MotherHood: A Creation of Allah

In the last couple of months, I think I told a friend and a group of cousins how the tough parts of parenting really intrigue me in asking the question: why?

Why do we have such a hard job in parenting these little people? (I am assuming you are only here if you too have felt the same – so if you think it’s an easy job, then you’ve probably no reason to carry on reading 🙂

I told her, this is one thing I really want to ask Allah swt in the Hereafter. “What was that all about?” Honestly – the perks are super-awesome. But the downsides are enough to drive you mad.

And yesterday I was thinking about it again and here’s what I felt- sometimes, the absolutely cringe-worthy crying episode of a toddler who has not been given this one particular thing – despite a very good and happy and exciting day otherwise- made me think of how all of the tiny things we care about as a parent are a minisicule version of what Allah swt Does for us.

As a parent, we do so much for a child, but one thing goes wrong and they’re ready to put up a fight and make you feel like you’re the worst parent ever.

Of course, as you’re reading, we all know that these comparisons fall short of True Reality because they are finite and imperfect. Whereas Allah swt is Finite.

Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; (1) Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; (2) He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; (3) And there is none like unto Him. (4)

But His Creation holds signs for us. And in parenting we find a unique sign.

Children are immature. They do not know the whole story. Yes, they are close to the fitrah, but they need guidance and nurturing. They are full of carefree freedom – but if you let them do whatever they want, pretty soon they will be falling short of the potential they are capable of achieving. They need to play and be free and be creative, and play again – but they also need to be taught and shown basic rights from wrong – caring for others, empathy, not hurting others, not damaging something on purpose – these are things we teach early on as parents. As a parent, our responsibility is to guide our children to the best possible version of themselves.

And Allah SWT Guides us to the best model possible as a human.

And we are immature. And we are stubborn. And we want to go our own way. And sometimes we see the benefits in what He says but we still want to have that tub of ice cream right before bedtime. Most of the times we may be grateful, but there may be that one time when you knew it’s ok to not get that particular one thing because maybe it was bad for you anyway- but we question and feel bad – about why Allah swt Denied it to us.

Perhaps, in parenting, there lie some valuable lessons that we would not have learnt otherwise. Perhaps in the drudgery of parenting we realize, how, just like a tiny baby, who cries out of need because it is unable to do anything for itself, how we too are so in need of Allah swt. May be not in this world “apparently”… maybe we can deceive ourselves in thinking that we are thinking of our own, feeding ourselves on our own, growing on our own – maybe we can deceive ourselves here- but in the Hereafter we will be oh so Needy of Him.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ إِلَى اللَّـهِ ۖ وَاللَّـهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ 

O mankind, you it is that have need of Allah: but Allah is the One Free of all wants, worthy of all praise. (35:15 Quran)

We are truly fuqara- faqeers of Allah. In every sense of the word.

There is no other thing like motherhood in this world. Surely, in it are signs for those who think.

Advertisements

I am Imperfect and Incomplete… He Completes me.

They try to take me away from You.

And he tries. He tries so hard.

I am afraid that they might succeed.

They mock, and they belittle, and they think that they’re enough.

They think they’re imperfect but enough,

I think I’m imperfect and enough, but not ‘really’ enough without You.

I am afraid,

Because he knows you are the Most Beloved.

He knows and he hates it.

I am afraid, because there is no other being that completes me except You.

I am afraid, because the cost is so high.

I am afraid, because there’s only one chance.

I am afraid, because this is all I’ve got.

I am hopeful because that’s all I’ve got.

I am hopeful because you deserve all my trust.

Because you are the most Truthful.

I have hope because you complete me.

I have hope because that’s all I have.

I have hope, because you Love me.

I have hope, because I Call to You

and because you Say:

So his Lord responded to him and averted from him their plan. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing. (12:34 Quran)

Copyright @2017

Pastel Illustration copyright @2011 by Saman Khalid

Spirituality in the Mundane

Years ago, I took the path of tasawwuf – Islamic spirituality.

The intention is always – drawing closer to Allah SWT.

Over the years, I saw scores of young women take the same path. Alhamdulillah for all the souls who need that connection with Allah SWT – we all need it- but alhamdulillah for the ones who feel that need. Who know that the most important relationship in their lives is Allah swt.

Somewhere along the way, however, we become lost in our Beloved. We yearn so much for the Perfect, that we see too many of the imperfections of this world stare back at us in the face. The imperfections make us hurt, and yearn more for Perfection.

Sometimes, the imperfections make us unhappy in this world.

But here’s the catch. When you are unhappy, you are unable to give your best to those around you. Your cup of Love becomes empty. And you cannot benefit your close ties. Exactly those close ties that our Beloved wants us to value. He wants us to keep these relationships strong; to give our all to them. Except in the cases where they want us to disobey the Beloved, which you see, are very few main pillars of the Deen. Apart from that, here is what the most perfect of humans showed us (sallAllahu alaihi wasallam):

 

Narrated Abu Huraira:

A man came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man said. “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man further said, “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked for the fourth time, “Who is next?” The Prophet said, “Your father. ” [Bukhari]

To become closer to Allah SWT, we have the most interesting short-cut presented in the following hadith:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, “The word ‘Ar-Rahm (womb) derives its name from Ar-Rahman (i.e., one of the names of Allah) and Allah said: ‘I will keep good relation with the one who will keep good relation with you, (womb i.e. Kith and Kin) and sever the relation with him who will sever the relation with you, (womb, i.e. Kith and Kin). [Bukhari]

And apart from family, even with other friends and acquaintances, here is the model we are to pursue:

Narrated Abu Aiyub Al-Ansari:

Allah’s Apostle said, “It is not lawful for a man to desert his brother Muslim for more than three nights. (It is unlawful for them that) when they meet, one of them turns his face away from the other, and the other turns his face from the former, and the better of the two will be the one who greets the other first.” [Bukhari]

Being righteous means that we are closest to the Sunnah of the Prophet (s). This does not mean that we start judging others who have not taken the same steps as us in trying to draw closer to Allah swt. Instead, we are to drop all judgment on others. That is for Allah swt to do. Our job is only to strive to be closest to the Sunnah, to know that we will never reach the summit, but that we are to keep climbing to the top, as long as we are breathing in this world. And here is how the prophet (s) wanted us to be:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

The Prophet said, “Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse (them ).” [Bukhari]

It is in our dealings with the rest of humankind that we find Allah swt – *if* we are really searching. We find Him in reflection and prayer and sujood (prostration) and qiyam. We find Him in fasting and studying Deen, in the books and especially His Own Kalam. We find Him through all these ways…

And then He Wants us to find Him in the mundane. And for some of us that is where the real test starts.

SubhanAllah, here’s where I found ‘good character’ to be the most tested in me: parenting. As parents, we will be asked about our offspring. They are an amanah (a trust) from Allah swt.

Giving talks, and educating young women about our Deen is easier – educating toddlers and children in the basics of life is a hard job.

We are not only their nourishers – but we are their models. We are their models in emotional intelligence, in our mannerisms, in our discipline and in following the Deen.

Personally, it took me time to learn how important it was to discipline – it did not come naturally to me because you need a certain amount of firmness while disciplining. That gentle firmness and it’s efficiency was a new revelation for me. In other words, instant gratification will make your child happy and will stop him from throwing a tantrum, but in the long run, you have not taught him to control his nafs. And this is taught in the most basic of ways. I see it when I go to pick up my son from preschool. “1 – 2 -3 ” , the teacher goes and the preschoolers get up from their tables of lunch.

It’s time for the child to stop playing: you have to count to 3 and in a firm but very gentle manner. Such that he/she knows that there is no option to continue… And how does that happen? By being very firm in our own discipline and always ‘meaning’ no when we ‘say’ no. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Why am I mentioning this? Because as mundane as it sounds, I thought, here are non-Muslims, who are teaching discipline. Why? Because it is necessary to get anything done in life. Why is it that hours and hours of screen time bores our children? Why do hours and hours of facebook even make us sick of it? Because we know, inherently, that in proactivity, in creativity and in productivity lies a significant sense of accomplishment and gratification, which is not found in sloth and laziness.

Allah SWT has given us the perfect life model to show us what will be best for our Dunya and Deen.

Look at how much we have to clean as mothers. It’s a never-ending job – day in and day out – we have to keep going if we are to actually *see* any tidiness in the house. SubhanAllah, if regularity is needed in such a mundane act in this world, imagine the significance of regular actions and intentions to our soul? Everything asks for regularity.

The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “The dearest of actions to Allah is that which is done regularly, even if it is small.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

The examples above are glimpses into ways of how we can think of Allah SWT and His entire “nizaam” that He Created on this earth, just by looking at the ordinary things in our lives, in ourselves, and in the way we do things.

“We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?” (41:53 Quran)

Apart from this I also wish to mention the other extreme. When people ‘only’ attempt to find Allah in the mundane. I will need to elucidate.

We live in times where either we have women who are praying and doing most outward religious actions, but they fail at parenting. Or we have amazing mothers, who not only dote over their children but raise them up well, discipline and all. Those who excel at both and few and far. But that is the challenge we face.

Salah is enjoined on us more than 700 times in the Quran.

Does Allah SWT give an exception to motherhood in the Quran? Does it say: Except those parents who fall asleep late at night because of the children, or are exhausted because of the day’s labouring, to them there is no sin?

No, that isn’t the case. We are told to turn towards Salah five times a day, which is actually a benefit to our parched souls. It is a spiritual activity in the midst of our mundane activities, teaching us that those mundane activities are done for a reason too. It is the way our Lord wishes to See us. Going about our daily lives either earning, or serving others, with small pockets of rest and leisure, spent with friends and loved ones.

But what if you were alone? What if He Wanted to see you alone instead of how you were with others? Do you have a relationship with the Lord most High? The One who Gave it all to you?

Alhamdulillah to that Being, who Created our lives in such discipline and leisure. In creativity and knowledge. In worship and prayer and meditation and reflection of the ultimate purpose of life. Even in everyday moments of life, we see the beauty of His Creation. We see His Beauty reflected in everything He Created.

When a child refuses to eat something that is healthy for him, because you have allowed him to get addicted to sugar and to that which is unhealthy, it reminds you of the soul of humans- sometimes we get attached to that which does not only not benefit us, but is harmful for us. And we stop tasting the sweetness of that which is truly good for us – just like kids who refuse to taste the sweetness of fruits, when they get addicted to white processed sugary foods – totally harmful to their little physical bodies.

It is in such a point in life, that one stops and prays:

Ya Allah, make each moment of mine truly a moment in which I remember you, reflect upon your Grace and Beauty and Grandeur and Might. Whether in joy or pain, in ease or difficulty, let me call upon you and be truthful to You and my promise to You.

Let me not forget that this ‘mundane’ is actually where You want me to be. It is where You Wish to see me make the ordinary sacred. It is where I am meant to celebrate sacredness and spirituality in something which is not in reality so banal after all.

Ameen.

On Intentions, and Closed Doors, and Looking Ahead

Sometimes, we are in a phase of nostalgia.

As someone pointed out, nostalgia isn’t a very positive feeling. There’s always a sense of looming melancholy that comes with it. The origin of the  word itself is Greek : nostos – return home and algos- pain.

Yep, it is definitely painful to live in the past. Which is why often we will find people who are uncomfortable with even talking about the past. They are uncomfortable with nostalgia itself. They wish to keep moving forward.

What do such people do when they meet a highly emotional, sensitive, romanticizing individual who likes to keep reminiscing about the past? This is not a pleasant duo 🙂

I am the forward looker…

I left my past of 17 years in Jeddah behind. I did not want to reminisce. I did not want to cry tears over a past that could not be restored. I did not want to glorify a city that will never mean to me what it meant to me in childhood.

So naturally I couldn’t understand anyone else who looked back that way.

I wanted to turn their heads away from looking back through that window into a past that was not going to return. Or at least to stop giving a commentary to me about it! 🙂

But Allah swt had Prepared an interesting lesson of empathy for me.

Alhamdulillah. Really.

So as I write today, I ask you, the reader, to tell me: if you wish to stop someone from looking at that door that is closed now – I ask you, would it work if you tell them: “it is closed. Stop looking at it.” The response most likely would be: “Oh but I so want to go back.” “Turn your head away” “I just want to keep looking – the memories are so precious.” “It will keep you from being happy. Live in the present.” “But that’s the only happiness I have even in the present.” “Don’t even look in that direction.” … Eventually, a resounding “Then I have nothing to look at.”

The more you try, the harder it becomes for the person to look ahead. Because you are trying to pull them away from something that is dear to them.

Perhaps if we can only appreciate the beauty they are looking at? Move towards that door. Look in through that window. Admire those blooming flowers, those magnificent trees, those memories, the radiant joy – whatever it is they are nostalgic about- look at it – see it with their eyes. Just acknowledge it. Maybe that shared bond of empathic romanticizing will do it for them. Maybe it will be that shared appreciation of all that is good in the world which will make them embrace the fact that the door is closed – and what can be done is done.

That moment of realization has to come from within. Even if you are able to force them to move away from that door, it will not truly be worth it because they wouldn’t have done it of their own accord. They will eventually go back to it.

It is ok to look back once in a while, the memories brining back that tinge of bitter sweetness… But by going back, I mean going back in the misery. That is what we are aiming to leave. So perhaps we look together at the past for some time? Do we really need to shun everything that *we* are not comfortable with? Perhaps we have our own fears about the past that we are uncomfortable looking at – but it is only by accepting our whole selves do we really begin to truly heal. So look back and admire the beauty and the mess.

And after admiring that beauty together, you both can now start to admire the beauty in front of you. The one staring you in your face.

It is because we force others to think and be like us, that we forget that Allah swt has Kept chapters and chapters about intentions. That we do things with our own will and our own desire.

It is when we forget that instead of nourishing someone so they find themselves whole and make their own right decisions in life, and instead we try to shower them with right decisions coming from *our* will, do we inhibit the beauty that this person has inherently inside of them.

The straight path has been shown to us – it is available for everyone to walk on… Let us be wayfarers who keep supporting each other on this perilous, long, but sweet journey nonetheless…

May Allah swt Make each of us true partners and helpers of each other on this path towards Jannah. Ameen.

This is about being positive in our outlook in life, but it is also about exhorting and counseling one another to Truth in the most beautiful of ways- in ihsan– excellence. May Allah swt Make all of us amongst the muhsineen.

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ

Except those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and counsel each other to truth and counsel each other to steadfastness. (103:3)