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Shia Muslim girls studying the Quran placed atop folding lecterns (rehal) during Ramadan in Qom, Iran

The topic of Islam and children includes Islamic principles of child development, the rights of children in Islam, the duties of children towards their parents, and the rights of parents over their children, both biological and foster children. Also discussed are some of the differences regarding rights with respect to different schools of thought.

Muhammad's interactions with children

Muhammad had seven children, three boys and four girls. All of his sons, including Ibrahim ibn Muhammad, died in infancy. Because of this, his experience as a father is sometimes described as "sorrowful".[1] Muhammad also had an adopted son, Zayd, who is said to be the object of Muhammad's parental affection.[2] He also had two grandsons, Hasan and Husayn, and three granddaughters, Umm Kulthum, Zaynab, and Umamah.[1] In one Islamic tradition, Muhammad ran after Husayn in a game until he caught him.[3] Muhammad used to let Umamah sit on his shoulders while he was praying. When someone expressed astonishment at the Prophet when the Prophet kissed his grandchild, he responded, "what can I do if God has deprived your heart of all human feeling?"[4]

Muhammad has been described as being very fond of children in general. Watt attributes this to Muhammad's yearning for children, as most of his own children died before him.[2] He comforted a child whose pet nightingale had died.[4] Muhammad played many games with children, joked with them and befriended them.[2] Muhammad also showed love to children of other religions. Once he visited his Jewish neighbor's son when the child was sick.[3]

Once, Muhammad was sitting with a child in his lap, and the child urinated over Muhammad. Embarrassed, the father scolded the child. Muhammad restrained the father and advised him: "This is not a big issue. My clothes can be washed. But be careful with how you treat the child. What can restore his self-esteem after you have dealt with him in public like this?"[5]

Child development

In the Quran, Muhammad prescribed three stages of child development of seven years each; according to Muhammad:[6]

Rights of children

A Muslim couple and their toddler at Masjid al-Haram, Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Muhammad said: "Every one 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." (Bukhari and Muslim)[7]

One of the rights that children have over their parents is to be provided with marriage when they are old enough without delaying it.[8]

Children have the right to equal treatment with respect their siblings in terms of financial gifts.[9]


Main article: Marriage in Islam


All Sunni/Shia schools of thought agree that forced marriages are strictly forbidden in Islam, as Islamic marriages are contracts between two consenting parties referred to as mithaq.[10]

In addition, Muhammad gave women the power to annul their marriages if it was found that they had been married against their consent.

"When a man gives his daughter in marriage and she dislikes it, the marriage shall be annulled." Once a virgin girl came to the Prophet and said that her father had married her to a man against her wishes. The Prophet gave her the right to repudiate the marriage.[10]

The Maliki school of thought gives the right of ijbar to the guardian. Ijbar is defined as the annulment of marriage due to objection by male guardian.[11] According to Malik ibn Anas, children due to their immaturity may choose an unsuitable partner for themselves, hence, the power of ijbar has been given to the guardian so that he may overrule the child to marry someone he thinks is unsuitable for her. This is the legal right given to the guardian for girls by Maliki school of thought.[11]

Age of marriage

No age limits have been fixed by Islam for marriage according to Reuben Levy,[12] and "quite young children may be legally married". The girl may not live with the husband however until she is fit for marital sexual relations.[12] The Hanafi madhhab of Islamic fiqh maintains that a wife must not be taken to her husband's house until she reaches the condition of fitness for sexual relations. Levy adds:

"In case of a dispute on the matter between the husband and the bride's wali (her nearest male kinsman and her guardian), the judge (qadi) is to be informed and he is to appoint two matrons to examine the girl and report on her physical preparedness for marriage. If they decide she is too young, she must return to her father's house until she is judged fit. Betrothal may take place at any age. Actual marriage is later, but the age for it varies in different lands."

— Reuben Levy, The Social Structure of Islam[13]

In Islamic legal terminology, baligh refers to a person who has reached maturity, puberty or adulthood and has full responsibility under Islamic law. Legal theorists assign different ages and criteria for reaching this state for both males and females.[14] For women, baligh or balaghat in terms of sexual maturity is manifested by menses. However, only after a separate condition called rushd, or intellectual maturity to handle one's own property, is reached can a girl receive her bridewealth.[15]

Adoption and fostering

Main article: Islamic adoptional jurisprudence

Islam highly recommends the "fostering" of children, defined as "assuming partial or complete responsibility of a child in lieu of the biological parents". However, Islam forbids naming the child as one's own or creating any "fictive relationships". Islamic adoption is sometimes called "fostering" or "partial adoption" and is similar to "open adoption".[16] Traditionally Islam has viewed legal adoption as a source of potential problems, such as accidentally marrying one's sibling or when distributing inheritance.[17]

Adoption was a common practice in pre-Islamic Arabia. According to this custom, the adopted son would take the name of his adoptive parent, and would be assimilated into the family in a "legal sense".[18] Islam viewed this practice as "erasure of natal identity". This practice was sometimes done for emotional reasons, such as pity, but adoption was also a means through which slaves were stripped of their identities and given the name of their enslaver.[16] The Quran replaced the pre-Islamic custom of adoption by the recommendation that "believers treat children of unknown origin as their brothers in the faith".[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b Stewart, p.113
  2. ^ a b c Watt (1974), p. 230
  3. ^ a b Yust, p.72-3
  4. ^ a b Phipps, p. 120
  5. ^ Kassamali, Tahera. Raising Children. Tayyiba Publishers & Distr.
  6. ^ Starrett, Gregory (March 26, 1998). Putting Islam to Work. University of California Press. p. 103. ISBN 9780520919303.
  7. ^ Hannan, Shah Abdul (1997). Social Laws of Islam. IIIT. ISBN 978-984-8203-08-8.
  8. ^ Denffer, Ahmad Von (2015-12-10). Islam for Children. Kube Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-86037-671-2.
  9. ^ Al-Sheha, Abdulrahman. Women In the Shade of Islam. pp. 33–34.
  10. ^ a b Prof. Abdur Rahman I. Doi Professor and Director, Center for Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira, Nigeria. "Marriage – The Free Consent of the Parties". Archived from the original on 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2007-03-28.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ a b Prof. Abdur Rahman I. Doi Professor and Director, Center for Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira, Nigeria. "Marriage – Ijbar: A Safety Valve". Archived from the original on 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2007-03-28.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ a b Levy, p.106
  13. ^ Levy, p.107
  14. ^ John Esposito, Islam, Oxford University Press 2003
  15. ^ Masud, Islamic Legal Interpretation, Muftis and Their Fatwas, Harvard University Press, 1996
  16. ^ a b Ingrid Matison, "Adoption and Fostering", Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures
  17. ^ a b A. Giladi, saqir, Encyclopedia of Islam, Brill
  18. ^ Joseph, Suad; Naǧmābādī, Afsāna (2003). Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures: Family, Law and Politics. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-12818-7.