one muslim woman thinks out loud

this morning i woke up in so much turmoil over the broken heart of our planet. i found an email from one of my colleagues in my inbox asking me to explain what is happening. i became a muslim almost 25 years ago and spent many years delving deep into my religion to understand it and also break apart the illogical things i was seeing and hearing amongst some of my community.  i wrote the following response and i want to share it with more than one woman.  i need to do something positive every day right now alongside my prayers for humanitys healing. i believe the birthkeeper has always been and will always be also the earthkeeper – we have to be involved in peace keeping.

“…..my heart is also bleeding – i came out of my bed this morning and dressed to go and walk in the woods for healing – i cried last night – there is so much pain in this world and the media are highlighting it right now – the injustice of who we choose to mourn for is particularly pulling on my heart strings – a life is a life – i think of the mothers and the pain they hold….the mothers of the victims…. the mothers of the bombers…. the mothers of the politicians….
you know muslims are just human beings like all other human beings – those who describe themselves as religious and those who do not…those who call themselves muslims or christians or buddhist or hindu or jewish or atheist….this we must always remember and those who commit abhorrent acts will often find some justification somewhere …when i was continually harassed and attacked in my headscarf when i moved to scotland (i was pregnant with two babies) i didn’t once think this is a christian problem …. we mustn’t forget the transatlantic slave trade was built on the bible – the africans (and many europeans including many of my irish ancestors) were seen as animals of burden – how does this sit in the human mind?  i do not understand it – captured, shipped, beaten, raped and worked to death under the guise of the teachings of jesus – the awful apartheid situation in palestine is built on the torah – the terrible atrocities in myanmar are built on the teachings of buddha …these are all peaceful texts with love at their centre. men will twist and alter even the purest word and intention to suit their own ends….there will be men amongst them that go against the peaceful words of these holy people and use them to cut others out of their gang – out of heaven – out of humanity because they don’t abide by the same code as they do even though all these codes tell you to be kind to others outside of your understanding of faith and be good to them….my benchmark for muslims is what God tells me should be my benchmark – only judge a man or woman by their taqwa – by their piety ….when i meet a muslim i want to see them acting in the muhammadi way (the bad behaviour you have experienced is not the muhammadi way) when i meet a christian i want to see the way of jesus – i want to see the light of mary – i loved the “what would jesus do” bracelets – i think like that all the time – is the light of God present?….noone can tell you you are not a human being because you are not a muslim, because you are african, because you are european, because you are a woman, because you have a disability, even controversially because you are a terrorist – we are all creation – we all come from Her…what you must remember is that people misinterpret verses of the holy texts as well to support their own ends…when we look at the word jihad for example jihad means struggle for God – we find that we are taught that the greatest jihad is the jihad of the ego – we also have the very robust teaching that we can only wage defensive war and not offensive – we have verses of the quran telling us that to take one human life is like killing all of humanity – it is very clear but in order to move towards gaining their own ends half the verse will be left out – the context will be left out ….do we think ANY of the holy texts condone violence against women? no of course God would not condone this but they have ALL been used to justify it
i really hope this has been of some use – lets keep doing the work we do to spread love and increase the capacity to love in this world ……”
we must not despair. we must not give up. we must not join in the hate and match it. we must match it with love. love is the only way.

loving the mothers in gaza

i have no idea how it must be to be a mother in gaza right now.  whenever i’m faced with a tragic human on human conflict like this my first thoughts go to the women.  i know like all other women i’d find a way because i am a mother and that’s what mothers do.  the average age in palestine is 17 – thats an awful lot of children for mothers to be loving.

i’d find a way to do my absolute best to provide safety, love and faith.   i would make the decision whether to sleep all my four children in one room with me or spread them out so that if we were shelled at least some of us would survive.  my husband and i had this discussion yesterday – he was for spreading them out.  i was for keeping them together with me.  it was a disgusting discussion and it was only hypothetical.

how must it be to provide a home that can become the grave at any moment.  to try and console the family that are aware of death at every turn; family members, the woman in the local store you shopped in for the last ten years who kissed all your babies as they were born, the classmates of your children, the sanctity of your place of worship and your local hospital shattered by rockets.  no more playing at the beach, running around the corner to grannys house, staying with your friends or late night prayer and quran recital for ramadhan at the masjid.  thank God it is ramadhan; a time for mothers all across the world to remember that our children are given to us as a test of safe-keeping a gift from God.  a trust to love, care for and raise to our best abilities.  a time for faith and hope – a time to read the words “do not despair” and inhale them deep into your being and let them be your very oxygen.

how would i feel? impotent to physically protect my babies during this “shooting fish in a barrel” season.  my youngest is still impacted and mourning the death of his pet finch a year ago on eid – how on earth would he cope?

i cannot fathom – my heart is bleeding for the mothers but it is also swelling when i see their strength, their ability to continue, to go forward, to birth and feed their babies, to make do.

so lets send them our love and our prayers.  lets march and protest and write and boycott and sign petitions and educate and cry and do whatever ever we can to send the mothers of gaza our protection as limited as that may be.  lets support the people that are out their making a difference like the midwives for peace who are an israeli/palestinian collective of midwives who no doubt are working the hardest they’ve ever worked just now.  click on the link below to read about them and how you can help.

http://www.madre.org/index/meet-madre-1/our-partners-6/palestine-midwives-for-peace–palestinian-medical-relief-society–zakher-association-41.html

nicola mahdiyyah goodall is a revert muslim who grew up with hip hop based in edinburgh, scotland and london, england. she works with women trying and mainly succeeding to build circles of knowledge and community primarily with birth. she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.

“I couldn’t have done it without you!”

“I couldn’t have done it without you!” 

I’ve heard this phrase many, many times over the years of supporting new families.

“Oh no! Stop right there! YOU performed all the magic!” My standard reply.

I want absolutely no credit for someone’s birth. I don’t want to be known as someone you “need” around  to birth your baby. I don’t want to be known as a “deliverer” of babies or women! I don’t want any of the glory the new family should be basking in.  I don’t want to feel like I birthed the baby or made it possible for the baby to come or not come as planned however it may pan out.  I make no decisions and I give no advice.

I’ll take the love I receive from parents and gladly.  Who doesn’t love love right? I’ll take a small fee for my time and my efforts and my love but that is never a barrier for me not to provide love and care and safe space around birth.  I’ll drink in the magic of a powerful birthing woman, a dad who is so in love and so in awe he restores all my faith in men or a midwife or doctor who is gentle and loving delicately undoing any hurt previously done.

I also want to acknowledge a woman’s power.  Her ability to cope, manage, roar, succeed, problem-solve, laugh, crack open and let go, love and kill her ego like never before.  I want her to own that – to really own her birth as her achievement, as her doing, as her reality or communion with God or her nightmare – whatever it means to HER.

I’m a space holder, a prayer, a napper and a knitter, a believer in a woman and baby’s ability to work together to choreograph this perfect dance of birth if you just leave them the fuck alone.  Of course I’ll clean a sick bucket, love a woman, press on her back for hours or days at a time, feed her coconut water through a straw and tell her she’s stunning and listen to the darkness and light as it pours forth.  We gather the stories, the hearts desires and disappointments, the hopes and the fears and we do a great job.

Women own your holy births. Birthkeepers own your dedicated holy service. But please don’t get to the two twisted together.

nicola mahdiyyah goodall is a revert muslim who grew up with hip hop based in edinburgh, scotland and london, england. she works with women trying and mainly succeeding to build circles of knowledge and community primarily with birth. she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.