Causing harm to one’s family
This means one’s parents, children and spouse. All this is forbidden since it all comes under the prohibition of causing any harm. Islam urges its followers to be kind to their parents. God says in the Quran: We have enjoined on man kindness to one’s parents. (29:8) The Prophet prohibited21 "holding on greedily to money and asking for it persistently, being unkind to mothers and burying young girls alive", as was the habit of certain Arabian tribes before the advent of Islam. The Prophet said: "Cursed be he who is unkind to his parents". No one can be more unkind to his parents than one who exposes their health to unnecessary risk. Similarly, Islam instructs parents to take care of their children, and instructs both husband and wife to take good care of each other, laying particular emphasis on a man’s duty to look after his wife. The Prophet said: "Do take good care of women"22. He also said: "My Lord, I place particular importance on the rights of the two weak groups: orphans and women"23. He also said: "Your wife has a [human] right against you and your children have a [human] right against you. Give to every one their rightful claims". In another hadith, we read: "Your household has a [human] right against you"24. The Prophet explains the concept of mutual responsibility within the family, when he says: "A man is guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is guardian of her husband’s house and children, and is responsible for them"25.
To neglect the rights of parents, wife or children and not to take good care of their health and not to take the necessary measures to prevent their exposition to illness are certainly forbidden, on the basis of the following Quranic statements: You shall not kill your own children. (6:151) You shall not kill anyone, for that is forbidden by God, except through the due process of justice. (6:151) Losers are those who in their ignorance stupidly cause the death of their own children. (6:140) No mother shall expose her own child to harm, nor shall any father expose his child to harm. (2:233) Imam Ibn Hazm comments on this verse: "There is no doubt it is the child that parents are forbidden to harm". God also says in the Quran: Consult together with all reasonableness. (65:6) Ibn Manzour says in his commentary on this verse: "It is the duty of each one of the parents to show reasonableness when consultation takes place with regard to what happens to the child". Let us remember that this verse comes within the context of divorce. It means, therefore, that the divorced parents should consult with each other in order to protect the interests of the child. In the same context, the Prophet said: "It is a sufficient harm for any man to allow his dependents to perish"26. He also said: "Whoever does not show compassion to our young ones does not belong to us"27. One of the most essential aspects of compassion to young ones is to protect their health and to prevent their illness. Among the most important measures to protect a child’s health is breast-feeding for the first two years of its life, because that gives the child the best possible nourishment, enhances its immune system, and helps to provide reasonable birth spacing since breastfeeding often serves as a means to prevent conception. God says in the Quran: Mothers shall breast-feed their children for two whole years if the parents wish the sucking to take its full course. (2:233) God also says: Its weaning comes in two years. (31:14) Similarly, the pledge of loyalty which Muslim women gave to the Prophet contained the all important clause that they …shall not cause the death of their own children. (60:12)
It is the duty of all Muslims towards the members of their household to:
• Take all necessary measures to prevent illness. This includes keeping them away from any source of infection, as well as their vaccination, as necessary, in order to immunize them against communicable diseases. When parents are complacent with regard to the vaccination of their children, they expose them to harm, which God has forbidden them to do. Similarly, a foolish or ignorant action from either parent could expose their child to death and make them losers, as God says: Losers are those who in their ignorance stupidly cause the death of their own children. (6:140)
• Do their best to provide them with the means of healthy living, such as good food and to teach them the habit of eating moderately and to do exercises which keep them fit.
• Seek medical treatment for them when they fall ill.
One of the worst hazards to which children may be exposed is for one of their parents to be a smoker, which means that they are forced to breathe in the smoke of cigarettes and are exposed to all the illnesses that smoking causes. It is no exaggeration to say that this is doubly forbidden as it means, in effect, neglect of the child’s right to be protected against illness, and a forceful exposure to risk when still young and defenceless.