By Umm Yusuf
“Ammi, I can’t find my Nikes,” said my teenaged brother, looking for his shoes while getting ready for school.
“Oh those? I gave them to Saqib yesterday,” replied our mom referring to the boy who cleans the house.
“What?” shrieked my brother. “But they were in great shape.”
“Exactly,” said mom.
“By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, etc., it means here Allah’s Reward, i.e. Paradise), unless you spend (in Allah’s Cause) of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well.” (Ale-Imran 3-92)
This is just one example of our conversations as we grew up with parents who gave and gave some more. They gave money, food, clothing, time, attention and they gave us a sense of purpose.
Growing up in Dubai, we rarely saw beggars on the streets like we did on summer vacations in Karachi, but that did not prevent our parents from finding opportunities to give. My mother used to make scrumptious Biryani with ice cold Lassi for the construction workers at work in the blazing Middle East heat. The way our parents treated the women who used to clean our home or work in my father’s office was exemplary; they never raised their voice nor insulted them in any way.
They never went to the hoity-toity parties or mingled only with the upper strata of society even when they had the opportunity to do so. They kept themselves firmly grounded with giving the Haqq (right) of relatives, neighbors, travellers and those in need.
Even though my father returned to Allah (swt) in 2000, we pray that the seeds he sowed of helping others become a Sadaqah-e-Jariya for him (Ameen). For my mother, I pray she is given a long and healthy life so she can continue her legacy of giving.
To this day, I can hardly count the times my mother actually shopped for herself. When she gets a new outfit as a gift from someone, she takes out one to give away from her closet. She doesn’t wait for them to get tattered and stained before they are passed on. I can’t recall a time when my mom has gotten jewellery made for herself. But I can enumerate dozens of instances where she has helped others by selling her jewellery for the less fortunate.
She sacrifices her comforts so that she can help someone get an education, assist an orphanage, get someone married or start a small business. And she encourages us to follow suit.
When she visits me in America, she hardly buys anything for herself. The sleekest handbag and the most comfortable shoes cannot entice her enough when she would rather purchase stuff for the deserving kids on her list.
She doesn’t buy for the kids who already travel the world and have more toys than they can remember. She buys for those who treasure the one thing she gets for them. I know how much she dislikes taking a hand trolley while travelling, but since the new luggage restrictions, she takes a hand trolley full of our hand-me-downs in good condition that she can distribute in Pakistan.
When she observes that my kids are not playing with one of their toys for a while, I see her smile. I know she has already thought of a deserving recipient.
Her generosity doesn’t take a vacation when she does. If she can’t find someone hungry on the streets in suburban America, she cooks her favorite meal and sells it at the Masjid donating all proceeds to the House of Allah (swt).
I have a treasure chest of fond childhood memories, but some of the gems that outshine the fun vacations, parties and shopping trips are how our mom used to take those kids out to eat KFC who never ate out, and how she took us to visit the seamstress for lunch to enjoy her simple Mooli Paratha as opposed to five star hotel banquets.
If she gets an unexpected sum of money from an investment, her brain starts churning ideas – not on what designer outfit she can splurge on, but how she can help someone needy. Unfortunately, there have been people who have told her, “You give too much. You need to save some for yourself.” But she has full Tawakkal and belief that wealth does not decrease by giving. Her conviction in the Barakah that charity brings is so inspiring that it brings tears to one’s eyes.
And she does this all so secretly. It was important for us, her children, to know so that we can learn the value of giving to others. But other than that, she didn’t do it to get an award at a fancy fundraising gala, or praise from those around us. She is an inspiration as an unsung hero who desires appreciation from Allah (swt) Alone.
“They give food, out of love for Him (Allah), to the poor, the orphan, and the slave, saying: We feed you only for Allah’s pleasure – we desire from you neither reward nor thanks.” (Al-Insan 76:8-9)
I am deliberately writing under a pen name so that she doesn’t get upset with me and frets that her years of sacrifice can border on Riya or showing off. She doesn’t need to see praise of her work on the pages of a magazine.
But I think it’s an important story to tell because as life comes full circle, as a mother myself, I now wonder if my kids are even hearing what I keep saying all day. Moms need to know that yes, our little sponges absorb everything. They retain it better when they “see” something being done as opposed to just hearing someone nag them about it.
If my siblings and I can do even a tiny fraction of what our parents have done, I hope it is accepted by Allah (swt) as our small contribution in continuing their legacy of giving out of what you love, finding opportunities to give, give to the most deserving and continue giving like there is no tomorrow.