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Pristine lie

2017-07-22
July 22, 2017

 

What children are born upon in this world and their final destination, whether the Garden or the Fire, in the Hereafter

 

From the Fatawa of Ibn Rushd the Grandfather, Vol. 1, p. 649 ff. Dar al-Gharb al-Islami, Beirut, 1987 

 

The jurist, Imam and hafiz Abu’l-Walid Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Rushd – may Allah be pleased with him – said:

“A petitioner asked me to summarize the disagreement between savants around the issue of what children are born upon in this world, and what is their final destination, Garden or Fire, in the Hereafter, guiding him to the sound position thereon based on the path of the devotees of truth and Sunnah who hold onto the Qur’an. and to the interpretation that must be necessarily placed on the reports transmitted in this regard.

I thus said, after praising Allah, the Exalted and the Majestic, the way He has commanded, and after sending prayers of blessing on Muhammad, His Prophet and servant:

This is an issue savants have vastly differed inter se about.

  • A group of them has taken the view that children are born upon Islam and end up in the Garden. They relied for proof on the Prophet’s statement, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, as transmitted on the authority of Abu Hurayrah: “Every infant is born on the pristine state (al-fitrah), but his parents turn him into a jew or a christian” [Al-Muwatta’, Sahih al-Bukhari, etc.]. Such a group of savants equate fitrah with Islam, and interpreted the hadith in a general sense, since the hadith has also been narrated in the variant: “There is no infant but that he is born on the pristine state (al-fitrah)” [Sahih Muslim].
  • Another group has asserted that they are born upon kufr, not upon iman, and that their final destination, wretchedness or happiness, accords with Allah’s antecedent knowledge, so none of them is ruled as entering for sure either the Garden or the Fire. Corroboration for their stance is found in the narration from ‘A’ishah where she said: The dead body of one of the children of the Helpers was taken to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, for him to pray over the child. I (‘A’ishah) said, ‘Blessedness to him, one of the young chicks of the Garden, he committed no evil and no sin overtook him,’ whereupon the Prophet, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, commented: “Or maybe other than that, O ‘A’ishah! Allah the Exalted has created the Garden and created inhabitants for it, creating them in the loins of their forefathers; and He created the Fire and created inhabitants for it, creating them in the loins of their forefathers” [Sahih Muslim, etc.]. It is not, however, part of the sound hadith literature that is relied upon. This group construed the word “fitrah” in the hadith transmitted on the authority of Abu Hurayrah as denoting the primal state of being rather than Islam, and supported their interpretation by his statement, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, at the end of the hadith, concerning persons who die young: “Allah knows best what actions they used to carry out”.
  • A third group preferred the view that some of them were born upon Islam whereas others were born upon kufr, even though their parents might have been Muslims. The proof used in support of their position was the said hadith transmitted from ‘A’ishah, and the narration to the effect that the boy al-Khidr killed had been sealed upon kufr. This third group of scholars did not interpret the hadith transmitted on the authority of Abu Hurayrah in a general sense, given the possibility of interpreting it specifically in accordance with what is set out hereunder, Allah willing.
  • There is then a fourth group of savants, according to whom the children of Muslims are born upon Islam and proceed to the Garden, whereas the children of associationists (mushrikun) are born upon kufr and proceed to the Fire. They relied for proof on the hadith transmitted on the authority of as-Sa`b b. Jatthamah, to the effect that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, said about the children of associationists: “There is no Muslim three children of whom die, seeking reward by exercising patience over their death, but that they are for him a shield against the Fire” [Al-Muwatta’, Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim]. They said it was impossible that they were a shield from the Fire for their parents while being themselves among the denizens of the Fire. They sought further corroboration from similar such transmitted reports.

 

There are thus two views on the children of the Muslims:

1.      They are in the Garden.

2.      Their fate is remitted to Allah’s Will.

 

As for the children of associationists, there are three positions:

1.      They are in the Garden.

2.      Their fate is remitted to Allah’s Will.

3.      They are in the Fire. It has also been said that a fire will be kindled for them on the Day of Rising, and it will be said to them, ‘Traverse it!’: whoever obeys and crosses it, the fire will be for him coolness and peace, and he will be made to enter the Garden by his obedience, whereas whoever disobeys will be made to enter the Fire by his disobedience.

 

***

 

As for the statement of those who maintain that they are born upon kufr or iman, it is not sound in the least. It is known to be impossible, because of the impossibility of finding iman or kufr in the absence of knowledge and rational discrimination. Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, has said: «Allah brought you out of your mothers’ wombs knowing nothing at all» (Surah an-Nahl: 78). It is thus logically impossible that any human infant, before attaining rational discernment, be described in terms of kufr or iman in a real sense just as it is impossible for an animal other than the human being to be described as such.

Once that has been firmly established by clear proof, it becomes imperative to construe on its strength any transmitted reports ostensibly deviating from that, since the Law cannot lay down what contradicts reason. An example of that is what has been narrated to the effect that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, said: “Pay attention: The Children of Adam have been created in layers. Among them there is the one who is born mu’min, lives as mu’min and dies a mu’min; the one who is born kafir, lives as kafir and dies a kafir; the one who is born mu’min, lives as mu’min and dies a kafir; and the one who is born kafir, lives as kafir and dies a mu’min”.

We say that the meaning of his statement in the hadith “is born mu’min” is that he is assigned the ruling of a Muslim in terms of inheritance, washing of the corpse, performing the funeral prayer over him and burying him among the Muslims, along with the rest of matters legislated in his respect in the Din; and the meaning of his statement in the hadith “is born kafir” is that he is assigned the ruling of a kafir in terms of inheritance, not washing his corpse or performing the funeral prayer over him, and burying him in the cemetery of the kuffar.

The one who is born mu’min, lives as mu’min and dies a mu’min is he who, being the descendant of Muslims, dies upon iman and Islam in his old age.  The one who is born kafir, lives as kafir and dies a kafir is he who, being the descendant of kuffar, dies upon kufr in his old age. The one who is born mu’min, lives as mu’min and dies a kafir is he who, being the descendant of Muslims, reverts (apostatizes) to kufr after having reached puberty on Islam, and eventually dies on kufr; while the one who is born kafir, lives as kafir and dies a mu’min is he who, being the descendant of kuffar, embraces Islam after attaining puberty in a state of kufr, and then dies upon Islam.

In the same manner, we should understand the narration to the effect that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, said about the boy al-Khidr had killed: “Allah sealed him, on the day He imprinted in him his temperament, as a kafir[Sahih Muslim, Sunan ad-Dawud, etc.]. Its meaning is that He created kufr in his heart until he discriminated things rationally, and ruled on him by His judgment in accordance with His antecedent knowledge. Al-Khidr’s killing of him was due to his kufr either after he had reached puberty, consistently with the narrations that he was a highway robber, or because, though a pre-puberty child, he rationally understood kufr and consciously adopted it, consistently with a Revealed Law binding on him that differed from the Law of Islam and enjoined the application of the hadd penalty on someone who had yet to reach puberty.

Likewise with the statement by the Prophet, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him: “Every infant is born on the pristine state (al-fitrah), but his parents turn him into a jew or a christian. Male camels originate from a mutilated animal …, until his statement: “Allah knows best what they used to do [Sahih Muslim, Sunan ad-Dawud, etc.].

The worthiest interpretation that has been placed on this hadith is that the meaning of fitrah therein mentioned is the primordial state Allah created people upon, not Islam, which He made incumbent on them upon attaining puberty. What is meant by the hadith is that every infant is born free from evils that impede the truth and ready to accept the Din when reason and discernment mature in him, i.e. if he is left free to pursue his natural path, by that fitrah he would choose Islam over any other ways of life or religions because of its clarity and the evidence of its truth. His parents, however, if they are christian or jewish, turn him into a christian or a jew, that is, they lead him onto judaism or christianity, indoctrinating him accordingly and naming him in conformity with their typical names. He is then known thereby, just as camels are procreated in a sound condition, but their noses are pierced and their ears split and thus mutilated for them to be identified thereby, so people say, ‘These have abundant milk,’ ‘These are freely grazing camels.’

This interpretation is corroborated by what has been narrated to the effect that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, said in a hadith qudsi: “I created My servants as persons professing the true creed (hunafa’), all of them, then the devils came over them and made light of them, making them stray from their Din” [Sahih Muslim]. In the Arabic language, in fact, the hanif is the one leaning on one side. The meaning of the hadith, therefore, is that Allah created His servants slanted toward acceptance of the Din by their inborn nature He originated them upon; were it not for the devils who entice them away from the Din, all of them would be Muslims. That is also the import of Allah’s statement, Mighty and Majestic is He: «So set your face firmly towards the Din, as a pure natural believer, Allah’s natural pattern on which He made mankind. There is no changing Allah’s creation. That is the true Din» (Surah an-Nahl: 78). That is so even if it has room for other interpretations, too.

This hadith was held onto as proof by those who took the view that all the children are born upon Islam, by construing the word fitrah as denoting Islam. Syntactically, they made yulad ‘ala al-fitrah (born on the pristine state) the predicate of kullu mawlud (every infant), and interpreted the hadith literally in a general sense.

The same hadith was used as corroboration by those savants for whom some of the children are born up Islam while others are born upon kufr, by likewise construing fitrah as Islam. Syntactically, they made yulad ‘ala al-fitrah (born on the pristine state) a qualificative (sifah) of kullu mawlud (every infant), the predicate (khabar) of such primate thus qualified being his following statement: but his parents turn him into a jew or a christian, since qualifying a word by an adjective singles it out from whoever does not share that adjective (i.e. those who in their view are born on other than Islam, meaning on kufr).

All of this is unsound, given the aforementioned impossibility of describing someone devoid of rational discrimination in terms of kufr or iman.

Had it been true that the import of the fitrah mentioned in the hadith was Islam, the very same Islam (they are born upon) would not be obligatory on them prior to attainment of full rational understanding, due to the said impossibility; and we would say that the meaning is every infant is born for the sake of the fitrah of Islam, i.e. born in order to confirm the truth thereof and worship accordingly, just as we say, about Allah’s statement, Mighty and Majestic is He: «I only created jinn and man to worship Me» (Surah adh-Dhariyat: 56), that it is specific to those in respect of whom the matter proves truth. Alternatively, the meaning is: every infant is born, and Allah’s antecedent knowledge is that he will be a Muslim and die upon Islam, but his jewish or christian parents lead him onto judaism or christianity and in this world he is assigned their ruling in anything other than being put to death and other such matters that are exclusive to children.

In terms of this interpretation, the benefit of the hadith is that what his parents do to him does not harm him, since matters are judged by their final seals. This interpretation is backed up by the hadith transmitted on the authority of al-Aswad b. Sari`, who said: I took part in four military expeditions with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him. His Companions reached for the children (of the associationists) after they had killed the (adult) fighters. News of that reached the attention of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, who, weighed down by it, said: “What is the matter with some people who killed the fighters and then reached for their offspring?”. A man asked, ‘Messenger of Allah! Are they not children of the associationists?’, whereupon the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, replied: “The best among you are children of associationists. No human creature is born but that he is born on the pristine state (fitrah), and remains settled on it until his tongue parts from it. It is his parents who turn him into a jew or a christian” [Sahih al-Bukhari, etc.].

The place where proof is found in this hadith is his statement therein: “The best among you are children of associationists”. He thus informed that children of associationists include some who are provisionallyturned into jews or christians by their parents, yet in Allah’s knowledge they will as adults become among the best Muslims predestined for happiness in the Mother-Book.

As for his statement at the end of the hadith: No human creature is born but that he is born on the pristine state (fitrah)”, its meaning is that no human is born to associationists, who is known to Allah’s antecedent knowledge as later dying as an adult upon Islam, but that in Allah’s sight is given since his birth the ruling of fitrah by willing eternal bliss for Him at the end of his journey, even though his parents might (temporarily) lead him onto judaism or christianity. Proof that he, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, merely intended to inform about the one who dies in his adulthood, is the question they posed to him, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, at the end of the hadith about the one who dies as a pre-puberty child.

These are interpretations the hadith is able to accommodate, and Allah knows best about the reality of his import, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him.

 

Part of what proves that the statement of the Prophet, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him: “Every infant is born on the fitrah” does not indicate that small children, prior to reaching the age of understanding, are Muslims, is his statement at the end of the hadith: “Allah knows best what they used to do”. He informed therefore that they were remitted to Allah’s Will. Had his statement at the beginning of the hadith that they were born upon the fitrah meant that they were born Muslims, he would not have said, at the end of it, that they were remitted to His Will, since it is obligatorily known in the Din that the destination of whoever dies upon Islam is the Garden.

Some of the savants have adopted the view that the hadith is abrogated, and that it found application at the beginning of Islam, before the legal obligations were revealed and jihad made compulsory, hence the Law abrogated it by permitting taking the children of associationists as captives and as slaves and by making their fathers inherit from them, thereby indicating that they were born on the din of their parents, not on Islam.

There are also those savants who assert that his statement at the end of the hadith, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him: “Allah knows best what they used to do”, abrogates what is stated at the beginning thereof to the effect that they are born upon Islam.

All of that is a far-fetched and unsound interpretation, since reports are not affected by abrogation unless they affirm rulings as opposed to providing information, and also because it has been related that the Prophetic statement in question was after jihad had been made obligatory as evinced by the hadith transmitted on the authority of al-Aswad b. Sari`.

The truth is that the end of the hadith clarifies the beginning of it and is a pointer to what we stated earlier, and does not abrogate it.

Generally speaking, proof of what is established by knowledge cannot be validly found in one-to-one reports open to interpretation, as with this hadith and kindred ones.

 

As for Allah’s statement, Mighty and Majestic is He: «When your Lord took out all their descendants from the loins of the children of Adam and made them testify against themselves ‘Am I not your Lord?’ …» (Surah al-A`raf: 172), the meaning thereof is as explained by the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, in the hadith transmitted on the authority of ‘Umar b. al-Khattab, according to what we are going to mention later, Allah willing; and whoever construed it otherwise has gone in his interpretation against the statement of the Messenger, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, and opted for something that violates logic.

 

The sound truth, proved beyond doubt to be so, is that children are born neither upon Islam nor upon kufr. They are born upon the wretchedness or happiness destined to them in Allah’s antecedent knowledge through the seals of their actions. They do not exit the scope of His antecedent knowledge about them and do not shift away from it, in consonance with what has been handed down from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, concerning the exegesis of Allah’s statement, Mighty and Majestic is He: «When your Lord took out all their descendants from the loins of the children of Adam and made them testify against themselves ‘Am I not your Lord?’, they said», until «‘We knew nothing of this.’» (Surah al-A`raf: 172). It is in fact established from ‘Umar b. al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, that, having been asked about it, he replied, I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, being asked in that regard, and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, said: “Allah created Adam, then wiped over his back by His right hand and extracted from it descendants, saying, ‘I created these ones for the Garden, and by the action of the people of the Garden they act’. He then wiped over his back and extracted from it descendants, saying, ‘I created these ones for the Fire, and by the action of the people of the Fire they act’…” till the end of the hadith [Al-Muwatta’, Al-Mustadrak, etc.]. He, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, informed in this hadith that the meaning of the ayah is that Allah’s Knowledge encompasses the actions of the son of Adam and how his life is going to be sealed by either wretchedness or happiness He has created him for; and he, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, explained by his statement that they are born upon what they have been created for in terms thereof. That is in agreement with the hadith transmitted from inter alia Ibn Mas`ud, the wording mentioned here being his, where he said: The Messenger of Allah, may Allah send prayers of blessing and greetings of peace upon him, related to us, and he is the truthful one whose truthfulness is confirmed “that He created the son of Adam who lodges in his mother’s womb for forty days, after which he becomes a clot of blood for forty days, then a lump for forty days, then Allah, the Mighty and the Majestic, sends to him an angel, who asks, ‘Lord, a male or a female? Wretched or blessed? What is his appointed term? What trace does he leave behind?’. He will be inspired about those issues, and the angel writes things down until one of you carries out the actions of the people of the Fire and when, eventually, he is just one arm or an arm’s distance away (from it), the antecedent book overtakes him and, carrying out the actions of the people of the Garden, he enters the Garden [Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawud]. 

What is found in the ayah, to the effect that Allah, Exalted is He, makes the offspring of Adam testify against their own selves, and makes them confirm that He is indeed the Lord, assuming that is not part of the metaphorical expressions, the presence of which in the Qur’an cannot be denied – as in the case, e.g., of His statement, may He be Exalted: «They found there a wall about to fall down and he built it up» (Surah al-Kahf: 76)  and the likes thereof –, it is not something preposterous, for Allah’s subtle Power, Exalted is He, to give them life at that time and gift them, despite being no more than atoms, intellects by which they understood His address and acknowledged that He was their Lord and Creator, so that their tongues could confirm to Him that, and subsequently to withdraw that understanding, acknowledgment and endorsement from children, despite their perfected creation, when they are born into this world, as Allah mentioned when He said: «Allah brought you out of your mothers’ wombs knowing nothing at all» (Surah an-Nahl: 78). Whoever brings iman in Allah in his youth, worships him the way He is entitled to, and then dies a kafir, his wretchedness was known previously in the Mother-Book, and he was written down as a wretched creature in his mother’s womb; whereas the one who grows up on kufr and misguidance, worshipping Satan, covering up the truth about the All-Merciful and adoring statues and idols, yet his life is sealed with Islam and iman at the time of his death, he is among those predestined by Allah to happiness, having been written down as a blessed creature in his mother’s womb.

 

This is the correct position on the issue of what children are born upon."

 

 

Ibn Rushd the Judge then moves onto the treatment of the twin issue, namely, whether children who die before puberty enter the Garden or the Fire.

 

Unfortunately, time constraints prevent us from delving into such a fascinating topic. The avid reader should refer to the relevant passage in the cited work (pp. 662-665), as well as to the even more comprehensive examination of the mas’alah in the collection of fatawa by the brilliant contemporary Maliki scholar from Algeria, Muhammad Sukhal al-Majjaji, published by Dar Ibn Hazm in 2014, pp. 258-273.

 



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