Praise be to Allaah.
Custody of young children
means looking after them, raising them, taking care of their interests and
protecting them from that which may harm or upset them.
The fuqaha’ are unanimously
agreed that the mother is most entitled to custody of her children before
they reach the age of discernment, if she and her husband get divorced or if
al-Fiqhiyyah (17/301, 302) it says:
Custody of children belongs
to both parents, if they are married. If they separate, then custody belongs
to the child’s mother, according to scholarly consensus, because of the
report of a woman who came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said: O Messenger of Allaah, this son
of mine – my womb was a vessel for him, my lap was a haven for him and my
breasts gave him milk, but his father says that he is going to take him away
from me. He said: “You have more right to him so long as you do not get
married.” End quote.
With regard to custody, the
best interests of the child must be taken into account. The one who is most
entitled to custody may be an evildoer or unable to raise the child and look
after his interests, or he may be heedless and neglect the child, in which
case custody should be passed to the next person. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah
have mercy on him) said:
The hadeeth – i.e., the
hadeeth “You have more right to him so long as you do not get married” –
indicates that if the parents separate and they have a child, then the
mother is more entitled to custody than the father, so long as there is
nothing about the mother which would prevent her having precedence, or if
the child is able to make the choice himself. This is something concerning
which no difference of opinion is known.
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih
al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
It should be noted that
with regard to this matter, attention must be paid to the child above all
else. If going with one of them or staying with one of them will cause harm
to his religious or worldly interests, then no approval should be given to
one who will not protect him or take care of his interests, because the
basic purpose of custody is to protect the child from that which will harm
him, and to look after his interests.
See also the answer to
question no. 20473.
If the mother re-marries,
she forfeits her right to custody of her children, according to scholarly
This has been explained in
the answer to question no. 20705.
The scholars differed
concerning the definition of the one to whom the right to custody is passed
after the mother. The majority were of the view that it is passed to the
mother’s mother, but Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah and his student Ibn
al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on them both) disagreed with them and said
that it is passed to the father, but if they are both equal in terms of
closeness to the child, then the relatives on the father’s side are given
precedence, and the father’s mother is given precedence over the mother’s
mother, and the paternal aunt is given precedence over the maternal aunt,
and so on.
He (may Allaah have mercy
on him) said:
Unlike the small child, as
the mother is better for him than the father, because women are kinder to
small children, and have more experience in feeding them and carrying them,
and are more patient in doing that, and are more compassionate towards them.
So she is more able, more experienced, more compassionate and more patient
in this regard, so the mother is singled out in sharee’ah with regard to
custody of a child who has not reached the age of discernment.
But there remains a point
to be examined: did the Lawgiver single them out because the closeness of
the mother takes precedence over the closeness of the father with regard to
custody, or is it only because women are more able to achieve the purpose of
custody than men? There are two scholarly views concerning this, and the
issue has to do with which of two counterparts – such as the mother’s mother
or the father’s mother, the half-sister on the mother’s side or the
half-sister on the father’s side, the paternal aunt or the maternal aunt,
and so on – has more right to custody. There are two opinions concerning
this, both of which were narrated from Ahmad. The more correct of the two
opinions is that the women on the father’s side are given precedence. This
is what was mentioned by al-Kharaqi in his Mukhtasar concerning the
paternal aunt and maternal aunt. Based on this, the father’s mother is given
precedence over the mother’s mother, and the half-sister on the father’s
side is given precedence over the half-sister on the mother’s side, and the
paternal aunt is given precedence over the maternal aunt, as stated above.
The father’s male relatives are given precedence over the mother’s
relatives, and a half-brother on the father’s side has more right than a
half-brother on the mother’s side, and the paternal uncle has more right
than the maternal uncle.
The Lawgiver did not give
precedence to the mother’s relatives in any ruling, so the one who gives
them precedence with regard to custody has gone against the basic rulings of
sharee’ah. But giving precedence to the mother because she is a woman, and
women are given precedence over men with regard to custody, this implies
that the paternal grandmother is given precedence over the grandfather, just
as the mother is given precedence over the father, and his sisters are given
precedence over his brothers, and his paternal aunts over his paternal
uncles, and his maternal aunts over his maternal uncles. This is the correct
analogy and the sound view. But giving precedence to the mother’s female
relatives over the father’s female relatives is contrary to the basic
rulings and reason.
With regard to your
travelling with your children, in the answer to question no. 21612 it says
that if they will not be harmed by that travelling, then you are still
entitled to custody and it is not waived because of that travelling.
To sum up the above:
You have more right to your
children than your husband’s family with regard to custody, care and raising
Your right to custody of your
children is waived if you get married, and the children should move to be
with their father’s mother. If that is not possible then they should go to
their mother’s mother.
There is nothing wrong with
your travelling with your children if this travel will not cause them any
What we advise you to do
Raise your children well
and take good care of them; treat your husband’s family well and do not cut
off ties with them or cut your children off from them. Think seriously about
marrying, because it will keep you chaste and will not sever your ties with
your children, and Allaah may bless you with other good and righteous
And Allaah knows best.