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IslamQA: The responsibility of the oldest child in Islam toward their family

Salaam. Brother, I want to ask you something. Does the eldest child have to be the backbone of the family? What if the eldest child is a girl and both her parents are still working, and her siblings are still students, what does Islam say regarding this and what are your personal opinion about women being the breadwinner? Thank you for your time.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

There is no special legal obligation on the oldest child. A non-legal obligation may arise from their situation; for example the oldest child may be in a position to help the younger children and take care of them in some ways, this is a moral rather than legal obligation and would apply equally to both males and females and carrying it out would be an act of charity, while not doing it may or may not be sinful.

Children, however, have a legal obligation to financially take care of their elderly parents according to their ability and applies to both male and female children.

Additionally, males have a legal duty to financially take care of their needy sisters and other female relatives that they would inherit from in case of the female person’s death. But this is a matter of disagreement among the scholars.

Regarding women being breadwinners: if this is something that they arrange with their spouses/families then there is no issue with it. A woman’s earnings that go to her family would be considered charity since it is not her duty to earn money (while for a man it is a legal duty).


And God knows best.
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