I had become a highly distracted person. As a multitasking mother, things had got out of hand. Of course, I had to multitask to get things done and simply maintain a household, so I would cook whilst trying to keep my children amused, or I would hang up washing while engaged in conversation. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that my phone was always in reach.
Whenever I was having a hard time with my children I would use my phone as an escape. Whenever I heard a ping or saw the notification light flashing, I would check, even if that meant leaving a task I was busy with, or becoming distracted when someone (normally a little person) was trying to get my attention or talk to me. Whenever I heard a call, I felt a great pressure to immediately pick up. It made me feel guilty and distracted, as if my mind was in five places at once. I blamed my fuzzy mind and absentmindedness purely on my tiredness, but the reality was that I was too connected.
Sometimes I felt like throwing my phone out of the window just so that I could be free of the notifications, messages and news feeds which beckoned me all day long. I had attempted, in the past, to turn off the WiFi connection so that I wouldn’t receive messages or be able to check for updates. I had also tried just putting my phone on silent. But it never worked for long. Why? Maybe it was because I felt the need to be available to anyone who wanted to contact me, just in case it was important. Maybe it was because I had convinced myself that I needed my phone to get me through the day. Maybe it was because deep down I thought that if I didn’t reach for it, I would become bored. Or maybe, as sad as it sounds, it was because I sometimes felt ‘unproductive’ when not doing anything other than watching my children or playing with them
It wasn’t until I started reading the book “Hands Free Mama” that I felt like I had a companion to help me on my journey to becoming hands free. It gave me that push to just PUT IT AWAY. So I did. In a kitchen cupboard. And I tried to forget about it. I had changed my settings so that all notification sounds were off except calls (for emergency situations). No social media pings. No email pings. No message pings. I was free.
When the urge came for me to grab my phone (which was very often), I told myself: just let go. You don’t need it. And it doesn’t need you. And that day, I was able to resist it more than I had ever been able to before. But why? You may ask.
Because I had re-discovered the joy in connection, conversation.
I was free from the sounds which summoned me away.
I sat watching my children as they played in the bath. I observed. And I noticed….
How my daughter’s face lit up when she realised that I was watching her, simply watching her, undistracted.
How peaceful I felt when I didn’t feel the need to check my phone.
How stress free I felt just letting go.
I was carefree. I was living. And enjoying.
I no longer wanted to escape behind my screen every ten minutes. I no longer wanted to check my messages and emails when my children were present. I no longer felt the constant pressure of having to check my phone and respond. I was truly free.
I held my daughter’s hand, instead of my phone, feeling its warmth and noticing its softness as we walked down the stairs together.
I didn’t have to ask my daughter to repeat something because I was too distracted to focus the first time.
I could stop the sibling squabble before it escalated because I was fully present, both physically and mentally.
I could take a deep breath, look my child in the eye and respond more calmly to the repeated questioning, instead of answering impatiently from behind a screen.
But was that it? Had I broken free forever? Was it really that simple? Of course not.
I had tasted the sweetness of being hands free, but by evening, tiredness had got to me and my phone was back out. As I struggled to focus on my daughter, a wave of guilt washed over me.
But this time, instead of just wallowing in my guilt, the fact that I knew I had an alternative choice and had experienced its joy pushed me into action and I forced myself to put my phone away when bedtime drew near. With my phone out of sight once again, I could be fully present for those last, most precious moments.
“Night, night,” I said, as I looked my daughter in the eye.
“Love you,” I said, as I peeped through the gap in the door.
“I love you too,” was the soft reply.
I then gave a kiss in the air directed at my daughter, along with a smile. But instead of just closing the door and walking away, I waited just a moment. And that was all it took, for my presence was rewarded with an ‘I want to hug you,’ something I would have missed if I had simply rushed out of the room, eager to savour every ‘me time’ moment that I could before bed.
The next few days were up and down. When tiredness and sickness visited, my phone ‘cravings’ came back with a vengeance.
But although things weren’t perfect, they were 100% better. After just a few days I had become used to leaving my phone out of reach for much longer periods, no longer feeling the need to have it by my side 24/7. I had realised that just seeing an email or WhatsApp sign at the top of my phone made me much more inclined to unlock it and check my messages, so I removed them completely. I also turned off automatic email syncing, which meant that I had to check my inbox myself (and I rarely remembered to do that during the day.)
Whenever I felt myself becoming overly distracted, I tried be firm with myself and make the choice to simply put my phone down. And when I did, the joy returned. The joy of taking my time to watch my daughter’s face as she concentrated on building a tower from blocks. The joy of talking to my husband without thinking of the one hundred and one messages and emails that I had to respond to. The joy of simply slowing down to admire the creation of Allah through the lens of my eyes, and not that of my phone camera.
Because becoming hands free is not about throwing your phone out of the window. It is about self-discipline, maintaining a balance, and striving for what truly matters.
Will you join me?
© RS Khan 2017
Motherhood changes us. And along with it, we are given a new identity. But whilst “mother” is a most honourable title, and motherhood is a most honourable gift, we don’t have to give up the wife we were before.
I know that it’s hard. Sometimes it feels like motherhood has taken over your former identity. But you’re still there, deep down. You’re still that same woman who once waited eagerly for her husband’s return. You’re still that same woman who once maintained her appearance, every day. You’re still that same woman who once spent her days joking, playing and simply caring.
And don’t forget, your husband is the same man too. That same man who noticed, smiled, appreciated and reciprocated.
I know that loose trousers are so much comfier than fitting jeans. I know that the lipstick may not look as neat by the time he arrives home. The perfume may have weakened. The eye liner may no longer be crisp. But it’s worth it, so worth it. For every small action is recorded and preserved. Every step towards protecting your husband is a step towards Allah’s protection. Every scent you adorn yourself with brings you closer to the scent of Jannah. Yes, he may no longer have the energy to compliment you every time. But that’s okay. Because your efforts are noticed, observed, and appreciated. So put on that lipstick, that perfume, that mascara.
Because he’s still your husband, and you’re still his wife.
I know that you want to off-load and tell him how hard your day was. I know that you are craving sympathy, and you rightly deserve it. Just like me, you may sometimes convince yourself that your job is harder than his. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Only Allah knows that. But one thing’s for sure, his day hasn’t been easy either, and his mind is weary too. So try, just try, to give him a moment of peace. A smile. A warm embrace. Be the part of the day he looks forward to, seeks refuge in.
Because he’s still your husband, and you’re still his wife.
I know that you want to fall asleep the moment your children have settled. I know that you may not feel like talking after hours of answering “whys” and “whos” and “whats.” I know that it’s hard to focus. But he craves your company. Your meaningful conversations. Your undivided attention. So strive to maintain that companionship, that connection.
Because he’s still your husband, and you’re still his wife.
And remember, just remember, when exhaustion gives you an excuse not to…
…that right now, there are no woman’s eyes he can gaze sinlessly into except yours. That right now, there are no woman’s hands he can hold with affection except yours. That right now, there is no one who can fulfil his needs except you. He trusts you. He relies upon you. He needs you.
Because you were his wife before you became the mother of his children – and you still are.
It was said to the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): Who from among the women is best? He said: “The one who makes (her husband) happy when he looks at her, obeys him when he tells her to do something, and does not disobey him with regard to herself or her wealth in a way that he dislikes.” (an-Nasaa’i)
My journey towards becoming a hafidhah had become increasingly difficult. My sister was seriously ill, and coupled with my dwindling motivation, I had fallen behind.
Yet someone would soon change this, and that someone was a young boy called Mu’adh. It was this young boy who would soon inspire me to not only continue on in my quest to complete memorisation of the Qur’an, but also give me the motivation to strive to become a better slave of the Almighty (subhaanahu wa ta’aala).
Mu’adh was featured on a series of programmes on hifdh of the Qur’an across the globe. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen years old, yet had managed to complete memorisation of the entire Qur’an. For a teenage boy, reaching such a lofty goal is an immense achievement in and of itself, yet this boy had an extra obstacle in his way: he was blind.
As the interviewer asked Mu’adh a series of questions, I became increasingly amazed at his articulate responses. In order to learn and memorise correctly from his teacher, Mu’adh used to travel a long distance, multiple times a week. Despite the long journeys, Mu’adh had exerted himself in his memorisation, just so that his teacher would give him even more lessons. Sometimes he would never even get a chance to play.
Sometimes Mu’adh’s teacher would stop him from memorising more than one verse in one lesson, just so that he would fully understand the powerful and deep meanings that the verse contained. Subhan’Allah.
As the interview continued, Mu’adh went on to thank Allah for a gift that He had bestowed upon him. What gift, you may wonder? The gift of memorising? The gift of not wasting his time as a young boy? No…Rather, in his own words,
“He took my sight from me, subhan’Allah, and I praise Allah and thank Allah for His mercy.”
Allahu akbar. It was at this point that my eyes started to fill with tears. Faced with minor hardships in comparison to this boy, I had been struggling to memorise and revise daily. Yet this boy, despite being blind, had been blessed with such zeal to learn and memorise the Qur’an that he had strived, struggled, and succeeded in his endeavours, by the will and aid of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala). Furthermore, his level of patience was truly inspiring – the boy was genuinely content that his sight had been taken away from him.
When asked whether he ever became upset due to his disability, Mu’adh explained that he had only felt like this when he was younger. Now that he had matured, he was fully content with Allah’s decree.
His contentment reminded me of the beautiful words of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam):
“Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affair is good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of goods befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him.” (Muslim)
Possessing deep insight into the true worth of this life, Mu’adh told the interviewer that he never hoped for his sight to be returned to him. When asked why, Mu’adh, with emotion in his voice, replied:
“So hopefully, I might have a case in front of Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) on the Day of Judgement… when I stand in front of Him, afraid and shaking, and He asks me, ‘What did you do with this Qur’an?’ …perhaps Allah may make things easy on me. And Allah enters into His Mercy whomsoever He wills….”
His words enraptured my soul, and I felt my heart shaking from the reminder.
It was at this point that the interviewer and those around him, including Mu’adh’s father, started crying. The boy, with tears in his own eyes, told the interviewer that Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) had gifted him with the Qur’an. Subhan’Allah, what an amazing gift. It was clear that although his eyes were unable to see, Mu’adh’s heart could see with clarity.
Mu’adh then quoted the following saying of Ibn ul-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy upon him):
“Allah does not close a door to His slave, out of wisdom, except that He opens two others for him.”
How true, I thought to myself, and it reminded me of the verse in which Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) tells us that he will make a way out of difficulty for whomsoever has taqwa of Him.
With the end of the clip in sight, I had heard more than enough to stir my senses and bring me back to reality. Of course, my path towards completing the Qur’an was not going to be easy. Had I really thought that I would be able to sail through with ease at all times?
Furthermore, the story of Mu’adh reminded me that the carrier of the Qur’an should be recognised by his actions, not by the certificate he receives on completing the Qur’an. For our Lord did not reveal the Qur’an for the purpose of memorisation alone, but rather for guidance. Each verse contains precious benefits, so it is upon us to strive to implement the lessons before moving on in our memorisation, just as the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) used to do.
The last, and possibly the most important gem I had learnt from Mu’adh, was that hardships, other responsibilities, and whatever else life throws at us cannot prevent us from completing the Qur’an, as long as we have a sincere intention and ask Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala) to help us. And even if it takes us a year, a decade, or even a lifetime, we can, by the permission of Allah, become preservers of the Qur’an too.
You can watch the full interview with Mu’adh here, along with all the other episodes of this amazingly beneficial series. May Allah reward all those who were involved, aameen.
© RS Khan 2017
Originally published in SISTERS Magazine
“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or more attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say, ‘my Lord! bestow on them your Mercy, even as they cherished me in childhood.'” (Al-Israa 17: 23)
Allah is talking about you, yes you. A parent, a mother. Not a working mother. Not a single mother. Not a stay at home mother. Just simply, a mother. A mother about whom only good should be said. A mother whose Lord asks others to make du’aa for her. A mother who deserves honour and respect.
“And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship. And she brings him forth with hardship…” (al-Ahqaaf 46:15)
This aayah is about you too. A parent, a mother. A mother whose right it is to be obeyed by her children. A mother whose Lord recognises her sacrifice and her hardship. A mother who deserves honour and respect.
But I lose patience with my children, you may say. But I don’t give my children enough attention, you may say. But I don’t fulfil all of my children’s needs, you may say. And I certainly don’t deserve this great honour, you may say.
But the One who gave you this honour knows you very well. He knows your weaknesses, your every little flaw. He observes your bad days, your down days, your guilt-filled days. He sees you when snap, when you shout, when you fall.
And He also knows that you are trying, really trying, to be the best mother you can be, and the best everything else that life needs you to be…whether that be a wife, a working mother, a single mother, a stay at home mother, a sister, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a carer…
And He also knows that you are trying, really trying, to juggle a thousand responsibilities whilst fulfilling your ultimate duty towards Him.
And He also knows that your heart is filled with regret when you fall.
So accept this great honour, as a gift from your Lord. So accept this high status, as a gift from your Lord. So accept this respect, as a gift from your Lord. For there are no greater words than the words of Allah. And there is no greater truth than the truth of His words.
So when your feelings of guilt try to pull you down, be kind to yourself. Because Allah knows that you deserve your high status, on your good days and your bad, because you are simply a mother.
© RS Khan 2017
Recently, there has been a huge wave in Muslim businesses founded and run by Muslim mums. Along with it comes high praise for the super-mums who can manage to pull off looking after children and running a household, whilst simultaneously running a business.
Whilst, without a doubt, this praise is well-earned, I felt the strong need to write this post in praise of all muslim mum non-preneurs…mothers who maybe feel that they are not good enough because they do not have the time or energy to do anything other than being a mother and wife. Mothers who maybe have such zeal to set-up their own little company but restrain themselves because they feel that if they did that, then they would not give their other responsibilities due right. Mothers who maybe just feel undervalued as the spotlight falls on the “super-mumpreneurs.”
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe mothers don’t feel like this at all. But as a mother, as an author and as the co-founder of a small publishing company, this is the feeling I sometimes get when people say to me things like “ma shaa Allah, how do you do it all?”
But let me tell you the reality – I am not doing it “all,” and I am no more of a super-mum than you are. “But you publish books to inspire Muslim children at the same time as raising your own children!” you may say.
Yes, this is true, but in reality, I often feel like less of a super mum because of it. “Why?” you may ask. Because sometimes my mind is so clouded with ideas and to-do-lists for Education Enriched that I find it difficult to focus on my children. Because sometimes I stay up too late and am so tired the next day that I become a more impatient mother. Because sometimes I feel that my priorities become out of line and that I lose focus on my ultimate goal of pleasing Allah. Because I struggle at times too, just like you.
So muslim mum non-preneur, I commend you, I really do. I commend you for fulfilling your amazing role as the one who raises the next generation. I commend you for trying to take care of yourself in those few minutes of rest, just so that you can give more to those who have rights over you. And I commend you for trying to keep your priorities straight, even if it means that your own aspirations sometimes, just sometimes, have to wait a little while.
I often hear the example of Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) and her success as a business woman being mentioned over and over again. But just as the mother of the believers, Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), is remembered as a successful business woman, let us not forget her more important role as a wife, a mother, and ultimately, as a true believer. And if that is not enough, I leave you with the statement of the beloved Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), whose beautiful words just sum it up.
“Indeed Allah did not grant me better than her; she accepted me when people rejected me, she believed in me when people doubted me, she shared her wealth with me when people deprived me, and Allah granted me children only through her.” (At-Tabarani)
© RS Khan 2017
Dear Muslim mother,
The last few weeks have been the hardest weeks that I’ve had for a while. Why? You may ask. Yes, there were the usual issues, the toddler tantrums, the teething troubles, the terribly overtired children, the sibling squabbles. But those issues I can – at least some of the time – deal with. Yet there was one thing that I really could not deal with, and that was the sleep deprivation. The prolonged sleep deprivation.
In those few weeks, I had a permanent cloud hovering over my head. I couldn’t think straight. I suffered from bad headaches and sometimes even felt like I had a personality disorder due to my intense mood swings. On the rare occasion that I felt rested, my level of patience and happiness increased tenfold and motherhood suddenly became enjoyable again. Yet by the end of the 3-hourly-long-wake-up-at-2am-and-cry sessions, I became a different person. Angry. Anxious. Depressed. At times, I really felt like I was losing my sanity.
Yet I’m not writing to you to gain sympathy or to complain. Allah knows how much complaining I’ve done over the past few weeks (may He forgive me).
Rather, I’m writing to you to tell you that as a sleep-deprived, struggling Muslim mother, you are not alone.
When you feel guilty about missing fajr prayer because you finally fell asleep at 5am and woke up when the sun was rising.
When you feel relief at having completed ‘ishaa prayer just so that you can sit down and rest your aching body for a few minutes (or even an hour, if you’re lucky).
When you feel angry at your husband for just asking if there is anything he can have for dinner.
When you feel like a terrible mother for losing it with your children, over and over again.
When you feel like just running away from it all (just so that you can sleep).
When you feel like your imaan has all but disappeared.
You are not alone.
And in fact, your imaan hasn’t disappeared. Neither have you forgotten the importance of your prayer or the rights of your husband and children. You are simply struggling. You are simply sleep deprived, exhausted and at the end of your tether, just like tens of thousands (and probably hundreds of thousands) of other Muslim mothers across the world. And you are far from alone.
So if you have a baby who doesn’t sleep, this letter is for you. If you have a child who doesn’t sleep, this letter is for you. And if you are a mum who suffers from insomnia, this letter is for you too.
But let me tell you one thing, just while the cloud has been lifted. There will be ease. There will be ease. There will be ease. For Allah’s promise is true: “Indeed, with hardship will be ease.”
So keep going. Keep struggling. Keep striving. Because regardless of what you think of yourself, the reality is that you are an amazing Muslim mother.
With love and support,
From a fellow Muslim mother who understands.
© RS Khan 2017
It’s Umm Sumayyah here – mother, author and co-founder of Education Enriched. I have so many things that I’d love to share with you along my journey, so I’ve started this blog.
I pray that this humble effort is a source of inspiration for some, a source of comfort for others, and ultimately, a source of benefit for whomever stumbles across it.
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