In Memory of Hands
By W.B. Abdullah
The year 2012 will forever be etched into my mind as the year of hands. In the beginning of 2012, I embarked on a mission to learn the crafts of the past, most of which have been forgotten by modern day society—I started this journey by learning to knit. In the middle of 2012, my hands pulled my second daughter into the world. What a memory that was—to handle such a pure soul and body as a bridge between this dunya and the preceding world of darkness. And now at the end of 2012, 11 days before 2013, my hands mourn my dear uncle who had a special gift in building and fixing things with his bare hands. The last time our hands met was two days before his death when he embraced Islam. My hands were crocheting a hat for him that I knew I’d never finish in time and now my hands must bury the beautiful being that Al Khaliq created, Al Bari evolved, and Al Musawwir fashioned all to the very end, without the slightest need for hands.
Hands, hands, beautiful hands. And all their potential stemming from One Powerful Creative Essence. What a blessing they are! Hands teach, hands beautify, hands mend, hands comfort, hands make, hands heal, hands seal...Hands are our bridge between past, present, and future. With our hands, we correct the mistakes of the past and plant seeds for the future. With our hands, we uphold the sunnah.
The Prophet (saws) said Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty. The Prophet’s (saws) wife, Zaynab ibn Jahsh (ra), who was known for her beauty and inspired the verses on hijab and modesty, knew the secret power of working beauty with her hands. She was an artist and a craftswoman. She did leatherwork and embroidery, sold what she made, bought food from her earnings, cooked the food, and then distributed it to the poor. And it is in the light of Zaynab (ra) that we should all work, intending with our hands to not only be pillars of ibadah, but to be pillars of charity. For certainly, beauty is charity.
The creative arts are a unique gift and blessing to an otherwise difficult world. It is the glue of scrapbooking, the ink of the pen, and the stitches of the needles and hooks, that tie us together across time and space. Before there was technology, there were crafts. And in the end of time, when technology ceases to work, there will be crafts. Crafts have been the companion of mankind since the beginning and I imagine that they will always be.
Just as easily as 2012 fades into the background of the recesses of our memory, we, and this dunya that we have come to know, will also fade. But before then, we will undoubtedly go back to basics, innovating and recreating our past. In our endings, there will be new beginnings. One question remains for us to ask ourselves: what seeds will we sow for the future? What will our hands send forth in front of us for 2013? How will we begin a new year, a new decade, a new lifetime as a pillar of faith, of beauty, of giving, of hands? As for me, I’ll finish crocheting my uncle’s hat—remembering everything he made me with his hands, knit gloves for my firstborn’s hands, and learn to sew clothes while my second daughter is still in hands…past, present, future…hands.
W.B. Abdullah is the pen name of Whittni Brown, who works from home mothering, writing, and cultivating her inner Zaynab by learning all of the handicrafts that weren’t taught to her in her fancy-smancy art school. She holds a B.F.A. in Art Education and a B.A. in International Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. She spends her time teaching women and children the arts of the hand, and is currently working on the creation of a circle for women to follow in the footsteps of Zaynab by crafting for charity. To follow her progress in Zaynabification, check out her craftsy blog, Good AfterNoora, and to read more of her personal prose, visit her at The Sandal.