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Umm Zakiyyah | Are You a Sign of the Last Day?

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Cross-post from http://saudilife.net/life-and-society/92-life-and-society/1653-are-you-a-sign-of-the-last-day

It was while watching the Oprah Winfrey Show many years ago when I realized that times have really changed…

This particular show interviewed a mother who had written and published a children’s book and dedicated it to her daughter.  The mother shared with Oprah that she now realized that she had spent many of the daughter’s young years working hard in her career and hadn’t given her daughter the time and attention she deserved.

The book was a gift from mother to daughter saying, I’m sorry and I love you. Moved by the sincerity of the mother, Oprah turned to the daughter, who was also present on the show, and asked her about the heartfelt dedication in the book.

In response, the daughter scoffed at the dedication and said it meant nothing to her.  She said that a meager book could never make up for all she’d lost in those years of her mother not being there for her…

…A friend of mine once shared the story of a young woman who had accepted Islam and fell sick shortly thereafter and was hospitalized.  Her new Muslim companions would gather at her bedside reciting Qu’ran and keeping her company.  One day one of the Muslims was reciting Qur’an and the woman started to turn her head back and forth in apparent agitation.  Concerned, the Muslims asked what was wrong.

The sick woman responded by saying that it was hard to concentrate because she didn’t know whom to listen to.

“What do you mean?” the Muslims asked her.

Agitated, she said to the one reciting Qur’an, “Should I listen to you and should I listen to them?”

The reciter turned and didn’t see anyone.  “I’m the only one reciting,” he said.

The woman, who did not know Arabic, responded saying, “I hear someone else saying, ‘Yaa ayyu han-nafsul mut-ma-innah. ‘Irji’ee ilaa rabbiki raaDiyya-tam marDiyyah.  Fad-khulee fee ‘ebaadee, wad-khulee jannatee.”

O reassured soul, Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him],

And enter among My [righteous]servants,

And enter My Paradise

(Al-Fajr, 89:27-30).

A moment later, she died…

…I don’t know why, but the daughter’s words to her mother that day as I watched Oprah affected me deeply.  I nearly cried.

I wished I could somehow reach out to the daughter and tell her that it was she who should be apologizing to her mother.  It was she who should be asking for forgiveness.  It was she who should be dedicating, not a book, but her life to the woman who carried her for nine long months and endured agonizing pain to see her safely into the world.

If your mother had done only that, I wanted to tell her, a life of toiling servitude at her feet could not repay even a single contraction your mother suffered birthing you.

I wanted, too, to ask this single question: For whose comfort do you think your mother worked so long and hard in her career?

Allah says:

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be dutiful to your parents. If one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them Uff [a word of disrespect], nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say, ‘My Lord!  Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.’  Your Lord knows best what is in your inner-selves.  If you are righteous, then, verily, He is Most Forgiving to those who turn unto Him again and again in obedience, and in repentance.” (17:23-24).

Time and time again we read verses about Allah’s mercy and forgiveness, but it is often not real for us.  It is only when we hear stories like the one about the young new Muslim that we begin to get a glimpse into that vast world of Allah’s compassion for His servants.

When I heard the story of the girl hearing the last verses from Soorat Al-Fajr before death, my eyes welled with tears.  I longed to hear those Divine words recited to me.  But as I reflected on my life and my shortcomings, I wondered if I’d be given that gift.

What was it, I wondered, that she had done that pleased Allah so much that she earned this momentous blessing?  Was there something—anything—that I could do to earn something similar?

…I thought of my parents, and of the love that the mother must have had when dedicating a book to her daughter.

And I wondered at the regret the mother must have felt when realizing that her daughter would never understand just how much she loved her—even when she had no idea how to show it…

If I were to speak to the daughter of the career woman—or to the daughter or son of an absent father—I could never say you don’t have a right to hurt, a right to cry, a right to wish things were different, or even that you don’t have the right to feel that your father or mother fell short in their responsibilities to you.

For surely, it is true:  Parents are not angels.  Parents are not without sin.  And parents, of a certainty, are riddled with faults.

But rest assured, dear soul, I’d like to say, that Allah knows what you’ve endured.  Allah knows your pain.  Allah knows the hurt you nurse in your heart…

“…Your Lord knows best what is in your inner-selves…”

Even if you suffered at their hands something so severe that you had no choice but to speak up and seek help from others, what harm would it do, even still, to honor and respect them?

What harm will your being righteous do to you?

“…If you are righteous, then, verily, He is Most Forgiving to those who turn unto Him again and again in obedience, and in repentance…”

But she was never there for me.

He was always gone.

Why didn’t he try harder?

They should listen more

But what of our falling short in our responsibilities to them?

We accept without question the duty of parents to provide, to be kind, to “be there”, and to love us, regardless….

….Of our temper tantrums, our sudden outbursts, our tumultuous teens….

Regardless of our tendency to rarely, if ever, reach out to them.

So in those inevitable moments of hurt, when reflecting on the wrongs of one’s parents, why not pray for them?  Why not ask Allah to forgive them?

… “My Lord!  Bestow on them Your Mercy…”

A hadith reports the Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, as saying, “Verily, on the Day of Resurrection, Allah has slaves to whom He will neither speak nor purify nor look at.” When he was asked who these people were, among them was the person who disowns or abandons his parents” (Ahmad). 

Yet, as we draw ever closer to the Day of Judgment, there are so few of us who are moved to utter a simple prayer asking Allah’s mercy for our parents, and so many of us who move our tongues endlessly recounting their faults.

The Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, taught that one of the signs of the Last Day is that a slave girl will give birth to her master.   And, indeed, it seems that that time is upon us…

A mother is given orders by her child.  A father is scolded for his faults.  A mother dedicates a book—a life—to a child and is told…

…A meager book could never make up for all I’ve lost in those years of you not being there…

What, dear child, would you feel, if that book were your Book of Deeds handed to you on the Day of Judgment?

Could your list of transgressions therein—against your parents and yourself—make up for all that you lost in not “being there” for your own soul?

And perhaps, you simply saying to your career mother or absent father, “I love you and will honor you still” would be the cause for every single ink stroke in your Book of sin to be erased – forever – from your account.

And perhaps, too, while your soul is being taken from your body, you will hear—because of this “meager” good deed—a voice from on high saying…

“O reassured soul, return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him], and enter among My [righteous] servants.  And enter My Paradise.”

And perhaps your mother and father will enter with you, too.

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Daughter of American converts to Islam, Umm Zakiyyah writes about the interfaith struggles of Muslims and Christians, and the intercultural, spiritual, and moral struggles of Muslims in America. She is the internationally acclaimed author of more than fifteen books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, His Other Wife and the newly released self-help book for Muslim survivors of parental and family abuse: Reverencing the Wombs That Broke You, with contributions by Haleh Banani, behavioral therapist.Her books have been used in universities in America and abroad including Indiana University-Bloomington, Howard University, University of D.C. and Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.To learn more about the author, visit uzauthor.com.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Layla

    June 15, 2012 at 3:22 AM

    Mashallah a beautiful post, Umm Zakiyyah I think you are the most eloquent writer on MM. I also liked how this post was free of judgments and instead focused on how we should honor our parents

  2. Avatar

    Amnah

    June 15, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    SubhanAllah!!! Wind!!! Keep writing!!! Keep changing dead hearts!

  3. Avatar

    rafiya

    June 15, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    MashaAllah beautiful post,A good reminder for us in our busy lives.May Allah reward you .,

  4. Avatar

    nayma

    June 15, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    May Allah reward you Umm Zakiyyah for this beautiful post. Both my daughter and I have read all your books. Please keep writing for our children.

  5. Avatar

    HopingForMercy

    June 16, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    I haven’t been good to my mum, I’ve shouted at her, screamed the house down, dishonoured her often, I pray that she enters jannah almost at every salah, I find it hard to control my temper, I also pray that Allah swt forgives me, but I feel He may not forgive me. I do try to do good deeds to make up for the fact I can’t control my temper, I’ll make her coffee or rub her feet when she’s ill I love her very much and feel constantly guilty. I am trying to change. Will Allah swt forgive one who has dishonoured their parents in the past? Is there something that I have said or done in the past which means I am destined for hell forever? Or does Allah swt forgive everything if we ask for forgiveness genuinely? I don’t want to go to hell I feel like a very bad person. What if I did enough good, sincere deeds to wipe out the bad?

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Umm Zakiyyah

      June 17, 2012 at 10:36 AM

      Allah forgives all sins except shirk. He says,

      “Say, O My slaves who have wronged their
      souls! Despair not of the mercy of
      Allah.

      Verily, Allah forgives all sins.

      Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

      —Qur’an, 39:53

      • Avatar

        Aisha

        August 9, 2016 at 3:42 AM

        Umm zakiyya, May Allah continue to bless u, I have not read your books but am hoping to rrad them In Sha Allah, I also want to write books of my own bt I dnt have a background on literature, I wuld love to have your email so I can send you some of what I have writen, areish44@gmail.com. I hope to hear from you soon. Bissalam

    • Avatar

      ConcernedBro

      June 19, 2012 at 7:09 PM

      Dear brother/sister, just as you have made her weep, go and make her laugh. Just as you have shamed her in front of her, go and apologize not behind the scenes but to her face. Often, when we do a mistake to person, we go straight to Allah and ask for forgiveness thinking that is all that needs to be done. No, go to her as well and apologize. After you are sincere in your apology to her, and you weep for your shortcomings…how can you do the same mistake twice? You cant…hopefully you wont. Dont just show mercy, love, and affection when she is sick but show it when she is healthy and fine. Anger/temper can be controlled. It is not something we are born with. It is not an excuse for the way we act either. Just think how important our parents are in our lives. The best deeds is being kind and loving to our parents yet this is something lots of us fail in.
      I pray that Allah gives you the ability to shower her with your love and that you are patient with her before its too late and Allah closes that door of goodness for you. Ameen.

  6. Avatar

    fauziya

    June 16, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    The article is very good ,but i also think if u have been not taught emotinally to love in ur childhood its difficult to develop that feeling or any other feeling.May be when the women has her own daughter then she may reliease to some extent .i know the place of mother in islam ,but i think to some extent its the mothers fault u get what u give back.else u should be muslim who understands mothers importance and respects mother for the sake of Allah

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Umm Zakiyyah

      June 17, 2012 at 10:31 AM

      Thanks, fauziya for your feedback. I agree with you: It is difficult for those people who haven’t been taught love to “develop that feeling of love” if it wasn’t there in childhood. However, Allah doesn’t ask us to “develop a feeling of love” for our parents. He asks us to obey, honor and respect them, which may or may not emanate from a feeling of “love.”

      It’s true that we get what we deserve in life. Allah says, “Whatever misfortune happens to you is because of what your hands have sent forth…” So this goes both ways:for parents and children too. Therefore, if love isn’t there, then perhaps the fault lies with both parent and child. Perhaps, the son or daughter has committed sins or wrongs (to the parent or others) that makes him or her “deserve” the “bad relationship” with the mother or father. And Allah knows best. But this should not be our focus. We are here to worship Allah, not “play God” in finding who’s “more guilty.”

      Either way, when it comes to our parents, it is as you said, we must understand their importance (despite their human faults and sins) and respect them for the sake of Allah, regardless of what we think they “deserve.”

      May Allah help us and guide us to what is correct.

      Regards,
      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

      • Avatar

        gul

        July 17, 2012 at 10:06 AM

        i respectfully disagree with you ,i dont get how an innocent child who,s only experience of life is acquired through his or her parents, until he/she growns up, can deserve such a treatment, what could he have done to deserve this? not put the toys back when he was done playing?

  7. Avatar

    wir349

    June 17, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    SubhanAllah, this article is really nice. Really touched my heart.

  8. Avatar

    shiney

    June 18, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    no doubt, you have written an amazingly guilt-infusing article Sr. Zakiyyah. However, what the daughter said on the Oprah show, that a book could not make up for all the years that she endured away from her mother is kind of true. No matter how much a parent, especially a mother says they do for their child, if they haven’t given their child the TIME and the LOVE that they need, NOTHING is gonna be able to repair that for the rest of their lives. I speak from personal experience and if Allah had not guided me to understand HIS Love and Mercy, I would not have been able to get over this problem myself. and the sad part is that no matter how much you try to block it out or forget about it (or even if you really get over it), it always somehow creeps back into your life. But of course, it’s all a test so we have to still obey Allah and do what we have to do, while putting away our emotions if they come between us and the submission to Allah.

    • Avatar

      gul

      July 17, 2012 at 9:59 AM

      i agree with u , iv seen parents not even taking out 5mins of their time for their kids, kids that they brought into this world, parents are responsible for their children, no matter how busy they are, parenting is their primary responsibility.

  9. Avatar

    Aziza

    June 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    WOW this post really shook my heart. I have alot of work to do. We always feel like our parents don’t understand, like they are treating us unfairly. But have we ever stopped to look at ourselves!?
    JazakAllah Khair for this wake up call.

  10. Avatar

    shiha

    June 22, 2012 at 1:21 AM

    Assalamualaikum warah matullah,
    Thank you for this lovely article. However I do have some disagreements regarding our role and reward as a mother. No doubt that we do all the necessary tasks, responsbility and amanah for the sake of Allah. So if we really do it because Allah asks us to do it, would not it be tainted if we ask some ‘gift’ / appreciation / gratitude from our children out of our hard work raising them in return? Where is our ‘ikhlas’ (sincerity) then? My point is, yes it is our duty to do what we are supposed to do as a mother/parents but it is not necessarily meant that we ought to expect anything in return except for Allah’s redho. If the kids return the love and good deed, alhamdulillah; but if they are not (for whatever reasons), we don’t have to feel frustrated because if we really do it for Allah’s sake, then we only hope to get rewards from Him and not from any other human beings.

    Allah Taala values the effort that we put in, not the result that comes out of it.

    [Forgive me for my language / grammar as English is not my first language. However I do hope that my message is clear and easy to be understood.] Thank you and wasalam.

    Shiha
    Malaysia.

  11. Avatar

    UZ

    June 22, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    Maa shaa’ Allah, may Allah reward you for that reminder, yaa Rabb.

  12. Avatar

    Kirana

    June 30, 2012 at 1:32 AM

    undoubtedly the arguments in this article are true. though one should not be surprised at the children arising from parents who had no time for them. if slaves are to give birth to their masters, and that this can be said to be modern mothers, isn’t it parents themselves who teach their children to be masters?

    and, while not removing the decisions of the child when he or she grows up, to act differently and righteously IN SPITE OF how he was raised, we can still understand how the modern self-interested culture makes self-interested parents whose career devotion is not necessarily for the children’s comfort but for their own fulfilment – and in this context even the children’s book might be just an attempt to assuage their own guilt to the public rather than a starting gesture to have a different parent/child relationship – what children will arise from such neglect, left to their own devices in the culture of today? we all know the modern culture, particularly in America, is devoid of terms like temperance, chastity, wisdom, and brotherhood.

    so while indeed a child will still face his dues for causing his mother pain, parents have duties to discharge with respect to their children, which includes raising them in all physical, spiritual and mental dimensions, going beyond simply having given birth, for which those of us who are parents will undoubtedly be questioned as well in the Hereafter.

  13. Avatar

    Halima

    July 3, 2012 at 4:30 AM

    Jazakh’Allah khair for such an inspiring piece sister. Your perspective is one that has never crossed my mind, and truly we are accountable for our own souls. I ask Allah to bless your efforts, and keep inspiring, Ameen.

  14. Avatar

    Bassam

    July 13, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    “A man once came to ‘Umar bin Al-Khattaab complaining about his son
    being undutiful to him. He had brought his son with him and began
    blaming him for his disobedience, so the son asked: “Doesn’t a son have a right over his father also?” ‘Umar said: “Of course.” The son said: “Then what is it?” ‘Umar replied: “That his father carefully chooses a mother for him, that he gives him a good name and that he teaches him the Qur’aan.”

    At this, the son said: “My father has not done any of these
    things. As for my mother, she was a black slave woman that used to
    belong to a Zoroastrian (Majoos). He named me Ju’al and did not teach me
    even one letter from the Qur’aan.” ‘Umar turned to the man and said: “You came to me to complain about your son being undutiful to you, however, IT IS YOU THAT WERE UNDUTIFUL TO HIM BEFORE THAT!”

    Muslim parents have the primary obligation towards their children. These days, many Muslim mothers who choose careers over rearing their own children, still expect Jannah at their feet for sitting in an office the whole day while their children languish at daycare. After the daughter’s ‘normal’ response, the tone of the article was unexpected. It sounds like a defense of working mother culture.

    • Avatar

      Roshna

      July 18, 2012 at 5:44 PM

      Asalaam alaikum,

      I may be wrong but how can we judge the woman for being a “career woman.” Do we know what her intentions were for choosing a career?

      I’ll just re quote Umm Zakiyah as she has stated everything so beautifully MashaAllah : “I wanted, too, to ask this single question: For whose comfort do you think your mother worked so long and hard in her career?” We do not know the mothers intentions.

      May Allah guide us to treat our parents in a respectful manner full of honor and kindness. Ameen.

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Imam Mohamed Magid Fighting Anti-Semitism on CNN

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