Joys and sorrows of parenthood

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Edited by Adil Salahi

Published — Friday 12 February 2010

Last Update 12 February 2010 3:00 am

The first marriage of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave him six children. The first was a boy, named Al-Qasim. While most human societies, past and present, give preference to male offspring, the pre-Islamic Arabian society surpassed all others in this regard.

It was not uncommon for a father to bury a daughter alive, for fear of poverty or shame. To the Arabs at the time, a woman could neither earn her living nor fight in a tribal war. Thus she was a burden to be got rid of. A man with no male offspring was considered to be highly unfortunate because he would be forgotten soon after his death. He had no sons to bear his name.

As we know, Muhammad’s marriage took place 15 years before he became God’s Prophet and messenger. His was a happy marriage and both he and his wife were very delighted to have a boy for their first child. Muhammad was a very caring husband and a father who doted on his children. Moreover, he did not share the Arabian view of female offspring. While an Arab would receive the birth of a daughter with much gloom and would be greatly depressed by the news, Muhammad felt that a daughter could be the source of great joy and happiness. Therefore, when Khadijah, his wife, gave birth to a daughter, he felt overjoyed. He gave her the name Zaynab, which meant “her father’s adornment.” This was an implicit response to the Arabian gloomy reception of baby girls.

Yet the joy of having both son and daughter together did not last long. Tragedy was to strike shortly afterward. Al-Qasim died before he reached two years of age. This caused Muhammad much sorrow, but infant mortality was a frequent occurrence in all societies at the time.

Khadijah was still in her prime, and she was to give her husband four more children: three daughters and a son. It never occurred to Muhammad that having daughters was anything but a blessing. While his society would consider him greatly unfortunate to have four daughters, he had no such feelings. On the contrary, he loved his daughters better than most Arabs would love their sons. He doted on them and ensured that they received the best upbringing he could give them. Their mother was a wise woman, and she was certain to make their life a comfortable one.

His second son was called Abdullah, but nicknamed Al-Tahir (i.e. the pure). Yet this second son of the Prophet did not live long either. He died very young, perhaps not getting beyond his first birthday. His daughters lived until they were married. Three of them had children. However, only one of them, Fatimah, survived the Prophet. The other three, Zaynab, Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthoom died before him.

The Prophet had no children by any of his wives, although three of them had children by earlier marriages. However, he had one more son born to him late in his life by Maria, the Coptic slave sent to him as a gift by Al-Muqawqis, the ruler of Egypt. He named that son Ibraheem, which is the Arabic form of Abraham. Again, Ibraheem lived only 18 months. Thus, the Prophet, who was a most loving and caring father, experienced the death of six of his seven children. Fatimah, who survived him, died six months after he had passed away.

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