There is nothing more intimate than the love between mother and child. Marriage is an interesting learning experience, but it cannot compete with the total human sacrifice it takes to produce a child. After bearing the stress in one’s womb for months and months, feeling the weakness and hunger, and finally the labor which cannot ever be described, a new human being arrives. This being suckles on you until your bones ache so that you cannot sleep at night, and yet you long for another one. This is love. This is true love.
“What is love? Does anybody love anybody anyway?” sang Howard Jones, a UK artist, when I was in Junior High School. I still don’t know the answer to these questions.
“The mothers shall give such to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child. Nor father on account of his child, an heir shall be chargeable in the same way. If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (the mother) what ye offered, on equitable terms. But fear God and know that God sees well what ye do. (Quran 2:233)”
He shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child. These are actually reasonable requests. God laid it down.
So now that we have got that straight, what have we now? A financial exchange. But is there more to life than that? I don’t know yet. But there are people who go through this life never knowing what it was like to fall asleep at their mother’s breast. There are so many of us, especially children of the 70’s, who just never knew that. When we had a nightmare, we had to “understand” that no one was going to cuddle us. We faced this world alone, without any sense of having any rights.
Even the most emotionally detached mother could fall asleep with her child, and this skin contact could even save a child’s life. For life. A scientific study in Brazil showed that mothers who “wore” their premature babies under their clothes with constant skin contact (instead of keeping them in an incubator) were rewarded with higher rates of weight gain and overall health of their babies. Love boosts the immune system. And if you don’t know how to love yet, the first step is lots of long hugs to increase the sense of emotional security, which gives bursts to all the healing hormones your body can release.
Close physical contact is part of Islam. I invited some neighbors to a local iftar and my friend’s husband, who was from Spain, commented that, during the prayer, he had never been so physically close to other men in his entire life. He kind of liked it.
There are so many things we could do wrong in our lives, but if we could at least give our children the emotional security of skin contact at a very early age, we could do well. Even if we are not nursing, how about putting your arm around your child? If you give it a few minutes, he or she might even fall asleep. What’s most important, even more important than the mother’s milk, is knowing that somebody cares. Somebody is there.
We come into this world alone, and we will leave it alone. Nobody will be able to help us. We have only a short time to love one another. Whomever we love, they may be gone tomorrow. We might be gone tomorrow. We need to set boundaries against disrespect, but we must keep an open door policy for those whom we love.
We should never think that our actions will not affect another human being. If we let a child cry himself to sleep, we might think he’ll never remember, but in fact this might be the deciding factor in whether he believes in himself or not. It actually takes someone else to help you realize that you have the right to take up space in this world, when you are new here. No one can do it alone. People who are mistreated or neglected all their lives often curl up and die. In any case their immune system takes a hit.
Christians and Muslims have a dispute because Christians say, “God is Love,” whereas Muslims say, “God is the Lover.” This is a grammatical problem, not a basic issue. There are so many beautiful people out there. Why not love them all?
Love comes from Allah alone. You can never force or will someone to love you back. It is entirely out of your hands. And there is a certain element of comfort in that.
There is somebody who will never refuse your love. That is your child.