|Imam Shamil ra (1797-1871)|
Haven’t shared anything here in a while. This post hopefully serves to cement a reminder, insha Allah. I started reading a book on the Russian Wars this weekend and it uncannily turned out as a parenting reminder.
As a young girl, The Bosnian War had me fascinated with the region and it’s people. Like most young girls, traumatised by accounts of sexual violence against Muslim women, I pursued an abiding interest in the equally grotesque Chechen wars that would follow. Now, this many years later, when global politics is an unavoidable pastime, and the Crimea was yet again attacked by Russia last year, I developed an interest in the Caucasus, and one of her revered sons Imam Shamil. Memories of Imam Shamil (ra) live in the heart of Muslim communities, especially those who lived under Russian brutality. So, long story short – when I read an online review of The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela I had to have the book!
I attempted The Kindness of Enemies with reverence. The story is set in contemporary rural Scotland and interwoven with a second narrative - Dagestan, Georgia and Russia in the 1850’s seen from the viewpoints of Imam Shamil. While the novel is fictitious, it is true in the sacrifices of Imam Shamil, especially of his family, and of his son Jamaledeen to the Russian court for the freedom and religious tarbiyyah of his people. It leaves me inspired.
In 1839, when Jamaledeen was six, Imam Shamil sacrificed him as a hostage in a brutal battle with Russian General Alexander Grabbe, to save his followers and the rest of his family. A Georgian aristocrat subsequently reared Jamaledeen in Russia. After years among the elites of St. Petersburg, he embraced the life of a well-educated European, was forced to convert to Christianity, and became an officer in a Russian regiment deployed in Warsaw, Poland. In March 1855, Imam Shamil finally got his son back. Jamaledeen was exchanged for members of the Georgian Chavchavadze family, who had been taken captive by Imam Shamil’s fighters nine months before.
As the month of Dhul Hijjah settles around us in the year 2015/ 1436H, and we’re rekindling the fireside tales of Hajj & the sacrifices of our spiritual parents’ Haajer and Ibrahim, I’m reminded that others like them – others like Imam Shamil were “wow” parents. Wholly unintended by Leila Aboulela (I’m sure she didn’t think she was writing a parenting handbook), she created an Imam Shamil who was a striving parent with an attainable legacy. Key word – STRIVING.
So much of what we consider great parenting happens under unfortunate or less than perfect circumstances. Saarah (as) and Haajer (as) (like me) had just one, son – Is’haaq and Ismaeel respectively. One was nearly 100. One was a freed slave living in a barren, inhabitable desert. While they may have had Sayyidina Ibrahim (as) to guide their boys to be our spiritual grandpas’, Bibi Aamena and Maryam (as) were single moms. They raised the best among men, Isa (as) and Muhammad (S). Others too, like the moms of Imam al-Shafi’, Imam Ahmed and Imam Bukhari (ra) raised their sons alone, all of whom left a major impact on the world. Single parents are not just a product of our modern culture. There have been single mothers throughout history, women who have raised not only their children but also nations with a higher vision for life. And when I consider what the wives of Imam Shamil achieved in his absence, I can’t help but conclude that raising a kid on your own is its own tradition.
But what if your kid doesn’t turn out a star? What if they don’t turn out like the above-mentioned? What if they end up losers or lost? The answer may lie in what we already know. Allah awards the effort, not the outcome.
As in the case of Imam Shamil, the outcome isn’t always expected or desirable. His captured-and-returned son Jamaledeen fell ill soon after he was returned, and died. Imam Shamil eventually surrendered. Daghestan, to date is STILL not free, but a republic of Russia. In 1999 when Imam Shamil’s namesake Shamil Basayev tried to recreate an independent Islamic State in Dagestan they were driven back by the Russian military. As further retaliation, Russian forces reinvaded Chechnya.
BUT on the bright side, his son Ghazi Muhammad Pasha entered the Ottoman Empire's service. He managed the cavalry brigade on the Caucasus front during the 1877 Russo-Turkish War. It was the last time Dagestan and Chechnya rose together against Imperialist Russia. Despite communism and post-9.11 phobia’s, the Muslim population remains strong.
To further comprehend the ties I’ve created between all of the rambling above, and the point that Allah rewards the striving, not necessarily the outcome:-
Following a 10-year obligatory residence in Kaluga, Imam Shamil was allowed to go Hejaz to observe Hajj. Imam Shamil did not return to Istanbul after his pilgrimage as he died in Medina in 1871. He was buried in Maqbaratul Baqī' (Baqi Cemetery in Medina).
From the mountains of Dagestan to the desert soil of Madinah Sharief - He was awarded with an eternal “A” for his effort!
And so will you – doesn’t matter if you’re a mom and dad team, or a single mom or single dad. Persevere. Allah always gives an “A” for every little effort. Insha Allah, Ameen.