Child Custody Epidemic


The central goal Islam seeks to achieve is establishing justice, through worshipping and obeying Allāh. All sins, despite their diversity and multitude, can be traced to injustice and causing mischief. Allāh reminds us:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

“Indeed, Allāh orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives, and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.”[1]

The Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) defined the Muslim as “the one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are safe, and a Muhājir (emigrant) is the one who refrains from what Allāh has forbidden.”[2]

Injustice and oppression are the most hated practices anyone can engage in, so much so that Allāh described shirk—which is one of the worst sins and will never be forgiven without tawba—as an injustice.

إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ

“Indeed, association [with Him] is a great injustice.”[3]

Pondering over the Qur’ān and Sunnah should make any sane person terrified about committing any kind of injustice against anyone. The early scholar and great thinker Sufyān al-Thawrī reportedly said:

“It is better for a person to meet Allāh on the Day of Resurrection with 70 sins between him and Allāh than meeting Him with just a single sin against one of His slaves.”[4]

وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ اللَّهَ غَافِلًا عَمَّا يَعْمَلُ الظَّالِمُونَ ۚ إِنَّمَا يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ لِيَوْمٍ تَشْخَصُ فِيهِ الْأَبْصَارُ

“And never think that Allāh is unaware of what the wrongdoers do. He only delays them for a Day when eyes will stare [in horror].”[5]

فَيَوْمَئِذٍ لَّا يَنفَعُ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مَعْذِرَتُهُمْ وَلَا هُمْ يُسْتَعْتَبُونَ

“So that Day, their excuse will not benefit those who wronged, nor will they be asked to appease [Allāh].”[6]

Oppression and injustice are fundamental reasons for the destruction of nations. Conversely, justice is the key reason for the protection of nations.

وَلَقَدْ أَهْلَكْنَا الْقُرُونَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَمَّا ظَلَمُوا ۙ وَجَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَمَا كَانُوا لِيُؤْمِنُوا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْقَوْمَ الْمُجْرِمِينَ

“And We had already destroyed generations before you when they wronged, and their messengers had come to them with clear proofs, but they were not to believe. Thus do We recompense the criminal people.”[7]

The “good Muslim” trap

One of the most successful traps of Satan in encouraging his followers to engage in injustice is giving people the false impression that being a “good Muslim” is limited to personal actions, whilst ignoring the gravity of the rights of Allāh’s creatures. Someone deprived of Allāh’s tawfīq may think that if they harm someone’s rights in this world, they will be forgiven just because they pray, have a beard, or observe the hijāb.

In our times, an increasingly common form of injustice is depriving children from living and communicating with their parents. For historical reasons beyond the scope of this article, legal cultures have emerged in many non-Muslim European countries where children have become tools of oppression used by divorced couples to exact vengeance against one another. It is very depressing that this culture has made its way into the Muslim community by brothers and sisters who otherwise appear to be God-fearing and justice-advocating individuals on the outside. Due to social norms and the routine advice of divorce lawyers and “friends”, a couple in dispute—most commonly the wife—will take advantage of unjust laws and cultures to deprive the other parent of living with or communicating with their children. Some are even encouraged to lie, manipulate, exaggerate, and use loopholes within the system to achieve this end.

The Qur’ān tells us of two instances when a parent was deprived access to their child for a time: the mother of Prophet Mūsā, and the father of Prophet Yūsuf (Peace be upon them). Both cases were considered huge tests for the parents. One of the most painful tests of this life is having one’s child taken away—so imagine what serious threat of punishment would be for one who does this on purpose.

Why is this so hated by Allāh?

Depriving a parent from access to their child is not just a limited act of injustice. It is a grave injustice that encompasses numerous types of oppression, sins, and harms for the children, the parents, and society at large.

A healthy and organic upbringing of children is vital for building a healthy and strong society. It is well known that the absence of this environment leads to a litany of damage to children, who are the future of society.

Britain has the highest proportion of fatherless families of any major European country, with 1 in 3 children living without their father.[8] An estimated 50% of children go through the trauma of seeing their parents divorce by the age of 16,[9] and 70% of young offenders come from single-parent households.[10] In America, more than 1 in 4 children live without their fathers, and research shows that children without a father in the homes are four times at greater risk of poverty, seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teenager, and at greater risk of a host of social ills; from infant mortality to drug and alcohol abuse to incarceration to even obesity![11]

An epidemic very few people talk about

The organic and healthy way for the nourishment of children is—as Islām has encouraged—to be raised by both parents within the same household. This is why Islām is not in favour of divorce but instead keeping a marriage intact even if it might have some elements of inconvenience for one or both parents. As anyone capable of reflection would attest, this is usually far outweighed by damage to the child and the whole of society. Allāh says:

وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ فَإِن كَرِهْتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا

“And live with them [your wives] in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allāh makes therein much good.”[12]

According to many scholars of tafsīr, Allāh is commanding the man to observe patience and not rush to divorce. I will elaborate on this in another article, by the Will of Allāh. However, the crucial lesson here is that in the vast majority of cases, depriving either of the parents from living with their children leads to far more damage in the long run than keeping the family together, despite its problems.

Anyone contributing to the “epidemic” of fatherlessness and broken families that are harming children and society should be scared of meeting Allāh one day. They are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their decisions, even if they were just following social culture and the “child custody industry”.

Multiplying oppressions

When there is a disturbance to Allāh’s intended method of raising children, and one parent deprives “the other side” from living with or communicating with the children, there is an array of multiple oppressions that occur as a result.

The children are oppressed, suffering an injustice because they are deprived from the God-given right of both parents that no one but Allāh can take away from them.

The other parent is oppressed; deprived from the God-given right of living with, protecting, and nurturing his or her children.

The grandparents and extended family are oppressed, due to their God-given right of upholding the ties of kinship—a paradigm that is strongly emphasised in Islam—with the children. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said that Allāh the Almighty said:

أَنَا الرَّحْمَنُ، وَأَنَا خَلَقْتُ الرَّحِمَ، وَاشْتَقَقْتُ لَهَا مِنَ اسْمِي، فَمَنْ وَصَلَهَا وَصَلْتُهُ، وَمَنْ قَطَعَهَا بَتَتُّهُ

‘I am Al-Rahmān (the Most Merciful). I have created al-rahim (ties of kinship) and derived its name from My name. Whoever joins the ties of kinship, I shall join with them. And whoever cuts it off, I shall cut them off.’[13]

I cannot understand how any Muslim would—despite their personal grievance with their spouse—knowingly commit such a huge and multifaceted act of oppression. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) once asked his companions, “Do you know who the bankrupt is?” The companions responded, “He who has no money nor property.” The Prophet replied:

“The real bankrupt person from my Ummah is one who will come on the Day of Resurrection with prayer, fasting, and charity, but they reviled this person, slandered that person, devoured the wealth of some, shed blood or beat others. So their good deeds will be credited to the accounts of those they harmed. If their good deeds fall short to clear the account, their sins will be entered into their account, and they will be thrown into the Hellfire.”[14]

Likewise, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) warned:

“Do not commit injustice, because injustice is darkness on the Day of Judgement.[15]

“Darkness” here has been explained as the true darkness that hypocrites will experience on the Day of Resurrection, as mentioned in the Qur’ān. “Darkness” here also refers to the difficulties and hardship on that Day, and the plethora of punishments awaiting the oppressors.

In an amazing hadith, our mother ʿĀ’isha (Allāh be pleased with her) reported that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said that records that hold people’s deeds are of three types:

الدَّواوينُ عندَ اللَّهِ ثلاثةٌ ؛ ديوانٌ لا يعبأُ اللَّهُ بِهِ شيئًا ، وديوانٌ لا يترُكُ اللَّهُ منهُ شيئًا ، وديوانٌ لا يغفرُهُ اللَّهُ . فأمَّا الدِّيوانُ الَّذي لا يغفرُهُ اللَّهُ ، فالشِّركُ باللَّهِ ، قالَ اللَّهُ عزَّ وجلَّ : مَنْ يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدْ حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ الْجَنَّةَ المائدةِ :72 وأمَّا الدِّيوانُ الَّذي لا يعبأُ اللَّهُ بِهِ شيئًا ، فظلمُ العبدِ نفسَهُ فيما بينَهُ وبينَ ربِّهِ ، من صومِ يومٍ تركَهُ ، أو صلاةٍ تركَها ؛ فإنَّ اللَّهَ يغفرُ ذلِكَ ويتجاوزُ إن شاءَ . وأمَّا الدِّيوانُ الَّذي لا يترُكُ اللَّهُ منهُ شيئًا ، فظلمُ العبادِ بعضِهِم بعضًا ؛ القصاصُ لا محالةَ.

“The records with Allāh are three. There is a record that Allāh is not bothered about forgiving, a record Allāh will not omit anything from at all, and a record that Allāh will not forgive.

The record that Allāh will not forgive is committing shirk with Him. The Almighty says, ‘Indeed, he who associates others with Allāh – Allāh has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers.’[16]

The record that Allāh is not bothered about forgiving contains the wrong that the slave does to himself, that which is between him and his Lord, such as a fast or prayer that he missed. Allāh will indeed forgive him if He so wishes.

But the record that Allāh will not omit anything at all from is the wrong that His slaves do to each other. Retribution in this is inevitable.”[17]

What goes around comes around

Injustice is such a poisonous evil that its consequences begin in this life before the next. One who wrongs another will–sooner or later–suffer a similar hardship or punishment themselves. Every culture has an expression to describe this universal truth. The Arabs say:

كما تدين تدان

“You will be dealt with (in the same way that) you deal with others.”

If a parent stops another parent from living with or communicating with their children, it is likely they will be punished by being deprived from their children later on in life.

Oppression leads to destruction in this life and the Hereafter. If you deprive others from their rights, it is likely that you will be deprived of your fundamental needs in this life: happiness and contentment. The oppressor lives with constant fear, worry, and anxiety. It is likely that the blessings and barakah will be taken away from his or her life.

Beware the duʿā of the oppressed

Those who deprive a parent and child from each other should be aware of the warning of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):

“There are three whose supplication is not rejected: the fasting person when he breaks his fast, the just leader, and the supplication of the oppressed person. Allāh raises (these supplications) up above the clouds and opens the gates of Heaven to it. And the Lord says: ‘By My might, I shall surely aid you, even if it should be after a while.’”[18]

When the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) sent Muʿādh b. Jabal to Yemen as a leader and a teacher, he provided him with the Islamic manifesto to present to the People of the Book. At the end of his instructions he warned him:

“Beware of the supplication of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allāh.”[19]

No excuses

No Muslim should try and justify this sin by claiming that they are following the law of the land. There are plenty of horrendously unethical sins and injustices that might be technically legal due to the history of a particular country’s law or culture. This is no excuse for a Muslim. You would not justify drinking alcohol or committing adultery because it is socially and legally allowed. We are going to be resurrected on our own, and no one will help us when we face the consequences of our deeds.

Furthermore, it is impermissible and unjust for a parent to make a decision that the other parent is unfit to look after or even communicate with the child, let alone if there is a dispute between the two. This goes against the most basic fundamental notion of justice. These decisions should ideally be made by an independent and qualified Muslim qādi, or a substitute for one in a non-Muslim country where an injustice might happen.

ʿĀ’isha (Allāh be pleased with her) reported that a man came and sat in front of the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and said:

“O Messenger of Allāh! I have two slaves who betray me, lie to me, and deceive me, so I scold them and hit them. What is my case because of them?”

He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “The extent to which they betrayed you, disobeyed you, and lied to you will be measured against how much you punish them. If your punishing them is equal to their sins, then the two will be the same, nothing for you and nothing against you. If your punishing them is greater than their sin, some of your rewards will be taken from you and given to them.” So the man left weeping and crying aloud. The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “You should read what Allāh said in His Book: ‘And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as accountant.’”[20]

Then the man said: “By Allāh, O Messenger of Allāh! I see nothing better for myself, than me parting with them [my slaves]. Bear witness that they are all free.”[21]

Warning to the parents of the oppressor

It is very unfortunate that most parents side with their children, during disputes with their spouses, without looking at the matter objectively. The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

“Whoever takes the wrongdoer’s side in a dispute or supports wrongdoing will remain subject to the wrath of Allāh until he gives it up.”[22]

Some think that being a parent or being faithful to your relative means to side with them and support them against the other side. This is completely wrong. Look how the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) taught us to help our loved ones:

“Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed.” A man enquired: “O Messenger of Allāh! I help him when he is oppressed, but how can I help him when he is an oppressor?” He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “You can keep him from committing oppression. That will be your help to him.”[23]

It’s not too late yet

Finally, I urge all those who committed any injustice against another creature to act upon the following hadith before it is too late:

“Whoever has wronged their brother or sister should ask for his or her forgiveness, as (in the Hereafter) there will be neither dinār nor dirham (to be exchanged). Let them do so before some of their good deeds are taken and paid to them, or, if they have no good deeds, some of the bad deeds of their brother or sister will be taken to be loaded onto them.”[24]

Posted by: Shaikh Al-Haddad



[1] Al-Qur’ān 16:90

[2] Bukhāri & Muslim

[3] Al-Qur’ān 31:13

[4] Al-Tadhkirah by al-Qurtubi, p. 360

[5] Al-Qur’ān 14:42

[6] Al-Qur’ān 30:57

[7] Al-Qur’ān 10:13

[8] Office for National Statistics

[9] Centre for Social Justice

[10] Youth Justice Board, 2002

[11] U.S. Census Bureau, 2017

[12] Al-Qur’ān 4:19

[13] Al-Adab Al-Mufrad

[14] Muslim

[15] Muslim

[16] Al-Qur’ān 5:72

[17] Ahmad (26073), Hākim (8717), al-Bayhaqi

[18] Al-Tirmidhi (3598)

[19] Bukhāri & Muslim

[20] Al-Qur’ān 21:47

[21] Al-Tirmidhi (3165), Ahmad (6:280)

[22] Recorded by al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Mājah and this is the wording of Ibn Mājah. Sunan Ibn Mājah (2320).

[23] Bukhāri & Muslim

[24] Bukhāri (6534)

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