gender, poetry, religion

For women and mothers

I wrote this poem in July 2006 (obviously I was still nursing the baby). Here it is as a re-run.

I am the one
who suffers The Worst Pain of Your Life
to bring new life.
I am
the one whose nipples are sucked to
painful tenderness,
the one whose body–
ravaged by labour,
hemorrhoids, stretch marks — yet
whose body is on display and is not
permitted the luxury of cellulite.

The one who’d better
get in shape. The one
who should breastfeed 2 years yet keep
breasts sophomoric, for
is a religious duty too.
The one who can’t
sleep, eat or rest.
Or read or pray.
The one who does not have
the time to work, who does not have
the freedom NOT to work.
Who got rights 1400 years ago
but cannot own a penny, for what
wife/mother would own/spend for herself?
They give me rights but take away
the right to use them when I want.
They say
I can do this and this and this.
And then say, it’s unfeminine
to say I, me, I want, I need.
They say, how great is your glory, woman,
that you spoke out to the Messenger,
that you corrected Umar. Then
they say,
Shaikh X must be obeyed
for surely he in his piety
knows best the fiqh of labour pains.
I am
one who can neither nurse
in public, nor feed formula
without public chastisement.
The one
who must know EVERYTHING about
the baby, the one whose needs
are first
to be forgotten, the one
who never can lose it, the one
who never
can escape.
And if I’m gone for an hour,
will hunt me like a hungry wolf.
I have
a splitting headache, namaz to pray,
no meal in 15 hours, a child
fussing to be fed
and then
fussing again to poop
and then,
fussing to be cleaned and bathed
and fussing to go to sleep again.
Sometimes it feels
like the universe is wound up so
I can never rest and breathe awhile.

Single, life was hard; married, life’s a trial; motherhood, a struggle all over again.
Yeah, motherhood is beautiful
with unending reserves of health.
Ah and that utopian system whereby
in-laws get to claim your child
and you get to be nanny/maid.
One day baby will grow up to see
mummy is the doormat, mummy’s needs
are last.
And then if something
scholars say
the father gets
the child.
Even if
daddy can barely put the child to bed?
I’m the one with the lovely task
of nurturing bodies
by cooking food,
the endless labour
of cleanliness, of making home
a place of rest,—
And all the while “I do not work.”
And then they say,
he must not work beyond 5pm –
he must not lose sleep or meals — and yet
you are too frail to be president.
And then I am the one with jannah
at my feet

yet my jannah
has separate doors beside the trash.
When I approach the sacred, I am
told I cannot menstruate
told I cannot wear this or that
told I cannot say no to sex
told I cannot not marry, told
I cannot not wash clothes and plates
cannot divorce without penalty
cannot say
I’m tired.
Cannot say for God’s sake I’m tired.
And cannot
say for once and all
you know what
for all your
apologetics, for all your fancy theory,
this world, this world
this world of yours
just does not work
for me that well.

12 thoughts on “For women and mothers”

  1. Wow, this is a real mother’s poem, filled with all the trials and love of childrearing, and all the unfairness imposed by men and society. I love it, and am going to send it to my daughter-in-law who had a baby 🙂

    Thank you so much, dear Sister.

    Ya Haqq!

  2. These words can only come from within.

    If all people could understand this poem….our world would have been a much better place.

    Thanks 🙂

  3. 101 reasons why I’m desperately seeking an environment where my children will not learn to think like this..Iceland perhaps or Siberia? Beautifully said as always Koonj

  4. Oh, this is what I am feeling today, and I was feeling this yesterday too. Copious volumes of tears just slide down my face, and the kids pause and look at me and say,’Ammi why are you sad? Ammi, cheer up!’ And for that too, I am very grateful.

    Thank you for writing this as honestly as you have.

  5. And after four of these “phases,” is it somehow wrong for me to say,
    “That’s it! I want no more! I am tired, beyond tired, just let me raise four loving, responsible Muslims into adulthood who will want to pray for me or give charity in my name!”

    Stop hounding me to reproduce. I cannot put in my order for a boy at the Publix meat counter. (am talking in my head to MIL)

    At least not yet.

  6. May your voice resonate to the extent that everybody sheds down the prejudice and injustice againts woman folk.

    Great poem.

  7. Oh wow ❤ This poem is so, so much of the knot in my throat that makes me scream in my nightmares at "scholars."

    It's powerful. It's beautiful. It's brave.

    Thank you! May God reward you for this voice.

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