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Prophets' children between faith and deviation

By: Bayynat editor

Translated by: Manal Samhat

The following are edited excerpts from “World of Our Youth”; in which His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra), expounds on how the children of prophets, Imams, and scholars are not necessarily committed to the same path as their fathers.

The children of prophets, Imams, and religious scholars are all humans, just like all other individuals in society. Thus; they are molded as much by positive influences as by negative ones. They experience cases of conflict, where positive forces confront negative ones.

On this basis, it is not a must the child of a prophet be righteous, orthe child of an Imam or a religious scholar or an activistbe like the parent. The father is onlya part of the environment in which his child acquires the norms of socialization. Thus, the father isone of several factors influencinghis child’s personality.

In many cases, the father may be facing problems making him unstable or weak, thus not being able to administer any strong influence on his family.

So, fortuitous and long-lasting outside burdens (in the larger community), in any father’s life, may be a hamperingfactor of his positive influence on his children, especially when these burdens are of preaching nature-calling to faith.Prophets, guardians andscholars are prominent examples in this case.

Indeed, the challenging task of inviting others to faith, particularly the Islamic one (da'wa), can consume one’s full attention and effort at the expense of his household. A course of such lifestyledistances one from the personal matters, including his family.

Moreover, the community is of powerful influence even on the household of a prophet, guardian, or a religious scholar. For such a deviant community possesses enoughability to influencea household, destroyingthe effects of a prophetic message in their souls. Some prophets, scholarsand saints have even been tested through their spouses who take an opposite stance to the prophetic message, refusing the call of faith by the prophet. This is what the Quran tells us about the wives of Noah and Lot:(God sets forth as an example to the disbelievers the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were under two of our righteous servants, but they betrayed them so that they [the husbands] availed those naught againstthe will of God. It was said to them: Enter the fire with those who go therein.) (66:10).  

Naturally, a situation in which a wife refuses to believe in her husband’s message and role as a missionary  has a negative effect on the children of prophets, Imams, and scholars.Thereforethe latter verses also show that the influence of the mother is great, and can be negative if, in both thought and conduct, she is under the influence of the trends of corruption and infidelity. The reason is that she brings her ideas into the household, where a prophet may be beset by her, much the same way he is beset in the community. He would not be able to protect his home, since his own wife is part of that home, and she might be so effectual and influential that she greatly impacts the upbringing of her children.

The Quran wisely opens doors to wide discussions of the case of Noah's son.Noah encourages his son to board with those in the arc, not to be among the losers: (Embark with us, and do not be with unbelievers.) (11:42). It seems, however, that the son was rebellious. He neither respects his father nor pays heed to his warnings. He does not believe in what his father has shown of the unseen, or in his ability to face matters in a way no one else could. He says:(I will go to a mountain which will protect me from the water.) (11:43). Noah, at that moment losing hope in his son, replies, (On this day, there is no saving from God's command.) (11:43). When Noah called upon his Lord, it was not in confrontation, but in supplication, for God (Exalted) promised to help his son: "He said, "My Lord! My son is from my household and your promise is true!" God replied, (Oh Noah! He is not from your household, for his deeds are unrighteous.) (11: 46).

Why was Noah's son not among the believers? By asking ourselves this question, we can, according to the Quranic text, relate the son to the mother. We find that the son was more under his mother's than his father's influence, for his father was alone;whereas, the mother was very much a part of the community. It is natural, then, for a child to live in this community and act according to its conditioning, sincethe father,who has a lot of responsibilities and lives alone with a small community of believers, is unable to influence his son.

We can understand the difference between the cases of Ismael and that of the son of Noah; Ismael lived in an environment where Abraham was able to isolate his son from pressure. Hence, the boy lived in an environment where the negative influences of society exerted no pressure. At that time, his mother was also a righteous believer. In the one case, the boy's learning process was protected; in the other (son of Noah), it was not.This is what Islam focuses on in the case of marriage - namely, that the believer should marry someone who is religiously observant. So much so that a person, according to a Hadith, had once said to the Prophet, "Who should I marry?" The Prophet replied, "You must marry one who is religiously observant." This is the issue that concerns the spouse. Indeed "If there comes to you someone whose character and religion are pleasing, and asks for your blessing to marry your daughter, have him marry her, for if you do not, calamity and great evil will prevail in the earth."Islam then focuses on the righteousness of the household; that the wife should be a religious woman, andthe husbanda man of religion. The child should live in an Islamic environment so that his senses and perceptions would be molded to such a degree that, in the face of corruption, he would be well-immune.

However, when there are different forces in the household, where the father wants the child to incline towards faith, and the mother wants the child to incline towards non-belief, corruption, or vice versa,the harmony of the two parents will be damaged.

In the light of this, it is possible for us to learn from the case of Noah that the father should not be confident that since he is righteous, his son shall be righteous as well. In fact, it is the duty of the father to be cautious about the lack of righteousness in his wife, for that could adversely affect his child.

The father should not blame himself as being the only cause of his child's corruption. People should also avoid regarding the corruption of a child as a mirror to the corruption of the parent, thus easily say: "Go and look after your son!" It is true that God charges man with responsibility for his family, himself, and his relatives; but this does not mean that such responsibility is the only factor determining the state of manner those surrounding man would end up in. Rather, it is a responsibility proportional to the abilities he possesses in this regard.