Am I sinful for not liking it when people keep having children despite struggling to provide for the ones they already have?
I know Allah swt provides rizq. But I can’t get rid of this feeling because it makes me angry to think of the children who have lost their childhood suffering through poverty, and the older kids who were forced to become third parents whilst taking care of their younger siblings. I know people who grew up in these conditions who have attested to this.
How am I supposed to see this situation in a positive light? In my head I can’t help but feel like people who do this are selfish. Can you give me some advice to allow me to see this situation in a positive light and to not perceive those people negatively?
I don’t concern myself with other people’s business but I know it can be sinful to look at others negatively and that’s what I’m really struggling with.
In principle, it is important to differentiate between disliking people and disliking their actions. The latter is permissible if the actions are Islamically incorrect, such as disliking the disbelief of non-Muslims, instead of disliking the non-Muslims themselves.
Another differentiation must be made between negative thoughts in the mind and the outward display of negativity. Having a negative outlook is not inherently sinful if you are actively working on improving your mindset. It only becomes sinful if you intentionally oppose a sacred injunction of Islam. In your case, unintentionally harbouring ill feelings would not fall under the technical definition of a sin. As long as you have not expressed your negative sentiments outwardly, either by speaking wrongly of or to the parents or families in question.
However, once you become aware of these feelings, allowing them to linger without addressing them can lead to sin. This is because it involves deliberately nurturing negativity towards fellow human beings based on assumptions. You do not know for sure whether these people have not planned a better life for their children. It is assumed that most people will always want the best for their children.
Your desire to overcome this negative mindset is commendable. Understand that anger and other negative emotions are as psychological as they are spiritual, so addressing both aspects is crucial for a comprehensive improvement in your negative outlook.
As you have already recognised, it is your perception on this issue that requires change. The way humans perceive the world and attach emotions to it shapes their mindset, influencing their actions and reactions. Ultimately, individuals are accountable for their actions before Allah Almighty, emphasising the significance of both mindset and behaviour in life.
It is crucial to recognise that your perspective is your version of reality and may not necessarily reflect the reality of those involved. Therefore, an effective way to change a certain perspective is to become aware of other perspectives and acknowledge them. For example, every older child in struggling families does not necessarily grow up believing that they have lost their childhood or harbour ill feelings towards their primary caregivers because of that. It may just be that the people you know happen to feel that way, who may only represent the mindset of a minority of people growing up in similar conditions. Even then, it is proven psychologically that memories can be distorted. For example, what a child deems to be a normal and enjoyable childhood spent caring for their younger siblings, may change into negative feelings later in life. This change occurs when they face current negative experiences with their parents or come across new concepts such as ‘lost childhood’. Subsequently, they unconsciously alter their own memories and the emotions attached to them and begin to believe that they had a deprived and burdensome childhood, just like their present negative situation. Conversely, other children may grow up remaining satisfied with the responsibility and honour of being the elder child gaining valuable experience along the way. As can be understood, it is a matter of perception – of yours as well as the people directly involved – which is constantly changing based on one’s emotions, and is not essentially reflective of the factual events.
To gain more insight into human behaviour and improve your thinking, consider reading books such as “The Art of Thinking Clearly” by Rolf Dobelli and “Surrounded by Idiots” by Thomas Erikson.
It will also be helpful for you to reflect on how you built your current perception, as perceptions are created from one’s core values, childhood conditioning, and later personal experiences. For example, if your core values include a strong sense of justice, you may become triggered at anything that seems apparently unjust. Similarly, if you have faced any situation in your past that instigated the belief that adults are selfish, seeing other forms of selfishness may create strong reactions within you. Pinpointing the reasons for which you react strongly to the situation at hand will allow you to become more self-aware and thereby regulate your emotional reactions.
Once you understand this, it will be easier to realise that the concepts such as selfishness are also relative. Instead of being selfish, it is possible that struggling families who continue to grow their families have full faith in Allah’s promise of sustenance and are internally content and satisfied with their situation, and nurture their children with the same values, even if their apparent worldly situation may be that of poverty. It may also be their culture to have many children, which they follow without question as they have not experienced anything different. Needless to say, there are many possibilities beyond the parents’ perceived selfishness. Considering that having more children is commonly seen as burdensome and entails added responsibilities it is less likely that parents would be having multiple children for selfish reasons. Even if so, then it should be understood that such traits are characteristic of the base self (nafs) to a degree, even in the noblest of pursuits. For example, many Muslims give charity and help others with the hope of attaining Paradise and securing Allah’s abundant rewards for themselves. Therefore, you can reflect on ways in which this trait manifests itself in your actions, albeit in different ways. This exercise will help you realise that while an aspect of selfishness is present in everything most people do, it is merely your perception of the world that makes some matters seem more selfish to you than others, triggering intense negative emotions. Likewise, any other character trait.
Whilst the above is a psychological way to improve your mindset, spiritually, it is crucial to accept that everything happening in this world cannot be rationalised, as it is all completely subject to Allah’s Divine Decree. In the case at hand, the poor parenting is merely a means to manifest His decree in this world, and the main Islamic consideration will actually be for how every person involved reacts to it, as already mentioned; your reaction to what you perceive, the children’s reaction to what they experience and how they manage their lives thereafter, and the parents’ reaction to their poverty and their treatment of their children. So, in order to cultivate your acceptance of Allah’s decree, read more about it to familiarise yourself with how Allah runs this world, and how He chooses to distribute sustenance, which includes every person’s allotted share of worldly experiences. Some recommended lectures include:
Learning about Allah and His attributes generally will also give you a holistic understanding of Allah Almighty, and help improve your overall outlook on issues. We would recommend you listen to the following lecture:
Besides your outlook on the Divine Decree, also understand that negative feelings towards others is a spiritual disease that stems from inflated self-righteousness. The antidote to this includes:
Repent to Allah and seek forgiveness: understand that every human has shortcomings, and the mere fact that the shortcoming of other parents is more prominent in your eyes does not take away the possibility that you make mistakes as well, except that the latter may remain unnoticed by you.
Keep your mind occupied and nurture empathy: whenever negative thoughts occur, distract your mind by focusing on your own shortcomings, and practice being forgiving of others, and giving them the benefit of doubt. List all the possible ways in which the parents who you deem selfish and oppressive may be better than you before Allah Almighty. Becoming aware of other perspectives in the situation at hand will help to cultivate forgiveness and empathy towards those families. The most effective way of solidifying this in your mind is to write it all down, such as in a journal, which you can refer to time and again.
Keep good company: look for those who maintain positivity, bring perspective to and challenge your thoughts and beliefs, and focus on their own spirituality more than occupying themselves with others’ affairs. This will help you immediately gain further perspective and redirect your thoughts every time you feel the negativity building up again, and help you in the long run to become more like them in positivity, mindset, and characteristics.
Increase your remembrance of Allah (dhikr): this will help remind you of Allah’s overpowering presence in all aspects of life, and hence build humility within you and rid the base self (nafs) of superiority.
Finally, understand that improving a negative mindset takes time and effort, and as long as you expend both, you will improve, Allah willing. It is important to give yourself time and space as you work on yourself, as you will inevitably fall back to negative thought patterns until you create new pathways in your mind that will dominate the old habitual ones through constant and intentional work.
May Allah Almighty grant you strength and consistency in your self-improvement, and allow you to overcome your negative thoughts and reactions.
 «التعريفات الفقهية» (ص211):
«المَعْصية: مخالفةُ الأمر قصداً»
 Ghazali, A.H. (2010). The Beginning of Guidance. White Thread Press: London.
Parekh, J. (2021). A Handbook of Spiritual Medicine. Ibn Daud Books: Leicester.
Ifta Research Fellow
Checked & Approved by:
Mufti Abdul Rahman Mangera
Mufti Zubair Patel