A beacon of Hope!
One of the greatest desires of a married couple is having children of their own someday. In the olden days, having many children was a sign of wealth, fertility and source of socioeconomic progress as children function as an extensive support system to the family.
Children were and still are our heritage. In many traditional Societies, because women are the womb carriers, it is believed that having children is mainly the joy of the woman as she proves herself to be fertile. However, it is also the same for men. This proof that it’s been so for many generations is expressed in Surah al-Imran verse 14 where Allah states:
“Beautified for mankind is the love of the joys (that come) from women and Children; …”
Although children are seen as the legacy, however, we should be more compassionate to marriages that are childless. It is only Allah that gives children as Allah is the controller of destiny.
“To Allāh belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female (offspring) upon whom He wills, and bestows male (offspring) upon whom He wills. Or He gives both males and females, and He renders barren whom He wants. Verily, He is the All-Knower and is Able to do all things. Surah Ash-Shura vs 49-50.
Some couples are lucky to celebrate the birth of their child or children in less than a year after marriage, while some wait for a few years and the rest never get to have any child at all.
While It is not an absolute that all couples would have kids, a growing number also practice what is known as voluntary childlessness or being child free. This is a situation in which some couples on reasons ranging from health/medical grounds, financial goals, preference for adoption to simply not just wanting kids to choose to not have children at all or until a certain time. This doesn’t make them sterile.
Being childless is sadly the inability (of a willing couple) to conceive and birth a child after a full year or more of trials. It is an emotionally traumatizing situation for any couple. Aside from taking loads of medicines and concoctions to Increase their chances or the use invasive methods such as the IVF, families and well wishers compound their issues by asking too many questions and giving too many pieces of advice. While this is mostly a sign of love and compassion, this act gets most couples more frustrated.
The Prophets And Their Struggle With Childlessness:
Allah has promised us in the Holy Quran that he would test us all, both mankind and Jinn. Allah also in Suratul Baqarah reminds us that he would not grant a burden more significant than his servant can bear. In other words, our ability to persevere is what is being tested. Even the prophets who are closest to him have been tried with being childless at some point or the other. Let us look and take cues from the stories of Prophet Ibrahim and his wife Saratu, Prophet Yakub and his wife (Rachel), Prophet Zakariyyah and his wife Al-Yashbi and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his wife, Nana Aisha
IBRAHIM AND SARAH
Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was getting old and also had no child by his wife, Sarah. He was past the age of childbearing as well. Sarah had totally believed that she was barren and decided that Ibrahim should take her slave girl Hajar (Hagar) as a wife. Hajar then gave birth to Isma’il (Ishmael), Ibrahim’s first son.
One day, Prophet Ibrahim received some strange guests. Details of their meeting were encapsulated in this verse of the Holy Quran.
“There came our Messenger to Ibrahim with glad tidings. They said, “Peace!” He answered, “Peace!” and hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf. But when he saw their hands not reaching towards the (meal), he felt some mistrust of them and conceived a fear of them. They said: “Fear not: We have been sent against the people of Lut.” And his wife was standing (there), and she laughed: But We gave her glad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob. She said: “Alas for me! Shall I bear a child, seeing I am an old woman, and my husband here is an old man? That would indeed be a wonderful thing!” They said: “Dost thou wonder at Allah’s decree? The grace of Allah and His blessings on you, O ye people of the house! For He is indeed Worthy of all Praise, Full of all Glory. (Hud: 70-73).
Prophet Ibrahim was 99 years of age while Sarah was 90 when they gave birth to I
YAKUB AND RACHEL
Prophet Yakub’s (Jacob) birth had already been predicted in the verse of the Quran above. When he became of age, he got married to Leah, Rachel’s sister first as it was the custom of the family to marry the older daughter before the younger ones. Rachel was, however, Yakub’s choice and sooner than later, he married her as well. Even though Leah wasn’t her husband’s love, Allah opened her womb, and she gave birth to seven sons for him. Rachel, on the other hand, had to wait for up to 20 years before Allah answered her prayers and granted her Prophet Yakub’s last two sons by the names Yusuf (Joseph) a prophet of Allah and Bunyamin (Benjamin).
ZAKARIYYA AND AL-YASHBI
Prophet Zakariyya (Zachariah) was a righteous man, a prophet who descended from the line of Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon) and a member of the household (son in law) of Prophet Imran. Prophet Zakariyya was also the patron of Mariam (Mary), the mother of Prophet Isa (Jesus) and daughter of Imran. His wife, known as Al-Yashbi (Elizabeth) was also very righteous and a descendant of Prophet Harun (Aaron).
For many years the couple remained childless, but prophet Zakariyyah never stopped to ask Allah for an offspring, an heir that would take over his righteous work as he feared his kinsmen taking over himself as they were not good people. As they became old, feeble and past the age of bearing children, Prophet Zakariyyah got a message for Allah. As stated in the Quran:
“Then The Angels Called Him, While He Was Standing In Prayer in A Praying Place, Saying: God Gives You Glad Tidings Of John (Yahya), Confirming The Word From God, Noble, Celibate, A Prophet From Among The Righteous.” (Quran 3:39).
Prophet Zakariyyah had his first child around the age of 120 while his wife was about 98 years of age.
MOHAMMED (SAW) AND AISHA
Aisha was the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad’s best friend and first Caliph of the Muslims, Abubakar. She was the only wife of the Prophet that was married as a virgin, very fair skinned, righteous and extremely intelligent. Her contribution to the success and widespread of Islam cannot be over emphasised. She was just like her father, the most adored of the wives of Muhammad. Unfortunately, she never had a child for her husband. In my opinion, she, however, cannot be considered as barren because according to reports, she once had a miscarriage. Unlike the other women in the stories above, Nana Aisha died childlessly.
The moral of these stories is that it is never too late to have a child. As Allah breathed into the sleeves of Mariam and she brought forth a child, age should not be an impediment for seeking the face of Allah. However, just like Prophets Ibrahim, Yakub and Zakarriyah, we must maintain righteousness at all times.
Allah did not just grant the first three couples only any good child but righteous ones and prophets of Allah- Isaac, Yusuf and Yahya.
In the last story, even though Nana Aisha never had any child, she is regarded as the Mother of the believers who transmitted over 2000 Hadiths and engaged in many physical and spiritual struggles for Islam. She was a mighty woman indeed who channelled all her energy in worshipping Allah and separating falsehood from truth. Perhaps this is what Allah wanted more from her knowing that with a child, she may not have achieved this much. We should understand the agony of being childless and how it has been in existence for long and also by pious servants of Allah.
If you are still waiting upon the Lord to open your womb, do not despair. Continue to seek his Blessings but more importantly, never relent in your worship because the sole aim of us mankind is to worship Allah and nothing else. Our actions and inactions should reflect reverence towards Allah. Either we find ourselves rich or poor, fair or dark, with the child or without, we should remember that all are tests from Allah to know how best we behave.
Although our love to procreate is justified, however, we should beware of making it consume our hearts even though it is painful. When we have tried all halal means of conceiving a child, we should open our heart to the hopes of meeting Allah on the day of judgement. As succinctly put in the Quran, Suratl Kāhf vs 46
“Wealth and children are the adornments of the life of this world. But the good, righteous deeds, that last, are better with your Lord for rewards and better in respect of hope.”