Some people show favouritism in the way they give gifts to some of their children but not others. According to the soundest opinion, doing this is haram unless there is some legitimate reason, such as one child being in greater need than the others due to sickness, being in debt, being rewarded for having memorized the entire Qur'an, being unable to find a job, having a large family, being a full-time student, etc. When a father gives something to one of his children who is in need, he should have the intention to give similarly to any other children of his should the need arise. General proof of this principle may be seen in the ayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“. . . Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah . . .” [Surah al-Maa’idah 5:8].
Specific evidence is found in the report of al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer (may Allah be pleased with him), whose 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) asked him, “Did you give all your children a similar gift?” He said, “No.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Then take (the gift) back.” (Reported by al-Bukhari, see al-Fath, 5/211).
According to another report, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Fear Allah and be fair to your children,” so he went away and took his gift back. (al-Fath 5/211).
According to a third report, he said, “Do not ask me to be a witness, for I will not bear witness to injustice.” (Reported by Sahih Muslim, 3/1243).
Sons may be given twice as much as daughters, as in the case of inheritance, according to Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on him (Abu Dawud, Masaa’il al-Imam Ahmad, 204; Imam Ibn al-Qayyim explained this in more detail in his footnotes). But there are some families where fathers do not fear Allah, and their favouritism creates hatred and jealousy among the children.
A father may give one child more because he looks like his paternal uncles, and give less to another child because he looks like his maternal uncles; or he may give more to the children of one wife and less to the children of another wife; or he may put one wife’s children in private schools, but not the other wife’s children. This will ultimately backfire on him, because in most cases the one who is deprived in this way will not respect his father or treat him kindly in the future.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked the man who showed favouritism to one son, “Do you not want all your children to respect you equally?” (Reported by Imam Ahmad, 4/269; see also Sahih al-Jaami, 1623).
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