Peas in a Pod

Lighthouse Magazine, April to May 2022 Issue (pp. 7–10)

Halla looked across the dining table at her mother and her daughter. They mirrored each other eerily, from their stubborn frowns to tightly crossed arms. A giggle escaped her lips. At first, she tried to stop it, but then she recognized it for the gift that it was, and let her laughter flow out, like water from a burst dam.

As expected, both women turned to stare at her as if she had lost her marbles.

“What on earth, Mom? Granny and I are in the middle of this intense discussion, and you think it’s funny?”

Aamna said in her most outraged voice.

“At last we can agree on something,”

sighed Granny Alice.

“That your mother fails to take this seriously enough. We’re talking about women’s rights!”

Halla took a deep breath in an attempt to control herself. The giggles subsided a little, but as she looked at the pair in front of her, wide-eyed with astonishment, hair wild and rumpled, she was struck again with how much they resembled each other.

“I’m sorry,”

she gasped between chuckles, attempting to compose herself.

“I know the topic is serious, I know… but we have gone over this so many times, and suddenly I noticed how similar you both look and I couldn’t help but laugh.”

Suddenly, an idea came to her.

“Let’s get some fresh air. I need you both to help me with some gardening.”

Halla’s mind kept wandering back to these conversations as they worked in the garden together. Her mother was showing Aamna how to thin seedlings and make a trellis for the rose bush.

It was always the same. Aamna complained that she felt women were not given equal rights in Islam because they had to dress differently, were given unequal inheritance, and so on. Her mother would counter with the many rights Islam had given to women, since women were extremely mistreated before Islam. Aamna would counter by saying that making things better was not enough if things were not equal. Alice would point out how she felt men and women had different roles in society and could not be completely equal since they were different, and that would lead Aamna to launch into a passionate speech about how women could do everything that men could do. It went on and on. Halla mostly watched them go back and forth like a tennis ball, trying to play the role of peacemaker, but mostly failing.

Halla often wondered if these arguments helped or hurt Aamna’s understanding of Islam as she grew up. She knew her mother had a lot of good points and her traditional point of view had served her well, but how could the same point of view work in rapidly changing times?

Some things never changed, but maybe others needed to be seen differently. Seeing her mother and daughter together bent over the vegetable beds warmed her heart and eased her worry. Though their strong opinions and quick tempers ran deep, so did their love for each other.

“Mom, come look at the radishes I planted,”

beckoned Aamna.

“Granny says they should be ready in a month.”

“We used to sprinkle tea leaves around them when I was a kid,”

said Alice.

“I am happy to see that radishes still like those tea leaves. I wish everything was so simple.”

“I think they’re also growing well because of the head start they got in our greenhouse with the solar panel heater,”

remarked Halla.

“The old ways are great, but when we find a better way, using it just makes sense.”

“I assembled the greenhouse all by myself, Granny. Akram tried first, but gave up when he found some parts were missing,”

shared Aamna.

“Yes, and you called the company, and got replacement parts, and finished the assembly. It took you three hours, but you made sure our greenhouse was up and running and we were growing fresh greens all winter long,”

Halla beamed proudly.

“Modern things can be helpful sometimes,”

said Alice with a slight smile.

“And the old ways can be good, too,”

replied Aamna, giving her Granny a hug.

“If only we could see women’s rights through the same lens,”

mused Halla.

“The guidance Islam gave us raised women so high from where they were, which empowered them to do everything men can do. The way we see women’s rights has to grow alongside us women, just like we need a bigger pot for a plant when it grows bigger and stronger. The old pot would stunt the growth of the roots and the plant.”

“I’m just afraid that if people start changing their ways, too many things will be different. What if women forget how to be mothers and grandmothers? These jobs requiring patience and humility also need to be done. Who is going to raise future generations, technology?”

asked Alice sadly.

“I can’t imagine a world without mothers and grandmothers,”

said Aamna softly.

“That would be a very sad world. But fathers and grandfathers have an equally important role in the family. I think that’s why Allah made us all with different natures and talents, so everyone can do what suits them instead of forcing people to take a role based on their gender.”

“If gender roles were fixed, the blessed Prophet Muhammad would not have married an older woman, a wealthy widow, who supported him. He would not have helped his wives with housework and mended his own clothes,”

remarked Halla.

“Every time we return to his blessed example, it helps us understand things better.”

“That reminds me, it’s Dad’s turn to make dinner today. Do I smell burgers?”

Aamna’s eyes lit up at the thought of food.

“If I had asked your Grandpa to cook dinner, he wouldn’t have known what to do. He would have told me it was a woman’s job. He could barely find his own socks,”

laughed Granny.

“Aren’t you glad times have changed, Granny? Some things are so much better!”

Aamna giggled as Granny mock-glared at her.

“Only a few things are better. Don’t you get me started again…”

Granny retorted.

Halla watched with a grateful smile as Aamna helped her Granny navigate the porch stairs, their debate warming up again. Old and new, both proud and firm in their views, both curious about the other, each trying to bring the radiant beauty of Islam into their lives.