Therefore, if we spoke about the rights of parents, then it is only fair to also talk about the rights of children. As always, let us take our cue from the Holy Qur'an. When referring to this miraculous scripture, we might think that there are numerous verses which talk about the rights of parents, but not as many that deal with children's rights. On the contrary, there are verses which warn parents of the dangers that come with having children. Certainly, their intent is not to discourage people from having children. Islam emphasizes having legitimate children. It counts it as one of the greatest blessings which God bestows on His servants.
In any case, when talking about children, the Holy Qur'an says such things as: "O you who believe: do not allow your worldly goods and children to make you neglectful of God's remembrance; those who do this are the losers." (63:9)
It also states, "Know that your wealth and children are a divine test." (8:28)
But when talking about parents and their rights, it places the respect of parents next to monotheism and submission to the one and only God. Perhaps this difference is because parents naturally have a great deal of love for their children, to the point that they are willing to give up their own lives for the safety of their children. While children also love their parents, in most cases they prefer themselves over their parents. This is why it is easy for children to leave their parents, but very heart-breaking for parents to see them go.
Surely, this is the natural system necessary for the continuation of the human race. In other words, the parents must be willing to do anything for their children and love them extremely so that humanity will be safe from extinction. Therefore, the Holy Qur'an cautions parents not to be engulfed with this extreme love of their children. Love of children must not cause parents to abandon God's rights over them and sacrifice social justice. And since children can abandon their parents for self interests, the Qur'an stresses respect for them in all cases and circumstances.
At any rate, we spoke in detail about rights of parents in the previous article. Here we want to mention some rights which children have over their parents. It has been related from Imam Ali (peace be upon said) that he said, "The right of a child over his parents is that they must pick a good name for him, raise him up properly, and teach him the Qur'an." (Nahjul Balagha, short saying 399)
Names play a significant role in the personality of an individual. Therefore, parents must choose good names for their children and must refrain from being like a leaf that blows with the winds when picking a name. If the winds are blowing towards the West, they will pick Western names; if they are blowing towards the East, they will pick Eastern names. A believer must name his children after the righteous men and women of the world. The best names to pick are the names of Allah, such as Abdullah, Abdul Ghafoor and the like. Or the names of the prophets, such as Ibrahim (Abraham), Dawood (David), Sulayman (Solomon), Musa (Moses) and the like; or names of the prophets’ successors, like Sham'oon (Simon), Yushai' (Joshua), Ali, Hasan, Husain, and Mahdi and the like. For girls, we should choose the names of the womenfolk of the prophets, such as Aasiya, Maryam (Mary), Hajar, Khadijah, Zaynab and the like. The best name for a son is Muhammad, and the best name for a girl is Fatima. There are even narrations which say if you name your children with these, make sure you never hit them and that you respect them at all times.
As for raising righteous children, Imam Zainul Abideen (peace be upon him) has said, "As for the rights of your child over you, it is that your child is connected to you, and in the near future, his goodness or badness will be associated to you. You are responsible for his training and guiding him towards God. Supporting and helping him in God's obedience is on your shoulders. Therefore, if he is raised in a good manner, then he will receive good rewards and if not, he will be punished.
"Therefore, it is obligatory upon you to raise and train your child in such a way that he will be an ornament and source of honor for you in this world and a cause for dignity and God's pleasure for you in the hereafter."
It is the duty of parents to raise their children to be righteous servants of God. This training, however, must be both theoretical and practical. Parents must practice righteousness first, then pass it on to their children next. Hypocrisy in parents can destroy a child's faith.
Raising good and pious children benefits every level of society. And before everyone else, it benefits the parents. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said, "When a person dies, all his actions are cut off except for three: flowing acts of charity, or a knowledge he has left behind which benefits people, or a righteous child who prays for him." (Nahjul Fasaha, p. 505)
One important aspect in raising good children is to familiarize them with the Qur'an. Parents must teach their children to read the Qur'an. If they are unable to, then they must take them to a teacher who can. They must follow the teachings of the Qur'an in their homes and encourage their children to follow it. The Holy Prophet was walking passed a grave with his companions. He hurried by it, and his companions followed. While returning, he took his time walking past the grave. His companions asked him about his different approaches in regards to that grave. He said, "this grave belongs to a man who was being punished. I did not want to see it, so I walked past it quickly. But this man had left a small son behind who has grown up and learned to read the Qur'an. The son reads the Qur'an, and God has forgiven the father because of the son's learning of the Qur'an. Now he is being showered with blessings, and it is pleasant to see."
Based on Islamic narrations, some of the rights that children have on their parents are as follows:
1. Choosing a suitable potential-mother/father for one's children. A Muslim man must search for a believing and righteous woman to marry as the future mother of his children, and vice versa.
2. Giving them a good name.
3. Providing shelter, clothing, food and other necessities for them.
4. Properly training and upbringing them.
5. Teaching them the Qur'an.
6. Endeavoring to get them married.
7. Teaching them to swim.
8. Teaching them how to ride a horse.
9. Teaching them how to shoot a bow and arrow.
In short, raising them to be the best they can be in all aspects of life, especially to be obedient servants of God.
Sayyid Baqir Imrani is a popular speaker among North American Shia communities. Further articles and lectures by him can be found on http://www.mzk4.org/.