Mothering Sunday grows out of Christian church tradition and Mother’s Day out of American women’s response to civil war. But what about other faiths? Do western responses mothers and motherhood find any kind of parallel in Jewish, Hindu, Islam and Sikh religious practice?
Motherhood in the Jewish tradition
The 11th day of the Jewish month of Cheshvan is traditionally the memorial day of the biblical matriarch Rachel and has become an official Jewish Mother’s Day. Unable to conceive for many years, Rachel has become a symbol of hope, fertility and mercy as well as motherhood.
Many Jews believe she weeps for all children and shares their sorrows the world over. Rachel is celebrated as the mother of the unique Jewish nature and the Jewish month of Cheshvan as a time to recommit to our Rachel’s example, nature and character.
In memory of Rachel, Jewish schoolchildren make handicraft gifts to present to their mothers on the 11th of Cheshvan which this year (2012) falls on 27 October.
Islam and Motherhood
Islam commands kindness, respect and obedience to both parents and specifically to mothers although there is no designated feast day to honour or celebrate motherhood. The Qur'an emphasizes the great struggles that mothers go through for their children.
One of the most important obligations the Qu’ran lays upon Muslims is to show gratitude to their mother, kindness and good companionship with her. Mothers are praised for the deep love of their children, sacrifice and dedication, and for the example they set before their children.
Motherhood and Sikhism
The Sikh faith labels no single religious occasion as Mother's Day. Instead there’s a deep tradition of continual love and respect for the mothers. Where Mother's Day is celebrated, it’s more a cultural adoption from western culture.
In the Sikh faith, God is often addressed as both mother and father. A Sikh prayer, for example, might begin, ‘You are the mother and the father and we are your children. In Your mercy we find profound happiness.’
Sikh descriptions of a mother's qualities are recognisable to all faiths and cultures. Mothers are honoured as kind and merciful, constant providers and with minds constantly on their children’s well-being. Sikh scriptures value the role and example of the forgiving mother and their roles as spiritual guides.
The role of Hindu Women as Mothers
According to Hinduism, God creates, maintains and destroys the universe but the power with which he performs this takes a female form. This power (Shakti) is worshipped as the Divine Mother. In worship the Mother God is garlanded, lamps are waved over her and sandalwood paste is smeared on her forehead.
The mother's blessings are regarded as a necessity, for progress by her children in all walks of life. In the same way that Hindus worship God, they pay reverence to their mothers. When a child leaves the house he or she touches their mother's feet and on return does the same.
In her old age a mother is protected and cared for. The idea of placing her in a home to be cared for by others is abhorrent. Caring for one's mother (and father) until their departure from the world is considered a duty.
Motherhood in Buddhism
In Buddhism there is no one more worthy of honour and respect than one's own mother. The mother is always mentioned first when referring to the parental pair This preferential position highlights the Buddhist value of motherhood and the responsibility that goes with it.
A mother’s main duty is to dissuade the children from evil ways through example and persuasion. In Buddhism the mother is the embodiment of compassion, love and commitment.
Over to You
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Every faith tradition and culture respects and honours the same qualities of motherhood. Mothers are praised and respected, at least in words, for the their commitment and sacrifice to their children.
- Do you think the public praise and honour given to mothers in faith traditions is reflected in the way they’re treated, or is there a mismatch?
- What about women who, for one reason or another, do not become mothers, does your faith tradition respond differently to them and what effect do you think that has on them?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips – beautiful, bizarre and brilliant.
March 4th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison