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How should a young couple prepare for parenthood?

By: Abdul Adheem al-Muhtadi al-Bahrani
Question: My wife is faithful and from a respectable family. Before marriage, we read together some books about marital life in the light of Islamic values. Now, we are about to enter into a new stage of our shared life: it is the stage of fatherhood and motherhood. Would you please show us what is required from us in this stage so that Allah may grant us a sound child mentally and physically? I have read a tradition saying, ‘The unhappy one is made unhappy in his mother’s womb, and the happy one is made happy in his mother’s womb.’
The answer: Your question shows your purposeful culture in life and your association of Islam as a responsible mission. First, I would like to congratulate you for this constructive culture and sincere association of your beliefs.
As for the answer, I would like to say that there are some previous procedures necessary before a sperm and an ovum should convene:
1. Close relation and true love; you should have the utmost satisfaction and mental comfort with this relation!
2. Lawful food; the unlawful bite, the bite whose legal due is not paid, and the bite, on which the name of Allah is not mentioned, have a great negative effect on the offspring.
3. Suitable time (of making love); let your sleeping with your wife not be on the first day of the lunar months nor at the middle of them, nor in the nights of Eid ul-Adha (after the annual Hajj to Mecca) and Eid ul-Fitr (the end of Ramadan), nor under a fruitful tree, nor before the sun directly, nor on the roof of the house nor in the night of travel.
4. Praying to Allah to make the child sound
5. Performing wudu’ when sleeping together
But, after the creation of the fetus:
1. Adhering to mutual love, eating lawful food, supplicating to Allah, and reciting the Qur'an
2. Avoiding smoking
3. Avoiding being angry and nervous
4. Avoiding chemical drugs
5. Performing wudu’ throughout the period of pregnancy
6. Eating spinach for it is rich in iron, eating dates for they plant patience in the spirit of the fetus, eating quince for it gives the fetus good morals and strengthen its mind and brain, and eating pears, apples, and melons for they have an influence on the beauty, bloom, and complexion of the fetus
And, after birth:
1. Reciting the azan in the child’s right ear and the iqama[144] in its left ear
2. Suckling the child from the mother’s breast while the mother is in a good moral state, such as performing wudu’, sitting with the face towards the Kaaba, and smiling at the child when suckling
3. Paying charity and aqeeqa (a sacrifice distributed amongst the poor as a sacrifice for the newborn baby)
4. Choosing a nice name that has a good meaning, and there are no better names than those of our infallible leaders and their pure progeny. If there is an insistence on new names, they can be derived from Qur’anic or historical words. For females, there are names like Aala’, Asma’, Ayaat, Ru’ya, Fadak, Ghadeer, Hidayeh, etc. For males, there are names like Zahir, Zahid, Tahir, Sabir, Bassim, Shareef, etc.
As for the tradition you have mentioned, it has been narrated from the Prophet (S) in this way, ‘The unhappy one is he who is unhappy in his mother’s womb, and the happy one is he who is happy in his mother’s womb.[145]’
This is the correct quotation of the tradition; the one you quoted implies a sense of compulsion, as if it has been pre-determined from the period of pregnancy whether a man will be happy or unhappy. Compulsion is rejected in Islam because it does not go well with its teachings that invite man to practice it by his own choice and will.
The phrase in the actual tradition means that happiness or unhappiness begin from the ground parents prepare for their child, from the moment the sperm and the ovum convene and throughout the period of pregnancy. This has been confirmed by modern scientific researches, which say that alcohol, smoking, narcotics, psychological turmoil, disturbing noises, and harmful meals have negative effects on the health and mentality of the fetus and will have bad effects on his behavior and life in the future.
Parents must not be satisfied with their care in only the above-mentioned stages, but they must continuously educate their children of virtuous concepts and good morals as a farmer does to the seed. He continuously waters, looks after, prunes, and protects it from blights. If he delays or is slack in any one of these activities, the fruits will be affected and his efforts will be lost.
Hence, Imam Ali (a.s.) said to his son Imam Hasan (a.s.), ‘The heart of a youth is like an empty land; whatever is planted in it, [the land] receives it. So, hasten towards good morals before your heart becomes hard and your mind becomes busy…[146]’
Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) said, ‘Educate your youth about the Hadith before the Murji’ites[147] deviate them![148]’
The Murji’ites were deviants in their beliefs. They were active among the Muslims at the time of Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.). This movement was like any movement that appears in our age, and every age, to close the way before the youth and turn them away from the guidance of Allah the Almighty. This often happens under the name of religion and guidance.
However, if man, from his early childhood and youth, learns the true religion, he will discover the falsehoods and will be safe from the deviants.
Notes:
[144] Iqama is a certain wording recited at the beginning of prayers.
[145] Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 5 p.9.
[146] Nahjol Balagha, his letter to his son Imam al-Hasan (s)
[147] A politico-religious movement in early Islam.
[148] Wassa'il ash-Shia, vol. 15 p.196.

What is the meaning of this verse “Men are the guardians of women”? Many men take it as an excuse to impose unjust control on their women.
Question: What is the meaning of this verse “Men are the guardians of women”? Many men take it as an excuse to impose unjust control on their women.
The answer: In managing the affairs of marital life, there must be one decision-maker; otherwise, the family will become divided and fall into parts. It is the same with companies, banks, and government departments. They have one head, who is called manager, minister, or president, to make decisions. This does not imply the permitting of despotism. A manager, a minister, or a president, in spite of his authority, has to consult with others and has to take counselors. Even the messenger of Allah (S), who is the most perfect one among all human beings, has been ordered by Allah to consult with others by saying, (…and consult with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah)[108].
In this verse, you see two orders: one of consulting and the other of determining. In the first order, there is a plural pronoun (consult with them) whereas in the other order there is a singular pronoun. It is understood that a final decision must be made by one person, and no more; otherwise, disagreement will not be settled by one decision. As we have said, a decision must be made after consulting with persons of common benefit and common fate. This means that guardianship should be for a decision-maker.
Here, we discuss the following question: if guardianship is to be claimed by either the husband or the wife, which one of them is preferred?
Islam prefers the husband over the wife for the following reasons:
1. Man in most cases has a greater ability of administration, control over his nerves, courage, freedom in going out of home, dealing with people, and dealing with the affairs of life than a woman.
2. If a woman works outdoors, she will be – in most cases – an easy game for hunters.
3. Because the husband is the one who initially establishes the family and the wife is a newcomer to the family, man is worthier of making a decision on what he establishes. For example, if you establish a company and invite someone qualified to assist you in administrating the company, would you not keep the conclusive decisions to yourself though you may regard the position of the one you have invited as a partner with you in administration?
4. Because the husband undertakes the financial responsibility of the family, it is natural that guardianship is his right. This is clear in the Qur’anic verse (Men are the guardians of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property)[109].
This matter, however, does not justify the unjust control of a man over his wife. Many men exploit their authorities to achieve personal benefits. This does not mean that this authority is wrong, but rather it is wrong when the authorized men misuse this authority selfishly to achieve their personal benefits.
If a keeper of a mosque or a Husayniyyah[110] collects some money under the pretense of doing some religious projects, but he spends this money on his personal purposes, do we condemn the mosque, the Husayniyyah, and the religious projects or do we condemn that disloyal person?
When Islam gave this guardianship to man, it ordered him to be fair, honest, and wise. If man is not so, then the wrong lies in man himself and not in the verdict of guardianship.
I do not think that there is a woman who refuses to be the wife of a man who is bound by the conditions of guardianship and its Islamic principles.
We ask: can a husband authorize his wife with this guardianship?
The answer: Yes, he has the right to convey his right to his wife. Thus, Islam does not determine the despotism of men; rather, Islam organizes the administration of a happy marital life, and thus guardianship is a positive thing as long as the husband has positive qualities.
Notes:
[108] Holy Qur’an, 3:159.
[109] Holy Qur’an, 4:34.
[110] Husayniyyah is a place like the mosque where certain ceremonies are held on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (s) and on other religious occasions.

Is it better for a man to propose to a woman or for a woman to propose to a man?
Question: It is customary that young men go and propose to young women. It is considered ugly among people when young women go and propose to young men, whereas we find the Qur'an saying, (…and a believing woman if she gave herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet desired to marry her- specially for you, not for the (rest of) believers).(33:50) My question is: which is right – what the Muslims did at the time of the Prophet (S) or what is customary in our present age?
The answer: Customs, sometimes, control the affairs of people while people have no choice in it. The position of Islam in this concern is that the more important thing has to be preferred to the important thing while preserving the benefits of people and moving gradually towards the teachings Islam has established.
Yes! This Qur’anic verse is clear in this concern. Imam al-Baqir (a.s.) narrates that once a woman from Medina came to the Prophet (S) and said, ‘O messenger of Allah, a woman does not go to engage a husband. I have been a widow for a long time and I have no child. Do you want me (to be your wife)? I have given myself to you if you accept me…[153]’.
This woman came to the Prophet (S) by herself and asked him to marry her, and the Prophet (S) neither chided her nor disapproved of her doing so. This means that this matter was natural in Islam. Besides, the Qur'an has mentioned this matter without any implication of ugliness. Khadeeja (a.s.) herself asked the Prophet (S) to marry her, and she was the head lady of her time.
A proposal made by a virgin or a widow is not prohibited in the Sharia, but customs have their respected position if they do not oppose the Islamic values. In fact, in our present time, there does not have to be a contradiction between customs and the wishes of a girl when she finds a suitable husband. The potential husband can be informed secretly of the wish of the girl. If he accepts, he can go and propose to the girl according to customs; otherwise, he should bury the matter and keep the secret forever. This is a trust and a traitor will be answerable on the Day of Resurrection. In this way, as I think, the two manners can be practiced together.
Notes:
[153] Usul al-Kafi, vol.5 p.568.

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