by Fudia Muhammad
People who are devoutly religious can also be the spookiest, most superstitious people on the planet. A superstitious Believer in God is an oxymoron – both cannot be true. You either believe that God is Possessor of power over all things or you do not! We cannot profess that God controls every atom in the heavens and the earth but remain equally convinced in the power of ‘good-luck’ charms and bad omens. A common belief found across a broad spectrum of religions and cultures is that pregnant women should not attend funerals. This belief is found in Native American, Asian, South American and Central American cultures. It is also a strongly held belief amongst practicing Jews and some Christians; particularly Black Christians. Unfortunately, upon examination of the justification for their belief and practice, we find that its source comes squarely from a superstitious doctrine. The Holy Qur’an reads, “Surely Allah is He with Whom is the knowledge of the Hour, and He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs. And no one knows what he will earn on the morrow. And no one knows in what land he will die. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware” (31:34).
The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad also taught the women of the Nation of Islam not to attend funerals while they were pregnant. However, the Nation of Islam is NOT superstitious. Islam as taught by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad dignifies, “it destroys superstition and removes the veil of falsehood.” So, why give this directive? The reason is based solely in science, not superstition; and today researchers and scientists are bearing witness to the potential negative impact that prolonged sadness, grief and depression can have on the brain of a growing fetus.
We do not believe in coincidences. For every effect there was a cause and for every action there will be a consequence. There was a time not too long ago when it was not abnormal to see a pregnant woman smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol. Today, this is frowned upon because we are now aware of the damaging effects these poisons have on the developing brain and body of a baby in utero. Tobacco contains nicotine, arsenic, tar and carbon monoxide – all of which is absorbed by the mother’s body and therefore, her baby. Alcohol goes straight to the baby’s bloodstream through the placenta. Nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and drugs (illegal & otherwise) are all dangerously potent chemicals that can cause low birth weight, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), stillbirths, miscarriages, physical disfigurement and abnormalities, intellectual disabilities, heart defects, brain damage, weakened immunity, behavioral problems and more. Thoughts are also powerful chemicals – and depending on the intensity and span of certain thoughts, they can be just as harmful.
When addressing the environment of a pregnant woman, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said to the Brothers, “Make sure that all harmful influences are kept from her mind. Don’t let her go to funerals because she shouldn’t be thinking on death when she’s making life. Even if it’s funerals of dear ones…Don’t bring the pregnant woman around death and grieving people. This is what the Messenger taught. Say, ‘Sweetheart you stay at home and think on good things. Think on the good things of the life that has just gone by.’ But don’t go where people are screaming and hollering and falling out and acting a fool; because all of us got to die. Don’t go around people that just play games with death to pacify themselves and their mistreatment of the one that is departed. ‘Stay home baby, you [are] making new life…I want you to see good things so you can bring forth a good child.’ ”
It is natural to mourn the death of a loved one and if the person was particularly close to us, it cannot be helped since their physical presence will be missed. However, when we attend the funeral, we invite our unborn child into an intensely sad environment where there could be those who are so overcome with grief and sadness that crying is continuous and they are inconsolable. The emotions of others trigger our own emotions and it is likely that the expectant mother, who is already emotionally vulnerable, will find herself grief-stricken; not only because she is sad, but because she is enveloped by overwhelming grief. Our attendance at the funeral is not the yardstick used to measure our sincere love for the deceased. Life and death are two polar opposites. So when life is forming in the womb it should be far removed from death. To be sad and pregnant is just not a good combination. Pregnancy should be the most joyous time in our life.
Studies now bear witness to the physiological effects of sadness. Research states that prolonged sadness lowers the body temperature and weakens the immune system, which increases the mother’s risk of disease. Sadness affects cortisol levels, which controls blood sugar and blood pressure. Intense sadness can lead to stress, which is bad for the heart, lungs and the liver. Being overcome with sadness and grief also decreases serotonin levels which can lead to depression, obsessive compulsive disorders and violent outbreaks. Depression can even influence the onset of cancer. According to researchers, the brain works harder when we are sad because we are “remembering, thinking, suffering, and looking for reasons, solutions, and alternatives.” This takes an enormous amount of energy resulting in an elevated need for glucose to feed the brain, causing the pregnant mother to crave more sweets, another toxin. Everything the mother consumes, her baby consumes. Everything the mother experiences, her baby experiences.
Unfortunately we face an inordinate amount of death in the Black community primarily as a result of violence and disease; so to have a loved one pass during the span of nine months is not improbable. However, we must remember that no soul dies, but with the permission of Allah (God) and to grieve for an extended period of time is a sign that we are not at peace with God’s decision. As mothers, we cannot be one-dimensional creatures – we must rise above our emotions and protect the fruit of our womb. Every day of our pregnancy, Allah (God) is creating new brain cells for a new life. Our role is to co-operate with Him and provide a happy, nurturing environment to the best of our ability.
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.