The Importance of Breastfeeding to the Muslim Child

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms…If they both decide on weaning, by mutual consent, and after due consultation, there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (her) what ye offered, on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what ye do.” (Quran 2:233)

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Given the importance of breastfeeding in the Islamic religion, the relatively low rates of compliance among Muslim women in North America are puzzling. There are small pockets of “fundamentalist” Muslim women who are well educated and adamant about nursing their children under their chadors, and who often practice natural childbirth. However, those mothers who nurse their babies past the age of one year are the exception rather than the rule. There seems to be a lighthearted attitude among the general Muslim populace towards the bottle-feeding of infants. It is sometimes even thought of as more modest to bottle-feed! Perhaps it is a lack of education about the benefits of breastfeeding, combined with an absence of a support network to assist the new mother.

Transferring the child to animal and vegetable foods before he even had any teeth was not done by the early Muslims. The most likely option, if a mother declined to breastfeed her infant, was the employment of a wet-nurse for the child. For the newborn Muslim child, the intimate breastfeeding relationship is a right. It is beyond dispute that two full years of breast-milk provide a baby with long-term health benefits such as the prevention of ear infections and allergies, as well as providing a foundation of trust between mother and child. Scientific studies show that a bottle-fed baby will be a weaker child.

“Weaning” is the gradual transfer from feeding the baby exclusively breast-milk to table foods only. This happens sometime during the toddler period of life, usually between the ages of 1 and 3.

In Islamic terms, weaning is a process that is administered by mutual consent between parents. But in my conversations with sisters in various states who had given up nursing in favor of bottle-feeding, there is a sense of powerlessness over the situation. These mothers often wanted very much to nurse their child. But somehow, they lost their chance. This tragedy is largely caused by a hospital system that does little to promote exclusive breastfeeding of newborns. In most hospitals, the new mothers receive free samples of formula to take home, as a result of multi-million dollar deals with pharmaceutical companies who pay the doctors to promote their products. This practice is highly unethical because little or no education about the dangers of bottle-feeding the infant is given to the new mothers. Many Muslim mothers, especially those who don’t speak English well, come home with their babies already addicted to the bottle. Although at this point, all is not yet beyond hope, coaxing a small baby to breastfeed, after he has been bottle-fed even just once or twice, can be a big struggle. It may not succeed without the aid of a lactation counselor, because unfortunately, even the older generation of mothers and mothers-in-law often lack the knowledge of how to breastfeed. Thus, the likelihood of bottle-feeding is very high among immigrant and minority women in the U.S.

When women have given up nursing out of a feeling of powerlessness to get the baby to nurse, this is not a mutual parental decision to wean, but rather the result of lack of adequate help. Something is terribly wrong when Muslim women are giving up breastfeeding due to lack of education, counseling, and support. It reveals a stripping away at the postnatal rights of the Muslim woman to be in a state of rest for 40 days after childbirth.

If the child is rejecting the breast, the most common reaction is to try for a while, and then give up and give him a bottle, but this teaches him that all he has to do is fuss and refuse to nurse, and he will be rewarded by a free-flowing bottle of formula. The only solution to this power struggle is for the mother to refuse to give the baby a bottle, even if it takes several days for the baby to nurse willingly. (If the baby gets dehydrated, he can take water with a cup or medicine dropper). My eldest son was a sleepy baby, born a couple weeks early. I had to set my alarm for every three hours, take off his clothes and wipe him down with water to get him screaming mad, in order for him to just stay awake for a couple minutes to nurse before he would blissfully fall asleep in my arms. The first few days were terrifying and the emotional pressure was intense. After two weeks he finally opened his eyes, and he and I enjoyed a nursing relationship that lasted over two years. Nursing can be a strenuous effort that truly requires the full support and help of the father, neighbors and other family members, to allow the mother and child to be together undisturbed as much as possible for the first 40 days of the baby’s life.

Help is available. The ability to feed your child the best that nature has to offer is your choice. Only after a successful and long-lasting breastfeeding relationship can weaning the baby truly be done by mutual and conscious consent.

To locate a free breastfeeding consultant in your area, call 1-800-LA-LECHE

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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Find your Peace Using ALLAH’S Peace

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, TMO

Islam, the religion of peace of over one billion people, is uniquely situated to comfort each of those people individually.  No two people are alike or have the same situations or experiences – not best friends, family members, not even identical twins think and act alike.  And for all these one billion plus Muslims, there is only one book of guidance for all…the illustrious Qur’an Karim.

ALLAH has structured His creation so that every human being can have a personal relationship with Him.  This is why when praying, it shouldn’t matter what masjid you are at or what imam is leading.  You’re not praying to him or through him: you’re praying directly to ALLAH.  The imam is just leading you through the motions.

To enhance peace in our own lives, we must focus on the peace of the Divine Mind revealed by ALLAH to mankind.  Keeping the mind steady on the path of love and prosperity is a full-time job and absolutely imperative if we are to attain the true purpose of our existence, which is to follow ALLAH’S directives for peace of mind and prosperity.

ALLAH has given us this beautiful mind as the greatest tool in creation.  Everything except ALLAH submits to that mind (Adam).  The mind was designed by ALLAH to reflect the spiritual world, so we can better maneuver in the material world and thus, achieve a balance between these two worlds.

No where in the Qur’an does ALLAH tell mankind to be evil, mean, jealous, or envious as these are the characteristics of Satan.  Quite the contrary, He admonishes us for those things and directs us to be the exact opposite.  But as we have said many times, it is not automatic.  Because we are equipped with a mind and consciousness, we must consciously read and learn ALLAH’S word and act on it in order to be successful.

The common, lazy practice of mankind is to make other people the cause and the source of their happiness.  Women will look to a man for happiness and peace, and a man will look to a woman.  Ironically, these false sources of happiness can also be thought of as the guilty ones and the ones to blame for our unhappiness.  Neither one is the truth.  True happiness and peace can only come from submission to The Source of peace…Almighty ALLAH.

It takes faith and work (action) to walk the path of spirituality while negativity and self-doubt are the results of lack of faith in ALLAH, and lack of knowledge of the sacred principles that govern this world.  This lack of knowledge comes most often from not getting involved with the scripture of ALLAH through reflective reading.

Presently we are in the 1st days of the month of Ramadan which affords us the best opportunity to reflect on and increase our faith…which is the key to peace.  ALLAH tells us in Qur’an that the early morning is the best time for reading Qur’an and reflection and prayer.  In His mercy of ordering us to fast, the majority of us is up and has had suhoor anyway: so, if your schedule allows it, use this time to raise yourself spiritually.  Sit down quietly and read the days reading with reflection on the words; not just as a duty.

ALLAH has made peace attainable to us all, individually, so don’t miss your opportunity.  Find your peace by being human as ALLAH describes a human.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

Plea for Help

May 18, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad ibn Abdullah (s) is his last and final Prophet (s). I greet you in the universal language of peace, Assalaamu Aleikum wa Rahmatullah. I thank you for my subscription to The Muslim Observer newspaper.

Dear editor—I am writing to you in regards to many of the ideologies of prisoners in the state of Illinois.

It seems that the government officials have not made it a goal to habilitate or rehabilitate the prisoners to maintain themselves upon their release and throughout the duration of their stay. I am considered a spiritual leader and upcoming imam in Al-Islam. Unfortunately, the talk of the prisons are violence against America and majority of this comes from non-Muslims.

You can hear the roars of inmate celebration when they hear about terrorist strikes against Americans and how they would like to participate in the terrorist action against America upon their release. The inmates are treated as if they were in Abu Ghraib, and this is dangerous to America, because they have made an enemy within their own states. Many gang members as I used to be as well are ready for war.

Many who stood on their block corners selling drugs and willing to die for their mobs are now trying to join al-Islam and join a different war, but some are learning the wrong interpretation of Islam, which is also dangerous to Muslims. It’s imperative for the new converts to fully understand the true prerequisites of al-Islam, and if not, America is looking for a bigger burden.

This is due to a lack of education, a lack of communication, and a lack of organization. The state will provide Christians and Jewish faiths with special diet, but refuse to accommodate Muslims, and officials hate Muslims, and hatred is returned which creates a friction of malice. The inmates at the correctional center are in a realm of desire to become rebels against their oppressors.

This especially comes from a breach of the fourth pillar of Islam which is zakat. There is no Islamic organization that will tend to the needs of Muslims in the prisons. There are Muslims such as I with business ideas that could help to create an Islamic funding for Muslim prisoners all over the country. The Muslims in Arabia make too much money for any Muslim on the face of the planet to be poor. We need to develop organizations that could pay Muslim attorneys to assist incarcerated Muslims.

Many masjids that I have written and organizations, never write back. Currently I am in court fighting to get a halal diet for all Muslims in the State of Illinois and I am acting as a lawyer, but I cannot even procure an affidavit from a Muslim imam or halal food company and it’s a shame. We are in a dangerous situation—you have inmates of all religions speaking of blowing up buildings and other structures and this comes from oppression and depression.

Well we have a depiction of the problem, but we need a forecast of a solution, therefore we call on The Muslim Observer to publish this message, and perhaps a Muslim legal organization will assist me and us in court and others perhaps could subsidize us with the court case of Islam before it’s too late; thank you for reading.

As-Salaam aleikum wa Rahmatullah

Eric Ware, Mustapha Abdullah al-Alim Muhammad, R32516