. The Prophet replied ‘your father’.” 75% of the love and respect goes to the mother and 25% of the love and respect goes to the father. Three fourth of the better part of the love and respect goes to the mother – One fourth of the remaining part of the love and respect goes to the father.

As to the reward for doing good to our parents a Hadith mentions the following story: “Three persons of ancient days were once travelling in a mountaneous region. The rain, thunder and lightning made them take refuge in a cave. Mudslide made a stone block the opening to the cave. The persons were entrapped inside. When the storm stopped they tried to push back the heavy stone to get out of the cave but they could not. They wondered ‘what to do now’. At last seeing that their joint efforts also cannot move the stone they decided to pray to Allah sincerely. One of them suggested, ‘each one of us should relate one good thing he has done in his life and beg Allah to move the stone. One said, “One night my old mother asked me to bring a cup of milk for her. During the time I milked the goat and brought it to her she had gone to sleep. I did not think it proper to disturb her. So I stood by her bedside for the whole night till she got up in the morning and then I offered her the cup of milk. O God, if this act of mine was approved by You please shift this stone.” The stone slipped a little but not enough to let them get out. Similarly, the second and the third man mentioned an act of goodness and prayed to God to shift the stone. The stone slipped down and the entry to the cave opened up. So the men got out.” This story shows how service to one’s parents leads to blessings from God and rescue from troubles.


Rights of Children

Now let us see the other side of the coin. We have mentioned that Parent-child relation is a reciprocal one. The Rights of Parents (discussed above) are the Duties of children. Now let us see what are the Rights of Children (and Duties of Parents) in Islam.

The word “children” stands for sons and daughters, who are entitled to indisputable rights of rearing represented in promoting their religious orientation and ethical approach in order to be armed with both merits. Allah, the Almighty, says:

“O ye who believe! save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones,…” (Surah Al Tahrim 66:6)

The Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Everyone of you is a protector and guardian and responsible for your wards and things under your care and a man is a guardian of his family members, and is accountable for those placed under his charge.” (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

Children are a trust put in the hands of parents who will be answerable before Allah on the Day of Judgment about their children as they are enjoined to satisfy their offspring’s spiritual and religious urges in order to produce righteous men and women, to be a consolation for the eyes of their parents in both the present world and Hereafter. Allah, the Almighty says:

“And those who believe and whose families follow them in Faith,- to them shall We join their families: Nor shall We deprive them (of the fruit) of aught of their works: (Yet) is each individual in pledge for his deeds.” (Surah Al Tur 52:21)

The Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) in this context, said: “When a believer dies, his work ceases to be except in three areas: a perpetual Sadaqa (charity), some useful knowledge he leaves and a righteous son praying for him.” (Sahih Muslim)

However, some parents have paid no heed to their children’s rights and shirked away their obligations to them. Consequently the latter have got lost and begun to grope in darkness. Their parents have been too busy in worldly affairs promoting their financial situation and hoarding wealth to enquire about the company in which their children are involved or to guide them to good and make them shun evil, although they are more eligible for parental care, love and attention. Duties of father are not confined to catering for his child’s physical well-being, nutritious needs and clothing only; he is rather demanded to care about the spiritual side of his child’s character, feeding his heart with knowledge and faith and enveloping his soul with a clad of piety and the fear of Allah.

Children have the right to be fed, clothed and protected till they grow up to adulhood. It is, primarily, the duty of the father to do that. Mother can provide help if necessary. Protection means protection against physical as well as moral and intellectual harm. Parents are duty bound to see that the child’s personality develops in all fields. So if the parents have to resort to strictness for the sake of disciplining the children and protecting them from intellectually, morally and religiously undesirable behaviour, children should not resent their strictness. Let them perform their duty as parents. Children’s duty is not to protest or be rude but to listen and obey. “Their’s not to question why; their’s but to do and die”.

Children have the right to education. In Islam education is not limited to bookish knowledge but includes moral and religious training also. It means healthy all-round growth of child’s personality. Parents must not only provide for children’s education in schools and colleges but should also take personal interest in their studies, helping them if they can. Parents should sacrifice their own comfort and social activities and must spare some time to take interest in children’s studies, especially when they are young. And of course, parents should not forget or neglect imparting religious/moral training to children. A little sacrifice on part of parents will save children from moral disasters. Effective moral training comes not from sermons, advice and precepts but from parents’ personal examples of good behaviour. It is a famous Tradition of the Prophet (PBUH) that acquisition of knowledge is a must for every Muslim boy and girl. Another Hadith says, “The best of you is one who gives a good education (intellectual and moral) to his children”. Another Hadith lays stress on education of daughters. The Prophet (PBUH) once said, “He who provides good upbringing to 3 daughters shall go to Paradise”. A man asked, “what if one has only two daughters”. “He also shall go to Paradise”. Another man asked, “and what if one has only one daughter?” “He too”, replied the Prophet (PBUH).

Children have many psychological needs also. Small children need to be loved, caressed, kissed and hugged. The Prophet loved children greatly. He would allow his grandsons Hassan and Hussain (RA) to ride his shoulders even during his prayers. In streets he would offer ‘salaam’ to children, play and cut jokes with them. Sometimes he would even kiss small children in the street. Once a Bedouin saw the Prophet kissing a small kid. Out of wonder he said, “I have eight children but I never kiss them”. The Prophet remarked, “What can I do if Allah has taken away love and compassion from your heart”. The Prophet would show special kindness to orphaned children. Some parents believe that being frank with children is not good from discipline point of view. This is wrong. Love and leniency can do much that fear and strictness cannot do. If leniency leads to rudeness on the part of children it should be mixed with strictness. That will tell the children that parents are basically kind but can be tough if children show rudeness and bad manners. Over-protection and over-care are undesirable. Let the child grow up as a responsible person. Only provide them guidance.

Children have the right to be well provided (materially). A Hadith says, “It is better for parents to leave their children well provided (financially) than to leave them in poverty”. This means that parents should not spend all that they have on their own comforts and luxuries but must make provisions for children’s welfare after the parents die. They are eligible to be spent on in kindness with neither extravagance nor stint. Spending on one’s children manifests deep gratitude to Allah for the wealth, which the Creator has conferred on to the father.

Another right fully due to children is equality in parental treatment. No one should be given preference over the others in gifts or presents. The canonical law of Islam dictates that no child should enjoy privileges to the prejudice of his brothers or sisters; this is injustice on the face of it. Allah forbids injustice because it leads to aversion on the part of the deprived children, and creation of hostility between the ill-treated and the pampered ones or even between the former and their parents. One child could show more honor to his parents than his other brothers or sisters, the thing that invites his parents to single him out for more privileges to the exclusion of the others. This behavior is unjustifiable because the dutiful son is rewarded by his Lord; moreover, a privilege of this sort could on the one hand lead the child to vain glory and on the other, the less fortunate ones could develop a kind of aversion and then overstep the mark and indulge in further disobedience. Life is rich in vicissitudes; the undutiful son could turn into a respectful one and vice versa; after all, hearts are in the grasp of Allah and they could show different emotions as He desires.

Bukhari and Muslim reported a narration from An-Numan bin Bashir that his father Bashir bin Sa’d took him to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and said, “I have given this son of mine a slave.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked, ‘Have you given all your sons the like?’ He replied in the negative. The Prophet (peace be upon Him) said, ‘Take back your gift then.'”

In another narration, the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Be afraid of Allah, and be just to your children.”

And in another narration, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Make anyone else a witness upon this because I cannot be a witness on a Zulm (wrongdoing).”

In clear words, the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) described preference of one’s child over the others as injustice which is synonymous with Zulm (wrongdoing) and Zulm is Haram (prohibited). However, we must not mix up between preference and making an exception of one child and satisfying his urgent needs; this exception serves special exigencies and runs in the same channel of supporting one’s family.

These are brief outlines of the Rights and Duties of both parties in the Parent-child relationship. If the parents and children act according to these guidelines they can make the family environment most conducive to peace and satisfaction for the parents and healthy personality growth for children. May Allah bless us all. Ameen.

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