Not You…not me…Mothers are the key!

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Here is the biggest secret that I adamantly believe holds the key to transforming the world. How? This is what I’ll do everything I can to clarify, but I need the help of your imagination to assist me in breaking from normal patterns of thinking we have been programmed to internalize and fall captive to.

When concerned Muslims want to develop their community, they straight think of one or more of the following things: build a Masjid, an Islamic school, a Quran school, a youth club, and less common approaches such as Islamic studies institutes, leadership training and initiatives, etc. All these are great institutions and have contributed a lot. However, they have been far from great in bringing about the hoped-for change. These are base-line institutions that can only contribute to a certain extent; there’s a ceiling to how much difference they can make.

There are many good Muslims out there who wish to do something for the Ummah. Usually they copy one of the successful projects that fall within the category described above. More and more of these projects are created. Recently some projects started to take a business outlook; they appeal to Muslims entrepreneur and try to contribute to the community by providing those entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skill they need to get their projects off the ground.

Probably by now you’re wondering what does this have to do with the title of this article! I totally understand and I will connect the dots in a moment insha’Allah, so bear with me.


Among all institutions, formal and informal, the most powerful and influential role has played by a mother. Mothers could make or break generations to come. This is not some sort of a cliché or an overemphasis. Research has been consistently showing that the early years of a person’s life shape his/her outlook on life in irreversible ways. Away from research, you can figure that out yourself. In a sense, children are born like a white slate. The attitudes, moods, gestures, words, behavioural patterns and actions of the closest person to them, their mother, start to shape the basic foundational blocks of their world view. These block sink deep into one’s cognitive map and to the bottom of their sub-conscious mind. Our understanding of who we are, what the world is, what’s right and wrong, and the very basic vocabulary of life is built in those early years. This doesn’t mean people will remain captive to their upbringing conditions, but those years are the most consequential in their future.

My personal experience with the youth and family counseling has left me with compelling evidence that most people’s problems can be traced back to a set of inappropriate building block in their cognitive map of the world which had been laid down in their early years. There are definitely ways to override those problematic beliefs and assumptions, but the scope of that process is still limited and time-consuming. Plus, most of the problematic assumptions at that level tend to form a web of false assumptions that support one another. So it’s more like a can of warms if you decide to deal with it, and one should think well whether it’s worth the investment.

When a person’s deepest assumptions about life and about oneself are distorted, and this person goes to an Islamic school, or Quran school, or leadership training what do you think happens? Mainly none of the problematic assumptions is properly handled, but this person gains skills (Islamic knowledge, memorization of the Quran, business skills, etc) then this person becomes more influential and people look up to him/her. When life tests him/her, their deepest assumptions about how life works and what one and others are worth will run the scene. If you are not convinced, check out Muslim organizations and institutions and see the baffling amount of favoritism, partisanship, corruption, deception, disputes…you name it.

On the other hand, most mothers are not well-informed in their role. They only have a cultural understanding of what it means to be a mother. Psychologically most mothers are inept, and many mothers suffer a serious identity crisis as they see motherhood has taken over them and they had to give up their dreams and lives for the sake of family and children. Many mothers are unable to solve this dilemma and instead spend their lives between the pain of giving up who they thought they had once wanted to be, and the guilt induced by such a thought. Many mothers struggle financially and have to go work to make ends meet. Others struggle with low self esteem as Muslim communities have also swallowed the notion that full-time mothers are less educated and less sophisticated, and thus less respected.

I believe if we channeled much of the funding and skills towards empowering mothers educationally, psychologically, financially, and skill-wise, this investment would pay dividends way more than our now-outdated institutions.

Motherhood is the core institution in the making of future generations. We have failed and neglected the most hard working segment in our communities and often we have treated them with contempt. Why don’t universities with Islamic orientation invent a discipline on motherhood to provide a scientific back up to this noble role and study solutions to the problems facing mothers and families?

I have no doubt that our responsibility towards reinventing motherhood is immense and pressing more than ever. I’ve thinking about this lately and will be happy to hear from you. Peace!

September 17, 2009

2 Responses on Not You…not me…Mothers are the key!"

  1. Ahmed says:

    Very beneficial article and excellent point.

  2. Sara Ansari says:

    This is so true. Women who have overcome the obstacles you described need, for the sake of our Ummah, to have a say and to be given the spaces needed to contribute their invaluable experience. They get the challenges of raising children in a world of globalization of cultural practices so out of touch with the Islamic tradition; so detrimental to those consuming popular media as they navigate the Muslim experience. Well-meaning mothers who grew up with a less than optimal education, go on to unpack their own “can of worms” through early motherhood, which can be a recipe for disaster, for both mother and child. Having role models in the form of Muslim mothers, and female scholarship that is true to the Islamic tradition and its contemporary application, and portraying it as being accessible, appealing and a path to a better life opens doors to Muslim mothers just looking to give their children, kin and wider community a better future. The internet has made this process easier than ever.

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