Rights and duties are the main concern of humans everywhere at all times. One is always eager to gain more rights and to have less duties and responsibilities. Islam from day one acknowledged this fact and elaborated on every detail of each right and obligation of each member of the Muslim society Muslim or non-Muslim, male or female, young or old, able or disabled.
There are many ways to go about explaining this in details but let us go this way, let us take it step by step through the life cycle of a human being:
- Before birth
- During pregnancy
- After birth
- Engagement and Marriage
- Old age
- After death
In Islam, Allah The Almighty (i.e. The One and Only God; Creator of The Heavens and earth) and the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) constructed sets of rules for every aspect in life. So, every rule or ruling we will mention will either be from Quran (The Book of Islam and the final revelation) or Sunnah (Sayings, practices or silent approval of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) revealed to him by Allah).
Islam’s care for a human being starts before his conception. The following shows how:
- Choosing The Life Partner:
It is a command for each man and each woman to carefully choose his and her life time partner. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said advising man:
A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be a losers.” [Sahih al-Bukhari].
A parent is obliged to choose a worthy man for his daughter: The Prophet (PBUH) said
All of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects. The ruler is a guardian of his subjects, the man is a guardian of his family, the woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects”. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
- Spouses’ relationship
After choosing well and a Muslim household is established, both partners are urged to act in a loving and merciful manner to achieve marital bliss, Allah says:
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought” [Quran.com/30/21].
Each husband and wife are expected to say “In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.” Before having intercourse to protect themselves and their offspring, with Allah’s name and will from the devil’s evil.
- A Husband is The Main Supporter of His Family:
He provides, protects and cares for his family in every way possible. The wife in Islam has her own financial statement, and she’s not at all responsible for proving the family, meanwhile if a woman spends from her own money on her family (in case of a poor husband), it is considered a good deed that she’s expected to be rewarded for by Allah. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
Surely! Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges: The Imam (ruler) of the people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects; a man is the guardian of his family (household) and is responsible for his subjects; a woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and of his children and is responsible for them; and the slave of a man is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. Surely, everyone of you is a guardian and responsible for his charges.” [Sahih al-Bukhari].
The husband is expected to provide for his family from “Halal” that is a righteous and legal earning not from “Haram” that is sinful or illegal is earning. This concept is deeply situated in Muslim psychology; the correlation between rightful earning “Halal” and both blessed living and pleasure of Allah.
- Providing For The Pregnant Wife:
A pregnant woman should be cared for and provided for by her husband. She also should be treated with kindness and mercy during her weakness (pregnancy) and must not be burdened with emotions or work that stresses or exhausts her as stated in Qur’an:
And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination”. [Quran.com/31/14].
- The Wife isn’t to be Driven out of her Home:
A pregnant woman cannot be driven out her home even when divorced. She is to stay in house during her waiting period till the end of her pregnancy (as a divorced woman) and the husband is to provide for her as usual until she delivers:
Lodge them [in a section] of where you dwell out of your means and do not harm them in order to oppress them. And if they should be pregnant, then spend on them until they give birth. And if they breastfeed for you, then give them their payment and confer among yourselves in the acceptable way; but if you are in discord, then there may breastfeed for the father another woman”. [Quran.com/65/6].
A pregnant woman’s waiting period after divorce is until she gives birth; meaning the husband is responsible for her until that time unless she committed a big sin (such as adultery):
O Prophet, when you [Muslims] divorce women, divorce them for [the commencement of] their waiting period and keep count of the waiting period, and fear Allah, your Lord. Do not turn them out of their [husbands’] houses, nor should they [themselves] leave [during that period] unless they are committing a clear immorality. And those are the limits [set by] Allah. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah has certainly wronged himself. You know not; perhaps Allah will bring about after that a [different] matter.” [Quran.com/65/1].
A boy or a girl, each newborn should be treated with love and tenderness. Both have some similar rights and other individual ones.
- Similar Rights:
- Prohibition of Denying Paternity: The Prophet (PBUH) said: The child is to be attributed to one on whose bed he is born, and for a fornicator there is stoning.” [Sahih Muslim].
“The child is for the bed (i.e., belongs to the husband) and the fornicator gets nothing!” [Sunan Ibn Majah].
- Choosing a good name: The Prophet used to care for names so much that Al-Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq said: “The Apostle of Allah used to change the bad names of people and places.”Abu Wahab al-Jushamee (may allah be pleased with him) who was the Companion of the Prophet reported him as saying: “Call yourselves by the names of the Prophets. The names dearest to Allah are Abdulla and Abdu-Rahman, the truest are Harith and Hammam and the worst are Harb and Murrah ” [Sunan Abi Dawud].
- There are a few acts that are recommended for parents up on having a new baby. E.g. saying Azhan (the call for time of Muslim prayer) in one ear and Eqamah (the call for starting of Muslim prayer) in the other ear, making sacrifice (two for a boy and one for a girl) if one is able, and having a feast (inviting over relatives and acquaintances). “Whoever wants to offer a sacrifice for his child, let him do so, for a boy; two sheep, Mukafaatan, (of equal age), and for a girl, one.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]
- Shaving head hair of a newborn baby and giving charity ingratitude for having the child. Ali (may allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah slaughtered a goat on the occasion of Hasan’s birth, the son of Fatimha (may allah be pleased with her) (the daughter of the Prophet) and Ali (may allah be pleased with him) and said: “Oh Fatimah! Shave the head of Hasan and pay silver equal to the weight of the hair as charity” [Jami` at-Tirmidh].
- Natural lactation is recommended for fifteen to twenty four months: Allah Almighty said: “Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mother’s’ provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. And upon the [father’s] heir is [a duty] like that [of the father]. And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them. And if you wish to have your children nursed by a substitute, there is no blame upon you as long as you give payment according to what is acceptable. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Seeing of what you do.” [Quran.com/2/233].
- Providing for, caring for, love and protection is the responsibility of the family as mentioned in the previous verse according to their means.
- Equal treatment between siblings. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Treat your children fairly, treat your children fairly.”[Sunan an-Nasa’i].
- The child has a right to live. Neither the father nor the mother have the right to take the life of a child, whether a boy or a girl, by killing it or burying it alive, as was done by some Arabs of jahiliyyah (ignorance before Islam). God says in Quran: “And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” [Quran.com/17/31]. and says too: “And when the female child who was buried alive is asked. For what crime she was killed.” [Quran.com/81/8-9].
- Individual Rights:
- Girls should be met with love and affection exactly as boys.
- Performing circumcision for boys is a recommended act: Abu Hurayah Narrated: “I heard the Prophet (PBUH) saying:” “five practices are characteristic of the Fitrah: circumcision, shaving the pubic hair, cutting the moustache short, clipping the nails and depleting the hair of the armpits” [Sahih al-Bukhari].
- Offering a sacrifice (any animal preferably a sheep or a goat), one for a girl and two for a boy of which the parents are to feed the poor and needy from, also for the family and the household.
Sheikh Al-Uthaymeen States:
Children in accordance with the Islamic concept means both male and female. Some Islamic opponents accuse Islam of differentiating between male and female children claiming that Islam prefers boys over girls in terms of inheritance, ‘Aqeeqa (slaughter of two lambs upon the birth of a male baby, and one lamb only for a baby girl) and other matters. In accordance with the true Islamic teaching, both male and female are alike in the sight of Allah, the Almighty. Each, however, is physically prepared and equipped to perform certain tasks and duties that are suitable to his/her nature.”
This statement given by this prominent Islamic Imam shows the way Children in Islam are treated and valued. Here is a summary of what child is entitled in Islam:
- The Muslim family provides according to its means, proper education, healthy upbringing as well as teaching Qura’an and Sunnah to the children.
- The gradual guidance according to the child’s needs and development in a brilliant way depending on his needs and abilities. First to teach the child, then keep reminding and guiding him to do it himself, then when he is old enough he is held accountable and may be punished for his shortcomings.
- A child is encouraged to learn Qura’an especially Surat Yousuf (Chapter 12), for boys, and Surat Al-Nur (Chapter 24) for girls by heart because of the benefits in those chapters for the healthy upbringing of young children.
It is the right of parents that their children should treat them with kindness, obedience, and honor. Devotion to parents is a natural instinct which must be strengthened by deliberate actions and emphasizing on it as being an act of obedience for Allah. The rights of the mother are stressed on more because of her suffering during pregnancy and childbirth, her suckling of the child, and her role in caring and teaching it. In Qura’an Allah said:
And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months …” [Quran.com/46/15].
Once, a man came to the Prophet and asked: “Who is most deserving of my good companionship?’ ‘Your mother,’ replied the Prophet. ‘Who next? ‘ the man asked. ‘Your mother,’ replied the Prophet. ‘Who next?’ he asked. ‘Your mother,’ replied the Prophet. ‘Who next?’ asked the man. ‘Your father,’ replied the Prophet.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
- Equal treatment between siblings. It is narrated by Abu Bakr, who said that Prophet(PBUH) was once approached by one of his companions, Al-N’uman Ibn Basheer, who wanted to assign a gift to one of his sons, the Prophet(PBUH) said: “Have you, besides him, other sons? He said: Yes. Thereupon the Prophet said: Have you given gifts to all of them like this (as you have given to Nu’man)? He said: No. Thereupon he (PBUH) said: I cannot bear witness to an injustice“. [Sahih Muslim].
- Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the town; and there was under it a treasure belonging to them; and their father was a righteous man, and your Lord intended that they should attain their age of full strength and take out their treasure as a mercy from your Lord. And I did it not of my own accord. That is the interpretation of those (things) over which you could not hold patience.” [Quran.com18/82]
Due to the righteousness of the father even in his death, Allah has extended his mercy to his two boys and preserved their inheritance.
The time when a child is in the process of growing up and adopting a way of life which can make him either virtuous or wicked, he can be metamorphosed into a perfect human being or a degraded wild animal. The virtue or wickedness of a person will be dependent on the upbringing he receives and this responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the parents. In fact, parents are the main instruments of shaping the human being, good or bad, to which the child will shape into.
The greatest favor which parents can bestow on their children is that they lead by example; being kind, well meaning, freedom loving, brave, just, wise, righteous, faithful, dutiful and hardworking will form the children as such.