Is Having More Children Islamic?
An un-Quranic idea spread by the traditional circle is that it is virtuous in the sight of Allah to have as many children as possible. This teaching is in direct opposition to Quranic values on how a believer should perceive children.
They teach that having as many children as possible will make them better worthy of Paradise. Allah teaches against this mentality:
"And they said: 'We have more wealth and more children, and we will not be punished'." (Qur'an 34:35)
This infers that more children is not what draws one near to Allah. Allah teaches the believers:
"Neither your wealth nor your children will bring you near to Us, but those who believe and do good deeds will have multiple rewards for what they have done, and will live securely in lofty halls." (Qur'an 34:37)
The Qur'an frequently mentions children along with wealth. The mentality indicated here is indeed observable among people in the way they take pride in their children, in a similar manner they do with their wealth. For example, they compete with one another in whose child attends the best university, or has the best career, or generally like to have an affluent perception of their family in the community. In any case, children are 'personal belongings'. They provide next of kin, old-age care etc. Therefore, it makes perfect sense why the Qur'an consistantly in multiple areas portrays producing children as a highly worldly and non-virtuous deed (not a good-deed).
"Wealth and children are the attractions of the life of this world. But the good deeds which endure are better in your Lord's sight and better in respect of hope." (Qur'an 18:46)
In the above verse, good deed has been seperated from having children. When one studies the Qur'an and becomes acquainted with its perception, he will notice the strikingly different Quranic view on having children compared to what is traditionally held to be true. It is taught that, producing children is a "good-deed" and indeed, many more teachings such as discouraging marriage to infertile women, encouraging polygamy with the intention of producing more children, and indeed even divorcing a perfectly good wife if she is unable to bear children is religiously taught to be correct by religious leaders and their textbooks.
Despite popular belief, the Qur'an does not encourage having children. Having and raising own children is not a "self-less" humanitarian act as many believe. Quranically, it is a selfish act as children provide purposes and insurance policy for old age in life, as well as for show and kinship. The verses of the Qur'an point in this direction. Yet, most people who hold the Qur'an in their hands say it is rewarding to have children, as this is what they have been told to believe. Having children is therefore a selfish act and not selfless. On the contrary, what is truly rewarding and highly acclaimed in the Qur'an is raising an orphan child - a selfless act where no personal stakes are involved. And to this, Allah dedicates many verses (89:17, 90:15, 93:9, 107:2: 4:2 and many more) - encouraging the raising of orphans and ensuring the protection of their inherited wealth and identity. Note that those children not orphaned but in situations where their parents are incapable of looking after them, they are just like orphans in need of care.
"Have we not made for him two eyes? A tongue and two lips? And we showed the way to two paths. Yet, he has not embarked upon the steep path. What will explain to you what the steep path is? It is to free a slave. To feed people in days of shortage. To bring the orphans near as well as the very poor. Only then he would become one of the believers, who exhorts people to the truth and to kindness. These are the companions of the right". (Qur'an 90:8-15)
"No indeed! You do not honour the orphans." (Qur'an 89:17)
Pledging to one's self to give his or her children good lives does not mean one has or had pure and self-less motives for having children. This is because when a baby has not been conceived, it is in a state of non-existence. From its perspective, the universe does not exist. It is not asking to exist nor for the "good life". This clearly demonstrates that the reason to have a baby is basically based purely on personal desire and gain, rather than on the needs or wants of a "non-existent bieng", since it does not exist and has no preference. Therefore, having children is a worldly act, selfish and not selfless, just like how the Qur'an shows.
"So leave them in their glut of ignorance for a while. Do they imagine that, in the wealth and children We extend to them, We are hastening to them with good things? No indeed, but they have no awareness!" (Qur'an 23:54-56)
"Increasing the Size of the Ummah"
The "religious" view used to approve having more children ("increasing the size of the ummah") is an attempt at rationalising a highly un-Quranic concept with religion. This allows a person to benefit from identifying himself as a "Muslim", while enjoying a lifestyle not approved by Allah - a life with a "valid" desire for increasing in children.
"Know that the life of this world is merely a game and a diversion and allurement and a cause of boasting among yourselves and trying to outdo one another in wealth and children: like the plant-growth after rain which delights the disbelievers, but then it withers and you see it turning yellow, and then it becomes broken stubble. In the hereafter there is terrible punishment but also forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure. The life of this world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion." (Qur'an 57:20)
Invalidity of Traditional Teachings
Divorcing an Infertile Wife
Since having children is a worldly deed like making money (18:46), and which does not bring one close to Allah nor count as a good deed in the Hereafter (34:37), divorcing a wife for children is an extremely un-Quranic, heinous and evil deed.
Marrying More Women to amass More Children
The traditional circle also teach it is permissible for a man to marry second or more times if the first wife is barren. They even say that if she is fertile, he may marry second or more times if he wants more children than his existing wife can endure giving birth to! For further understanding on the Quranic teachings of polygamy, read QuranicPath article Polygamy - To Mothers of Orphans Only. Notice that polygamy is in the interest of caring for orphaned children, not for having more of own children. The Qur'an does not allow polygamy under any circumstance save the exceptional case mentioned in the verse, thus further emphasising on the huge virtue of raising orphaned children.
Discouraging Marrying Infertile Women through Alleged Prophetic Nerrations
They teach flat-out not to marry a woman who is not able to have children. However, given the perspective of children from the Qur'an, a believing man in the Qur'an has greater reasons to marry a woman who cannot have children since his goal is the eternal abode of the Gardens of Paradise by doing good deeds. The Qur'an reveals to him that children are another worldly possesion and do not bring one closer to Allah (34:37). Therefore, marrying a woman despite not getting a worldly thing in return (children) from her holds great virtue in the sight of Allah.
"Do not let their wealth and children impress you. Allah only wishes to punish them in this life through them. Their lives will vanish while they are in their state of denial." (Qur'an 9:55)
Forbidding Contraception for Married Couples to increase in Children
They forbade the use of contraception for couples saying they must have as many children as possible, opposing the Qur'an. As seen in this article, it is highly un-Quranic to have as many children as possible. And to use this "reason" to make a prohibition not made in the Qur'an is yet another violation of the Qur'an. See Contraception / Birth Control is Not Forbidden.
Prophetic Prayers for Children
The prophetic prayers for children were not for personal reasons, but to continue the preaching of religion to mankind. They were not the same reasons to why people have children. This is best shown by the prayer of Prophet Zachariah in the Qur'an:
"This is an account of your Lord's grace towards His servant, Zachariah, when he called to his Lord secretly, saying, 'Lord, my bones have weakened and my hair is ashen grey, but never, Lord, have I ever prayed to You in vain. I fear what my kinsmen will do when I am gone and my wife is barren, so grant me a successor — a gift from You — to be my heir and the heir of the family of Jacob. Lord, make him well pleasing [to You].' 'Zachariah, We bring you good news of a son whose name will be John (Prophet Yahya) — We have chosen this name for no one before him.' He said, 'Lord, how can I have a son when my wife is barren, and I am old and frail?' He said, 'This is what your Lord has said: 'It is easy for Me: I created you, though you were nothing before.' " (Qur'an 19:2-9)
“Mankind was a single community, then Allah sent Prophets to bring good news and warning, and with them He sent the Book with the Truth, to judge between people in the disagreements. It was only those to whom it was given who disagreed about it after clear verses had come to them, because of rivalry between them. So by His leave Allah guided the believers to the truth they had differed about: Allah guides whoever He wills to a straight path.” (Qur’an 2:213)
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