“And We have enjoined upon man, to his parents, good treatment. His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months. [He grows] until, when he reaches maturity and reaches [the age of] forty years, he says, “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You will approve and make righteous for me my offspring. Indeed, I have repented to You, and indeed, I am of the Muslims.” {Surah al-Ahqaf 46:15}

As I sit here typing, I am currently awaiting the arrival of the little person that took up residence in my stomach nine months ago. His due date came and went but he seems awfully comfortable in there right now so only Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) knows when he’ll make his grand entrance into the world insha’Allah. May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) make him and all of our children from amongst those who are sincere worshippers of Him, strong in faith and comforts to their parents in this life and in the Hereafter. Ameen.

During the course of my pregnancy, I definitely learned a lot. But it went beyond a greater understanding of the incredible capabilities of the human body and the amazing intricacies of the power and might of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). My pregnancy taught me life lessons I can take beyond this brief span of nine months and ones I hope to continue to apply in the future:

Love for Your Brother What You Love for Yourself

The Prophet (sala Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam) said, “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” (al-Bukhari & Muslim). During the course of my pregnancy, I have come to realize that there are truly people out there who embody this hadith. A dear friend of mine is one of them. She and her husband have been tested by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), as many couples have, with a struggle to have children. We ask Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) to bless her and her husband and all the Muslimeen struggling with this trial with righteous, happy and healthy children and to reward them for their patience tremendously. Ameen. When I told her the news of my pregnancy, she was ecstatic. Genuine joy shone on her face as she made du’aa for me. She went as far as to reassure me never to doubt for a moment her happiness for me despite her struggles. How many of us when we see someone gain something that we have been praying for can say that we truly love for them what we have so diligently sought for ourselves? Well, I can assure you that there are people out there who can and I’m privileged to be able to call one such person my friend and sister alhamdulillah.

Put Forth Effort and Place Your Trust in Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala)

The example of Maryam (‘alayha asalaam) is one that I have often thought of throughout the course of this pregnancy. There are so many lessons to be learned through her story but one that I have particularly realized is applicable throughout all stages of life. When she was in labor, giving birth to ‘Eesa (‘alayhi asalaam), Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) said, “And shake the trunk of date-palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe-dates upon you.” (Surat Maryam 19:25) In reflecting upon this ayah, I thought to myself, even during the most physically trying experience in a woman’s life, Maryam is still instructed to exert effort and do her part. The dates did not just fall into her lap; she used physical energy to make this happen. In the same way, it is so important for us to take into account our role in different situations in life. We are not in control of the end result, but we do what we can to the best of our ability. A man came to the Prophet (sala Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I untie her and trust in Allah?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah (at-Tirmidhi). This hadith exemplifies the idea that trusting in Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and doing our part goes hand-in-hand. I found this particularly comforting during pregnancy because although I would experience natural anxieties regarding things that could go wrong, I was reassured by the fact that everything is in the Hands of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). I knew that I had a role to play in maintaining my own health and that of my growing baby, but in the end it was incredibly comforting to realize that the development of my child was out of my control and in the control of the One whom I could entrust with everything. Personally, I’ve always had an issue with relinquishing control, particularly in delegating projects and tasks, because I worry about depending on others for things that are important to me. However, trusting in Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is the most beautiful and comforting feeling because I can rest assured that His decrees will be for the best- even better than that which I would have decreed for myself if I had the choice.

Take Pleasure in the Little Things

As my pregnancy progressed, I found myself taking pride in my ability to do little things I used to take for granted. I can still lift my foot into the sink to make wudoo’ at 9 months pregnant? Score! And still able to go down into sujood? Double score! Things I was able to do without a thought- like cook dinner after a full day at work- were huge accomplishments that made me feel awesome. Sometimes we need to give ourselves credit for the little things we do. Of course there is always room for improvement in ourselves and the people I most admire are those who are constantly evolving and striving toward greater and higher goals. However, positive reinforcement is not just applicable to the way we interact with others. It also applies to our internal relationship with ourselves. If we constantly focus on that in which we are lacking, this negativity will eat away at our energy and motivation. If we give ourselves credit for the effort we have put forth and notice even the tiniest budding fruit of these efforts, we will be more likely to continue to push forward. Along the same lines, I really began to appreciate the little things others did for me throughout my pregnancy. The Prophet (sala Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam) said, “He who does not thank people does not thank Allah” (Abu Dawud & at-Tirmidhee). When my adolescent clients at the residential treatment center where I work would rush to move a chair for me or would ensure that the fan was pointed in my direction because of the heat spells I had, my heart would flutter with gratitude. When I’d text my husband at work talking about the long day I had, and he’d say, “Let’s get kabob tonight” to ensure that I didn’t have to even think about cooking while exhausted, I would smile and say a little du’aa for him out of gratefulness for his being so accommodating and understanding. Every situation in life- even the hardest ones- can be so much more rewarding and positive if we simply notice the lovely little things- both the efforts we, ourselves, have put forth and the efforts exerted by others.

Work on Yourself First and Foremost

A sister I really admire once told me something that has stayed with me for quite some time. She said that when her son was applying to college, he requested input from several people. When his mother asked him about the advice he received, he said that he noticed that everyone’s input was based on choices they had not made and things they regretted not pursuing. This brought to mind a quotation said by the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung. He said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived life of the parent.” Our past regrets can manifest themselves in how we choose to interact with the world, and particularly in how we raise our children. How many times have we heard, “I want my child to be a haafidh/haafidha (memorizer of the Qur’aan)” when the person saying this allows the Qur’aan to accumulate layer after layer of dust? It is completely natural to nurture hopes and dreams for our children but why do we set expectations for them yet allow ourselves to remain stagnant? Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says, “O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do” (Surah as-Saff 61:2-3). My father always said, “The only people who truly want better for you than for themselves are your parents.” I find this sentiment to be incredibly beautiful and also very true. It is truly a remarkable thing to find that parents wholeheartedly wish the best for their children even beyond that which they wish for themselves. However, alongside this, my father always ensured that he led by example- may Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) preserve our parents and reward them. One of the best things we as parents can do for our children is to start with ourselves. Create goals, set expectations and strive to work on yourself first and foremost. Leading by example is an incredibly powerful form of teaching our children the lessons we seek to instill in their lives.

Be Content With Your Current State

Excitement, impatience and anxiety can lead us to anticipate the future, causing us to shift our focus from our current state to that which is yet to come. We all experience this feeling- probably on a daily basis. When we are fasting, we anticipate the deliciousness of the food we will eat at iftaar. When we are driving to work, we look forward to ending the workday and heading back home. Yet once we are home, we think about everything we need to accomplish the following day at work. During pregnancy, I noticed myself doing this very often. Immediately after the first ultrasound, I began anticipating the next one when I’d be able to find out whether my husband and I were expecting a boy or a girl. During the first trimester, I wondered when a visible bump would develop. Then I anticipated the baby’s first movements then I looked forward to the next stage and the next. And now, as I await his arrival, I have found it difficult at times to enjoy my last few days of pregnancy due to my constant anticipation of what it will be like to meet the little one that has been living inside of me for so long. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says, Verily, Allah! With Him (Alone) is the knowledge of the Hour, He sends down the rain, and knows that which is in the wombs. No person knows what he will earn tomorrow, and no person knows in what land he will die. Verily, Allah is All-Knower, All-Aware” (Surat Luqmaan 31:34). We tend to preoccupy ourselves with the future because it is part of the “unknown.” Only Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) knows what will happen, as the aforementioned ayah states. Although we know this, it is precisely for this reason that we focus on future anticipation and worries. We often do not realize the preciousness of a moment until it has passed- and we often find it difficult to appreciate what we are experiencing right now due to the anticipation of what the next experience will be like. As the Prophet (sala Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam) said, “How amazing is the affair of the believer. There is good for him in everything and that is for no one but the believer” (Muslim). This hadith refers to situations that are positive as well as those that are perceived as trials. So, if we are told that there is goodness even in hardships, let us ensure that we do not forsake appreciation for the present moment since there is so much to gain from it. As my due date came and went, I encouraged myself to focus on being content with my current state. Of course I’m excited to meet my little one but I’m also excited that Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has granted me a few extra days to enjoy salah and lectures at the masjid without having to worry about him getting hungry or needing a diaper change, a few extra nights of uninterrupted sleep and a few extra moments of solitude for self-reflection. Focusing on the blessings of my current state has made the wait that much easier alhamdulillah.

As I count down these last few days of undoubtedly being able to answer the question, “It’s 10pm. Do you know where your children are?” while knowing that my little potato is safely roasting away inside his own personal oven, I am so grateful. I am grateful to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), first and foremost, for granting me this bounty as well as the lessons this experience has wrought. And I am also grateful to my unborn child for already having taught me so much. As the small wooden plaque on my mantle place says, “While we teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) bless us and our children and grant us lives filled with peace, barakah and joy. Ameen.