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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Islam And Mother's Day Celebration

 Islam And Mother’s Day Celebration

M. Bakri Musa


In preparing for his Friday’s khutba before Sunday’s May 14, 2023 Mother’s Day, our Imam Ilyas related his experience “googling” ‘Islam and Mother’s Day.’ He was surprised and disappointed that the first two dozen or so entries were taken up with articles on such issues as the permissibility of celebrating it. That reflects a much bigger problem – the sorry state of Islamic discourses today, consumed with trivia while missing or ignoring the essence.


            The Qur’an and hadith are replete with verses and examples on the pivotal role of mothers. Imam Ilyas quoted, among others, Surah al-Isra’ (The Night Journey), approximately translated, “Thy Lord decrees that you worship none but Him, and be virtuous to your parents.” This twin imperatives to worship God as well as be good to our parents are also expressed elsewhere. In that specific ayat (17:23), the Qur’an added the need to respect and take care of our parents especially when they get older, that being much more challenging.


            Imam Ilyas related the story of a young man who sought the Prophet’s permission to undertake jihad. The Prophet, s.a.w, inquired, “Are your parents alive?” When the young man replied in the affirmative, the Prophet, s.a.w., advised, “Then exert yourself in their service!”


            Heaven lies at the feet of mothers, goes another ahadith. This also applies, as Imam Ilyas reminded us, to reverts whose parents remain non-Muslims. As for adopted children and their (adopted) mothers, in 2022 on the occasion of Maulidul Nabi, Malaysia honored an 83-year old non-Muslim teacher, Chee Hoi Lan, with its Ibu Sejati-Keluarga (True Family Mother) Award, the first to a non-Muslim. What uplifting news!


            Chee was the adoptive mother of one Rohana Binte Abdullah who was born to an unwed Indonesian maid who had worked for Chee. When the maid was deported, Rohana was only a few months old. Her mother decided that Rohana’s future would be better off in Malaysia rather than in her native Indonesia, and as such entrusted Rohana to Chee’s care.


            It spoke volumes of Rohana’s mother’s relationship with her employer that she entrusted her daughter to Chee even though she was not a Muslim. Respecting Rohana’s Muslim heritage, Chee took extra effort to ensure that the baby was brought up in the Islamic tradition.


            Malaysia’s Mauludul Rasul award to Chee brings forth many hitherto unaddressed issues. Would Muslim children be better off being adopted by stable nurturing non-Muslim families, or should they be with only Muslim ones as required in Malaysia, no matter how dysfunctional those families. Failing that, be institutionalized.


            Muslim orphanages are a “growth” industry in Malaysia. Worse, these “illegitimate” babies are permanently tagged and stigmatized because they are forced to have “bin Abdullah” or “binte Abdullah” (as with Rohana) on their birth certificates. All babies are legitimate, Allah’s precious gift.


            That permanent tagging aside, adopted Muslim children are denied many privileges vis a vis their “natural-born” siblings. They are not entitled to faraid (inheritance), only hibah (gifts), and then only in a limited amount. Adopted daughters must observe mahram with respect to their non-adopted brothers, as with always donning a hijab in their presence and not hugging them.


            Back to Mother’s Day and gifts, growing up in rural Malaysia right after the war, gifts then (whether for Mother’s Day or anything else) were rare if not unheard of. Nonetheless for me, seeing the joy in my mother’s face whenever I brought home good grades was the greatest gift I could bestow upon her. Her response motivated me to study even harder. That also reveals the powerful impact, for good or bad, a mother has on her children.


            In my matriarchal Minangkabau culture (unique among Muslim societies), at my talqin (requiem for the dead) I will be introduced to Allah as “Bakri son/of Jauhariah” (my mother’s name), and not as in this temporal world “Bin Musa,” after my father. What a tribute to my mother!


            On this Mother’s Day, for those who still have their mothers, bring joy to them with your presents, or just your presence. For those like me, let us pause and offer du’a that Allah would place our dear departed mothers among the solehah (righteous).



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