Motherhood In The Quran
The cases of the Mothers in the Qur’an are always accompanied by a sense of testing, challenge, anguish and for each one of these cases and there must be a reason for that.
Mother of Musa (a.s.w.s.):
Allah told the Mother of Musa ( through inspiration to do this unbelievable, challenging, trying, and testing act that is to place her newborn son in the chest and throw it into the river to be picked up by one who is an enemy of Allah and an enemy of Musa (Qur’an 20:38-39). How much faith and comfort a mother would have to respond to this call from Allah to throw her son and some people say that after all, she did not have a choice because Pharaoh is killing the sons.
Nonetheless, it is quite difficult to convince a mother to throw her son to the unknown like that. Allah did not say that her son will be taken to safety and instead He said the baby will be picked up by one who is an enemy of Allah and an enemy of Musa (a.s.w.s.). It must have been a very strong and faithful mother.
In the Arabic language, the word ‘fa’ means ‘immediately’ i.e. to place him immediately in the chest and without much delay throw the chest into the river. This shows the sensitivity in the Qur’an that one cannot prolong the agony because the mother could change her mind.
Musa’s (a.s.w.s.) sister goes around and finds that Pharaoh’s wife picked up the chest and seemed to love the child, the sister came forward like a stranger and said: shall I search out a good wet-nurse for the child so that she may rear the child. She agreed and the sister brought the mother and she openly fed the child. (Qur’an 20:40)
There is an attitude in the story that Allah interferes deliberately just for one purpose that this faithful mother needs to be comforted. This step was not needed but somehow Allah showed the sensitivity and empathy to the mother that his son will return to her at least under her direct supervision.
Mother of Yahya (a.s.w.s.):
Yahya’s (a.s.w.s.) father Zakariya (a.s.w.s.) was an old man and there was a need for an heir to carry the legacy of the message. Zakariya’s (a.s.w.s.) wife was also old. Allah wanted him to have a very special child (Qur’an 19:7-11). We know that Yahya (a.s.w.s.) played an important role in the chain of messengers because he was the one who conveyed the message and also who took care of Isa (a.s.w.s.).
The trial is not to Zakariya (a.s.w.s.) but to his wife, the old woman who has to go through the tribulations to having that child. Nonetheless, the father was skeptical of having a child in the old age but on the contrary, the mother was joyful and cheerful about that situation and she came laughing aloud. (Qur’an 51:29)
She just had a positive attitude about the whole thing and cheerfulness that she could not hide even though it was a strange situation to be at.
Mother of Isa(a.s.w.s.):
Maryam’s (a.s.w.s.) trial was also very strange. Maryam, (a.s.w.s.) a chaste and a respectful person of the society find all of a sudden that she will have a baby. She seeks refuge in Allah to protect her. She was wondering how she can have a child affirming her chastity. Qur’an explains the miraculous conception. In the pain of labor, Maryam (a.s.w.s.) wishes that she would rather die than go through this. Allah comforts and guides her. (Qur’an 19:16-25)
She delivers the baby and goes back to her people. Her people immediately remind her about her pious and respectful family. And Allah made the newborn defend her mother. Baby Isa (a.s.w.s.) said he is NOT the son of Allah but the servant of Allah. And Isa said he will be kind to his mother. (Quran 19:26-35)
We can see the gratitude he had towards his mother who went through all these trials.
Pharaoh’s (Firaun)wife prays to Allah that she needs a house in heaven and she wants Allah to save her from Pharaoh (Firaun) and his doings and from those who do wrong. (Qur’an 66:11)
One can appreciate her good attitude when she finds the baby [Musa (a.s.w.s.)] inside the chest. She says that the baby is a pleasure to her eyes and her mother’s instinct starts taking over. She says to Pharaoh (Firaun) not to kill the baby and says the baby might be of benefit to them. Here is the mother’s instinct that is saying that they will adopt him as a son. (Qur’an 28:9)
Kindness to Mother:
Qur’an ordains to be kind to one’s parents and especially to the mother (Qur’an 31:14, 46:15). All the family and relationships mentioned in the Qur’an refers to the womb (rahim). Allah instructs not to break the ties of the womb when put in authority (Qur’an 47:22).
Motherhood in Modern times:
For the first time in history, motherhood has become a matter of question. Throughout the history, from Adam (a.s.w.s.) and Hawa (a.s.w.s.) and up until now the motherhood was never questioned. The mother gets pregnant, delivers a baby and she is the mother of the child but with the advent of modern science, people can tamper with that. One can commercially contract motherhood and what is known as Surrogacy, which creates horrendous problems that are both moral and practical and has become an issue of debate.
The surrogate mother may have been quite willing to surrender the child upon birth, but she may have become unwilling to do so after birth. This behavioral change is often termed as “maternal instinct,” in the pregnant woman. The result is that they go to the court and usually the courts rule based on the breach of the contract.
Like any pregnancy, it is impossible to predict the outcome. If the surrogate mother delivers a baby with serious disabilities, would the commissioning couple accept an abnormal child?
I have attended many conferences where many Muslim jurists and doctors participated to address the issue of surrogate motherhood and here are the conclusions.
1. Islam does not accept the practice of surrogacy because it is demeaning.
2. It creates problem
3. If it happens, the (surrogate) woman who delivers the baby is considered as the Mother (Qur’an 58:2).
On the positive side, we have Stem cells that are the blue-print cells in the embryo that have not gone through the process of cell differentiation and therefore have the potential to give rise to many different kinds of specialized cells. For instance, a stem cell could be used to produce liver cells, brain cells, heart muscle cells, blood cells, etc.
Dr. Omar Alfi, a scientist in Genetics explains, “During pregnancy, the fetus leaks the stem cells that goes to the mother and becomes part of her.”
So each mother is carrying in her the parts of the original material that made her child. Hence with the advent of modern science, the mother-child relationship is much more than what we had ever known before. This probably explains the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) when a man came to him and he was asked, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said: Then your father (Bukhari).