How should parents react in the face of their children's death?
My dear brother in religion and fellow-traveler on the road to the Hereafter,
The death of your child, my brother, has grieved me, but since the judgment
is God’s, to accept His decree with resignation is one of the pillars and way-marks
of belief. May the All-Mighty enable you to endure it in becoming patience,
and may He make your deceased child the means of your prosperity in the Hereafter.
For my part, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify five points on
this matter in order to console God-fearing believers like yourself, and to
give them good tidings.
- What the Qur’an means by the “immortal children” is this:
The children of believers that have died before puberty will live eternally
in Paradise as loveable children. They will forever be the means of happiness
and pleasure to their parents, who will enjoy their love for them in their
embraces. Although some argue that the people of Paradise will enjoy all pleasures
except love for children because Paradise is not the place of generation,
the Qur’anic expression, the immortal children, indicates that they will,
on the contrary, be eternally rewarded with the pure affection of their de-ceased
children, whereas in this world that love or affection is restricted to ten
years at most and is frequently wounded by grieves and filial ingratitude
in later times.
- There was once a man who was put in prison where he also had to look after
his little child. That poor prisoner not only had to endure his own afflictions
but to care for his child. While he was suffering in this way, the compassionate
governor of the city sent to him a man with an offer to take the child into
his care and to look after him/her in a pal-ace, because the child was his
subject. The man’s response to this offer was the aggrieved cry: “This child
is my only means of consolation. I cannot give him/her up to anybody.” His
fellow-prisoners, however, gave him this advice: “Your grief makes no sense.
If you have pity on your child, then let him/her be taken out of this suffocating,
dirty prison to a beautiful, spacious palace. If, on the contrary, you prefer
to have him/her stay here with you for your own advantage, consider that you
have to take much trouble to look after him/her. It is much more in your interest
to give him/her to the governor, whose compassion and sympathy he/she will
certainly arouse so that the governor will wish that he/she should meet you.
The governor then will not send him/her to the prison, but, instead, he/she
will summon you to the palace on the condition that you obey him and have
trust in him.”
It is as in the parable above, my brother, that a believer whose child has
died should think thus: The child is innocent, and his/her Creator is All-Compassionate
and All-Generous. He has taken him/her into His care out of His perfect compassion,
whereas I would fail to give him/her adequate training in mind or morals.
Also, his/her Creator is much more affectionate toward him/her than me. How
happy my child is, since God has taken him/her out of the wearying life of
this world to the highest Heaven. If he/she had lived longer in the world,
he/she might have been led astray. I should not, therefore, grieve over his/her
death. He/she might, it is true, have done me some good in case he/she had
been a righteous man but he/she has now attained eternal happiness. In addition,
he/she will be the means of everlasting pleasure for me through fatherly love,
and he/she will intercede with God for my eternal happiness in Paradise. For
this reason, one who obtained a reward a thousand times greater than a reward
merely probable should not weep and wail.
- A child is the creature and slave of God, and belongs to Him. God has,
for a fixed term, placed the child in the care of his/her parents for the
child’s sake. In return for that ser-vice, God has put in their hearts pleasure-giving
affection toward the child. It is then improper for a believer to wail for
his/her child when God, the All-Compassionate Creator, takes him/her away
out of His Compassion.
- A man might well have some right to wail for a deceased child if the world
were eternal and humanity lived forever therein. But the reality is otherwise,
the world being no more than a guest-house. We will all go where the deceased
child has gone; death is not restricted to that child. Then, seeing that the
separation is temporary, and the reunion has already been decided in the intermediate
world (between death and the Last Judgment) and Paradise, then a believer
should be thankful to God for everything and endure every calamity in the
full conviction that the Judgment is His.
- Affection, which is one of the sweetest and most beautiful manifestations
of the Divine Compassion, is a kind of water of life. It leads man to God
more quickly than love. As love for temporal beings can, although after much
difficulty, change into love for God, so too affection can make one’s heart
sincerely devoted to God, but without as much difficulty. Parents love their
child as much as they love everything connected with their world. If they
are believers, they will renounce the world when their child is taken away
from them, and completely turn to God. They come to feel great interest in
the place where their child has gone and, in the conviction that the transitory
world does not de-serve to have heart-felt interest shown for it, attain a
high spiritual state. The misguided people, however, are in a very poor state
indeed after losing a child. They lead dissolute lives in neglect of God’s
commands, therefore they are quite dismayed and aggrieved by the death of
a child, supposing the child to have exchanged a soft bed for the dark soil
of the grave. Their disbelief in Paradise, which God has prepared for His
servants out of His Compassion, increases their grief. But a believer has
the conviction that the Com-passionate Creator of the child has taken him/her
into Paradise out of this foul world, so he/she endures the child’s death
with “becoming patience.” So you, also, my brother, do not worry. Know that
this is a temporary separation. Say: The Judgment is God’s. Certainly we belong
to God and it is certainly to Him that we are returning—and be patient.