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Fractured Wombs


Motherhood is so beautiful, women are told, even before they have become women. Motherhood is what we are meant for. Motherhood is part and parcel of our womanhood. Motherhood will, sooner or later, define us.

What they do not tell us is that for so many of us, motherhood is trauma. It is the loss of ourselves as we are subsumed by the creature growing within us. It is the loss of control over our own bodies, the loss of sleep during pregnant days and colicky nights, the loss of our intimate selves in exchange for cracked nipples and wombs that never stop aching. It is the loss of safety in being able to confide to our loved ones, who stare at us in horror at our ugly confessions.

We are the walking wounded, the mothers with bleeding hearts and emptied wombs, the mothers whose minds are on the verge of breaking. We are the women whose souls are frozen in fear – for we are told that we are weak, impatient, failures as believing women. 

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Only Allah knows our agony, when everyone else refuses to see or hear our pain.

{And We have enjoined on humankind [goodness] to their parents. Their mothers bore them in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and their weaning takes two years. Give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination.} (Qur’an 31:14)

{And We have enjoined upon humankind, to their parents, good treatment. Their mothers carried them with hardship and gave birth to them with hardship…} (Qur’an 46:15)

When the Qur’an speaks of motherhood, it is not with words of false sweetness, nor promises of unbridled joy. Instead, Allah speaks to us with the rawness of our own experiences: wahnun 3ala wahn; hamalat’hu karhan wa wadha3at’hu karhan… weakness and pain upon weakness and pain. The word “karhan” shares the same root as the word “karaaha” – something that is hated. The pain that a mother experiences is unimaginable, a pain that anyone would hate to experience – and yet, it is what women endure, over and over again.

The greatest of all women, Maryam bint Imraan (‘alayhassalaam), cried out during labour,

Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!” (Qur’an 19:23)

The burden placed on Muslim women to experience motherhood – to perform motherhood – as the completion of her feminine identity and epitome of self-worth, as the measure of her womanhood and of her spirituality, is a burden that we do not find in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

How then do we have the audacity to place this burden on women? 

Although no one can deny the status of mothers in Islam, we can no longer afford to deny the complicated reality of motherhood for Muslim women. Even in a time when women are more educated than ever, cultural expectations disguised as Islamic advice often dictates entire aspects of our lives. In many countries and cultural enclaves, there is no consideration as to whether a woman wants to be a mother; she is simply expected to be one, and expected to be happy about it, as soon as she is married – and if she isn’t pregnant soon, then she is expected to seek every means possible to ensure that pregnancy occurs, immediately. After the first pregnancy, a second is expected by the time two years are up; and after that, another one, and another one. The physical, mental, and emotional health of these mothers is rarely given consideration.

Lectures on “the status of women in Islam” and “the rewards for motherhood in Islam” almost never talk about those women whose pregnancies were neither chosen, wanted, nor welcomed; women in abusive marriages whose pregnancies were not cause for joy and celebration, but as yet another chain binding them to their abusers; women whose physical and mental health are sacrificed, over and over, on the altar of motherhood; women whose husbands demand children over and over again, and then are disgusted with the changing of their bodies, and seek fresh, nubile flesh elsewhere. There are women whose marriages are happy and healthy, but do not want children for reasons of their own – and who find themselves pressured into pregnancy, only to find themselves completely disconnected from their babies, wondering what is wrong with their womanhood. There are women who spend their pregnancies excited and overjoyed in anticipation of their offspring, but within days or weeks of birth, catch themselves with thoughts so dark that they are terrified to every speak of them. There are women who spend years functioning as mothers, raising their children and loving them – and yet do not understand what it means to feel the maternal bond. 

For these women, motherhood is trauma

The trauma that these Muslim women experience from motherhood is exacerbated by the lack of empathy, compassion, and mercy shown to them. There is a culture of romanticizing motherhood in a way that even our foremothers would not recognize – a demand that all pain be willed away, that no sign of discomfort be shown, that a mother should smile and express only joy and radiance. Worse still, Muslim women have been taught the warped idea that their spirituality – their very relationship with their Creator – is tied to their fertility and their motherhood. Women who do not choose motherhood, or women who struggle with motherhood, are viewed as spiritually diseased, as weak, as dangerous, as worthy of suspicion, sources of corruption. 

There is no place for women who struggle with pregnancy, who spend each second overcome by sickness that is more than just physical; for women who find themselves impregnated against their wills, for women whose bodies treat the fetus within them as a parasite rather than a gift; for women whose despair throughout motherhood suffocates all other emotion.

In the face of this pressure, so many Muslim mothers find themselves even more overwhelmed than they already were. The struggle to perform motherhood ‘the right way’, when they don’t have the basic support that they need, leads to trauma being magnified. Many mothers find themselves trapped with imposter syndrome, despairing at their lack of maternal competence, convinced that at any moment, the full extent of their perceived failures will be revealed – and their shame made public. The trauma, the pressure, and the stress take a terrible toll on these women, in multiple ways. Their physical health declines, their mental health increasingly deteriorates, and their spiritual well-being crumbles daily.

Perinatal depression, in addition to postpartum depression, are – like so many other women’s health concerns – conditions which are ignored, dismissed, and denigrated, despite the serious impact of those conditions on mothers and their children alike. 

“Author and well known obstetrician, Christiane Northrup (2005) shares that if a pregnant mother is going through high levels of fear or anxiety she creates a “metabolic cascade.” Hormones known as cytokines are produced and the mother’s immune system is affected, including her child’s. Chronic anxiety in the mother can set the stage for a whole array of trauma based results such as prematurity, complications of birth, death, and miscarriage.”

When mothers suffer, so do their children. “Perinatal depression has been associated with many poor outcomes, including maternal, child and family unit challenges. Infants and young children of perinatally depressed mothers are more likely to have a difficult temperament, as well as cognitive and emotional delays.”

Some women, with little knowledge or understanding of how to cope with their trauma, unintentionally inflict trauma upon their children, through emotional or even physical abuse. Some may find themselves completely withdrawn, unable to do little more than perform the basic functions required to keep their children alive; these children, who desperately need physical and emotional nurturing, struggle with attachment issues and will often deal with severe emotional dysfunction in their adult lives. Some women are plunged so deeply within their pain that they cannot fathom a way out – except through death.

It is direly necessary for the conversations on motherhood in the Ummah to shift. The fear of “feminist brainwashing” is both stupid and dangerous; it is laughable to think that anyone could launch a full-scale prevention of pregnancy, especially in the Muslim Ummah, whose birth rates are already responsible for our ever-increasing population. The real issue is not about whether women will keep having babies (they will), but whether we actually care about these women in the first place – and whether we care enough about them that we are willing to overcome our own cultural dictats and instead place the well-being of these women as a priority. Pressuring women into pregnancy will not benefit them, their families, or the Ummah at large; providing support to women who find themselves struggling is a matter of communal obligation towards the believing women of this Ummah. The belief that “Muslims don’t deal with this” is a fiction; statistics show that Pakistan has a postpartum depression rate of 63.3%. In Canada, 23% of new mothers reported feelings consistent with either postpartum depression or an anxiety disorder. Those under the age of 25 had the highest rates of such feelings compared to any other age group.

When women are going through wahnun 3ala wahn, our role is not to judge them, to shame them, or to tear them down. Our role – men and women alike – is to recognize in these struggling mothers the Words of Allah, to honour them, to support them, and to provide them what they need to regain their strength in every way. Our role is to be their awliyaa, their companions and their comfort; our role is to give them the love they so desperately need, in this time of pain and hardship and difficulty that we cannot even begin to understand. Our role is to educate ourselves, to raise awareness of these serious medical and psychological conditions, and not to perpetuate the harmful beliefs and mentalities that have made the suffering of many women so much worse. Our role is to think carefully about what we teach about motherhood, how we treat struggling mothers, and whether our conduct with such women reflects the mercy and compassion of the Most Merciful, Whose very name is connected to the wombs which bear every new generation of believers. 

ArRahman recognizes the pain that every mother’s rahm feels – and so should we.


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Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of



  1. Akh Muslim

    June 20, 2020 at 9:40 AM

    As a Muslim who grow up in the West and lived there till my late 20’s, I’m surprised by the emense differences between the Ummah. I currently live in East Africa and the number of both Men and Women who have had their Ema an tested by war, famine, loss of children and wealth and are still standing inspires me. As far as Dulmi between the sexes goes my Quran teacher who married a second wife as a social responsibility drew my attention to Surat An Nisa Verse 34 and how Allah describes himself in a threatening manner. This life is a test, and real enjoyment is in the here-after. I would recommend sisters make dua for pious spouses and not leave off children. Wa Bilaahi Towfiiq

    • Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse)

      June 23, 2020 at 6:18 PM

      I’m not sure why or how anyone got the idea that I’m saying no women should ever have babies.

      This is very clearly about not pressuring women into believing that motherhood is the be all and end all to being a pious Muslim woman. It is about recognizing that for some women, motherhood is NOT the healthiest option, and that many women experience serious physical and mental health issues due to pregnancy and motherhood – and that instead of attacking them or telling them to make du’a and keep having babies, we should be supporting them and recognizing their pain and not pressuring them to have more babies.

  2. Ramzan Hossain

    June 20, 2020 at 10:22 AM

    Indeed, there is no mother in the universe/world, who does not love, like her child. Mother is the unique creation of Allah almighty, Who gives highly status to them. For example He descended a large size Surah An Nissa. It is obvious that Allah, almighty keen estimated Women. On the other hand Rasoolullah Sawllallahu ‘Alyhi Wasalaam declared that: having Zannat under the foot of Mother for her child.
    Alhamdulillah, we are highly appreciated to read the unique article on Muslim Women by Zainab bint Younus ,a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women’s issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history.
    May Allah bless her and safe and sound from Novel Corona Covid-19 alongwith her family.
    وما توفيقي الا بالله
    Wama Taufiqi illa Billah
    And my success (in my task) can only come from Allah.

  3. Abu Ismail

    June 21, 2020 at 1:53 AM

    I really liked some part of this post but other parts felt very uncomfortable.

    If a woman doesnt want children she must be in agree with the man on this BEFORE the marriage.

    Also it differs from woman to woman. No doubt it is ALWAYS painful and difficult, but some women cope with it much better. My wife was terrified before our first child but now she wants a second one and tells me that it really wasnt too bad of an experience and that she wants to have more children.

    Allah told us to seek children:
    “So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you.” Surah 2:187

    Let us not get affected by the disbelievers who want to make us like them. We should increase in children as the Prophet also encouraged:

    Aisha narrtes:
    “Get married, for I will boast of your great numbers before the nations.” Ibn Maja grade: Hasan

    If a woman doesnt want children, fine, let her agree with her husband-to-be before the marriage. But lets not act like having children is not a part of our religion. The religion encourages it.

    I must say i loved the way you described the feelings of the mother. Its truly a strength Allah blesses them with to be able to go through that trauma and still want more children. I cant imagine myself ever desiring another child after something that looks so painful.

    Barak Allahu Feeki

    Abu Ismail

    • Smeagle

      June 21, 2020 at 1:10 PM

      Welcome back Anonymouse with a corker of an article mashallah.

    • Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse)

      June 23, 2020 at 6:20 PM

      I’m not sure how you missed the ENTIRE POINT OF THIS ARTICLE.

      1) Some women don’t realize until their first pregnancy just how physically and mentally damaging it is for them. You can’t anticipate this in advance. So when it does happen that a woman ends up pregnant and it is HARMFUL to her, then instead of telling her to keep having babies… recognize her pain and don’t pressure her to keep having babies.

      2) No one is saying that people should stop having babies or that Islam doesn’t encourage it. Please point out where in the article this is stated?

  4. Abdullah

    June 21, 2020 at 7:29 AM

    Really great article that touches on an important, often neglected topic of mental health amongst mothers. I do think that this topic is extremely important, and requires more awareness via articles such as this. But I slso think this topic is a very deep and nuanced issue that may require a little bit more explanation. I would propose/encourage you to possibly consult a professional in this field such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, and/or OB/Gyn specialist and develop a series of articles on this topic.

    I personally come from the medical profession, so we know that post-partum depression is common yet can present on varying levels and degrees. These types of feelings that a new mother goes through can range from a very common benign condition called post-partum blues, all the way to severe post-partum depression or even psychosis. We also know that certain people can be predisposed to developing these conditions, which helps us be pro-active in helping prevent or identify it early on. It is a wide spectrum and I think it would be of immense benefit to provide the Muslim community with basic education/awareness regarding these feelings, when they should suspect it in themselves, and when/how to get help.

    May Allah reward you!

    • Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse)

      June 23, 2020 at 6:26 PM

      JazaakAllahu khayran for your thoughtful comment! I appreciate the points you made re:varying levels of peri- and postpartum depression. (And I will definitely think further on developing more articles on the topic inshaAllah.)

  5. Gulam Muhammad IMRAN memon

    June 25, 2020 at 6:30 AM

    Subhanallah great article
    ZajakAllauhu khair

  6. Oumissa

    June 26, 2020 at 2:35 AM

    Jazakallah khayran for writing about this. Many Muslim women are suffering from the detrimental effects of lack of empathy and support through experiences like abuse, infertility, mental illness, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, breastfeeding, motherhood etc

    When there is a lack of support from their community, it makes them lonely and can affect their sense of worth, belonging or even faith. It is this absence of embrace and understanding from their fellow Muslims that open the door to much-feared ‘outside influences’ guised as help.

    The deliberate (or unintentional) misunderstanding of your article illustrates the drowning out of voices calling for much-needed Nd urgent return to the Sunnah of treating women with mercy and justice.

    Yes, dangers exist outside of the fold but we must not focus solely on that while ignoring the greater damage inflicted by Muslims on one another.

    May Allah increase you and everyone with sincerity and success in returning to the Prophets excellent system of community and deen practice.

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