"It's a girl!" That's the expression we usually hear when mothers give birth to a baby girl. Often times, this exclamatory statement is uttered with a taste of displeasure and disappointment, particularly in our communities, as the hope of having the first or yet another baby boy is not fulfilled. On the other hand, the call "It's a boy!" is expressed with a sense of joy and happiness, and parties are planned to celebrate the arrival of the child in the family. Why does this discriminatory attitude and behavior exist? And until when will this ignorant mentality continue to prevail, even with those who are well-educated and religious, and surprisingly by those who have personally tasted negative reaction when they bore their own daughters?
It is a known fact in history that during the pre-Islamic era, men used to bury their newborn daughters alive and got rid of them by any way possible due to their negative outlook towards females. As expressed in the Holy Qur'an, "When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned – for what crime she was killed." (81:1-14)
In general, most parents tend to prefer having male children as they are the extension to the family, carriers of the family name, and a source of protection and support. In principle, it is not wrong to pray for a particular bounty such as having a male child. We have an example in Imam Ali (peace be upon him) who sought to marry a noble lady, Ummul Baneen (peace be upon her), so she could give birth to courageous sons who would support and give their lives in defense of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). There are even recommended prayers to be recited for that purpose.
However, there is no justification for contempt and sadness for having female children. Islam has dignified the status of women and has given them a special and honorable position. The Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said: "What good offspring are the girls! For they are kind, obedient, sympathetic, and have blessing with them." (Uddatud Da'ee) Furthermore, when comparing boys with girls, Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) makes an interesting distinction, "Daughters are good deeds and boys are God's blessings. Good deeds will be given a reward, but one will be questioned about blessings." (Wasail al-Shia)
Often times, parents worry much about supporting their daughters and providing for them. However, let us be reminded that God told his Prophet on the Night of Ascension: "Tell the father of girls: do not be impatient with your daughters, since I shall provide for their sustenance just as I created them." (Wasail al-Shia) Islam pays so much attention to the welfare of girls that the Prophet has encouraged us to help out parents who have daughters, "And help, lend money, and have mercy upon whoever has four daughters." (Ibid.)
When we analyze history, we will find that there are numerous occasions where the female offspring have brought special honor to the family till the end of time. For example, the birth of Lady Maryam (peace be upon her) was a unique blessing and honor for the family of Imran. This was surely due to the pure prayers of her pious mother who dedicated her daughter for the service of her Lord. If we look at the best of creations, Prophet Muhammad, we will find that his progeny lies not in his sons who passed away at an early age, but rather in his daughter, Sayyida Fatima al-Zahra (peace be upon her), the Leader of the Women of all Worlds, and the manifestation of Kawthar who was praised by the Almighty in the Qur'an and described as the 'abundant good'.
It is narrated at the time of Imam al-Sadiq that a man's wife delivered a girl. He came to the Imam and looked upset, so the Imam asked him, "What would you say if God sent you a revelation and asked if you will let Him choose the gender of your child?" The man said, "Of course, I would ask God to choose for me." Then Imam al-Sadiq said, "Well, now God has chosen a daughter for you. Remember the story of Moses and Khidhr. When Khidhr killed that child by God's command, he told Moses: 'I willed that God give to his parents a better and more merciful child instead of him.' As the Qur'an says, 'So we desired that their Lord would give them in exchange (a child) better in purity (of conduct) and closer in affection'. (18:81) Sure enough, in place of that child who was killed by Khidhr, God granted his parents a daughter from whose generation came seventy Prophets!" (Al-Kafi)
It is a great gift and privilege to be granted children, and there are many who are struggling to acquire that blessing. With that in mind, we are to be thankful for what we have and pray for what we don't have if it is in our best interest and is in service to the Divine cause. In all cases, whether we are a barren couple, or parents with only one girl, or a family with many children, the servants must submit to God's Wisdom, Mercy, and Will. We are to be reminded that "to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows (children) male or female according to His Will (and Plan), or He bestows both males and females, and He leaves Barren whom He will." (42:49-50) What is important is not the gender of the child we have. but rather, the quality of individuals we bring forth to society and the set of morals, values, and principles we instill in them. We conclude by raising our hands and praying to the Almighty, "Oh Lord! Grant us from our spouses and progeny those who will cool our eyes, and make us leaders for the righteous." (18:10)