RULINGS RELATED TO CHILDREN
Q1: What is the period during which the mother has the right of custody? When will this right pass to the father?
A: The mother has a greater right over her child, be it a male or a female, as long as she is breastfeeding him. When he is weaned, the father has more right to it. But this does not mean that one has the right to keep the child away from the other. Rather, during the suckling period, the father has the right to supervise his child with the mother. After the weaning begins, the father should allow the continuity of the relationship between the child and his mother in order to satisfy his needs for the motherly bond and as determined by the father who is in charge of his affairs, something which is mandated on him on account of his being the guardian. A child is not the property of either parent, that they can deal with him as they please.
Q2: If a child is under the custody of his divorced mother, is the right of custody surrendered if she travels far for a long period of time? Is the custody passed to the infant’s maternal grandmother or to anybody else when his mother travels?
A: Custody is the right of the mother and continues to be so during the suckling period. If the child has passed the suckling period, the father will take custody, and this right is not shifted to the maternal grandmother or to anyone else. The same applies if the mother abandons nursing the child and travels.
Q3: Does the father have greater right of custody over the child than the mother or maternal grandmother if he wishes to get a wet-nurse for the child? Does his right of custody continue to apply if the wet-nurse is non-Muslim, with the possibility that her bringing up of the child may bear a negative impact and the child may abandon Islam altogether?
A: The father must look after the child's interests because he is the Sharia-appointed guardian, entrusted over him; therefore, he must prepare for him such care and nursing which does not harm his body or religion. If the matter of the child’s proper nurturing – as per his satisfaction – is confined to the grandmother, for example, he must hand the child over to her. But this does not mean that the right and duty of the upbringing and custody of the child shifts to anybody else apart from him, such that it becomes someone else's right.
Q4: If the father, to whom custody rights have been passed, drinks alcohol and is ill-behaved, and if he has a bad history of theft, fraud and deception, whereas the mother is balanced in her conduct and is ready to take custody of her children, will custody rights belong to the father, or the mother? What is the ruling if the paternal grandfather is available and requests to have custody over his grandchildren with the consent of their father?
A: Guardianship is the right of the father and the paternal grandfather. If guardianship of the father is forfeited due to his incompetence or the like, it will belong exclusively to the grandfather, who will follow his own opinion with regard to bringing up the child and all matters related to him.
Q5: If the custody of the child belongs to the father – due to the mother's nursing period having come to an end – is it permissible for the mother to prevent her child from traveling with his father because she wants to see her child and be in his company?
A: The mother does not have such a right. Her entitlement to see her child is related to the interests of the child if he is in need of seeing her in order to meet his emotional needs. So, if the father sees the interests of the child to be in accompanying him on a trip, and that this is more important than satisfying his feeling by seeing his mother, he can act upon it, because he is the guardian of the child who refers to him in all affairs, while the mother has no right to object. But if the child reached the age of adulthood - as per the criteria of the Sharia – it is quite clear: his affairs are in his own hands, and he has the right to choose.
Q6: Is it obligatory on the custodian father to enable the divorced mother to see the children at their mother's house, or is it sufficient, as per the Sharia, to enable the mother to see them anywhere else even if she has to come to see them at his own house or at another house chosen by the father?
A: The father is under no obligation to let her see the children at a specific place. Rather, it is up to his own opinion regarding what the best interest of the children is.
Q7: Does a father have the right to prevent his son from doing something specific if he anticipates it to cause harm to the son?
A: Preventing the son by force is not permissible unless the harm is so serious that it is prohibited to subject anyone to it. As for preventing him from doing something without forcing him, it is permissible.
Q8: Should the son obey his parents?
A: It is obligatory to obey them and not go against their orders if such disobedience results in neglecting their rights and transgressing against them. It is also obligatory if the son expects harm to come to them as a result of his disobedience. Otherwise, it is not obligatory to obey them, although it is better to do so in all cases.
Q9: You have stated that a child should not be hit more than six times gently; is this an edict? Does the ruling remain standing if hitting him six times proves to be of no avail in disciplining the child?
A: It is an edict. However, it is permissible to increase this number if needed, and when necessary, if it is ineffective in disciplining the child and to stop his ill-deeds, as we pointed out in our book Minhaj al-Saliheen. The restriction to five or six hits is the basic rule in order to discipline him if one does not know that less than that is sufficient or if he knows that less than that is insufficient.
Q10: You have stated that hitting a child is not permissible if it results from an emotional outburst or to simply vent one's anger; sometimes, the father may hit his son for various reasons like when he raises his voice, he bothers him, or he prevents some of his family members or a guest in the house from sleeping, or the like; is this permissible?
A: There is no harm if this is done for the sake of disciplining the child or to prevent him from causing harm and to stop his mischief. But if it is for merely out of malice or to vent one’s anger, it is unlawful.
Q11: Someone hits his quarrelsome younger brother because of his disrespect and ill manners, but the father does not approve of it. Is this considered as disobedience to the father?
A: He is not permitted to hit his brother without his father's permission, because guardianship over his brother does not belong to him. If his father permits him, it must be restricted to a few hits unless more are needed.
Q12: A school has among its staff some teachers who do not believe in religion, and they deny the existence of Allah Almighty in front of the students. Is it permissible to keep the Muslim students there despite the great possibility of their falling under the influence of their teachers?
A: A student's guardian should fortify him against causes of misguidance. Allah Almighty has said, "O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which stern (and) strong angels are appointed, (angels) who do not flinch (from executing) the commands they receive from Allah but do (precisely) what they are commanded” (Qur'an, 66:6).
His guardian knows best how to fortify him. If he sees that fortifying him is done by getting him out of such a school, it is obligatory on him to do so. If he sees that fortifying him is through explaining the truth to him and firming it within him, he must do so. Perhaps some of those who have religious information and truly believe in it can teach their children some clear proofs about the fundamentals of Islamic faith so they may first be fortified and secondly respond to the teachers politely, debating and rebutting them in this regard. Thus, they will be callers to their religion. We have already mentioned some points which may be beneficial in this matter in the thirteenth and twentieth chapters of the Introduction.
However, the children must not be placed in such a school if it becomes a reason in promoting it and encouraging others to attend it, too, and if it becomes quite likely that misguidance will spread and be strengthened.
Q13: Is adoption permissible according to the Sharia?
A: Looking after and raising a non-Mahram child is permissible; actually, it is highly recommended if he needs such care. As a matter of fact, it may even become obligatory if the child’s life depends on it.
Q14: Can an adopted child become related to the adopting father through the completion of formalities and does he inherit from the one who adopted him?
A:He cannot be related to his adopted parents in a way that leads to the loss of his real lineage. He does not inherit anything of the wealth of his adopted father, and none of the other rulings and obligations relevant to such kinship apply.
Q15: Should the adopting father tell his adopted son the truth of the matter? If his real parents show up, do they have the right to reclaim him? Can the adopting father return him to them? Is he eligible for being reimbursed by them for the money he spent on the child?
A: He must inform the child of his true parents if known. He is not entitled to demand the expenses which he had spent on him. And he must inform him that he is not his real father when he starts to understand matters so this may not be a cause for him getting his lineage confused.
Q16: Some families have become used to celebrating certain occasions such as birthdays of their children. We request Your Eminence to explain your opinion about this matter which has become a normal tradition in some families.
A: The said tradition is one of those that came to us from non-Muslim societies; otherwise, a rational person ought instead to feel sorry for what has already passed of his lifespan and diminished of it. He should feel sorry about the time that he wasted during the year. The believers, may Allah grant them success, should stay away from and abandon this tradition, replacing it by the commemorations of the religious occasions which continue all year long, such as the birth of the Greatest Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and the birth anniversaries of the Pure Imams (peace be upon them), and the Eid of Ghadeer, and the like, because in these commemorations is the renewing of belief and faith, as well as the entertainment and fun, and the gatherings of the believers and acquainting with one another. This also results in the keeping of our identity and character alive, safeguarding it from loss and annihilation.
Q17: Is it permissible for a Muslim to give his children non-Muslim names such as those of Christians and others? Does the Sharia obligate one to give his children certain Islamic names or does he have the option to choose whatever name he prefers for them?
A: There is no compulsion in using particular names; rather, it is highly recommended to use names which indicate servitude to Allah Almighty, and the names of Muhammad, Ahmad, Ali, Hasan, Husain, Ja'far, Talib, Abdullah, Hamzah, Fatimah and the names of Prophets, as has been related in narrations from the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them).
It is also disliked to name them after the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) such as the names of Hakam, Hakeem, Malik, Harith, Dharees, Dhirar, Murrah, Harb and Zalim.
As for naming them with Christian names, this is not permissible if a name promotes and supports non-belief and falsehood. Otherwise, this is permissible.
Q18: Is it permissible to name children with the names of the Imams (peace be upon them) with their titles, such as Muhammad al-Baqir, Ja'far al-Sadiq, Fatima al-Zahra?
A: Yes, it is permissible.