“I think we should have two wives.”
“As long as you know it’s plenty of personal responsibility, and you’re willing to take care of both families”, I groggily tell my 7-year-old son. “Though, I’m going to start grilling you on your chores from now on so you don’t burden any one of your wives.”
“Not me,” he continues, as I absentmindedly poke at my eggs, already feeling run down at the prospect of another action-packed new day. “I meant, Abah. Abah should have two wives.”
My ears perk up.
“So that,” he said thoughtfully, “one year, Abah can take you for Hajj, and you don’t have to worry about us painting the house orange or blowing up the oven, because the other wife can take care of us.” He dawdles on, “Most importantly, the other wife can do all the mama stuff, like breastfeeding, so you don’t have to worry.”
This kid has a plan.
“And then the following year, Abah can take the other wife, and we can all stay home with you. And you don’t have to worry about leaving us once again, because we will be with you.”
Aah! “How thoughtful of you”, I tell him, energy levels rising a little at the prospect of Hajj in the near future, provided I find my husband another wife, who would be willing to put up with my five – wait, nearly six, little children – all below the age of ten, and lactate as well for the baby to come.
We had just completed our Hajj module as part of our home-education, studying the life of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) as a young boy all the way up to the building of the Ka‘bah, and then we went out with a bang for Hajj. The Talbiyah (prayer recited as pilgrims arrive for Hajj) had echoed in our matchbox apartment for 4-5 days pursuant to the polygyny conversation over breakfast, and the week before, we had set up a mock Hajj at the city centre’s Masjid with a few other home-educating families. The children had a blast, all eager to now complete the real deal. “Can we go to Makkah soon? Can we do the tawaf, throw stones at the devil?” I was repeatedly asked.
That was until we started browsing images of Hajj, and they were completely blown away by the crowds of white ihrams flooding Masjid-ul Haram, the amount of tents at Mina, the sheer congregation at ‘Arafah, and the inherently perceived dangers at the Jamarat. They suddenly feared that they would also get squashed somewhere in between.
As much as I would love to bring my children for Hajj, I know it’s physically impossible (besides it being financially difficult), for us to do so. Not only are they young and are in frequent need of the bathroom and snacks (which inevitably lead us back to the bathroom) they also outnumber my husband and me, by nearly three to one.
I realise that for all the blessings my children bring to our family, they are also a major test of this dunya. I have not recalled a single incident of prayer time that I saw through thoroughly without having someone crying for me, climbing on me, needing the toilet, or going into sujood overdrive and ending with a bump on the forehead when crashing into the closest wall. I don’t recall a Ramadhan where I did not have the month leave on a note tinged with dissonance because of the regret and exhaustion I felt for not going that extra half a mile for personal rewards. I can’t remember when I have been able to sit down and read the Qur’an before someone comes running to me with a question about dinosaurs, or wields a pen to scribble on my mushaf. Yes, I know, there are rewards in tending to the children, but as the days trawl by, I feel the quality of my personal worship waning sadly.
Year after year, I see pilgrims gathering to venture off into the Holy Lands, and I’m either dealing with nausea, sciatica pain, ptyalism, extreme fatigue, in the middle of birthing, breastfeeding a baby (and sometimes in tandem with a toddler), or just plainly tied down by the many kids.
I am not complaining. Before marriage, I did make it clear that six children would be ideal. My husband didn’t object, though he did try to negotiate it down to four. He also promised monogamy, a promise I made him retract (due to polygyny being a valid option, as always). But apparently, I’m not as forward-thinking as my 7-year-old son as a co-wife is still not in the pipeline.
My children have been the biggest, most precious gifts in my life, hence the absence of hesitation to continue to grow our family. But the Hajj season is bitter-sweet due to this commitment, and just that thought of being able to go away for two and a half weeks without worrying about them being too young and dependent is something I ask for dearly. I’m not going any place exotic or expensive. But a second honeymoon with the husband, with the Holy Lands on our Sat Nav, would be the ideal getaway.
And this is why the 6th child will mark the end of our family’s growth (with Allah’s permission), because I have a set mission for myself (and my husband). I see us going for Hajj together when the 6th baby is old enough – I pray for it in the depths of the night. I want to be amongst those who call the Talbiyah, to do the tawaf around the Ka‘bah, to briskly walk like Hajar from one mount to the other in commitment to her lovely baby, Ismail. I want to travel to Mina, to ‘Arafah, to throw those pebbles, to make all those sacrifices, like the family of Ibrahim (AS). I want to be able to make sujood without having someone tumbling off my back. I want all this – just for a while – a short break away from the many years or many little children. Insha Allah.
Innalillahi wa innailayhi rajioun – To Allah we belong and to Him we return.
This article highlights the reality of life on this earth; we never know when our time is up. Whilst delivering her sixth child, the inspiring Maria Zain returned to her Lord before making this special journey with her husband. Please take her words as motivation to seize each opportunity for good deeds that comes your way.
Maria Zain was a prolific contributor to SISTERS magazine, writing extensively about issues including parenting, inter-cultural relationships, homeschooling and homebirthing, and even Muslim fashion. In December 2014 Maria Zain died, insha Allah a shaheedah, related to birthing her sixth child, who survived. SISTERS magazine will always be indebted to Maria for the immense work she did for the magazine as well as for the SISTERS family as a whole. We ask that readers consider donating to a fund for her six children in hopes to help their father continue to raise them in the loving and deen-centered style the parents worked so hard to foster.
Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/mariazain