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An Exhausted Mother’s Eid Reflections, from Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil gives thanks for the little things in life.

As I began to write this from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, my daughter sat beside me, playing with her Lego Duplo train set. Alhamdulilah, she turned two on Eid, and I am constantly reminded of the innumerable blessings and changes she has brought into my life.

On the morning of Eid, we drove to the nearby Kampung Tungku mosque to pray. I smiled at the families walking to the mosque ; young children were carried by their parents, the elderly were supported by their children, and everyone wore festive traditional clothes cut from the same bolt of cloth,

When we approached the mosque, the elderly were given the ground floor to pray, while the rest of us went up the stairs. To save time, I carried my toddler up, and got her settled in before Salatul Eid began. I sat closer to the back, next to another mother with her small children. My daughter was eager to wear her small telukong (prayer garment) after she saw me put mine on, alongside all the other women.

Right after I raised my hands in prayer, my daughter’s telukong slipped off her head. She’s still figuring out how to put it on by herself, so she repeatedly called out to me,  “Mummy, help Taskeen wear telukong.” I worried that ignoring her could lead to a tantrum, so I made dua that the imam would read one of the shorter chapters. I was reminded of this beautiful hadith:

It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin Abi Qatadah, from his father that the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) said: “I stand in prayer, then I hear a child crying, so I make my prayer brief, because I do not want to cause hardship for his mother.” [Sunan An-Nasai]

This is the mercy of our Beloved Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) who acknowledges the helplessness of a praying mother while her baby cries.

Last year, when my daughter was one, she cried and cried as I performed the Eid prayer. She was still so little then, so I broke my prayer, out of my own distress and my fear of distracting the rest of the congregation. Alhamdulilah, one year later, there was no crying, and she was able to wait until I finished two cycles of prayer. Progress! This is how I measure how far we have come: how much uninterrupted time I get in the bathroom; how many cycles I can pray before she starts calling for me, how long she can play with her toys on her own – these are the fruits of our hard, loving, real work together, as a family. My part-time jobs as a teacher and writer are my break from my full-time job as a mother.

Sadly, across the world today, we live in a time that does not value women’s work. There is no GDP or dollar sign attached to the countless tears we wipe away, the meals we lovingly prepare, and the endless diapers we change. And yet, these daily, loving acts of nurturing helps to build secure and loving human beings.

I am intimately connected now, to the brutal truth that comes with raising a child. It is relentless, everyday toil that brings both joy and pain. On good days, my toddler warms my heart with her memorable antics. On bad days, I struggle to stay calm in the face of the emotions that overwhelm her.

In the light of my all-consuming stage of motherhood, I look back wistfully to my past Ramadans of long nights of worship and Qur’anic recitation. I cannot help but compare these blessed times to the bare bones Ramadan since my baby was born. I can only pray and hope that Allah will accept the little that I do now, help me do better, and overlook my imperfections.

There has been so much tragedy this past Ramadan. I reflect on the violence perpetrated by ISIS and other extremists, and I wonder what went wrong. What broke inside these young men, to make them such vessels of violence? How can they commit these atrocities, in the name of a religion that cares deeply for the welfare of plants, animals, children, women and men? I can only pray that the light and mercy of Islam reaches their veiled hearts.

If you are an exhausted mother reading this, then trust that Allah knows every ache of your tired heart. Nothing is lost on Him – every tear you shed, every smile you bravely wear for your children, and everything you have sacrificed for them. God willing, your loving presence with your children will plant seeds of Prophetic mercy in their hearts. Your innumerable hours, days and years with them are never, ever wasted.

May these seeds we plant sprout strong, deep roots. May our children be the vanguards and sources of light and peace in a world so fractured by hatred and violence.

Resources for seekers on motherhood and parenting

Life Knocking The Wind Out of You This Ramadan? Don’t Despair

Do you work long hours and find yourself too exhausted to do much by way of extra worship in Ramadan? Don’t despair. You’re not alone. Ustadh Salman Younas has some advice on what to do.

This is a situation that many people find themselves in, and it is understandable to feel disheartened about spending most of your Ramadan in other than worship.
The advice I would give is to recognize what worship and obedience are in our tradition. The self (nafs) and the devil often delude us into looking towards the “big acts” – reading lots of Qur’an, performing all the Tarawih prayers at the mosque, etc. When we miss or fall short on these, we think we have missed out on everything and don’t recognize the many smaller and simpler acts we could be engaging in.
In a situation where much of one’s day is in the work place, these are some simple acts that one can engage in to benefit during Ramadan:

1. Remembrance of God (dhikr)

All this requires is your tongue to be free. You could be behind a computer typing away and still recite ‘subhanallah’, or walking in the hall uttering ‘alhamdulilah’, or commuting to the office stating ‘la ilaha illa allah’. Keep a tasbih or a counter in your hand as it will act as a reminder and facilitate your dhikr. While you may not be able to engage in dhikr the entire work-day, if you put your heart to it you can keep your tongue pretty moist with His name.

2. Supplication

Like dhikr, this can also be done at any time and virtually any where. Not only that, but the Prophet (God bless him) defined supplication as the “essence of worship”. Try to take out just a few minutes every hour or so to make a sincere supplication to God. If you can’t find a few minutes, then take out a minute or thirty seconds.

3. Prayer & “Lunch” Breaks

You might not be having lunch but you may still have a lunch break. If it is an hour, take some time out (let’s say ten or fifteen minutes) to recite some Qur’an or engage in the previous points mentioned. If you have a Dhuhr prayer break, add a few additional supererogatory (nawafil) prayers following it. An additional six, four, or even two cycles of prayer will hardly take ten minutes. It may also make you feel better about not being able to perform all the Tarawih prayers but don’t make this an excuse to not try. The same could be done for other prayers you perform, such as Asr and Maghrib.

4. Listening/Reading Qur’an

As mentioned above, if you have a break during work, you can dedicate some of it towards recitation of the Qur’an. But don’t forget that listening to the Qur’an is also an act of worship, and according to some scholars more rewarding than actual recital. If you have a commute, pop in a CD of your favorite reciter and listen away.

5. Charity

The Prophet was extremely charitable during Ramadan according to numerous traditions. Anyone of us can donate to various causes with the click of a finger. Don’t worry about the amount. Even a dollar will count for a lot. Even some loose change will gain you reward. Do not think of anything as being “small”. Rather, try to give a little every day or every other day or whenever you see the opportunity. As the Prophet (God bless him) said, “save yourself from the fire even if by half a date.” Simply make your intention next-worldly and these small acts will be weighty in the next-life.

6. Intend Good & Make Everything Rewarding

There is a famous statement in our tradition that, “the permissible becomes obedience when coupled with a lofty intention.” Remember this and transform all of your mundane actions into something rewarding and next-worldly this Ramadan. When you play with your kids, make an intention for God. When you buy groceries, make the intention to feed your family iftar (the Prophet recommended feeding people Iftar). When you call your parents, intend the maintaining of familial relations during the noble month. When you interact with colleagues, smile with the intention it is sunna and that it will give people a good image of your religion. When you work, seek God’s pleasure through the intention of supporting your family. You might not be able to do this for everything but try to choose a few things you do during the day, pause before you do them, and make a lofty intention.

7. Don’t Waste Your Weekends

You won’t be working so if you are really feeling down about not being able to pray Tarawih at the mosque, this is your opportunity to do so. Use your weekends to do the things you aren’t able to do on a work day and utilize every moment of it in a beneficial way.
These are just a few suggestions that I have. The key is to recognize that our Lord is merciful and in His infinite mercy He has laid out innumerable ways for us to earn His pleasure and draw closer to Him. Just because you are not doing what others might be doing in terms of worship, or you are not doing what people expect others to do this month, does not mean you can’t do anything or are failing. Do not think lowly of any good action. Do not demean any good act that you do. Rather, try your best, find opportunities, be as consistent as you can with what you can do, acknowledge your weakness, have a good opinion of your Lord, and leave the rest to Him.
I hope this was of some help. May God reward you and us during this month and grant us tawfiq in worshipping Him during it. May any reward God decrees for me for giving this answer in benefit of His servants go to my grandfather, father, and all deceased Muslims. Amin.

Photo by Andy Wilkes.