I’m dedicating this one to my aunties. Auntie, khala, tante, whatever you call them, they are your mother’s friends and they probably played a role in raising you. Maybe they rocked you as a baby, taught you the Arabic alphabet at Sunday school, took you strawberry picking, cooked for your youth group events, or threw you a surprise bridal shower. They watched you grow, hosted you numerous times, gave you their time, advice and love, and then you got married and left.
Have you kept in touch? We all tend to move on and get absorbed in our new lives as married women and mothers. Perhaps we don’t make the time to pick up the phone to say salaam, ask about their health or visit in person when we go back to our hometown.
I only started to think about this recently when I went back to my hometown for Eid-ul-Fitr. The aunties I met at Eid prayer kept commenting on how long it has been since they had seen me as they squeezed me tight with their hugs. One auntie even exclaimed that seeing me was the best Eid present she could ever receive! Needless to say, I was deeply touched but I also felt a pang of guilt. Don’t I owe these women something?
Taking this one step further, don’t I owe my Muslim community something? This is the community that provided social outlets for me as a child as we gathered together regularly for potluck dinners, picnics, and Eid celebrations. This is the community that offered a weekend Islamic school so that I could learn more about our deen and feel stronger in practicing it. This is the community that supported our youth group and MSA, allowing us to be active in Islamic work and feel proud of our Muslim identity. In essence, the community served as a kind of extended family. This was especially important because my own uncles, aunts, and cousins lived so far away. Looking back at everything my community did for me during my years of growing up, shouldn’t I be grateful? In a hadith (narrated by Imam Ahmad and others) the Prophet (PBUH) says, “One who does not thank others does not thank Allah (SWT).”
Certainly, when I go back to my hometown Islamic Centre to visit I feel like an alumni member and in that spirit, shouldn’t I give something back? A monetary donation is merely a symbol, a token to say “thank you” for everything you have done. What I really want to say is thank you for the positive influence you had on my life. Thank you for Islamic school, youth leadership opportunities, creative and social activities and perhaps most importantly, for giving me a sense of community and a sense of belonging.
And to my aunties, thank you for the parties, the laughs, and the words of encouragement. Simply put, thank you for being there.
Mayce Ibraheem lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and two sons.