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Over two years after my father’s passing, I reflected on the famous saying of the Prophet Muhammad, in which he advises us on what we can do for our loved ones after they have returned to Allah. In the hadith, Abu Hurayrah narrated that Allah’s Messenger said, “When a human being dies, all of his deeds are terminated except for three: an ongoing sadaqah (charity), a knowledge (of Islam) from which others benefit, and a righteous child who makes dua for him.”[Muslim and others]
I thought of how easy this would be for me. My father is such an integral part of my every memory that I would easily remember him daily and make dua for him.
But then I realized that there was another side to this hadith that I was completely missing; a much deeper and more proactive side. Righteous child. Why in the world did I assume that I was a righteous child? Was I really that perfect that I thought I would automatically be accepted by Allah? That my duas would be answered for my loved one? Could it be that this hadith is a reminder for me to work on myself, improve my faith, struggle with my weaknesses, so that I could be in a state of constant endeavor to reach piety? Was this hadith also a call for self-improvement, in the face of (or despite) grief and sadness?
As a parent myself, I realize that if I should die suddenly, my biggest worry would be for my young children. I worry about the logistics of who would take care of them, but I am reminded that if I pass, I have nothing to do with what happens after my death. The only and best wish that I could have for my young ones is that Allah protects their faith, and that they grow up in the shade of His remembrance.
I think of how I can strengthen my relationship with them, by nurturing and raising them, by playing with them, by laughing with them, by being kind to them, so that one day they will come searching for how they can continue to do birr (good deeds) to me, long after I have passed. When I think of moments I shared with my father, I think fondly of his loud laugh when I misread a word while reading a story in Arabic to him; I think of him wiping his wrinkled brow while his eyes were closed during a 3 am tahhajud prayer; I think of him making his corny jokes with a sheepish smile on his face. It’s those kinds of moments that inspire good deeds in me.
With my own children, my sincerest hope is that they will realize that there is nothing better that they can do for me than to work on themselves, make themselves the best Muslims they can be. I realize that there could be no better gift than to have my children pray for my salvation, and most importantly, struggling to make themselves the best people that I could leave behind. Only then, will I rest assuredly in my death, knowing that Allah and His Messenger, in their infinite wisdom, gave us pearls of wisdom that we can uncover when we dig a little more deeply.
Fatima lives in Northern Va with her husband and three kids (8,6 and 2). She enjoys reading, watching her kids play and working with youth in her community.
It’s never too late in life.
At 26, one child and a eight years of marriage later, I have graduated college with my bachelor’s degree. The decision to begin my academic career post family life was not an easy one. I decided to enroll my daughter at the college’s daycare so I could attend classes full time. I worked hard trying to find a system that made it easy for me to balance housework and studying. I scheduled Friday’s off just to do laundry. Some times I wasn’t so successful doing it all and had to take an exam with minimal studying the night before.
For me, getting a college degree was important because I knew it would open up many doors for me and my daughter. I wanted to have something solid that no one could take away from me. I also wanted to be an example to other girls who feel like marriage is a trap; it is possible to continue your dreams regardless if you’re wearing a ring on your finger. I got married at 18 fresh out of high school. College was not in my immediate future at the time. I have wondered what would have happened had I not had my daughter so early in life, yet I am so grateful for the blessings Allah has given me.
Allah blessed me time and time again over these past four years. There were times where I wanted to quit and get a job because money was so tight. There were times where I prayed and He listened. Then there were times where I didn’t pray, yet He was still merciful. He blessed me immensely in the form of giving me my husband. The amount of sacrifices my husband made are unbelievable, SubhanAllah. From the lifts to internship, to the cooking, to skipping classes to tend to our daughter, the list goes on and on. And he never complained. He never discouraged me, but always pushed me forward. He told me I had to finish my degree when I sat crying, ready to quit. This degree is as much his as it is mine. I was also fortunate to have an amazing support system from my mom and sister , who babysat happily and endless duas from everyone.
When graduation rolled around on June 4th I wanted to let four years of emotions pour out but I chose to let my parents cry for me instead. The feeling of moving that tassel from the right side to the left was amazing. Having my mom practically squeeze me to death with hugs was priceless and seeing my dad’s tears was worth all of it. They were so proud of me; and my daughter was ecstatic seeing her mommy graduate.
Now that I’ve finished my degree, I am actively looking for a job. My ultimate goal is to become a licensed social worker. Graduate school may not happen for a few years but I will get there, insha’Allah.
It’s never too late to follow your dreams and make it a reality. It takes time, patience and a huge support system, but one can make it happen.
Miriam is a recent college graduate with her B.S in Human Services and a mother to a six-year-old year old girl. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.
A few weeks ago, as I prepared my two year old for bed, I decided to skip his usual truck book and switch it up with some quick storytelling. As I lay him down and looked into his sleepy, glazed eyes, I opened up with a short re-telling of the story of the Elephant and Abraha. My little one gazed at me with wide open eyes, enthralled, silent, listening intently.
The next morning, on the way to school, my young son surprised me with a request, “Mama, can you tell me the story of the Elephant?” I honestly did not expect him to remember it. For the next couple of days it was all he wanted to hear from me, his father or his grandma. I had not expected he would be so open to listening to this story, and that he would be able to internalize it. I realized then that he was ready for more stories from the Quran.
Since then, I’ve racked my brains for Quranic stories that make mention of animals; at his age that’s what he’s interested in. He loves the story of Prophet Yunus, Sulaiman and the ant, and loves to tell me about the different animals that Prophet Nuh may have taken with him on his Great Ark.
With his older sisters, I turn the stories into a graphic storytelling experience, drawing a crown to symbolize the Queen of Sheba, a castle, a bird and lots of ants marching along. I retold the stories to them over and over until I reached a point where I thought they’d gotten sick of it.
Recently my six-year-old daughter started asking me to tell her a story during our morning drive to school. I figured it had been long enough since I told one of my Quranic stories. This time around, with my older children, I’ve found myself delving into the feelings of the Prophets while they lived their struggle with their people. The pain in Prophet Nuh’s heart when he had to give up on his son; the overwhelming fear in Yunus’s heart as he found himself in pitch black darkness, unable to see his own hand stretched before him; the thankfulness and joy that flowed from Sulaiman’s heart as he realized Allah’s blessings on him allowing him to understand the language of the ant.
As my children go through different stages of their life, I realize that the Quranic tales are truly timeless, connecting with each of my children, at different stages of their young lives. We did not need make believe stories to entertain, the Quran is what they want to hear. As I was reminded a few weeks ago, no toddler is too young to be introduced to them and no child is too old to hear them again and again.
Fatima lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and three little musketeers.