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The pain of childbirth is attributed to The Fall of Man in the Bible:

To the woman he said, I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. -- Genesis 3:16

As I understand (and, honestly, I'm not too knowledgeable about Christianity), the pain of childbirth is considered a punishment from God for the original sin (a form of "collective punishment" as described on Wikipedia; see also Christianity.SE Why does childbirth still hurt? and Where does the Catholic tradition that Mary did not have pain giving birth to Jesus come from?). As far as I know, it's generally accepted in Christianity that current-day childbirth pain is due to this punishment. (Although, presumably some Christians take this allegorically.)

This goes against the Qur'an:

... And every soul earns not [blame] except against itself, and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. ... -- Qur'an 6:164

Hence...

Question: Does Islam have an explanation for the pain of childbirth?

  • Biologically, the explanation seems to be: babies have big heads that need to pass through the birth canal. Google suggests it's result of an evolutionary trade-off: longer gestation results in better development, but bigger heads.

    It's possible the "big heads, small birth canals" explanation is the explanation in Islam.

  • A web page What Are The Rewards of Pregnancy In Islam?, Asma Arshad, Al-Quran Classes, quotes some hadiths:

    ...if a woman leaves this world during that time because of the hardship and pains of birth, she has the reward of a martyr ... [Makarim al-Akhlāq, pg. 238]

    ... Any time a woman leaves this world because of labor pains, on the Day of Judgement, Allāh will raise her from the grave pure and without an account (of sins) ... [Bihār al-Anwār, vol. 101, pg. 108]

    However, this doesn't give a reason for the pain of childbirth. Also, I'm unsure how reliable this web page and these hadiths are.

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Allah says in Surah Al-Ahqaf (surah #46) Verse #15:

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ إِحْسَانًا حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ كُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ كُرْهًا

And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship

According to Ibn Katheer,

His mother carried him with hardship

means that the mother suffers hardship because of her child, such as fatigue, sickness, vomiting, heaviness, distress, and other forms of hardship that the pregnant women suffer.

And

gave birth to him with hardship

meaning, she also delivers him with hardship, suffering the pains of labor and their severity.

Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, suffered the pain of childbirth. Allah says in Surah Maryam (Surah #19) verse #23:

فَأَجَاءَهَا الْمَخَاضُ إِلَى جِذْعِ النَّخْلَةِ قَالَتْ يَا لَيْتَنِي مِتُّ قَبْلَ هَذَا وَكُنتُ نَسْيًا مَّنسِيًّا

And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, "Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten."

So no it is not a punishment from Allah. It is just a natural pain that women go through and there are many ways to reduce the pain.

The Prophet (PBUH) also promised expiation of sins to the believer for whatever hardship they have to endure, even if it is the pricking of a thorn:

Abu Sa'id and Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: "Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate his sins on account of his patience".

The Hadith you posted ( the first one, not sure about the second ) is correct. If a woman dies with a child in her womb, or she dies during childbirth or after childbirth but within the period of nifaas (post-partum bleeding), she is considered to be a martyr.

Raashid ibn Hubaysh narrated that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) entered upon ‘Ubaadah ibn al-Saamit when he was sick and said, “Do you know who is a shaheed (martyr) in my ummah?” The people remained silent, then ‘Ubaadah said, “Help me to sit up.” They helped him to sit up, then he said, “O Messenger of Allaah, (is it) the patient one who seeks reward from Allaah for his patience?” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Then the martyrs among my ummah would be very few. Being killed for the sake of Allaah is martyrdom, the plague is martyrdom, drowning is martyrdom, stomach disease is martyrdom, and if a woman dies during the post-partum period, her child will drag her to Paradise by his umbilical cord.” The umbilical cord is that which is cut by the midwife when the child is born. The hadeeth was narrated by Imaam Ahmad in his Musnad with a saheeh isnaad. (al-Musnad, 3/489). There is a corroborating report narrated by Maalik (1/233) and Abu Dawood, 3/482). Also in Sunan Nasai and Ibn Majah

And Allah knows the best.

  • You might want to add the Hadeeth that promises expiation of sins to the believer for whatever hardship they have to endure, even if it is the pricking of a thorn: sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/1/37 – Zaid Apr 30 '17 at 5:54
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    31:14 And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination. – UmH Apr 30 '17 at 7:10
  • @Uma I was going to add that ayah but it doesn't speak about giving birth ( what the OP wanted ) so I skipped it. – Casanova Apr 30 '17 at 7:12
  • I don't think this is an answer to her question...expiation is a byproduct of the pain...The answer should include a scientific reason for the pain...as why it's necessary...I mean God could simply make other ways for her to cleanse her sins. My hunch is if there wasn't pain then people may have children left and right or it's the pain that helps the child pass through the birth canal and through all the pain and 9months of time...the mother bonds with the child in a very special way. But again that doesn't answer her question because there's no Islamic reference regarding my guess :/ – Honey May 3 '17 at 1:09
  • @Honey Well she didn't ask for a scientific answer (as she is already aware of it). She wanted something from the Quran. – Casanova May 3 '17 at 4:37

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