I know parents have great rights in Islam but how far can they go in hitting children, insulting them in public and displaying anger whenever they want to? Please elaborate on a teenager’s rights to respect.
Answer: Alhumdulillah it is good to find you are aware of and in no means denying parents their rights. Unfortunately very little is said about the Islamic rights of children.
Parenting is not an easy job, but Islam has provided parents with several principles to follow when interacting with their young. The Islamic rights dues to all human beings in general is inclusive of teenagers, such as speaking to them kindly, not backbiting about them, keeping their secrets and dealing with them with honesty and justice.
Once, when the Prophet (sa) wanted to share a meal with those sitting around him, he turned to his right side first (as was his practice), to offer it to the child who sat beside him. On his left sat an older gentlemen, and so he sought the permission of the child to serve the older person first. When the child denied permission, he was served first. Our Prophet (sa) did not over look the child’s rights for that of the older person; rather he sought the child’s permission to give up his turn, and was treated in the same manner as any adult would have been.
Children also have rights of their own, Prophet Muhammad (sa) has said: “It is the right of children that their father provides them with a good education gives them a good name, and fulfills their duties according to their age and intellectual growth” (Bayhaqi)
The duties parents need to fulfill range from feeding them to advising them in all matters of Deen and Duniya. The Prophet (sa) advised, “Do not refrain from using pressure (of punishment) with a view to training them (children)” (Tirmidhi) Pressure does not mean brutally hitting them, as the Prophet Muhammad (sa) spoke strongly against hitting anyone in a manner which could cause injury, and he spoke of striking anyone’s face as Haraam. In fact, he spoke of beating children if they refused to pray once they reached the age of ten. (Bukhari), which many scholars interpret to mean that one should not strike a child for reasons which carry less weight than the refusal to pray.
Allah (swt) has commanded to ward off from ourselves and our families a fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones (Tehreem 66:6), and the Prophet (sa) explained that each person is the shepherd of his flock (family). (Bukhari); Hence parents are both responsible and will be held accountable for their young. Consequently some parents may inadvertently appear too harsh towards their children. Others, on the other hand, may be too permissive. There is a story of a young thief who when caught said: “Before you cut off my hand cut out the tongue of my mother. When I committed theft for the first time and brought home an egg, my mother did not warn me or punish me; rather she said her son was a full grown man. Had she not said that I would not be the thief I am now.” This is obviously a situation that most parents try hard to avoid.
As a teenager, do bear in mind that it is difficult to modify one’s parent’s behavior, and the only one whose behavior can be controlled is our own, try to reflect more on the situation, do we speak harshly to our parents? Are we making an effort to show them respect? Are we fulfilling our responsibilities towards them? Or are we demanding our rights without giving them theirs? If so, be the first to give them their rights, it may take a while, but Insha’Allah eventually they will see you as one worthy of respect. Regardless, you will get rewarded by Allah (swt) for doing your duty. May Allah (swt) make it easy for you and aid you in your efforts towards building a happy and rewarding relationship with your parents.