The early 20th century poet Sir Muhammad Iqbal once asked, "Who will become restless by not getting my letter? ... Who will be waiting for me in the homeland? ... To whose thoughts will I come in the midnight prayers?"
Having just received news of the passing of his mother, he was left "crying like a helpless infant... with impatience from morning till evening." He knew those questions he posed were ones without answers. He knew that the fear of every child, the fear of losing a parent, was not only his today but also his tomorrow. He knew that this was it. Memories were all he had left.
On a day of festivities and celebration like Mother's Day, it seems almost ill-fitting to bethink ourselves of something so somber, almost inappropriate to begin with something so depressing. But, in frank honesty, is there a better day than today to remind ourselves of the fragility of life?
Nearly every year on this day, we see Facebook statuses and newly uploaded pictures commemorating mothers who have passed away and grandmothers who are no longer with us. Many of us sympathize but very few of us empathize. Very few of us internalize those feelings of loss. We offer our condolences and maybe even our hugs, but rarely do we apply that unavoidable reality to our lives. Rarely, if ever, do we imagine what our lives would be like without the women who gave us life being a part of them.
The idea of it even hurts. It pains in a way so deep and so jagged that we avoid even the thought of it. Iyas Ibn Muawiyah, an early Islamic scholar, lamented after the loss of his mother, "I used to have two gates open to Paradise, now one of them is closed." Drawing on the Prophetic saying that "Heaven lies under the feet of your mother," this ancient scholar recognized what he had lost -- the truest, most pure form of beauty, kindness, and love he would ever see. He had lost his mother.
In the Islamic tradition, we find decrees to respect and care for one's parents preceded only by decrees to respect and honor God. The place afforded to those who bring us up, who care for us, and who provide for us through our infancy and beyond is such that it is held in the highest of esteem:
"Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility and say, 'My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.'" (Quran 17:23-24)
And upon understanding this plateau of respect and honor that we are called upon to elevate our parents to, a companion of Muhammad asked him, "Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?" The answer he received was simple: "Your mother. Your mother. Your mother."
As we move through today, it's important that we recognize that our times on this Earth is limited. Each day brings us closer to an inevitable end of this beautiful blessing we know as a mother's love. We know not if our mothers will outlive us or we our mothers, but we know that we have today.
We have today to love our mothers, to care for them, to remind them of how much they mean. We have this moment to share with them the joys of our lives, to make them proud, to live up to every hope that they had for us. We have this very Mother's Day to tell them that they mean the world to us, that we would not be who we are without them, that our existence would cease to hold meaning if it were not for them. We have our today's to celebrate with them and to give them every ounce of love and kindness we can offer, knowing very well it could never amount to even a fraction of what they have already given us.
So with honest tears in my eyes, I just want to say: I love you, Mum. I love you more than you could ever imagine.