Being a single mother is still not something that is fully recognized in most Muslim communities. The image of the picture-perfect nuclear family with two parents remains the only family unit referred to in most topics and lectures. Maybe it has been this way because divorce has been viewed as taboo in traditional Muslim households around the world, or maybe because it typically was not the norm. Either way, the percentage of single parents in Muslim families has risen in the U.S. A modern phenomenon explained by multiple factors is hard to ignore, especially in the context of our masjids.
Contrary to common belief, divorce is not forbidden or taboo in Islam. Of course it is not encouraged, but it is seen as a permissible option for a woman or man to exit a marriage if all solutions of reconciliation are exhausted. There are multiple guidelines in the context of the Quran, Sunnah and Hadith that outline the rights of the wife, husband, and children in the marriage. Rules on “waiting periods,” in order to ensure both spouses are making the right decision, custody rights, and monetary obligations are all laid out clearly. So too are rules and examples about raising children as a single parent. Within the context of our religious literature are heartwarming stories of religious symbols, prophets, and their mothers that show the great courage of motherhood—especially when done alone. If you are a single mother, read on to see the lofty place Allah has made for these single mothers in Islamic history and rest assured that He has done so with a purpose.
Mariam, may peace and blessings be sent to her, is the most famous of all mothers to bear a child and raise him completely ALONE. Although she is not labeled a single mother, technically she was. Many hadiths and narrations from the past have mentioned that Mariam was the best woman of her time as Khadijah was the best woman of the prophet Muhammad’s time (peace and blessings be upon him). Mariam is the only female to be mentioned in the Quran by name and is mentioned 34 times! Mariam is also one of eight people to have a chapter, or surrah, named after them. The virgin Mariam (or Mary), was chosen to give birth to one of the most important prophets in Islamic history, Issa (Jesus). She was chosen to face the public with her miracle son alone, to conceive the Prophet alone, and to care for him alone.
…Divorce is not forbidden or taboo in Islam.
Hagar, the wife of prophet Abraham, peace and blessings upon him, was left in the desert alone with her son Ismail, by a command from God. At one point Hagar ran out of food and water, she relied on God’s word that He would provide for her. She left her son on the ground to search for water or food. She climbed the nearest hill, Al- Safa so she can look over the surrounding area. When there was nothing in sight, she ran across the valley to the other hill, Al-Marwa. She would run when she was in the valley, and walk on the high parts of the hills because she was able to see her son resting safely from the hills. She did this seven times before she retired back to where Ismail rested. On her return, she found a spring which the angel Gabriel had kicked the ground to reveal. This spring was named Zamzam and until this day, pilgrims run between Al-Safa and Al-Marwa seven times just as Hagar did. This run, the run of motherhood, commemorates the story that God will provide sustenance to those who believe and are patient. I believe this is the strongest inspiration to single mothers from the Prophetic tales. Too often single mothers feel they are running back and forth between two hills to provide for their offspring. Miraculously, God always shows his mercy and helps provide for the mother and her children no matter how difficult or impossible it may seem.
The story of the mother of Musa (Moses), peace and blessings be upon him, is another story of a woman who stands only with God on her side to care for her children. Born at a time when the Pharaoh was executing all sons born to peasant families in fear that they may overthrow him, Musa’s mother had a tough decision to make. God instructed her to send him down the river if there is a threat to his life, and promised her he would be a messenger. Musa’s mother had to trust in God and hold her faith strong against her motherly instincts to claim her son from the Pharaoh and trust in God’s plan. When her daughter followed Musa and offered her mother be a wet nurse, God reunited her with her son under the difficult circumstances.
We restored him to his mother in this way, so that she might be comforted, not grieve, and know that God’s promise is true, though most of them do not know. – Quran 28:13
The story of Yousuf (Joseph), peace and blessings be upon him, is a story we all know, yet we forget that his mother was a single mother who remarried. Her two sons, Yousuf and Benjamin, were raised by her husband just as his own which led to the jealousy from his own children. This story, although hardly detailing the mother’s perspective, is one of jealousy, pride, passion, deception, etc. All the feelings that go with blended families with children. God provides this story for many reasons we know and don’t know, of them lies the hidden hope that a single mother has a chance to remarry someone who will care for her and her children like their own.
Stories from the Quran and Hadith always bring me reassurance and are a reminder that no matter how difficult being a single mother is, God always has a way of looking after us. Time and time again when money is tight, somehow God sends unexpected funds my way. When my heart is heavy with worry for the future, duaa and prayer relieve the stress and God shows me a sign of better times to come. Being a mother has its lofty ranks in Islam, and doing it on your own increases the blessings that will come your way. So power on, to all you single mommies out there. ✊