* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan’s Youtube page
* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan’s Youtube page
I thought that my hardest Ramadans were the ones I spent in Jordan, as a young student of knowledge. The days were incredibly long, and the blistering summer heat was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I missed the comfort of my mother’s cooking, and the familiar faces of my family and friends. In place of the loved ones I left behind, Allah blessed me with the warm company of new friends. May Allah reward the families who opened their homes to me, especially during Ramadan.
Almost a decade later, I find myself faced with an entirely different set of circumstances. I am married, living in Malaysia and nursing my baby daughter. She is almost one, and I am so grateful that she enjoys eating solids. Fiqh rulings about fasting while breastfeeding have taken a whole new meaning for me. Once, I would have thought it impossible. Nursing mothers like myself often experience a hunger that accompanies nursing a baby. Despite that, I’m realising how much Allah sustains my baby daughter and me, from heartbeat to heartbeat. Is it easy to fast while nursing a baby? Absolutely not. It’s humbling, it’s exhausting, it’s possible, and for now at least, I’ll keep going.
1) Drink plenty of water after iftar, alongside chia seeds soaked overnight.
2) Have a solid suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and ask Allah to sustain you.
3) Nap during the day when your baby naps!
4) Express milk after suhoor or iftar, or both, if you need to.
5) If you start getting unwell or your milk supply drops enough to impact on your baby’s nourishment, then know that it’s OK to stop fasting. Pay it back later, and look at the rules of fidyah for your school of thought. Some women can fast while nursing, while others can’t. Allah knows.
This Ramadan, I haven’t been able to step into a masjid, because my baby daughter doesn’t sleep through the night. Some nights, she can stay asleep for long stretches, and other nights, she wakes up continuously. I’ve made my peace with that. Instead of the luxury of hours of tarawih like in days gone by, I have precious moments of solitude as my daughter sleeps, or plays with her father and grandmother. These are the moments where I close my eyes and remember the power of intention. Every day looking after my baby is a day spent in love and service, for the sake of Allah Most High. Keeping connected to that intention is challenging, even on the best of days. What’s helped me stay present with that intention is listening to the SeekersHub Ramadan Podcasts in between putting her to sleep, feeding her, and playing with her. Mercy, forgiveness, and salvation – we are all in need.
May Allah help us make the most of the days we have left, help us be of service to others, and help us be pleased with His Decree.
List Of Nullifiers With Exceptions
Tips From Pregnant & Nursing Women
* Posted with permission of muslimacoaching.com
Muslima Coaching is a coaching service that aims to encourage Muslim women to be the best wives, mothers, friends, and daughters that they can be. We coach single women, married women, divorced women, and teenagers (17+). Visit muslimacoaching.com for more information and resources.
Lola: It is obvious your work is infused with a spiritual sense of purpose but how did it come about?
Virginia: I majored in World Religions in university in New York. This was in the early 60’s. And Islam was not even included back then. And we all had the idea it was 1001 Nights, camels and harems and Baghdad! We all had read 1001 Nights. But it wasn’t taught among the world’s religions. And I majored in Hinduism. And when I got out of university I was looking for a way, because every faith tradition is both a doctrine and a methodology.
In that, you finally come to realize that the aim of all faith traditions, every single one of them, is…(and we have the prophets and messengers and each one of them exemplifies humility and service and emptiness of ego. You empty of all that comes along with your nafs in order to be fully present when you meet God at the end of your life. And so you realize that you can’t really do that from just reading books)…that you actually need a spiritual direction; you need to see that alive.
So at the time, I was married to a Venezuelan film director and we became Muslim through reading Al-Ghazali and other books but at that time either they were crummy books, you know, like horrible paper, awful print, you know really embarrassingly crummy books or really academic books done by scholars at Cambridge and Oxford. But those were done by what we call the Mustashriqeen or Orientalists translating some of the great books like the Mutanabee but the problem was that back in their minds, at least in our estimate, they were really serving the British and the people who needed to feel comfortable about colonizing all these Muslim countries. So there was always the element of sneering at Islam, the Prophet’s wives, whatever you have it. And I really felt this was really unfortunate.
So in the summer of ’68 we sailed over to Morocco on a freighter with 8 people and bought a Citroen car in Paris, and drove to Cairo which took about year because we saw all of Morocco. And then I got pregnant and we had a baby born in Libya, Hajar, and we lived in Baydha. And then we came into Egypt in the spring of ’69 and we met some of the most beautiful and saintly beings you can imagine! They were there, living in Cairo. There were three of them, in fact.
So we began meeting with people our own age from Japan, and from France, and from England,and many countries, who were also looking for spiritual direction and guidance. And so we spent ten years studying in Al-Azhar in special studies in Arabic, Fiqh, Tajweed. And our son Mustafa was born there. And after ten years of that we thought ghasb ‘anna– it’s our responsibility to give back. We now see what it really is. By that time we had worked with the Saudis and made a film about Muslims making the Hajj, (featuring)Muslims from as far as Taipei, Kyoto, Kuala Lampur, Indonesia.
So we have come to understand the beautiful nature and quality of the Muslim people, which is really magnificent-never mind in the desert how a mechanic would take us in when our car broke in the Algerian desert and make sleep in their only bed. You know that’s really touching you know.
Then, after all those years of study, we move to England in ‘79 and opened Jam’iyat Alnusoos Alislamiya (Islamic Text Society). The idea would be to start getting really amazing scholars from japan to California and translate all the great Islamic classics. Beautifully translated but also produce it beautiful and highest form of publishing and typesetting because we saw a need and started to fill the gap.
So it began at Cambridge.The children grew up there, and I did a Master’s in Education started a doctorate. We had a beautiful building on Green Street. We had some wonderful Saudi friends who made it possible for us to have a whole building with a book store. And we started with Abdul-Hakim Murad (Tim Winters). He was just coming out of Pembroke. He was in his early twenties and he was already brilliant in Arabic. And so he translated the first of our Ghazali series which is book 40, which is on death and what comes after, from the ‘Ihaya’ Uloom Ideen. And we knew him and we’ve been close to him all the way through. I mean I just went with him to Bosnia this past August and I actually worked in the war with him in the ‘90’s and he is the one who actually has named my publishing company, the new one – Fons Vitae. So anyway we started this publishing in England and began doing Al-Ghazali and we were trying to do things in the “ahsani taqweem” (in the best form) and it worked. I am very happy to say I can’t tell you how many Islamic publishers copy us. And I am so glad they are because the amount of beautiful books are being produced by Muslims is really wonderful
Lola: What would you say is your role as Muslim publisher?
Virginia: Well, you see there are two kinds of things going on. If you look at the publishing lists of Oxford and Cambridge universities (press or slash?) Yale. Most of the books by modern day scholars and academics are really about the changing scene, ISIS or politics, or history. And I am not interested in any of that. Because life is extremely quick. I mean this last 25 years since I’ve been back in America has gone in a flash. Like Omar Alkhayam said: Life is like the snow on the desert’s ((breast)). It’s that fast. The reason I was interested in religion to start with even as a child, is that friends of mine, even at 15 and 16 years, died and I wanted to know where are they, what happened, what is death. And everyone wonders about that and that’s why I focused on religion, but I’ve always thought that I’m about to die. And I’m right. I am. In a way, you and I, we think we’ve got all this time but time is very fast and in a certain sense we both are already dead and we’ve got just a few minutes left in our mind. If you think about the past 10 years in your mind, it’s just a few ideas. And it’s going faster all the time.
So we focused on the inner life and how to prepare and cleanse the soul in order to meet God. So that’s been our thrust. I have zero interest in the refined little things that people do their doctoral thesis on. That’s well…they’re all talking to each other. But they aren’t giving anything that will address the real question at hand that we are going to die very quickly and you know we really never had any time. If you devoted your whole life to your inner life, you would barely have time, much less to go off in a thousand different directions.
So anyway, the one thing that I did think (of how others view our role as publishers) was just a couple of years ago, might be 3 or 4, in Marrakesh.There was a huge festival done in honor of Fons Vitae and it was very touching. It was organized under the auspices of the king.Scholars came from all over Europe and everywhere to talk about our books, and I presented the Ghazali (for Children project) as well. And they said the reason they were doing it because (and this is very touching) because Fons Vitae has devoted itself for keeping the magnificence of the Islamic spiritual heritage in print for the West. Because you see it’s in Arabic and French, and many languages but at least Fons vitae is the foremost Sufi publisher in the world.
Islam is a beautiful religion. It has everything, it is wonderful, it has inner dimensions. There’s something for everybody, every moment of their lives. And I had met people who can’t stand Ghazali, who can’t stand Sufism, who’ve led lives of perfect service, perfect humility,who honestly were sanctified at death. So it’s not Sufism or literalism, but it’s really doing the thing which is at the core of the whole thing which is finally being humble and putting everything else aside to serve
Lola: How did the Ghazali for children project come about and what was the process of turning this magnum opus into a children’s series like?
Virginia: What got me off on to this whole path was when I was about 22 and read in the New York public library Ghazali’s “almunqith Min aldhalal”, (Deliverance from Error). His spiritual autobiography which he wrote towards the end of his life, after he wrote the “Ihya’. In it, he describes his crisis where he was teaching in Baghdad and he was the equivalent of the president of Oxford and Harvard today and everyone looked up to him, and he knew everything and he won every argument and then he really looked, he realized, “I know the truth but I am not able to do it”. And that’s a crisis I feel I am going through in my life. And I am trying to go inward now at the lasts second but the Ghazali children’s project has been a God sent. But anyway, then when Ghazali had written in his autobiography: “My soul is on a crumbling bank. Up, up, and away. If not now, when?!”
And you know when I read that and I was only 22 and I mean by the time you are 22 you already know it all. You know what the deal is. You (don’t) have to read about it over and over and over again. It’s clear in all faith traditions and the essence of human life. I was so scared by that that I fell in love and wanted to know more about Alghazali. With his quotations from the Qur’an and Hadith and quotations from the Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din.’”, I was in a state like very high but I was like clinging to the pages with my fingernails. I could read it. I could go high with it. But when I shut the book I was still me and I didn’t know how you could incorporate those great teachings into your own daily outlook.
About 8 years ago Hamza Yusuf called up and he was very sad because he said his children were going to an Islamic school and it wasn’t working out. Probably because it was so dry and rote and not fun. So we hatched the idea for the Ghazali children’s project. Everyone said, how can you do Ghazali for children? But what it was that it was my own salvation in a certain sense, the beginning of my own spiritual life, because I sat with the Book of Knowledge, the first book of the forty of the Ihya. And that particular book is said to be a summation, the essence of the entire ‘Ihya’ Uloom Ideen, in this book 1. And everyone said don’t start with it. It’s really hard. But how could you not start with book 1?
I sat right here behind on this couch. So I sat there for 4 yrs.
Four years read it very slowly. First I printed it all out. We had all of these books translated. Hamza Yusuf picked the latest critical edition of Alghazli, the Arabic edition by the Darul Manhaj press in Jeddah. We would print out, let’s say, book 1 and send it to a scholar. So in the case of book 1 it would be Ken Honerkamp (Abdulhadi) You have to be very careful when you choose a translator, because it is their (level of viewing the world) that will flavor the entire book, and if the person themselves is not seeking the inner life they are not going to be able to translate it right. And a lot of them were done by Abdurrahman Fitzgerald who lives in Marrakesh who is a saintly being. And they are wonderful.
And then after they put them into English, they go to editors; Muhammad Huzein who has Gazali.org the greatest Ghazali website, most complete in the world and his wife who is a top editor for every publisher in the world. They then very carefully put these translations into English that could be read by parents and teachers as well as scholars. It’s totally scholarly but it just doesn’t use words that are just too high all the way through. And then I take a print out of this and would go through this and circle every key idea because you can’t leave anything out because Ghazali builds. You can outline what he says. And each thing is based on what comes before. It is utterly brilliant.
And Hamza Yusuf I think said to me once “the Ihya is the Qur’an in a usable order and if you did everything that Ghazali said, you would have arrived as it were at true being.”
So I was sitting with the book of knowledge and imaging how I would say it to my granddaughter who was 5 or 6 at the time, and so I sort of whispered it. How I would really get it across to her?
So the Book of Knowledge is forty stories which deal with all those essential points about the nature of the heart.
Lola: What were your deepest aims and purposes of this project? How did you go about turning a private prayer into a public work?
Virgina: A man is putting the whole project into Swedish. It is now going into 12 languages the Urdu one is already being used in Pakistan, and Al-Azhar University did the Book of Creed children’s book in Arabic for their school system.
But the Swedish translator had said honestly until he had this system he had no way to talk to his children about such profound concepts .
Think about it, how do you start to tell your children about the deeper realities? Well why figure it out when Ghazali already did it?
We have a huge pilot school program with over 180 schools all over the world
Some people don’t have the money to buy the books and if they sign up for our pilot school, we can send them the pdf’s and they can use them in their classes. But the pity is that the books are so beautiful; big and hard-back and exquisite illustrations. Such a shame that Muslims parents who don’t buy books, wouldn’t buy this because when the children see the beauty of the books they realize the importance of the subject. The subject is the only subject (purification) the Prophet of God, Allah bless him and give him peace, said “I only came to teach good character”.
What it is that we are doing here, is the inner Sunnah. It’s easy to be told do ten of these, three of these, use siwak, etc. the outer Sunnahs. But what about the inner state of mind? The literal inner state the inner Sunnah? And this is what’s been left out (from mainstream teachings of Islam to children)
In the stories we have a motif. There are some children walking home from school in an anonymous Muslim town somewhere in the world. and they are discussing how their parents are upset with them about being late to prayers but we don’t know the meaning behind why we have to do it.
So they find a forgotten garden (quite a symbol) and they go and find a beautiful clearing with flowering trees and rabbits and they agree we’ll meet here and talk about our concerns. And then they think but who will answer our questions? And then they recall sitting in the park everyday this beautiful old man with birds all over him feeding squirrels etc. named hajj Abdullah. Hajj meaning he has made THE pilgrimage to his heart, right?! And Abd Allah servant of God. And so they go to him and he says yes I will come and answer your questions but not from myself. it will be through the great writing of imam Alghazali.
So that’s how it’s done. Right from the start even the book on wudu and prayer.
Allahu akbar” is it just moving your lips? Or shouldn’t we also be in mode of being that is for that.
And he (Alghazali) said when you open your prayer and do the takbeer you should gather yourself into your heart, and be totally attentive and present with God. When you say Subhan Allah you should be in a state of awe. When you say: “ihdina alsirata” should inspire a state of lowliness and seeking guidance.
With each aya there is a different way to be. And this state of being when you do it in prayer, the prayers become full of light. It’s even fun doing it in this way.
Being awake to the inner dimensions of it and learning over time to be present and awake and not just mouthing words and doing postures without understanding.
Hamza Yusuf says Islamic education has ta’leem, the learning of everything, which we need to do. And tarbiya which is the character change.
In terms of our methodology, each book comes with a work book, and a teacher’s manual and a full curriculum, chapter by chapter. And each chapter in the curricula has a Qur’anic or a Hadeeth passage to which the whole core teaching relates and then of course the workbook has fun things to do and then the curricula has play acting as its major thing.
I have to say it saved my life. I can work on myself because I have the tools to do it. Now I have the meanings. I didn’t see the meanings. I didn’t see what was really going on. I was just taught the five pillars and “do this” and “don’t do that”.
Lola: Can you tell me about your Interfaith work?
Virginia: I have always been an interfaith person because of the passage in the first book I read on Islam in 1966 was called “Focus on Islam” and on the opening page it said: “We have sent at all times prophets to people in their own language”. And I thought that’s wonderful because I majored in world religions, and of course God is merciful and He doesn’t leave somebody out. He doesn’t. So I’ve always been interested in, not just faiths tolerating one another, but learning to admire one another because each faith has some very special beautiful things that we can learn from each other. So I’ve done a lot of interfaith work and publishing. We did a book with Prince Ghazi of Jordan called “The Common Ground Between Buddhism and Islam”
Because Buddhism is focused on emptiness and mindfulness. Being empty of all but God and being mindful. And if you think of the essence of Islam is faqr (holy poverty) and humility and the remembrance of la ilaha illa Allah so they are not very different.
I’ve worked on something international that is based here (Kentucky) called the Festival of Faiths board for 25 years.
(As for) the local network of interfaith work, the Muslims here in Louisville Kentucky (Let’s just say the Pakistani doctors) are doing amazing things and they are loved by our community and our mayor. For example, there’s a Christian group that has created something that’s called a Water Step which is a device that can be taken by/into interior land and it’s like a car batteryIt is taken by land and it can purify like fifty gallons of water in a minute. And when Haiti had those terrible devastating floods, these Muslim doctors paid for that to be put in Haiti and then when there were floods in Pakistan they gave the Christian group $200,000 and went with them and trained their Pakistani brothers and worked on the water. And it’s that kind of thing that should be going on between all faiths.
Somebody had gone just this past week (Feb 2019) here in Louisville into a Hindu temple and desecrated it and the Muslims were there first. Everyone was there standing with the mayor and there to help clean it off. And that’s the way we should be. We are a human family. There’s no point in disliking another group because of a religion they’ve been raised. Ghazali said: I noticed the Jews raise their children as Jews and Christian children of course taught Christianity by their parents etc etc and Ghazali says: “I wonder who we were before our parents said, ‘here’s the package’”.
These are our human brothers and we should just have nothing but mercy and love and compassion and respect for everyone. I can’t imagine being taught anything less than that.
All religions have a form, and because Islam has a form that is copying the Sunnah it is beautiful that no matter where you go in the world because people are practicing the Sunnah you can find yourself at home no matter where you go. It’s all beautiful.
Dementia is a heartbreaking illness. It impairs a person’s ability to think, changes their personality, and can cause them to forget their most beloved ones. In times of hardship, when all else is stripped away, true character shines through. Some conditions, like personality changes, are not the person’s fault. But Allah is never far, and He manifests His mercy in amazing ways.
In the early 60s a pious woman, married a simple bus driver in Pakistan. Three weeks later, she relocated to the United Kingdom, where she is now the matriarch of over 30 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Now in her eighties and despite her age and her deteriorating health, she remains steadfast in her prayers and fasting, seems to constantly be in a state of Dhikr, and is often reading the Qur’an. She is always present for family events, whether they be weddings, funerals, mawlids or casual get-togethers.
For decades she would cook and serve food to the entire family, always offering to serve others. Her food was not just tasty, but had a lot of love and baraka in it.
But dementia has taken its toll on her life, and she is unable to do many of the things she once enjoyed. She recently asked one of her daughters, my aunt, “How many children do I have?” and on another occasion, “How many children do you have?” In addition, I once overheard my uncle say that it’s difficult to plan trips and outings, because she will forget about it when it’s time to go.
When dementia strips a personality down to the bare bones, it reveals what lies underneath. The night before my brother’s wedding, she came to stay at our house, and Allah showed me her rank. I was reading from Sura al-Baqara, the longest chapter of the Qur’an, while she was lying down alongside me. She seemed to be dozing, oblivious to what I was doing. Suddenly, she shouted out and grabbed me on the arm.
At first, I was confused as to what she was doing until I rechecked the verse and discovered that I had mispronounced one of the letters. I reread the word correctly and she nodded and allowed me to continue. I thought it was a coincidence, or that maybe I had been reading a verse that she knew well. But a few minutes later, she woke up again when I’d made another mistake, and she corrected me again in the same way. She corrected me in the same manner that Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa corrects those who slip up while reciting a mawlid.
She has not memorized the Qur’an, nor is she a scholar of tajwid. Yet somehow, she sensed my mistake and been able to correct me. I always knew that she had a love for the Qur’an. It amazed me how Allah had beautifully preserved her memory for His Book, even as the memories of her own children faded.
My grandmother is now entering into the final chapters of her life. We pray that Allah grants her a good end and a felicitous entry into Paradise, by His Grace.
By Zaid Malik
This piece was written by a SeekersHub student. Looking to inspire? Consider writing for our Compass Blog! We are looking for individuals willing to submit feature pieces for publication. Share your stories with us. Contact [email protected] with your pitch and inspire and motivate hundreds – if not thousands – of others.
I started to write this article when my daughters were asleep. Almost a year ago, my younger one was born in January. Now I have an 11 month old and a 3.5 year old. It has been both a wonderful and challenging year of growth, for all of us.
I am now a lot more forgiving of my own parents, who had six children in twelve years. My mother migrated to Sydney with us while my father stayed in Singapore to financially support us. These facts alone explain so much about my childhood beliefs. From a very young age, I learned that parental love and attention are scarce, and how stressful it can feel to be part of a racial and religious minority.
Now that I am raising two little girls in Malaysia, I hope to impart different messages to my daughters. I hope that they will learn that there will always be enough love, for both of them, and that Islam is something that adds hope, meaning and direction to their lives.
When I had only one daughter, she had my undivided attention. Now, I am always torn between both of them. Part of me feels guilty that even from my pregnancy, I struggled to be present with my second baby, like I was with my first. I try to make peace with the fact that it will never be the same, and I pray that Allah will fill in the blanks.
The upside of having two kids is how much they love, play and laugh with each other. It warms my heart to see my eldest daughter feed her baby sister, help change her diaper, or sing to her. Watching my baby try to copy her oldest sister – from pretending to read and even to write – never fails to make me smile.
But, because we are in the dunya, it is never perfect. I am so tired, every day. There are times when I wonder if I will ever sleep well again.
My biggest lesson from 2018 year is this – when I look after myself, I can look after everyone else better. When I neglect my self-care, I am more irritable, and less able to attend to the endless needs in my household. I am not only a mother to my children, I am also a wife, a daughter-in-law, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.
I hope that with the gift of 2019, I will be better able to ask for help when I need it. I plan to create a better routine for myself, my daughters, and the rest of my household. I plan to exercise more self-compassion when I make mistakes. I plan to be able to spend more quality time with my husband. I plan for longer hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Most of all, I pray for Allah to accept my good deeds, forgive my mistakes, and increase me in gratitude for His innumerable blessings in my life.
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.
In traditional Muslim societies endowment supported the best and brightest young minds to become Islamic scholars. Islamic scholars were supported, so that they could dedicate themselves to teaching and providing religious guidance and clarity to the community. Unfortunately, in our times, we don’t have such institutions, as a result, the best and brightest young minds don’t pursue the path of Islamic scholarship, and Islamic scholars, even the most capable are not very often able to dedicate themselves to teaching, guiding and providing clarity.
A few years ago SeekersHub started collecting zakat to support students of knowledge in need, to support deserving Islamic scholars. Very quickly we discovered that this is an urgent area of need, we found many cases of scholars in the most dire of circumstances. Scholars like a leading Arab scholar with disabled children whose medical bills meant that he had to work long hours and was unable to teach actively, was unable to write or research. With your support this scholar has been able to teach thousands of students around the world, and has authored many really beneficial religious works.
Your support has also helped students dedicate themselves to study, students such as Sufyan, living in a suburb of Paris, who was dismayed, lost and confused about how he could study, how he could serve the community by becoming a scholar of Islam. With your support, Sufyan is now well on the path to becoming a capable teacher and scholar of prophetic guidance.
Students like the many female students of knowledge whom we are supporting, mentoring and guiding to become future female scholars of Islam. How can we celebrate the great history of female scholarship in Islam, the thousands of female scholars in 9th century Baghdad if we’re not committed now, to support present day female students of knowledge?
The scholars tell us that the best charity is the charity that has the greatest impact.
Your zakat, once deposited into the SeekersGuidance Global Islamic Scholars Fund, supports scholars and students of knowledge in need. There are many female students and teachers who would not be able to continue, were it not for your generous donations.
Here is one of the students who benefited from your donations:
Ustadha grew up in a practicing Muslim family in a very active community. She turned to Him and studying His perfect faith at a time of personal struggle. She was invited to study further and left the Western University for a traditional setting and was excited to see women scholars, including SeekersGuidance Global teachers, as educators and influencers. They embodied qualities like mercy, generosity, and patience. She took the time to study Islam in depth and flourished in an environment that inspired her journey to teach and transmit precious lessons of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Now she represents the best of that what SeekersGuidance offers: facilitation for continuing knowledge and guidance; being able to benefit. SeekersGuidance Global fund helps Ustadha to share her wealth of knowledge as she inspires students on their journeys.
She is only one of several male and female scholars and students of knowledge who are supported by the SeekersGuidance Global Islamic Scholars Fund. Click here to support the fund. If you’re not sure how much zakat you own, click here to use SeekersGuidance’s handy zakat calculator.
She was a very ordinary women, so ordinary that you wouldn’t notice her. She was so ordinary that I still don’t know her name to this very day.
I don’t remember where I first met her, or when I met her. In fact, I don’t think I ever actually met her. Rather, I’d see her, floating around in the background at various masjid and community organization events across the city.
She always wore the exact same clothes, a dark blue hijab and a white square hijab, folded over her head and secured under her chin. She said very little. In the beginning I thought that she didn’t speak English well, but later I found out that her English was quite good, despite the fact that she had recently immigrated from the Middle East with her husband and their two little girls.
Her husband was a very nice man, always helping others and driving their daughters to Qur’an classes at the masjid. From what it seemed, they were a stable and happy family.
All this time, I didn’t really take note of her. I didn’t even know she was pregnant with her third child, a boy, until someone from the community told me that she had gone to the hospital to deliver, only for the medical staff to inform her that his heart was no longer beating.
She gave birth to a stillborn baby, and named him Ayyub, after the patient Prophet, peace be upon him. The janazah prayer was held in the masjid and then the tiny coffin was taken to be buried.
It can’t be easy to lose a child at any stage, much less through a stillbirth. The Umm Ayyub must have felt extremely sad, but she bore it all with extraordinary patience. Some sisters who visited her said that she was up and taking care of her family as normal. The words “Alhamdulillah” were always on her lips. After such a difficult situation, doing routine things takes enormous courage and strength, and she must have had a lot of it.
I didn’t think too much about her situation, besides sympathizing with her difficulties. Later, as I grew older and wiser, I learned more about the enormous rank granted to mothers whose children have died.
In a Hadith related in Sahih Tirmidhi the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said:
“When someone’s child dies, Allah Most High asks His angels, ‘Have you taken the life of the child of My slave?’ They say yes. Allah then asks them, ‘Have you taken the fruit of his heart?’ They say yes. Thereupon He asks, ‘What has My slave said?’ The Angels say, ‘He praised you and said, Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (To Allah we belong and to Him we will return)’ At that Allah replies, ‘Build a home for my slave in Jannah and call it ‘Bayt al-Hamd’ (The Home of Praise).’”
Khalid al-‘Absi said, “A son of mine died and I felt intense grief over his loss. I said, ‘Abu Hurayra, have you heard anything from the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, to cheer us regarding our dead?’ He replied, ‘I heard the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, say, “Your children are roaming freely in the Garden.” (Bukhari)
If there was one thing I learned from this experience, it was that sometimes the most amazing people are not the ones that we look up to most. Sometimes, they are the most ordinary people that we don’t notice.
I am a mother of two children under 3 and a half years, and everyday is a juggling bonanza of love and service.
There are my physical acts of service for my daughters; bathing them, cooking, feeding them, tidying up, helping use the potty, driving them to swimming class, preschool, playdates and parks.
There are my emotional acts of service; playing with them, helping them feel safe and unconditionally loved, accepting their big feelings, helping them with conflict resolution, and setting empathetic limits.
There are my mental acts of service; reading to them, teaching them phonics, teaching them numbers, and describing different patterns in the world.
Most importantly, there are my spiritual acts of service; connecting their hearts with Allah and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, through telling them stories, bringing them to gatherings of Divine remembrance, and being their spiritual role model, even – or especially – when I make mistakes, apologise and make amends.
On good nights, both of my daughters sleep well – or as well as they can, given their tender ages. On bad nights, at least one or both of them wake every 1-2 hours, in varying states of distress. Allah has gifted me with two living tahajjud alarms, alhamdulilah.
In the precious pockets of free time that I have between all of this, I revise my Arabic, my Shafi’i fiqh, write, and counsel. I do so little now, compared to my days as a full-time student of knowledge, years ago. I do so little, and yet, I strive to do so daily, and this hadith comforts me:
Narrated by Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, who said:
“Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.’”[Bukhari]
Despite my scarcity of free time – and perhaps, because of it – every day with my daughters helps me refine my character in ways nothing else can. My capacity for patience, gratitude, forgiveness, contentment and wonder has been pushed to new heights. They can either break me, or make me grow. Truthfully, it has been a potent combination of both. My love and commitment to raising them peacefully has taught me to undo old and painful triggers. I am calmer because of them.
While I raise my daughters, through the long days and the nights, I make dua for their safety, guidance and well-being. The world we live in today is unkind to women. Women and women’s work are undervalued. The sacred covenant of marriage is no longer a refuge for too many women around the world. Toxic masculinity has harmed so many levels of the ummah. Hurt people hurt people, and there is so much pain in our world.
Because of the troubled times we are in, more than ever, we need to hear the voices of women in Islamic scholarship. We need more women trained in traditional Islamic sciences. We need more women whose hearts are alight with love for Allah and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, so wherever they are, in whatever role they find themselves in, they will be means of God-centred connection, compassion, and guidance. We can speak of Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ourselves, and follow in the luminous footsteps of our blessed foremothers. We have a rich history of female scholarship, and it is up to us to learn more about our heritage, and teach our sons and daughters.
If you are a young female student of knowledge, my advice to you is this: make the use of your free time. Devote yourself to your study of sacred knowledge, and study as much as you can, as deeply as you can. Know that when you get married and have children, everything will change. In the early years of motherhood, your needs will come last, and this will chafe your nafs, but it will be good for your soul. You will grow alongside your children. Everything you have studied will manifest in how you are with your household. You cannot speak of patience and forgiveness if you do not embody it, and you will get better at it, one mistake at a time. Choose love and forgiveness, especially when it is difficult. And one unimaginable day, your children will peel away from you, and you will suddenly have long, luxurious, uninterrupted hours to yourself, to study and to teach. And yet, your heart will be bruised from longing for your children. This is the nature of the dunya – it is always imperfect. There is always something missing. This is not our final home.
And if, dear sister, Allah does not write marriage or children for you, know that you are still beloved to Him. Being on the path of sacred knowledge and teaching it will become your mother’s milk, and your path of nourishing those around you, just as it was for our Mother ‘Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her. There will always be a need for you, and your time can be spent mentoring families who need your wisdom and connection to Allah. It will never be same as having a husband or a children of your own, so trust that Allah will recompense you for your sacrifice and patience.
May Allah grant tawfiq to all of those on the path of study, and teaching. May He facilitate the days and nights of all mothers, especially those who are juggling their studies and teaching of the deen. May He help manifest the fruits of our sacrifice through the gift of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who love Allah and His Prophet and may we all be reunited in Jannahtul Firdous.
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersGuidance Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.
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