"and children as [love’s] witnesses," [74:13] Muhammad Asad
I was reading The Qur’an yesterday, and as I was taking notes, on the issue of how The Qur’an explains who God guides to Faith, but it was this seemingly innocuous ayah, one that follows one of the most important ayahs in The Qur’an, that truly caught my attention.
As you know, yesterday, alhamdulilah, my family welcomed a new member, and this ayah jumped out at me. This portion of this Surah is talking about how God has bestowed upon us countless gifts, limitless potential, and yet there are those who discount those and “greedily desires that I [God] give yet more!” [74:15]
What struck me was that children are not described as gifts, as they are in other parts of The Qur’an (most notably how The Qur’an describes daughters as something to be very happy about) but that in this instance, the children are given a very different role: as witnesses to our appreciation of what God has bestowed upon us.
I am not a parent, but, I have been trying to make sense of this formulation. Muhammad Asad injects the word “love” as a implied construct to the witnessing, which I more-or-less agree with, yet there remains a deeper element, one that I think is linked towards our judgment by God.
I have come to this conclusion because of the context of the Surah in question, Surah Al-Muddaththir, which covers the concept of afterlife and how we get there. I think this because, while we joke about marriage as a process in which we “complete half of our deen,” I feel like children (and our spouse) are the major reason for that formulation. These are the people who will be in your direct care, who will experience your character, your emotions, your actions, more than any other group of people.
Your spouse may be able to divorce you, but your children, no matter what happens, will always reflect your actions in this world because of how you introduce them to it. Whether you abandon them, give them up for adoption, nurture them, whatever it is you do, they are the ultimate reflection of you, and thus this innocuous phrase, placing children as “witnesses” makes sense to me, when I look at it this way.
I may have been drawn to this ayah because of being in a maternity ward, but I look at it now as one of the major proofs of how The Qur’an puts an immense premium on our actions and dealings with others, and I am saddened (especially every time there is a tumblr “flare up”) because I have been so impressed by the dedication and faithfulness to Islam by the Tumblr Muslim Ummah, that to watch us forget our akhlaq, our manners, with each other, over things we could debate (properly) if only we remembered what The Book we debate over commands us to do.
This ayah also underlined how we must readjust ourselves, our mindset, and our hearts when approaching having children of our own. I have heard those who bemoan their children, as if they are infringements upon their freedom; those children did not ask to be brought into this world, you did. The world that these innocents will be brought into, their entire approach will be directed by you, and I hope that as Muslims, we can take this message to heart, and to illustrate to the world, through our actions and our children (insha Allah) that Islam is not just a belief, but a true way of life.
It is our children that will reflect us the most, and while we may be great people, and nice to our friends, it is how we treat and deal with the ultimate trust, our children, that reflects our character more than anything. What we do, on a daily basis is what defines us, maybe not to our friends and co-workers, but to God and those who matter most: our children. It is our children that display the bifurcation between the person who is conscious of their Islam personally and those who are conscious of Islam completely.
Finally, this ayah underlines something that many times Muslim youth struggle with: adhering to their parents. Many times we are just being bratty, but other times, I am sure there are cases where the parents are not upholding their duties, which must be horrible. Thus, it is this ayah that underlines to us that in order to expect obedience from our children, we must fulfill their trust in us as their parents. If the simple fact that these children are from you cannot motivate you, I hope that God’s command does.
I pray for the children who do not have their parents, and for those of us who do that we appreciate that fact; I pray for those of us who have misunderstandings with our parents to overcome them and realize what is more important in life; I pray for those who are or who will become parents to have the patience and fortitude to care and nurture their children; I pray for the Muslim youth, to realize their potential, to rise to action, to forsake rhetoric for deeds, and to show this world that Islam is not just in our hearts, not just on our tongues, but in the good that we will tirelessly work towards; insha Allah, I pray that we can fulfill the commands of Almighty God with sincerity, ya Rabb.