Please God, kill my children before they are born

Published: June 8, 2014

I have to be the only mother on earth who prays for her baby to die even before he’s born but I have no choice. PHOTO: REUTERS

The midwife handed her the baby. She took the tiny thing in her arms and stared at him. He was beautiful. For a fleeting moment, she felt unbound joy. He was a part of her. He was… her focus shifted. He was nothing but a hungry mouth to feed like the eight others that awaited her at the house.

Or if one could even call it a house. Two shabby rooms with a makeshift stove and a bathroom next to them was home sweet home. The ceiling leaked, the doors creaked while the paint was in tatters. Her husband had not been able to afford the repair in ages. From clothing to food, everything was scarce, except for the number of children.

She had stopped feeling the motherly joy five children ago. The motherly joy turned to pure agony when she had to watch them sleep on empty stomachs, night after night. Only when another woman in labour at the midwife’s house had told her that she could stop the whole thing by undergoing a little surgery, she mustered the courage to bring it up to her husband. That was the first time he had slapped her.

She felt numb while her mother-in-law poured out obscenities to her, called her an ungrateful imbecile. She never brought it up again. Every time she found out that the next one was coming, she would pray hard that she suffers a fall.

“I have to be the only mother on earth who prays for her baby to die even before he’s born but I have no choice. In order for the others to live, I pray this one dies even before he is born. That is a better fate than this hell of starvation and poverty.”

These were her thoughts every time.

This is the story of Zarmina and many others who are smothered by false fears of society and religion, so much so that they keep their heads down and live this life in misery; a life in which they cannot even feed their children properly let alone give them decent education or careers. What good is such a life?

Islamic teachings are very clear on the lines of birth control and contraceptives. They are all allowed in such desperate conditions. Yet our antiquated beliefs fool us otherwise. Raising such genuine concerns in families is considered a taboo. If women like Zarmina start talking about ways to avoid conception, it causes outrage. It is considered an insult to the manhood of the husband and an ungrateful act to the blessings bestowed by the Almighty.

Uski dain hai aur tum na shukri kar rahi ho?

(This is a gift from Him and you’re being ungrateful)

These are the words that echo in such houses. If God had meant for humans to breed uncontrollably like animals, He wouldn’t have created us with brains that raise such concerns. No doubt that He and only He is the provider of our bread and butter, but He doesn’t send it in grocery bags to our roofs every night. We are meant to earn it ourselves, just as we are meant to think for ourselves and decide if such actions benefit our families. That is why we, humans, differ from animals; because we know when to stop.

Such mentality should be vehemently discouraged. Talking openly to the concerned people in the family about such matters is important. Husbands and wives have the most sacred bond among all family relations and to lead an affordable life, it is pertinent for them to indulge in such discussions.

Education and population-control laws should be the first priority for any ruling government because until situations like Zarmina’s prevail, the poor in the country will only become poorer. And this time, the blame will not lie on the budget, it will lie on us!

Just one open-minded conversation, one educated perception is all that is required to save you and your children from a lifetime of suffering.

Fatima Raza

Fatima Raza

The author is a Biosciences graduate and a student of MPhil International Relations. She aspires to be an accomplished writer someday.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Pir Ghazi Khan

    Contraception is a sin! Women must pop out babies. Baas! Recommend

  • sockpuppet

    “Islamic teachings are very clear on the lines of birth control and contraceptives. They are all allowed in such desperate conditions.”
    I would like to see a reference to this.

    As far as I am aware the Quran very clearly states:
    “Do not kill your children for fear of poverty; it is We Who provides for them as well as for you. Killing them is surely a grave sin”
    Surah Al-Isra, Ayat number 31

    I would think this ayat to be clear enough as I see your article promoting nothing but what the Arabs used to do before the advent of Islam. They would kill children for fear of poverty or gender.
    As far as poverty is concerned, unfortunately not everyone can be rich, vice versa not everyone is poor. There are many things beyond our control, I had to wait 5 years for my first child, this included my wife going through all sorts of treatments. Nothing worked. So with this in mind, while your article clearly presents the sad case of Zarmina, it doesn’t provide any clear solutions. One thing that came to my mind was adoption, they can easily give their ‘excess litter’ up for adoption if they wanted to. Much better than outright murder.Recommend

  • Naila

    While Islam permits preventing pregnancy for valid reasons, it does not doing violence to it once it occurs (unless the life of the mother is in danger). The only way forward is education.Recommend

  • Azzam Ul Asad

    very though provoking… nicely written!!Recommend

  • Omair Rauf Baloch

    Good one. A very important issue pertaining to our society

  • Khan

    Indeed an issue that needs to be addressed collectively by a society
    But much more substantial arguments would be needed to challenge this predominant mind set !Recommend

  • Visibly

    Thank you raising this important question.
    How long time will it take to convince families that having more than two children per family (i.e., per wife), will automatically make the next generation poorer.
    Not to talk about the fact that frequent pregnancies dramatically increase the risk for mother and child during and after pregnancy.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    In a country where people consider it their religious duty to kill in the name of religion whilst totally forgetting about the other (real) aspects of religion, what else can you expect?
    Religion is misrepresented, misinterpreted and poorly understood, coupled with our antiquated beliefs, illiteracy and inherent societal misogyny, these issues are going to stay.Recommend

  • Dani

    I think you have gone too far. the issue can be solved by educating the people. writters like you should focus on country’s education and health policy. the problem can only be solved by educating the peopleRecommend

  • Mj

    Iran is a perfect example for us to emulate. It is a religiously conservative country and yet still has sensible population management policies in place.

  • 2#

    Thanks for the post from Church World Service, which is surely to be applauded for feeding the hungry.

    1. It is something that our religious scholars shall give us a solution for, rather than common people coming up and commenting like the author.

    2. For author’s information, the population control, with active methods in the West (Where the CWS comes from) has done nothing but only harm to their societies including increase in rape, increase of divorce rates, increase in number of immigrants and decrements in marriage rates, and we can not for sure follow the same methods in our society for any class.

    3. Third and last, even the rich in Pakistan and all over the world opt out for 1 or 2 children. Can I please request the respected author to elaborate any particular reason? Or can the author allow the rich to go for more or uncontrolled number of births?

    Even not only the Muslims, Rich non Muslims also go for 1 or 2 as I said, so not necessarily it is again about Religion but may be culture? Is it?
    With lots of thanks. Recommend

  • Feroz Merchant

    Really enjoyed your article. Well written.Recommend

  • Imad Uddin

    I know an NGOs which receive millions of dollars from an international organizations for “Mother and Child health” and also receives millions of dollars from another international organization ” for abortion services” and to general public they like to say “We are self sustaining”. (How do I know? I reviewed their confidential documents)
    Do you think such an NGO will not have distorted view of what is right and what is wrong?
    It is a sick thinking to feel that Muslims have a duty to reproduce fast e.t.c…but almost equally sick is the approach of seeing life as the cause of problems , and suppressing human life to reduce problems rather than targeting the problems themselves. Everything on Earth is for Humans.
    The right, natural balance must be understood.Recommend

  • Naila


  • Naila

    What about if the life of the mother will be put in danger just to have a child? Sharia Law allows abortion, only when doctors declare with certainty, that the continuation of the pregnancy will endanger the mother’s life. This position is found in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, in a Hadith, which states: “When two forbidden things come upon a person together, then the lesser will be sacrificed for the greater”. This is the principal of the lesser of the 2 evils. In this case, one is faced with two forbidden things: either to abort an unborn child or let the living woman die. The woman dying is considered the greater sin, as she already has a soul in her her.Recommend

  • 2#

    and how many similar cases do we find daily, Normally it wouldnt apply right? means we can not allow abortions for any reason right? What do Ahmadis think about it?Recommend

  • The more we look to religion to regulate common sense things, the deeper we’ll get mired in bitter, controversial debates that detract from fulfilling our individual and collective potential. Religion is a matter of conscience; it can’t and shouldn’t require you to seek an explicit edict for something you can clearly, indisputably, and rationally figure out for yourself.

    And, BTW, way to go referring to unplanned children as “excess litter”. Cats and dogs have litters, humans have children. At least have some respect for the child whose conception you insist must not be prevented no matter the cost.Recommend

  • Do you even know what you are saying?Recommend

  • sockpuppet

    Assalamualaikum Naila, I completely agree. Just as you’re allowed to eat what Allah has decreed as haram to save your life, a mother has the right to end her pregnancy if it puts her life in danger.
    But she does not have the right to murder her unborn or wish for it be stillborn for fear of poverty, as this article advocates.
    And that is what I was commenting on.Recommend

  • nazarbaaz

    I mean age difference :) Do you?Recommend

  • Mj

    Earth doesn’t have unlimited resources.Recommend

  • Naila

    Of course not, only in special cases like so. Yeh the Ahmadi view point is the same.Recommend

  • 2#

    so I think if we can not allow abortions as a routine matter, then you need to reconsider before commenting next time right?Recommend

  • Muhammad Ahmed

    Why are you putting a boundary on such a great teaching of Islam as mentioned in the quoted verse and is the killing only related to physical aspect?
    What about morally killing your child by bringing him in this world but not full filling his needs like food and proper nourishment and clothing and education. This verse is addressing to all the above issues and if you have A child and you are not bothered about his becoming a useful individual in society than you are killing him and Islam also told you the rights of your children if you are not full filling those rights and are only interested in increasing the population even than you are killing them.

  • Guest

    “One thing that came to my mind was adoption, they can easily give their
    ‘excess litter’ up for adoption if they wanted to. Much better than
    outright murder.”

    Prevention is better than cure. Killing children is evil, separating them from their biological parents is inhuman… the best option is contraception. What the Quran (and common sense) forbids is killing, not preventing the conception of child.Recommend

  • Age difference? That’s nowhere in your comment above! Recommend

  • 2#

    See… I am in an argument with a child :) You need to grow up a little more to understand what I said… dont worry, you will learn… for now, just chillRecommend

  • Sardonicus

    Actually, adopting out extra children is not a good idea either. For one, the more children a woman has, the more likely the next child is to have some form of genetic or congenital disease. Another issue is the psychological health of mother and the child. Even in the best homes, children who have been adopted (especially when it is obvious with no family resemblance) can have many issues. And a woman who carries a child to full term is going to naturally be extremely attached to the child and to have to go through all that just to give it up can destroy the mind of many women.

    Also, “do not kill your children out of fear of poverty” is not the same thing as “don’t prevent having children for fear of poverty”. Just because you prevent birth doesn’t mean you’re killing anything. If you use contraception, which your reference is NOT against, then there’s no conception for there to even BE a murder.

    Furthermore, these laws and tenants were written thousands of years ago when the world was a different place, when such laws made more sense.

    It does provide clear solutions: ending the antiquated notions of it being bad to prevent pregnancy, education and more. You’re actually not offering any solutions and only offering a really weak “solution” that results in MORE harm to everyone, not less.

    Giving up children for adoption is not nearly as easy as you seem to believe it is, and preventing pregnancy isn’t murder. Technically, you could argue that an abortion prior to 22 weeks of pregnancy is also not murder as there NEVER has been a child born prematurely at 21 weeks that survived. Even then, when is a foetus considered a living being? Can you prove that it begins at conception? No religion anywhere teaches that, so what determines that life begins at conception?

    You’re clearly as disillusioned as Zarmina’s husband, taking things that don’t exist out of what actually is there. This tenant you’ve referenced does NOT, in any way, even imply that PREVENTING pregnancy is bad or murder. You can’t kill a child that never existed.Recommend

  • Sardonicus

    1. Then why have they not yet given a solution? Even then, have you looked? I’m most certain that several religious scholars HAVE given solutions already based on their interpretations of the religious text that vary across the board, and I can guarantee at least 1, if not many, religious scholars have suggested and said contraception is a perfectly reasonable solution. Even then, how do you know that these “common people” that are commenting are not themselves religious scholars? You’re making a bunch of wild assumptions with no proof and that also are extremely invalid and unrealistic. Also, where in your religious text does it say that the common, non-religious can’t help and that ONLY the religious scholars can help? What if your religious scholars unanimously agreed that we were meant to help ourselves and to accept help from any valid response and agreed that the religious text itself supported this? What would you say then?

    2. I’m fairly certain the United States, and much of the western world, actually has a far lower rate of rape than most extremely religious nations. Just because a woman doesn’t have the right to say “no” doesn’t mean it’s not rape. Also, what does immigration have to do with any of this?

    3. Furthermore, if you look at the comments and you look at the reasoning behind why these massive families in poverty say prevention of birth is wrong, they always cite RELIGION as the reason. Even look at the comments here. When religion is part of the culture and so heavily ingrained, it is as much a problem with the interpretation of the religion as it is the culture itself.Recommend

  • Sardonicus

    Wait, are you trolling right now? The person made a valid point and you said nothing that could even come close to meaning age difference, and when they proved you wrong, you called them a child. What you said was not hard at all to understand. If it was hard to understand, it is because YOU were unclear and YOU are the one that needs to try harder to be understood. You are the one now acting childish who needs to chill and grow up.Recommend

  • bashir

    and who told you everything is for humans. That is a conceited anthropocentric view of the world. Step outside this narrow frame of reference and study the universe. We are one of very many species on one of very many planets in a vast universe. The eco-system requires a balance to run. Getting out of the food chain does not mean we consume all we can. It means greater responsibility to preserve the planet, out of sheer self-interest of course, but intelligent self-interest. Lahore has a population of more than 10 million, most countries don’t have that many people. How can any city, let alone a poorly developed one like Lahore or Karachi support its citizens. The problem is humans. The problem is population. Control it affectively or nature will find a way to control it by itself. Global warming perhaps, recent studies show irreversible galactic melting has begun in Antarctica. If we do not want to become just a plague created by nature which would result in an end to this era and generation of the next with other species, we need to control our numbers.Recommend

  • bashir

    nonsense … this a western propaganda to curtail muslim population. Everyone knows this great country is full of devoted, good-natured, peaceful, compassionate muslims. Just a quick look at the main page of the website will prove that. We need more like us to fight the satanic forces from destroying our PAKland. We need to have as many muslims as possible before the day of judgement, that can be our only salvation. If we don’t Bangladesh might take over, Indonesia is already ahead. We need to prove to God how good we are as muslims by making our women pregnant non-stop. And also, women should air their opinion inside their four walls. A webpage is a public wall hence only men can express here. Have some shame please
    If you do not see the sarcasm here, you sir, are the poster boy for birth controlRecommend

  • M Wakefield

    Everything is not for humans. That kind of patriarchal, speciesist, hubristic, self-centered thinking is what is destroying the Earth today. Human overpopulation is the cause of 99% of the environmental destruction, including climate change. Man is a suicidal animal.Recommend

  • hay

    what about her husband wearing a condom?
    This article doesn’t advocate killing children, it advocates family planning and the use of contraception, which is what people all over the world should be doing, with resources drying up, 7 billion mouths to feed and not an end in sight.

    Imagine what a life this woman has. All day trying desperately to feed EIGHT starving children, then when she lays her head down, her *husband* impregnates her again.

    Poor people, poor women, educate yourselves. Revolt against your men, revolt against your tradition, your environment and end the cycle of misery. Use contraception and come to Europe if you have no one to support you.Recommend

  • hay

    Everything on Earth is for Humans.

    And that there is exactly the arrogant attitude that is causing the planet’s destruction. Shame on you.Recommend

  • 2#

    running after words will get you no bounties. try to understand the philosophy, which you are after, in your blogs right?Recommend

  • Chris

    Unfortunately, some Muslims remain ignorant to the biological fact that you pointed out. They believe proper use of condoms kills their children. They’re ideologues. What do you expect?Recommend

  • Christopher Marsh

    Islamic men won’t shave because presumably it would be an insult to Allah to destroy the fact that God created men to have beards. Why should women or men alter their body anatomy or chemistry for birth control? I am absolutely convinced that (elective) abortion is out.
    A Catholic girlfriend reminded me that Protestants hated birth control too up to 1930. The Great Depression. When God did not provide??? In any case I am a Baptist who endorses child free marriages as long as they avoid abortion, the IUD, and any BCP likely to cause breakthrough ovulation (accidental fertilizations gone with the flow). Permanent sterilization is acceptable because unless it fails, at which point you are obligated to care for the product, it will prevent conception and the creation of new life (1999/2000 of the time).Recommend

  • Christopher Marsh

    Would they consider anti-conception methods as killing, like the Catholics do?Recommend

  • Christopher Marsh

    My mom wanted three but backed off at two. She was desperate for kids I guess until the miscarriages became pregnancies that required complete bed rest. Bad enough to put out the first born and make him make do with Grandma. She would not do it to two kids. Snip snip. When Sibley Memorial Hospital asked her if she wanted a snip after two (I think it was policy) she said Yeeessss. “Be good to your brother he is the only brother you are ever going to have….”Recommend

  • Christopher Marsh

    And we have a lot of Catholics in America who would say the same. Nobody has a monopoly on ignorance. It is not murder unless you take a life. Life does not happen when barrier, chemical, and hormonal contraceptives work as intended. Life may be destroyed when an IUD is used or BCP allows ovulation and fertilization when the uterine wall is too thin to permit implantation. An IUD’s job is to deny a fertilized egg the ability to implant in the uterus. BCP’s job is to stop ovulation but sometimes it fails, and usually thins out the uterine lining. I don’t need to say what abortion does to a beating heart, we can all agree that some heart is almost certainly ceased when an abortion happens after three or four weeks gestation.Recommend

  • Christopher Marsh

    We don’t kill people because they have genetic physical or psychological problems. At least not the people already born. If we did, as the Nazis did, sure it would save public money, but it would be an unacceptable price to pay as a humane civilization. We would be as bad as the Nazis. I don’t think America wants that, no matter how desperate we get for money when the economy crashes. Even Republicans are not out and out murderers, although we did lose 20,000 people a year to the lack of health insurance.
    I have Asperger, depression, diabetes, sleep apnea et cetera. Sure it would make some fragment of sense to destroy us because it is costs money to treat these problems, sometimes a lot. At what point do we draw the line at how much should a human have to cost to live?
    And another thing about religions. Religions have one or more gods people submit to, according to various writings. The writings are presumed to be written by that god or gods. You do not assert yourself over god/gods and be a good religionist. To participate in a religion you surrender. The Muslims have it spot on. Islam means surrender to their God. If you disagree, go it alone. The people who have surrendered do not want you interfering with them. Of course there are supposed consequences for denying god or gods, but of course you are not going to believe they or god or gods are real, right?Recommend

  • 2#

    What I understand is whatever you said about prevention of life happening. It makes sense but for the last lines Its difficult to digest. As such we need some scholarly advise like you provided and we need more research on this. Thanks for the comment.Recommend

  • tehniat

    if the father couldn’t afford to have house repaired and feed kids, why does he want more kids?
    Islam says its father’s responsibility to look after the needs of kids. if he can’t afford then he should not wish for moreRecommend