Supporting Single Mothers in Islam: Lessons from the Prophet’s Upbringingby Suryani Omar
In the Muslim community, the topic of parenting often excludes single parents. This should be surprising given that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was born to a single mother. Amina lost her husband, Abdullah, while she was pregnant with the Prophet. Nevertheless, the Prophet s.a.w had a rich and loving upbringing, thanks to the support of his extended family and the community around him.
In his childhood, the Prophet lost his mother and was taken care of by his grandfather, Abdul Mutallib, and later by his uncle, Abu Talib. Despite having many children of his own, Abu Talib opened his heart and home to his beloved nephew.
Today, with many people living away from their families due to job opportunities and migration, the community must serve as a support system to parents, particularly single mothers. Creating a safe and supportive community is crucial in honoring the work of mothers who raise the next generation.
Here are five ways to support single mothers in our community:
1. Start a Sisters Group to Offer Help
It can be tough to be the only person offering help to a single mother. Instead, create a group with 2 or 3 more friends where everyone takes turns to help with errands, appointments, child-minding and so on.
When we look at the Prophet’s childhood and adolescent years, he was never neglected. Besides his mother, he was also cared for by Umm Ayman, Halimatus Saadia (his wet nurse), his grandfather and later his uncle.
This support system around him ensured that it was never too much for one person to bear, and that he had an entire group of trusted adults who genuinely cared for him.
2. Support Her Efforts to Be Independent
Perhaps the sister is a good cook – order food and pay her for it. If she is good in a certain subject, pay her to teach you or your children.
Giving her job opportunities will help her gain financial independence and confidence. If she is eligible for zakat and needs some funds to start her off, ensuring that she receives them is a good stepping stone. Eventually, to help her get on her feet, perhaps business coaching, or even helping to watch her child when she first starts working can go a long way in assisting her path to independence.
If we look at the example of Khadijah r.a. Before she married the Prophet s.a.w, she was a single mother to two children. She carried on her business, and was not shunned by her employees. She would hire men, including Rasulullah s.a.w to carry out trade missions.
3. Helpful Words
Single parenting is not easy, and at times the single mother may just need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Listen with no judgment.
Choose positive and kind words to encourage her, and reassure her that she is trying her best. Acknowledge her feelings and be kind.
In the show Barakat, which is streaming on Qalbox, it gives an insight into how lonely single parenting can be- even if your children are grown up.
Imagine if we use hurtful words, shunning a single parent – the isolation will only increase.
4. Make the Masjid a Welcoming Environment
Single mothers often do not have babysitting help, and prefer to bring their children when they attend programs at the masjid.
Having kid-friendly rooms will help mothers feel at ease and not constantly worried that they will be asked to leave the masjid because of their children.
Having safe spaces for the sisters will also ensure that single mothers feel comfortable at the masjid, and that they are very much welcomed. This can be done by ensuring that there are female scholars, teachers or even a spokesperson for the sisters.
Umm Salamah, one of the Prophet’s wives, would ask the Prophet s.a.w questions that some of the women were too shy to ask. Having a spokesperson like Umm Salamah ensures that the women’s questions were answered. Rasulullah s.a.w himself would make time to tend to the questions by the female congregants to make sure that they do not feel left out.
5. Be There Without Question
Don’t just check in for the sake of “checking in” but show up without question. This point relates back to the first point of having a group of sisters supporting one mother. That way, the responsibility is shared and doesn’t get overwhelming for one person.
This also ensures that every person has had time for herself and her family, and is able to show up to help without question and with being present.
Supporting single parents also comes from children. Older single parents with adult children are often overlooked. When the children have left the nest, single parents struggle even more with loneliness.
As we see in Barakat, it was not an easy decision for Aisha (the mother) to make a decision to remarry. So show up for them during these life-changing moments, hold their hands as they work through their decisions and support them (as long as their decisions are sound and within Islamic guidelines).
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we should remember to honor all mothers, including single mothers. Let’s create a community where single mothers feel seen, supported, and never alone.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!