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A life of devotion
11:30am Monday 30th April 2012 in Thought for the week
For the first six years of my life, my formative years, the only parent that I knew was my mother.
I was born in Peshawar, in the North West Frontier of Pakistan.
It’s a city at the crossroads, a city older than London, and one that has seen many people travel from it, through it, and to it, including my own great grandfather, who had migrated there from Afghanistan in the early part of the 20th century.
I was just six months old when my father, who had been a technician in the Royal Indian Air Force of British India, and then, post partition, in the Pakistan Air Force, decided to migrate to Britain in early 1962.
It would be the summer of 1967 that I would see my father for the first time. So for those five years or so of my early life, my mother was both my mother and father to me.
She was a very proud, strong and determined woman, who had to work from home weaving fans made of reed, when my father was unable to send us enough money from England.
When I was four, I cried to go to school, just like my brothers and sisters.
My mother asked my uncle to take me to school and ask the headmaster if he would admit me a year early.
The headmaster refused.
When my mother heard this, she took me straight back and said to the headmaster that school would be better for me than my playing on the streets.
The headmaster, seeing that my mother would not take no for an answer, took me in.
I find it difficult to imagine how my mother managed to keep going with such a large separation of distance and time from her husband.
It was a huge sacrifice on her part, and I certainly couldn’t imagine my wife doing the same. I’m sure I would get an ultimatum!
I saw my father for the first time after we landed at Heathrow Airport, a strange experience.
I saw him for the last time when I was 21, when he went on holiday to Pakistan, never to return, as he died there after suffering a heart attack.
I knew him for 16 years. My mother was there for me for almost 40 years of my life.
Like most mothers, her life was one of devotion to and love and sacrifice for her children.
I can easily see why the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught that ‘Paradise lies underneath the feet of the mother’, giving motherhood a status above that of Heaven.
A man once asked the Prophet (peace be upon Him) “O Prophet of God, who is entitled to be most loved and respected by me?”
The Prophet said, “Your mother”. The man asked “Then who?”
The Prophet answered “Your mother”.
The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet again replied “Your mother”.
The man asked for a fourth time, and then the Prophet answered “Your father”.