Praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger Muhammad and upon his family and companions.
Allah has enjoined upon children to honour and respect their parents. He has made the parents’ rights very great and has connected duties towards to parents to duties towards Him and the obligation to worship Him alone (Tawheed). Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents…”
[Qur’an al-Nisaa’ 4:36]
And Allah has given the children rights over their parents, such as education and a good upbringing, spending on their needs, and treating them fairly.
One of the bad social phenomena that are to be found in some families is the lack of fair treatment towards the children. Some fathers and mothers deliberately give gifts to some of their children and not others. According to the correct view, this is a haraam action, unless there is some justification for it, such as one child having a need that the others do not have, e.g., sickness; debt; a reward for memorizing the Qur’an; not being able to find work; having a large family; full-time studies, etc. The parent should have the intention – when giving something to one of his children for a legitimate (shar’iah) reason – that he will do the same of any of his other children should the need arise. The general evidence (daleel) for this is the ayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“Be just: that is nearer to piety; and fear Allah.”
[Qur’an al-Maa’idah 5:8].
The specific evidence is the hadeeth narrated from al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that his father brought him to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and said: “I have given this son of mine a slave that I had.” The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Have you given something similar to all of your children?” He said, “No.” So the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Then take (the slave) back.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari; see al-Fath, 5/211). According to another report, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Fear Allah and be fair to your children.” He said: so he came back and took his gift back. (al-Fath, 5/211). According to another report, “Do not ask me to bear witness to this, for I will not bear witness to injustice.” (Sahih Muslim, 3/1243).
A male should be given the share of two females, as is the case with inheritance. This is the view of Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) (Masaa’il al-Imaam Ahmad li Abi Dawood, 204). Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim explained it in detail in his footnote on Abu Dawood. Anyone who looks at the state of affairs in some families will note that some of those parents who do not fear Allah favour some of their children over others when it comes to gift-giving. This fills the hearts of the children with hatred towards one another and sows the seeds of enmity. A father might give gifts to one child because he (the child) resembles his paternal uncles, and withhold gifts from another because he resembles his maternal uncles; he might give to the children of one wife things that he does not give to the children of another; or he might put the children of one wife but not the children of another into private schools. This will backfire on him, because in many cases the child who has been deprived will not honor his father in the future. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to the man who had preferred one of his children over others in giving him a gift: “Would you not like all of them to honor you equally?” (Narrated by Imaam Ahmad, 4/269; Sahih Muslim, no. 1623).
One of the Salaf said: “Their rights over you are that you should treat them all fairly, and your right over them is that they should honour you.”
Another way in which parents fail to treat their children fairly is when they bequeath something in their will to some of their children, or they give them more than the share allocated to them by sharee’ah, or they deny some of their children their inheritance. Some women bequeath their gold to their daughters and not their sons, despite the fact that it is a part of the inheritance, or a woman might state in her will that a gift given to her by one of her children should be given back to him after she dies, claiming that she is being kind to him just as he was kind to her. All of this is not permitted, because there is no bequest to an heir [i.e., one cannot bequeath something to one of the heirs whose share is dictated by sharee’ah]. Whatever was a part of the possessions of the mother or father who has died belongs to all the heirs and is to be shared out according to the laws enjoined by Allah.
Each parent should remind the other if he or she is not being fair and should stand firm on this issue, so that justice will be established. This includes referring matters to scholars as is indicated in the report which follows the hadeeth of al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer who said:
“My father gave me some of his wealth, and my mother ‘Amrah bint Rawaahah said: ‘I will not accept this until you ask the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to bear witness to it.’ So my father went to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to ask him to bear witness to the gift he had given me. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to him, ‘Have you done this for all your children?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Fear Allah and treat all your children fairly.’ So my father came back and took back his gift.” (Narrated by Muslim, no. 1623).
We ask Allah to help us to honour our parents and to treat our children fairly, and to adhere steadfastly to our religion. Ameen