Friday, April 29, 2016


My mother, yanking us out of bed and laying out our best clothing - my brother's thawbs, my own jalabiyyas brought back from Hajj, and my favourite abaya stitched with little sparkling jet-black beads.
My father at the dining room table listening to his Arabic cassettes, a book or two from his massive collection laid out in front of him, notecards haphazardly scattered around him while he mumbled to himself in Arabic and scribbled out his khutbah.
My mother, asking us what we wanted to eat for Jumu'ah lunch, preparing biryani or daal and rice or ruz bukhaari or butter chicken - our favourites, reserved for only this one day of the week.
My father, wandering around the house with his mus'haf reciting Suratul Kahf, his beard still damp from wudhu, while my brothers and I tried to get out of doing the few chores we were expected to finish before going for salah.
My mother, opening the windows to let out the cooking smells, straightening the cushions on the sofa, lighting the bukhoor to waft around the house and playing Suratul Kahf in the background as she worked.
My father, lining up my brothers in their matching white thawbs, carefully choosing an 'itr from his collection, showing them how to rub the oil between their wrists and then wiping it over their hair and clothing, combing it into his beard.
Us children, piling into the car, dutifully reciting salawaat upon RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam), then loudly practising our own khutbah-giving skills, proclaiming with great emphasis, "Wa kulla bid'atin dalalah, wa kulla dalaalatin fin naar!"
Scattering to our places, sitting down to listen to our father's khutbah, trying not to nod off as he went on and on and on... jumping up to pray Salatul Jumu'ah, shoulder to shoulder and foot to foot with our elders; excitedly saying salaam to the masjid uncles and aunties afterwards, patiently putting up with pinched cheeks in exchange for little treats, happily throwing our arms around our favourite people, waiting impatiently while our father finished talking to what seemed like every person in attendance, and then scampering off back to the car where we would chatter about who we saw and how many people were there and what so and so said to us.
Coming home to find the dining table set with our favourite meal, catching a glimpse of dessert in the fridge, my mother dressed up in her own Jumu'ah finest, my brothers and I nudging each other happily that she was wearing the jewelry we'd bought her last 'Eid.
Going to the Islamic center for Arabic classes in the evening, wandering in and out of the men and women's musallas, fetching things and passing messages between husbands and wives, gleefully getting our hands sticky with treats from our "almost-grandmother" Umm Hussam, talking too much and getting too excited until quelled by a warning look from either of our parents - but only until the next aunty or uncle stopped to laugh with us.
Dozing off in the car on the way home, grumbling a little about how long our father took, but sleepy and satisfied and wrapped in the security of knowing that next Friday would be just like this night, and the Friday after that, and the Friday after that.
{“This is a day of ‘Eid that Allah has ordained for the Muslims, so whoever comes to Jumu‘ah, let him do ghusl, and if he has any perfume let him put some on, and you should use the miswaak.” Narrated by Ibn Maajah, 1098; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh Ibn Maajah.}

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Jannah lies under her feet..."

The reason that Jannah lies under the feet of mothers isn't because it's easy or because our 'feminine natures' simply incline towards it.
The reason Jannah lies under the feet of mothers is because it is one of the most painful and unpleasant jobs in the world.
From pregnancy and its assorted conditions - everything from morning sickness to gestational diabetes to depression so severe that it leads to suicidal thoughts or impulses - to the first few months of sleep deprivation, the agonies of breastfeeding, post partum depression; from the toddler years of having a child drain you of your bodily fluids, waking you up every night and at monstrous hours of the early morning clawing at your face or screaming for inexplicable reasons (and no, children don't only cry because they're hungry, sick, or need a diaper change; very often they cry because they want nothing but your undivided attention for absolutely no reason other than to sadistically test your sanity); to the years when you must spend each day grimly trying to educate them and raise them as well-mannered and respectful human beings despite their insistence on acting like ungrateful brats...
THAT is mothering. That is the daily reality - and it is not to be glossed over or shrugged off or required for us to hastily add, "But of course I love my kids and it's very rewarding."
For some people, sure, motherhood is fabulous and all they've dreamed of from life. And that's great... for them.
For so many others, especially Muslim women who have had it drilled into them that motherhood is their ultimate spiritual accomplishment, it is absolutely not fun. You don't get a daily spiritual rush or spiritual growth on a regular basis simply by keeping your spawn alive. You just don't.
So please, for the love of God, can we stop romanticizing motherhood?
It has become so painfully cliche in talks and lectures and workshops to celebrate motherhood, to revere it, to speak about every woman's maternal instinct as a gift and blessing from God and that being a loving mother is how we shall earn His Pleasure... to the point that when Muslim mothers do finally break down and confess that there are days, weeks, even months that they hate it with a passion - they are vilified for being unnatural or damaged or corrupted, they are told that they are less than good Muslim women, that they are severely lacking in faith and fitrah.
Enough of it.
Our motherhood should be celebrated not only in terms of the perceived "joys" and "beauties" of having children, but because of the sheer agony of it. Our pain needs to be recognized and acknowledged in terms of more than "your kids can't pay you back for even one contraction from labour." Such phrases lose meaning when in the next breath, mothers are berated for not being absolutely perfect, for not being sacrificing more of themselves (for either their children or their husbands), for wanting *more* from their lives than motherhood.
Jannes lies under the feet of mothers not because motherhood is wonderful, but because most of the time, it's not.
And there is nothing wrong with saying that.