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A New Mother’s “Empty” Heart

For third-time mother, Sadaf Farooqi, an incident quoted in the Qur’an provided solace during a traumatic postnatal experience.

Every expectant mother waits for that amazing moment when she sets eyes on her new baby. As the pregnancy draws to a close, the excitement and anticipation mounts by the day, sometimes causing impatient restlessness. Once the bundle of joy makes its much-awaited debut into the world, the beaming new parents can’t wait to take it back home with them to resume their family life with renewed vigour.

 

As I write this article, I am still revelling in the emotions a new mother feels during the challenging yet immensely rewarding time period following the birth of her baby.

 

However, the contentment I feel right now as I thank Allah (SWT) for culminating my pregnancy with well-being was not there during the first week following my daughter’s birth. After she was born, Allah (SWT) sent our way a trial that was a flicker of the trial faced by the mother of a Prophet thousands of years ago.

 

During labour, I was informed that I had infected amniotic fluid. My obstetrician firmly told me that as soon as the baby was born, she’d be hooked up to intravenous antibiotics, in order to preempt any risk to her life because of the blood infection.

 

After delivery, I barely got to hold her and do her tahneek – the sunnah of rubbing a pasty chewed date on her palate – before she was taken away to the nursery to have her blood tested; to be examined by the paediatrician, and to get her first dose of antibiotics.

 

Everything appeared normal when she was soon returned to us, all cleaned up and dressed, ready to be cuddled, fed and cooed over. Her antibiotic doses were to continue for two more days.

 

It was later, though, when I was being discharged from hospital, that the real blow came. The paediatric staff informed us that our baby’s blood had been tested again, and the results indicated that the antibiotic had not been effective and that her infection had increased. She needed to be administered a new antibiotic and monitored for its effect, necessitating her to stay back in hospital for at least a day more.

 

In short, I could leave, but I couldn’t take my baby home with me.

 

As this painful news sunk in, I felt as if my heart was tearing apart. I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby in a place away from me, in the care and trust of absolute strangers, and all that only two days after giving birth to her!

 

Before I knew it, tears poured down my face, as I sat in the hospital room with my bags packed, wondering how I could leave without my baby, putting her under the care of strangers.

 

That was when I thought of Prophet Musa’s (AS) mother, who was tested by Allah (SWT) with her infant son. She submitted to His command when she put Musa (AS) into a floating chest in a river:

“And We inspired the mother of Moses, saying: suckle him and, when you fear for him, then cast him into the river and fear not nor grieve. Lo! We shall bring him back to you and shall make him (one) of Our messengers.” [Al-Qasas:7]

 

I imagined how she could have done such a herculean task, when here was I, an emotional mess at the mere thought of leaving my baby in a secure environment for just a day. Even if baby Musa’s mother feared for his life, putting an infant into a chest and letting it float off in a river, trusting solely in Allah (SWT) that He will return it, is an action almost impossible to imagine any mother pulling off!

 

Yet, she did it.

 

“And the heart of the mother of Moses became void, and she would have betrayed him if We had not fortified her heart, that she might be of the believers.” [Al-Qasas:10]

 

In this verse, Allah (SWT) uses the Arabic word “faarighaa” to describe the state of the heart of the mother of Musa after her baby disappeared. This word literally means “empty”.

 

Tafsir Ibn Kathir states: “Allah tells us how, when her child was lost in the river, the heart of Musa’s mother became empty, i.e., she could not think of any matter in this world except Musa. This was the view of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Abu `Ubaydah, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Qatadah and others.”

 

I thought of this exact word when I sat crying in the hospital room, trying to keep negative thoughts at bay as they flashed through my mind, making my heart sink, “What if she doesn’t get better? What if the new antibiotic doesn’t work either? How will I pass the time away from her?”

 

Instead, I thought of how Allah (SWT) soon returned baby Musa to his mother, by making him reject the breast-milk of every foster mother who sought to nurse him:
“So We restored him to his mother that she might be comforted and not grieve, and that she might know that the promise of Allah is true. But most of them know not.” [Al-Qasas:13]

 

Thinking of the Divine words “….the promise of Allah is true. But most of them know not..”, as I made earnest du’a for my baby’s quick recovery, suddenly, I felt much better. A weight seemed to lift off my heart as I recited masnoon ruqyah over her before leaving her in the care of nursery staff and heading home. I wasn’t crying any more. A strange peace had descended upon me.

 

After 24 hours, her test results came out favourably and she was released.

 

For sure, the Qur’an is a miracle of Allah (SWT) – a true word comprising of signs that come alive inside believers’ hearts to relieve distress and bring about solace!

 

Sadaf Farooqi hopes that everyone can benefit from the Qur’an by recalling its verses to alleviate practical challenges in their lives.