The biggest lesson I learned from my mother is that kindness can be taught.
As parents we strive to teach our offspring about life, about self and about others. We teach them to read, write, cook and clean, hoping that they are able to become independent.
Teaching them about God and his attributes , teaching them to read Qur’an and telling them the Hadiths of the Prophets. We hope they see us practice what we preach when we teach them of the sunnahs and Islamic principles.
As much theory is taught in madrassah and homes, the best is to see in practice the kindness of Islam.
The Other Teachers
I personally have very fond memories of madrassah. It was a place I went to enjoy hanging out with my friends and to learn. I learned from one particular teacher more than I learn from the others.
This particular teacher [May Allah shower him with His rahma] was very kind; he was very gentle in speech and mannerism. It didn’t matter how many times one made mistakes in their tajweed, he would patiently correct you.
He was different to the others who would lash with whips if you were not reciting – they made learning very stressful, they didn’t practice patience nor humility as they taught us the words of God – but Maalim Yusuf [Allah Ya Rahim] was different and I believe I learned more from him than anyone else – His gentle ways lead to me loving the stories of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
His gentleness brought out his love for Islam and it was infectious; we received it with love too. His kindness to us was his tool to opening our little hearts to love Allah and His Messengers, His books.
My Mother, My First Teacher
My mother’s love for us was apparent in her desire to teach us. She was my first teacher before I went to school or madrasah. She taught me to read and write both in Kiswahili and Arabic by the time I went to school and madrasa.
But there were lessons she taught us without being very obvious about the depth of the teaching we were receiving. These lessons transcended the books we wrote on or the pens we held or the memorizing we did. These lessons shaped us and have become the maps of our lives.
My Mother’s Home
Before I go into the kind of lessons my mother taught us, even though at the time I wasn’t appreciative of them, I must tell you of the home she raised us in.
My parents, both in their own rights had a way of being a center of the community they lived in. I don’t remember any given time when our home was only occupied by the immediate family.
There was always extended family living with us, in addition to random strangers who had turned up the night before or a month before.
We grew up in a real communal home; surrounded by aunties, uncles and cousins including those distant and non distant strangers who become family.
Community As Teacher
Can you imagine being a teenager and being woken up to go and tend to a neighbor? In my mother’s home this was the norm. Even if the neighbor had turned up at night my mother would wake us up to do whatever the neighbor needed help with.
I remember a couple of occasions our neighbor’s son got sick at night and my mother asked me to go with her to the hospital. It was pitch black outside!
My mother’s subtle lessons were and are in the way she is available to others; especially in their times of need. I was 15 years old when she appointed me as caretaker of an elderly woman who lived alone. She was childless and alone in a tiny little room which was provided by our local Imam [May Allah reward his effort].
My duties were to fetch water and clean the room twice a week. I would go after school to perform my duties and have a little chat with her after. I knew that my mother had assigned me to do something important as it meant a great deal to the old woman; she would bless me with duas and duas when I finished my tasks.
I remember feeling rather accomplished. I felt honored. And this is one lesson I forever am grateful to my mother for this most valuable of lessons.
The Best Teacher (PBUH)
The Messenger of Allah [SAW] said: “The ones who are merciful, The Most Merciful will be merciful to them. Be Merciful to those who are on the Earth, and the One who is in the Heavens will be merciful to you.” (Tirmidhi)
My mother’s keenness to teach us wasn’t limited to us learning how to read, or write or recite the Qur’an or fast or pray. Her lessons transcended all these with her lessons in teaching us to care for others.
As narrated by Bukhari: The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) once said to his wife : “O’Aisha! Never turn away any needy man from your door empty-handed. O’ Aisha! Love the poor; bring them near to you and God will bring you near to Him on the Day of Resurrection.” The Prophet also said: God is Kind and He likes kindness in all things.”
I am a great believer that kindness can be taught and should be taught in our daily engagement with each other and our children; if practiced it is contagious it will infect all those around you thus bringing hearts closer and create harmony and build humility.
As we strive to teach our children to strive for self; we mustn’t forget to teach them to strive in kindness to self and others.