Last year, on the fourth day of the Knowledge Retreat Shaykh Yahya spoke about Tarim (a city in Yemen) and told us that before children go out, their mothers help them prepare for different scenarios they might encounter by asking questions like, “what will you do if you see an old man by the road? And “what will you do if you see the masjid door open?” And the children respond by saying, I will help the man and see if he needs anything, I will close the door of the mosque and so on and so forth. And through this process the mothers of Tarim help these critical meanings and intentions to grow in the hearts of their children in order for them to meet what they may encounter in the best way possible
The same morning during Dr Umar’s class, he said hearing Shaykh Yahya’s story made him think of when he moved to Georgia from Nebraska as a child and how his mother helped him prepare for what he would encounter on the first day of school, because Georgia at that time was a very different world; it was the deep South. His mother explained to him the questions that the other children would likely ask him, and the best way to respond. And sure enough, the same questions were asked, Dr Umar responded in the way his mother advised him, and everything worked out just like she said it would. And Dr Umar stopped for a moment and said:
There was a mother who knew how to be a mother.
The moment touched me deeply. Then on the last day of the retreat, Dr Umar spoke to us about his mother again, and about her passing, may Allah be pleased with her, and said said “everything I am, I am because of her.” And from his voice and expressions, we all had tears in our eyes, and prayed for own families and mothers as well as Dr Umar’s in that moment.
What I thought about afterwards was how true that statement is. What we are, and the gifts and personalities we develop are very much a product of our families. To give something to your own family in turn and be a positive influence, it is necessary to be a strong person on your own and someone who has actively worked on purifying their heart. It takes struggle to prevent your own fluctuations in faith impact the consistency of your routines.
I’m at home right now for a visit, and in the past few days I’ve been thinking about the things here I’ve always taken for granted. Whether it is the day beginning before dawn with sounds of people getting out of bed and getting ready for prayer and Qur’an, or quiet dhikr being the accompaniment to meals and snack preparation, or people getting up for prayer as soon as the time comes in, or structured sleep routines, or the many other ways I see the sacred in the mundane, I’ve always just thought of home being “like that.” I’ve assumed everywhere was a place of reading, and seeking development and growth as a shared endeavour. But of course nothing is naturally a particular way, it requires effort and striving and active intention on a daily basis to create a beautiful home. To be someone to anyone, to be mothers and sisters and friends and daughters who know the reality of their roles, it is necessary to be firstly full people ourselves.