Every Muslim has heard the saying; “Paradise lies at your mother’s feet”.
We know that Islam has placed emphasis on the high status of mothers and the vital role they play in society – as educators, carers, as the backbone of families and societies. We know we are enjoined to honour both our parents, yet the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) stressed that the one person most deserving of our love is our mother.
Yet how often do we stop to think about the extent of the sacrifice that our mothersmade for us, even before we were born?
In the Quran we find profound lessons about motherhood, such as the story of Maryam (may Allah be pleased with her) and her cries of pain during labour, and when Allah responded to her pain by saying what means:
“Grieve not, for your Lord has provided a water stream under you. And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe-dates upon you. So eat and drink and be glad.”
Pregnancy and childbirth are repeatedly acknowledged in the Quran and ahadith as times of great hardship and sacrifice. Living in the West with access to the highest quality of healthcare, we often don’t imagine that we or our wives/daughters/sisters/mothers may not survive childbirth. Yet, even in the West, pregnancy is a time when healthy women can die if the required healthcare is not provided. Many mothers reading this will themselves have experienced complications which could have proved fatal had they not had access to proper medical care at the right time.
Not all mothers are this fortunate – which is the focal message of this article. In 2008, 358,000 women died as a result of complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
That’s over 1,000 women dying every day. Maternal mortality is the one health indicator used by the World Health Organization to show the greatest disparity between rich and poor countries – and we find 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
What does this tell us?
After all, if maternal deaths can be prevented in the UK, why can’t they be prevented in Uganda or Pakistan?
Here’s a startling fact: 80% of all maternal deaths could be prevented if women had access to quality healthcare throughout pregnancy and trained assistance during childbirth. That’s 8 out of 10 lives saved simply by providing women everywhere with the same access to healthcare that women in the UK are given. Thousands of women in developing countries are unable to access hospitals, medication and birth support simply because these facilities are too few and far between, too expensive or simply unreachable due to bad roads and a lack of transport options.
But that’s not the whole story. Other socio-cultural factors also impact on maternalhealth. Birth spacing and access to appropriate family planning choices can save around 150,000 lives.
So it’s not just about getting facilities in place, it’s about educating women, families and communities and changing deep-seated cultural attitudes which are preventing women from accessing the healthcare they need.
In summary, it’s not difficult or particularly expensive to save lives. As Dr Mahmoud Fathalla, a Medical Professor in Cairo said:
“Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.”
As Muslims, our faith inspires us to take action whenever we see injustice. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
”If any of you see an evil, then change it with your hand, and if you cannot, then change it with your tongue, and if you cannot, then hate it in your heart, and that is the least of faith.” (Muslim)