A Letter To My Son: Lessons From Muharram

“As I watched you, I felt that pang in my heart that only a mother knows. How was I going to raise you to be a young man who made an impact in the world?”

“As I watched you, I felt that pang in my heart that only a mother knows. How was I going to raise you to be a young man who made an impact in the world?”

I wrote this piece as a letter to my son. In the short time I have had the honor of being a mother, I have learned so much more than I could put into words.

Motherhood can oftentimes feel so isolating, but we speak the universal language of love for our children and want what’s best for them. I wanted to share this for all the moms who are rocking their children in the back of the majlis, way past their bedtime. Distracting them with toys, feeding them, holding them. All the mothers who are looking at their children and praying with tired eyes that their exhaustion will pay off and their children will absorb the love of the Ahlul-Bayt that surrounds them.

Muharram of 2021 fell towards the end of my pregnancy with you. I would spend the entirety of the majlis pacing back and forth, absorbed in the thought of the daunting task ahead of me; childbirth. 

As I paced, I watched the children run, play, color, laugh, and be shushed; I wondered about you. What were you going to be like? What characteristics would you be born with and what would I need to nurture as your mother? I kept envisioning you in one year’s time, sitting amongst the children in your Muharram attire. 

This Muharram, Allah (SWT) blessed me with the greatest gift of attending majlis with you. When we sat, I saw your eyes go wide with curiosity — taking in every sound and movement, pausing at the recitation of the remembrance of the Prophet and his family. As I watched you, I felt that pang in my heart that only a mother knows. How was I going to raise you to be a young man who made an impact in the world? While I wished I could always keep you under my protective arms, I knew one day you would go out into the cold world.  I grew up hearing the power of a mother’s prayer, so I began:

I pray, my baby, that your eyes will never lose their spark. That you always marvel at the universe around you. I pray that you always pause and take the world in, appreciate it in all its beauty and darkness. 

I pray that Allah (SWT) continues to keep you in the majalis of Ahlul-Bayt, year after year. That this is not a mere commemoration of a tragedy that occurred many years ago, but a legacy that guides you into the man that you become. 

I pray that you know that the majalis of Imam Hussain do not end after a few nights, that the phrase of every day is Ashura and every land is Karbala is written onto your heart and soul. I pray that I can prepare you to be equipped with the knowledge of Ahlul-Bayt, armed with an understanding of tragedy, and the power to make a difference. 

Karbala will teach you so much more than I can ever put into words. Karbala will speak to you in a language only your heart will understand. 

You will learn of courage, vigor, and the power of your tears. 

Imam Hussain was faced with accepting the injustices of his time or die fighting for the truth. In your life, you will face varying levels of justice and injustice. Those moments will not always be easy, standing for truth will often feel lonely. But you will learn from Imam Hussain’s mere army of 72 that strength is not in numbers but in faith and conviction. 

You will learn the true essence of friendship the night Imam Hussain blows out the candle and asks his companions to leave in the shadows of the night. Only to rekindle the flame and see that not a soul has moved. 

You will learn fearlessness from the way Abbas fought valiantly to bring water to the camp of Imam Hussain. 

Brotherhood, from the moment he brought the water to his lips, only to remember the thirst of his brother awaiting him in the tents. 

You will learn to forgive and seek forgiveness from the story of hur, whose tale begins on the side of the tyrant but ends nobly fighting for honor. 

You will learn courage that is sweeter than honey from the young men of Karbala, Ali Alakbar, Al-Qassim, Aun, and Muhammed. 

You will learn the power of your voice from Sayyida Zainab, to carry on the message of justice without so much as a quiver in your voice. I pray her words, “I see nothing but beauty”, amidst the darkest of tragedies light up your view of the world. I pray that you too, see nothing but beauty in your desire to make the world a better place.  

You will learn from Imam Zain-Ul Abideen how to hold your head up high despite the shackles of life. 

You will learn that your tears are nothing to be ashamed of, that the tears of hundreds of generations have created waves that cannot be silenced. 

You will learn to sit, watch the tears roll, and listen to the raw emotion. Extend that beyond the walls of the majalis to hear the pain of the cosmos and universe around you. 

You will learn that Imam Hussain’s call, “is there anyone who will help us” continues to whisper in all corners of the world. 

Let the saying ‘Everyday is Ashura, and every land is Karbala’ be a reminder to you that no matter where you are in the world, there will be injustices occurring and it is our responsibility to carry on the message of Imam Hussain and take a stand. 

You will learn to raise the flag of integrity with every step you take, to stand for the lost, forgotten, and oppressed. 

Karbala will teach you to stand with dignity and truth, regardless of the outcome. 

My son, we are the embers of the tents that were burned on the day of Ashura. The continuation of his legacy is the triumph of good over evil. 

Finally, you will learn just how much there is to teach the generations before you and the generations that will come after you. I held you on the night of Ali-Alasghar, hearing the story of the 6-month-old baby who was brutally killed. With the new lens of motherhood, I learned how much more you were going to teach me. 

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