Scholars are in agreement that it is prescribed in Islam that parents treat children fairly when it comes to gift-giving; they should not single out one or some of them without giving to the others.

But there are differences of opinion concerning the ruling on differentiating between them in this regard. The strongest views in terms of the evidences relied upon are two. Below are the two views:

1 – That it is absolutely haram to differentiate between them.

2 – That it is haram to differentiate between them unless that is done for a legitimate sharia reason.

The evidence cited by the two groups who say that it is haram to differentiate between one’s children is the report narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim from al-Nu’man bn Bashir, who said that his father brought him to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and said: “I have given this son of mine a slave who was in my possession.” The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) asked, “have you given a similar gift to all of your children?” He said, “No.” The Messenger of Allah
(peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Then take (your gift) back.” According to another narration he said, “Fear Allah and treat your children justly.” So my father came back and took back that gift.

Moreover, in another narration, al-Nu’man bn Bashir asked the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him) to bear witness to this gift. Upon investigating as mentioned above he refused and said: “I do not bear witness to injustice.”

According to this group, the rationale  behind the the prohibition is the fact that preferring some of them to the others is capable of generating enmity and hatred among the children, and this is likely to be a step that leads to severing family ties and disobeying one’s parents.

Those who favored the second opinion differentiate between a situation whereby a child is in need or have a special reason and when he is not. They quoted as evidence the hadith narrated by Malik in al-Muwatta’, from ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) who said that Abu Bakr al-Siddiq had given her as a gift twenty wisq of his wealth, but when he was on his deathbed he said, “By Allah, O my daughter, there is no one whom I would like to see rich after I die more than you, and there is no one whom it hurts me to see poor after I die than you. I had given you twenty wisq, and if you have already gone and collected them, then they would have become yours, otherwise whatever I leave is to be divided among all my heirs …”

The evidence from this report is that perhaps Abu Bakr gave it only to ‘A’ishah because she was in need and was unable to earn a living, in addition to the fact that she enjoyed a unique status as one of the Mothers of the Believers, and other virtues. However, it could also be argued that her brothers and sisters had agreed to that.

The prominent scholar Ibn al-Qayyim adopted the opinion of absolute prohibition of such discrimination and remarked: If there were no clear authentic Sunnah reports that disallowed that, then by analogy and based on the principles of sharia and its concern for people’s interests and to protect them from evil, it would have to be haram.