A friend of mine once described motherhood to me as sacred, and described having children as part of your heart walking outside of your body. The love a mother has for her children and the sacrifices she makes as a mother are phenomenal. As children, our mothers feed us, clothe us, and comfort us when we are crying. When we have fallen and scraped our knees or have injured ourselves, our mothers are our first responders. They teach us to walk and talk and make sure we have all of the love and nurturing we need to grow into healthy adults.
Muslims have a duty and obligation to honor and love their parents, especially their mothers. For all the love and kindness our mothers have shown us from the day we are born until now, we can never repay them.
I will recite unto you that which your Lord has made a sacred duty for you; that you ascribe nothing as partner unto Him and that you do good to parents… (Quran 6:151)
Being a mother is no easy task in the best of circumstances, but imagine motherhood as a refugee, fleeing for your life, having buried one or more of your children lost to war. This is the reality for many refugee women from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Palestine, and other areas of conflict. During my humanitarian work, I have met many refugee mothers who are the epitome of strength, resilience, honor, and love. They leave their home countries with their children in tow, a small amount of clothing and money, and their faith in God to help them get through this journey.
While on the island of Chios, volunteering as a nurse, I came across many refugee families who were fleeing the war in Syria. As they came off the raft on to the port of Chios, the resilience they showed was incredible. Children were crying and unconsolable, wanting to be held and comforted, which was not an easy task for the mothers, who themselves needed comforting and someone to take care of them.
Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them 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.” (Quran 17:23-24)
Hands lifted in prayer towards the heavens, utterances of “Ya Rab!” (Oh God, help me!) and pleading eyes trying to hold back tears as children would not stop crying – this is the reality for the refugee mothers. Their stop on the island of Chios was the first stop before they reached Athens, then their final destinations within Europe, be it Norway, Germany, or Switzerland. Some of the mothers had their husbands with them along the journey, but some were single mothers, their husbands having been killed in the war. No matter what their situation or circumstance, the challenges of being a mother as a refugee require patience, determination, creativity, sacrifice, and strong faith that what is to come is better than what has gone.
I met a Syrian mother who had a daughter who was around 2-years-old, and this woman was 8 months pregnant. Her husband had been killed 5 months ago in the war, leaving his pregnant wife and child to make sense of life without him. His unborn daughter will never know her father, and now this Syrian woman is a single mother with two small children to raise. I often wonder how they are doing along with all of the other refugee families that I met. My hope and prayer is that they have found good people to help them along the way, and that one day their sadness will be replaced with happiness and hope for a better life to come.
This Mother’s Day, as you spend time with your mother and buy her chocolates, flowers, jewelry, and other nice gifts, please remember the refugee mothers fighting for survival, for the chance at a better life for their children, a chance at safety, security, and hope. The most beautiful women in the world are our mothers.
“The three most beautiful women in the world to me? My mother, and her shadow, and her image in the mirror.” – Jibran Khalil Jibran