Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil, a student of knowledge, teacher and mother, offers valuable advice to women who wish to pursue studies in sacred knowledge.
I am a mother of two children under 3 and a half years, and everyday is a juggling bonanza of love and service.
There are my physical acts of service for my daughters; bathing them, cooking, feeding them, tidying up, helping use the potty, driving them to swimming class, preschool, playdates and parks.
There are my emotional acts of service; playing with them, helping them feel safe and unconditionally loved, accepting their big feelings, helping them with conflict resolution, and setting empathetic limits.
There are my mental acts of service; reading to them, teaching them phonics, teaching them numbers, and describing different patterns in the world.
Most importantly, there are my spiritual acts of service; connecting their hearts with Allah and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, through telling them stories, bringing them to gatherings of Divine remembrance, and being their spiritual role model, even – or especially – when I make mistakes, apologise and make amends.
Balancing Family Duties
On good nights, both of my daughters sleep well – or as well as they can, given their tender ages. On bad nights, at least one or both of them wake every 1-2 hours, in varying states of distress. Allah has gifted me with two living tahajjud alarms, alhamdulilah.
In the precious pockets of free time that I have between all of this, I revise my Arabic, my Shafi’i fiqh, write, and counsel. I do so little now, compared to my days as a full-time student of knowledge, years ago. I do so little, and yet, I strive to do so daily, and this hadith comforts me:
Narrated by Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, who said:
“Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.’”[Bukhari]
Despite my scarcity of free time – and perhaps, because of it – every day with my daughters helps me refine my character in ways nothing else can. My capacity for patience, gratitude, forgiveness, contentment and wonder has been pushed to new heights. They can either break me, or make me grow. Truthfully, it has been a potent combination of both. My love and commitment to raising them peacefully has taught me to undo old and painful triggers. I am calmer because of them.
While I raise my daughters, through the long days and the nights, I make dua for their safety, guidance and well-being. The world we live in today is unkind to women. Women and women’s work are undervalued. The sacred covenant of marriage is no longer a refuge for too many women around the world. Toxic masculinity has harmed so many levels of the ummah. Hurt people hurt people, and there is so much pain in our world.
Why We Need Female Scholars
Because of the troubled times we are in, more than ever, we need to hear the voices of women in Islamic scholarship. We need more women trained in traditional Islamic sciences. We need more women whose hearts are alight with love for Allah and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, so wherever they are, in whatever role they find themselves in, they will be means of God-centred connection, compassion, and guidance. We can speak of Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ourselves, and follow in the luminous footsteps of our blessed foremothers. We have a rich history of female scholarship, and it is up to us to learn more about our heritage, and teach our sons and daughters.
If you are a young female student of knowledge, my advice to you is this: make the use of your free time. Devote yourself to your study of sacred knowledge, and study as much as you can, as deeply as you can. Know that when you get married and have children, everything will change. In the early years of motherhood, your needs will come last, and this will chafe your nafs, but it will be good for your soul. You will grow alongside your children. Everything you have studied will manifest in how you are with your household. You cannot speak of patience and forgiveness if you do not embody it, and you will get better at it, one mistake at a time. Choose love and forgiveness, especially when it is difficult. And one unimaginable day, your children will peel away from you, and you will suddenly have long, luxurious, uninterrupted hours to yourself, to study and to teach. And yet, your heart will be bruised from longing for your children. This is the nature of the dunya – it is always imperfect. There is always something missing. This is not our final home.
For Ladies Without Families
And if, dear sister, Allah does not write marriage or children for you, know that you are still beloved to Him. Being on the path of sacred knowledge and teaching it will become your mother’s milk, and your path of nourishing those around you, just as it was for our Mother ‘Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her. There will always be a need for you, and your time can be spent mentoring families who need your wisdom and connection to Allah. It will never be same as having a husband or a children of your own, so trust that Allah will recompense you for your sacrifice and patience.
May Allah grant tawfiq to all of those on the path of study, and teaching. May He facilitate the days and nights of all mothers, especially those who are juggling their studies and teaching of the deen. May He help manifest the fruits of our sacrifice through the gift of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who love Allah and His Prophet and may we all be reunited in Jannahtul Firdous.
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers through Qibla Academy and SeekersHub Global. She also graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales.