Reminder: Read at your own risk. As the title implies, this is my personal thoughts. It may sounds a little bit blasphemous but it is my own personal thoughts.
I've been meaning to write as promised since March 2019 and now we are celebrating Eid. Eid Mubarak to everyone!
I was fall asleep doing the reading for my thesis and I thought maybe I am bored with all the academics jargon so I log on to this blog to fulfill the promise to write the topic I told you before.
If you google infertility as an expiation of sin, you will found a lot of Islamic websites and religious websites that saying that yes, infertility is an expiation of sin. I used to put here the Islamic view on infertility based on the sermon by Syakh Ahmad Saad al-Azhari.
The issue of infertility is actually is not really covered in the most reliable sources of Islamic teaching, but it is accosiated with calamities and sadness. The sahih hadeeth saying about calamities and grief as in following,
(the wife of the Prophet) Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn." (Sahih al-Bukhari 5640, Book 75, Hadith 1, Book of Patient).
Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri and Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "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, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that." (Sahih al-Bukhari 5641, 5642, Book 75, Hadith 2 - Book of Patient).
I also found an article time.com on how the church could show more compassion for those struggling with infertility, which indirectly means that simply the infertility is still a taboo and the discomfort of discussing it openly is still exist.
After 10 years of living childfree, I came to conclusion that whenever the issue of infertility is brought up, one can't simply talk about it without sounding so condescending, downgrading, the sinner, the 'chosen one' who taking the road less traveled, and the one who simply not meant to be a parent. It is better off if you not talking about it at all and just go with the flow of the conversation and make things normal without making a assumption, or prejudice over the childfree life. It is better if the issue is not talked in the conversation, maybe. Because in the end, you have the assumption that the life of the childfree couple is miserable. You also may already pass the phase of questioning your fertility and that's make the conversation even harder to make it normal unless you try to stop the conversation by saying 'one fine day you'll be, don't worry" and after that the conversation will be awkward.
Infertility is somehow considered a failure, bounded by social culture and religious view. The study by Ali, et al., (2011) found that "beliefs in evil forces and supernatural powers as a cause of infertility are still prevalent especially amongst people with lower level of education" . (link to journal). Okafor et.al (2017) also had studied the perception of infertility and IVF among married couples in Anambra, Nigeria and found that "infertility was perceived majorly as - destiny/supernatural powers (17.1%), threat to men's procreativity/continuity of lineage (14.3%), women's problem only (15.6%). Solutions to the challenges were adversely affected by perception. The use of IVF treatment was low with misconceptions like it's too costly (15.4%) and unnatural (7.6%), giving rise to unmet need for assisted reproductive technology." (link to journal).
Seems like the issue of infertility is associated with religion and supernatural powers. In the society, when people know you are childless, they will tell you to pray more and pray harder, giving alms more, and do istighfar (ask for repentance) from God more. The advise is good and meant well but it reflect that infertility is reflected by your lack of connection with God, far away from religion and you do some sins that still not approved by The Higher Power.
I was struggling with the same guilt too.
And recently I make peace with my self.
I embrace the fact that I am childless for 10 and half years.
The inner peace however comes with new perspective and thoughts. That infertility is not a curse. It is prevalent in a lot of countries and hit anybody. Apparently there are no silent rules to avoid infertility. The unmarried couple can discuss how much children they want and the newly wed pray they will not be infected by infertility. This situation make the newly weds and the married couples facing anxiety and depression with the trepidation on the future. Despite the awareness on the issue of infertility, it is still a taboo to be discussed openly, and the stigma is there. And I come across instafamous or social media influencer who bragged on their womb and their 'sharp-shooter' husband. That statement surely degrading the other couples who are inflicted by infertility but these people never in the shoes hence the insensitivity.
In my opinion, the infertility is NOT an expiation of sin as taught by preachers.
1) I have problem with the 'expiation of sin' and definition of sin in your belief. It is because it directly reflect that the one who inflicted by infertility have a lot of sins. Are you sure the infertile couple have a lot of sins compared to you? Are you currently now thinking that you are blessed with children which means you have less sins? And are you thinking that after years of infertility, now you are blessed with child means your sins are forgiven?
If you say yes to all of the above, congratulation! You just prove to yourself 'holier than thou' is your middle name. And for me that is so low. When you start thinking you are better than others, check and reflect yourself if this is the teaching of your religion. Furthermore, there are a lot of child out of wedlock who are dumped everyday. So how about the sins of sexual intercourse of unwed couple and the girl got pregnant afterwards? Is she is pregnant because of her sins doing the sexual intercourse out of legal marriage is not counted, according to your perspective?
2) The wives of the Prophets. The preacher may taught us that infertility is an expiation of sin. But we all know that wives of the Prophet bore no children with Prophet except Khadijah and Mariyah the Coptic girl. Historically, Prophet has married overall 19 wives but have 11 wives in one time. There is a hadeeth saheh saying Prophet 'power' equates 30 men. At that time in the 6th centuries there were very very limited technological advancement in fertility problem, we never know why the Prophet wives bore no children with him. If we asked the preacher, they say there are wisdoms behind it and we cannot argue this. If the preacher keep saying that infertility is an expiation of sin, does the Prophet wives have a lot of sins? Surely no, right?
3) The attributes of God - Most Loving and Most Merciful
I don't believe that infertility is the curse for me as of my sins. In the attributes of God, there are only 5 our 99 names that connote negative attributes but 94 names and attributes of God connotes the mercy and loving God. We pray in our whole life for five times a day and read Basmalah in the beginning of Quranic verses, yet we fail to comprehend the meaning of God Most Loving and Most Merciful.
Narrated 'Umar bin Al-Khattab: Some Sabi (i.e. war prisoners, children and woman only) were brought before the Prophet and behold, a woman amongst them was milking her breasts to feed and whenever she found a child amongst the captives, she took it over her chest and nursed it (she had lost her child but later she found him) the Prophet said to us, "Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?" We replied, "No, if she has the power not to throw it (in the fire)." The Prophet then said, "" [Bukhari]
Surely attributes of God is not similar as attributes of human. We human is creature of emotion and we are inclined to return the favor, be it positive or negative. But God is not having human attributes. If His slaves doing sin, do you think God will punish him/her severely or immediately like human do? If a lady is sinning, do you think God curse her with infertility? This surely not the attributes of God. In my opinion, equates God with human is appalling.
4) The human biology is complex. Our reproductive organs is complex. Scientist doing a lot of researches in this field and hence a lot of couples finally blessed with bounty of joys with the helps of technology advancement like IUI, IVF and many more. There are so many medicines out there to help with the infertility issues too.
The complexity of reproductive organs and the process of pregnancy and delivery makes people value the kids and that's why we can see the glowing face of the parents of welcoming the baby. The process is tedious where the women have to bear the morning sickness, the full term of pregnancy and so on, due to the complexity of human biology of creating a life. There is no guarantee that the married couple will get pregnant after the sexual intercourse and there is no guarantee that the couple have a child will not having infertility issue with second child, hence the term secondary infertility.
5) Balance of life. I believe in energy, I believe in world balance, I believe in spirit, I believe in yin and yang and I believe in karma. If you read more on the subject, you will find that almost all religions have the similar perception of balance of life. There are married couples who yearn for child, there are married couples who decide to grow old together without child, there are unwanted pregnancies by those who not ready, there are also same-sex couple who decide to adopt. Human is different and unique and I respect all decisions. All of these decisions may change or may not change. And that happen for a reason. The unwanted pregnancies may offer the child to be adopted by married couple who have infertility issue. If we respect each other decision and situation, we will make this world a better place.