Privacy in Islam 101: Do You Have Children?

“Anyone who asks a woman who has been married for several years and does not have a child ‘why?’ is a monster,” I think to myself as I hang up the phone after calming one of my dearest friends down. She does not have children, has been married for 15 years and is often asked intrusive questions by well-meaning people. Some that break her.

Are you one of them? Can I talk to you please.

Leave people alone.

Your ‘innocent’ comments may be pushing someone over the edge. You are scratching a wound as deep as her soul that may be healing slowly, cell by cell, and your question just made the wound ooze again, spreading sepsis to her core. Don’t you think she already knows she doesn’t have a child? That she already knows she should pray or is praying every night for a child? Or that, yes, she has heard that so-and-so was granted a miracle after x number of years a billion times? And waiting for her miracle is the hardest test she has ever had or will have of her faith?

You don’t know how many times she may have cursed her empty womb, fraught with guilt, or fought between her desire for a child and her love for a husband who was not given the blessing of siring.

Unless you have personally suffered through this trial yourself, you don’t know how it feels. Unless you are ready to hold her hand through hours at the doctor’s office, or wipe her tears after the infinite micro-aggressions, taunts or threats of divorce she hears, or feel the pain of the uncountable miscarriages she labors through, or convince her irate husband to get treated himself, then be quiet and stay quiet after she tells you she doesn’t have any children.

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Do you think that they, as a couple, would not have researched all options? Or that ‘get checked up’ is news to her?

For the love of God, please.

Aspiring to a Higher Ethos

I am upset because we, as a community, as a civilized society, should be above this. Over and over, I hear stories of women whose lives are made miserable by others – husbands and in-laws, neighbors, extended family, people from the masjid or community center and even total strangers because they have not had a child. We want a community who has a high ethos, a high character, and we cannot tolerate this behavior any longer.

We are better than this. We aspire to Jannah where there will be clean souls and clean hearts; we need to prepare our tongues for Jannah now.

There are general rules of etiquette (akhlaq and adab) that we, as human beings, must adhere to, and then there are specific manners that are incumbent upon all Muslims. Refrain from asking questions of a personal nature, don’t ask why/why not. A person’s private life is exactly that – private. Unless they invite you into their private life, there is a hurmat (sanctity) that we have to maintain. We learn this from the following verses of the Quran:

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‘Do not enter any houses except your own homes unless you are sure of their occupants’ consent’ (24:27)

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‘Do not spy on one another’ (49:12)

Many lessons can be learnt about the importance of privacy from the following hadith: it was narrated from Abu HurayrahraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allahṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” al-Tirmidhi (2318)

Abu ‘Ubaydah narrated that al-Hasan al-Basri said: One of the signs of Allaah’s turning away from a man is that he becomes involved in that which does not concern him, as a sign that Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, has left him to his own devices.

Infertility

Infertility is a medical diagnosis (the inability to conceive after one year of trying or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth) and one with serious psychological and emotional ramifications. It also can be, especially for Muslims, a spiritual crisis.

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Infertility is  a trial that Allah has given to our brothers and sisters. Yes, brothers too, as infertility is not only a women’s issue. Approximately 15 percent of couples are infertile, and among these couples, male factor infertility accounts for approximately 50 percent of causes. According to the Mayo Clinic, male infertility can be caused by impaired sperm production, function or delivery. Female infertility can be related to fallopian tube damage, ovulation disorders, endometriosis and uterine conditions.

It is Allah who chooses who to give a child to and who not to give a child to:

 

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“To Allah 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 bestows both males and females and He renders barren whomever He wills. Verily, He is the all-Knower and is Able to do all things.” [Quran 42:49-50]

Secondary infertility is a huge trial as well, when, after one child, a woman cannot conceive again. Secondary infertility is a test that some couples face when they have the first child easily but have issues conceiving again. Sometimes, however, secondary infertility stems from complications related to prior pregnancies. Changes in the couple’s risk factors, such as age, weight and use of certain medications, can also contribute to secondary infertility.

Need for Sensitivity

One common, often-heard jab that women share is, “Keep your opinions about parenting to yourself because you do not have a child.” To those who make this statement, I ask this question: Is this gift of a child a miracle of your own making? Were you blessed with children without the permission of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)?

There are many wonderful people who are not parents, but are the best people to have in your child’s life. Many childless women have shared that they like to hear about your children, they love being a part of the lives of the children around them, and are often cruelly rebuked or denied taking pleasure in other people’s children.

Let your friends who don’t have children become the AishasraḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) in your child’s life. It will bring all of you great joy.

Some women do say they wish their friends would talk about a topic other than children from time to time.

One of the worst kinds of comments is to mention other people whose suffering was supposedly worse yet they have gotten over it more quickly and grown from it, says a sister who has been trying to conceive for several years; the implication here is that the couple is not meeting a “Muslimy” standard and are at fault for not showing adequate sabr.

There’s another type of commentor who won’t say anything directly but will try to undermine all other accomplishments/positive things of a childless woman by emphasizing ‘how meaningless life is without children’! Don’t be that person. A person can lead a very fulfilling life without children.

If you find it socially awkward, then try to find something else to comment on. She may be a great cook, organizer, artist or traveler – comment on that.

Then there is the case of women who do not want children – they know that they do not have it in them to take the responsibility of caring for another human being for 18 years.

So the bottom line is that we need to stop making assumptions.

Here are 12 things not to say to someone who has confided in you about their battle with infertility. Many times you may be a good person and really mean no ill will towards the person. At that moment if you find it really hard to say something or have an impulse to say something that that you shouldn’t, just say a heartfelt “I’m sorry” — that is plenty.

Muslim Fertility Project

The Prophet  sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Wonderful is the case of a believer – there is good for him in everything, and this is only for the believer. If he experiences a blessing, he is grateful to Allah – which is good for him; and if he experiences an adversity, he is patient – which is also good for him.” [Muslim]

I hope the men and women who are taunted have the spiritual strength to forgive those who hurt them with their words, and may Allah may it easy for you to continue to bear this test from Him with grace and dignity.

The Prophet  sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Whatever trouble, illness, anxiety, grief, pain or sorrow afflicts a Muslim even if it is the pricking of a thorn – Allah removes in its places some of his sins.” (Bukhari, Muslim).

Many times people have nowhere to turn to grieve, to deal with the belittlement, to share their experiences.  This article had been sitting in drafts for a long time, maybe waiting for this wonderful new project:

Muslim Fertility Project launches with a survey for Muslim women struggling to have a 1st or 2nd child. Here’s how you can help:

Here is a link to a Facebook support group for women who struggle with infertility.

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She is also a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. She serves on the board of the Aafia Foundation and Words Heal, Inc. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. A mom of four and a Green Muslim, she lives and preaches a whole food, organic life which she believes is closest to Sunnah. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

24 / View Comments

24 responses to “Privacy in Islam 101: Do You Have Children?”

  1. Cliveey says:

    What business is it of anyone else whether a woman or a couple choose to have children or not? We are not here as breading machines. There are more than emough people to sustain the human race and its diverse peoplea. It seems to me that people who can only find meaning in life and joy in living are lacking in emotional maturity. We need to be complete fulfilled people in our own riThis musytght before we even consider having children. They should not be bouught into this world to “fill a hole in our souls”. That comes in fulness from knowing God and being recomciled to the Almighty. Above all having children should not be in order to please others or due to social presure from any person or religious body. Children should be bought into thios world to be loved and cared for and guided. They should be frere to make their own chois=ces once they reach maturity. They are not tehre to fulfil their parents or religious leader dreams. They are ondividuals to be loved and respected for who they are. Having children can often be for selfish reasons. You failed at sports or at your career and want them to succeed where you failed. This must not be selfish and you must respect that they have their own skills, abiliries and dreams. The worst thing of all is having children to force your own political or religious views on the world. That is evil. Share your faith and beliefs yes but as they mature you must respect their wishes and allow them to think for themselves IF YOU TRULY LOVE THEM and not yourself. There is nothing wrong with simply being grateful for teh life you have been given ad enjoying it, but if that is your choice try to live it unselfishly and care for others. Fulfil your responsibilties to your parents as they become old and frail and make provision for your own old age. Do not be a burden on teh wider community.

    • John Sampson says:

      Quite often a woman does not have the benefit of choice. There are all kinds of biological/medical reasons that can be mentioned. But, when she does have a choice, it is hers to make. We all have so many choices in life that we can and do make, so why should a woman have to answer to anyone for the choice she makes whether to have or not have a child? It is a personal/private matter, and is no one else’s business at all!

  2. cliveey says:

    Strebeing ss and Depresssion do not have to result from infertility. It is the social pressure taht brings these. to not have children because of infertility or choice does not mean you are a faiure. Be garteful for teh life you have been given and enjoy it to teh full, but with consideration for others.

  3. T says:

    wonderfully put ukhty …..through out my experience of life i have concluded that taunts,jibes and remarks are exceedingly painful than physical pain…i hate it when people taunt others, be it about anything….i just dont have patience with it….May Allah give us all tawfeeq to speak purely Aameen…. straight, direct speech called qawlan sadeeda…

    • cliveey says:

      People can pass remarks from genuine concern for the couple but that too can be unintentionally hurtful. You do not have to bring children in this world to lead a happy, caring and respecful life. Some people do taunt. It shows they are inadequate and siffer a sense of inferiority. To make thhem sleves feel better they persecute others and humiliate them.
      That is shameful and cruel. Emotional tortrure is very real. ALSO it is important taht children are really wanted. If people are pressured to have children they can come to uncociously resent them. Live your lives to tehfull and only have children because you really want tehm and are in an established happy relationship. Do not just do things to bow pressure from other people.

  4. Umm Yusra says:

    This is a good article and a much needed reminder to the ummah. We have unfortunately not understood what it means to remain silent in certain matters. People mean well. But it can still hurt.

    My personal story here: http://gildeddunya.com/2014/10/27/motherhood-an-answered-dua/

  5. Chris says:

    AssalaamuAlaykum, thank you for the needed address. My wife and I were married for 6 years, trying every single month, until Allah blessed us with a pregnancy that went full term. Out daughter is one year old now Alhamdulillah. What’s amazing is that people think children just show up as if the Will of Allah has nothing to do with it. People wander what you do in your private life, make subtle accusations and explicit inquiries and tiring suggestions. What’s even more frustrating is seeing so many couples, on their honeymoons, and some yet to be wed, whom Allah tests with children. But we always knew and strongly felt that it was part of Allah’s greater wisdom that He decree children for us when He did. We enjoyed a six-year honeymoon Alhamdulillah and finally gave birth in a country where we felt more at ease with its medical services–previously living in Medinah. Allah is Truly Wise and Generous.

  6. Ayeina says:

    Jazakillah khair Hena. It’s evenue worse when you have miscarriages and you’re not over the grief yet and people expect you to have another child. With the same fear in her heart…
    I hope that people who went through miscarriage can find peace in this piece…
    http://ayeina.com/finding-hope-in-miscarriage/

  7. Umm Ibraheem says:

    As Muslims part of our fundamental beliefs is that Allah is the Creator. If only people can understand the term kun fiyakun be and it is. I agrees it’s annoying and off putting when “well meaning friends” will always ask you and make jibes about expecting or even getting married. They need to understand that it is not within our control once we tie the camel we do not need a running commentary of the waiting time. Having been in both of the unpleasant situations to me it showed “well meaning friends” lack of faith when finally Allah blesses with spouse they are in shock and after years of infertility they admit despite their outward supportive (patronising) comments they cannot believe I have child and thought I would never get one! Glad I finally found out how their minds work, I will not confide in them again, what is the point? I’m not sure they are aware that they are unaware of the unseen. And yes people should just mind their own business and busy themselves and their own struggles and tests, because by Allah everyone has a test, and I think infertility is a great test only for the best of women, not only do their have inward battle they have to wear outward armour for all the “well meaning friends” running their mouths. Personally I do not agree with such a term as infertility; possibly infertile for a time, but who is to know this and have the ultimate decision is a woman will bear children? The stigma attached to infertility is based purely on ignorance and lack of understanding of Allah, Alhamdulilaah kulli haal, if you do not have the children you desire as yet, believe you will and wipe away any negative doubt I know is in your mind, we get from Allah what we expect so expect the best

  8. sarah says:

    beautifully put masha’Allah. Great article!!

  9. Despite the positive inflection in this article, I wish the author had taken some more time to also explain that having children is optional for some people too, even Muslims, because we are all free to practice however we please, because it’s a personal matter. Some people are actually living very happy lives without children but they have to pretend to be sorry and apologetic to appease to folks like the ones this article talks about just to give them their dosage of ‘I feel good about myself now’. Pathetic backward culture and practices. You can take the man out of the cave but you can’t take the cave out of the man (or woman, as the case may be).

  10. Daly says:

    It’s just conflicting thoughts I always get when I think about my situation where I had been married for 12 years and not sure if I have to hope to get a child or try to accommodate to the situation I’m living right now so not to get disappointed at the end. I’m getting old and not sure if ther would be an opprtunity for conceiving at all. I can’t prevent myself from being sad and frustrated sometimes, I know everything is done through Allah’s will but it’s so hard not to get that feeling sometimes when you see all the moms around you are talking about their kids and children and I am just left out.

    • cliveey says:

      Possibly seek out people in a similar situation to yourself, whether by circumstance or choice. It willnhelp you enjoy life without being constantly reminded of the hurt you feel. Also you will have fellowship. I do hope you will find true happiness and go on to lead a great life. I believe infertility is most often from the male partner. You could consider other options like adoption or artificial ,eans to become pregnant. You could really help a rdfugee child in great need of care and love. Why not consider it. May God Bless You Both.

      • Daly says:

        Thanks Cliveey for your support. It’s true, we have a male factor problem and we tried artificial fertilization 10 times and never worked…yes 10 times believe it or not. We thought about adoption too but we figured it won’t be Halal by any means for any sex baby. Alhamdlellah I just have to live my life as it is and hopefully GOD would reward me much better in life thereafter..

        • cliveey says:

          Friends went though the same thing so I do understand. There will be so many children with such great need of love, care , protection and guidance coming to the UK from Syria. Fleeing for their lives! Chat with your partner about both of your feelings. Then chat in prayer to our loving creator to ask whether adoption would be the right thing to do. If you are guided that it is, then the Blessing you will receivebfrom Him (or her whsyever word is right for you) will be great. The child ,ay be difficult as it wil have known great distress, but in time it will bring you greatt joy. However the child turns out as an adult (not all children become good people at first), you will both be able to feel realy proud for having helped a vulnerable person in real need and above all, for having shown them love. But ask the Almighty first. God Bless.

    • cliveey says:

      Onevlast thought. Male sperm counts and sperm mobility are falling due to some insecticides and organo phosphate weed killers. So you will not be alone with this.

  11. Beenish says:

    This is very inspiring and interesting discussion. I wish people start understanding and stop hurting those who suffer with this thing.

  12. huma says:

    Worth reading .very well written.

  13. Humna says:

    The most important thing in this article is “privacy”. Just bugger off. Mind your own business. Don’t give suggestions unless someone asks for it. It’s that simple.

    I liked the way the article was written. Well meaning and emphatic.

    • cliveey says:

      You are so right, but it is important to be kind and understanding while encouraging people to be confident and stand up for themselves about what is really a personal matter or choice of life. Caring for them comes first.

  14. beautifully put masha’Allah. Great article!! thank you for writing such a great Article

  15. Cass says:

    What about couples who don’t want to have children? I don’t think that they should be marginalized and criticised for their decision to not have children. I’ve seen people act like women who don’t have children out of choice are some kind of monsters. I know that it’s highly encouraged to have children in Islam but there’s also the choice not to have them

  16. Hauwa says:

    masha’Allah, this is well elaborate sister. and believe me I know exactly how its feel because my hubby and I have been battling infertility for 15 years. But Alhadulillah Allah have blessed me with a caring husband that always encourage me and to be patient with what Allah put on us there in the afterlife in shaa Allah.

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