Having a Large Family: Blessing or Burden? | SoundVision.com

Having a Large Family: Blessing or Burden?

As I stood across the kitchen from my friend, a cup of tea in hand, I felt my palms getting sweaty and it was not because of the warm drink I was holding. I was finally ready to share my news with someone other than family. I was pregnant with my third child and the first vulnerable three months after conception had passed. I knew I would start showing soon, so I wanted to tell my closest companions before they noticed. I tried to be casual and hide my excitement, “So… Guess what?” “What?” My friend asked as she took a sip of tea. “I’m expecting.” There was a moment of silence, and I felt my eyebrow rising in anticipation of an enthusiastic “Mabrouk!” or “Congratulations!” Instead, my friend’s demeanor changed completely. It was as if I just told her I was diagnosed with cancer. 

“Oh. What are you going to do now?” she asked. 

I was taken aback, but I brushed off her disappointed reaction. I knew what she meant. For a few months I was debating whether to return to work or go to graduate school. I stopped working soon after I found out I was pregnant with my first child and never returned. After he was born, I stayed at home nursing him and relished new motherhood. Then, a second child was born. Now that I was finally thinking about working outside the home again, I was pregnant … again. 

“I don’t know,” I told my friend, “I will figure it out, inshaAllah.” 

It would not be the first or the last time news of a pregnancy would unsettle friends and family. Even strangers stop me in random places to ask, “Are these all your kids?” Seven pregnancies and six children later, my mother still asks me when I am going to have my tubes tied. She has been asking me the same question for the past 10 years. Since the 1950s and 60s in Puerto Rico, external influences like industrialization, population control, and U.S. military drafts for foreign wars, catapulted women into the workforce. Having multiple children became a burden. Puerto Rican women were encouraged to get sterilized and/or limit the number of children they had to one or two, the ideal being la parejita (a boy and girl pair), to make things easy for them to work. Women like my mother who were born into families of eight or more siblings, began relying heavily on contraception. Tubal ligation is now the method of choice, becoming almost a rite of passage for island women of child-bearing age. 

Family Planning and Faith 

Human beings fool themselves into thinking we are “in control” of our own bodies and destiny. Indeed, before finding Islam, I also contemplated either having no children at all or no more than two. Being a successful woman meant finishing college and finding a decent paying job. After converting and getting married, I still did not think I would have more than a pair. Both my husband and I only have one sibling each, so it seemed like the natural course. I also wanted to focus on my career goals. However, my mind changed after reading about the blessings of having children from a spiritual perspective and appreciating the miracle of creation. I reflected on what an honor it is to welcome new believing souls into this world. In the Quran it says: 

“And remember when you were but few, and He multiplied you.” 

(Surah Al-A’raf, 7:86)

This appealed to my husband and I on a deeper level as a convert couple whose families were majority non-Muslim. 

So, I left the matter of family planning in Allah’s Hands, using only natural means of child spacing like exclusive breastfeeding, tracking my cycles, etc. Of course, there were still concerns, mostly financial, logistical, physical, and emotional (and they still exist!). I knew there are consequences that come with having multiple children, but for every doubt, Allah provides an answer in the Quran. Here are some valuable pieces of guidance related to the topic.

  • If we think our children will be a burden, we are reminded that:

“Wealth and children are the adornment of this worldly life…” 

(Surah Al-Kahf, 18:46)

  • If we fear not having the financial means, we are reminded that:

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you.” (Surah Al-Isra, 17:31)

  • If we feel like we may not like parenting, we are reminded that:

“Perhaps you dislike something which is good for you and like something which is bad for you. Allah knows and you do not know.”

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:216) 

  • If we worry about the baby’s health, we are reminded that:

“Allah knows what every female bears and what increases and decreases in the wombs. And with Him everything is determined with precision.” 

(Surah Ar-Ra’d, 13:8)

  • If we worry that our children will be led astray, we are reminded that:

“Verily, you guide not whom you love, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who are the guided.” 

(Surah Al-Qasas, 28:56)

  • If we wonder if we are too old, we are reminded that:

“She (Sarah, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him) wondered, ‘Oh, my! How can I have a child in this old age, and my husband here is an old man? This is truly an astonishing thing!’ They (the angels) responded, ‘Are you astonished by Allah’s decree? May Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you, O people of this house. Indeed, He is Praiseworthy, All-Glorious.’” 

(Surah Hud, 11:72-73)

The Prophets on Parenthood 

Not only did Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and Sarah pray for righteous offspring, but so did other prophets and messengers despite being tasked with calling people to the worship of Allah. We do not know the details about all their lives, but we know that Prophet Yaqub, grandson of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon them, had 12 children. His eleventh child was Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, had seven children, and he encouraged Muslims to have many offspring. His servant, Anas ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that he used to order his followers to get married and strongly prohibited celibacy. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, once said:

“Marry the loving and fertile. Verily, I will have the most followers among the prophets on the Day of Resurrection.”

(Musnad of Imam Ahmad)

It was also narrated that a man came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, seeking permission to marry a woman who was infertile. He told him: 

“'I have found a woman who is from a good family and of good status, but she does not bear children, should I marry her?' The Prophet told him not to. Then he came to him a second time and he told him not to (marry her). Then he came to him a third time and he told him not to (marry her), then he said: 'Marry the one who is fertile and loving, for I will boast of your great numbers.'" 

(An-Nasai)

In his explanation of this narration, Shaykh Abd al-Azeem Abaadi, said, “Marry the one who is loving, means, the one who loves her husband; and the one who is fertile is the one who bears a lot of children.” (Awn al-Ma’bood/An Explanation of Sunan Abi Dawud, 6/33). 

Sheikh Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali wrote that one of the facets of marriage is “striving to attain the love of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, by increasing that which he can boast of (offspring).” He also stated that, “Concern for procreation is indicated by what has been related concerning Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, that he used to marry often and used to say, ‘I marry for [the sake of producing] children.’…This indicates that seeking children has been considered a greater virtue in marriage.” (Ihya Ulum Ad-Deen/The Revival of the Religious Sciences, Book on the Etiquette of Marriage).

Other virtues of having multiple children according to the Sunnah include:

  • There are countless rewards for educating them.

“Whoever points to the good has the reward of the one who performs it.” (Muslim)

  • They may intercede for their parents on the Day of Judgment.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “It will be said to children on the Day of Resurrection: Enter Paradise. They will say: Our Lord, not unless our fathers and mothers enter. Allah Almighty will say: Why do I see them hesitant to enter Paradise? They will say: O Lord, our fathers and mothers. Allah will say: Enter Paradise, all of you and your parents.” (Musnad of Imam Ahmad)

  • They may be a ticket to Paradise.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever has three daughters, and he is patient with them, he gives them food and drink, and he clothes them, then they will be his shield from the Hellfire on the Day of Resurrection.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

  • They will benefit their parents after their death.

“When a Muslim dies, his actions are cut off from him except from three, continual charity (sadaqa jariya), knowledge he benefitted from, or a righteous child who supplicates for him.” (Muslim)

Make a Decision and Trust Allah 

I often hear things like, “I could never have that many kids,” or “I don’t know how you do it.” Once, a family acquaintance remarked, “You need to get a TV!” I recently read an article about a woman who has twelve children and the discussion that followed in the comment section was filled with criticism. 

Many of these comments or snide remarks come from people who see children as an inconvenience. They may even be projecting their own insecurities about parenting on others. But that is just it. The decision to have or not prevent multiple children is something very personal. Every couple should consider the issue of childbearing even before marriage. Having children is life-altering and it is understandable that some may want to limit the number of children they raise. Undoubtedly, valid reasons exist to space or prevent pregnancies. There are health implications to consider for mothers and fathers who are unable to care for many offspring physically or psychologically. No one has the right to judge another person or relationship on how they approach parenting. Fertility is neither a guarantee nor something we can control with 100% effectiveness. There is a blessing in everything because we know that Allah’s plan is perfect. 

“Allah does not require of any soul more than what it can bear.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:286)

My reason for writing this article is to highlight the many blessings of having a large family for those who are able – a matter that is becoming increasingly rare in our society. There is a fear about raising children to be upright Muslims in the modern age that deters parents from having more than one or two. We tend to lose sight that ultimately, guidance is up to Allah. He describes the repenting believers and doers of good as:

“Those who pray, ‘Our Lord! Bless us with ˹pious˺ spouses and offspring who will be the joy of our hearts and make us models for the righteous.’” 

(Surah Al-Furqan, 25:74) 

After this supplication, we leave the matter to Allah. The Quran and Sunnah provide answers to the perceived challenges of having a large family. If you are still on the fence about what is best for your family, increase in prayer and supplication, and seek guidance from our timeless scripture. 

Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.

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