Pride is generally a reprehensible trait in Islam, but I can say with pride that I am the father of 3 beautiful girls. My children mean the world to my wife and I. We share in their joys and sorrows. When they are happy we smile and when they are sad we get upset. My wife and I sometimes sit together and reminisce about the time when it was just the ‘two of us’, but ultimately we reach the conclusion that we wouldn’t change what we have. My children are a blessing from Allah (swt). They are a source of joy and Insha’Allah we pray that they are a means by which my wife and I gain the pleasure of Allah (swt).
My wife is now expecting our fourth child, which Insha’Allah should arrive mid-January. For some people it came as a surprise, but we are happy and content that we are adding to the Muslim Ummah, so that Rasool (saw) can be proud on the Day of Judgement. The only downside is having to upgrade the car to a 7 seater, but that is a minor inconvenience when we think about the joy of bring a life into this world.
For some of our friends and family, the debate has begun about whether this time it will be a boy or a girl. Even my children have got caught up in the debate with Rumaysah wanting a brother (think she has had enough of sharing her clothes with her sisters), Faatiha wanting a sister and Nusaybah changing her mind every few days. It’s only natural to have some kind of preference, and children are quite innocent in their justifications.
Adults, on the other hand, are more calculating when they make judgements which are invariably built upon what they perceive as being good or bad. Most people haven’t expressed any preference, but a few have come from the perspective that ‘I hope it is a boy this time – then your family is complete’ or ‘Insha’Allah this time a boy’. I’m certain that most of them mean well and have the best of intentions, but this is a strange discussion for my wife and I. Should we be disappointed if it is another girl? Should we be disappointed with the 3 girls we have already? Will we be deficient as a family if we never have a boy?
The Ideal Family
When people imagine the perfect family, often an image comes to mind of the husband, wife, son and daughter. Historically this complied with the average 2.4 children, which with the decline in birth rate now stands at 1.9 children. So if you were to have 2 children then you would wish that one is a boy and the other a girl. After that the family is complete and there is no need to have any more.
2.4 Or 1.9 may be seen to be the norm today, but historically families were bigger. My wife is from a family of 6 as is my father, whilst my mum is from a family of 5. A few decades ago 1.9 would be seen as abnormal. Currently one child families in the UK stand at 47%, a figure that is often attributed to the so-called costs of raising children. Nowadays lifestyle choice is often a determinant for the ideal family. Children, no matter how rewarding and pleasant to the eye, are hard work. The endless nappy changes, sleepless nights, terrible twos, all eat into that ‘me time’ as the child demands attention 24 hours a day. Children need to fit into the fast paced lifestyle of the West, whilst parents want to maintain their freedom to do as they please. Children often seen as impeding this freedom. It is easier to increase the family with a dog or a cat rather than having more children.
Living in the West it is noticeable that some Muslims, as well have adopted this thinking where the cost of raising a child or the impact of a child on lifestyle can affect the decisions that are made.
So is there such thing as the ideal family given that our perception of what is normal changes from time to place?
Currently the mother, father, son, daughter model is being replaced by the one child family. We have seen a rise in the single parent family. Recently, with the introduction of same sex marriages we may find that in a few decades the two dads or two mum families will be seen as the norm. In fact the definition of normal family will constantly change, especially when humans themselves are left to decide what is acceptable and unacceptable.
Islam gives a constant and unchanging definition of the basic family unit as comprising of a mother, a father and children. In fact the Prophet (saw) encouraged us to have children in abundance when he (saw) said: “Marry those who are loving and fertile, for I will be proud of your great numbers before the other nations.” [Abu Dawud]
We are told not to worry about the cost of raising children. We believe that Allah (swt) is ar-Raziq (the provider) and He (swt) provides for all His creations
Allah (swt) says: “And there is no creature on earth but that upon Allah is its provision, and He knows its place of dwelling and place of storage. All is in a clear register.” [TMQ Hud:6]
My provisions, the provisions of my children and grandchildren have all been predetermined by Allah (swt) even before they were born
The Messenger (saw) said: “Allah wrote down the decrees of creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth.” [Muslim]
So, as Muslims we should not be occupied by financial worries, nor should we be concerned about what the society will say, but rather we make informed decisions and we trust in Allah (swt). My family will not be complete with a boy, nor is it deficient without one. My family is what Allah (swt) has decreed without me needing to worry about normality or abnormality.
The Cultural Muslim
When we were expecting our first child, Rumaysah, my wife and I wanted a girl, which some people found strange. When we found out that the next child was to be another girl, one of my wife’s family members asked her ‘Is Ibrahim happy that it is going to be a girl?’ To which my wife responded ‘Why would he not be happy’.
Unfortunately, we find that amongst some Muslims, especially from the Indian sub-continent, there is a slight social stigma surrounding the birth of girls as opposed to boys. I imagine that if I was the father of 3 boys, people would come up to me and say ‘Perhaps this time it might be a girl’, but if I was to have another boy, there would not be too much disappointment. However, if I am to have another girl, I can imagine I will hear from some people words like ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Perhaps next time’. My wife has been telling me that one of her friends advised her to ‘Keep saying boy, boy, boy – and you never know’. This is despite the fact that the Prophet (saw) informed us that the sex of baby is determined at around 40-45 nights after conception.
When one of my friends found out that we were expecting, he said to me ‘Bet you hope it’s a boy this time – so that you can pass on your family name’. Passing on the family name was something I never considered to be of any importance, especially as it will not help me on the Day of Judgement. Strangely, none of my children carry my surname and neither will this child, as we have no interest or pride in having a dynasty.
Historically, the Quraish took great pride in their tribes and hence having sons above daughters. Boys were seen as a source of power, strength and a means to get domination over rival tribes, whilst daughters were perceived as a burden and better off dead. In fact it was common practice for the Arabs to bury their infant daughters alive.
Allah (swt) describes the reality vividly the emotional state the father goes through at the birth of the daughter in surah an-Nahl:
“And when the news of (the birth of) a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief! He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonour or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.” [TMQ an-Nahl:58-59]
The advent and establishment of Islam in the society did away with such corrupt cultural practices, not only by prohibiting the practice with stern punishments, but by giving girls worth and honour in the society. The Islamic text addressed both the male and the female, both are commanded to do acts of righteousness and both are to be recompensed for their deeds.
Allah (swt) says: “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.” [TMQ an-Nahl:97].
Islam gives women status; they are mothers under whose feet Jannah lies. They are wives to be protected and daughters, whose upbringing is a means to attain the pleasure of Allah (swt). The Islamic civilization gives us personalities like Ayesha (ra) who was a prolific narrator of hadith (sayings of the Prophet (saw)) and a scholar in Islam and Nusaybah binti Kaab (ra) who was known for her excellence on the battlefield.
Old cultural practices and traditions have no place in Islam. Whenever the Muslims took over a new land they settled in those areas, interacting with the people in a natural manner on the basis of Islam. As a result, people embraced Islam in numbers with the society quickly molding into one homogenous society. Islam gave the people a new belief, new values and the true meaning of happiness. Consequently, these new Muslims quickly left any degenerate thoughts and cultural practices and adopted the thoughts and culture of Islam.
However, in the absence of Islam governing the affairs of the Muslims we find the remnants of previous cultures and erroneous ideas in the Muslim community. We may no longer hear of girls being buried alive, but we do hear of gender specific abortions. China has an estimated 30 million missing girls as a result of the one child policy and the need for that one child to be a boy. If you go to some Muslim weddings you would be forgiven for thinking that ‘Singh is King’ when in fact ‘Allah is Akbar’.
As Muslims, we need to try and ensure that we purify our hearts and minds from anything that opposes the Islamic culture. Sometimes we may look down on another Muslim based upon the colour of his skin, his social standing or his place of birth. Sometimes we may dismiss girls and invest in boys. Sometimes we may allow cultural practices or our current environment to dominate over the verdict of Allah (swt). Islam came with a new way of life that led mankind out of darkness into light. Islam came with its own values, culture and social system that dominated the atmospheres and hence elevated personalities. If we wish to be elevated now, we must ensure that we adhere to the Islamic culture and challenge any stereotypes that go against Islam.
Our second scan indicated that we are to have another girl, alhamdulillah. For me that means more pink and lilac, more pretty dresses and hopefully the recycling of old clothes.
But the main question is: Are we happy? Yes
Allah (swt) has blessed us with 3 beautiful children with, Insha’Allah, a forth on the way.
How often do we hear of a couple who have been desperately trying for a child, utilising the various technological means at their disposal, no expense spared but to no avail.
The Prophet (saw) said: “Whoever has three daughters and is patient towards them, and feeds them, gives them to drink and clothes them from his riches, they will be a shield for him from the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.” [Ibn Maajah]
The birth and sex of a child is the qadr (decree) of Allah (swt). How can anyone not be happy with the qadr of Allah and he (swt) has power over all things.
It is the qadr of Allah (swt) that he provided me with the opportunity to fall within this noble hadith. Now I need to worry about my end of the bargain, raising them as pious Muslimahs.