“Doula” is an ancient Greek word meaning “a woman who serves”.
Three days of conversing with women of different faiths and nationalities, left me, a mom of seven, inspired and ready to help women in their pregnancy and birthing experience as a Muslim doula. And it all started with one blessed experience.
Over the summer, I enjoyed a three day intensive training with Birth Arts International. Originally I went to the classes to help the instructor, with no intention of becoming a student, but Allah had other plans! After beginning my doula training, I started my own doula services called Higher Purpose Doula Services, based in Georgia. I called it “Higher Purpose” because I believe that everything we do should have the higher purpose in mind—to get closer to the Creator.
Serve Allah by serving His creation
As a Muslim woman, training to become a doula meant something very special to me.
More than just giving women information and showing them different breathing techniques, it was one of the ways that I could serve others. Service (khidma) is part of our beautiful religion. Imam Tahir Anwar once said, “Serve Allah by serving His creation.”
In the Quran, Allah reminds us of our purpose in life: “I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me.” (Quran 51:56)
I am not the only doula-in-training, who has found a connection between my work and my faith. Sister Alexandria, a Maryland-based doula from Heaven Beneath Your Feet Doula Services speaks about her experience.
“It’s deeply spiritually rooted for me,” she says. “I wanted to do something that would be a beautiful and humbling reminder and that I would enjoy. As I researched what a doula is and what we do, I felt in my heart a little light go on that felt just right. I want to be able to help women utilize their pregnancy, birth and overall family life to get them closer to Allah.”
“For me Islam is an empowerment to women,” says Umm Suhaib, a doula-in-training based in Canada, “and that is exactly what a doula tries to do. Allah Most High has made the journey into motherhood a sacred and powerful one and a doula is there to hold space for a woman on this journey.”
Sister Aishia Muhammad of Al Muslima and Motherhood Birth Services, who serves in Philadelphia and abroad, said, “Becoming a doula wasn’t a decision I made. Rather, it was a position I found myself fulfilling 17 years ago. I saw a large number of my sisters craving for assistance with love, care and spirituality while giving birth, particularly in hospital settings.
“(For example), while some laboring sisters remember their Lord (dhikr), chanting His name and making supplications (dua) other need to be reminded to do so, and some maybe too winded to speak. Your Muslim Doula will understand your dhikr and duas, can help you recite them and even encourage it further. This is the huge difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim doula. Birth is a spiritual event—a Muslim woman cannot give birth without the acknowledgement of that fact. ”
What would a Muslim doula do for me?
A doula is a blessing. Not only does she provide emotional support, but she also can provide physical and educational support to an expectant mother.
According to Birth Arts, a doula provides:
- up-to-date, evidence-based information to the parents
- information on birth options
- uninterrupted labor support during delivery
- emotional, physical and personal support
- help to the mother to attain and maintain proper nutrition
- a presence in the environment that helps the mother feel secure and confident
During the birth, a doula’s presence helps in many ways.
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth
- tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
In addition, research shows parents who receive support can:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
- Have lower incidence of abuse
For a mother in her most powerful and vulnerable state
“A doula is a professional who holds space for a mother in her most powerful and vulnerable state,” says Umm Suhaib. “She teaches the mother about informed consent, and works towards building a birth plan that puts the mother in charge of her body as much as possible. She helps the husband to build a toolbox for supporting his wife physically and emotionally, to keep the family feeling safe and loved before, during, and after the process of childbirth. She provides prenatal education, natural coping and pain relief, breastfeeding and bottle feeding support.”
“The top benefit of having a doula is having constant and consistent support for you during this sacred, beautiful and sometimes stressful time,” adds Sister Alexandria. “Through all the ups and downs that might come up with your family, your doctor trips, and life in general, the doula remains a consistent and constant source of support for you.”
The doula’s role is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience, and that is truly invaluable.
“We need more Muslim doulas…”
Sister Alexandria feels that it’s very important to have more Muslim doulas in the community.
“As a Muslim, it’s absolutely wonderful to have a Muslim to accompany you and your family during this sacred time. It goes back to the various sunnah that go with the whole process that might not be established or properly understood in someone who isn’t Muslim. Regarding getting the dad involved, as Muslims, we understand and are used to the boundaries and thus are perhaps more capable of facilitating dad being hands-on while respecting his space, etc.”
Sister Aishia shares similar sentiments. “Indeed we need more Muslim doulas. Many Muslim woman face ridicule, criticism and harassment birthing in non-Muslim environments. But as sisters in deen (faith) we share a common duty to help and protect one another in those situations.”
My Doula Diary
Doula training has taught me more on how to be supportive and helpful. I’m thankful I can be of service to help women have the experience they desire. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf puts it beautifully when he says, “Real pleasure is in the service of others, and that’s why the happiest of all people, in our belief, is the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ .”
He also says, “No one served people more than the Prophet ﷺ. His life from the beginning to the end was a life of service.” SubhanAllah, how befitting is it to take part in a service that literally means “a woman who serves” or also said to mean a “woman’s servant!”
A calling I did not hear, until He made it known to me
Training to become a doula, became another way for me to perform service (khidma). It is a calling I did not hear, until He made it known to me. As I continue my training, I take clients, and I pray that not only am I helping them, but also giving them a better representation of Islam than what the media is showing.
It is a pleasure to help women in their pregnancy journey. As a mom, I also feel that Allah has blessed me to be able to share my experience with other women, share some of the tips and tools I have used and learned along the way. One of the reasons we go through things in life is so that we can be able to help others. Entering the world of birth work gave life to something inside me that I had not previously recognized.
There have been many mothers in the Muslim community who could have used that support when they were pregnant. They may have needed more information or that gentle voice that tells them “You can do this,” or just be in that room so that mom doesn’t feel alone.
That’s what a doula is here for.
Resources for seekers
- Free SeekersHub Course: Islamic Parenting: Raising Upright Children
- What Acts Are Recommended After Giving Birth to a Child?
- Habib Ali al-Jifri responds to the plea of a woman
- “To Mothers” – Moving Poem by Baraka Blue
- On Family – Pause for Thought with Journalist Abdul-Rehman Malik
- Supplication at the Birth of Child