Thursday, September 14, 2017

Virtuous Progeny: A Divine Blessing

The Holy Qur’an is an ocean without shore. (18: 110; 31:28) For, the Book of Infinite and Eternal Wisdom in the Arabic language, encompasses within its wide-ranging verses, a world of profound explanations on several matters. Further, the Sublime Book with its inimitable literary style and reasoned argumentation, offers a fascinating glimpse of the ways of the Divine: a human mind can only marvel at the depth and reach of the Divine Book. The Qur’an remains a stunning testimonial to a Living God in complete control of the Universe around us and its clear guidance offers the extraordinary possibility of acceding to the exalted Divine presence for all hearts.  Those who plunge into the sacred text with a purified spiritual perception, shall find pearls of wisdom, illuminating insights and clear guidance on the ultimate questions of our existential, spiritual and ethical universe

Consider the diversity of human experiences in the world. How do we comprehend/understand the Divine Will at work in the world around us? How do we explain the contrasting fortunes of fathers and sons who follow different trajectories in exercise of their God-given Free Will? What role does soulful prayers play in the shaping of the destinies of individuals and spiritual communities? How to look at the (non-)linear linkages between spiritual legacy and physical progeny? 

Marriage and Family: A Divine Favour

Several verses of the Qur’an allude to the many phenomenon of nature and the creation of the human beings in a variety of settings: races, languages, religions, cultures and nations. Indeed the Qur’an cites the creation of the humans, from the humble ‘dust’ and the modest ‘clay’, as a fascinating sign of the complete Power and Lordship of Allah (swt) over all things in all the worlds. The plurality of the humans is described as a Divine Sign: 'One of His signs is that He created you from dust and- lo and behold! -you became human and scattered far and wide'. (30: 22). 

Across cultures and peoples, the institution of family is a foundational element of the social order. The relations of family and affinity between men and women through marriage and children are a blessing of this world. The Qur’an says“And it is Allah who has given you spouses from amongst yourselves, and through them He has given you children and grandchildren and provided you with good things”(16:73)  

Marriage is expected to work as a source of comfort for the spouses and rest for one another. For, God ordains affection and mercy between couples and ideally, they can serve as mutual protectors and comforters of one another. The Book of wisdom alludes to the psychological, emotional and physical comforts of a blessed companionship between the spouses in a marital relationship: "Another of His signs is that He created spouses from among yourselves for you to live with in tranquillity: He ordained love and kindness between you. There truly are signs in this for those who reflect”. (30: 22) Qur’an says to men of their wives, “They are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them” (2:187). 

Progeny and Divine Will

"Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you".

       -Kahlil JIbran's poem: 'On Children'

Several verses of the Qur'an testify to the manifestation of Divine Will involved in the granting of progeny. The granting of children is a Sign of the all-encompassing character of His Power and Control over all affairs.‘No crop comes out of its sheath, nor does any female conceive or give birth, without His knowledge’ (41: 48).

"God has control of the heavens and the earth;He creates whatever He will-He grants female offspring to whoever He will, male to whoever He will, or both male and female, and He makes whoever He will barren: He is all knowing and all powerful" (42: 50-51)

“It is He Who created you all from one soul, and from it made its mate so that he might find comfort in her: when one (of them) lies with his wife and she conceives a light burden, going about freely, then grows heavy, they both pray to Allah, their Lord, ‘If You give us a good child, we shall certainly be grateful’". (7:189)

Significance of Pious Progeny

Several traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa) point to the many benefits of having pious progeny  in this world and the Hereafter: for the believer, for his family and the community of believers. Abu Huraira (ra) reported Allah’s Messenger (as) saying: 'When a man dies, his acts come to an end, but three, recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious son, who prays for him (for the deceased). (Muslim)

In the Hereafter, Allah (swt) promises to bring together righteous ancestors, spouses and descendants in the Garden of Paradise: "they will enter perpetual Gardens, along with their righteous ancestors, spouses, and descendants" (13: 24) "We unite the believers with their offspring who followed them in faith––We do not deny them any of the rewards for their deeds: each person is in pledge for his own deeds" (52:22) The Holy Prophet (sa) said, “A servant will have his rank raised and will say, ‘O my Lord, how has this come about for me?’ He says, ‘through your children after you seeking forgiveness for you'” (ibn Maajah) 

The larger cause of the Divine Mission of Islam also stand to benefit from the selfless services of pure souls following in the footsteps of their worthy ancestors.It is also interesting to note that the Messenger of Allah (sa) used to say: “Marry the one who is loving and fertile, for I will feel proud of your large numbers before the other Prophets on the Day of Resurrection.” (Ahmad).

Prayer for Virtuous Children

Divine servants in the past often wondered about the continuity of their Holy Missions, especially in contexts of extraordinary opposition among their own-people and the Qur'an records that they fervently prayed for capable successors who would remain unfazed by any criticism by the foul-mouthed, and would march on, in the service of the Lord Almighty. Despite the heavy trials, the Messengers persisted in their chosen paths: the Dua’hs made by the prophets are taught in the Qur'an, the same prayers through which Allah Taala Al Aziz granted them prophets amongst their children. For instance, Abraham the Patriarch prayed for virtuous children who could continue his mission: 

"My Lord, grant me a righteous son." (37:101). God gave him the good news that he would have a patient son. It is instructive to note that Hadhrat Ibrahim (as) continued to offer prayers even after the physical birth of his son for the spiritual progress and righteousness of the generations to come. While re-building the Ka‘bah with Hadhrat Isma‘il (as),  Hadhrat Ibrahim (as) offered the following prayer: "Our Lord, make us submissive to You and make of our offspring a people submissive to You. And show us our ways of worship, and turn to us with mercy; for You are Oft-Returning with compassion and are Merciful." (2:129)

"My Lord, make me observe prayer and my children too. Our Lord, accept my prayer. Our Lord, grant forgiveness to me and to my parents and to the believers on the day when the reckoning will take place". (14:41-42)

When a man turns forty years of age, the Book of God advices him to offer prayers for the righteousness of his progeny:  "My Lord, grant me power that I may be grateful for Your favour which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may do such good works as may please You. And make my seed righteous for me. I do turn to You; and truly, I am of those who submit to You".(46:16) 

Whilst mentioning the characteristics of the servants of God, the Holy Prophet (sa) told us that they used to say the following prayers: 'And those who say, ‘Our Lord, grant us of our spouses and children the delight of our eyes and make each of us a leader of the righteous.’ (25:75) 

A Prophet's Fervent Prayers

Hadhrat Zakariyyah (as) prayed fervently in his old age, reeling under the most extraordinary conditions of life where he was truly distressed about the very survival of the Divine Mission after him: 

"My Lord, leave me not childless, and You are the best of Inheritors." (21: 90) 

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, for 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].’ (19:5-7) 

"My Lord, from Your grace  grant me virtuous offspring; You hear every prayer". (3:39)

The bestowal of Yahya to Zakariyyah (as), (also of Jesus to Maryam) in the Qur'an (19:3-36; 3:36-63)) point to extraordinary manifestation of God's Will: a child is born to an aged and formerly barren wife of a Prophet; (a child is bestowed to a young virgin without any apparent human agency)- God's power to create and bestow progeny transcends all physical boundaries and human limitations: 

"He said, ‘My Lord, how can I have a son when I am so old and my wife is barren?’ [An angel] said, ‘It will be so: God does whatever He will.’ (3: 41)

"She said, ‘My Lord, how can I have a son when no man has touched me?’ [The angel] said, ‘This is how God creates what He will: when He has ordained something, He only says, “Be”, and it is."  (3: 48). 

Likewise, the Qur'an preserves in several verses, the astonishment of Lady Sarah, the aged and formerly barren wife of Hadhrat Ibrahim (as) when they were informed by angels about the good news of a child (and grandchild) in their old age.  She said, ‘Alas for me! How am I to bear a child when I am an old woman, and my husband here is an old man? That would be a strange thing!’ They said, ‘Are you astonished at what God ordains? The grace of God and His blessings be upon you, people of this house! For He is worthy of all praise and glory.’ (11: 72-74; 15:54-56) 

They gave him good news of a son who would be gifted with knowledge. His wife then entered with a loud cry, struck her face (in her incredulity and embarrassment), and said, ‘A barren old woman?’ but they said, ‘It will be so. This is what your Lord said, and He is the Wise, the All Knowing.’(51: 29-31). 

Progeny and the Trials of Life

From the profound perspective of the Qur'an, believers need to be critically aware of their own life and surroundings in this world. Look at the way the Qur'an invites us to ponder on our life in this world: "Bear in mind that the present life is just a game, a diversion, an attraction, a cause of boasting among you, of rivalry in wealth and children." (57: 21) Every one's faith and deeds are linked to their eventual fate in the Hereafter, not children. "Neither wealth nor children will bring you nearer to Us" (34: 38). 

Even from among the progeny of God's Prophets, only the rightly-guided ones inherit the spiritual treasures; whereas the law-breakers among them await a contrasting fortune, reminds the Qur'an. [Prophet], tell them the truth about the story of Adam’s two sons: each of them offered a sacrifice, and it was accepted from one and not the other. (5:28) When Allah (swt) gave him the good news of making him an "Imam" of the people, Hadhrat Ibrahim (as) famously asked:  ‘And will You make leaders from my descendants too?’ God answered, ‘My pledge does not hold for those who do evil.’ (2:123) 

"We sent Noah and Abraham, and gave prophethood and scripture to their offspring: among them there were some who were rightly guided, but many were lawbreakers". (57:27) 

The Qur'an preserves a very poignant appeal of a father/Prophet for his son in a context where God promises to save his "family" from Divine wrath, and God's response thereof for all times: 'Noah called out to his Lord, saying, ‘My Lord, my son was one of my family, though Your promise is true, and You are the most just of all judges.’ God said, ‘Noah, he was not one of your family. What he did was not right. Do not ask Me for things you know nothing about. I am warning you not to be foolish.’ (11: 46-47)

Since everyone has Free Will in this world to accept or reject the Path to God, the Book of wisdom repeatedly warns about the trials attached to family life, with spouses and children: "Be aware that your possessions and your children are only a test"(8:28; 64:15-16). The Holy Prophet of Islam (sa) famously reminded his daughter Hadhrat Fatema (ra) about the importance of belief and deeds on the Day of Judgement when no soul can stand in for another: 'the Day when neither wealth nor children avail, save for him who comes to God with a sound heart' (26: 88-89).  

True Legacy and Virtuous Progeny

It is instructive to note that the Qur'an does not attach much importance to the fact the Holy Prophet (sa) did not have surviving physical sons to look after the Islamic Mission: his sons Qasim, AbdAllah and later, Ibrahim- all died as toddlers. "Muhammad is not the father of any one of you men; he is God’s Messenger and the seal of the prophets: God knows everything" (33: 40). Yet, when the critics of the Holy Prophet (sa) taunted that the Prophet's mission shall be wiped out after him (God forbid) like a man without posterity, the Qur'an revealed an entire Chapter: "We have truly given abundance to you [Prophet]–– so pray to your Lord and make your sacrifice to Him alone–– it is the one who hates you who has been cut off. (108: 2-4).  Many spiritual savants of the past have read in these verses of the Holy Qur'an a prophecy about the advent of the spiritual sons of the Holy Prophet (sa) in the Ummat-e-Muhammadiyya till the Day of Judgement. 

Commenting on the word "Al Kauthar", Hazrat Maulvi Nooruddin Saheb (ra) once observed on the meaning of spiritual progeny: "the Holy Prophet (sa) is a person from among his followers a stream of  divinely inspired Reformers will emerge who will successfully defend him and Islam in every age and guide the erring Muslims to the right path. Thus, the granting of the abundance of Allah is not related to the first advent of the Holy Prophet (sa) only but it speaks of abundance of good granted to him with his later advent through his righteous followers. Another ever lasting good that will be bestowed on his Ummah is that his true followers who seek closeness with Allah with utmost devotion shall become the recipients of Revelation and hold communion with Allah in their very life"Alhamdulillah, Soumma Alhamdulillah.