Even in her death, mom continues to teach me.


 Mom’s two-year tooth-and-nail battle with cancer has ended. No matter how tightly I shut my eyes and remember her loving hugs, bright smile, or warm lap, they will not manifest.  But if I can learn from this loss, perhaps I can turn grief into something positive, and thereby honor mom’s memory.  

Cancer and death have disrupted the calm of my life, creating ripples of change. Change for good. Alhumdulillah.

Death has taught me to live

My picture of life has often felt foggy. What is my purpose? It’s a tough question.

Contrast can create meaning. Take light for example; without darkness, it is meaningless. Subhan’Allah. In the same vein, I think to myself: how can I really live without understanding death?

When mom’s soul left her body and we began the preparations for her burial, I thought about death for the first time. Yes, I’ve heard lectures about the afterlife since I was a child. But, in all honesty, I had never contemplated it. Death was always taboo.

Exploring death has been liberating. It has helped me break the choking fetters of materialism in favor of something divine. It has helped me appreciate my responsibility to myself, family, and community. My picture of life has gained focus. The colors are vibrant, hues are crisp, and lines are clear.

Death is not morbid. In fact, I have never felt so alive. 

Motherhood, martyrdom, and my motivation

In 52 years, my mom never received an award for her career. Because, as a stay-at-home mom, she sacrificed her career for us. She never wore high fashion clothes. Because, as part of a working-class family, she saved all of her money for us. She never complained about her circumstances in life. Because, as a compassionate mom, she never wanted to stress us.

My mom didn’t fight in a war, but I believe she was a martyr. At 26, I finally realize that she gave the world for me. Now, I want to be her award. I want to perfect my character, improve my world, and pleasure my God to honor her.

Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, and Johann Bach are part of a long list of artists who were finally celebrated after their death. Their work was ahead of their time. Perhaps, the same is true for the stay-at-home mom, an occupation that has unfortunately lost its luster in our American culture.

Cancer as a sheep in wolf’s clothing

When I realized the extent of mom's cancer, anxiety built in my chest. I saved my tears for God, a sort of ghusl that watered the parched soil of my heart. It softened my being and allowed faith to take root, giving life to a new understanding of patience.

Before Dr. King became Dr. King, he suffered intense depression due to child abuse and the untimely death of his grandmother. Before Einstein became Einstein, he had developmental disabilities and experienced serious poverty. Trauma, in all of its pain, can still have positive results. In fact, our Prophet (PBUH) exemplifies this. Before he was born, his father passed away. At six, his mother passed away. And two years later, his grandfather passed away as well.

In math, an inflection point is the point when a line changes direction. Allah (SWT) promises that each of us will be tested with loss of health, wealth, and life, but glad tidings are reserved for those who patiently persevere through such challenges (2:155). Perhaps these events can serve as an inflection point, catalyzing positive change in our lives. While we have no control over what happens to us, we do have control over our response. 

It is difficult to say out loud, but much good has come from cancer. My picture of life has become clearer, providing me with a better sense of purpose. I am motivated to excel in good work to honor my mom. Our family has come together in a way that has never happened before. I have invested into my relationship with Allah (SWT), making him a close friend and confidant.

With so many things to be thankful for, it is difficult to harbor anger towards this disease and its unfortunate result.

A couple of quick asks that I have of you:

  • If this reflection has sparked new thoughts, please spend five minutes to share the ideas with family or friends. Insha’Allah any good that results from your ideas will illuminate my mother’s grave.
  • Recite Surah Fateha or any prayer for my mother, Shaheen binte Anwarali Bhanji, such that she receives blessings as a result of it.
  • Thank your mother and father. Without them, you would not be reading this message today.



About Noor Kids
Noor Kids is a Harvard-supported educational program designed to build confidence in the religious identity of little Muslims. Each month, families receive a new title designed by our team of creative, educational, and scholarly experts. Our titles have now entered into over 25,000 homes across 25 countries!   To check out a free sample, click here .


Jan 18, 2015 • Posted by kamel

Ina lillah wa ina ilihi radjioun
Thanks to allah that she has a musilm man like you that can pray for her

Jan 17, 2015 • Posted by Limah Hussein

Inna iliha wain ilaya rajoon may allah give you sabr at this time.

Jan 17, 2015 • Posted by TaherAli

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.
May Allah(swt) let all of us to meet our parents in Jannah.

Jan 17, 2015 • Posted by Rania

انالله وانا اليه راجعون اللهم اغفر لها وارحمها وعافها واعفو عنها واكرم نزلها ووسع مدخلها واغسلها بالماء والثلج والبرد اللهم جازها بالحسنات احسانا وبالسيئات عفوا وغفرانا ولاحول ولاقوه الابالله العلي العظيم. بارك الله .فيك وغفر للوالدتك وعظم أجرك

Jan 16, 2015 • Posted by Ashrafunnesa Flora

Innalillahi wa innailaihi raziun. We express our heartfelt condolence for you and your family. may Allah give you patience. My kids really love Noor kids. We all pray for her departed soul.
We are also on our way to meet our lord.

Jan 16, 2015 • Posted by Erum Khan

Alhamodillah, you have a beautiful reflection of your mother. I lost mother almost 14 years ago to cancer when her 8 year suffering ended. I understand the challenges of growing up as a teenager watching the suffering of your mother. It builds strength and character. May Allah subhan wa tala grant your mother jannah and all the Muslim deceived the highest levl of Jannah.

Jan 16, 2015 • Posted by Faizah Ekram

I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my dad to cancer last April. Your article reminds me of my him. Never into materialistic or high end fashion clothes. He made sacrifices for us in order to give us the best. May Allah grant our parents Jannah and make us their Sadaqa-e-Jariah. Ameen.

Jan 16, 2015 • Posted by Saleem

I sincerely pray to Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’ala that he accepts all the Ibaadah and ‘amal saaleh that your dear mum has done. I also pray to him to protect her from azaab-e-qabr, render her qabr as spacious as where her sight can go and let air from Jannah penetrate her qabr. You mum now needs your du’as. I am very proud of you for the way your speak of her. It has really touched me.

Jan 15, 2015 • Posted by Abia Ali

أنا لله وانا اليه راجعون
May Allah put her Jana fardowza alla. Aamin
Prphet Muhamed peace be upon him said that, remaind your self sweeth cut that is death. May Allah all put us Jana fardowza alla.aamiin

Jan 15, 2015 • Posted by Syeda jahan

Assalamualicum brother. I read your mom, i am crying now,it touch my heart. InsAllah Allahsubhanuthawa will grand her jannah. I will dua for her. I don’t know u mom but after watching her picture I feel like someone close to me. My mom also had cancer survivor, I didn’t see her 10 years.I know what mean to parents. Kalaji (your mom) is lucky to have kids who pray for their mom. May Allah give your family strength and sabor. keep in touch mera bhai. May Allah bless you.

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