I heard an interesting story from my husband (who knows I am a sucker for a good story), who in turn heard the story during a Ramadan talk at his masjid. It involved one of the imam’s hifz (Quran memorization) student’s who spent months and months learning and still had not memorized one chapter. Eventually the imam complained to the boy’s mother that he was making no headway. He asked her questions about TV habits, the parent’s religiousness and how often the boy practiced what he learnt at home. Then he asked a seemingly irrelevant question: do you eat out often? The mother confirmed that yes they did. The Imam asked her to try and get the boy to eat more home-cooked food. She did her best to implement the change and the Imam found that the boy started picking up his lessons much better.
The Imam giving the talk indicated why he thought this was. When a Muslim mother cooks she does so with care and concern for her children. Often she engages in Dhikr (remembrance of Allah) whilst she prepares a meal, many time she will be in a state of wudhu (ablutions) and have read her Salaah (prayer) or be preparing to. In any case her Dhikr and concern influence her children through the food she cooks for them. The food from the restaurant would not benefit from this. Even where the cook is Muslim, there is no guarantee that he prays Salaah. Even if he prays regularly, he will not have the level of concern for the one eating the meal that the mother would have.
I am not sure how true this story is, but something in it resonated with me. Think of the care we put into the preparation of food. We begin with Bismillah al rahman al rahim (In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, the most Beneficent) and pick each ingredient for its quality and benefit. We take care that everything is clean. We make sure there is nothing that will cause allergy or illness. We avoid the things that our families dislike (often even when we like them) and try to use the things that the beloved Prophet (SAWS) used or liked.
Subhan’Allah, this isn’t cooking, it’s ibadah (worship). Allah’s greatness and beauty is such that when we do it for him, a simple act becomes Dhikr in the beautiful hands of a mother.
"If there is any dispute between two persons and one of them repeats this Name [Al-Wadud] 1,000 times over some food and gives it to the other to eat, the disagreement and unpleasantness between them will come to an end." ~ Nintey Nine Names of Allah by M. I. Siddiqi.