Editor's Picks

17 August 2010

With Nurturing at her Breast and Heaven at her Feet

Dr Shabana Kauchali-Taleb is a practicing GP and a mother expecting her 3rd inshallah. She actively promotes and supports breast feeding through her writings, email, telephonic support and monthly breastfeeding workshops for mothers. She is contactable on mobile +27 82 711 5771 or shabana@online-gp.com for further information. In this article, transcribed from a speech that she delivered, she turns her focus away from correct latching and engorged breasts to discuss the issue of true liberation chosen for women by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

We have all heard this wonderful hadith narrated by Abu Huraira radhiallahu ánhu:

A man came to Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wasallam and said, "O Allah's Apostle!

Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?"

The Prophet said, "Your mother."

The man said. "Who is next?"

The Prophet said, "Your mother."

The man further said, "Who is next?"

The Prophet said, "Your mother."

The man asked for the fourth time, "Who is next?"

The Prophet said, "Your father."

Although we have heard and may have repeated this hadith so often, have we ever wondered why the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam mentions the mother three times and not just twice or four or five times?

There are three things that women have been designed to do that which men cannot and will never do. The first is to bear the pregnancy. The second is to experience childbirth. And the third is to follow the command to breastfeed the child for the period of two years.

I am a doctor, Alhamdulillah, by the grace of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and the support of my parents. I am also a mother constantly experiencing the challenges of being a wife and a mother.Which would you consider to be more challenging: to handle a critical life in ICU on a busy night shift or mothering your ill child? The answer – just ask any female doctor - is mothering your child. Which one is replaceable by another care giver? The ICU can be handled by different doctors all the time; your children cannot be mothered by others. Why do I give you this analogy?

I have observed two types of women in today’s society. The first is that woman that strives to truly educate herself. The second is a woman that strives to achieve success in her career and in the working world. Is there difference? There is a huge difference. The woman that strives to be truly educated is fulfilling her Islamic obligation in seeking knowledge. This is the woman that will make wholesome, educated decisions for herself and her family. The woman that focuses on the material success of her career may think she is educated, meanwhile, in pursuing her career she will fail to comply with Islamic obligations towards her husband and children.

Let me give you an example of a typical patient consultation: a baby of a few months is getting repeated ear infections or severe eczema etc. I would suggest to the parents that they need to consider the possibility of the mother working part time or resigning from work altogether in order to continue breastfeeding in order to maximise the child’s health. The wife will look at the husband and the husband will look at the wall and they both will confirm that she has to work. One husband even went as far as saying (in a joking tone) “someone’s got to pay the bills.”

Shocking isn’t it? The Qur’an tells us:

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more

(strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means” (An-Nisaa: 34).

You would think this verse is common sense – unfortunately it is not. Many husbands expect their wives to contribute financially to the household. Wives, in turn, are made to feel important performing the role of the man. What is the end result? Children are being left at crèches and day care centers. Children are left with maids and nannies. Husband and wife marital intimacy deteriorates. Children repeatedly fall ill. Women are burdened with ill health because of not breastfeeding. This burdens the family financially. Conditions that manifest later like ADHD and drug abuse are also evidence of maternal neglect in the early years. The wholesome family structure is destroyed and all this because women may bear the pregnancy and the childbirth, but they neglect to comply with their third privilege and responsibility: that of breastfeeding their children.

Let us look at some important facts and statistics:

How many South African babies are breastfed exclusively up to six months? The answer is only two per cent!

Is breastfeeding mentioned in the Qur’an? Yes, breastfeeding is mentioned no less than six times.

Is breastfeeding fardh? For the mother to breastfeed may not be fardh but for the baby to receive breast milk for two years is the child’s right and becomes a responsibility on the parents to ensure that he/she is suckled.

Allah (SWT) through the Glorious Qur’an has commanded that our children are to be breastfed for two years. It was only in the late 90’s that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended after numerous scientific studies that children should be breastfed for at least two years. Yet despite the fact that we have the Qur’anic injunction and have had it for fourteen hundred years, the lowest breastfeeding rates are among Muslim women and the highest rates are among white, married and educated women in the West. On average, it costs a family R1800 per month for formula and formula-related illnesses and medication. For a woman earning a basic minimum salary, is this really worth it?

 Other incentives to nurse your baby:

• Did you know that your risks of breast cancer drop by 50% for breastfeeding?

• Did you know that you are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure,

diabetes, cholesterol, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease and

ovarian cancer among others if you breastfed for a long time?

• Did you know formula milk is harmful for babies? There are now 15 proven

harms of formula feeding.

• Did you know that 1.5 million children worldwide are dying EVERY YEAR due to inadequate breastfeeding?

We are mothers young and old. We need to keep our intentions clear. Let’s educate our daughters for the sake of empowering them to make informed choices not for the sake of converting our daughters to men, all in the name of western women’s’ liberation.

If our daughters understand that to breastfeed their child is their Islamic duty, they will automatically make an educational and career choice that satisfies these requirements. By reviving the sunnah of wet nursing and assisting one another by nursing each other’s children in the way recommended by the sunnah, we will have a revolutionary, scientific example to provide to society at large.

A mother that sacrifices her career for the sake of her family will have minor regrets. A mother that sacrifices her children for the sake of her career will always regret it and furthermore will never be able to reverse the damages done.

I close off with a quote by Yasmin Mogahed who wrote:

"Given my privilege as a woman, I only degrade myself by trying to be something I’m not - and in all honesty - don’t want to be: a man. As women, we will never reach true liberation until we stop trying to mimic men, and value the beauty in our own God-given distinctiveness.

“If given a choice between stoic justice and compassion, I choose compassion. And if given a

choice between worldly leadership and heaven at my feet—I choose heaven.”

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