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A Letter to Mothers without Children

A friend of mine recently told me she was diagnosed with a condition that causes infertility. She’s newly married and in her twenties. While I know her to be an incredibly faithful and strong woman, I also know that strength of faith doesn’t protect you from pain. This is a letter to her and all the other women unable to have children – women who are nurturing, kind and wonderful: all the qualities a mother should have.

You may not agree with me when I call you a mother. But I call you a mother without children because you are (or can be) the mother of great dreams, the mother of taking pain and transforming it into hope, the mother of leaving a legacy for yourself that doesn’t involve a child.

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) was ridiculed by the disbelievers for not having any sons survive past toddlerhood. He only had female children, and only from his first wife Khadijah (ra). In pre-Islamic Arabia, a person was considered “cut off” if he didn’t have a son to inherit from him. And the disbelievers hoped that the Prophet (saw) would not have a son to continue spreading his message.

Allah (swt) responded to these people’s statements with one of the most well known chapters in the Quran, Al-Kauthar:

Indeed, We have granted you, [O Muhammad], Al-Kauthar.

So pray to your Lord and sacrifice [to Him alone].

Indeed, your enemy is the one cut off.

Allah (swt) comforted the Prophet by telling him he has been granted Al-Kauthar. Some scholars have said that Al-Kauthar refers to a stream in Paradise, and some have said it denotes goodness, blessings and abundance.

Allah (swt) also assured him that his enemies were the ones to be cut off from all good in this world and in the next. Even though the Prophet (saw) had no sons to carry his message forward, he had the blessings of daughters, companions and wives to continue spreading the truth.

We barely remember any of the disbelievers’ names, but we certainly remember the name Muhammad. And in the past 1400 years, the community has been enriched with scholars and righteous people who have spread the faith to every corner of the globe.

That couldn’t have been the legacy of someone who was cut off.

You are not cut off either. Your purpose on this earth hasn’t ended because you can’t or don’t have a child (for whatever reason). There is still work to do. Don’t you still have the dream of drinking from the Prophet’s hands at Al-Kauthar? He was given the stream as a blessing and comfort to him. You, too, can also be blessed to drink from it and be comforted by having your thirst quenched forever.

Some of the greatest women in history were childless. Think of Aisha (ra), narrator of huge numbers of ahadith, and a source and teacher of knowledge to both men and women. Her knowledge was the fertile soil from which generations of strong believers were grown.

She wasn’t cut off because she never had a child. She was a mother of the believers.

Nor are you cut off unless you choose to be. Stand up and glorify Allah (swt) for all the multitudes of blessings He’s given you, even if that doesn’t include a child. Stand up and use those blessings to learn and to leave a positive legacy on this earth.

You can choose to till the earth so that seeds can grow, even if those seeds aren’t yours. You are the mother of limitless dreams and the receiver of countless blessings. You still have hope, even if that hope doesn’t look exactly like you thought it would.

And hope is a seed of its own.

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