In Islam, both parents are responsible for their children’s upbringing, but motherhood has always been regarded with especially deep respect. A mother’s right to her child is much more emphasized in the Quran than that of the father. Since mothers play a large role in nurturing the child, she is automatically given custody over her children if she is separated from her husband, unless she remarries or is unfit. Furthermore, when children become mature, responsible agents, they have the responsibility to provide their mothers with care.
“If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is not blame on them.” (Qur’an 2:233)
“And We have enjoined upon man to do good to his parents. His mother bears him with trouble and she brings him forth in pain. And the bearing of him and the weaning of him is thirty months” (46:15)
The Prophet’s Sayings
“A man once asked the Prophet to whom he should show the most kindness. The Prophet replied “Your mother, next your mother, next your mother, and then your father.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
“Paradise lies at the feet of your mother.” (Ahmad, Nasai)
“A woman came to the Prophet and said: ‘I have been divorced from my husband and he wants to take this son of mine from me. But my stomach was a dwelling for him; my breast a source of nourishment for him; and my lap a resting place for him. And now he wants to snatch him away from me.’ The Prophet said, ‘Nom you are entitled to keep him under your custody unless you remarry’” (Abu Dawud)
Although the Qur’an sets a framework for equal and reciprocal moral relationships, as well as balanced responsibilities of women and men, civil laws still exist which act to discriminate against women. Governments have adopted laws that undermine women’s rights and downplay their contributions to their families by regarding the husband as the head of the family.
As such, in cases of divorce, mothers are often stripped of the right to care for their children and left penniless. This is not supported in the Qur’an or Hadith, which describe women as strong, beneficial presences in the household sphere. Nonetheless, Muslim women have made several advances in organizing themselves and building solidarity. Some have advocated for redrafting marriage contracts to include the right of custody in the case of divorce. In 2004, the Moroccan parliament passed a revised family law code that established women and men as equal in a family union, granting mothers the rights they are entitled to by the Qur’an.
Since mothers are nurturers of the future, it is their right to have custody of children in case of separation or divorce. Moreover, men must financially accommodate ex-wives who have custody of their children. Countries that place greater emphasis on men are not following the Prophet’s teachings and overlook the values that mothers foster.
Noha Alshugairi, Sabeeha Rehman, Soroya Deen