Munavara Ghauri – UK
There are times in every person’s life when remarkable things happen.
The trick is to recognise such existential moments that bear real significance and perhaps intimate to us the true objective of our lives. For someone like myself who believes in God, such moments have served to reinforce my conviction in a Compassionate and Benevolent Creator, Who has been there for me in my darkest hours. One such miraculous moment was the birth of my son in 2001.
While many men may glibly dismiss such an event, I am sure most women will appreciate that the experience of giving birth can be both momentous and life-changing. My son was not my first child. In fact, I had had a daughter two and a half years previously. However, the labour had been laborious in every sense of the word. It was a difficult experience that lasted over a day. Any birth plans that I may have naively made with my midwife did not materialise. When I first arrived at the hospital already wearied, the midwives sent me home telling me that my labour was not yet ‘established’. It was demoralising and I returned home with a heavy heart. The contractions were prolonged but weak and so the labour progressed slowly. The drugs I was administered at the hospital did little to relieve the pain and instead gave me a terrible headache. Later, I learnt that my baby daughter’s back had been positioned against my back which can often extend labour. Indeed, the whole experience reminded me of how even Allah Almighty has acknowledged this inevitable hardship that every mother endures in the Holy Qur’an. Allah the Almighty states:
‘And we have enjoined on man to be good to his parents – his mother bears him in weakness upon weakness…’ 
Furthermore, the emotive words of Mary (as), mother of Prophet Jesus (as), in the Holy Qur’an, when she is overcome by the throes of labour: ‘O, would that I had died before this and had become a thing quite forgotten!’ , echo the sentiments of many women during childbirth.
After the birth of my firstborn, I felt that I had somehow failed in one of my fundamental roles as a woman. I had not been as efficient or as speedy as my sister in this duty, who gave birth to her first son in a swift seven hours. Of course, with hindsight and the wisdom of age, I can say that such feelings were irrational…yet I imagine that a lot of women do measure themselves against other women when it comes to giving birth.
Consequently, even before my second pregnancy, I began praying that any future births would be eased for me. The thought of another difficult birth terrified me. At the time, my father, the late Dr Hameed Khan, was unwell. My sister and I would both visit him daily and would cook and clean for him as our mother had passed away several years earlier. I would do my father’s laundry and sometimes massaged his tired shoulders and back. It was at such a time that I recollect requesting prayers for the birth of my next child. Raised as a Muslim, it had been embedded in me that one can reap great blessings through the service and care of parents. In Chapter 29 of the Holy Qur’an, God Almighty declares: ‘We have enjoined on man benevolence towards his parents.’ Furthermore, a companion of the Holy Prophet (sa) once enquired which action was most acceptable to Allah the Almighty. The Prophet of Allah (sa) responded that performing the daily prayers at their due time, benevolence towards parents and striving in the cause of God were the greatest deeds. (Bukhari and Muslim) 
So, whilst I cared for my father, I requested his prayers. My father had always maintained a strong relationship with God Almighty, regularly waking each night to offer supererogatory prayers and soaking his prayer mat with passionate tears. Additionally, we are also taught in Islam that Allah, the Compassionate, especially hears the supplications of His servants during the trials of illness and adversity.
My father passed away in the year 2000. To Allah we belong and to Him shall we return . His death left a vacuum in the lives of many. Personally, I had also enjoyed a friendship with him alongside the typical parent-child bond. His loss was exacerbated by my move into his home in Hartlepool, to maintain the house and take care of my younger brother who was only 17 at the time. Feeling the profound loss of my father, I thought it would be a fitting time to grow our family. By the Grace of Allah, I came to be expecting two months after my father’s passing. Throughout the pregnancy, I supplicated to my Creator to assist me at the time of birth. I prayed that in the scheme of things it was hardly significant to Allah the Almighty, the Lord of All the Worlds, to assist me—just one of His innumerable creations—with the process of bringing another of His creations into this earthly world. I imagined that my child and I were little more than two tiny grains of sand in the vast deserts of Allah the Almighty’s creation. Yet, to me, giving birth felt as insurmountable as hiking up Mount Everest with 2 tonnes of luggage strapped to my back.
I continued supplicating as my pregnancy progressed. My child was due on January 2nd. That day passed uneventfully and I remember reassuring my mother-in-law on the phone that evening, just as I was getting ready for bed, that I was fine. That night, I woke at 3.30 am with some mild pains. I left my bed and went into the guest room next door, which I had prepared for the imminent arrival of my in-laws that day. As the pains became more frequent, I reached into the fridge that was in the room and took some juice. As I sipped it, I began praying fervently to Allah Almighty for ease and His Divine Help. I now felt my labour had begun but who knew how long it would take? Sometime later, I felt I may have to attend to the call of nature, but was too weak to move. I resigned myself to a potentially embarrassing situation until I realised that I was actually about to give birth. I called out to my husband in the next room. It was now just after 6 AM and he drowsily came to me. His sleepiness soon vanished when he saw me and realised that he now faced the prospect of delivering his own child! Fortunately, my husband is a surgeon and calm by temperament, so the scenario did not worry me. Allah the Almighty was so gracious to me, that I did not feel much pain—only discomfort. This was reflected in the fact that I was more concerned about the outcome of the bedroom carpet as I shouted to my husband to fetch towels! In many ways, the scene was quite comical. Really, it was the Grace of Allah the Almighty who had magnificently accepted my prayer, so that the birth was exceptionally easy despite the lack of any drugs and medical assistance.
Later, my husband admitted that the situation had worried him for he had not delivered a child since medical school 15 years previously. With his medical background, he was also aware of the many complications that can occur with a home birth, of which I had remained blissfully unaware. My son was born after a 3-hour labour and his serenity at birth matched the nature of his birth. He did not cry but inquisitively looked around the room as he entered this world. My son was born 11 months after the demise of my father and I feel Allah the Almighty blessed us with this joy to assuage the pain of my father’s loss. I gave my son my father’s names – Hameed Ahmad – as his middle names. My grandmother was to observe that he also looked like his grandfather and I hope and pray that he becomes as praiseworthy as his namesake – the late Dr Hameed Khan of Hartlepool.
The experience of my son’s birth was one of those epiphanies in my personal life that proved to me that God Almighty does indeed exist and is there to empower and assist us all. He is Al Qadir and An Naseer, the All-Powerful and the Greatest Helper. I would encourage all readers to attempt to pray to our Universal Creator. The disadvantages of such an exercise are negligible but the advantages could be exponential, and you may find your faith is strengthened as was mine, by the Grace of Allah.
 The Holy Qur’an 31:15
 The Holy Qur’an, 19:24
 Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Gardens of the Righteous, Islam International Publications, 1989, p.73.
 The Holy Qur’an 2:157