The aching void of love


Amrita Shergil

In Surah al-Qasas, the Qur’an tells us about the mother of Moses – how God tells her:

“Suckle (thy child), but when thou hast fears about him, cast him into the river, but fear not nor grieve: for We shall restore him to thee, and We shall make him one of Our messengers.” But when she casts Moses into the river, she is so utterly overcome by emotion that she barely restrains herself: 

وَأَصْبَحَ فُؤَادُ أُمِّ مُوسَىٰ فَارِغًا ۖ إِنْ كَادَتْ لَتُبْدِي بِهِ لَوْلَا أَنْ رَبَطْنَا عَلَىٰ قَلْبِهَا لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

  • Asad: On the morrow, however, an aching void grew up in the heart of the mother of Moses, and she would indeed have disclosed all about him 10  had We not endowed her heart with enough strength to keep alive her faith [in Our promise]. 11
  • Malik: On the other hand, the heart of Musa’s mother was sorely troubled. She would have disclosed as to who he was, had We not strengthened her heart so that she might become one of the true believers.
  • Pickthall: And the heart of the mother of Moses became void, and she would have betrayed him if We had not fortified her heart, that she might be of the believers.
  • Yusuf Ali: But there came to be a void in the heart of the mother of Moses: she was going almost to disclose his (case) had We not strengthened her heart (with faith) so that she might remain a (firm) believer.  3337
Jochebed, by Franklin Simmons

Whenever I read this verse, it rips my heart into two. Especially right now, it seems, as I prepare to send my little one into a new school this September- her first big city public school. It feels like existence, connection, parenting, is a way to open my heart up to this aching, gaping void.


It brings to mind the first time I dropped her off at daycare: that intersection in Athens, GA, where that green arrow brought me to tears every time I turned. I hated to let go. My heart broke. And my heart turned into a storm, an empty aching void; my heart itself was “as air” (Surah Ibrahim 43).

Love is pain. Love is terror. Love is a terrible, painful thing. All my resources, all my power, all my learning is as air, as a gaping aching void before the thought of my child.

2 thoughts on “The aching void of love”

  1. This aching void, felt for the first time when dropped off to school, rises its head over and over again. When they leave for college, when they get married, when, each time they have children, I go to visit and then leave, each time, even though my children are grown, mothers themselves, that aching void, of separation has to be dealt with, with strength, to keep the faith and the promise alive. A mother’s aching void never leaves her.

    1. Yes, while Musa’s mother’s aching void is from a true absence, a parent’s aching void comes into being along with the child.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s