Question # 246: Can a stepfather keep his wife from assisting her children when they need her? Meaning can he stop her from staying with her children for a few days, and do the children need to ask for the step father’s permission for their mother to stay with them?
Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: The mother is more entitled to the custody of the child so long as her child has not reached the age of discernment, but this right is forfeited, if the woman remarries. However, it is not permissible according to Islamic shari’ah for one of parents to prevent the other from seeing or visiting their child, after separation. On the other hand, although the responsibility for the upbringing and caring of the stepchild does not rest on stepfather’s shoulders, the scholars advise that he should do so willingly as part of treating their mother kindly and earning a great reward. He should understand that his wife’s children’s needs, especially if they are young, and treat them well. The wife should also make her children dear to her husband and strengthen the relationship between them, help her husband to be patient in dealing with them and remind him of the associated great reward.
Long Answer: One of the matters on which there is scholarly consensus is that the woman is more entitled to custody of the child so long as [her child] has not reached the age of discernment, as the child at that stage needs the kind of compassion and care that only women can give, but this right is forfeited if the woman remarries, because she will be distracted by her new husband from taking care of her child, and because there is a conflict of interest between the child and the new husband. Ibn al-Mundhir (may Allah have mercy on him) narrated that there was scholarly consensus that the mother’s right to custody is forfeited if she remarries. (al-Kaafi by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr; al-Mughni)
This is indicated by the hadith of ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Amr (رضي الله عنه) according to which a woman said: O Messenger of Allah, my womb was a vessel for this son of mine, and my breasts gave him to drink, and my lap was a refuge for him, but his father has divorced me and he wants to take him away from me. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to her: “You have more right to him so long as you do not remarry.” (Narrated by Ahmad and Abu Dawood; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, and classed as sahih by Ibn Katheer in Irshaad al-Faqeeh)
[However,] it says in Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah: “If the wife leaves the marital home or the couple becomes separated by divorce, for example, and they have a child or children, it is not permissible according to Islamic shari’ah for one of them to prevent the other from seeing or visiting their child. If the child is in the mother’s custody, for example, it is not permissible for her to prevent his father from seeing him and visiting him, because Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has enjoined upholding ties of kinship, as He says in the Qur’an: “Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk…” (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:36). According to the hadith: “If anyone separates a mother and her child, Allah will separate him and his loved ones on the Day of Resurrection.”” (The hadith was narrated by al-Tirmidhi and classed as sahih by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi)
[On the other hand,] …the responsibility for the upbringing and care of [step child] does not rest on [stepfather’s] shoulders, unless he does that willingly and as part of treating [their] mother kindly. And this is what [the scholars] advise him to do, so that he might earn a great reward… He has a good example in the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم), as he married women who had children and he took charge of their upbringing and caring for them. There follow some examples of that: It was narrated that ‘Umar ibn Abi Salamah said: I was a young boy under the care of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم), and my hand used to wander all over the plate. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to me: “O young boy, say the name of Allah and eat with your right hand, and eat from what is nearest to you.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim) (‘Umar ibn Abi Salamah was the stepson of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم); he was the son of the Mother of the Believers Umm Salamah (رضي الله عنها) from Abu Salamah; he was born in Abyssinia when his parents migrated there.)
The husband should understand that his wife’s [children’s needs, especially if they are] …young; he can succeed in bringing [them] up to be obedient and chaste by winning [them] over with kind treatment and gifts, and speaking kindly to [them]… [The wife] also has an important role to play in making her [children] dear to [her] husband and strengthening the relationship between them, helping [her] husband to be patient in dealing with [them], and reminding him of the great reward that there is in bringing [them] up and taking care of [them].
(The above reply is based on various answers by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.