On losing a child: an Islamic perspective

On losing a child: an Islamic perspective

The loss of a child is a deeply sorrowful and painful experience for parents and the community. Islam recognises that this is a time of immense grief and therefore, provides clear guidance on how to cope with this tragic event.

Find patience and acceptance

The death of a child is seen as a test and a part of Allah’s divine plan. Even though it may be difficult to comprehend or accept, Muslims are encouraged to exercise patience and accept Allah’s decree with faith and trust. Everything happens according to His wisdom and will and for a reason which we may not understand in this world.

Abu Umama (may Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying that Allah Almighty stated:

وَعَنْ أَبِي أُمَامَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: ” يَقُولُ اللَّهُ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى: ابْنَ آدَمَ إِنْ صَبَرْتَ وَاحْتَسَبْتَ عِنْدَ الصَّدْمَةِ الْأُولَى لَمْ أَرْضَ لَكَ ثَوَابًا دُونَ الْجَنَّةِ “. رَوَاهُ ابْن مَاجَه

“Son of Adam, if you show endurance and seek your reward from me in the first affliction, I shall be pleased with no lesser reward than paradise for you.” [Ibn Majah]

In another narration, we are told that Allah rewards us for even the prick of a finger, so imagine how Allah will compensate someone who has lost a child.

No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, except that Allah expiates some of his sins for it. [Bukhari]

Ask Allah to ease your pain and loss

We learned from the Prophet (peace be upon him) to ask Allah Almighty to replace whatever we have lost with something better.

Allah has taught us in the Quran in Surat al-Baqarah:

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, who, when disaster strikes them, say, “Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un”.

إِنّا للهِ وَإِنَا إِلَـيْهِ راجِعـون ، اللهُـمِّ اْجُـرْني في مُصـيبَتي، وَاخْلُـفْ لي خَيْـراً مِنْـها

Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.” [2:155-157]

Therefore, if we receive bad news, we need to train ourselves to say Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un with humility and acceptance, remembering that Allah loves us more than our parents. Rather, say ‘Ya Allah I don’t know what is behind this, but I know it is from you.’ And ask You to help me through it.

: عن أم سلمة رضي الله تعالى عنها قالت‏:‏ سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول‏:‏‏”‏ما من عبد تصيبه مصيبه، فيقول إن لله وإنا إليه راجعون‏:‏ اللهم آجرني في مصيبتي، واخلف لي خيرا منها، إلا آجره الله تعالي في مصيبته واخلف له خيراً منها‏.‏ قالت‏:‏ فلما توفي أبو سلمة، قلت كما أمرني رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فاخلف الله خيراص منه رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم “ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying, “When a person suffers from a calamity and utters: ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un. Allahumma ujurni fi musibati, wakhluf li khairan minha (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. O Allah! Compensate me in my affliction, recompense my loss and give me something better in exchange for it), then Allah surely compensates him with reward and better substitute.”

Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: When Abu Salamah (may Allah be pleased with him) died, I repeated the same supplication as the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) had commanded me (to do). So Allah bestowed upon me a better substitute than him (I was married to Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)). [Muslim]

Make dua for the deceased child

Bukhari said (without a complete isnad) that al-Hasan (i.e. al-Hasan al-Basri (21-110. A.H )) recited Fatihat al-Kitab over an infant and said,

وَعَنِ الْبُخَارِيِّ تَعْلِيقًا قَالَ: يَقْرَأُ الْحَسَنُ عَلَى الطِّفْلِ فَاتِحَةَ الْكِتَابِ وَيَقُولُ: اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهُ لَنَا سلفا وفرطا وذخرا وَأَجرا

“O God, make him for us a righteous deed which has gone before us, a recompense gone ahead, a treasure and a reward.”

This is such beautiful reassurance given to us by Allah Almighty if we have lost someone. The hadith specifically mentions a “friend,” so imagine the reward for those of us who have lost family members.

When Allah Almighty decrees things that may hurt us, He provides us a way to earn His reward and pleasure, if we are patient.

قال ابن قدامة رحمه الله : ” وإن كان الميت طفلاً , جعل مكان الاستغفار له : ” اللهم اجعله فرطاً لوالديه , وذخراً وسلفاً وأجراً , اللهم ثقل به موازينهما , وأعظم به أجورهما , اللهم اجعله في كفالة إبراهيم وألحقه بصالح سلف المؤمنين , وأجره برحمتك من عذاب الجحيم , وأبدله داراً خيراً من داره , وأهلاً خيراً من أهله … ونحو ذلك ، وبأي شيء دعا مما ذكرنا أو نحوه أجزأه وليس فيه شيء مؤقت ” انتهى من المغني(2/182) .

Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said,

“Even if the deceased is a child, the place of seeking forgiveness for him is to say: ‘O Allah, make him a source of abundant reward, a treasure and a forerunner for his parents. O Allah, make his scales heavy and magnify their rewards through him. O Allah, place him under the care of Ibrahim and unite him with the righteous predecessors among the believers. Grant him salvation from the torment of Hell through Your mercy, and exchange his dwelling for a better one and his family for a better one… and similar supplications. Whatever he supplicates with from what we have mentioned or something similar to it, it will be sufficient, and there is nothing temporary in it.” (Al-Mughni)

Expect reward and mercy for your child and and you.

Paradise for deceased children

The child is believed to be granted Paradise (Jannah) due to their innocence, and the parents are considered to have their sins forgiven and may be rewarded for their patience and endurance during this trial.

Al-Bara’ ibn `Aazib (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

When Ibrahim, son of the Prophet, died, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Verily, there is a wet-nurse for him in Paradise.” (Bukhari)

Islam teaches that the death of a child can bring reward and mercy for both the child and the parents. Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,

“Allah Almighty says: I have nothing to give to my faithful servant but Paradise if I cause his dear friend to die and he remains patient.” (Bukhari)

“By Him in whose hands is my life, a child will pull its mother to Jannah if she is patient”. [Ibn Majah]

Paradise for patient parents

Losing a child is undoubtedly one of the most challenging experiences one can endure. The profound sense of emptiness and isolation that follows can be overwhelming. Allah, the Almighty, knows of our pain and will reward us greatly for exercising patience. Indeed, He promises Paradise for those who adopt sabr.

Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

وعن أبي موسي رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال‏:‏ إذا مات ولد العبد، قال الله تعالي لملائكته‏:‏ قبضتم ولد عبدي، فيقولون‏:‏ نعم، فيقول‏:‏ قبضتم ثمرة فؤاده، فيقولون‏:‏ نعم‏.‏ فيقول‏:‏ ماذا قال عبدي، فيقولون‏:‏ حمدك واسترجع، فيقول الله تعالى‏:‏ ابنوا لعبدي بيتاً في الجنة، وسموه بيت الحمد‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه الترمذي وقال‏:‏ حديث حسن‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “When a man’s child dies, Allah, the Exalted, asks His angels, ‘Have you taken out the life of the child of My slave?’ and they reply in the affirmative. He (peace be upon him) then asks, ‘Have you taken the fruit of his heart?’ and they reply in the affirmative. Thereupon He asks, ‘What did my slave say?’ They say: ‘He praised You and said: Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return).’ Allah says: ‘Build a house for my slave in Jannah and name it Baitul-Hamd (the House of Praise).”‘ [Tirmidhi]

Intercession for the child and its parents

Scholars have mentioned that the children who pass away at a young age will be waiting for their parents on the day of judgement so they can take their parents by the hand into gardens of bliss.

وَعَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَجُلًا قَالَ لَهُ: مَاتَ ابْنٌ لِي فَوَجَدْتُ عَلَيْهِ هَلْ سَمِعْتَ مِنْ خَلِيلِكَ صَلَوَاتُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ شَيْئًا يَطَيِّبُ بِأَنْفُسِنَا عَنْ مَوْتَانَا؟ قَالَ: نَعَمْ سَمِعْتُهُ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: «صِغَارُهُمْ دَعَامِيصُ الْجَنَّةِ يلقى أحدهم أَبَاهُ فَيَأْخُذ بِنَاحِيَةِ ثَوْبِهِ فَلَا يُفَارِقُهُ حَتَّى يُدْخِلَهُ الْجَنَّةَ» . رَوَاهُ مُسلم وَأحمد وَاللَّفْظ لَهُ

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said that a man who told him a son of his had died and that he was grieved asked him if he had heard anything from his friend which would comfort them regarding their dead. He replied that he had, for he had heard him say, “Their young ones roam freely in paradise. One of them meets his father, seizes the end of his garment and does not leave him until he brings him into paradise.” Muslim and Ahmad transmitted it, the wording being the latter’s. [Muslim]

The guardianship of Ibrahim (peace be upon him)

Not only are children a source of paradise for their parents, they currently reside in Jannah and are being cared for by the great Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him).

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) very often used to ask his companions, ‘Did any of you see a dream?’ So dreams would be narrated to him by those whom Allah wished to tell. One morning, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said ‘Last night, two persons came to me (in a dream) and woke me up and said to me ‘Proceed!’ I set out with them…’

He (peace be upon him) mentioned things and places that he had seen, and then he said,

‘We proceeded and we reached a garden of deep green dense vegetation, having all sorts of spring colours. In the midst of the garden there was a very tall man and I could hardly see his head because of his great height, and around him there were children in such a large number as I have never seen. I said to my companions, ‘Who is this?’ They replied ‘Proceed! Proceed!…’

Then among the things that the two companions (angels) said to him (peace be upon him) was: ’The tall man whom you saw in the garden is Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and the children around him are those children who die with Al-Fitrah (the Islamic Faith).’ [Bukhari]

Hope and reunion

Islam provides hope for the reunion of the family in the Hereafter. It is believed that the parents will be reunited with their deceased child in Paradise, where they will experience eternal bliss and joy together.

It is natural and acceptable to mourn and grieve for the loss of a child. Islam allows a period of mourning, usually three days, during which the family and friends offer condolences and support to the bereaved parents. Crying and expressing grief are not discouraged, as even the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shed tears when his son passed away.

Unfortunately, certain cultural norms dictate that openly expressing grief is unacceptable. In some cases, individuals have been discouraged from shedding tears or revealing their emotions, thus hindering their ability to share their immense sorrow with others.

Mourning and Grieving

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) suffered many losses in his lifetime, including six of his seven children and his beloved grandchildren, too.

When the son of Zainab (may Allah be pleased with her) was dying she called for her father, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The child was lifted up to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) while his breath was disturbed in his chest. On seeing that, the eyes of the Prophet (peace be upon him) filled with tears.

Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah was surprised to see him crying and asked, “O Messenger of Allah! What is this?” He (peace be upon him) replied,

“It is compassion which Allah has placed in the hearts of His slaves, Allah is compassionate only to those among His slaves who are compassionate (to others)” [Bukhari]

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also cried when his son Ibrahim died as an infant.

Ibrahim was in his last breaths and the eyes of Allah’s Messenger started shedding tears.

Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf said, “O Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon you), even you are weeping!”

He (peace be upon him) said, “O Ibn ‘Auf, this is mercy”. Then he (peace be upon him) wept more and said, “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord. O Ibrahim! Indeed, we are grieved by your separation”. [Bukhari]

Excessive grief

Crying over a deceased is allowed. However it is disliked for the grief to be displayed in a loud or excessive way, which was the culture of pre-Islamic times when an outpouring of grief was considered the proper way to mourn someone and to that end mourners would even be hired to scream and wail at funerals.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

فَقَالَ: أَلاَ تَسْمَعُونَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يُعَذِّبُ بِدَمْعِ العَيْنِ، وَلاَ بِحُزْنِ القَلْبِ، وَلَكِنْ يُعَذِّبُ بِهَذَا – وَأَشَارَ إِلَى لِسَانِهِ – أَوْ يَرْحَمُ، وَإِنَّ المَيِّتَ يُعَذَّبُ بِبُكَاءِ أَهْلِهِ عَلَيْهِ

 ‘Will you not listen? Indeed Allah (Most High) does not punish for shedding tears, nor for the grief of the heart. Rather He punishes or bestows mercy due to this, and he pointed to his tongue. Indeed the deceased is punished for the wailing of his relatives over him.’ [Bukhari]

Is crying a sign of discontent? Feeling pain or having tears in your eyes out of pain or loss you have suffered is not a complaint against Allah – it is natural and human. Very rarely, some companions and pious people reacted to calamities and loss without expressing pain, but they were exception, this is not the rule.

The difference between crying and anger

We do feel pain and sadness, but this is something we experience in our hearts, and we can’t help it. Whereas feeling angry with Allah is not acceptable. Never say you are angry with Allah. This is a line you cannot cross. Whatever you experience is, it is a test from Allah. We might see the wisdom and the bigger picture, though often we do not have the lenses or the intellect to see it, as Musa (peace be upon him) did with al Khidr. When he discovered the reasons behind Al Khidr’s seemingly strange actions, he glimpsed the bigger picture. However, Allah does not always give us the ability to see the bigger picture, so we have to be satisfied with His will, knowing that there is a greater reasoning behind it and that Allah.

Seek help and support

Any parent who feels overwhelmed by the loss of their child should not feel shy to seek support from friends and professionals who can provide comfort and guidance. Friends can offer a listening ear, empathy, and a shoulder to lean on, reminding us that we are not alone in our grief. Professional counselors or therapists with expertise in grief and loss can provide valuable tools and strategies to navigate the complex emotions associated with such a profound loss.

Acceptance and our humility to our Lord

The test of obedience and our servitude to Allah is how someone responds with what was destined for them, for example if they fall ill or are struck by a calamity. Do they complain and resent why it happened to them and make comments such as ‘Why did this happen to me?! What did I do to deserve this?!’ If so, they need to repent for this. We cannot complain when Allah sends us afflictions – big or small- because He is the All Wise. There is hikmah (wisdom) in everything He does, so there is no room to complain even if we do not understand the wisdom with our limited intellect.

Anyone going through difficulty, should know that with every breath they take Allah multiples their reward and elevates their status. On the Day of Judgement when they see the piles and piles of reward Allah prepared for those who are patient and preserved, they would wish they had been afflicted even more in the dunya.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim Edited F Qadir

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.