SERMON – MOTHER’S DAY FOR ALL

Khutbah – May 10, 2013
First Shared: May 10, 2013 (MPV-Atlanta)

I welcome you with peace. You are safe here.

I take refuge from the outcast satan in the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the Worlds

Blessing and peace on Muhammad, his family, and his companions, and peace.

On Sunday we will celebrate Mother’s Day here in the US. With great commercial support, many of us will pour out expressions of love and admiration on our biological mothers, grandmothers, and others who have mothered us. Now, any good Muslim apologists would be quick to share dawah here and tell anyone who will listen how Islam is the best at honoring mothers. Given the common misconceptions about Muslim women, even among Muslims, this occasion is a great time to ring out own bell and rediscover the beautifully nuanced appreciation that Islam affords to those who mother us.

Let’s begin with a story. We will borrow from the Jewish tradition today and fill in some of the biographical gaps with some midrash.

There was a boy born in the Arabian desert about 1400 years ago. Let’s call him Mo. Even before Mo was born, his father Abdullah died; so, he never met his father. The only biological parent Mo knew was his mother, Aminah. Sadly, her husband’s sudden death threw Aminah into a severe depression. The only light left in her eyes was for her little Mo.[1]

Sadly, Mo would not have much time with his mother. You see, by the time he was six his mother died. The orphaned Mo bounced around between other relatives as his family fell on even harsher times, and eventually ended up living with his uncle Abu Talib. Here is where the story turns around. Mo, the sad little orphan, fatherless from the beginning and now motherless, comes in to the home of the most compassionate protector one can imagine in human form, his uncle Abu Talib.

Abu Talib took Mo in as his own son. He instructed him in the family business and taught him etiquette and integrity. That sense of integrity helped Mo realize that he was called to be a radical and revolutionary agent in his society. Being such an agent of change endangered his life. And his uncle Abu Talib protected Mo’s, like a mother bird. He encouraged him to be courageous when he was afraid and to stand up for the weak and vulnerable. Until the day he died, Mo was the light of his uncle Abu Talib’s eyes; a light that he would use all his strength and resources to keep lit.

Now, I know my feminist and anti-patriarchy friends are ready to bring me to task for talking about men on Mother’s day. But, let us remember that many of those who mother us are not our biological mothers, they don’t even have to be women. Especially as a mosque and community that works hard to be welcoming and inclusive to the myriad expressions of sexualities, gender identities, and biological differences represented in the larger human community; we know that many of our biological mother are not or can not presently be mothering toward us. So we have chosen families and Allah mercifully brings people into our lives and us into theirs to fill those capacities for us. Likewise, we must be mindful that not all women are mothers (some by choice and others with great grief and loss). And all mothers are not women.

By now you’ve figured out that little Mo in our story is the prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Surely his uncle Abu Talib was a mother to him. Abu Talib was his Comforter, his Protector, and his Friend. We often apply all these qualities to those who mother us. We know these are also three of the 99 attributes or names of Allah.

-I ask the Forgiver, the Most Compassionate and Most Merciful ( Ir Rahman, Ir Rahim) for forgiveness for myself, the community, and the whole world. As the spirituals prayed, “bear us up and build us up on every leaning side.”

 

Part II

In the story, Abu Talib takes in Mo when he is a little orphaned boy. He comforts him over the loss of his mother. No doubt Abu Talib was the one who held little Mo when he was overcome with grief from memories of the short time he had with young mother. Abu Talib also instructed young Mohammad how to respect all people in all situations. He taught him how to be a trader and sharpened his business acumen. Above all he taught him to always seek the truth and always tell the truth. Abu Talib is the reason that the prophet became known as Al-Amin, the Truthful, The Trustworthy One. Throughout his life Abu-Talib was the prophet’s comforter. In the same way, Allah is our Comforter. The scriptures say:

Allah is the comforter of the believers when they lose hope or when in danger. (59:23)

Because the Prophet sought Truth and then spoke that truth to power in the dizzying economic climate of Mecca, his life was in danger often. Because of his radical message that access to God should be free and unhindered by other people’s regulations and ideas about what worship should be, there were countless attempts to assassinate the prophet. Like a mother bear, Abu Talib would swoop in to be Mohammad’s Protector. He fought fiercely, defending the Prophet’s life, character and his call to be a prophetic voice. He often put his own life at stake and the life of others in his family in order to protect the Prophet, because he believed the Message and he believed in the Messenger.

This kind of protection is another attribute that we ascribe to ALLAH. ALLAH is our fierce protector. In the Quran, Al Baqarah says:

Allah is the Wali (Protector or Guardian) of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into light. (2:257)

When we are in the dark and dangerous place of ignorance, injustice, and disbelief, ALLAH brings us into the light of hope, guidance, and understanding. ALLAH fights for us to live in light. Indeed, this is the inner jihad that we must all fight: to maintain and increase in our god-consciousness even in the perils of life.

That is why we need a good friend, a companion, a Ride or Die Mama, who reminds us that we are going to do this damn thing or die trying. We need someone who pushes us to pursue our purpose in life, who helps us be devoted and stay the course, even when we want to give up. Abu Talib did this for Mohammad. When his enemies, his haters, came down like rain- starving his family by placing an embargo on selling them food, besmirching his good reputation, publicly insulting his intelligence and literally throwing shit on him- Abu Talib swept in like an umbrella to cover his nephew and encourage him to keep on keeping on.

Isn’t this what we expect from those who mother us? They are the ones who have the authority in our live to give us swift kick in the pants and tell us to get up and go. They’ll say: Yes, I know it is hard. Yes, I know they don’t like you and are being mean without cause. Yes, I know it is not fair. I know you feel like you can’t go on, but you can, because I will help you.

There is a well known hadith chronicled by both Bukari and Muslim that says:

A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim).

This hadith illustrates the extreme worthiness of companionship for those who mother us and have been unrelenting companions to us. It is the least we can do to offer this kind of companionship back to them when we get a chance. But this only a reflection of the kind of loving protective friendship ALLAH offers us. The Quran says:

When two parties from among you were about to lose heart, but Allah was their Wali (Supporter and Protector). And in Allah should the believers put their trust. (3:122 al Imran)

It goes on to say:

-Allah has full knowledge of your enemies, and Allah is Sufficient as a Wali (Protector), and Allah is Sufficient as a Helper. ( An-Nisa 4:45)

It is clear that the path of those who mother us is not one for the faint-hearted or selfish. In order to offer comfort, protection and companionship like the mothering example of Abu Talib, one has to have some grounding, some self-knowledge, some strengthening faith to hold on to. You have to have enough faith to share. You can’t give what you don’t have. I’m not saying you have to be perfect to be a mother. You don’t have to have it all together. You just have to be willing to give; give room in your home and your heart and your life.

It is a tiring job to share, because we all have a natural instinct that always wants security. We are tempted to take our stuff back, our love, our support, our resources, when those we mother don’t do it like we would do it. But we learn to be secure in just giving. Make no mistake, it is a risky adventure to make a living out of giving. It is a risky adventure to be a mother.

But ALLAH knows best.

And surely as we open ourselves to ALLAH’s guidance in mothering and allowing ourselves to be mothered, getting and giving comfort, getting and giving protection, getting and giving friendship, the reward will be great.

In another familiar hadith, the prophet reminds us that, “Paradise lies at the feet of our mothers.” Mothering is tough work though, so those feet are no doubt weary from carrying us in comfort, taking a stand to protect us, and running along side us in companionship. Perhaps this Mother’s Day weekend we can honor those who mother us by giving them some time to rest those weary feet. A pedicure would be nice.

~LTP Jackson

 

[1] It was said that a light shone out of his forehead and that this light was the promise of a Prophet as offspring. Countless woman of Arabia approached ‘Abd Allah, which according to several traditions, was a handsome man; so that they might gain the honour of producing the offspring. However everyone believes that as decided by God, the light was destined to be transferred to Aminah through ‘Abd Allah after consummating the marriage.[3]