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“Why are you having a hard time when you have such a beautiful child? You should be thankful!”
Motherhood is greatly romanticized. Mothers are expected to spend every moment nurturing their child and to love every moment of being with their child. Islam paints a more realistic picture of motherhood and acknowledges a mother’s struggles during and after pregnancy. Along with the difficulties of being a mother, Islam also highlights how rewarding it is to be a mother. 
There are many examples in the Islamic faith that validates how difficult motherhood is. 
In the holy scripture of the Muslims, called the Quran, God says, “We have commanded people to be good to their parents: their mothers carried them, with strain upon strain, and it takes two years to wean them. Give thanks to Me and to your parents — all will return to Me” (31:14). The “strain” refers to many challenges, like feeling weak, discouraged and worn down. God also says, “We have commanded man to be good to his parents: his mother struggled to carry him and struggled to give birth to him” (47:15). Soon after talking about “parents”, God mentions the “mother,” again emphasizing the physical, mental and hormonal difficulties that mothers face. 
A companion of the Prophet once saw a man carrying his mother on his back as he walked during a religious ritual. The man asked, “Do you think I’ve repaid my mom?”, in reference to carrying his mom on a long journey and repaying her for all that she has done for him. The companion replied, “No, not even for a single contraction (during childbirth)”. Every act of being a mother is so valuable, that a child can never repay a mother back for all the pains of giving birth, let alone all the effort it takes to raise a child. 
God does not leave a mother’s efforts unnoticed. In Islam, there is an understanding, that Paradise lies at the feet of the mother. One way to attain Paradise in the after-life is by being good and taking care of the mother. This is to reward all of the efforts and sacrifices it takes to be a mother, like sleepless nights and loss of freedom, identity and peace of mind.
Once, a man came to Prophet Muhammad (who brought the message of Islam) and asked “Who is most deserving of my kindness?” The Prophet said, “Your mother, then your mother, then your mother, then your father, then your nearest, then nearest”. Repeating “your mother” three times emphasizes the importance of good treatment towards a mother for all of the hardship that she undertakes. 
Along with all the wonderful things that come with motherhood, like the amazement of seeing a child grow up and unconditional love, it also comes with its own challenges. Many of us have the opportunity to be part of the “village” that helps a mother raise a child, whether it be as a friend or family. The above examples encourage us to support mothers by validating the difficulties and sacrifices of motherhood.
Asif Hirani is imam and resident scholar at Worcester Islamic Center.

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