Gifts to children: Must be equal

Q235 :May I seek a clarification of what you have mentioned previously of the necessity to make gifts to children equal. Does this mean that if a person divides his wealth among his children during his lifetime, he should divide it equally among his sons and daughters?

A235 : It is the duty of a father to bring up his children maintaining equality between them. This applies to everything that helps them through life, whether it is moral or material. It is not permissible for a father to show favoritism to one of his children. In some communities, sons are given preference over daughters. In Islam, this is not permissible. If a father provides his son with a good standard of education he is supposed to provide his daughter with a similar standard of education. Similarly, if a father gives a gift to one of his children, he should give similar gifts to the rest of his children, sons and daughters alike. Some people think that since the shares of inheritance differ between sons and daughters, gifts can also differ and they assign to their daughters only half of the gifts they give to their sons. This is a wrong approach, because the needs of children in life are equal. Moreover, they stand in the same relationship to their father. Therefore, total equality should be maintained between them. Gifts cannot be treated as inheritance because the death of a father places certain responsibilities on his sons but not on his daughters. The Principle of equality relies on the following Hadith which we have often quoted in these columns: "An-Nu'man ibn Basheer reports that his father took him to the Prophet and said, 'Messenger of Allah, I have given this son of mine a slave as a gift and I wish you to witness that.' The Prophet asked him: 'Have you given everyone of your children a similar gift?' He said: 'No.' The Prophet said: 'Then seek for yourself some other witness because I do not witness injustice'." (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). It is to be noted that the Prophet's question to his companion inquires whether he had given everyone of his children, not everyone of his sons, similar gifts. When we deduce a ruling on the basis of a Qur'anic verse or Hadith, we must bear in mind that every word included in such a statement is deliberately chosen to convey an intended meaning. The Qur'an, Allah's word, does not admit any deficiency or error. It is not possible to assume that anything has been missed out, overlooked or forgotten. Allah does not forget anything. Similarly, when the Prophet gives a ruling in a particular situation, he does so on the basis of revelation which he receives from One High. Therefore, his statements must be treated as having been carefully considered. The fact that the Prophet has said to his companions, "Have you given everyone of your children similar gifts, means that the question applies to sons and daughters, since the term "children" includes both. Had it been the case that gifts should be treated in the same way as inheritance, the Prophet would have outlined that. In the light of the above, the answer to your question is that if a person wants to divide his wealth among his children during his lifetime, he should treat his sons and daughters equally.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )