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Different Words for Mother in Arabic


The words for ‘mother’ in Arabic are “Umm” (أم) and “Waleda” (والدة) However, in the Arabic language, a word may have many synonyms. But, no two are exactly the same. Each word has its uniqueness. A good example for this is ‘mother’ in Arabic.

‘Mother in the Quran’

The concept of motherhood in the Quran is sometimes expressed by the word “Umm” (أم) which is the most common. At other times it uses the word “waleda” (والدة) which literally means the woman who gives birth.

Differences between ‘Umm’ and ‘Waleda’

 The term ‘Umm’ is more comprehensive and it also contains the meaning of the word “Waleda”, because in Arabic the stronger term includes the meanings of the weaker terms.

The Qur’an uses the word “mother” to show the good and holy origin of something. For, example,Mecca is the “mother” of all the villages

قال تعالى: “مصدق الذي بين يديه ولتنذر أم القرىومن حولها” [الأنعام:92]

“And this is a Book which We have sent down, blessed and confirming what was before it, that you may warn the Mother of Cities and those around it. Those who believe in the Hereafter believe in it, and they are maintaining their prayers.” (Quran, Al-An’am:92)

As you can see the Arabs apply the word ”Umm” broadly based on this concept.

As for the word ‘Waleda’, it is used specifically for the woman who gives birth to you. To understand this further, we can look to the Quran for several examples where the word ‘Umm’ goes much further than the states of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. It represents a special relationship. The Holy Quran mentions that the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) are the mothers of the believers.

النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَىٰ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنْفُسِهِمْوَأَزْوَاجُهُ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ  [الأحزاب:6]

“The Prophet is more worthy of the believers than themselves, and his wives are [in the position of] their mothers.” (Al Ahzab 6)

The Mother in Arab Culture:

Motherhood was seen as something sacred even before the advent of Islam.

The Story of Amr ibn Kulthum and his mother:

We can see how great a position the mother held in the Arab society, in the story of Amr ibn Kulthum with his mother, immortalised in his poetry.

Amr ibn Hind, the king of Al-Hira, said to his companions: “Do you know any of theArabs who refuses his mother to serve my mother? They said, ‘Yes, Amr ibn Kalthoum!’

So Amr ibn Hind sent word to Amr ibn Kulthum and asked him to visit him and his mother. So Amr ibn kulthum came with his mother, Layla. When Amr entered the King’s dwelling, the king had recommended that his mother dismiss all the servants. When the two mothers were together, the king’s mother said, ‘O Laila give me that dish!’ Laila became so angry and she shouted, ‘O Humiliation, O humiliation!’ and complained that she was not her servant for her to command her.

Her son had heard her. He shouted, ‘No humiliation after today!’. Then he grabbed a sword hanging in the hallway and struck at the head of the king, while reciting his famous lines of poetry:

وَأَنْظِـرْنَا نُخَبِّـرْكَ اليَقِيْنَــا
أَبَا هِنْـدٍ فَلاَ تَعْجَـلْ عَلَيْنَـا
وَنُصْـدِرُهُنَّ حُمْراً قَدْ رُوِيْنَـا
بِأَنَّا نُـوْرِدُ الـرَّايَاتِ بِيْضـاً
عَصَيْنَـا المَلِكَ فِيهَا أَنْ نَدِيْنَـا
وَأَيَّـامٍ لَنَـا غُـرٍّ طِــوَالٍ

O Abu Hind, do not hasten upon us***Wait for us, and we shall inform you with certainty

That surely, we enter the battle with white flags***But we emerge with them reddened by drinking (blood)

And the days are ours, recently and long ago***When we rebelled against the king, unwilling to be submissive

The Mother in Islam

Amongst the clearest examples of Islam’s honouring women is the great status of the mother in Islam. Islam commands kindness, respect and obedience to parents.

“A man once asked the Prophet to whom he should show the most kindness. The Prophet replied: “Your mother, next your mother, next your mother, and then your father.” (Sunan of Abu-Dawood)

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