The surau (a smaller version of the masjid in Malaysia) in my neighbourhood organises iftar (breaking of fast) every Monday and Thursday, to encourage and grow the habit of living the sunnah of fasting twice a week.
Fasting reminds me of a rare but profound experience I witnessed some years ago in the holy month of Ramadan. A new neighbour, Mr Abdullah (not his real name) had just moved in next door, and invited my family and I, together with several others, to his home for iftar. To make the guests more comfortable, the ladies were asked to break their fast at his home, while the men would gather at my place.
As always, there was a flurry of activity before iftar, with the gracious host, none other than the wife of Mr Abdullah, making sure that guests felt welcome and the food and drinks were within everyone’s reach.
As dusk began to fall, I noticed that Mr Abdullah was still in our midst. I thought he had lost track of time, so I walked over to him to gently remind him to please come over to my house to join the men. Just then, the call to prayer came.
What he did next stopped me in my tracks. With a plate of food in his hand, he swiftly crossed the room and immediately knelt next to his ageing mother. With a gentle gesture, he fed her with some dates and sweets.
“Mr Abdullah,” I said, “The men are at my place.”
“Yes, I’m coming,” he said, “But I have to feed my mother first.”
I realised, it was his habit to always feed his mother first every iftar time.
At that moment, I recalled a visit I made to an old folks home, where abandoned mothers reside, yearning for a visit from children who hardly seem to appear. In fact, over there, visits, if any, were far and few between. What a stark contrast!
I took a deep breath. At that point, I asked myself: Do I treat my mother the way my neighbour did, making her a priority in my life?
Raising my own offspring taught me how much children adore their parents, especially their mothers, when they are really young and most vulnerable. I am certain I behaved as such when I was small, looking up to my mother, making her feel she’s the most important person in the world.
I’m sure I hung onto her every word, just as my children did mine. In my eyes then, my mother was the most beautiful person in the universe. I’m certain, in my mother’s eyes, I was the prettiest creature. Never mind if I constantly drooled while teething, or if I kept grabbing her bag, or if I loved to knock off her drink as she tried to get a sip while holding me in her arms.
At which point in time did my mother, our mothers, become less beautiful, less admired, to you and I? As we grow up, we get to know others, first in our family, then outside of our homes. We learn to become independent, and as time goes by, we may find ourselves developing perspectives and ideas different from our mothers.
Because of these differences, sometimes tempers flare, and gradually, you may choose to see less and less of your mother. Your heart grows distant, even if you and her were to live under the same roof. You may even subconsciously reschedule your other engagements so that you get to delay your ‘date’ with your mother, even if the only time you see her is at dinner time. Your respect and reverence towards the woman who put her life on the line for you wears off.
At which point in time did our mothers, become less of a priority to us? Differences will never erase the love our mothers shower upon us.
Cultivating a caring relationship with the person you owe the most is a fundamental form of kindness. It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘busyness’ of our daily lives, in personal disagreements and annoyances, to forget that, had our mothers not treated us the way they did, you and I might not be who we are today.
At which point in our lives do we become less sensitive, less caring to the needs of our mothers? Remember: You are born beautiful and kind. Part of that beauty comes when you are able to appreciate your mother, making her feel valued, loved, respected and admired. Keep it that way.
This article was published in page 24 of the March 2015 edition of Alwasat, a bilingual Australian newspaper based in Melbourne. Read it online at http://issuu.com/alwasat2011/docs/march_2015