Professor Ghulam Azam

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My Journey Through Life Part 24: Taste of Fatherhood

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Prof Azam Reading (Abridged translated version of the author’s original Bangla memoir Jibone Ja Dekhlam)

 Translated and Edited by Dr Salman Al-Azami

 Copyright – The Ghulam Azam Foundation

Chapter twenty-four:

Taste of Fatherhood

My Wife’s Pregnancy

My wife became pregnant in the middle of 1952. The sense of impending fatherhood created tremendous excitement in me and I began researching and preparing a welcome for the new addition to my family. A few days later I went to my tailor, and while we were speaking, his two-year-old boy gave him a hug. I had witnessed this before, but at that moment, it seemed particularly special to me as a would-be father. I inquired after him, “How does it feel to be called abbu (dad)?” He replied, “Of course it is sweet, but he also is very naughty. See, he didn’t let me speak to you properly. At night he not only disturbs his mother but also doesn’t let me sleep sometimes”. Saying this he started kissing his little boy. I realised that no matter how naughty children are, a parent’s love for their child makes them forget everything.

In order to maintain the continuity of the human race, Allah created such love for children among parents so that they become keen to have children. If there are no children within a few years of marriage the couple and their extended family members become anxious. They see the doctor; if that doesn’t work they seek alternative means, in their desperation for a child. A mother happily goes through the adversities of pregnancy, delivery pain, breastfeeding, and looking after a child. Yet, they forget everything after seeing the face of their child. If they were unable to overlook such difficulties then no mother would want to bear a child again.  Allah talks about this suffering of a mother in the Qur’an: “His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship, and his gestation and weaning [period] is thirty months.” (46:15)

That is why Allah has given a mother a status that is three times higher than the father. A mother suffers exceedingly during the initial months of pregnancy, although the extent is not the same for all of them. Some continue to feel sick for up to five or six months of pregnancy and find it hard to eat and digest food due to a continuous tendency to vomit. Unfortunately, my wife was one of them. She had to stay under her mother’s care for the majority of her pregnancy, while I would visit her every week. I sympathised with her greatly, but it was beyond my power to help her in any way other than to pray for her. There were appointments with a doctor; however, their usefulness was limited. Finally, my father-in-law brought some herbal medicine that did some good. I didn’t dare bring her to stay with me in her frail condition.

The Birth of My First Child

As per the custom in our country, the first child is generally born in the maternal grandparent’s house. I was avidly waiting for the day when I would be able to taste fatherhood. A telegram came on 2nd February 1952. I found the postman waiting after I had signed the receipt of the telegram. He had read the telegram and so wanted a tip, which I obliged. I came to know that my wife gave birth to a baby boy.

A child is one of Allah’s biggest mercy whether it is a boy or a girl. However, I had been praying for a son as the first child of my next generation, and thanked Allah for granting my wish. As girls are married to another family, I wanted the first child to be a son so that he could be the leader of the generation and guide his younger siblings in the right direction. There is a tradition of the first child being a son in our family. My paternal grandfather, my father, and I are all the first children in our generation. The birth of my son maintained that tradition, which made me even happier. I immediately asked my father-in-law to arrange two goats to be sacrificed for the aqiqa[1] and sent money to my father to attend the aqiqa ceremony.

Naming the Child

My father was extremely happy to become a grandfather for the first time. My brothers and sisters were proud to become uncles and aunts respectively. My mother, despite being slightly introverted, also couldn’t resist showing her elation. My father was asked to name the child. He said that he had dreamt his father (my grandfather) reminded him that the Prophet (PBUH) recommended Abdullah and Abdur Rahman as the best names. Therefore, my father decided to name him Abdullah. When my siblings asked what should be his nickname, my father said that four names can be chosen from the Arabic word amn. They are Mamoon, Ameen, Momen and Amaan and they could choose any one of them. They all preferred Mamoon, which I also favoured. In this way before his aqiqa he was named Abdullahil Mamoon. Mamoon means ‘secure’ or ‘secured’ while Amn means ‘security’ or ‘peace’, so Mamoon also means ‘having peace’.

No matter how happy, emotional and proud I was to become a father, I was not aware of what the little baby needed and what to take for him, so I decided not to buy anything from Rangpur and  to choose whatever was necessary from Naogaon after discussing with my wife.

Meeting the New Guest

I started for Naogaon the day before the aqiqa, full of emotion and enthusiasm, but left empty-handed only taking the name of the child with me. My mind was entirely occupied by my unseen son; his appearance, who he resembled most etc. kept creeping into my mind. The train arrived on time, but I felt it took much longer than usual. My journey in the horse carriage from the station to home seemed even longer. I kept looking at my watch, but the road appeared awfully long. The human mind is very strange! It can’t always cope with the situation and the environment and decides to take its own path for which human beings suffer from mental anxiety and restlessness. There is a saying in Arabic, which translates to, “Waiting is even worse than death.”

When I reached my in-law’s house it was my wife’s paternal grandmother who congratulated me first. My brother-in-law embraced me to express their happiness. My mother-in-law asked that I first take a shower, pray and eat, but I said, “I want to see the new guest first”. My wife’s grandmother agreed and took me to my wife’s room. It was a very cold day, so she wrapped the baby in a beautiful big towel and put him on my lap. I kept looking at him for a long time. His eyes were first closed, but when they opened after a while, I felt like the happiest man in the world. My wife’s grandmother said to my wife, “See how he is looking at his father! He hardly kept his eyes open in the last few days.”

I saw a contended smile in my wife’s face. I had said nothing to her other than assalamu alaikum after entering the room. Everything was centred around the baby. I noticed how proud she was to become a mother and her satisfaction in being able to fulfill my desire of a son through the mercy of Allah. When I had the opportunity to speak to my wife in private I witnessed a significant change in my intimate life partner. There was a different manner in the way she walked and spoke. I had read in a book of philosophy that a woman does not feel fulfilled in her husband’s house until she becomes a mother. She probably feels that her position is consolidated after the birth of her child, which makes her feel more confident.

First Night with Wife and Son

When we went to sleep it was as before, both of us lying down beside each other; the only difference was that our new child accompanied us on the left side of my wife. It is natural that she needed to concentrate on the new baby as he was only a few days’ old. She had to change his nappies, feed him, discover what happened when he cried etc. On the other side of the mother the child’s father was comfortable, while the mother needed to be ever busy. There is no comparison to the care a mother gives to a child. This naturally makes the father of the child appreciative of his wife. I felt very grateful to my wife upon seeing her dedication and sacrifice for our son.

A Unique Sense of Pain

Despite feeling very happy and proud on becoming a father and appreciating the sacrifice and dedication of my wife towards the care of my son, I still felt a unique sense of pain in my heart. It is such a feeling that one can feel inside, but will find it difficult to explain to others. Those among the readers who have the experience of becoming a father may well have forgotten this pain, but should remember this pain after reading this. The inimitable love towards the child and the pride of being a father quickly makes this pain disappear from our memory, but no one can deny the existence of that temporary sense of misery. I should now explain which pain I am talking about rather than testing the readers’ patience further.

In a previous chapter I had written about the feeling I had after getting married that made me feel very content, which was the appearance of a person in my life who was entirely mine. She was only mine from the night till morning and it was only I who was the centre of all her attentiveness. No one else had any right over her at that time. After she became a mother I did sleep beside her, but her attentiveness towards me reduced to less than 10% compared to before. I felt that bitterness quite intensely on that first night. Where had my intimate life partner disappeared? How could another person take over her completely? How could I suddenly be deprived of my right? Can we describe this feeling with anything other than pain? This torment is not only subtle, but deep as well. One can share their different types of pain with others, which can be reduced and overcome by the support and help of others. This is one pain that can’t be shared with anyone. My wife will also know for the first time about my distress after reading this, and will realise the pain I felt all those years ago, but I did not confide these feelings even with her.

When one can’t share one’s pain with others then the pain becomes even deeper. After spending two such ‘painful’ nights with my life partner and after the aqiqa, the next day I returned to Rangpur. For one and a half months I continued to spend two nights with my family every week.

Today, I have expressed this feeling that no one else other than Allah had known before. The world is such a place that there is no happiness without pain. This is such a universal truth that no one can deny it. How much pain does a mother need to go through before having the pleasure of having a baby? Compared to what she went through my temporary anguish is nothing, especially in relation to the pleasure of becoming a father.

[1] A highly encouraged practice in Islam when an animal is sacrificed and the meat distributed among relatives, friends and the poor on the occasion of the birth of a child, generally after seven days of birth.

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