By Samuel Gonzalez

Introduction

Paradise lies beneath the feet of mothers,” said the Honorable Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Mothers, despite what Western media may have you think, are held in the highest esteem in the religion of Islam. In Islam, the responsibilities of the family unit are compartmentalized into the responsibilities of the husband and responsibilities of the wife. One of the responsibilities of both parents, but more so for the mother, is to raise the next generation of faithful Muslims – and if there is no guide for them, how will they learn the best path that Allah has for them? Keep reading to learn more about what the Qur’an teaches about motherhood! 

Mothers are to be Obeyed.

We commanded man to be good in respect of his parents [The Noble Qur’an 31:14]

The basis for the progress of material life here on earth is the family. As Muslims, especially those living in the West, it is important that we are conscious of the cultural environment of the United States, that is, entertainment culture such as music, cinema, the media, news, and even academia. It is a fact that the morals, values, and customs of our materialistic culture are not the same as the morals, values, and customs of revealed scripture. Whenever we approach the question of ‘what is a man,’ or ‘what is a woman,’ many Muslims living in America are coming from their cultural experiences rather than the sacred knowledge sources of our faith. The Noble Qur’an clearly outlines the responsibilities and expectations of both parents and children; it is simply a matter of paying attention to what our sacred scripture says and putting it into practice. 

The human spirit was designed to improve and progress, to ascend and purify itself by adding excellence upon excellence. Uncomfortable conversations and being corrected by those wiser than us may not leave us feeling good and bubbly, but they are just what we need if we are to perfect ourselves along this straight path. The Qur’an was not revealed to the Honorable Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in order to entertain us, but rather, to enrich us, and if our religion is not challenging us constantly, then it is doing nothing less than robbing us. Oftentimes in the home, it is the mother who reprimands and corrects; oftentimes it is the mother who challenges and punishes. I am infinitely grateful to my mother for pushing me to attend religious services and attend the university during my teenage years. As I look back, although these activities were nowhere near my radar, they were for my own good and enriched my life in ways that I could never have foreseen. 

There is great wisdom in the words of mothers, especially those who are God-fearing women. Allah infused mothers with a level of intuition that does not come naturally to the husband. Allah exalted mothers in our beautiful religion of Islam in order to guide and educate, to provide and nourish, to provide care and to instill us with the corrections that we need- have we been heeding their words?

Motherhood is a Reflection of the Divine

Be grateful to Me, and to your parents, for to Me is the ultimate return. [The Noble Qur’an 31:14]

Allah has provided humanity with many signs scattered throughout His Creation. It is no coincidence that in Arabic, the word for mother, umm, is oftentimes used to refer to the source or essence of a particular thing, or it could also be used to mean its abstract, unchangeable origin. For instance, in the Noble Qur’an, the umm al-kitab (Mother of the Book) refers to the preexistent, heavenly pattern of the Qur’an itself. For the Arabs, the brain is referred to as the Mother of the Head and the Holy City of Mecca is referred to as the Mother of the Cities. Imam Bukhari reported in the “Book of Qur’an Commentary” that the moniker of Surah al-Fatiha is Umm al-Kitab, as it is the Opening of the Qur’an. The mother is the one who first exposes the unborn child to the world. She is the child’s ‘opening’ similar to how al-Fatiha contains all the subsequent knowledge that will be developed in the rest of the Qur’an.

Another significant sign is that of vegetation [18:45], especially as it intermingles with the rain and other meteorological phenomena that really put it to the test. Sometimes it has to break through some tough soil in order to shoot up into the sky, and at other times it wages war against weeds that seek to suffocate and outgrow it. Amina bint Wahb, mother of the Honorable Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon both of them) sent the Prophet to live with a milk-mother in the desert (as per Arab tradition, young sons and daughters would be released into the wilderness in order to cultivate eloquence, vigor, durability, honor, and discipline) and was nursed by Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb, a poor Bedouin woman from the tribe of Banu Sa’ad, a branch of the Hawāzin. These mothers, and very many others, contributed greatly to the rise and development of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).


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They Loved Us First

Out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility and say, ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.’ [The Noble Qur’an 17:24]

Nothing enters the womb of the mother until man engages with his mate. That engagement produces a higher level of responsibility for both the man and the woman because the female, if she is aware of the fact that she has life inside of her, will comport herself in such a way that will reflect that she has life inside of her. She will make sacrifices to her diet, she will cut out bad habits she may have in her life, and she will have to be more aware of the activities she engages in in order to provide the best care for the infant in her womb. So while not all of our parents may have been prepared for the raising of a child (some of us may have only grown up in single-parent households), it is of utmost importance to at least realize that the act of going through with a pregnancy is a tremendous act of love. It is, certainly, a tremendous sacrifice. 

No mother that has walked the face of this earth has enjoyed the process of giving birth to a child. The ones who comprehend the anguish of childbirth usually develop more compassion towards their mothers and wives. Those couples who are conscious of this condition of impending parenthood will begin to prepare for their child before the mother even begins showing signs of pregnancy. The love a mother has for her child predates the consciousness of each and every one of us. The fate of the human race depends on the love and wisdom and mercy of the mother – she is the created germ of everything good and beautiful, as she also holds the keys of life and death. The mother is the moral and natural support of man in all his labors, which is why our Beloved Prophet (pbuh) communicated to us this divine injunction to pray for the mothers of this earth. 

Statistically, it is a fact that the growth rate of those children who live under the care of their family is greater than those who stay in a boarding school among children of their own age-group. The child learns and imitates what is practiced at home, more so than from their peers. Although the child builds upon the foundation of his own physical, mental and emotional characteristics within the framework of his environmental conditions, it is the home-life that will provide the essential foundation to the intellectual and spiritual wellbeing for the child. According to the book Undiscovered Man (2006), mothers who do not provide their children with a solid spiritual framework from a young age deal a great and humiliating blow on the body of the society, and furthermore they fail to effect meaningful change in the life of the youth. A child who has not learnt the lesson of affection from his mother, the youth whose emotions are not boosted in her lap, cannot be expected to show affection in subsequent years.

There is No Greater Act of Jihad than Loving your Mother

O Messenger of Allah! I want to go out and fight (in Jihad) and I have come to ask your advice,” asked a young man. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Do you have a mother?” The young man said: “Yes.” The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Then stay with her, for Paradise is beneath her feet.” [Sunan al-Nasā’ī 3104]

The meaning of jihad in Arabic can literally be translated as struggle or effort. In the Noble Qur’an, the longer Arabic phrase al-jihad fi sabil Allah signifies striving or exerting oneself in the path of God is more frequently used. The fuller undertones and nuances of the word provide interpreters with many semantic and exegetical possibilities such as, for instance, the giving of zakat, the liberation of slaves, and both quietist and activist stratagems as valid responses to injustices. By the eighteenth century, however, the concept of jihad as an armed and violent response had become predominant. In other words, it is a word that refers to both the silent struggles against the wiles of Shaytan, acts of justice done to combat a prevalent wickedness, and actual battles waged in the name and cause of Allah. It is a key concept to be understood in Islam and is of utmost importance for Muslims if they are to pour into their families, communities, and own selves. 

According to the above cited hadith, obeying a mother’s order takes priority over God’s command to fight the infidels. During the time of the Honorable Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), various battles were fought by the first Muslim community, oftentimes as an act of self-defense. Furthermore, if there was a question of jihad, it was prescribed that those who are able to fight the infidels must take part in the battle, but if a young man possesses all the qualifications for participation in the holy war, except that his mother does not allow him to go, the mother’s prohibition was enough to excuse the young man from his social duty to fight. I find this fascinating because mothers are priceless treasures, the most beautiful ornaments of the universe, who have the power to produce an entire race. What they have done for us should be paid back to them a hundredfold. 

Conclusion

To wrap up this brief article, I wanted to sum it up in this way: Islam teaches us to first love and serve Allah, then your mother, then your mother, then your mother, and lastly your father [Riyad as-Salihin 316]. The Qur’an teaches us that by studying Allah and the sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh), we learn more about the mother and her role in the creation of the next generation. The love of a mother is unconditional, unprecedented, and undeserved – serving our mothers is among the most excellent of good deeds. A religion that does not value the mother is an incomplete religion. 

References

Nuzacci, Antonella. “The Right of Children to Use Cultural Heritage as a Cultural Right.” Department of Human Studies, University of L’Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy. DOI: 10.4236/jss.2020.84042

The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, “Amina bint Wahb.”

Imam Rashad Abdul-Rahmaan. “Respect for Family Life.” Khutbah give at Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam. 12/17/2021. 

Riyad as-Salihin Book 40, Hadith 316. 

Sunan an-Nasa’i Book 20, Hadith 25, No. 3104

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