Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Strongest of Fathers

I once saw an ad for Whirlpool dishwashers that was actually really awesome because it focused on involved fathers. It showed a man playing with his son, providing a meal for him, caring for him when he got hurt, and cleaning up after him. Not once did the advert switch over to a mother completing any of those tasks - the father's relationship with his son was demonstrated as being something that existed outside of a female figure's presence.
It made me reflect on how little we focus on RasulAllah as a father figure - to Zaid ibn Harith, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Zaynab bint Abi Salamah... imagine what kind of parent-like figure he must have been to inspire Zaid to refuse to go back to his own family; imagine how Zaynab bint Abi Salamah felt, knowing him as the only father in her life, being so beloved to him that he would spend time with her even though other Sahabah were waiting for him to come out and teach them.
He raised Fatimah (ra) for some time almost as a single father, and their bond was unbreakable, testified to by A'ishah (ra) herself. RasulAllah was, even before Nubuwwa, the best example for this Ummah - a model of what it means to be an involved, invested, present father.
If people want to obsess about masculinity, then look to RasulAllah first & foremost - he exemplified what it meant to be a real man. He was unshakeable in battle & firm in principle, but he was also gentle and softhearted, who never once found it emasculating to weep in public, to cradle children, to declare his love for his wife by name, to serve his family without resentment or anger.
He was a man who supplicated for the woman who fought in battle at Uhud, throwing her body in front of his to protect him - his masculinity was not so fragile that he considered her a threat to the concept of the male warrior; when A'ishah raised her voice to him, he did not accuse her of being unwifely or disrespectful. In turn, he inspired love beyond measure; the men & women around him drew strength from his strength, inspiration from his vulnerability and humanity. His masculinity was unquestionable, & the respect even his enemies had for him was due to his justice.
!صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم
His Companions followed in his footsteps: men like Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman & Ali weren't surrounded by silent women, nor did they feel threatened by women who expressed themselves. Rather, Abu Bakr married a woman like Asmaa' bint Umays, who got angry at Umar and took him to RasulAllah to settle their dispute; Umar raised a woman like Hafsah, who had no fear of debate.
These men and women were confident enough about themselves that they didn't consider every dispute or disagreement to mean a gender war. They knew better than anyone what qiwamah meant; they lived it.
The presence of women on the battlefield did not make the men any lesser men; the presence of men in the homes, kissing their children, did not make them any lesser men. The strength of women did not negate the strength of men, but was appreciated and considered a complement, a necessary component for society's function and betterment.
These men and women had something we have little of today: respect for each other, appreciation for each other's strengths - whether stereotypically feminine, masculine or otherwise - an understanding of each other's weaknesses, and the willingness to engage with each other even when there was strong disagreement.
Above all, they knew the true meaning of the Divine Words:
{The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those - Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.} (Quran 9:71)

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