9 Life Lessons From My Ummi
May 7, 2021
The author Bibi Watts
By Bibi Watts
Lately, I’ve been thinking about unique ways to honor my mother, how I possibly could repay her for the many sacrifices, and whether that’s something that can happen in a single lifetime anyways. If you’re of the opinion that it cannot, you are not alone.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s nothing I can do to return the favor of being hosted in Ummi’s womb for nine months and loved with such deep intensity for 38 years of my life and counting. Additionally, how she still comes to my defense, wipes my tears and is the most caring custodian of my heart.
My mother is an embodiment of grace and God-consciousness. Her hands are softer than silk even after kneading chapatti and making smothered meatballs. She’s a homemaker, seamstress, conversationalist, teacher, wife, big sister, auntie, and the list just doesn’t end. One of my consistent prayers these days is for Allah (S) to grant me the ability to be half the woman she is.
I’ve never shared with anyone that I often sit and wonder over ways to make her feel special. Things I can say to make her smile until the sky lights up. My mother is a woman whose contentment comes easy, which means making her happy becomes a difficult conquest. Give me a moment to clarify. You know how they say “It’s the little things?” When it comes to Ummi, I want it to be the bigger things.
I ask myself, what can I do to blow her away? If I’m being completely honest, sometimes I like to compete with my siblings to make her happy! (Please don’t tell them I said it though.)
Imam as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) relates that once a person approached the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and asked: “O’ Prophet of Allah! Towards whom should I exhibit goodness and kindness?”
The Noble Prophet replied, “Towards your mother.”
The man then asked, “And after that towards whom?”
The Noble Prophet again said, “Your Mother.”
He asked again, “And then?”
Once again Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied, “Your mother.”
For the fourth time the man asked, “And then?”
This time he said, “(Then towards) Your father.” (Sahih Muslim)
If that isn’t reason enough to learn new ways to celebrate your mother, I don’t know what is. To start, I decided one of the ways I can elevate my Ummi is to share with others the wisdom she so often imparts. With that in mind, here’s a small compilation of universal gems I’ve picked up along my journey as her daughter.
Bibi Watts and her Ummi
1. Take care of you first. After moving from Houston, where our immediate family lived for many years, I routinely help find Ummi’s Eid garments. Each year I take pride in sending photos and Facetiming with her to find the perfect piece. Similarly, she always says to me, “Bibi, make sure you take care of you first.” As if she isn’t owed the honor of always being first in my life! It’s this display of selflessness that I admire.
2. Get out of your own way. Ummi’s truth is always piercing and thought-provoking. Whenever my siblings and I were having difficulty, she’d simply speak her truth, and I could feel the weight of the world slowly lifting. Sometimes it would be garnished with explanation, and at other times it was short and sweet. The most essential part of the lesson would follow as such, “And let Allah (S) take care of it.” How can you argue with that?
3. Take it to the prayer rug. Allah (S) is always listening: I knew Allah (S) was ever present, but it was different when I heard her say it. It just meant so much more. She would tell us, “Allah (S) doesn’t have business hours. He’s always open.” There was such eloquence in the way she communicated.
4. Always maintain self-respect and your personal dignity. We came from humble beginnings, but Ummi would say that wasn’t something everyone had to know. If you have one pair of shoes, make sure they are clean, and take good care of them.
5. Always be a good wife, and maintain your standards. Don’t compromise yourself, because someone else is compromised. No matter what is going on, make sure you are doing your part. Do not worry about what your husband does. You cannot look outside of yourself to resolve difficulty. Your resolution is within you. Need I say more?
6. As long as you can speak well, no one else knows what you know. Society is always in a competitive state, comparing the haves and have nots. Do not worry about fitting into their package.
7. In relationships, don’t let anyone pull you off your square. People feel threatened and challenged by you maintaining your balance. Even when they do not maintain their own balance, do not leave your square, because you can if you do, you’ll lose your self respect. This comes from a religious saying that I cannot quote verbatim, but paraphrased: “If you happen upon two parties arguing, there is no way to determine who the fool is.”
8. Don’t feel compelled to be right. You can walk away with poise when you are the bigger person. Doing this will always leave you with wiggle room.
9. Make sure you’re right with Allah (S). It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about what you are doing. We’re only here to worship Allah (S). You can sacrifice yourself to be in Allah's (S) good graces.
It’s very clear that my mother is nothing without Allah (S), and Allah (S) is her everything. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) is the runner up, and dedication to family is third in line. There aren't enough words in my vocabulary to express my deep appreciation for what Ummi means to me, but if I had to leave you with one sentence that expresses it:
Love must be Allah-centered.
Bibi Watts is a content creator, resistance blogger, poet and influencer. Find her on Instagram @bibi_watts or visit her website.
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