At Her Feet


After finally getting my infant son to sleep, I attempted to catch up on housework that I had abandoned while he was awake.  As I reached for each hanger in order to put up some laundered clothes, I tried desperately to be as quiet as possible so that I didn't wake him up.  At that moment, an old memory surfaced in my mind: I remember as a teenager, I used to stay out late and wake up late, even to my mother’s displeasure.  She would try to wake me up around 11 am, without any success.  Even in her irritation, she was patient with my stubborn defiance.  I would hear her shifting through hangers as she put up my clothes in the closet, or hear her mowing the lawn outside my window as I slept.  With all the commotion, I would wake up in a drowsy, grumpy mood, wondering why she had to 'make all that noise' while I was sleeping.  As I now ponder it, maybe I was just overlooking the fact that while she tended to her relentless schedule, she was making every effort to still let me sleep.  With that thought, I looked at my own child now sweetly sleeping – and tears came to my eyes.  As a teenager, I was naïve to my mother's unyielding responsibility – and now, here I am as a mother: trying to make sure I was as quiet as possible, in order for my own child to sleep.


Motherhood.  It is the biggest challenge I have ever had.  At some point it seems overwhelming, yet it is then I have to remind myself that it yields some of the greatest benefits a woman can ever have.


Inspiring
I have not always understood the magnitude of a mother's hardship; the revelation of honoring my mother in a dignified manner did not happen till I accepted Islam.  Now don't get me wrong - I always admired her - but Islam's teaching that the mother should be revered was inspiring.  It was then that I looked at my mother in a different light.  I respected her because she went through natural childbirth and struggled to bring up 4 children.  And when the onset of parenthood reached me, I began to sympathize with her, along with every woman who embraced the adventure of motherhood.


"Revere the wombs that bore you!" (An-Nisaa:1)
In Islam, we are obligated to be dutiful to our parents, as Allah revealed in the Quran: "Now [among the best of the deeds which] We have enjoined upon man is goodness towards his parents. In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth; and her bearing him and his utter dependence on her took thirty months." (Ahqaf:15)  The Tafsir of Ibn Kathir expounds on the verses: "'And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents.' --This was also recorded by Muslim and the Sunan compilers, except for Ibn Majah. Allah continues, 'His mother bears him with hardship.' -- which 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 she delivers him with hardship.' -- meaning, she also delivers him with hardship, suffering the pains of labor and their severity. 'And (the period of) his gestation and weaning is thirty months,' -- `Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, used this Ayah along with the following two Ayat to prove that the minimum period of pregnancy (gestation) is six months, 'And his weaning is in two years.' (Luqman:14) and 'The mothers suckle their children two complete years -- for those who desire to complete the term of suckling.' (Baqara:233)." (Tafsir of Ibn Kathir)

 

I know personally the great trials pregnancy brings.  The ongoing morning (evening & night) sickness for 6½ months was exhausting.  The mental, emotional and physical changes that developed caused me to contemplate what I am preparing myself for. 

 

And after months had passed, one morning I woke up for fajr and felt terrible pains.  Much to my ignorance, I wasn't aware that I was going through labor.  No matter how any mother tries to explain it, none can express to you the experience of childbirth.  And after 19 hours of bearing natural labor on my own, I finally went to the hospital.  As the labor progressed, in the back of my mind the verse from Sura Maryam echoed in my head: "And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried (in her anguish): 'Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!'" (Maryam:23)  At this point I just wanted to quit.  But this in itself was only the beginning: childbirth and labor last for only so long – and it is only the beginning of motherhood.  And for what lies before each and every mother, a child could never repay the task.  It was related in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad that Abdullah ibn Umar, a leading scholar among the Prophet’s companions, once saw a man from Yemen carrying his mother on his back and going around the Ka’abah in his tawaf. Rather than show any sign of complaint, the man was happy, repeating a line of poetry in which he likened himself to a camel his mother was mounting. The only difference is that a camel may be scared by something and go out of control. He would never go out of her control. He looked at Abdullah ibn Umar and asked him whether by so doing he discharged his debt to his mother. Ibn Umar said: “No. You have not even paid back one twinge of her labor pain when she gave birth to you.” (Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and authenticated by Al-albani)


Due Respect
It was narrated by Abu Huraira that a man came to Allah's Apostle, sallalahu alayhi wasalaam, 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, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 2]

 

I can now understand many of the reasons why respect due to the mother is supreme to the father.  While a man can, for the most part, maintain the life he had before being a father, a woman sacrifices herself for her children.  She forfeits her sleep to tend to her restless child.  She forgoes her hunger to make sure her little one is fed.  Phone calls are cut short because her baby is screaming; and sister's gatherings is substituted for play dates.  Her responsibility is a lifelong commitment. She must teach the children manners, help them learn Quran, and educate them in Islamic and academic studies. She tends to them when they are sick, and lends a shoulder for them to cry on when they bear the blunt end of life's lessons.


Introspection
To my own mother, I feel like I owe her so much. She took care of me and my siblings through our childhood and teenage years, maintained the house, and made sure food was on the table each night. If we forgot our lunches when we left for school, she would drive there just to give it to us. She accompanied my class on our school trips. She would pick my brother up from baseball practice, pick my sister up from school and get groceries from the store. Maybe she was exhausted with such a busy schedule, though she never showed it. And as the older she gets, it is imperative that I take care of her. That is what Islam teaches.

 

"And do good unto [thy] parents. Should one of them, or both, attain to old age in thy care, never say 'Ugh' to them or scold them, but [always] speak unto them with reverent speech, and spread over them humbly the wings of thy tenderness, and say: 'O my Sustainer! Bestow Thy grace upon them, even as they cherished and reared me when I was a child!'" (Al Isra:23-24)

 

The Circle of Life
As mothers end their child-rearing days and settle in their empty nest, they are then left with witnessing their own children take on parenthood, and the joy of being grandparents. The fruits of their toil blossom. They watch their own children experience the delight and frustration of parenting. They see their own sons take on the honorable responsibility of being a father, and their daughters bear the noble duty of being a mother. It must feel like a sense of accomplishment as you move from one stage to the next.

 

As for me, my journey has only begun. Motherhood is the biggest shoes I have ever had to fill.  It is from this that I now know why the Prophet, sallalahu alayhi wasalaam, said "Paradise lies under the feet of mothers". (Al Tirmidhi)



Straight from the Texts

Quran

"And God has brought you forth from your mothers' wombs knowing nothing-but He has endowed you with hearing, and sight, and minds, so that you might have cause to be grateful." (Nahl:78)


Hadith

It was narrated by Abdullah bin Abi Qatada that "my father said, 'the Prophet, sallalahu alayhi wasalaam, said, 'When I stand for prayer, I intend to prolong it but on hearing the cries of a child, I cut it short, as I dislike to trouble the child's mother.''" [Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 11, Number 675]

On the Web

LECTURE

The Mother is Equal to the Ummah
Sheikh Muhammad Adly gives a lecture about the important role of women/mothers in Islam and their contribution to the Ummah. (courtesy of YouTubeIslam)


WEBSITE

Status of a Mother in Islam


99 Names

Ar Raheem
The Merciful

Linguistic Origin: Rahm - tenderness and mercy; Two forms of mubalagha


Textual Context: occurs 114 times in the Quran


Implications: Ar-Raheem for believers on Qiyamah, Ar-Rahman is for all creation


Take Away: Allah is merciful -Bounty, vastness; Do not despair - Mercy overcomes wrath; Obedience is reason for deserving mercy; We should show mercy to the creation

 

See also Ar-Rahman


*Adapted from the class: A Course on Allah's Most Beautiful Names [Houston TX USA]