baby's hand holding on to mother's finger

How Will My Child Eat? Reflections on the Mercy of Allah

“And if you would count the graces [or favors] of Allah, never would you be able to count them. Truly! Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

—Qur’an (An-Nahl, 16:18)

Today I was reviewing my Arabic vocabulary by reading a children’s book entitled Qisas An-Nibiyeen (Stories of the Prophets), and I reached the chapter about Prophet Moosaa (Moses), peace be upon him. I read the famous account of how the mother of young Moosaa had placed him in a box and put him in the Nile river, out of fear for his life. At the time, the tyrannical Pharaoh was killing all infants born to anyone from the Children of Isra’eel (i.e. the descendants of Prophet Ya’qoob [Jacob], peace be upon him).

Though Moosaa’s mother was able to hide her young child from Pharaoh’s army and spies for a few months, she knew that she would be unable to keep him safe in her home for much longer. It was at this time of deep trepidation for her child’s life and safety that Allah inspired her to put her child in the river.

Allah says what has been translated to mean, “And We inspired to the mother of Moses, ‘Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him [one] of the messengers’” (Al-Qasas, 28:7).

In obedience to Allah, the mother of Moosaa (may Allah be pleased with her) placed her trust in Allah then put her child in a box and cast it into the river. However, she still felt the natural anxiousness and distress that any mother would feel from being separated from her child. And how much more was her distress after leaving her child alone in the river of the land governed by a tyrant intent on murdering all children like her own?

But it was Allah’s plan was that her son would be raised and cared for by one of the best women to ever walk the earth—Aasiya, the Queen of Egypt and the wife of Pharaoh, may Allah be pleased with her.

Who Will Nurse the Child?

During my reading, I reached the chapter section entitled “Man yurdhi’ut-tifl?” (Who will nurse the child?”). As I read this part of the story, I marveled at how Allah decreed that the young baby, Moosaa, would take milk from no wet nurse until he was brought to his own mother to feed him (while no one in Pharaoh’s household knew that she was his actual mother).

I sat there reflecting on how much Allah must have loved and cared for Prophet Moosaa and his mother. Here was a woman whose child was being doted on and protected by the Queen of Egypt herself, thereby protecting the young boy from the harm of the tyrant Pharaoh. Yet the heart of Moosaa’s mother ached for him and was surely wondering in distress, How will my child eat? Then as a means of bringing comfort to the restless heart of Moosaa’s mother, Ar-Rahmaan (the Most Gracious and Merciful) granted her the reassurance of not only knowing that her child was safe and protected, but also the comfort of the child’s presence itself, as she held him in her arms and nursed him daily.

SubhaanAllah, I thought at that moment, imagining the great status this woman must have had in front of Allah. I wondered at the emaan (true faith) of this woman that Allah chose to shower His mercy on her in this way. By assigning her as the wet nurse, Ar-Rahmaan soothed her heart in direct response to her both missing baby Moosaa and stressing over how her child would eat. I imagined that a woman like Moosaa’s mother, and so many believers of earlier generations, held a special distinction in front of Allah that I couldn’t even fathom.

It was at that moment that I recalled something that had happened to me when my daughter was a baby, while I myself was stressing and restlessly asking, “How will my child eat?”

How Will My Child Eat?

When my daughter was nearly six months old, I was taken to the hospital emergency room after suffering severe pains that would not go away. After the triage nurses measured my vitals signs, I was admitted immediately for emergency surgery, and they told me that had I arrived even minutes later, I would have died.

An emergency code was announced throughout the hospital intercom, and within minutes a team of doctors rushed to my side and placed me on a mobile hospital bed. As they walked swiftly at my side while pushing the bed toward the operation room, they told me and my husband that the surgery they would be performing was life-threatening, so we both should prepare for the possibility that I would not come out of this procedure alive.

By the mercy of Allah, the procedure went well. However, when I woke up, I began to have an unexplainable allergic reaction causing body swelling and rashes all over my body, none of which the doctors understood or could get under control. This unexpected turn of events forced me to stay in the hospital for some time beyond the normal healing period after major surgery.

While the doctors tried to figure out how to preserve my life and health, I kept thinking of my young nursing baby and my need to get back to her. My concern was not only due to missing her deeply, but also due to knowing how she would take nourishment only directly from me while I nursed her.

Over the past few months, my husband, his mother, and I had tried over and over to give her a bottle—even with milk from me that we’d refrigerated or frozen—and she refused every single time. This had caused a great deal of stress to my husband and his mother, as they were unable to take my daughter anywhere without me being present. It also caused me a great deal of stress, as I was unable to get even a few hours break, or an extra few hours of sleep, especially since she nursed around the clock.

In the hospital, I asked the doctors if we could allow my husband or mother-in-law to bring my daughter to me each day so that I could feed her. But they told me that no children were allowed in this unit of the hospital. They also said that I couldn’t be allowed to nurse her in any case, or allow anyone to feed her any of my milk because the medications they were administering for my unexplained allergic reaction had harmful side effects for a child so young.

I lay in that hospital not only worried about my life and health, but also the nourishment of my child. I kept wondering, “How will my child eat?” I worried that my daughter herself would deteriorate in health if I could not get back home to her in the next day or two, because she would take absolutely nothing to eat or drink if it did not come directly from me during nursing.

Allah Will Take Care of Her and You

In the end, Allah intervened and nourished my daughter, even though I was not there. When I returned home after about a week in the hospital, my husband gave me all the details of what had happened while I was gone.

He told me how as soon as I was hospitalized, our daughter began to drink from the bottle as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Not only was she drinking the milk we’d frozen and she’d refused before, but she was also drinking formula when that ran out. She was even accepting bits of soft solid food whenever it was offered to her, and she was doing this without the least bit of protest.

“It was like she knew you couldn’t be there to feed her,” he told me, his voice in awe of what Allah had decreed, given how much difficulty our daughter had given us over the past few months. “So it was like she was intent on making everything easy for you and us, until you were okay enough to come home.”

“What?” I’d said in humored disbelief. “SubhaanAllah!”

“And the day you came home?” he said. “The minute you walked in the door, she started crying and refusing the bottle all over again.”

What made this particular point interesting was that the room where she stayed was on a completely different level than the entrance to the home. Thus, we had no idea how she, at merely six months old, would even know I was home without seeing me or hearing my voice, and without me even being close enough to detect my scent.

We both laughed in gratefulness at the instinct that Allah had given our daughter during that difficult time.

And today, as I recalled this moment from more than twenty years ago, I cried.

I cried as I realized the remarkable mercy of Allah that was bestowed on all of His servants.

I cried as I realized my own forgetfulness and ungratefulness in believing that His divine mercy was restricted to a particular generation of believers only.

I cried as I realized that Allah was immeasurably merciful to all of His creation, so much so that even disbelievers enjoyed the mercies and favors of Ar-Rahmaan in this world.

Then, as I was crying, I remembered a prayer I’d made from the hospitable bed a couple of days after I was admitted. At this time, the allergic reaction was getting worse and worse, and my body kept swelling until my eyes began to shut and the previously loose hospital wristband became painfully tight, until it was like a small rubber band that could only be cut off with scissors to protect my circulation. Meanwhile, the doctors felt unsure how to treat me, as they didn’t understand what was wrong. When it seemed inevitable that I would die from this, I prayed:

“O Allah, I beg You to spare my life. I know I am not ready to meet You in this state that I am in. I have not lived my life right, or in a way that is pleasing to You. So I beg You for another chance. And O Allah, if you spare my life, I promise that I will dedicate my life to You! I will study Your religion, and I will study Your Book, and I will share them both with the world!”

Moments after I made this heartfelt prayer, the doctors discovered the source of the allergic reaction and resolved it. Then immediately, my body swelling went down, and the rash slowly but surely left my skin. And days later, I returned home to my crying daughter refusing to take nourishment from anyone but me.

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of twenty books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, and His Other Wife. In 2019, she launched UZ Soul Gear, a passion project fueled by her love of both art and inspirational reflections. UZSoulGear.com offers apparel, wall décor, and more, aimed at supporting and inspiring the soul-centered lifestyle.

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