Being an Aunt for a Week

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What began to be days turned into a week following the birth of my little nephew. He has been nothing but a blessing into our lives. After running a day of errands or remembering my stressful list of things to do, I set my thoughts aside and imagine the smiling face of my nephew. I am eager to reach back home and hold the little gift in my hands, once again. My stress is relieved. My problems are gone. My troubles disappear as I simply glance at his face, a pure, innocent, sinless, and gorgeous creation.

I couldn’t believe it. The moment had finally arrived. What my sister was carrying in her womb for the past nine months was about to make a transformation from inside her body to the actual reality of the Dunya. A baby, with 10 little fingers, 10 little toes, perfect eyebrows and eyelashes, soft hair, and chubby cheeks was going to co-exist with the rest of us as it made its entrance into our lives, into the existence of this world. Yes, it happens every day. A new baby is born every minute. Yet, why was I stuck and frozen in time, in disbelief, overwhelmed and trying to comprehend the magnificence of this incredible miracle? I couldn’t breathe. How can I, a mere human being with basic knowledge and understanding of the world and its reality, witness such an outrageous event? Did anyone else feel this way? Does everyone realize what’s happening, that pure tiny little creation of God was making its way into the world. It lived in its home inside the womb for so long, grew from a tiny precious egg into a full form little human? SubhanAllah. How is that we live our lives every day and not reflect enough on creation?Allah is Great!

The most interaction I had with little babies was at the center. I watched aunties as they attempted calming down their crying babies during the majlis so as not to interrupt the speaker. Once in a while, I exchanged a smile with a little Ali, or a little Fatima, or a little nameless infant at the center. However, all of this was a distant observation, a distant relationship with these tiny little beings. I never thought that one day I would myself be holding one, especially during its first initial stage of life – birth.

It was 2:26 AM when we were informed that my nephew took his first breath. I was relieved that everything went well, due to the grace of Allah. I was too tired to think anymore. The nurse, along with my brother-in-law, suddenly passed us by in the waiting room with my little nephew. We followed them into the room. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, amazement, and exhaustion all at the same time. As I am about to exit the room, my brother in law says: “Have you had a chance to hold him yet?” I reply, “No, not yet – but don’t worry, that’s okay.” Secretly, I think to myself, good lord, that baby is so precious and so delicate, I don’t want to break it or mess it up so soon. My brother-in-law insists, “No, really, Masooma, go ahead – hold him for a second.” I’m about to prepare another excuse and objection when, all of a sudden, my brother-in-law settles his tiny little body onto me, and before I knew it, I was holding the most precious, delicate, and fragile being I have ever witnessed.

Tears. A rush of tears began streaming down my cheekbones. I couldn’t control myself. All I could think was: Glory be to the Creator, truly, Glory be to Him who made this tiny creation! SubhanAllah, SubhanAllah. “Are you okay?” Yes, sorry. I returned the bundle of joy back to his parents. My sister sat watching me with amusement. I glanced over at her and said, “I can’t believe he’s really here,” as we exchanged smiles. I am reminded of what Allah says in verses 12-14 of Sura Muminoon of the Holy Qur’an: “Verily We created man from an extract of clay. Then We made him of a sperm, in a firm resting place; Then We made the sperm into a clot, then We made the clot into a lump of flesh, then We made in the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh; thereafter We caused it to grow into another creation; so blessed be Allah, the best of creators.”

During the long wait, my sister was in labor for several hours. We were anxious, worried, confused, excited, with a mix of emotions rushing through our veins. We were expecting the unexpected. Sure, all the gifts from Babies’R’Us registry came already, but I thought to myself: this final call is Allah’s. We can prepare and plan however much we can, but the time of birth, the method of birth, the birth itself is all Allah’s choice. He measures everything through His brilliance. As humans, we get caught up in planning every act of life – and while our patience was wearing thin in that waiting room, I realized the more we waited, the more we would appreciate this blessing and thanked Allah. Doubts and worries did cross my mind, but the comfort of the Holy Qur’an soothed these concerns. I was reminded how Surah Maryam is constantly mentioned to be recited during pregnancy for a safe delivery. I wonder why that Surah specifically and began reading its translation. I dwelled on these couple of verses where Allah comforts Lady Maryam with the following: “The birth-pangs led her to the trunk of a palm-tree. ‘Would that I had died before this,’ she said, ‘and had been a thing forgotten, lost in oblivion!’ Then (a voice) called her from beneath her: ‘Do not grieve; verily, your Lord has made a river flow right below you. Shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards yourself – it will drop fresh and ripe dates on you.’ O my Lord, do not leave me alone (childless), though You are the best of inheritors.”

I was reminded and inspired by the piety, the patience, and the reliance and trust in Allah that Lady Maryam carried. Even during a time when the community targeted her with accusations and rumors dispersed across town, never once did she flinch in her faith. She rested her strength, trust, and reliance completely on Allah. When in trouble, she called on Him and He answered her, He helped her, He assisted her and told Her not to grieve, for He was the Sustainer. This example gave me strength at the intense moments of delivery. If Allah clearly shows us in the Holy Qur’an how powerful it is to do du’a and how He answers the call of a supplicant, then how can we not trust in Him? It was with time – and patience – that we would soon await a healthy baby, insha’Allah. I went back to my sister and saw her in much pain. However, I calmed her and reminded her in my own words what I had read in the Qur’an in Sura Ra’ad, verse 8, where Allah says: “Allah knows what every female bears, and that which the wombs fall short (of completion) and that which they exceed. And everything with Him is measured.” My sister, additionally, gave me inspiration. She was so strong. Despite being in so much pain, she kept reciting salawats, she kept whispering prayers and calling upon Allah’s help. I realized she did not even need that reminder for her strength was admirable in its own dimension.

What began to be days turned into a week following the birth of my little nephew. He has been nothing but a blessing into our lives. After running a day of errands or remembering my stressful list of things to do, I set my thoughts aside and imagine the smiling face of my nephew. I am eager to reach back home and hold the little gift in my hands, once again. My stress is relieved. My problems are gone. My troubles disappear as I simply glance at his face, a pure, innocent, sinless, and gorgeous creation. I hum into his ears the Salawat, I begin to recite Ayatul Kursi. More importantly, I begin to reflect. I cannot believe that each and every single one of us – the president of every nation, the father of every scientific discovery, the teacher at schools, the engineers at work, the scholars in Qom, the grandmothers and great-grandmothers – was once upon a time 10 tiny little fingers, 10 tiny little toes. We were all babies. We were all helpless. We were all in need of Allah’s Mercy, in need of Allah’s Sustenance, in need of Allah at every moment, every breath, every circulation of blood flow in our bodies. We needed Him, and we still need Him. And, even more mind-blowing, we were nothing before until He created us. Nothing. Non-existent. No identity, no name, no personality. Yet, because of His Love, His blessings, and His mercy, we grew up to be who we are today. We were showered with love, with kindness, with caution and care and the mercy of parents and family.

Moreover, I began to think that my little nephew will one day be an adult with a certain character, a certain identity, a persona. Now, it was up to his parents, relatives, his surroundings, environment, and teachings to help develop him and guide him and shape him into a personality that will be unique. Yet, I was fearful. He was not even my child, but I realized the great responsibility that lay upon our family in being the teachers, the guides, the ones committed to shaping our nephew into a pious, well-behaved servant of Allah. How can we take upon such a huge task? I silently whisper for Allah’s help in the great work that lies ahead of us all. One small slip, lack of guidance, the wrong exposure and the dangers of society could stain the pure innocence of a child. He can grow up to be a humble servant of Allah or, God forbid, one who denies His creator who gave Him everything from day one.

In Sura Aal Imraan, verse 38, we are taught a supplication: “O Lord, bestow on me a goodly offspring from You; verily, You are the hearer of prayer.” And Sura Furqan, verse 74, reminds us to pray: “O Our Lord, grant us out of our wives and our offspring that which cheers our eyes, and make us imams of those who safeguard themselves against evil.” And it is these verses that remind me the purpose of procreation, that remind me why it is such a blessing to be gifted with a child and the great responsibility that comes with it. If we forget the purpose of creation, the purpose of raising a child in the mix of all the laughter and tears that overwhelm us, then we have forgotten Allah. We are reminded to ask Allah to please make this child one that brings pleasure to our eyes and one who obeys Him and guards against evil. Subhan’Allah, what better du’a! In essence, it reminds us not only of the purpose of this infant but all of humanity – to serve our Creator. I am reminded of this when my sister had officially gone into labor. I researched du’as for a safe delivery and couldn’t help but reflect the beauty of their translations. One of them which stood out to me was a verse from Surah Ali Imran (verse 35) that said, “When (Hannah) the wife of Imran said: ‘My Lord, verily I have vowed to You that whatever is in my womb to be (exclusively) dedicated (to Your service).'” It was at that moment that I smiled to myself and thought, wow, what a beautiful and amazing experience. How lucky are we to make du’a to Allah to not only let us serve Him with utmost commitment, but allow the existence of a new creation being formed in our wombs be dedicated exclusively to His service. I prayed this for my nephew and remembered how blessed we were.

I am also overwhelmed by the beauty of the du’a that a husband recites: “O my Allah, in Your name I have lawfully taken her (as my wife) and I have appropriated and treated her (as) Your bounty entrusted to me, so if You decide to put a child in her womb, please make (this child) submissive, blessed, intelligent, and do not let Shaytan be one of the two therein, and let him not plant (himself with the child).” It is through this sincere supplication that we can become anything near to producing a pious child and implementing excellent parenting. What boggles me more is that each of us has experienced this. We have all gone through the stages of development, complained with our cries to our mothers who comforted us with their soft voices, who wiped our tears, who changed our diapers, who stayed up in the middle of the night to make sure we were secure. My Allah, I cannot thank You enough for this kindness. I cannot thank You enough for letting me be one so blessed with such a loving family, with a support system, and for not neglecting me for even one second without the proper resources and blessings of a child. Today, I wake up in the morning and I am ever more grateful to see the shining face of my mother. Alhamdulillah, I whisper to myself. I thank Allah for blessing me with parents that took care of me from my infancy.

 It had only been two nights since my nephew entered the world. I spent a night near my sister and nephew and can promise that I did not sleep until 4 AM that night, waking up again at 6AM. Yet, I wasn’t even the mother. Undertaking the responsibility of motherhood is in my eyes one of the most pious acts a human can ever perform, especially while being constantly thankful and patient toward Allah. I am amazed. I am amazed at my sister’s dedication, at her unconditional love, at her sleep cycle that involves little to no sleep. I am overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed at the responsibility of feeding your baby every few hours, of consoling his cries, of changing his diapers, of responding to his every need. I am overwhelmed, but with gratitude and amazement. I now understand why the hadith says that heaven is under a mother’s feet. What our mothers have done for us, none of us can repay. Thank you Allah, and thank you to all the mothers, all the grandmothers, and all those who undertook the responsibility of children, for the sleepless nights, the constant care and love, and sometimes with not even one baby, but with three, four, or five.

Imam Ali (peace be upon him) in a du’a calls onto the Creator: “O He who creates life from life, O He who brings out life from life, O He who delivers life from life, deliver (the child from the womb).” The essence of this du’a brings into context that no one suffices us other than the Powerful Creator, the one who holds the keys to every single thing! He is the Mighty who creates one life from another life and brings about existence. From this we can truly understand why Allah is worthy of praise in every moment of our lives.

I have come to learn to love the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon him) even more through the experience of being a Khala. I have found that they have laid for us the foundation for calling to Allah in every measure, in every instance, and every situation. My research has proven that they have blessed us with du’as for increase in breast milk, du’a for Aqiqah, du’a for circumcision, du’a for comfort, and du’as for an obedient child. Moreover, Sahifa Kamila provides us with the eloquence of du’a for children and du’a for parents. The words of Imam Zainul Abideen (peace be upon him) humble us before Allah and remind us of these blessings in the most beautiful and eloquent manner. The Ahlul Bayt have given us the perfect framework and guidelines to call upon Allah’s help in every stage and area of life. We, as believers and followers of the Holy Prophet and his Progeny, are more than blessed – we are honored! We have the ability to open the Qur’an and use the narrations of these pure Infallibles to get us through every experience in life. And moreover, to help us reflect on creation, the purpose of life, and be ever more thankful.

May Allah bless every believer to be armed with the weapon of du’a in times of distress, bless us with the miracle of experiencing birth, and encouraging one another to be grateful to Him for this incredible event in our lives, and lastly, to serve not only Allah but also his Proof, the Imam of our time (may Allah hasten his reappearance). I pray we are all able to succeed in our trust in Allah and His plans and continuously strive to remember Him in every event of our lives. The past week has proven to teach me invaluable lessons: contemplation and a new sense of appreciation for the Creator, His creation, the mercy of parents and children, and especially the honor and purpose of existing. Alhamdulillah.

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