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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I am A Loser

I must say it is sobering to have lost a battle.

A cancer victim wakes up one morning and realizes that there is no way out but to give in and let go of life and all things valuable. There is a specific crispness to these very sober thoughts. A shear frankness of acceptance that leaves no room for tears. A bravery comes upon one to face and accept the loss and scream "uncle" in defeat. 

I am amazed with cancer because it is not just a physical disease that ails our bodies while suffocating the life out if us. To me cancer is just a representation in the most extreme form of ALL sickness. The tumor itself can be representative of an actual person that has brought sickness to a family distorting relationships and altering behavior. A member who has sabotaged the function of familial relationships bringing all life and joy to a screeching halt. 

Losing is definitely part of the game. Being the loser is as victorious as winning in a way, sometimes only because the game has finally ended and there will be calmness and serenity. Being the loser forces one to be mature lowering ones head, bowing the shoulders, and folding back into ones own existence.

In my mind, I can hear the loud piercing ring of my sword falling onto the stone floor.
That's it I am done.

The thought and realization of losing is disturbing only because I know that I have put in my all only to lose. A glimmer of hope comes in with the question of "what's next?" But then I am brought back to reality and my mind realizes that I have lost. I have lost because I was not cheered for, I had no chance. The sweeping force of finishing me came from the first blow. I had no hope to begin with. I should've walked away from the start, but I thought I was strong.

The reality is that I am not strong. I am a loser.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why Islamic Scholars Should Support the Global Breastfeeding Movement.

Sheikh Yusuf Estes
 A man came to the Prophet Mohammad and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim)
Religion has existed in every civilization throughout history and commonly focuses on the spiritual and social development of individuals, societies, and cultures. Religious scholars contend that religions have basic features, such as a clear set of textual statements about right and wrong, with a set of devised expectations for their followers.

Islam is the only religion, where maternal well-being and breastfeeding are covered in detail. The Quran requires that all infants are to be breastfed for the first two years of life. The Quran also holds the father responsible and requires that he support the nursing mother by providing her with food and clothing throughout the breastfeeding period. If the mother is unable to breastfeed, the father is obligated to provide another lactating woman to feed the infant on the mother’s behalf.  Together WHO, UNICEF, Holy Quran, and Sunnah clearly stress the importance of breastfeeding for the duration of two complete years. However, though most mothers in Islamic nations start breastfeeding their infants after delivery, they cease to do so quickly and introduce supplemental artificial feedings.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson
Current statistics from the U.N. state that today Islam is the worlds second largest religion after Christianity; with an annual growth rate of around 6.40% compared to 1.46% for Christianity. According to these statistics, one in five people on the planet are Muslim. Islamic scholars are very successful in impacting individuals and sharing their knowledge that supports a healthy and vigorous community. Despite the scientific community's effort to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding, culture and religion still have a significant role, even if they don’t realize it yet. With the proper support from Islamic scholars breastfeeding rates should be on the rise as well.

Science, reported by the Lancet medical journal, has established that breastfeeding infants under two years of age, has the greatest impact on child survival rates compared to all other protective medical interventions. In addition, the Lancet reports that breastfeeding also has the potential to prevent over 800,000 deaths in children under five in the developing world where there is a high burden of disease and low access to clean water and sanitation. Despite this fact the UNICEF website reports that “only 39 per cent of children less than six months of age in the developing world are exclusively breastfed and just 58 per cent of 20-23 month olds benefit from the practice of continued breastfeeding”.
Sheikh Mufti Ismail Musa Menk
The potential impact of optimal breastfeeding practices is especially important in the developing countries. Yet non-breastfed children in industrialized countries are also at greater risk of dying despite high sanitation and medical care access in their communities. UNICEF reports a recent study of post-neonatal mortality in the United States found a 25% increase among non-breastfed infants. Similarly in the UK Millennium Cohort Survey, six months of exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a 53% decrease in hospital admissions for diarrhea and a 27% decrease in respiratory tract infections.

The Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said: “God has forbidden for you to be undutiful to your mothers.” (Sahih AlBukhari)

It is imperative that women receive true support on all levels. Breastfeeding mothers warrant support at hospital level, at the work place, and on the social spiritual level. If scholars are preaching to make the world a better place, where else is a better place to start than at the crux of humanity where it all begins, between mother and child? It is essential for all community leaders to embrace mothers and begin with maternity protection as well as protection against the unscrupulous marketing of artificial formula milk, to name but a few measures.  

A man once consulted the Prophet Muhammad about taking part in a military campaign. The Prophet asked the man if his mother was still living. When told that she was alive, the Prophet said: “(Then) stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

The WHO and Islamic text together are very adamant about the importance of breastfeeding and the need for the child to be breastfed and in close contact with the mother or milk mother for the first two years of life. So why don’t the Islamic scholars get behind this global movement and support it? 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Who said breastfeeding is a choice?

This is my opinion piece in response to online discussions about the news of Federal National Council committee adding breastfeeding clause to UAE’s Child Rights Law.

Who said breastfeeding is a choice?
Perhaps it is for the mother but it is most definitely not a choice for the baby. According to my Islamic understanding all babies are to be breastfed; the choice is whether it is from his birth mother or from another woman.

If we go back to the Quran it clearly states the desire to complete the term of breastfeeding. An in depth look at the four ayahs on childbearing and breastfeeding/weaning, we can deduce that a mother has the choice to complete the term or not, herself. The calculated term for breastfeeding is a range between twenty-one and twenty-four months, depending on the length of pregnancy.

2.233: The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if [you] desire to complete the term. But the father shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms.

Notice, it states here the desire to complete the term for two whole years, not the desire to breastfeed or not.

31.014: And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail up on travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command).

Mentioned again, weaning after two years a total of twenty-four months.

46.015: We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth. The carrying of the (child) to his weaning is (a period of) thirty months.

Quran regards breastfeeding a continuation of child bearing. If a child was carried in the womb for nine months, weaning can be after twenty-one months to total a term of thirty months. If the child was carried for less than nine months it is recommended to wean after 24 months for the completion of the term if she desires to do so herself.

65.006: and if they suckle your (offspring), give them their recompense: and take mutual counsel together, according to what is just and reasonable. And if ye find yourselves in difficulties, let another woman suckle (the child) on the (mother’s) behalf.  

It is clearly stated here that if the mother chooses not to complete the term of breastfeeding, than another woman shall feed the baby. If the parents decide mutually that the mother shall not feed the baby herself, the father is responsible to provide for another woman to feed the baby on the mother’s behalf to complete the total of thirty months of child bearing and breastfeeding compiled. So, the choices that we are looking at here are the choice for the mother to feed or for a wet nurse to feed. The choices are not between breast milk and artificial milk for the baby, the choices are breast milk from the mother to complete the term or breast milk from a wet nurse to complete the term.

Breastfeeding is so much more than simply placing a baby on a mother’s breast to feed for nutrients. The method in which a baby is nourished in the first two years of life has an impact on health, emotional development, and the general wellbeing for a lifetime. As a whole, a given health care system should be the ultimate source of information and support for mothers in order to sustain these infant rights to proper feeding, nourishment, and development. Positive changes towards the practice of breastfeeding in maternity facilities and hospital environments imposed by governments are necessary for any major improvement in society related to breastfeeding and mothering practices. And if countries in the Middle East feel that it is pertinent to impose laws to protect these infant rights than so be it. Infant breastfeeding is essential for the benefits it provides to the child, and it should be focused on and considered an important aspect of disease prevention and economic stability by any country. In my humble opinion we are not talking about women’s rights, we are talking about infant rights. It is very clearly stated in the Quran that an infant shall be fed breast milk be it by the birth mother or another mother for a complete term of up to two years.

The only time feeding naturally for an infant became a choice was with the introduction of artificial milk by artificial milk industries and the misinterpretation of Quran and science. I personally don’t think it is fair to impose on an infant anything artificial. It is well documented that breastfed infants are protected from ailments including diarrhea, respiratory infections, otitis media, asthma, and many others. Additionally, WHO/UNICEF estimates annual deaths of 1.5 million infants worldwide because they are subjected to diseases related to not being breastfed.

If I gave you the choice to eat an artificial apple or a natural apple, which would you choose? I suppose you would choose the natural one, because the artificial one is made of an assortment of chemicals, preservatives, and sugar. So, why would you give your newborn child artificial milk? It is made of an assortment of chemicals, preservatives, sugar, and adjusted cow milk or soymilk proteins.
How would we feed our infants if for some reason the world faced an economic crisis that shut down all artificial milk factories? How would women know how to breastfeed if we don’t keep the art of breastfeeding alive? How would our daughters learn how to breastfeed if we don’t role model for them? Do we have to wait for war, death, and disease before we realize the value of keeping the art of breastfeeding alive and protected?

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