بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم
I just love the gradual way I am going grey: it is a uniform scattering of silver emerging all over my head. By now, I think its a well-known fact that I am a very different kind of woman (innit!), so if you spot silver slivers in my hair, please don’t ask me why I don’t dye them.
Because I don’t want to.
I don’t yet see why I should.
Anyhow, so I’m starting to go grey because I will turn 40 years old this month, insha’Allah. What a wonderful milestone this is, I think! I am grateful to Allah that I lived to see this age. I do not think I have felt so excited about hitting any age as much as I feel right now about finally turning 40 years old (except perhaps when I turned 18, and much later on, 30).
This is because there are many special things to enjoy at this age:
– The patience and calm, for one (I love talking much less than I used to….sheesh, I was such a chatterbox as a girl! May Allah reward the patient elders during my youth, who put up with my banters). I love how, at age 40, I have come into my own, and am totally at peace with myself.
– The wisdom, relative ‘blinking-of-an-eye’ ease and quickness with which one can get so many things done at one time (practice has made one perfect by age 40). E.g. driving a car, doing the laundry, cooking, monthly budgeting, grocery, paying off bills, writing & editing, shopping for stuff etc. At 40, you just know what you want, and when you need to, you merely go & get it. It just happens, so easily, unlike when you were younger, inexperienced, and much more indecisive. There is no time-wasting, no beating about the bush. I do think one is kind of immature, clumsy, and overall inept at multitasking when one is younger than 30 (except for those rare, exceptional cases who are forced to grow up fast due to their life circumstances).
– The lack of superficial friends and insincere people in your life; I love this aspect about being 40! I am at a place where I do not feel weird or bad about going to some places alone, or just with my family. I do not wish to “see”or “be seen” at any event. I don’t care what people think about the way I look. I do not covet what we referred to, during our years of youth, as an “active social life”. I also have no regrets or apologies for choosing not to see some people anymore, since I have witnessed firsthand the positive effects in my life of not having them around as a (so-called) “friend” anymore. No hard feelings, though; I wish them all the best.
However, the best part about being 40, in my opinion, is what this post is about.
– The aspect that I absolutely love the most about being at this age is having your parents as well as your growing children around for company. Do note that I said “growing children” i.e. young people who are (finally) out of diapers and beyond the holding-our-hand-to-cross-the-road stage. Children who are coming into their own identities as your under-tutelage trainees and, thanks to the blessing of being homeschooled, who are mostly around you to talk to and mentor.
I can’t really describe how nice it feels to witness these blossoming new relationships grow. At 40, I am no longer a sleep-deprived, micromanaging, time-chasing, and somewhat overwhelmed mother, who is mostly stuck 24/7 in the mere logistics of running a home and taking care of her little ones.
I am finally…….calm; so much more at peace. Despite the negatives that come with the parenting of growing young adults: their rebelliousness, moodiness, deliberate rule-breaking, answering back (they’re just testing their limits — again — sigh), and how can we not mention, the sullen glaring — all of these, though hurtful, are like the crying of a newborn, — something that a parent must endure as part of their children growing up.
Nevertheless, as always, the positives are much more in number and exhilarating in feeling. And alhamdulillah for that.
To finally see my parents and children talk to each other, joke, laugh, and bond, as people with their own personalities — well, now I know what the Qur’an refers to when it mentions “coolness of the eyes“. It is Allah’s benevolence that He has blessed all of us.
Alhamdulillah. I feel like the trunk of a tree that links its bright green leaves, branches and fruit to the deep, firmly-entrenched roots that once produced it as a weak young sapling rising tentatively above the ground, 4 decades ago.
Age 40 in the Qur’an
As always, whenever I mull over and reflect upon anything, I turn to the Qur’an to see what it says about it. And, alhamdulillah, Allah has clearly mentioned the milestone of reaching the age of 40, in the Qur’an:
وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ إِحْسَانًا حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ كُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ كُرْهًا وَحَمْلُهُ وَفِصَالُهُ ثَلَاثُونَ شَهْرًا حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَبَلَغَ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً قَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَى وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَصْلِحْ لِي فِي ذُرِّيَّتِي إِنِّي تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَإِنِّي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ (46:15)
“Now We have enjoined upon man, goodness towards his parents. In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth; and her bearing him and his utter dependence on her took thirty months.
And so, when he attains to full maturity and reaches forty years, he [that is righteous] prays: “O my Sustainer! Inspire me so that I may forever be grateful for those blessings of Yours with which You have graced me and my parents, and that I may do what is right [in a manner] that will meet with Your goodly acceptance; and grant me righteousness in my offspring [as well]. Verily, to You have I turned in repentance: for, verily, I am of those who have surrendered themselves to You!”” [46:15]
There are several verses of the Qur’an that exhort kind treatment of parents. Indeed, in more than one place, Allah has emphasized this kind treatment in the Qur’an.
However, in a much more subtle manner, Allah has also mentioned parents and our relationship with them in other ways, including the above verse. These verses guide those believers who wish to know how to handle their relationship with their parents so that it comes out successful and victorious for the whole family (including the grandchildren) in the eternal life of the Hereafter.
Chronologically, I will attempt to list below, my analyses of what Allah has said about parents and children in the four verses numbering 15, 16, 17, and 18 in Surah Al-Ahqaf.
Broadly speaking, the first two verses mention one kind of offspring, and the next two, mention the other kind.
The first is the offspring who is, at the mature age of forty, a righteous believer in Allah and His religion: someone who sincerely intends to please His lord.
The second is the 40-year-old offspring who is a disbeliever i.e. someone who denies the final reckoning of the Hereafter. Both these offspring have parents who are righteous believers.
The Command of Good Treatment of Parents, and the Reason Behind it
In verse number 15 that is quoted above, Allah starts by mentioning how mankind (al-insaan) has been enjoined to treat their parents well. He then mentions the pain with which a person’s mother carries them in her womb, then (separately) the pain with which she gives birth to them.
As someone who has endured pregnancies that had phases of extreme weakness (hyperemesis gravidarum), and gone through both, Caesarean as well as normal births, I can just not appreciate enough the fact that Allah has mentioned both kinds of painful phases (pregnancy and childbirth) that a mother goes through, separately.
After these two, He further mentions the third physically challenging phase that a new mother endures: months of breastfeeding her baby. 9 months of pregnancy plus 21 months of breastfeeding capping at 30 months. Note: He mentions the exact number of months, perhaps to highlight the consecutive months of physical weakness and hardship that a new mother endures….for each child.
So, why does Allah mention the mother’s pains, just after issuing the command of good treatment of parents? Because a child (once grown up) does not remember viz. has absolutely no idea of the immense physical travails that their mother once went through because of them. The world is such, that we all tend to live in the here and now: even if a human being went through so much pain a long time ago, if we see them walking around and living normally now, we will tend to forget that they ever went through that pain in the first place. So, Allah wants to make sure, by specifying each phase with separate mention in His Book, that no one forgets a mother’s hardship — ever.
Nevertheless, before we go ahead and broad-brush all parents as equally worthy, I want to point out something very important here: not all mothers work equally hard for their children, nor do they make the same sacrifices. There are different kinds of mothers; some who are much better and more Allah-fearing parents than others. Not all mothers are equally good and fair in the way they treat and raise their children. So we all should also be willing to first acknowledge that some mothers are just better mothers than others, before we go around lumping all parents into just one category: exhorting with emphasis that all parents are totally “awesome” in their parenting role!
E.g. in this day and age, many mothers choose to forego vaginal birth altogether, opting for a “painless” Caesarean delivery instead, just to avoid feeling the pains of birth. Some employ a full-time maid and electively use formula milk to feed their baby from day one, in order to sleep through the nights, not even trying first to give breastfeeding a go. Other mothers, on the other hand, go for un-medicated natural births and forego night sleep for months after the birth in order to feed their child just their own milk….working extra hard and making more sacrifices just to give their baby the best of everything, right from the start.
You tell me: are they both equal? In terms of intention, effort, sacrifice, and reward?
And this is just one example (and please, before you get your claws out, those mothers who grudgingly make some hard choices due to perfectly valid reasons, are not being judged here).
That is why I do think it is a tad unfair when we lump all mothers into one, broad-brushed category. Granted, all mothers endure the 9 pains of pregnancy, but once again, some have it much tougher than others, even during their pregnancies.
Anyhow, after mentioning the mother’s pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding pains, Allah goes on to describe how the said child grows up to (i) reach full physical strength (أَشُدَّهُ), and (ii) reach the age of 40 years. The narrative then makes a 4-decade jump. This is a highly noteworthy point: age 40 is usually associated with a human being’s full physical maturity and strength. Perhaps it also implies mental maturity, since this age is supposed to mark the end of one’s youth (a period marked with lack of wisdom, insight, discretion, and good judgment).
Supplication of the Righteous 40-Year-Old
At this age, the adult offspring who is righteous, is quoted as making a beautiful dua (supplication) to Allah: he or she asks Allah for the inspiration to thank Him for the blessing & favor that He has bestowed upon them, as well as upon their parents.
What “favor” (نِعْمَتَ) does this mean?
Perhaps it means, the favor of finally reaching and achieving this milestone of age 40? This age signals, like I said, coming full circle in the development of wisdom, maturity, personality, as well as physical strength.
Reaching this age is sort of like a time of fruition and satisfaction for the parents who once saw & held their little newborn baby for the first time 4 decades ago; who then diligently undertook the responsibility of raising this baby, toiling for years to take care of him or her, henceforth.
Their child reaching age 40 is supposed to be a time when these parents sit back and cool their eyes, seeing their son or daughter attain full maturity of body, mind, intellect, and the ability to navigate successfully through the travails and throes of life. It should be a time of victory & satisfaction; of feeling and seeing the positive results of 4 decades of hard work.
Hence, the righteous 40-year-old offspring supplicates to Allah to ask for the inspiration to thank Allah for this favor upon their own self, and upon their parents, and the guidance to perform righteous deeds, which will make Allah pleased with them.
He or she then asks Allah to set aright their own offspring! This is natural, because, like me, it is usually highly probable that a 40-year-old is also a parent of their own children. So, the beautiful dua they make, includes the well-being of their own minor children as well, after asking for the guidance to thank Allah for His favor upon them and their parents.
The supplication then ends beautifully with the 40-year-old repenting and proclaiming their faith as a submissive Muslim (believer) before Almighty Allah.
Allah’s Reward for Such a 40-year-old, and their Parents
Allah mentions the glad tidings for both, those elderly believers who have raised such a righteous child (the one hitting age 40 and making such a dua), as well as the latter:
أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ نَتَقَبَّلُ عَنْهُمْ أَحْسَنَ مَا عَمِلُوا وَنَتَجاوَزُ عَن سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ فِي أَصْحَابِ الْجَنَّةِ وَعْدَ الصِّدْقِ الَّذِي كَانُوا يُوعَدُونَ (46:16)
“It is [such as] these from whom We shall accept the best that they ever did, and whose bad deeds We shall overlook: [they will find themselves] among those who are destined for paradise, in fulfillment of the true promise which they were given [in this world].” [46:16]
Please note how beautifully Allah mentions the rewards. Acceptance of the best of what they did (this implies that Allah knows that all parents make mistakes when raising their children), and overlooking i.e. wiping out, their bad deeds and errors in their parenting journey.
Allah then mentions that such parents and their offspring will be among the dwellers of Paradise, and that this true promise, of such a wonderful reward from Him, will be thus fulfilled for all of them.
In Contrast: The Disbelieving 40-year-old Offspring of Righteous Parents
وَالَّذِي قَالَ لِوَالِدَيْهِ أُفٍّ لَّكُمَا أَتَعِدَانِنِي أَنْ أُخْرَجَ وَقَدْ خَلَتْ الْقُرُونُ مِن قَبْلِي وَهُمَا يَسْتَغِيثَانِ اللَّهَ وَيْلَكَ آمِنْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ فَيَقُولُ مَا هَذَا إِلَّا أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ (46:17)
“But [there is many a one] who says to his parents [whenever they try to imbue him with faith in God]: “Fie upon both of you! Do you promise me that I shall be brought forth [from the dead], although [so many] generations have passed away before me?” And [while] they both pray for God’s help [and say], “Alas for you! For, behold, God’s promise always comes true!” – he but answers, “All this is nothing but fables of ancient times!” [46:17]
The next verse mentions the cringe-and-shudder-worthy flip side of the situation: when righteous parents raise their child well, but he or she turns into a disbeliever who rejects the resurrection and reckoning in the Hereafter.
The verse above describes how the disbelieving adult offspring answers their parents back rudely by saying “Uff to you both!” and rejects the belief in the final Hour. The Allah-fearing parents then pray to Allah in distress, and beseech their adult son or daughter (who has reached age 40) to repent and believe in Allah’s religion, warning him or her that Allah’s promise will surely come to pass.
Nevertheless, the defiant adult son or daughter still brushes off all talk of the resurrection and accountability before Allah in the Hereafter as “old fables”.
Bone-Chilling Warning for Such 40-year-old Disbelieving Offspring of Believing Muslim Parents
أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِمُ الْقَوْلُ فِي أُمَمٍ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِم مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنسِ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا خَاسِرِينَ (46:18)
“It is [such as] these upon whom the sentence [of doom] will fall due, together with the [other sinful] communities of jinns and humans that have passed away before their time. Verily, they will be lost.” [46:18]
Allah then issues a stern warning for all those people today, aged 40 and beyond, who were raised by Allah-fearing Muslims and given a solid Islamic upbringing, but who, upon reaching the age of full maturity, chose to defiantly reject Islam (either the whole of it, or one of its 5 pillars/6 articles of faith), and then proceed to treat their elderly Muslim parents disrespectfully, whenever the latter advise and entreat them to come back to Islam and believe in it.
For such offspring who die in this state, Allah says that there is sure doom and loss, just like for those from bygone generations who also died in such a disbelieving state.
Conclusion: Cherish Every Minute of this Phase
May Allah guide and inspire me to thank Him for the blessing of reaching the ripe age of 40, which (like I said) is supposed to signify the attainment of full maturity, and the official end of one’s youth; and also, for having both my parents and my children there in my life to enjoy this age with.
I hope and pray that I can become the kind of believer who is mentioned in verse number 16 of Surah Al-Ahqaf (as discussed above).
Lastly, I repent to Allah for all my past sins and misdeeds (I do actually recoil when I remember some of my words and deeds during youth), and I declare that I am one of the Muslims who submit to Allah!
It is in celebration of this milestone, that I will choose to let my silver hairs “shine”. I am proud of them, as they represent (to me, at least) the many past years of hard work and effort that have gone into bringing me to where I am today.
So, if you choose to go blonde, streaked, carrot-topped, highlighted, henna-imbued, low-lighted, or dark-haired…all the more power to you, sister/brother.
But as I happily adjust to being referred to by twenty-something-year-old youngsters as “Ma’am”, I will, for now, let the lovely “silver linings” on my crown remain just the way they are:
Reveling in their crowning glory.