It begins two weeks before, innocently, on a weekend morning after perusing the news.
Oooh Bachas, listen, there is a Supermoon coming week after next! We need to watch out for it.
Mama… a Supermoon? What will it DO? Does it have powers?
Ah, no, no – it doesn’t really do anything different than what a moon usually does. Actually, it’s the same moon! But it will shine brighter and look a lot bigger and be even more beautiful, so we should definitely try to see it.
They don’t ask any more questions – which is perfect, because at this point I don’t have any more answers – but are fascinated enough that the following morning our countdown begins:
12 more sleeps till the Supermoon…10 more sleeps… one week… 5 days… 3… 2… 1…. Supermoon is a go!
Finally, it is here: The Day of the Supermoon.
Up before dawn, as is their regular habit and rushing out of bed, Mama! Abu! Today is the Supermoon! And just in case we hadn’t grasped the details, The Supermoon will come today!!
Yes! Amazing! InshAllah we will go out at moonrise.
Thankfully, moonrise where we live is at the very kid-friendly time of 5:30pm, well before bedtime or any late night tiredness. This is going to be great, I think. The biggest, brightest moon in over 60 years and we would get to see it together.
That is until I glance out the window. Oh no. I forgot that we live on this Island with its clouds and rain. A grey day greets me as I head out for the school run, not a patch of blue sky to be seen.
How could I have made such an amateur error? Not checking the weather before planning is like not checking the traffic before a road-trip, leaving you unprepared for significant changes to plan!
I had promised a Supermoon and as my two chatted away in the back of the car, I begin to make du’a fervently for a good outcome that evening. Please, I ask Allah, please, please, please help us to see the Supermoon today. Please clear the skies and let us witness this amazing image. You are All-Knowing, Most Powerful.
The day passes. As moonrise approaches and the clouds stay firmly gathered, my anxiety rises. I know it’s okay for kids to be let down. In this case particularly, circumstances cannot be helped but I still feel agitated at the thought of how disappointed they may be.
I try to mitigate the situation a little in advance by pointing out that even though we are so excited about the Supermoon, maybe, because of all the clouds, we might not be able to see it.
Okay, they concede, but we have to try! The Supermoon only comes once in hundreds of years. Clearly, awareness of time is a concept we are still working on.
With our waterproofs, wellingtons and thermos of tea at the ready, about ten minutes to moonrise I step out into the windy, drizzly rain.
Pitch black. So dark and with clouds so thick it is hard to make out any movement between them. There is no way we are going to be able to see anything with this sky.
My insides sink. The Day of The Supermoon has become The Night Of Inclement Weather. From phenomenally fantastic to truly mundane in the space of eleven hours. I go back in and explain the best I can to a still hopeful three and six year old.
There is denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and finally acceptance that we will not be taking a cold rainy walk in order to try and “find” the Supermoon.
As a kind of consolation, hot chocolate is made, games are played and stories are read. Finally, it is time for bed.
Snuggled in, warm and cosy, singing a lullaby into the quiet of the moment, a bright light shines through the blinds, casting patterns into the room. No big deal. This is likely the headlights of a car coming up the street – only the shadows aren’t moving and the light isn’t flickering.
At once it comes to us. My six year old bolts out of bed first and raises the blinds.
The moon! The moon! The Supermoon! Look. The Supermoon! The Supermooon!
She stands on a small bench under the window with her little brother and they gaze into the night sky, where the clouds have parted to reveal the brightest, roundest, most luminous moon we have ever seen. We are completely quiet and still.
And then, from our daughter,the faintest hum and whisper of a song, growing louder as our son picks up the tune and joins in, first in Arabic and then in English:
Ṭala‘a ‘l-badru ‘alaynā
Min thaniyyāti ‘l-wadā‘
Wajaba ‘l-shukru ‘alaynā
Mā da‘ā li-l-lāhi dā‘
O the white moon rose over us
From the valley of Wada’
And we owe it to show gratefulness
Where the call is to Allah
We talk a lot about the moon at home and this is the song we sing whenever we see a full moon as it is a beautiful reminder of our beloved Prophet’s hijra journey and the welcome he received as he entered the city of Madina to children singing these exact same verses. But this is the first time my children sing it unprompted and with such focus.
From the depths of my heart I feel a deep gratitude. Thank you Allah. For creating this gorgeous sky. For showing us this beautiful moon. For fulfilling our hopes and for granting us the gift of sharing it together.
But my thoughts are interrupted.
Is this the same moon, Mama? That the Prophet looked at with his own eyes?
My first born is staring up through the window with great intensity.
Yes, I say, it is.
And then – even as I watch her register that her eyes and his eyes, peace and blessings be upon him, have looked into the same sky, been shone into by the same moon – the clouds come together in an instant, the blackout curtains of the sky, and the moon – the brightest moon we’ve ever seen – is completely gone. Hidden from view like it had never appeared and we are abruptly pulled from our reverie.
Mama! Panic rising. What’s happened? Where is it? Why has it left?
It’s still there, I try to reassure, just hidden behind the clouds like before.
Why would Allah make the big Supermoon and then hide it behind the clouds?!
Ummm… that is a good question, I say, but neglect to mention that in order to answer it I will likely need to consult several books on philosophy and also check scholarly opinions.
I rustle our two sleepyheads back to bed. Their father is travelling and they are buzzing about how they can’t wait to tell him that they saw the Supermoon. How it came to them in their very bedroom. They are happy and excited, until my three year old remembers the clouds and has a true meltdown.
Why did Supermoon have to go? Why didn’t it stay? I wanted it with me. I wanted to keep it. Why isn’t it here? I love Supermoon. I miss Supermoon. Why won’t it come back to me?
I have no answers, only empathy as I cuddle away his sadness and think about all the times, in fairytales and literature, I’ve read about a child crying for the moon. About the idea that you can prove your love for someone by bringing them the moon and stars – in urdu poetry, this is literally referred to as breaking apart these celestial bodies and carrying them back to Earth (chand taare tod laun). I think about how as parents, we want to do this for our children at every turn – how we would gladly dismantle not only the moon, but entire galaxies for them. But the moon and stars belong in their orbits and not on this earth and the truth is, I’ve learned my lesson – some promises are not ours to make.
“Exalted is He who put constellations in the heavens, a radiant light, and an illuminating moon.”
And here is a sweet song for children which talks about how we share the same sun and moon with our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him:
Illustration by Good On Purpose