It recently dawned on me that the challenge of raising and nurturing an individual is one of the toughest, yet greatest gifts we can receive as a Muslimah. Bearing and raising children is indeed a challenge for Muslim women in a world which is full of toxic behaviour, which can consume us – quite literally!
The news of a very near and beloved sister of mine being blessed with pregnancy made us both reflect on the question: ‘am I ready to be a good mother?’ I know the answer to this question would be a frightfully resounding ‘no’, but then I thought to myself, what advice could I offer my future daughter? What could I tell her that I had learned from life, my past mistakes and from the amazing advice my own mother had imparted on me?
I would share this advice so she could flourish and learn to be a productive member of this Ummah, to be successful in this life for the Next. Here are just some of the life lessons I would share with her:
Dear Future Daughter,
These are some important life lessons I have learnt which I would like to gift to you so you too can strive to be productive and successful in life. There is so much more I want to share with you, but here are 10 tips I want you to treasure and live by:
1. Always be mindful of Allah
Be mindful of Allah, because every time you think about Allah – His Mercy, His Compassion, His Kindness and His Favours towards you, you will find serenity and tranquility in your heart. Our very purpose in life is to worship Allah, through our actions and remembering Him. Dhikr is counted amongst one of the best actions we could do.
Ibn ‘Abbas narrated: “I was behind the Prophet one day when he said: ‘O boy! I will teach you a statement: Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. When you ask, ask Allah, and when you seek aid, seek Allah’s aid. Know that if the entire creation were to gather together to do something to benefit you – you would never get any benefit except that Allah had written for you. And if they were to gather to do something to harm you – you would never be harmed except that Allah had written for you. The pens are lifted and the pages are dried.'” [At-Tirmidhi]
At every stage of your life, whether you are happy, sad or lost or miserable, seek Allah by remembering Him. As we recite regularly in our prayers, ‘To You Alone we turn, and You Alone we ask for Help.’ [Qur’an: Chapter 1, Verse 5]
2. Have meaningful goals in life
Make your goals in life meaningful. Having passion and sincerity along with the intention of pleasing Allah will ensure a lasting reward – Paradise. This will make your life worth living. Once you’ve thought about these goals, take action and make sure that your goals benefit others. Keep the end vision in mind even if you stumble along a few blocks across the way. Let the spirit of your initial motivation sustain your energy and drive to do everything it takes to get to your goal.
‘They will have whatever they desire with their Lord. That is the reward of the doers of good’ [Qur’an: Chapter 39, Verse 34]
3. Never give up, no matter how tough it gets
Life is filled with tests and hardships, but remember in every hardship there is an opportunity to become closer to Allah and to learn lessons. No matter how difficult something gets, remind yourself that Allah says: ‘Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope‘ [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 286] and find solace in the knowledge that ‘Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease’ [Qur’an: Chapter 94, Verse 6]. Think about how even the most righteous people, such as the Prophets, were tested with hardship. Remind yourself that this is a chance for you to be stronger in your faith and more resilient. Do not lose hope, because Allah says ‘do not despair of the Mercy of Allah’ [Qur’an: Chapter 39, Verse 53] so expect the best from Him.
4. Be useful to humanity
There is a striking statement from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, which has stayed with me throughout my work in the charitable sector. In it he says:
All the roads lead to death, but only one of them leads to a good death – and that is the road of ‘ihsan’, of being a beautifier, being somebody that makes the world a better place than you found it, that when you leave the world, the world was better for having you in it. And this is the ultimate criterion for a human being – whether they lived a worthwhile life, or whether they squandered their life in frivolity, vacuity and stupidity.
The life worth living is the life that benefits others, so find ways to benefit others, whether it’s through your job, at home with your family or by making a difference helping great causes. Do something that will make you useful to humanity.
5. Do kind acts of goodness – to everyone
Be selfless in what is a rather selfish world, by giving joyfully to others; you don’t know if that good deed will save you or change that person’s life. We take for granted how easy it is to do simple acts of goodness and show kindness to others.
I remember a time when I was travelling to work by train; a disabled man in a wheelchair had to get off but there was no way of letting the driver know before the train left, so before the doors closed I felt a sudden urge to help him. I ran towards the train driver, waving in the mirrors, and finally reached him to tell him the disabled man needed to get off. The man in the wheelchair thanked me profusely – it certainly made me think that ‘every act of goodness is a charity.’ [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
6. Take advantage of every opportunity
Invest in yourself, to learn and grow, to live and be grateful. You must take advantage of every opportunity – consider its benefits, and, if they outweigh the negatives, then just go for it! You don’t know if the opportunity will come again. If you find that it does not work out, learn a lesson in resilience – it may be Allah’s way of telling you that you need to knock at His doors. Or, it may be that the opportunity was never meant for you. You will never know if you do not try first.
7. Use failures as teachers
I hate to admit it, but I really dislike failure. I was one of those A grade students at school and then when I got to university, I realised that success wasn’t always the best teacher. In fact, failure is necessary to grow and strengthen one’s own success. I truly learnt this after failing more times than I care to admit when I was learning to drive, or when I almost (I should stress the ‘almost’ part) graduated with a mere pass. All of these failures ended up being successes, not just because I passed in the end, but because it was the road of persistence that made it worthwhile in the end.
8. Fear Allah alone and have hope in Him
We are all filled with insecurities and fears which hold us back from truly achieving our real potential. It is like swimming – we are told to ‘just dive in and you’ll learn to swim!’ and I have to admit, this is true. In life, I only learnt some of the best lessons by doing what I was afraid to do, talking about my failures, being vulnerable with people I am close to. Couple this fear with hope in Allah, and I assure you – you will fly to places you never thought you could.
‘The heart is like a bird: love as its head and its two wings are hope and fear’ [Ibn Al Qayyim Al Jawziyyah].
9. Don’t settle for less
Whether it’s accepting a job offer or choosing a suitable husband, don’t settle for less. Allah doesn’t want us to, as the Prophet said, ‘Verily, Allah loves that when anyone of you does a job he should perfect it‘ [Bayhaqi]. Whatever you venture on, make sure you don’t let mediocre standards get in your way or fall for what might just be satisfactory. Set high standards that are also realistic, then make sure that you don’t compromise on the things that are important to you.
10. Pray and ask Allah for success
One of the best lessons I’ve learnt in life is that we are weak as human beings. No matter how hard we may work and strive, without Allah’s Help we cannot achieve success. Only through prayer, turning to Him for everything we need with the knowledge that only He can answer, can we truly succeed in our goals in this life and the Hereafter.
Spend some time every day to ask Allah for His Help and guidance, because only He can make the impossible possible. Allah says in the Quran: ‘And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me‘ [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 186].
My dear daughter, as you go onto become a mother yourself someday, bear this advice in mind. I hope you will share it with your own daughter in the future so that she too can live by the motto to ‘have sincere intentions and work hard.’