Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 13, 2017

Your Mother’s Mother

Your Mother’s Mother

 I believe there is something sacred about women, specifically mothers, that I would like to explore here through the Noble Qur’an.

Lets start with Maryam. She is an example for men as a true qanita. She was Isa’s teacher. Her mom Hannah made an oath by her womb, that her offspring would be dedicated to worship. Hannah’s womb here is like the mihrab of the righteous baby. I don’t think this is far fetched because I have heard old and modern stories of babies hearing their mother’s worshipping while they are in the womb. In reality, if we reflect deeply on Surah Maryam, sufism’s origin is maryami in practice – because Maryam worshipped in seclusion, met angels despite not being a prophet, endured criticism by trusting in Allah, and even later on Isa’s asceticism and non-violent preaching living as a minority under non-Muslim rule, are all defining traits of sufism. These traits have strong origin in Maryam, the waliyya, and her son, Isa alayhi salam. The goal of sufism is to become insan kamil  – spiritually completed – and the only people pronounced by Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam as ‘perfected’ are Maryam and Asiya.

 This isn’t insignificant either because I recall hearing from a shaykh that female awliya make for more nurturing spiritual guides than male awliya, and this may have a connection to Maryam raising Isa, not to mention the 4 mujtahid Sunni imams all were raised by single mothers.

Grandmothers are also a source of khayr. In a way the sirr and batin of a mother is her mother. Hanna was Maryam’s mother and she made an oath by her womb to have a child that is muharrar and dedicate her child to worship. Allah brought forth a female child and the mosques were all male. There is maybe a ‘divine comment’ here on Allah preferring a woman’s private worship over a man’s public worship, Allahu Alam. Ibn Sina is reported to have said follow the religion of old women. I believe there is special blessing that comes to us from our grandparents. Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam) had khayr come from Isma’il and Hajar alayhi-salam in Mecca. One of Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam)’s great grandmothers was named Salma and she lived and was buried in Madina before Islam. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Madina become the Prophet’s City. Something in our ancestor’s lives prescribes khayr for us, their blessed fate becomes ours somehow or Allah wants us to stay near them. It brings a different meaning to the saying ‘religion of old women’. In my own life, I discovered good relations with friends my maternal grandmother forged early on, purely from her heart, came back generations later benefiting my family. In the story in Surah al-Kahf we learn Khidr went to trouble to care for some orphans because they had a righteous grandparent 7 generations ago. This is the blessing grand parents can have.

Caring for mothers is not just a duty to dismiss out of hand – it is in fact quintessential sufism. The early sufi, Bishr al-Hafi met Khidr alayhi salam, and asked him “How did I achieve meeting you?” to which Khidr replied “Through service to your mother.” Likewise, Uways al-Qarni is esteemed tabi’ieen praised by Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam) and he was known for his care and service to his mother.  One of the virtues of Isa and Yahya alayhi salam in the Qur’an is there obedience to their parents. It is therefore ironic how so many religious youth became religious as a reaction to disagreements with their parents. Yet, poor service and honouring parents is a spiritual poison.

I recall in one class, Shaykh Abdul Karim Yahya explained in a talk on parents that in Yemen when the children are righteous, upright and good, the shaykhs will often ‘release them’ from the haqq (divine right) the parent has over the child. The father will forego his right and will bear witness the son is now just their brother in Islam. This is interesting since it means the child will not be questioned and judged as severely on Yawm al-Qiyama for their treatment of their parents.

Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wasalam)’s greatest supporters in his early days were not men, but his aunts and we see in hadith that the khala (maternal aunt) has the same darajat (rank) as one’s mother.

Moms are loyal to their children. Ulema say Allah chose the Arabs because they are known to be the most loyal. Moms always choose what is best for their kids, but also what is best in reality. Think about it. What if on the night of the first Revelation, Sayyida Khadija said to Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam) think of your children and the ridicule they will face after the first revelation?  Women are most womanly when they give to their family, friends, community and nation. What would’ve happened if Zulaykha had kids – would she have acted the same? What if the Queen of Sheba did not think of her people? Selflessness is what makes it easy to respect women. Its the same reason why we can’t respect career women as much as these traditional women. How did Musa’s mother feel letting Musa go and then decades later seeing both her sons confront Firawn?

Many argue Muslims oppress women, there may be truth to this, but Islam itself is concerned with mothers, daughters and grandmothers. Mothers have shaped Islam’s history more than we realize. Would spice and silk trade exist without women? All the 4 mujtahid imams were raised by single mothers, Nabi (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was raised by Bibi Amina alone. Some scholars even connect Karbala to Hind’s strong personality and the strong personality of women in Mu’awiya’s household (Allahu Alam). Later on, queen mothers exerted influence on Ottoman politicsIn our life we decide what woman to marry by studying her mother to see what type of woman she will become, a beautiful girl becomes ugly when we see her mother’s actions. We learn from our moms how to raise kids, we learn from our moms our facial movements, our obedience or rebellion, our foolishness and our wisdom. You could say everything about our life is circumscribed by the ills and virtues of our mothers, our lives are written by our mothers in advance and that mothers are the closest worldly thing we have to al-Lawh al-Mahfuz.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la ilaha illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


  1. Mawlaya salli wa sallim da`iman `abadan `ala Habibika Khayr il-Khalqi Kullihimi
    Wa `ala AaliHi wa `ala AzwaajiHi wa DhurriyatiH

    AsSalamu `alayka brother. You mentioned that the Prophet SallAllahu `alayHi wa AaliHi waSallam was most supported by His Aunts (radhiAllahu `anhunn) during His earliest days.

    That brought to mind two questions:

    1) Did the Prophet have a real Khala (maternal aunt)? And do we know anything about the mother of Sayyiduna Hamza and Sayyidah Safiyya, Lady Halah bt. Wuhayb b. Abd Manaf who was the Prophet’s cousin-khala (Mother’s cousin)? (AlayHimusSalatu wasSalam)

    2) Are one’s paternal aunts also considered to be, or called as, one’s “mothers” the way maternal aunts are? For example could the Prophet’s paternal aunts, Sayyidah Safiyya, Sayyidah Atika and Sayyida Arwa be referred to as His “mothers” the way He used to refer to His paternal uncle Sayyiduna al-`Abbas bin `Abdul-Muttalib as “My father”? (AlayHimusSalatu wasSalam)

    Would be happy if you could provide any insight on this matter. Beautiful article, jazak Allah khayran katheera.

    Allahumma Salli `ala Sayyidina Muhammad wa AaliHi wa SahbiHi waSallim.

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