For parents who have lost: Hope from the story of Musa

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She lovingly nursed her newborn son.

She put him in a box.

And then she put the box into the river.

The currents of the river pulled the box until it was flowing down the stream right to the palace of the ruler that had vowed to kill all boys born in that year.

She was seized with an overwhelming feeling of loss, fear and confusion. Her heart became “empty” of everything else but the thought of her baby. And she almost ran after him, about to tell everyone it was her baby but Allah strengthened her heart.

Allah strengthened the heart of the mother who had just “lost” her son. Allah reminded her of His promise to return him to her.

This is the story of Prophet Musa’s (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام) mother and the baby is Prophet Musa (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام). She wasn’t a prophet or a messenger. Yet she was inspired by Allah. She was given a promise by Allah. Allah acknowledged her worry and her grief in the Quran. And Allah strengthened her heart.

“And we inspired to the mother of Musa, “Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed We will return him to you and will make him [one] of the messengers. And the family of Pharoah picked him up [out of the river] so that he would become to them an enemy and a [cause of] grief. Indeed, Pharaoh and Haman and their soldiers were deliberate sinners. And the wife of Pharaoh said, “[He will be] a comfort of the eye for me and for you. Do not kill him; perhaps he may benefit us, or we may adopt him as a son.” And they perceived not. And the heart of Musa’s mother became empty [of all else]. She was about to disclose [the matter concerning] him had We not bound fast her heart that she would be of the believers. And she said to his sister, “Follow him”; so she watched him from a distance while they perceived not. And We had prevented from him [all] wet nurses before, so she said, “Shall I direct you to a household that will be responsible for him for you while they are to him [for his upbringing] sincere?” So We restored him to his mother that she might be content and not grieve and that she would know that the promise of Allah is true. But most of the people do not know.” (Surah al-Qasas 28:7-13)

I recently attended this seminar by Al-Maghrib on the story of Musa (as). It was titled “Once Upon the Nile: The Epic of Moses”. Some of the parts of the story of Musa (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام) really hit close to home, especially this one of his mother losing her baby and then Allah returning her baby to her through a long series of events.

The verses really shook me. I felt my emotions building up as the events were narrated. I felt the fear, the loss, the emptiness and then the relief and happiness that the mother of Musa (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام) would have felt.

I wasn’t reading these verses for the first time. But I was reading them for the first time after I lost my baby girl after a full-term pregnancy. And I felt like Allah had a message in there for me. Allah had wanted me to hear this story in this way narrated perfectly to fit my situation by the teacher Shaykh Mohamed Mana. I couldn’t stop my tears when the teacher spoke about how the heart of Musa’s (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام) mother became “empty” and how Allah “bound fast” her heart. My heart skipped a beat when he recited verse 13 where Allah’s promise comes true and her baby is returned to her.

The words in the verses were particularly striking. In verse seven, Allah promises Musa’s (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام) mother “We will return him to you” (Inna Raadduhu). And a few scenes later in verse 13, Allah says “So We restored him to his mother (Fa Radadnahu) that she might be content and not grieve and that she would know that the promise of Allah is true.”

Allah acknowledged the grief of this mother and Allah returned her baby to her to calm her and make her content.

Shaykh Mohamed Mana explained this beautifully when he said Allah’s promise always comes true, but according to His timeline not ours. We do not set the timeline because our knowledge is very limited. Allah, in His wisdom, chooses when things will occur. Sometimes it takes years and years, and sometimes just a few hours.

Musa’s (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام) mother did as she was commanded and Allah not only reunited her with her baby, but the circumstances were turned in her favor in a way that instead of living in fear for the life of her baby, she was paid to take care of her own son. It couldn’t have gotten any better than this. Allah gave her more than He promised her. She was reunited with her son and she had both physical and financial security.

Allah says in the Quran:

“And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide for him from sources he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things.” (Surah At-Talaq 65:2-3)

And He says:

“If you are grateful, I will surely increase you.” (Surah Ibrahim 14:7)

Losing a child is one of the biggest tests a parent can go through. The grief is intense and the pain and emptiness is overwhelming. It is also one of the most difficult trials to accept, but patience in the face of this calamity also has rewards like no other.

We often expect that the young will bury their old, that children will have to face the difficulty of saying good-bye to their parents, but no one really expects to bury their baby – the baby that the mother protected, nourished and carried in her own belly for months, the baby that the parents had dreams for from the time it was only the size of a sesame seed. No one ever imagines holding their lifeless baby, saying good-bye to them, burying them and having to walk away. But that is a reality for some parents.

And the only thing that makes that good-bye easy for us is the hope of being reunited with them in the hereafter.

That is one of the promises of Allah for parents who lose their children in this world. Children who die on fitrah (before puberty) go straight to Jannah and wait to bring their parents there. The prerequisite often mentioned in the hadith for this reward is patience and anticipating the reward from Allah.

Abu Musa reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “When a person’s child dies, Allah the Most High asks His angels, ‘Have you taken out the life of the child of My slave?’

They reply in the affirmative.

He then asks, ‘Have you taken the fruit of his heart?’

They reply in the affirmative.

Then He asks, ‘What has My slave said?’

They say: ‘He has praised You and said: Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’oon (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall be returned).’

Allah says: ‘Build a house for My slave in Jannah and name it Bait-ul-Hamd (the House of Praise)’.” (Tirmidhi)

Abu Hassaan said: ‘I said to Abu Hurayrah (رضى اللهُ عنه): Two of my sons have died. Can you narrate to me any hadith from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) which will console us for our loss? He said: Yes: “Their little ones are the little ones (da’aamees) of Paradise. When one of them meets his father – or his parents – he takes hold of his garment – or his hand – as I am taking told of the hem of your garment, and he does not let go until Allah admits him and his father to Paradise’.” (Sahih Muslim)

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Surely the stillborn baby will argue with its Lord for its parents to be entered into Jannah, Allah will say, ‘Admit your parents into Jannah.’ Then it will take them out of the fire with its umbilical cord and admit them into Jannah.” (Ibn Majah)

The Prophet (ﷺ) also said: “By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, the miscarried fetus will drag his mother by his umbilical cord to Paradise, if she (was patient and) sought reward (for her loss).” (Ibn Majah)

Every time you think of your child, every time you miss them and all the dreams you had for them, think of them in Jannah, enjoying its beautiful and safe surroundings, fresh air, fruits and company, free from all pain and all difficulties.

Khalid al-‘Absi said, “A son of mine died and I felt intense grief over his loss. I said, ‘Abu Hurayrah (رضى اللهُ عنه), have you heard anything from the Prophet (ﷺ) to cheer us regarding our dead?’ He replied, ‘I heard the Prophet of Allah (ﷺ) say, “Your children are roaming freely in the Garden.”

We learn from the hadith that children who pass away are taken care of by Prophet Ibrahim (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام) in Jannah. What beautiful company and what incomparable care!

Samurah ibn Jundub (رضى اللهُ عنه) narrated: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) often used to say to his companions: “Has anyone among you seen a dream?” and whoever Allah willed would tell him what he had seen. One day he said: “Last night two people came to me and made me get up, and they said to me: ‘Let’s go.’ So I set off with them…”

He mentioned things that he had seen, then he said: “We set off, and we came to a verdant garden, in which were all the colours of spring, where there was a man who was so tall that I could hardly see his head in the sky. Around the man was the largest number of children I had ever seen…”

Then among things that the two angels explained to him was: “As for the tall man who was in the garden, that was Ibrahim (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام). As for the children who were around him, these are all the children who died in a state of fitrah.” One of the Muslims said: “O Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), what about the children of the mushrikeen?” He said: “And the children of the mushrikeen.” (Bukhari)

In the dua that is said at the funeral of the child who passes away are the words: “O Allah make him a precursor, a forerunner, a treasure for his parents and an intercessor. O Allah make him weigh heavily in their scales (of good) and magnify their reward. Make him join the righteous of the believers. Place him in the care of Ibrahim.” (Ibn Qudamah)

And the dua Al-Hasan (Al-Basri) used to recite was: “O Allah, make him for us a precursor, a forerunner and a cause of reward.” (Bukhari)

Malik ibn Deenar was a scholar in the early years of Islam who lost his daughter when she was very young. He used to live a life of sin at that time but related a dream which became the means of his turning back to Islam. The narration of the dream is long and vivid and is certain to move any parent who has lost a child to tears. (To read the full version click here). In the narration of the dream he mentions how children who have passed away in the world are called the “sacred trusts” of the Muslims. He goes on to narrate how in his dream his daughter saved him from the “snake” of his evil deeds and how she mentioned that she and the other children were the children of the Muslims who died in infancy and wait in Jannah till the Day of Resurrection to be reunited with their parents and to intercede for them with their Lord.

May Allah make the children we have lost forerunners, stored treasures and answered intercessors for us. And may we all be reunited with them in Jannatul Firdous.

The life of this world is nothing compared to the life of the hereafter. It is only a short waiting period before we are reunited with them in the best of all places for eternity inshaAllah.

May Allah give us the strength to get through one of the biggest tests of this world – of losing a child. May Allah strengthen our hearts like he strengthened the heart of the mother of Musa (عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام). May He give us a trust (tawakkal) in Him and His promise that makes all the trials of the world easy for us. May He reunite us with our children in the sweetest of reunions and the best of places. And may He give us the patience, the steadfastness and the good life that would allow us to live with them in Bait-ul-Hamd in the highest levels of Jannah for eternity. Ameen.

Here is a useful lecture on the topic: