Q. So much is said these days about the rights parents have over their children, but what rights do children have over their parents and what protections and duties do their parents owe them?
A. In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent and Merciful.
As with all humans, each person has some sort of rights, and children are no exception. Children are an Amana (trust) which are given to parents to look after and bring up with the best of their abilities. If brought up correctly, children are a joy and their blessings bring sustenance, mercy and an abundance of reward.
Allah says: ‘Wealth and Sons are allurements (joys) of the life of this world…’[Quran 18:46]
(The Arabic text here although is directly translated as ‘Sons’, actually means children. Also there are many Ahadith which emphasise on the great fortune of having daughters.)
If they are not brought up correctly, they bring misery, pain and a source for the hellfire.
‘Save yourself and your families from a fire whose fuel is Men and Stones...’ [Quran 66:6]
Therefore, a person needs to ensure that they fulfil their obligations and ensure that children’s rights are upheld.
A child has a right to remain under the protection of their parents, who should make sure they are secure, their health is looked after and they are taught education, especially their religious studies. Parents must ensure that their children are taught Islamic studies as this is essential knowledge for all Muslim children.
A child has a right that they should be named with a good name that gives them respect and dignity and not humiliation and degradation.
A child until they get to the age of maturity (i.e. until they are able to work and provide for themselves, therefore in this country at least until 16 years of age) should be given money for food, clothes, health necessities, education etc. The Prophet of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:
“Money you spend for the sake of Allah, money you spend to free a slave, money you give in charity and money you spend on your family… The greatest in reward of all these is spending on your family.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
The Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:
“the best gift a parent can give their children is good manners.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Every child has a right to be treated equally and therefore inequality should not be shown between sons and daughters. Just as parents would want all children to show them equal respect, then all children should be treated equally. Bukhari and Muslim narrated from Al Nu’man ibn Bashir (May Allah be pleased with him),
'My father brought me to the Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) and said: "I have given this son of mine a slave that I have." The Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) asked him: "Have you given each of your children the same?" He said "No", so the Prophet (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) told him "Then take the slave back."’
Finally, every child has a right to the inheritance of its parents, as without this right a person (i.e. the deceased leaving behind the will) will not be able to enter paradise. This is because the distribution of inheritance to the rightful heirs is an obligation from the Quran [Surah Nisa:12], and children are from the ‘rightful heirs’ even if they are disobedient.
Therefore, to disregard the commands of Allah and to disobey the rules is to deny oneself the right to paradise. Many people make the mistake of choosing who they wish to leave their inheritance for but don’t realise that Allah (who is the most Wise) has already ascertained how the inheritance should be distributed and therefore must be followed. Only a maximum of one third of the estate can be given as a bequest, the rest must be distributed amongst the family who are the rightful heirs. Narrated by Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (may Allah Bless him and grant him peace) said:
“Man and woman spend sixty years (a lifetime) in the obedience of Allah and then when the time of their death comes close they make grave errors in their will of inheritance which makes the fire of Hell necessary on them." [Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Imam Ahmad]
Of course Allah knows best.