Saturday 10 December 2011

Counting Our Blessings

Subhan’Allah I heard it again this morning:

“My sister-in-law had her baby, it was a girl”
“Never mind, it’s from Allah”
“Three girls”
“Oh well, it’s what Allah has decided, what can we do”

This from two good, pious, believing women. One educated, young and modern, the other an older woman, a mother herself who I thought had grown enough as a person to stop thinking and speaking in this way. That child is not a liability, she is a gift from Allah (SWT), a blessing, bringing an increase in rizq (income/sustenance) and a soul with the potential to change the world or at least bring some goodness and beauty into it.

The parents were hoping for a son so that they could stop having any more children. I know it’s easy for me to say, having two sons and with a daughter in a country where it is easier to be a women than most. It’s tough for parents of daughters in Pakistan. People worry about marrying their daughters and the costs of this (with dowry’s etc). People worry about how vulnerable women are, how easy it is to impugn a women’s honour and therefore the whole family or clan’s. They worry about the fact that even after their daughters are married, they are dependent on their husband and his family and therefore vulnerable.

I accept all of the above, but this is one thing I won’t be moved on. We need to start treating our daughters and sisters like the blessings they are. We need to educate and empower them through the teachings and history of Islam. We need to remind each other again and again of the stories of the women of the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet PBUH). The first Muslim – Lady Khadijah (RA) the noblewoman, Saffiyah bint Abdul Mutallib (RA) the matron and warrior, Sumaiyah (RA) the martyr, Hafsa (RA), the archivist and safe-keeper of the Quran, Zainab (RA) the philanthropist they called “Mother of the Poor”, Aisha (RA) one of the greatest scholars of Islam. These are a very few of the galaxy of amazing women who were at the fore front of Islam.

We need to keep going back to their stories, to keep telling our daughters, but also our mothers that women hold value, that daughters are precious and important, not second best or a consolation prize.
This is not a new topic for me, but it is one that I cannot let go of, I have to keep returning to it. I spoke to the sister who gave us the news of the new baby on the phone and we had a very long conversation about how lucky we are to have daughters, how blessed and undeserving we are. I made sure it was within earshot of the other sister who was commiserating. I think the parents of the new baby might be getting some positive reminders from this sister about how lucky they are.

May Allah (SWT) give us the sense to be grateful for what he gives us, to recognise the blessings and to learn from the lives of the great women who came before us insh’Allah, ameen.


  1. I have just come across your blog and reading through your past posts on similar subjects, I feel I need to comment.
    I myself come from a Pakistani family, I was bought up in the UK and also live in East London with a very strong muslim community around me. But I have to say, I have not experienced the same prejudice for favouring boys over girls as you have. Whenever any family member or friends have had baby girls, everyone is as equally as happy to recieve the new muslim child into this world - regardless of sex. My grandparents had left the narrowmindedness of favouring boys over girls back in Pakistan when they emigrated here. I am from a family of 5 girls and 1 boy, the only time my mother may jokigly favours him is with what he would like to eat and cooks his favourite foods for him- even at the age of 28! but never has he been put on a pedestal or has my mother felt inferior to bearing more girls then boys. I think your mother's insecurity on this has diluted down to you and you can feel this more so when a girl is born. Education is the only way people will realise that bearing girls is actually more of a blessing.

  2. Assalam-alaikam Sister Anonymous,
    Jazakh’Allah khairun for taking the time to comment. It’s always good to get different opinions and voices coming through and I am glad you articulated a different perspective to mine, kudos to your parents. I recently had another sister e-mail me to say that she recognised what I was talking about and had seen the preference for male children in couples around her, however, she did not suffer from this at home because her parents were both educated.

    At the same time I am very clear about what I heard in the conversation I quote in this post. The couple were so desperate for a son after two daughters, that the birth of another daughter was seen as something to console about rather than celebrate. I have seen this time and again in families I know.

    Outside of the Muslim community, South Asians still have abortions on finding the baby is a girl:

    It is different for my daughter, she is spoilt rotten and treated like a princess by my family, but when I see other people/parents behaving as if they have a problem on their hands because they have a daughter, it saddens me that they can’t see the blessing they have been given because of lingering cultural practices.

  3. I wish I had a little princess. We are expecting number 5 boy next spring. Not that I don't love this one as much as the others, but I would love a little girl to better teach my boys how to treat women properly.

  4. I can relate Umm Saliha. I will never forget a conversation I had with my Mum where she was talking about having us kids. I was the third girl and my Mum told me that when the midwives told her it was a girl, she fainted. I know my Mum felt judged by her family, not necessarily in-laws, but others. When she came to my dad said "don't you dare cry, thank God Allah has given us a healthy child. Weirdly, my Mum is the one who was educated to degree level in Pakistan by a very loving, forward thinking father and worked as a Head Mistress before marrying my Dad, who only had a basic education!
    I don't think my Mother realised the impact this story had on me for many years. I would sometimes cry to think of what I burden I must have been on her. Then to add insult to injury, one day she told me that I was lucky because...wait for it...I was followed by a son.
    I grew up resenting this brother because he was very much favoured.
    Years later, my first born was a girl and I felt truely blessed, as did my lovely husband, but again my mother was expressing concern that now she had only female grand-daughters, and not sons. My daughter was only the second grandchild!
    I will never forget my Mum's friend coming to see me after I had my daughter and saying "never mind, next time it will be a boy!" My goodness, how I had to bite my tongue.
    Don't get me wrong, I really love my Mum, and she has been there for me every step of the way, ensuring I went to Uni and studied hard, and supporting me with all my kids, as well as any challenges I have faced, but it took me a long time to come to terms with that tale of my birth!