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Sisterhood – A Joie de Vivre

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Nothing compares to the pleasure of bonding with your sisters. Romantic love is not the only joy de vivre.  It takes time spent with your sisters to feel the delight of simple, soul  connections. I am replenished, rejuvenated. The spontaneous burst of laughter, finishing each others thoughts and sentences, the ‘not’ needing to explain a phrase. Masha’Allah, after 4 whole years my gorgeous sisters and I were in one place.  We bemoaned how much like our mother we had become and then thanked Allah for a mother like her.  We spent lazy mornings in PJs with waffles and Washington blueberry sauce, exchanged recipes – ours, Ammi’s, our mothers-in-law’s, our cousins. We ate without abandon through boxes of gourmet cupcakes, Pacific salmon with almond-crusted asparagus and creamy butter chicken. We laughed, giggled and shopped like teenagers. We missed our only brother like crazy. Alhamdulillah for the many blessings. We celebrated one sister’s achievements, running an institute named after a mother of the believers (radhi Allahu ‘anha), the Ayesha School, with a potluck in a quaint house behind the Abu Baker Masjid.

We thought Aboo (our father) would have loved this – “pack up the car! instant picnic.” We marveled at the beauty of the Puget Sound, strolled Pike Place sampling Snoqualmie Valley honey, berries & Le Panier eclairs & of-course coffee. And then there were the tulips at Der Roosengarten. We were just in time for the Skagit Tulip Festival. SubhanAllahi wa bi hamdihi was on all our lips, “so we can have gardens like that in Jannah” said my daughter. Ameen, my daughter, Ameen.

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We know each other’s strengths, faults, weaknesses, positive energies, failures, tragedies, dramas, likes, pet peeves, shortcomings, victories. With each other we have to be real because we know; its amazing not to have to pretend.  We see how much we have grown spiritually and emotionally because we were there in the beginning.

When our souls were first created, theirs must have rested next to mine for Allah to choose them as my sisters. They are my childhood; they remind me of things long forgotten like an old family video but brighter, more colorful and from different angles. Sometimes you don’t even need words; a look, a frown, a smile gives away the emotions. She is what I could have been.

A sampling of memories of our triad sisters are flowers from the same garden.  Our mother was left trianthous, our eldest sister passed away in childhood. May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) reunite us in Jannah.

She sobbed in dua (prayer) for you when you were losing your baby at the emergency room. She held your hand during your C-section and welcomed your daughter with Takbeer.  She has become an amateur matchmaker in hopes that Allah will help her find the perfect match for you.

She secretly fasted on your roza khushai (first fast celebration) and stole your thunder. She stayed up all night to put henna on your hand for your shaadi (wedding) because you didn’t want it done by an impersonal professional. She urged you to wear abaya, “just do it, don’t wait,” she said.  She nursed your baby because she was crying, and you weren’t there.

She was your first baby before you ever bore any from your own womb, the first diaper you changed, the first nose you wiped. She held your dupatta (veil) as you walked up the aisle for your Nikkah. She took your kids to the zoo on Eid while you were away at Hajj. She didn’t need to tell you she loved her gift, you could see the same look of giddy satisfaction as when she got presents at birthdays past.

You keep your past by having sisters. As you get older, they’re the only ones who don’t get bored if you talk about your memories.
– Deborah Moggach

Cousins bickering over toys, over who loves each other more. We find each other in our children. A lift of an eyebrow, a throaty laugh, same toddler gibberish. My children need to see us loving each other so unconditionally, a model for what their future relationship should be like, God Willing. A day after we land back, my two year old says, “Mama remember when we went to Khala jaani’s house?  Can we go there again…TODAY?” I wish, sweetie, I wish…

My intense bond with my sister makes me want to take a closer look at sisterhood in Islam –

The first pair of sisters that immediately comes to mind in Islamic history is  our mother Ayesha (radhi Allahu ‘anha) and her sister Asma bint Abu Bakr (radhi Allahu ‘anha). They were both Abu Bakr Siddiq’s (radhi Allahu ‘anha) daughters and also had a half-sister named Umm Kulthum.  Ayesha (radhi Allahu ‘anha) would often ask her sister, Asma, to nurse young children (mainly orphans) – this way she would become their mahram and would teach them.  Since Ayesha (radhi Allahu ‘anha) did not have children of her own, she adopted her nephew’s (Asma’s son’s name) as her kunya– Umm Abdullah.  How deep a bond between sisters to be known as the mother of your child.  I know sisters who have given up their children to their siblings who do not have biological children of their own, so they too may enjoy this great blessing.  Abdullah once said of her, “I have not seen two women more generous than my aunt Ayesha and my mother Asma.  But their generosity was expressed in different ways. My aunt would accumulate one thing after another until she had gathered what she felt was sufficient and then distributed it all to those in need. My mother, on the other hand, would not keep anything even for the morrow.”

Another model for sisterhood that we find in in the daughters of the Messenger of Allah’s daughters: Zaynab, Umm Kulthum, Ruqiyyah and Fatima az-Zahrah.

Mariam (radhi Allahu ‘anha)’s mother Hanna (Anne) also had a sister Aashya (Elizabeth). Maryam and her aunt were both gifted with the pure souls of Prophet hood in their wombs, Hazrat Eesa (‘alayhi salaam) and Hazrat Yahya (‘alayhi salaam). Hanna and her sister both chose to give up their children to the service of Masjid al Aqsa.

Our Mother Khadijah’ sister’s name was Hala. She named her child from her second husband, Hala, after her sister. Their voices sounded so much alike that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would recognize it from behind the door when Hala called out to him, years after our mother, Khadijah, passed away. Khadijah married her daughter Zaynab to her sister’s son, Abdul-As.

A khala (mother’s sister) is an eligible custodian of a child after the maternal/paternal grandmother if his or her mother passes away. In fact, in the Maliki fiqh the khala‘s right precedes the paternal grandmother’s.  We find the importance of this bond of the womb, from a hadith of the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

A man approached the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and said, “I committed an offence, could I atone for it?”
He asked, “Have you got a mother?”
The man said, “No.”
He asked, “Have you got a maternal aunt?”
The man said, “Yes.”
The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “Be good to her.”
(Transmitted by Tirimdhi in “Righteousness and Relations” (1905); Ibn Hibban Charity (EI-Ehsan) (435); and Al-Hakim who amended it on the terms of the two Sheikhs, agreed upon by Al-Dhahaby, 4/155, all on the authority of Umar.)

This is further supported by a hadith related by Tirmidhi

Rasulullah (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “The maternal aunt has the status of one’s mother.”  We also learn that an elder sister is similar to one’s mother and a younger sister is similar to one’s child.

The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Allah says: ‘I am Al-Rahman (the Most Merciful) and this rahm (tie of kinship) has a name that is derived from My name. Whoever upholds it, I will take care of him, and whoever severs it, I will cut him off.’” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1907; Abu Dawood, 1694). Her rights over you are that you love her for the sake of Allah, teach her Islam, give her sincere advice, that you do not back-bite about her in her absence, you conceal her sins and shortcomings, and that you are there for her  in her time of need.  If you love something for yourself then you love it for her as well (yeah – get two of that hijab next time you are shopping). Keep her secrets, don’t laugh at her or make fun of her. Wash and shroud her dead body, care for her orphaned children, pray for her and ask for her maghfirah.

May He who made us sisters, give us the ability to maintain the ties of kinship, to be the best sisters, aunts, and nieces that we can be. Ameen.

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Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. forever a student of Islam

    March 2, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    This made me realize my responsibility towards my sister, my aunts and my own mom. JazakAllah kul khair for writing this.

    • Hena Zuberi

      March 2, 2011 at 9:47 PM

      Alhamdulillah- There is so much horrible stuff going on in the world- sometimes we need to just focus on the many blessings and favors that Allah (SWT) has given us.

      salams

      on Twitter HenaZuberi

  2. Sana'a

    March 2, 2011 at 5:16 AM

    <3

    • Hena Zuberi

      March 2, 2011 at 9:37 PM

      luz

  3. Hafsa

    March 2, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    Aameen, summa aameen! MashaAllah beautiful beautiful article! =) Alhumdulillah, Allah has blessed me with both an elder and a younger sister and MashaAllah, like you said, the relationship between sisters is sooo heartwarming! =)

    • Anonymous

      March 2, 2011 at 4:03 PM

      What about your brothers?

      • Hafsa

        March 2, 2011 at 5:13 PM

        Hehe, you needn’t be so insecure! :P Alhumdulillah you guys are awesome too.

        • Hena Zuberi

          March 2, 2011 at 9:17 PM

          Was that your brother? How sweet is that! May Allah preserve your bond. Brothers are amazing!!

  4. Saba

    March 2, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Mashallah I love this article Sister Hena. jazakallahu khayir for the awesome reminder!!!
    We know this in the back of our head but it helps sooo much to be reminded.

    Also I know that one’s mom’s sister (khala) has the status of one’s mother but does one’s father’s brother also have the status of the father???
    I’ve often heard when I was growing up that your older sister is like your mom and recently I heard in my husband’s family (since I had no brothers) that your older brother is like your dad. just wondering if the same status applies to the paternal relationship as well as the maternal????

    • Hena Zuberi

      March 30, 2011 at 7:42 PM

      I am sorry I missed your question- this applies to the elder brother and the paternal relationship as well.
      And knowing this makes the law of inheritance make so much more sense- if the sons gets more inheritance, it is because they have more responsibility and have to take care of younger siblings.

      I have read somewhere that it is a great sadaqah what a father/brother spends on his sister or daughter when she comes home after a divorce, but I have to verify it.

  5. Sadaf (Kitch!)

    March 2, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    okay! this is positively beautiful. brought tears to my eyes. thank you for sharing your beautiful talent.

    • Hena Zuberi

      March 2, 2011 at 9:34 PM

      and then there are friends who are like soul sisters :) Awww give your sis a hug and salam from me.

  6. Rafa

    March 2, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    JazakAllah for a heartwarming article. I don’t have any sisters myself, but my two cousins may as well be. We grew up together in the same house, learned to go through life together. We still have each other to lean on, Alhamdulillah. :)

    • Hena Zuberi

      March 2, 2011 at 9:20 PM

      Cousins are sisters with less drama. I would love to hear some stories if you guys wouldn’t mind sharing.

      Sister in laws are pretty cool too and so are cousins-in-laws and Aunts- in- laws too. I think it’s whatever you put into a relationship- more often then not Allah gives you so much more love in return.

      • Rafa

        March 3, 2011 at 7:42 PM

        Oh, there can be lots of drama. :) But that’s what makes us so close. You fight with the ones you love most, and for me, my cousins are my closest friends.
        You’re right though, its definitely what you put into a relationship. My mom, for instance, has a strong bond with her sister-in-law (my dad’s brother’s wife) because of the common ground they both share of being the ‘brides.’ My mom’s been married to the family longer, so she’s quite protective of her.

  7. Red

    March 2, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    I’m genuinely happy for anyone and everyone who have sisters like this. I pray mine can one day see what she is missing, before its too late. Inshallah.

    • Hena Zuberi

      March 2, 2011 at 9:27 PM

      Ameen, sister!
      I wanted to write something positive and uplifting. It isn’t always 100% perfect as we are humans and are of course not perfect. Every relationship has up and downs, maybe my sisters and my trip would not have been as soul stirring if we lived on the same street and were constantly in each other’s business.
      I hope whatever situation you are in with your sister,she does see what she is missing out on, May Allah soften her heart Please continue to make dua for her all the time.

  8. deysi

    March 2, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    Ma sha’ Allah, a beautiful article. subhanAllah sisters are like flowers from the same garden, can be soo different, yet they have been given the same nourishment.

    May Allah make us understand the gravity of the relaltions that He has blessed us with, and may we fulfill all their rights upon us in the best manner. ameen.

  9. shiney

    March 3, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    masha’Allah Sr. Hena! JZK so much for writing this heart-warming article! I have 2 best friends who are also my cousins and we share the same bond that you described in your article, Alhamdulillah! And we also have the same dreams for our (future) children-that they also be the best of friends-inseparable and always supporting eachother. This article really made me appreciate my best friends even more and I make du’a that Allah (SWT) blesses all of us with this kind of sisterhood both in this world and in Jannah! Ameen!

  10. Arifa Mashhood

    March 3, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    Beautiful article!

    I don’t have a sister but a friend who has been more than a real sister could have been. Also all my cousins have always been there for me just like real sisters and I have strong bonds with all of them.

    As for Khalas (mom’s sisters), mine have been truly great!!!

    I am truly blessed, AlHamdulLillah!!

  11. Mariam E.

    March 3, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    Asalamu Alikum

    Love it! BarakaAllahu feeki sister.

  12. Ruksana hossain

    March 9, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    Thank you sister Hena for writing such a beautiful article and also reminding us of our blessings ! It brought tears to my eyes……Alhamdulillah I am blessed with two wonderful older sisters and brothers too . “Sisters are flowers from the same garden “~~~ loved it !!

  13. Aziza

    June 9, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    SubhanAllah, what a beautiful article, may Allah reward you! :)
    I don’t have any sisters, but I’ve always wanted one. This reminded me of my mom and her two sisters and their beautiful relationship.

  14. Pingback: » Why Women Really Compete With Each Other

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