RashidAdDinBirthOfProphetMohammed

Birth of Prophet Mohammed. Tabriz (?), 1314/15. Water colours on paper.

Peace be upon him.

The first time I really felt any love for the Prophet I was baking a cake. This was long before marriage, and I was standing in my mother’s kitchen grating carrots, absentmindedly humming to an English CD of religious Islamic music. A song about his last moments on earth came on the stereo, and for the first time, I really listened to the lyrics: “…as ‘Aisha his wife, held tight to his hand, the Prophet spoke again before he passed away…

There was something about imaging ‘Aisha comforting the Prophet and the idea that his last breath was spent speaking to her, that went directly to my heart — and I found myself sobbing over a bowl of flour and cinnamon.

In a very lovely post, Dr. Omid Safi shares and interprets a poem about the birth of the Prophet — written by the Ottoman Suleyman Chelebi in the 15th century. What makes this poem so incredible to me, is that it’s written not from the standpoint of his Companions, or with a list of prophetic traditions describing his attributes, but through the voice of his mother, Amina, as she experienced giving birth to him.

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The woman poured hot tea from her cup into the saucer, gave it a couple of cooling swirls and gulped it down in one, refreshing slurp. Having never seen someone drink out of a saucer before, Eryn gave the woman the oddest, what-on-earth-are-you-DOING look and drew closer to my leg. The woman laughed heartily and coaxed Eryn with a chocolate. By the end of tea, Eryn was flying through the air to give her kisses.

Hajiya’s hands were covered in traditional Iraqi Bedouin tattoos. As were her feet, chest and, to my surprise, much of her face. From her eyebrows to her toes, this kind elder stuffing my toddler full of chocolates was officially the most tattooed woman I had ever met. And I desperately wanted to hear the story behind each dot and talisman flowing like poetry on her skin.

For almost two years Hajiya and her lovely daughter have taken care of my sister-in-law – sharing food and family support since both extended families live an ocean away. I’ve heard many stories of Hajiya’s desert wisdom and kindness and was very excited to meet her.

Speaking broken English and though translations of a Kuwaiti dialect, we discussed my sister-in-law’s upcoming boxing match and my current pregnancy. Eryn interrupted and put her hand on my belly, saying: “Baby! Mama, womb.” Then, nodding for emphasis, she took the opportunity to mention our nursing arrangement.

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Cross-posted at Womanist Musings.


The Prophet said:

If a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses, thereby upsetting him, the angels will continue to curse her until the morning.

If it were permissible for a human to prostrate to another, I would have ordered a wife to prostrate to her husband because of the enormity of his rights over her. By God, if there is an ulcer excreting puss from his feet to the top of his head and she licked it for him – she would not fulfill his rights.

After my conversion it didn’t take long for the advice to start rolling in. A lot of it was couched in more cultural expectations, such as: “change your name to a more Muslim (read: Arab) sounding name” or “you can’t be a vegetarian now, God has made meat allowable for you to enjoy.” But sometimes people would give me sincere religious advice based on sayings made by the Prophet. A few were excellent and made sense to me: “Eat and drink moderately,” “please your partner sexually,” and “tie up your camel” — meaning: do everything you can to ensure your safety, protect your property or implement a plan, and then trust in God. But if you just leave everything up to God and hope that everything will turn out okay, instead of taking personal action, your camel will walk away.

But sometimes I was offered advice based on sayings that didn’t sit well with me. Especially the religious advice for women that seemed to come at the price of personal freedom or with the threat of hellfire — and backed with, “well the Prophet said it, so it must be valid and important” and “if it doesn’t sit well with you, you’re not being faithful enough.” True, for many Muslims worldwide, following the Sunnah or the Prophet’s example is just as important as revering the Qur’an as the word of God. The Prophet is untouchable, a model human to be admired and loved. To deny any of the sayings attributed to him could be blasphemous.

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