By: Umm Zakariyya
Reflecting on my marriage, my mind settles on two things: A diamond ring and a couplet from the Holy Qurʾān.
So verily, along with every hardship is relief. [Al-Sharḥ 5]
Verily, along with every hardship is relief. [Al-Sharḥ 6]
On my fourth wedding anniversary, two days before our first child was due, my marriage crumbled. My husband abandoned us without warning, like a thunderstorm that suddenly shifts the winds and darkens the skies on an otherwise clear day and passes just as quickly, leaving in his wake the debris of debt, women, and lies. The next night, I went into labor alone desperately reciting hasbunallahu wa ni`mal wakil, pleading Allāh to save my family, the physical pains of labor engulfed by the sharper, more seething pain of a broken heart. On Friday afternoon, immediately after Jumu'ah Ṣalāh, my son silently entered the world; not a breath, cry or squirm announcing his arrival, prompting a controlled frenzy of doctors and nurses. Although my son survived, my heart died. I sold my house, I resigned from teaching, I struggled to pray. I refused to leave the house for 10 months.
Such is the unexpected nature of divorce, splitting asunder the very foundation of a woman's existence, destroying her confidence, stifling her capacity to love, and paralyzing her faith. It is in this condition that I found myself facing a tremendous test from Allāh – the responsibility of single motherhood.
A human being's instinctual response in the face of tragedy is survival, the struggle to fulfill basic human needs – cleanliness, warmth, sustenance, and sleep. For a new mother, the needs of her newborn child supersede her own, as she responds to his cries, nursing, changing, and soothing him tirelessly, forcing her into an unfamiliar solitude and causing bouts of anxiety and depression. For a divorced new mother in 'iddah, the solitude is tenfold, requiring tremendous love, concern, and support from others. Yet, tragedy repels people from the one who suffers. Too numb from my own pain and fatigued from attending to my son, I welcomed the solitude, reflecting on my relationship with Allāh, repenting for my sins, weeping and begging for His mercy. I found solace in the du'ā' of Umm Salamah (raḍyAllāhu 'anha), which she recited after the death of her husband, Abu Salamah, and before her marriage to the Prophet:
Oh, Allāh, recompense me for my affliction and replace it with something better.
In quiet dhikr and reflection, my days ebbed and flowed testing my ṣabr and building my resilience.
Alḥamdulillāh, with time, the fight for survival subsides, the body recovers and grows stronger, as surviving gives way to living. Similarly, a newborn's dependence advances towards independence – a first smile, the first full night of sleep, first steps, first words. In response, the mother experiences a catharsis – a flood of emotion that purges her of frustration and fear – and begins to kindle within her genuine love and compassion for the little person emerging before her. It was amongst my son's firsts that the dam suppressing my sorrow often burst, and the tears gushed forth uncontrollably. In gratitude and humility, the khushū' returned in my ṣalāh and I began making du'ā' with conviction, not yet for myself, but for my son.
Just as the surface of a seawall erodes from the ceaseless pounding of salty, ocean waves, so does raising a child soften the hardened edges of a mother's heart, allowing a peaceful quietude to take root. After returning to teaching, my students and I were discussing Arthur Miller's 'Tragedy and the Common Man'. He argues that “[tragedy] is the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity… the tragic right is a condition of life, a condition in which the human personality is able to flower and realize itself.” This forced me to reflect more deeply on the profound beauty and ḥikmah of our blessed Qurʾān.
With Allāh's guidance and mercy, I now understand that motherhood is my tragic right, my son is the promised relief from my hardship, and our bond as mother and son is the transformative result of our condition – like a diamond.
SubḥānAllāh, the formation of a diamond requires very specific environmental conditions -the exposure to extremely high pressure juxtaposed with extremely low temperatures – and is brought to the Earth's surface by magma released from volcanic eruptions. As a result, the diamond is the hardest natural material, known for its toughness and purity, which sparkles more brilliantly than any gem when cut, faceted, and polished by time and experience.
May Allāh preserve the purity of our sons like diamonds and strengthen the virtues of honesty, humility, and modesty in their character as exemplified by our beloved Prophet. May He harden them against the evils and temptations of this society and enable them to accept their roles as amīrs, husbands, and fathers who honor their responsibility to their wives and children, treating them with compassion and integrity. And may He guide them to find Jannah at the feet of the mothers who raised them and to make du'ā' for the magfirah of the fathers who abandoned them. āmīn.