It was the 21st night of Ramadan.
After iftar, we hurriedly performed wudhu and made our way inside Al-Masjid Al-Haram through the King Abdul Aziz gate. People rushed past us, clutching prayer mats, wanting desperately to find a spot before the Taraweeh prayer started. We were directed to the basement. It was there where I threw my prayer mat on the gleaming white marble floor between a middle-aged Algerian woman and a young Egyptian mother. They both smiled at me and we exchanged greetings. The mother was holding a small Qur’an in her hand, her lips moving in silent recitation while her tiny baby slept nearby. Every so often, her gaze would lift from the sacred pages and she would glance at her child. The look of calm and contentment on her face made me smile. There was nothing like the love of a mother.
The imam’s takbir rang throughout the masjid, stirring restless hearts, bringing peace and serenity. There was a rustle of fabric and hushed whispers as believers rose to their feet and stood shoulder to shoulder before their Creator. The Algerian lady tugged at my sleeve to pull me closer. Hands raised, everyone stood still and the beautiful recitation began. The baby groaned, turned over, and let out a wail with tiny hands balled into fists. The mother, hands folded on her chest, leaned forward and placed a rattle near the baby. The wails grew louder as the baby grew more uncomfortable. We completed the first rak’ah. As everyone rose to their feet, the mother reached out and picked up her crying child. She held the tiny body against her chest and instantly, the wailing stopped.
She held her baby through the entire prayer.
After completing ten rak’at of taraweeh, a funeral took place. I watched the mother place the sleeping baby back on the prayer mat in awe, thinking about how much love there was laced together in this one moment. They both stood out in front of me so beautifully, the love of a mother and the love of the Almighty. I had never come across an incident like this before. Rather, I always heard mothers complaining about how they had to skip prayers due to crying babies or how they couldn’t manage to pray because of their irregular feeding hours and exhaustion.
I recall that several months ago when I was at a relative’s house in Jhelum, Pakistan. Three doors down, a family was preparing for their only son’s wedding ceremony the next day. The street was decorated with lights, drums were playing loudly, and little girls dressed in bright yellow and green outfits were having their hands decorated with henna. The atmosphere was filled with much happiness and excitement of the bride’s arrival to her new home. The boy’s sisters had come round to our relative’s house. There were six of them: pretty young girls with long curly hair and bright eyes, smiling and giggling. On the morning of the nikkah, the groom-to-be went to pick up flowers from the market. On his way, his motorbike collided with a lorry and just like that, he was gone from this world. The heartbreak and grief that followed was unbelievable and indescribable.
I remember hearing the heart-wrenching screams and cries of the mother as she violently beat her chest and cried out to God, pleading for an answer. “How will I live with this pain?” she asked with her hands stretched out to the heavens, and her body shaking with pain and agony. I’ve never heard a sound more distressing than the anguish-filled weeping of a mother.
I remember a few months before this, I was on a bus in Jeddah. It was crowded and the heat was making everyone impatient. I was seated next to an Arab lady clad in a black flowing abaya, a veil covering her face. Her husband stood a few feet away, one hand clutching the rail for support and the other holding a pram. Their baby daughter was sleeping in it, her short brown curls framing her soft, sleeping face. The bus took a sudden turn and the driver slammed on the brakes making us lurch forward. Sunshine was now pouring through the window and the gentle rays fell on the sleeping baby, caressing her cheeks and highlighting her long, prominent lashes. The mother quickly gestured towards the baby and the father instantly stepped forward and covered his daughter’s face, shadowing her from the light so that it would not disturb her sleep. He stood at an awkward, uncomfortable angle with his back bent. But it didn’t seem to bother him.
I realized, in that moment, how much parents are prepared to sacrifice for their children and the extent they go to make them happy and comfortable. They want to give them the best. They will go to the ends of the earth to make sure their children are okay. Their concern is unmatched by any other human being. It’s this love that makes me think about Allah’s love for His servants. Allah divided all of mercy into 100 parts, and He’s left 99 for the Day of Judgement. This means that last part is here with us, living in every motherly embrace. I am reminded of all the mothers I have met in my life who have taught me about love and, in a funny way, their love taught me about Allah’s love.