By His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Translated by: Ghassan Rimlawi
Before we cite the Ayahs that talk about the “righteous child”, we would like to point out that parenthood, which represents the family’s role in producing generations, is not a subjective matter that aims at making the parents realize themselves, but it is rather an issue of responsibility. It is the responsibility of bringing up a new generation that could achieve for humanity what raises its intellectual, practical and spiritual levels. This is what we notice in the supplications in which the prophets (a.s.) prayed to their God to give them children. Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.), for example, asks God to grant him “a child from among the righteous” (37:100).
Being righteous involves the mind which adopts the rightful thought, the heart that loves Allah and all people and the work that abides by all moral values, including good and justice. One should be righteous in his relations with God, himself, life and people. Moreover, asking Allah, the Most Exalted, for a righteous child includes inherently asking Him for help, support and guidance in the upbringing process, which turns the child into the righteous human being he is asking for. This is what we notice in the Quranic story about Ibrahim’s child, Ismail, who was destined to be slaughtered, were it not for God’s Mercy. The proof that it was Ismail and not Isaac is that the story of Isaac follows the story of slaughtering of Ismail in the Holy Quran. After narrating the story of Ismail, God continues to say in the same Surah: “And we gave him the glad tidings of Isaac, a Prophet and a man of virtue” (37:11). Then Ibrahim raised his child on the love of Allah and Islam… “When his Lord said to him, Be a Muslim, he said: I submit myself to the Lord of the worlds. And the same did Ibrahim enjoin on his sons and (so did) Yaqoub. O my sons! Surely Allah has chosen for you (this) faith, therefore die not unless you are Muslims” (2:131-132).
This was the will Prophet Ibrahim (p.) left for his sons who submitted themselves to the wish of Allah and the Divine Message, the Message of Islam. “The faith of your father Ibrahim; He named you Muslims before and in this” (22:78).
And this is probably what Allah refers to when He says: “Ibrahim was not a Jew nor a Christian, but he was (an) upright (man), a Muslim, and he was not one of the polytheists” (3:68), and: “And who has a better religion than he who submits himself entirely to Allah? And he is the doer of good (to others) and follows the faith of Ibrahim, the upright one…” (4:125).
“And when he (Ismail) was old enough to accompany him – that is when he was raised on the love and obedience of Allah – he (Ibrahim) said: O my son! Surely I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you; consider then what you see – the righteous son did not even hesitate to think, and he said right away – He said: ‘O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah pleases, you will find me of the patient ones’ – since it is Allah’s command, I will surrender to the will of Allah, regardless of the pains – So when they both submitted – especially the son who had to face a tough experiment, but he treated the entire issue as if he was performing a prayer to God – and he threw him down upon his forehead – And We called out to him saying: ‘O Ibrahim! You have indeed shown the truth of the vision; surely thus do We reward the doers of good. Most surely this is a manifest trial, and We ransomed him with a Feat sacrifice, and We perpetuated (praise) to him among the later generations; peace be upon Ibrahim” (37:102-109).
We also read in the story of Zakariya, who was one of God’s prophets and who did not have any children: “He said: ‘My Lord! How can I have a son when my wife is barren and I have reached old age?” (19:8). He knew that naturally he was unable to beget a child, but when he saw Lady Mary and her spirituality, he yearned to have a child of his own that is similar to Mary in her spirituality and morals: “Whenever Zakariya entered the sanctuary to (see) her, he found with her food. He said: ‘O Mariam! Whence comes this to you?’ She said: ‘It is from Allah. Surely Allah gives to whom He pleases without measure…’ There did Zakariya pray to his Lord; he said: ‘My Lord! Grant me from Thee good offspring; surely Thou art the Hearer of prayer…’” (3:37-38).
Then we notice that Zakariya has asked for a righteous child, just like Prophet Ibrahim did. Another Ayah that talks about Zakariya’s wish is his supplication, where he invoked Allah to beget him a child: “Who should inherit me and inherit from the children of Yaqoub, and make him, my Lord, one in whom Thou art well pleased” (19: 6). So, Allah gave him the glad tidings of having Yahya: “Then the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: That Allah gives you the good news of Yahya verifying a Word from Allah, and honorable and chaste and a prophet from among the good ones” (3:39). Chaste means that he was a virgin who never got married. Then, Allah addressed Yahya saying: “O Yahya! Take hold of the Book with strength, and We granted him wisdom while yet a child” (19:12). So, Allah gave Prophet Zakariya a righteous child and made him a Prophet and a caller through the Book (which at that time was the Torah), with no fear or compromise, and one who holds the responsibility of calling to Allah.
The wishes of the righteous
What are the wishes of the righteous? Allah says: “And those who pray, ‘Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eye, and make us guides to those who guard (against evil)’... Those are the ones who will be rewarded with the highest place in heaven, because of their patient constancy: therein shall they be met with salutations and peace” (25:74-75). They wish that Allah would grant them righteous wives to live with them in a righteous house that adopts all spiritual, moral and humanistic values and to do all what Allah has permitted and abstain from all what He has deemed unlawful. They ask Allah to give them comfort to their eyes, not only physically, although the person has the right to think about the physical beauty of his spouse, but also spiritually, which makes the couple lead a life of full obedience to Allah. They also wish to have righteous children who will also act as comfort to the eyes, by their obedience to Allah and seeking of His satisfaction. Then they talk about themselves “and make us a guide for those who guard (against evil)” (25:74), which means to act piously in such a way that they would be emulated in all what the pious believers say or do. Those pious people will have Paradise as their abode as they have been patient, since committing to Allah’s Shariah and the Messenger’s instructions requires a lot of suffering, and consequently a lot of patience which brings man closer to Allah, the Most Exalted.
As we read the Ayah about Heaven being the abode of the righteous family, we point out that Allah wanted to extend the meaning of the family from being restricted to the relation of the parents with their children to include the relation of the children with their parents. Just as man has to educate his children, he also has to educate his parents in as much as he can. We notice that Ibrahim tried to convince his father to choose the line that earns him the satisfaction of Allah. Allah says: “When he said to his father: ‘O my father! Why do you worship what neither hears nor sees, nor does it avail you in the least, O my father! Truly the knowledge has come to me which has not come to you, therefore follow me, I will guide you on a right path, O my father! Serve not the Shaitan, surely the Shaitan is disobedient to the Beneficent Allah, O my father! Surely I fear that a punishment from the Beneficent Allah should afflict you so that you should be a friend of the Shaitan” (19:42-45).
This dialogue between the father and the son is cited to us to act as a model of aware conscious believing sons who wish to live in a house of piety and uprightness, earning the satisfaction of Allah, and this is what the Quran told us: “The gardens of perpetual abode which they will enter along with those who do good from among their parents and their spouses and their offspring; and the angels will enter in upon them from every gate; peace unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final home!” (13:24).
The dynamic life
It is narrated that Jesus (p.) passed by a grave whose occupant was being chastised. Then, he passed by it the following year, but he was not being chastised. He said: “O Lord! I passed through this town last year and he was being chastised, and I passed through it this year and he is not being chastised”. It was as if he was asking his Lord what lifted the punishment, since he is dead and could not have done anything to lift it, and if he did not deserve to be punished, why was he punished in the first place? Then Allah revealed to him: “O Spirit of God! Verily one of his children matured and removed obstacles from a road and sheltered an orphan – we notice here that Allah is talking about the social aspects, indicating that righteousness is not merely fasting and praying, but also benefiting the society –Then I forgave him for the deeds of his child”. It might be said that the son’s deeds do not belong to the father, so how can his deeds benefit him? The point is that the father raised his son in a way that made him feel the need to satisfy Allah by social service, as well as worship. When Allah, the Most Exalted, differentiated between the right and falsehood, He said: “As to the foam, it vanishes into the earth, but that which benefits mankind remains on the ground” (13:17).
Thus, the right is what benefits mankind. It encompasses everything one does, whether in worship or in deeds and relationships. If you want to be righteous, you have to employ your potentials and capabilities in what benefits the people, so that they will remain after you. It is narrated in famous Hadith:“When a man dies, his deeds come to an end, except for three: sadaqah, whose benefit does not cease – which is the benevolent projects that remain after him like digging a well or building an orphanage or a hospital – knowledge from which the people derive benefit – as well as other things that are included in the following Hadith: “Whoever introduces a good practice in Islam will have its reward and the reward of those who follow it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. Whoever introduces an evil practice in Islam will bear its sin and the sin of those who follow it, without their sins being diminished in any respect”. When you embark on a good deed, your life extends. It is if you continue to do it, while you are in your grave.
It is mentioned in a Hadith: “All creatures are Allah's children [dependants and not real children, for Allah begets not, and nor is He begotten], and those dearest to Allah are those who benefit His children the most”, meaning that what makes man close to Allah is measured by how he benefits His children; that is, all mankind. Thus, man has to employ all his abilities in the service of those who are in need for them. This is what Imam As-Sadiq (a.s.) explained when he said: “Allah did not bestow a grace upon someone without asking him to do something to thank Him for this grace. The strong are supposed to help the weak and be tolerant towards them, and the rich have to give some of their money to the poor… etc”.
Thus, our abilities are our responsibilities, and whoever does not employ them in the service of the people is actually stealing them. This is how we understand the following Hadith: “Allah does not obligate the ignorant to learn until He obligates the knowledgeable to teach”. The Messenger (p.) also says: “If heresy appears in my nation, the ‘Alim (religious scholar) should show his Islam (knowledge). If he does not, then may Allah curse him”. Therefore, if you have a righteous son and you took part in raising him to be as such, then his work will be an extension of yours and you will be rewarded for it even after you die.