Beyond Iddah: A new phase

I have thought a long time about whether I would continue with this blog. Recently, by the will and mercy of Allah subhanhu wa ta ‘ala I married again. Never did I think I would ever want to marry again, after all, I loved my late husband entirely, and may Allah swt have mercy on his soul. Not only could I never imagine the prospect of loving someone else, but as a single mother of two daughters I couldn’t imagine taking the risk of putting someone new in my daughters’ lives. But, Allah swt is the turner of hearts and the best of planners. As a woman and a single mother in today’s climate, I was struggling, alhamdullilah. A simple shift in my du’a, asking Allah swt to make me content with whatever khayr He intended for me and that He keep me on the path that pleases Him most, that was my du’a in the build up to the last ten days of Dhul Hijjah. Alhamdullilah, my life took some fairly dedicated turns since then and Allah swt has made easy whatever I have done for His sake. But, that is not the point of this post.

What iddah means to me has continually changed since I was in my literal waiting period. Iddah literally means, ‘counting’. Since the death of someone I love so dearly, Allah swt woke me to the reality of my existence here and now I feel like I am constantly counting; counting my time. That waiting period not only changed me but defined so much of who I have become. Hence, I feel as if I will always be in that period, beyond iddah.
Alhamdullilah.

I am not entirely certain about the direction of this blog, but Insha’Allah I hope that it continues to bring benefit to myself, those who read it and those whom I have gained knowledge from. So, please stay tuned, let me know if there is anything you would like me to write about or feel free to just give your salaams.

May Allah swt reunite those of good in the gardens of perpetual goodness in Jannatul Firdaus and may He have mercy on all the Muslims who have tasted death before us.

With Peace,

Umm Summi xx

Sabr is the courage of the soul, so be brave.

At times I think I was a better mother before all of this happened. I was perhaps less quick to snap and more cautious with my words and actions. I was more careful. To be fair, I also was sharing the burdens of life and now it feels, at times, that I am buried beneath a list of endless to-dos and all encompassing parenting pressures. I could pick which role I wanted to play at any time, good cop or bad cop and my husband could take the alternative but in this reality I play all the roles. Sometimes I feel like I am doing everything wrong, because of the absence of that comforting reassurance saying ‘take it easy, you’re doing okay’ and other times I over estimate what I am doing right in the void of that partner to critique me and bring me down to earth when I become a ‘mumma monster’. These thoughts and concerns can be all consuming. Parenting is a struggle against yourself and your upbringing- constantly trying to stay true to the things you said you’d never say or do. But at least, when there’s two active parents, you have someone to remind you of the agreed way that you had chosen to raise your own children, an improvement or updated version of your own upbringing.

Single parenthood is a constant self-reflection exercise. Alhamdullilah, it is most definitely a true learning experience of getting to know oneself, not as a choice but as a necessity. In all of His wisdom, Allah swt chooses us specifically for the roles that we are able to handle, we have to accept that. That there isn’t anything Allah swt assigns to us that we cannot achieve, otherwise we would not have been privileged with the task. Because that’s how we should look at it, right? A privilege as it is an opportunity to display patience and reap the rewards from bearing the struggle with “beautiful endurance’ (Qur’an, 12:18/83). Allah swt has told us how to seek assistance from worldly trials and also that there awaits a beautiful reward for those who seek assistance in this manner:

“Seek help through endurance and prayer. It is indeed hard except on those who are humble.” (Qur’an 2: 155-7)

“I rewarded them this day because they persevered in patience. They are indeed the triumphant.” (Qur’an 23:111)

So the solution to the tests and trials of parenting or anything  else of this life is to show sabr. In english, we know this word to commonly mean patience, but that one word doesn’t do justice to the meaning. Many scholars and pious predecessors have attributed sabr to a wide array of attributes and qualities and Ibn Qayyim  in his book Uddat al-Sabirin wa Dhakhirat at- Shakirin, condensed the word to three parts:

  1. to restrain
  2. to find strength
  3. to pull oneself together

He further explains these three parts as to restrain the soul from worrying, i.e. by putting trust in Allah swt and His decree, to control the tongue from complaining, to find strength through prayer and supplication and to prevent oneself from committing acts that displease Allah swt in moments of trial or calamity.

To a lot of us one word stands out from that explanation- complaining. It seems that even the best of us are not immune from this disease of the tongue. But even so, there are two types of complain according to Ibn Qayyim and one of those is acceptable:

  1. where we complain to others by our words and actions, this is incompatible with patience
  2. where we complain TO ALLAH swt and this is not at conflict with patience, in fact it is exactly what Prophet Ya’qoob (as) did when he was tested,

    “I complain my distress and sorrow to Allah” (Qur’an 12: 186)

So, the chores may be never ending, your children might be constantly tired and hungry and you’re about to burn out, perhaps you’re a single mother and you feel like you’re drowning, or maybe you’re a married but over-burdened mother, what ever your condition, Allah swt knows that your struggle is most definitely real and He swt has most definitely given you the solution in the Qur’an. Know that your complaint to those around you doesn’t assist you in your burden but rather it adds to it but that your complaint to Allah swt (respectfully) increases your reliance on Him, which insha’Allah will increase your triumph on a day where you will be grateful for the trials Allah swt tested you with.

Alas, a reminder to the mummas out there hanging on a thin thread, for myself and others, sabr is the courage of the soul’ (Ibn Qayyim). Motherhood is no easy job, so be courageous and rely on your Lord in a world that tells you to rely on everything and everyone else. Perhaps when the final hour comes and you see your rewards you will be grateful for the burdens of this life.

“O Allah! For you is praise; to you is the complaint. You are the One whose help is sought for and you are the One to whom the supplication for support is made. On You we are reliant. There is no power, no strength except with You.”
(Du’a of Musa, At Tabarani: al Awsat (3394) and al Saghir (1/122)).

I would love to hear from you, insha’Allah! Please leave your feedback, experiences or even just a bit about yourself. Sometimes the journey is a lot easier traveled with company 😉

With Peace,
Umm Summi xx

Source: Ibn Al Qayyim (n.d). Uddat al- Sabirin wa Dhakhirat al- Shakirin. Darussalam: Riyad, pp. 5- 22.

 

 

 

 

Their baba’s love. 

For his daughters…


Smothering and loud,

Forced but never rejected, 

“She can have whatever she wants,

Because she’s  my daughter“,

Baba injected.

Chocolate at bedtime,

Juice when Mama’s not looking, 

Mumma said “Its time to sleep!”,

But out they go to the fireworks, 

“Because she’s my daughter”

Baba reminded. 

Tears dwelling in a grown man’s eyes,

Cultural roots of masculinity come nothing in close to her innocent gaze.

‘Because she’s my daughter’,

Baba reflected. 

One become two,

Baba was there.

A real king to a queen is he who holds back her hair and cries with her pain as she gives him what’s so beautifully his.

“Don’t drop her”, he ordered them. 

“Because she’s my daughter”,

He declared. 

Obsession and caution,

Nothing less than beautiful words,

His words, of the Most High for my girls.

“Because they’re my daughters”,

He protected. 

A life to be lived without Baba’s ‘too much to handle but never enough’ kind of love.

No sweet words to charm the mess when Mumma is chaos.

The void of logic and patience that sometimes wears from Mumma’s sleepy lack of a clarity.

“No more clothes and cleaning. Kick back with me.”, Mumma needed Baba’s love too.

How can Mumma ever be Baba?

Mumma tried.

Mumma can’t ever be Baba.

An unattainable standard for an incomparable Baba.

Soft little hands on a wet face of muffled cries,

Then a little mouth kissing Mumma’s sore eyes.

How can little hearts contain such big love?

Because they’re filled with their baba’s love.

O mankind, fear your Lord and fear a Day when no father will avail his son, nor will a son avail his father at all. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth, so let not the worldly life delude you and be not deceived about Allah by the Deceiver (shaytan).

 Quran 31:33

Life can be better than a Bollywood movie, just rely on Allah.

I was raised through the colours of sarees and love songs, draped with the illusions of Bollywood romance. Love was everything. Themes and drama. Heroes and villains. Every life circumstance eventually becomes coloured with this perspective and compared to the fantasy of such ideals. It might seem exaggerated, but you don’t realise how much your view is tainted by such influences until you step away from them. Essentially, these movies are lies made attractive by manipulating the vulnerabilities of human emotion. There are some whose lives are so centered around having the most beautiful wedding that they are left stung when they come to see the reality of how challenging and effort requiring married life can be. Some grow so accustomed to the thrill of the chase of courtship that they are unsatisfied by the stability that married life can bring. And some come to think that their very existence is tied to the existence of another, that their life is without meaning without their significant other, that they cannot live without their love.

All the categories above are easily applicable to many, especially the last one. Most of us define our existence by the existence of something else; our spouse, our children, our career, our culture. But, we must remember that our existence is not defined by the existence of anything, except we must know that we and all that we love exists only because of Allah SWT. Your meaning in life is not from the meaning that someone else gives it, they may add colour to that meaning, but they aren’t the meaning of your life. You can live without people and things, it’s a choice to struggle on. But your heart is dead without Allah.

Imam Ibn Al Qayyim said,

“If a heart becomes attached to anything other than Allah, Allah makes him dependant on what he is attached to and he will be betrayed by it.”

It is of no benefit to us to be of those who don’t allow ourselves to explore our own weaknesses and engage in sometimes painful self-reflection. Like the sort of old saying goes, “check yourself before you wreck yourself”. Literally check yourself before you are the cause of your own destruction.

What do you tie your existence to? It is easy to say that you know you exist due to Allah SWT, but then why do you define yourself by things other than your relationship to Him?

Now if you’re thinking how depressing this life seems and that it would be so much better if it was a Bollywood movie, remember that my Lord and your Lord, the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth, is the best of writers and directors and has something beautiful planned for you.  You just have to be willing to change your perspective, step out of your life for a moment and look at the artistry in the moments, words, lessons, trials and triumphs that have brought you to where you are. SubhanAllah Remember, the very essence and beauty of Jannah is from the trials and lessons learned in this life. You may not get your green fields filled with yellow flowers and you running to your heart’s desire in this world, but most certainly there is something more amazing installed for those who are steadfast and patient.

May Allah SWT make us all of the constantly steadfast and patient.

With peace,

Umm Summi xx

When she asks me if shes beautiful…

One day when she asks me if shes beautiful, I wont know what to say.

Today, I don’t know what beauty is.

Today, I think beauty is lost.

The beauty of my people was tired but glistening eyes hidden in a dust covered face of exhaustion and struggle. Women had a beauty from their hips that bore the weight of their children and in the stretching patterns of the place that was once home to many a fetus. Their beauty was in henna stained toes hiding beneath the veils of material wrapped around her priceless torso. Beauty was in her heart that was a school for her people, in her words, her intellect, her natural intuition.

A woman was beautiful because she was a woman.

A woman was beautiful.

Today, layers of cover up try to make up the beauty that was lost long a go.

Do we cover the mountains? Do we hide their lines and bumps to make them more conforming? Is there no more beauty in the detail?

Today, what was once beautiful has lost its shine, being constantly exposed to the weathering eyes and sometimes force of those who don’t care for the beauty that once was a woman.

Hair bleached.

Lip pout.

Tummy in.

Booty out.

Showing everything just to filter anything that isn’t perfect.

A woman is no longer about beauty.

Her beauty was sold for business.

She was lied to and she bought it.

They couldn’t sell her mind, her character, her culture, her compassion, her rawness and emotion.

So they told her that wasn’t beauty.

She was lied to and she bought it.

One day when she asks me if shes beautiful, I wont know what to say.

So before that one day comes

And the damage is already done,

Before the lies are told and they try to sell her short-

I’ll teach her that everything about a woman,

Everything that makes her a woman

That’s what makes her beautiful.

 

 

Not only as mothers, but as sisters, friends, community members, we are role models to the girls that follow our lead to what a woman is. The function of the hijab is downplayed in the society we live in and that’s not because it is outdated, the symbol of hijab is universal. But it is more than just an scarf on her head. Without understanding that the woman is beautiful by her very nature and existence, the hijab has no meaning because we fail to understand its purpose.  Every aspect of a woman is beautiful, from her mind, to her spirit and her body. Hijab aims to protect one aspect of a woman’s beauty, her physicality,  that can be used to distract from and devalue other aspects of her beauty, such as her mind and character, that of which has the power to and has in the past shaped and built communities and nations.

But what point is it understanding the function of something, if we do not firstly understand the purpose for which is was created to serve?

 

 

 

Ramadan reminder, death and too much garlic.

Steam fills up the niche where the kettle sits as I boil the water for my third cup of mint tea in the last two hours. Daily, it bothers me that the steam is peeling away the paint from the cabinet above it and yet, I never actually move the kettle to a better place. I have been feeling unwell the past three days, nothing serious, the standard tummy bug it seems and still every time I get sick, I find myself thinking, ‘is this how I am going to die?’. Yes, it sounds morbid, I can agree with most people reading this. However, that’s just how it seems on the surface.

If we don’t know anything else from the Qur’an, most of us still know the ayah in which Allah, the Exalted in Might, declares that ‘every soul will taste death’ (Qur’an, 3:185). As simple as that is to understand, that we will all die, upon reflecting on the ayah it made me think of something else. When someone makes a dish for dinner and asks you to ‘taste’ it, does that mean that you necessarily consume the whole thing, no. It means that you test it to see how the flavours are and whether the seasoning is okay. Of course, the meaning derived by the scholars is far more informed and my knowledge is not even a drop in the ocean of their understanding, but this is just a reflection of mine. Someone dies, their soul has tasted death in the ultimate sense and only they and Allah SWT know how that taste of death was. But, when someone dies, everyone surrounding the deceased taste death too. You can almost smell death in the air, SubhanAllah. Even people who may have barely known the person, they taste death. And yes, it’s something that goes beyond basic human feeling, it makes the soul tremble. It a very hard vibe to shake. I can still taste it and it has been over a year. And although it is not an overbearing taste, it is a taste that lingers, like when you have something with too much garlic and you feel like you can still taste it for a while after. And realistically, there are three things you can do with this taste:

  1. Try to drown out the taste
    Do everything you can to wash away the taste. You try to shake the vibe completely and push away those feelings of sadness. Fill that feeling of loss and the ‘scary’ thoughts of death with things of the dunya. You basically go back to life exactly the way you were living before, if not harder into the dunya, just so you don’t have to face the realities of death.
  2. Obsess about the taste
    It’s all you can taste. Death consumes you. Your loss, your grief, it becomes you and you enter into a spiral of despair and depression and life suddenly appears to have no purpose and no beauty in it.

    3. Let the taste remind you
    The taste is there, you accept it, even embrace it and every time you become aware of it, you try to remember and remind yourself to learn from you previous garlic overload. Yes, the effects of death have had a permanent effect on your life but not necessarily one that is doom and gloom. Its taste is there to remind you of your return, of your limited and unknown time in this life and what really matters. But, its serves as a lesson not as a death sentence. Your life is not over, you still have things you have to do before it’s your time. There is still beauty and goodness in the world. You learn that your only way to build a happy home and future for yourself and your loved ones is to build it for Jannah, because nothing is guaranteed in this life.

 

It is quite obvious what the healthiest approach is and yet so many of us either get lost in the taste or try to drown it out altogether. With the month of Ramadan now gone, it is important to reflect and remember that there were people who were here this recent Ramadan, who won’t make it until the next and this is the reality. We have no idea who these people will be. We don’t know how much time we have. So yes, we have all tasted the bittersweet reminders of death, some of us more than others. But, do what you can now before you taste its flavour in full.
May our souls be of those who rush to their meeting with their Rabb, may it be a sweet meeting, may our Rabb be pleased with us and may He permit us to enter into Jannatul Firdaus.

With Peace,

Umm Summi xx

Chicken nuggets for breakfast and cereal for dinner

One morning I woke up, opened the fridge and it was basically empty. After two week of viruses and chaos, we had finally come out the other side, Alhamdullilah. My house on the other hand, looked like it had been raided; piled up laundry yet to be put away, buckets and garbage bags available at all exits in case of an outburst of bodily fluid, a queue of laundry to be done piling up through the kitchen. It was ridiculous. But I was exhausted and honestly I didn’t care. It was the first time either one of my daughters had been hit with a virus and I braved that storm of vomit and loose bowels solo and I felt like a casualty. So when I opened the fridge that morning, exhausted and looking at the state of my house, all I remember thinking was ‘is it too early for pizza delivery?’ I asked my three year old, hoping she would spark some ideas, as to what I was going to feed her. She said, ‘I want chicken nuggets and tomato sauce’. I opened the freezer and boom, there were chicken nuggets. So my daughters and myself, had chicken nuggets for breakfast. After spending the greater part of the day juggling making the house livable again and entertaining the girls, our dinner were some oh so nutritious bowls of cereal.

Why am I sharing this? There are plenty of mothers probably shaking their heads in disapproval at my excellent mothering ability. But, like I said before I honestly don’t care, Alhamdullilah. I am sharing this for the mothers, who struggle day in and out (like the rest of us), but they care. The judgement, opinions, comparisons, insensitive remarks, they care about all those things and it wears them down. Motherhood is HARD. It is a constant night shift on a non-rotating roster, an ever repeating spill on every single aisle ever created, an hourly UN peacekeeping mission between the siblings and a 24/7 surveillance of the way too accessible food supply (if you have an easily opening fridge I know you feel me on this one). It becomes so much harder when you lose your number one ally, either to death or by abandonment or simply because he’s a crappy ally and more of a sperm donor who provides financial support (unfortunately those men exist). May Allah SWT help us all and give us all sabr. I don’t understand how some women so easily judge and look down on the efforts of other mothers, may Allah SWT soften their hearts. We can’t change other people and we can change their opinions, we can only change ourselves and our reactions.

A few years back I too used to concern myself with the opinions that people had of me, that was until I received some advice that changed my life and that advice was through the story of Luqman, his son and their donkey.

A lesson from Luqman the Wise

“Many, many years ago there lived a man called Luqman. He was not a Prophet. But he was very wise. He was an African who was caught as a slave and sold in another country.

Luqman was so wise and respected that a Surah in the Qur’an also is called by his name (Chapter 31). He gave good advice to his children. His advice is equally good for all the children of the world even today.

Once Luqman said to his son, “Oh son! Do not tie your heart in seeking the pleasure of people. You are not likely to succeed. Do not pay attention to what people say. Instead tell yourself always to seek the pleasure of God.”

Luqman wanted this lesson to be always remembered. Never to be forgotten. He thought of a way. He then told his son to ride a donkey. The son obeyed. The father followed behind on foot. They travelled in this way for some distance. After some distance they came across a group of people. Seeing the son on the donkey, one of them said, “What an impolite and bad boy. The old father is walking on foot. The young son is comfortably riding on the donkey. This is no manner to show respect to one’s father”.

Father and son heard this. The son came down from the donkey. Luqman rode on the animal. After sometime they came across another group of people. On seeing the father riding the donkey, the elder of the group said, “Oh you old man! This is not the way to bring up a son. You make him walk in the hot sun, while you sit comfortably on the donkey.”

Luqman paid attention to what the people said. He came down from the donkey. Both father and son walked on foot. The donkey walked in front. They went a little further. People seeing them, said, “How foolish you are? You walk behind a donkey. Why don’t you ride it?”

Luqman and his son once again accepted what the people said. They both rode the donkey and went further. They came across a river. There was a bridge to be crossed. Some people were sitting there. They saw Luqman and his son riding the donkey. One of them said, “It is very unkind and cruel of you two to ride on the poor donkey. The little animal can hardly take all your burden.”

So taking this advice Luqman and his son dismounted from the donkey. They travelled a little distance further. Looking very lovingly Luqman said to his son, “You have heard and seen what the people said. It must have assured you, by now, that whatever you do or whichever way you move, one is not able to please the people of the world.” He pointed at the flowing river and added,

“A person can build a wall across the river. It will stop the flow of the water. But it is not possible to shut the mouth of the people from criticism.””

[Source: http://www.al-islam.org/bilal-s-bedtime-stories-a-h-sheriff-a-s-alloo/whose-pleasure-shall-we-seek]

You can never shut the mouth of people from criticism, if it isn’t that you are too tough on your children, it’s that you are too soft or you give them too much attention or they’re in childcare too much or you control their food too much or they’re a bit chubby, etc. Everything you do, especially as a mother, someone is a critic. And then even more so as a single mother because for some reason without the advocacy of your husband people generally second guess your authority as a parent.

So if you find people’s opinions are cracking through your armor, you beautiful women of strength, here are some reminders, insha’Allah they help you through.

  • One of the purest intentions is that of a mother for their child. Remember who you are raising them for, to please Allah SWT. He is the Most Merciful and He sees your struggle and your effort. He is the ultimate judge, His judgement is always just and your reward and recognition is truly with Him.
  • There is a time to bite your tongue and patiently endure but there is also a time to speak up, ‘I value your opinion but I would value it even more if your didn’t share it’. JOKES!!! As much as you probably want to say that, it may just create more struggle for you. Perhaps the person who is giving you the constant advice and criticism doesn’t know your struggle. Try,  ‘I am doing the best that I can, please make du’a that Allah SWT makes it easy for me’.
  • Every. Mother. Struggles. Her house does not look like that on a regular basis, it’s just because guests are over. Every meal for her toddler is not like her Instagram pictures, it was probably a 1 in 10 successful attempt at feeding her toddler. Her disciplining tactics are usually not that smooth, but people were around. You, myself and every other mother struggles. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by people’s facade of perfection.
  • Islam is the most important teaching for our children. Who cares if your child doesn’t know how to blow their nose in a tissue, they said ‘Alhamdullilah’ when they sneezed. Big deal if they’re not on some super productive routine, they follow you around when they hear the adhan and its time to pray. So what if they ate chicken nuggets for breakfast and cereal for dinner, they remembered to say ‘Bismillah’ and they ate with their right hand 😉

May Allah SWT purify our intentions and guide us to raise children who submit entirely to Him. May He give us sabr and make this patience a means for our entering into the gardens of paradise. May He put mercy in our hearts towards other mothers just as we would want our own children and the Most Merciful to show mercy to us.

With Peace,

Umm Summi xx

 

I would love to hear from you insha’Allah!! Let me know your experiences, thoughts and feedback.

 

Image credit: http://fanon.wikia.com/wiki/File:Messy_Kitchen.jpg

Some hearts cry in words

When the day sleeps

As our little girls dream warmly beneath their sheets

I can feel my heart missing you.

As the noise is too in slumber

I can hear my feelings awaken

I can feel my heart missing you.

Not a thing of this world fills the void,

You left behind too much.

You left behind me.

‘I wanna be with you everywhere’

That sneaky smile you would show when I just needed some space.

Now, I think, sometimes,

I wanna be there with you.

Is this what I was holding on to?

This place of trial and delusion.

If I could just leave behind this mess.

This painful mess my heart is in.

I can’t let my tears fall,

I tell myself to hold on.

Is this life really that long?

I am not strong by choice.

I am still standing firm because I have to be.

Stranded somewhere between a woman’s strength and sheer vulnerability.

The best man of all men felt a pain much greater than this,

As he too loved and lost,

Sallallahu alaiyhi wasallam.

Truly He created us in pairs, special pairs.

The first relationship of mankind.

That between a man and his wife.

So He who created woman from man’s rib

Destined us to be.

Nothing in this life is simply probability.

He destined you for me.

In this world for just a second, but for ever in eternity.

Insha’Allah.

Will you recognise me?

Will you stare at me for years no eyes lowered?

Those years nothing short of forty.

I called unto Him.

I waited.

Verily, the promise of Allah is true.

Patience.

In the dunya the prince of my heart was only you.

And I feel it in my soul that in Jannah I was made to be paired with you.

You, myself and our little princesses too.

Insha’Allah.