Question: What are the lessons to be drawn from the verse meaning: “…Then when He grants the couple a sound child, they begin to associate partners with God in respect of what He has granted them. Infinitely is He exalted above their association of partners with Him and whatever they associate with Him as partners” (al-A’raf 7:190).
Answer: In the previous verse, God Almighty states that He created humanity from a single human self, and then made from it its mate so that he (inclining with love towards his mate) may find rest in her. Then the Divine Word lets us know that she conceives a light burden, and then when she grows heavy (with child), both (feel the need to) turn to God, their Lord, with prayer: “If You indeed grant us a sound child, we will most certainly be among the thankful” (al-A’raf 7:189). The original word “salih” (sound, righteous) refers to both physically healthy ones and those who are deep in faith, careful at their devotions and who are immense persons in consciousness of ihsan: perfect goodness or full awareness of God’s omnipresence.
Actually praying for the expected child to be both healthy and pious is a necessity of faith in God and the Hereafter. A believer expecting a child opens his hands in supplication as, “My God! Grant us a sound child! Let the child’s hands, feet, eyes, ears, tongue, lips, and all organs be sound! Make him sound in faith, religion, and sincerity as well! Let his deeds, heart, and spiritual life also be sound and perfect!”
However, as a factor of a worldly trial, the child might sometimes be disabled. What needs to be done in such a situation is to show patience and deal with the troubles as we cannot know the wisdom behind the birth of a disabled child. With such a happening, God Almighty may will the parents to be purified from different sins and wrongs, and it may also elevate their spiritual rank by means of caring for that child.
In the Person of the Blessed Prophet, the Address Is to His Followers
As there is a reference to the creation of the human in the previous verse, one may initially think that the people concerned here are Adam and Eve. However, although they did ask for a righteous child from God, when the Prophets’ attribute of innocence is taken into consideration, it will then be understood that those who begin to associate partners with God are not them but some other children of Adam. Considering their high horizons of self-criticism, the Prophets can surely take these addresses as if they were directed to their own person and benefit from them, but this is another thing. As you know, it is a style we see in different parts of the Qur’an that with respect to the Prophets, the real warning is to their followers and their certain characteristics are expressed.
For example, the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, is addressed as, “Should you associate partners with God, your labor will most certainly come to nothing...” (az-Zumar 39:65). Given that the blessed Prophet has absolutely nothing to do with associating partners with God, then the address is made to all of humanity, and “your” actually needs to be taken as a plural address. The Prophet was already blessed with Divine protection, support, and guardianship. He is protected and innocent. Even in the early period of his life when people were deeply immersed in sins of the Era of Ignorance, the Pride of Humanity had absolutely nothing to do with associating partners with God. Let alone such great sins, even in terms of manners, he did not hurt anyone in the slightest degree.
For this reason, no matter from what aspect we take of the issue, it is first necessary to accept the fact that the Prophets are innocent and pure. It should then be understood that the judgments of such verses seemingly addressed to the Prophets are rather for their followers. By taking this essential principle into consideration, it will be more correct to understand the address as follows: “Take care! Given that such a warning is coming about such a protected and innocent person, then those who are not under such guarantee of innocence, decency, and protection must be very careful in this respect.”
So this should be the perspective on the share of Prophet Adam, peace be upon him, in this verse. Otherwise—may God forbid—you will hold improper considerations about a person whom God Almighty chose and preferred over all people and nations (see Al Imran 3:33). On the other hand, what falls to us is to always cherish pure thoughts about all of the blessed Prophets. In this respect, let me reiterate once more that although the demand for a sound child belongs to the Prophet Adam, the warning about associating partners with God because of children is not related to him but to us.
Adoration for One’s Children That Causes Shirk
The danger of not maintaining the balance after having a sound child and straying to associating partners with God is always possible for the children of Adam. This feeling is so strong in some people that they keep mentioning their child all of the time. For example, if someone is to say a word beginning with the first syllable of their child’s name, they take the opportunity and begin to talk about their child. Let us say that the name of their child is Moses. As soon as someone begins to say something as “Mo…” they begin as “Moses’ achievements are making us so happy that… he is such a brilliant child that…” and begin to start singing his praises. This weakness is so strong in some people that they try to bring the subject to their own son or daughter from every happening, word, or statement. It is possible to define them as “child-adorers.”
Love for Children Must Be a Means for Their Eternal Happiness
We know that as a little model of “the best pattern of creation,” children are entrusted to us by God. If we are to love them and cuddle them, this must be on account of their Owner and Creator. More importantly, we must use our love and compassion to edify our children who are potentially endowed with the best pattern of creation, so that they gain Islamic cultivation. In other words, our love must be a means to raise them as upright individuals, live uprightly, and become a representative of uprightness. Parents should always whisper into the ears of their children when they love them and lovingly stroke their hair, so that they do not rebel against God, nor be afflicted with irreligiousness and commit rebellion and transgressions to make them suffer an eternal loss. Parents are responsible for providing everything required to help their children who came to this world so purely walk to their Lord so purely again and for preparing suitable grounds for such cultivation. Fulfilling all of these is a different manifestation of loving them, and there is nothing wrong in that.
However, if a person has none of these in his agenda and has become attached to that child solely because of the child being his offspring, if he relates all considerations to his child and wants to talk about his child all the time, then it means that this person who declares faith in God and His Messenger has begun to associate partners with God unawares. A person who makes the proclamation of faith as “There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is His Messenger” is not a polytheist after all. But it means that this person bears an attribute of polytheism owing to his attitude about his child. In one of his sayings drawing attention to this point, the blessed Prophet said, “The sin I fear about you most is shirku’l-asghar (associating partners with God in the minor sense).” And when the Companions asked what this meant, he answered, “Showing off.” A person might show a weakness as letting others know about himself by means of his child. Just as a person might fall into showing off, which is the minor form of associating partners with God by means of his own appearance, good looks, wealth, and fortune, he might satisfy his desire for recognition via his children as well.
To give concrete examples of this issue, a person’s boastfully expressing himself with his gestures is a form of seeking recognition. While worshiping near others, showing further scrupulousness in comparison to one’s worshiping alone is a form of seeking recognition. A person’s trying to let others know about his good works at writing or speech is a form of seeking recognition. And if that person sugarcoats his wish for recognition with words of pretense humbleness referring to his acts such as “humbly, poorly…” then this is a much more horrible form of showing off. Actually, a person’s seeking recognition by means of his children is no different than these. No matter whether he has a daughter or son, it means that he is adulterating the parental love with an attribute of associating partners with God. In my opinion, at the issue of preserving the characteristics of believers, one must show scrupulousness no less than what he shows at protecting his decency and honor. Let it be a show off in the form of letting others see, hear, or boasting about one’s merits, a believer must always keep his thoughts free from any blemish of associating partners with God because each of these is a characteristic of polytheists. Bearing a certain characteristic of polytheism is like a healthy person being inflicted with a virus. Viruses cause different diseases from influenza to AIDS. In this respect, a person should not underestimate any attributes of unbelief and polytheism, never letting these attributes germinate in his heart and spirit.
Although a person who shows excessive love to his children and home bears an attribute of polytheism, surely this does not mean that he has become a polytheist. If such a person dies with faith, he will go to Paradise in the end. And God Almighty—He knows the truth of the matter—will not treat that person as a polytheist. However, as this attribute of polytheism is like a virus, it needs to be treated and one must be cautious in this respect. Because an influenza virus that is not dealt with can bring down or kill a person. Thus, no one should let any virus contrasting with his essential nature and the endowment with the best pattern of creation inhabit within. When viruses knock at the door, one must slam the door to their face and then say, “Do not waste your energy in vain; the door has been bolted tight.”
Why must a person be vigilant against polytheism in this degree? Sometimes polytheism is so covert or minute that the person either fails to notice it or does not pay attention to it. However, it should not be forgotten that minor sins underestimated and continually repeated might be much worse than major sins and become more dangerous than major sins. For example, if a person is aware of his major sins and is seriously concerned about them, then he kneels before God remorsefully with repentance, penitence, and contrition. This triggers in that person the feeling of struggling against sins, so they may lead a more watchful and cautious life against sins.
Although immoderate parental love begins at a minor level at the beginning, it might grow worse into a very serious problem in time. In order to let this issue be understood better, we can give as an example the mistake of the ancestors of the people Prophet Noah, peace be upon him, was responsible to guide. As it is known, eminent personages such as Wadd, Yaghus, Ya’uk and Nasr had lived in that society. Some individuals followed these legendary figures with their attitude and behaviors. The people that came after these men put their portraits in their homes in order to remember their virtuous conduct and to guide them to right conduct. This seemingly innocent thought at the beginning caused sanctifying them in time, and eventually these men were perceived as deities. A narrow angle at the beginning became a very wide one later on. In this respect, one should not go to excess or transgress, neither about his children nor about other people whom he loves.
Balance at Loving One’s Children
Some people have remarked that families of our time have become child-centered. Actually it is difficult to decide what is in the center: children, fancies and desires, carnal soul, or arrogance. However, there is one thing we know for sure: When people opt for a lifestyle out of the plain commandments of religion, they become multi-centered, which then opens the door to different types of polytheism.
In addition, building marriages and families upon children, then being happy on having children or being unhappy on not having children, may lead to conflict and divorce and is absolutely wrong in terms of a believer’s morality. Such an attitude—may God forbid—is an expression of not resigning to God’s decree, criticizing Divine destiny, and rebelling against God. Such problems experienced out of inability to have children as a judgment of Divine destiny are acts God Almighty does not love. Therefore, it should not be forgotten that as having children is a trial, having no children is similarly a trial.
Another harm of showing excessive love to children by seeing them as everything and putting them in the center of the family occurs in the form of being too tolerant to some of the child’s negative behaviors and not seeking ways to address them. This type of behavior means raising problematic children in the long run. However, the real target at this issue is their becoming virtuous individuals of complete integrity. Parents must try to fulfill whatever is necessary to realize this target. However, it is a bitter reality in our time that concerning a great majority, homes are devoid of knowledge; streets are devoid of mercy; mosques are devoid of excitement, and schools are devoid of effectiveness. Children who grow up in such an atmosphere are being wasted.
Parental Education for a Good Child
The primary thing to do in this respect is to educate parents first. At the very beginning it is necessary to teach parents how to be perfect parents and how to treat their child. Couples should even take some courses before marriage, and those who successfully receive their certificates should be allowed to marry. Along this process of education, subjects such as the purpose of marriage, how should a sound relation between couples be established, how they should handle one another, and how to educate their child need to be placed on a sound basis. If married couples are well educated in this respect, the holy establishment they will make together will become a heavenly home. Undoubtedly, children raised in such a family will be exemplary ones. However, if the parents are not capable of good parenting or do not know how to do so, then the situation of the children will be uncertain. Unfortunately, so many people of today’s generation are being raised in this uncertainty. Although some of them join virtuous friends in a certain current, find their essence, and have sound morality and character, most people do not obtain such an opportunity.
No matter to whom or to what, most of the time those who attach their hearts to the wrong things receive a blow from the same direction to the contrary of their intentions. In this respect, if parents do not see their children as a trust from God but love them selfishly solely on account of being their offspring and adore them worshipfully, they will undergo a trial through their children, and receive insult, derision, and hatred from them, as every extreme is a potential cause for the opposite extreme. This holds true not only for parent-child relationship but for other kinds of love as well. No matter who, if you elevate a person to a position beyond his deserts and go to excess in your love, you receive a blow in the opposite direction of your purpose. A day will come when you will hear the most negative words from the person whom you love like crazy, and you will respond with the most negative statements in return.
 Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 5/428, 429; At-Tabarani, Al-Mu’jamu’l-Kabir, 4/253.
This text is the translation of “Evlâtperestlik.”