Before, during and since my boys went off to university, I have had people ask me how I feel knowing they are no longer with me. There have been occasions where I know the questions are not simply about me missing them. I feel that underlying the questions are preconceived notions of what can be expected from young men living away from my watchful gaze. It’s only a matter of time before everything will come unravelling…
Of course, a mother’s worries never cease no matter what stage of life her child is at. They simply take on a different form as the years go by. Right now, my main concerns for my sons are about the company they keep, that they are pursuing their own academic goals and looking after their physical and mental health, all to the best of their abilities. Yet, above and beyond those things, I pray that they stay true to their identity as a Muslim. This is whether they are in my presence or not for they know too well that they are always in the presence of Allah.
If there is any invaluable advice I have imparted to my sons, it is that every action they do must be circumscribed by their Islamic values. They are not accountable to me. They are accountable to Allah and whether I am aware or not of things they do, they know the buck does not stop with me. There is an infinitely more Supreme being to reckon with, As-Shaheed, the Witness.
I know I have laboured the point about being skeptical of people’s intentions when asking questions. However, when others question me about my boys living away, there seems to be disbelief that I am unperturbed by the situation. After all, my family is inherently flawed – there is no father figure as an authority for my boys. So, it is not the words per se that these people say. Rather, it is the tone in which the questions are asked – as if I have no right to succeed as a mother on my own. Whilst I am not someone who explains away my life with the evil eye excuse, there have been times when I really do feel its ugly presence as with the recent questions about my sons. Apparently, I have an unjustified audacity to hold my head high in the absence of a husband or a father to my sons.
Perhaps these thoughts in my mind are nothing more than ridiculous. Maybe I have convinced myself that I’ve discovered something that was never actually there. But I have lived long enough on this Earth to know the secret malevolence that lurks just below seemingly innocuous thoughts and questions that people ask. To this day, even in the 21st century, a divorced woman is still made to feel that she exists only on the periphery of Muslim society. (What an irony when we know the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself married Khadijah, herself a divorcee but counted amongst the most honoured of all Muslims.) By relinquishing or losing her position as a wife, a woman becomes banished to the furthest corners of social circles which involve ‘normal’ families. Her children become casualties too. I know this is definitely not a figment of my imagination. The antiquated narrowmindedness of some people, especially in Muslim communities, is very real. Without a husband, a woman simply stops being significant to society. It probably explains why many women hold onto their marriages for dear life. A fate which sees her ostracised by society is worse than living the lie of a successful marriage.
Alhamdulillah, I refused to ever be made to feel deficient or less significant because of my new status. My fighting spirit dictates that my boys will get the best that life offers them, insha’Allah, despite the new circumstances we are in. Moreover, they should always feel they are fully-fledged members of their community. They will not simply become bookmarks of the past.
I have said it before and I will keep saying it again and again. As a woman, self-worth does not come from being married. If that were the case, I would be a shadow of my former self today. My self-worth comes from the comfortable knowledge that my life is in the hands of my Maker, Alhamdulillah. As long as I strive to please Him, then everything else is a bonus. The same rule applies to my own sons. I am simply their brownie point.