In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
As I am sure you all know, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. I am so looking forward to it. Last year, I was stuck working in the hospital and was not able to partake in the celebrations with my family. Not so this year, and I am so happy. My mother (and my wife) deserve the world for everything she has ever done for me. I am so blessed to have been given my mother, and I thank the Good Lord profusely for my mother.
In the dark days of my past – suffering from the fevers of fundamentalism – I shunned Mother’s Day and other holidays similar to it. I arrogantly spewed out the label of bid’ah, or “innovation,” to the celebration of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), my logic went back then, never celebrated a Mother’s Day, then how could I – being a faithful Muslim – do the same? To me, back then, there was no such thing as cultural traditions. “Islam” was my culture. I was not an American Muslim, something about which I am very proud today, but a Muslim in America. At that time, I repudiated my American-ness, and I was all the poorer for it.
Never mind that the Qur’an says:
“And [God says:] ‘We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his utter dependence on her lasted two years; [hence, O man], be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents [and remember that] with Me is all journeys’ end” (31:14).
Never mind that the Qur’an also says:
“Now [among the best of the deeds which] We have enjoined upon man is goodness towards his parents. In pain, did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give birth to him; and her bearing him and his utter dependence on her took thirty months...” (46:15).
Yet, at that dark stage of my life, I did not care. Thank God I have been cured. I know now that Islam embraces the cultural traditions of a people so long as their traditions do not conflict with the principles of Islam. How could celebrating a day for our mothers be un-Islamic? “The Prophet (pbuh) never did it!” is a frequent charge of the critics. True, I am not aware of the Prophet’s having celebrated a Mother’s Day. That is because, I believe, the Arabs of the 7th Century did not have a Mother’s Day in their culture. We Americans, in the 21st Century, do. Thus, I do not feel celebrating Mother’s Day makes me a bad Muslim or is a “religious innovation,” which is what bid’ah means.
From where do I get this notion? Especially since, as you all know, I am not a scholar. From a exquisitely written essay by Dr. Umar Faruq Abdallah. In it, he writes, “For centuries, Islamic civilization harmonized indigenous forms of cultural expression with the universal norms of its sacred law.” Thus, as a result, “In China, Islam looked Chinese; in Mali, it looked African.” Is there any scriptural basis for this? Absolutely:
“Make due allowance for man’s nature, and enjoin the doing of what is right; and leave alone all those who remain ignorant” (7:199).
The scholars have used this verse as well as several situations from the life and example of the Prophet (pbuh) to conclude that Islam embraces the cultural traditions of a people that are in harmony with its principles. Thus, in America, Islam should look American. Making this come to fruition is one of the most important challenges for American Muslims today. Dr. Abd-allah goes into much more detail in his essay, and I refer you to his excellent work.
Thus, I am giving my mom and wife a gift for Mother’s Day, and I am planning on celebrating the day with my family. That’s what I am doing this Sunday. What are you going to do?