I had only been in the Mosque for a couple of minutes. After being out with the children all day, it was time to take a much-needed rest and offer Salah. At first, my three children, my niece and I were the only ones in the sister’s side at the Mosque. Then an older sister walked in. I could tell by her disposition and the way she looked at the children, that she was not pleased to see them. As she entered, she immediately barked at them: “Excuse me, you go on this side and I go on that side. We have to pray!”
Previously, the three children were innocently playing with a balloon. They were walking back and forth, trying to catch the balloon and softly giggling. But after being yelled out by the sister, they instantly stopped and became frozen.
I think they didn’t know or understand why they were being targeted but being in a position where they were overpowered by a person who was visibly bigger, stronger and authoritative, they were forced into submission. Their joyous faces were replaced with dismal ones as they sat against the wall in silence. I wonder if experiences like these would make them feel excited about coming to the Mosque?
A Level Of Agitation
I understood that all people are not tolerant of kids and some do not have the capability to deal with them whatsoever. Also, many times it’s much harder for an older person to have that same forbearance in dealing with children than it is for those younger.
You are faced with another set of challenges when reaching older age, which is why it makes sense that the elderly are absolved from reproducing. I took into account that the age of this sister possibly made it difficult for her to be lenient with children. This is why I opted out of saying anything to her.
The level of agitation exhibited in her tone of voice said it all. I wasn’t going to add to that by reminding her how Islam teaches us to be respectful and courteous, even to children. I knew that I had to choose my battles.
Instead of making Salah as I intended to do, after making wudu, I proceeded to leave the Mosque. On the way out, the sister said something to me. “Excuse me, there are places for children like libraries and parks,” she told me as if to say that children don’t belong in the Mosque and mothers shouldn’t be granted the same safe haven here as others, simply because they have children.
If anything, one would think they should be given extra support given their great responsibility in cultivating young children, who will grow up to be leaders in the Ummah and continue our legacy. How would they be able to do so, if it wasn’t for the great sacrifices made by mothers? The Mosque should be a place where the believers should be able to unite, discover and discuss solutions to their problems and build community life.
Building A Rapport in the Masjid
How can this happen if a rapport is not established and a main section of the Muslim Community is estranged and left feeling like they don’t belong?
My response to the sister was short and respectful. “Yes, I just came from there (the library) but I came here to pray,” I responded without bothering to explain how badly I needed to rest as well. Since she showed no compassion, I didn’t feel comfortable getting into details about my situation or relaying to her the importance of mothers being able to have support as well. I just wanted to avoid confrontation and I didn’t want to be around that negative energy.
It’s easy to judge and give suggestions of what someone should or shouldn’t do. Many people are unwilling to be uncomfortable enough to look at the other side and explore if there is a legitimate reason for someone doing something or a particular event taking place.
Since they are unwilling to get passed their comfort zone, many times they become stuck on their dislikes about something and the emotions that erupt within them as a result of that. It then becomes easier for them to respond emotionally to things that don’t meet their expectations.
Many of us can fall into this if we don’t constantly check ourselves. Often times, we become spoiled and self-centered and choose not broaden our view beyond how we are affected personally.
Consideration should be given to all people and it must be taken into account that everyone has their limits. In a community, the members should be able to collaborate and come up with solutions that will serve everyone: the young, the old, the parents and the childless. If we are willing to search for a solution, we will surely find one but each party must be able to see the other side, without making judgement.
Compassion and Understanding
Only then will we be able to make progress as a community and move beyond our own selfish preferences, which can blind us and leave us putrefying as opposed to growing.
I have found that compassion and understanding goes a long way. A person may not agree with something you are doing or may not be able to relate but showing compassion and understanding can do amazing things for the heart and really make a person receptive to what you say to them.
Even though I attempted to see things from the sister’s lenses, give her excuses and not to take what she did and said personally, a part of me felt dejected that my children and I were forced to cut short our stay at the Mosque. At the end of the day, I decided to leave for the sake of keeping peace and saving my children and niece from facing any further scorn.
Also, I’m a realist; if the sister barely had enough patience to endure my children’s presence for a couple of minutes, then what would have happened if I took another ten minutes to pray? Knowing this made me feel tense and I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate while making Salah and take full benefit from it.
Had the sister started off by asking me how I was doing and showing concern for me and my children, it would have made such a difference. If she took the time to inquire about my situation, she would have learned that I was out with the kids all day and needed to rest and rejuvenate myself with prayer.
Other People’s Struggles
Being on the go like that with multiple children, taking that moment to really calm down before going back out there really makes a huge difference! If she is a mother herself maybe she would have been able to relate and if she wasn’t a mother then maybe she would gain some appreciation of what mothers undergo on a regular basis.
Either way, caring to take herself out of her comfort zone and finding out that valuable information would have not only benefited me, and strengthen the bond of sisterhood between us but it would have benefited her, first and foremost by helping to transform her state and giving her a new perspective.
If in fact she has a healthy heart, the knowledge of her sister’s struggle would have softened her heart, relax her staunch stance and perhaps help her to look at the bigger picture. You may feel uncomfortable being at the Mosque, alongside with children but it is a reason they are here. Imagine if everyone responded the same way she did. What effects would this have on the children, mothers and the community long-term?
Just look beyond yourself for one minute. You could be in the presence of someone who is on the verge of having a mental breakdown. What you say to them could be the straw that breaks their back. On the other end of the spectrum, by showing concern, offering support and kind treatment, you may sway someone from committing suicide.
The following is an account of an incident that really took place: A parent and his rambunctious children boarded a train and immediately they became a nuisance for the commuters. The man sat down with his hat covering his eyes, seemingly oblivious of his children’s actions. Finally, one of the witnesses questioned the parent about it, which brought to his awareness what was taking place.
The parent of the children apologized and told him that his wife just died an hour ago at the hospital and he doesn’t know how to deal with it and he supposed that his children didn’t know how to deal with it either. The questioner’s heart immediately softened and he felt bad for previously judging him and being annoyed with his children. He was motivated to immediately ask the man if he could assist him in any way.