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Having Many Babies: a Muslim Take


Many environmental and social activists consider overpopulation to be one of the greatest challenges humanity faces.

Reprinted from ReadingIslam.com

Date: 11/Aug/2009

Name of Counselor: Sahar El-Nadi

Topic: Having Many Children: a Muslim Take

Name of Questioner: Abhishek from India


Does Islam direct the married couple to have as many babies as possible? If yes, what about the problem of over-population in the country?


Salam, Abhishek.

Thank you for your question.

Your question made me think: Is it not strange that poor nations are complaining of overpopulation as a serious threat to development, while rich nations are complaining of under-population, also as a threat to development?

The EU is concerned about its demographic future because of an ageing population and overall population decline, yet it advocates birth control, abortion, selective pregnancy, postponement of child bearing, same-sex marriages, and less children per family.

In other words, the “civilized” world believes that deliberately decreasing birth rates is a pretext to affluence and happiness, when actually, demographic decline means eventual economic decline.

This formula is obviously faulty, so how could it be sold to other world nations as a ticket to development?

On the other hand, Muslims are not a world power today despite their wealth of human and material resources. Do you think that is due to their large numbers, or a direct result of the mismanagement of their resources?

If 1.5 billion humans had faith, manners, natural resources, and the required know-how to use all that for the common good, would they be considered “human surplus”?

Let us review both situations within the Islamic context of the value to all humanity of healthy, educated children.

Importance of Family and Gender Roles

There are a lot of regulations in both the Quran and the prophetic traditions dedicated to the well-being of the family as a social unit. Each Muslim family member has rights and responsibilities. And the family functions as a whole, harmonious unit rather than a group of individuals sharing the same living space.

Islam also designates gender-specific roles according to the preferences and capabilities of each gender.

As a religious duty, a Muslim man is completely responsible for everyone in his household, including servants and drivers. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) teaches that men answer to God for any negligence in providing for their families and ensuring their protection and wellbeing. In parallel, they are highly rewarded for carrying out their responsibilities successfully.

Consequently, a Muslim woman is not required to go out and find work in order to sustain herself; her men-folk provide for her unconditionally, in return for her carrying out certain responsibilities within the family. Her career outside the house is expected to be second to her highly esteemed job of nurturing her children to be successful humans.

Wherever there is a hard-working, caring dad, and a loving, well educated, pious mom, there will certainly be wonderful children making great contributions to all humanity, not just their local communities.

Obviously, the more of such children we have, the better. No one could argue that this type of children is undesirable or a burden to economy or social development.

In Europe, researchers wonder: are women restricting the size of families through free choice, or because concerns about their position at work prevent them from having as many children as they might actually like?

In other words, children have to be sacrificed in favor of career success, but does this produce affluence and happiness in the long run? (The EU’s Baby Blues, last accessed on August 2, 2009)

Muslim Parents’ Status

Rearing children to be useful individuals is highly rewarded according to Islam, both in this life and the next. Parents enjoy the highest rank next only to God’s, according to the Quran.

This alone is enough reason for Muslim families to want to have and raise good children. Prophet Muhammad teaches that dead parents continue to gain reward from a pious child who remembers them in prayers and does good deeds in their memory as a result of a healthy upbringing.

God’s Provision

People often forget it is not up to them to allow or prevent children from coming into the world. All they can do is try, but it is God alone who decides whether we have children or not, and how many of which sex.

He also created the world in perfect balance; and He knows best how to allocate His gifts. When we interfere to disturb that balance, we end up with a crisis situation, as it is in China for example, where the country is experiencing serious sex-ratio imbalance, to the extent of being called a “geopolitical time bomb”.

This resulted from laws limiting one child per family in fear of poverty, in a culture which favors sons, causing a trend of selective pregnancy, abortion, and even female infanticide.

All those practices are prohibited in Islam in respect to human life and to preserve natural balance. (China Grapples With Legacy of Its ‘Missing Girls’, last accessed on August 2, 2009, China’s Surplus of Sons: A Geopolitical Time Bomb, last accessed on August 2, 2009)

God prohibits killing children, and promises to provide for them because He created them. In the Quran, He addresses the two main concerns: anticipated poverty, and suffering actual poverty; and He promises to provide for every child born in either case:

[Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin.] (Al-Israa‘ 17:31)

[Kill not your children on a plea of want – We provide sustenance for you and for them] (Al-An`am 6:151)

Prophet Muhammad actually promised that marriage and having children warranted God’s provisions and bounty, and he encouraged people to get married and to have children and raise them well.

Consequently, we should view poverty in densely populated nations as a problem of mismanagement of resources and disturbing the natural balance, rather than a result of the number of children born into each family.

The Value of Humans

God describes children in the Quran as a “gift” from Him and not a burden, and mentions them in conjunction with material wealth, stressing their value:

[Wealth and children are the ornament of this worldly life] (Al-Kahf, 18:46)

We never see anyone complaining of a “surplus” of money. How can we complain of a surplus of children then? Money cannot substitute good children, and good children can make money and also do good deeds, and evidently, limiting the number of children doesn’t result in happier or wealthier conditions in the long run.

So why are people refraining from having children after all the above reassurance from the Creator Himself?

It is a shame that people are regarded as a useless surplus when human capital is a valuable economic resource.

Children & Poverty

Many people today are complaining of the lack of food due to increasing food prices. Some wealthy nations actually destroy huge amounts of food to keep the prices up. They also produce bio-fuel from crops such as corn, making more people unable to feed their children.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel, recently said in a public speech:

If you travel to India these days, people are eating twice a day, and if 300 million people in India do that and suddenly consume twice as much food as before; and if 100 million Chinese start drinking milk too, then of course our milk quotas become skewed, and much else too.

Germany is the world’s largest bio-fuel producer; it also has the lowest birthrate in Europe with 8.18 births per thousand people per year. (Bad policy, not biofuel, drive food prices: Merkel, last accessed on August 2, 2009, Demographics of the European Union, last accessed on August 2, 2009)

The Brazilian President told reporters in Brasilia: “Food is expensive because the world was not prepared to see millions of Chinese people, millions of Indians and Africans eating three times a day.”

Brazil is the world’s largest sugarcane producer, bought by Germany for bio-fuel production.

It is sad this is happening, when there is a ground-breaking invention of Muslims in India to produce energy from plain air! (Muslims Invent Engine That Runs on Air, last accessed on August 2, 2009)

This irresponsible and supremacist exploitation of human resources affects human and animal food resources all over the planet, and causes unhappiness for billions of people.

If we really believed this world to be one unit, we will be able to see a world of opportunities and creative solutions; we will be one big family collectively responsible for finding solutions to our problems. Prophet Muhammad made a brilliant analogy about this concept: (We are all in the same boat, last accessed on August 16, 2009).

The disintegration of family values in favor of individual freedoms, the materialistic and consumerist values propagated by the media for commercial interests, in addition to lack of proper education about life skills and God’s religion, all of these are the true reasons for poverty of soul and mind, which is the most dangerous type of poverty. (The problems of being an older mum, last accessed on August 2, 2009, Is your career making you infertile?, last accessed on August 2, 2009)

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

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