Tag Archives: love

My Mother My Treasure

When I was innocent and new, she cradled me in her arms. As if time had stopped, we rocked slowly, her voice so close I could feel the warmth of her breath.

I can still hear her softly singing: “I love how your arms feel, whenever you hold me.”

A song of romance appropriated for the special love of a mother for her child.

I reveled in the scent of summer bed sheets, listening to cricket’s lullaby while she soothingly stroked my back. She woke me up gently. So lovingly that I knew in my sleep that she deserved a smile, and I woke up smiling, at her.

On summer mornings, she was already downstairs; a cooler packed with fruit, sandwiches and lemonade. Ready for a day at the beach. She watched as we swam and built sandcastle memories of endless summertime days.

Her days, hours, and sleep were ransomed in exchange for our smiles. Like a fountain, she gave and gave. She made me feel special. She made all of us feel special.

Then before we realized what was going on, I was swept away. Whisked away by friends and fashion and a greed for independence. It was adolescence, tainted by selfish pursuits. But, she was still there – my mother, believing in me, hoping for me, eager to see me happy. Even when that meant remaining quiet while my ungrateful teenage feet walked all over her.

And then there were the college years. After which, I found a letter she wrote. She wrote it to herself about the day I left. I had been excited to move into the dorms. I couldn’t wait to have my own refrigerator, my own key: freedom. She didn’t say a detracting word. She helped me through it all, every step of the way, sharing in my joy. But, all alone she wrote to herself of the pain of leaving her first child, miles away. I never knew; too oblivious to realize that my empty room was like a hole in her heart. Days went by and I didn’t call.
Within those college years, I wanted to travel. They reluctantly allowed me to go to Kansas, then cross-country. I sent a postcard or two over the month during which I all but disappeared into the wilderness of the Wild West. It only got worse.

Next, I wanted to go to the other side of the world. I cracked open the nest egg my father had intended for me to use after graduation. I used all of it, drifting along on the currents of my whims without a second thought. Little did I know, I was pulling on the heartstrings of the one who pulled herself apart to bring me into the world. I wandered away, happy and blind.

I returned months later, inspired. Next stop would be the most volatile section of the planet, embroiled in perpetual conflict. This time, my parents put their foot down. I couldn’t go, they said. But I was free from compassion for the ones who lived to see me happy. As I sat in the airport waiting for my plane to board, I received a call.

It was my mother. She couldn’t let me defiantly disobey her and put my life in danger a thousand miles away without saying goodbye; without telling me she loved me.

I imagine it must have been like a knife to my mother’s heart as that plane plunged into the skies. How she survived my disregard for her I don’t know, but I will always know now that her love is unbreakable.

After that, I submerged myself in the study of Islam. Like one thirsty and broken in a desert I drank in the Quran and every book I could find. And it was as if all my life I had been walking in darkness thinking it was daylight. My discovery was eye opening and earth shattering.

Heartbreaking even, for my mother.

After the tornado that was my adolescence, after disappearing into my studies, after wandering the world without a care, I came back. I finally came back. This time I was beginning to understand that my mother is the single most important person in this world to me. Above friends. Above my studies. Above my cravings for adventure. But, the very thing that had slapped me across the face and woke me up from my selfish stupor tore an impassable chasm between us.

I had to break the news one day. “I’m a Muslim, Mom.” It was awkward, but like she always had, she let me speak, and she listened with care.

She thoughtfully bought clothes for me when something that suited my new, more modest style caught her eye. However, I don’t think she was quite prepared for the day I showed up with a scarf wrapped all around my head.

I can’t remember what she said; it’s all a blur. I suppose I looked too unfamiliar, like someone from a far away land. Not the daughter she had raised. Perhaps it seemed things had gone too far.
I was back, but our family wasn’t the same family. I wanted us to be complete again, like we were when I was small, but instead I threw everything off balance. There was now this oddity, and it was me.

I just couldn’t figure out how to navigate the murky waters between my new faith, and my (new) family life. Overzealous and still a newbie lacking in deep knowledge, I overburdened them with Islam.

Islam had taught me that my mother was the most important person in my life. The one most worthy of my respect, my care, my compassion and whose wishes are most deserving of my honor.

I understood this, but I found myself already on the other side of that huge divide. Trying to express my love across a chasm, my words were lost in the wind. Our relationship was like an untended garden overrun with weeds, and my attempts at repairing it only got tangled up in the mess.

When I decided to marry, my mom said he was a good match for my mind. Even with the approval, the marriage was just another whirlwind of chaos and emotions. The cultural differences, the particularities, the food, the two very different families hesitantly coming together. Perhaps I could have slowed down and asked what I could do to make things easier.

When I was having my first child, I really began feeling at a loss. I would lie in bed at night, tears streaming, quietly soaking my pillow. Regret and sorrow over all the times I had taken my mother for granted, over all the times I rebelled and disrespected her.

With that first child though, came so much blessing. My daughter’s birth cleared the air and I felt closer to my mother and family. There was a common joy to share. My daughter helped bridge the gap that had seemed so insurmountable. Since then, there has been much more ease, but it’s still not easy.

It was through Islam that I learned to appreciate my mother. She is the most important person to me on this planet. I no longer put my own desires above her, but I have to put the One who created us both above her. The One who gave her to me and me to her. By whose grace I was cradled in her arms with so much love. I’m grateful to my mother for all she has been to me, and to God for blessing me with her.

I feel that whatever I do it will never be enough to make up for my shortcomings. I long to go back to that love we had in the beginning. I want her to look at me and feel love again, not pain. So, I turn to Allah, and I plead for my mother. I pray she’ll be enveloped in His Mercy as I was enveloped in hers when I was young.

{And We have enjoined on mankind (to be good) to parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: “Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Destination.} (Quran 31:14)

 

*This article Originally appeared on AboutIslam.net

 

Advertisements

On The Topic of Love

 Love probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Islam, or when you think about Muslims.

Still, Islam  presents a very familiar and beautiful concept of love, particularly in the context of marriage.

Love and Marriage

Marriage is a sacred contract between a man and woman, taking them from being disparate individuals and uniting them as family. Marriage is a promise and an exclusive permission for the most private kind of intimacy. In Islam, family is the foundation of all society and so the protection and sanctity of marriage are considered paramount.

Although Muslims avoid situations that can lead to undesirable attraction and intimacy outside the marriage bond, it is acknowledged that individuals may unwittingly fall in love. The prophet Muhammad said,

“There is nothing better for those who love one another than marriage.” (Recorded in Ibn Maajah)

And so we learn that, to build on love and enjoy it in the best way,  marriage provides the ideal consecrated fortress for love to flourish.

The Intimates Department

Husband and wife are literally described as garments for one another in the Quran. Regarding the spouses, it reads:

“They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” (Quran 2:187)

This description symbolizes the romantic closeness between husband and wife. Clothing is the nearest thing to you, it envelopes, protects, comforts and even beautifies. In a simple sentence the Quran expresses the intended beauty of marriage and sexuality in Islam.

Pay special attention to the following verse from the Quran:

“And of His signs is that He created for you, from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for an people who give thought. ” (Quran 30:21)

Who does not hope for tranquility, love and mercy in their marriage?  Obviously we are meant to view our marriages in this way and prevent them from descending into turmoil or from losing that spark of love and affection.

“You complete me.”

Remember Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire?

 

youcomplete me.jpg

 

How many hearts melted when he said those words? I think it is fair to say that almost any woman on earth would absolutely love to be told by her beau that he is not complete without her. It goes even deeper than having a companion to love in life. In Islam we believe that men and women were initially created from one soul, thus one is forever longing for its other half. Think: soulmates. The Quran says:

“It is He (God) who created you from one soul and created from it, its mate that he might dwell in security (peace, comfort, love) with her.” (Quran 7:189)

The important bond of marriage is also considered half of religion, because the prophet Muhammad described it in this way. The Muslim spouses are partners, helping each other, side by side, hand in hand. Finding pleasure in one another and acting as allies, helping each other stay focussed and determined in seeking God’s favor. They wake each other up for prayers and encourage each other to do good.

 

Examples to Live By

Much of what we learn in Islam regarding how to conduct our own lives, comes from lessons provided through the examples of others. The Quran is chock full of  examples of admirable character and  conduct. From prophets Noah, Abraham, Joseph, to Jesus and many in between, we learn deep life lessons and find solace and inspiration. The life of Muhammad is  meticulously recorded in volumes of hadith. This allows us to observe the way he implemented the divine guidance he received.

We learn quite a bit about love from Muhammad’s life.  He accepted the marriage proposal of his first wife, Khadijah while he was a young man. She was older than him and a widow. He loved and cared for her deeply. She was his rock, supporting him through the most difficult times of his life after he became a prophet. She was the first one Muslim. 

The year she passed away has been forever named “the year of sadness”. They were married for a quarter of a century and long after her passing he recalled her fondly and longingly. Aisha, whom he married years after the death of Khadijah is reported to have said that she was never jealous of anyone as she was jealous of Khadijah, even though she was no longer living.

A great example of marriage in the Quran is that of the prophet Zakaria and his wife. The Quran tells us that until they reached old age, they had not had any children. Zakaria deeply desired a child. 

It’s subtle, but I think it sweet that he “cried to His Lord in secret” (Quran 19:3)  praying for a child. He did not burden his wife, but  protected his wife from the suffering she may experience if he had complained to her. They must have been an extraordinarily special couple; their prayer was granted with the birth of John. 

They are described as always rushing to do good:

 

“Indeed, they used to race to do good deeds and supplicate to Us (God) in hope and fear, they used to call on (God) with love and reverence, and humble themselves before (God).” (Quran 21:90)

 

From Zakaria and his wife we learn one of the best parts of marriage is helping one another to do good, supporting and encouraging each other to be our absolute best.

21st Century Love

With all the great advice and endearing examples provided in Islam, Muslims have the tools to potentially enjoy ideal love and marriage bliss.

“You may now kiss the bride!” Many of the couples who get married today have already had their first kiss, but for Muslims the wedding day is literally the first time they touch.

The majority of Muslims continue to remain virgins until marriage in spite of the overwhelming social pressure from society and media, from TV to Subway billboards. Saving themselves for their soulmate and life partner.

Though this is not always the case, and divorce rates are increasing in the Muslim population as they are generally across the board, still many Muslim couples today have long-lasting, loving marriages.  I believe the more Muslims stick to the teachings of Islam, the more happy marriages will be enjoyed.

Despite the various images of Islam floating around, there is no doubt that Islam includes the notion of Love and provides the basis for a loving, romantic relationship and family foundation.

I want to end with this picture from my friend Sahar’s wedding day. I love looking at it. It’s so delicate and a the same time sensuous. For me, it really embodies they way I see marriage in Islam.

They’ve been together a long time now, with six grown children. They are a family of various talents and accomplishments. The story of their family began on that day:

saharwedding1
Shahid and Sahar Abdulaziz

Whatever your faith, I hope you can experience a love like the love described in Islam: A partnership  full of mercy; tranquil, comforting and sweet.

Father’s Day: The Elephant in the Room

It’s always awkward for me when holidays like Father’s Day roll around.

A special day to celebrate our fathers and let them know how much we care? Sheesh! In Islam, we’re supposed to do that every day!

But…  I don’t. Not adequately at least. In fact, by the standard of Islam, I should be doing a lot more for both my parents.

So, when Father’s Day comes, it’s like an elephant in the room for me.

I want to avoid making something of it because we just don’t participate in extra ritualized “holy” days. At the same time, that huge elephant is crowding my space, reminding me that I don’t show my appreciation for my Dad enough. I suddenly feel so small, so pathetic – and I want to call, but at the same time I want to ignore it. I should have called yesterday, or the day before!  So I put it off and put it off, rehearsing my words each time, until, it becomes late in the evening. I’ll call tomorrow. Rationalizing my hesitation to myself.

So here I am, a day late, or 364 days early depending how you look at it.

The truth is, Islam affords parents very high status. Treating them right, showing them gratitude and mercy is a fundamental part of showing gratefulness to God. In the Quran this is emphasized to the extent that kindness to parents is put directly following the most important pillar of Islam, worshipping God:

“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them graciously.” (Quran 17:23)

If nothing else, Father’s day and Mother’s day serve to show me the glaring deficiency in my treatment of my parents. The fact that I know they will feel neglected by me that day only highlights the neglect on every other day, because in fact, every day should serve to honor them, and every day they should feel my love, my appreciation for them – whether by presence, words, actions, or some small token.

These holidays are probably like elephants in the room for my family as well; my absence must be painfully obvious. A heightened awareness of my silence or apparent lack of appreciation may linger in the backs of their minds, unspoken, all day.

The only way to overcome this would be: to be the kind of daughter I should be, the kind God has instructed me to be, on a daily, or at least regular basis, such that when holidays roll around, my family will still know how much they are loved and appreciated – whether I’m there to party with them or not. Even if I happen not to call that day.

What My Husband Said Before He Left

Last night, it was time for my husband to go.

Before he opened the car door, he turned and looked intently into my eyes.

The words he uttered caused tears to well up. I felt my heart quiver.

He had to go.

But only after entrusting me into God’s care with these words:

*”أستودعكم الله الذي لا تضيع ودائعه”

I entrust you to God, The One Who does not lose what He has been entrusted with.”

Through this simple sentence, I felt his care, and his concern for me while he is away.

It conveys to me that he sees himself as my protector in life, that I am under his care; his responsibility. While he is away and always, there is no greater protector than the One who has power over all things, so my husband asked Him to safeguard me.

I feel treasured and loved.

These are the beautiful manners taught to us by the prophet Muhammad.

Does this prayer guarantee that I won’t get hurt, or that nothing undesirable will happen?

No, it’s not that…

What it means, is that as we part, we remind ourselves to put our trust in God. We remember not to fear, that which we have no control over, but to place into God’s hands our affairs and our lives. Whatever happens only occurs with His ultimate wisdom.

I found the moment my husband left, so beautiful; so moving.

Though I yearn for his return, the peace inspired by his words; by our way of life – Islam – makes me feel at ease.

Likewise, I entrust my husband, my partner who gives so much of himself to provide me and our children with a happy and comfortable life, my guardian, my noble knight, into God’s care with these words:

**”أَسْتَوْدِعُ اللَّهَ دِينَكَ وَأَمَانَتَكَ وَخَوَاتِيمَ عَمَلِكَ”

“I place your religion, your faithfulness and the ends of your deeds in the trust of  God”

 ***”زَوَّدَكَ اللَّهُ التَّقْوَى وَغَفَرَ لَكَ ذَنْبَكَ وَيَسَّرَ الْخَيْرَ لَكَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْتَ “

“May God bless you with righteousness and forgive your sins and make goodness easy for you wherever you are”

I thank God for guiding me to this beautiful way of life, so rich and so profound, and for all the love in my life. I thank Him for all those who care for me, and all those I love and care for. I thank our Maker for a husband who remembers Him and whose actions and words are guided by that remembrance.

A beach with palm trees is not the closest thing to paradise on Earth. For me, it is life lived in Islam that delivers a taste of bliss.

_______________________________________________________

Authentic sources of the prayers mentioned here:

*Saheeh Ibn Majah 2/133 

**Saheeh At-Tirmidhi 2/155

***Sahih At-Tirmidhi, 3/155

I’m Dying

It’s definite, confirmed.

I’m Dying.

The most sure, undeniable thing about my life, is that I am going to experience death.

I just don’t know when.

It could be today, in a week… anytime really.

My hands will no longer touch the skin of my children, their hair.

My eyes will cease to gaze at the breathtaking sky and my shoulders will no more feel the pleasure of embrace.

My life is only a road leading to that destination.

That inevitable moment where my body will become just an empty vessel that will be consumed by the earth.

Before my Islam, this realization was difficult to endure.

I realized I could leave my home to go somewhere and never arrive, or never return; that I could begin crossing the street and be smashed by a car; that virtually at any moment- my life could simply end… and that’s true for all of us.

The fragility of life begs many questions doesn’t it?

Do you ever wonder; Why?

I am a Mother. My husband and I have five adorable and sweet, little children.

I watch my youngest daughter, who is two, bouncing around the house, her cheeks like plump pillows or balloons when she smiles and laughs. So adorable, so precious,

But she too will have to die… my baby.

Doesn’t that make you think?

Think of your favorite actor or actress… or the most beautiful model you admire – they seem so eternal in their pictures, in their roles…

But they too are only traveling towards their deaths.

Doesn’t that bother you?

Of course it does, it should.

When we realize that life is temporary it necessitates that we search for it’s meaning,

Not ignore it!

I’m not saying we should find meaning in our lives, like, “My purpose in life is to help others.” or, “my purpose in life is to make art.”

But the actual reason we are here; that we have been given life.

Often instead, we treat it like a freak accident when someone dies. We search for diets and health regimens as if they will protect us from life’s end –

But they won’t.

We say goodbye to our friends and coworkers as if we will definitely see them tomorrow.

We look at our treasured children and forget that their lives are finite.

We should be preparing them not just for college and marriage – but for true success and we can only do that if we are preparing ourselves.

We can only do that if we have sure knowledge and clear guidance.

How could you be here on earth, where there is illness and loss and earthquakes and fighting and death and birth and happiness and beauty and pain and uncertainty and pleasure and time…

Yet, your greatest purpose is to have fun and enjoy it?

Or to love and be kind?

How is loving people or being kind to people who are also going to die, an integral purpose?

The fact that these things are not completely satisfying should propel us further – one shouldn’t rest, until they are sure they’ve found the truth.

That’s right: truth.

Not blind faith, or something that makes you feel better.

Truth.

And there cannot be multiple truths about our existence.

Only one.

Then, upon finding the truth one must pursue knowledge and practice of it – that is by necessity.

Life is not a mystery left for us to wonder about for it’s extent.

Isn’t that good news?

It’s good news.

If you are someone who is truly seeking the truth and you are fully willing to submit to it once you discover it, then ask the One who created you for help, and He will surely guide you to it.

That is a fact.

I know why I am here. I know why we are here, how we got here and where we are going. I only know this because the One who created all of it provided us that information.

I don’t ignore death or try to forget about it. I remember it often  – the destroyer of life’s pleasures.

It’s not to be macabre or morbid, but as motivation to do good and avoid being lazy.

Because that is how we keep from being distracted by life from our true purpose.  So we don’t get lost in pleasure and family and tasks and responsibilities. Or even sadness, depression or anxiety. 

Death is not the calamity, but the hardening of our hearts and the denial of the One who gave us life, that is the real misfortune.

So we remember life is short and can end at any moment, thus we better use it wisely and stay focussed on the goal – our ultimate reality.

My fear of death itself is replaced with concern for the manner in which I return to my Maker. Will I be one with whom, He is pleased? Or will I die wronging myself and denying Him?

I can’t avert my death, but I can strive to return to my Lord in a good state – fulfilling the purpose for which I was created.

I can strive for the real life, that isn’t fraught with difficulty and displeasure, but filled with peace.

So while I am closer to my death with every breath I take, I try to also be closer to the One who owns everything, is of extreme Mercy and Who can grant me eternal life.

After I die.

And We did not create the heaven and earth and that between them in play.(Quran 21:16)

Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned?” (Quran 23:115)

Do you not see that (The One God) has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth and amply bestowed upon you His favors, [both] apparent and unapparent? But of the people is he who disputes about (God) without knowledge or guidance or an enlightening Book [from Him].
And when it is said to them, “Follow what (God) has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that upon which we found our fathers.” Even if Satan was inviting them to the punishment of the Blaze?
And whoever submits his face to (God) while he is a doer of good – then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold. And to (God) will be the outcome of [all] matters.
And whoever has disbelieved – let not his disbelief grieve you. To Us is their return, and We will inform them of what they did. Indeed, (God) is Knowing of that within the breasts.”
(Quran 31:20-23)