“Say salam to Abeer Khala”, a 1.5 year old came and said salam to me. At the time it was only my third time meeting this cute (but still random) kid and I had known his mother for hardly a month, yet I became a khala. (Khala: title given to your mother’s sister in the Urdu language)
How do you become a khala?
1) Mother’s sister(s)
2) In the South Asian culture, your mother’s female cousins are also known to be ‘khalas’
3) In my book my children also call my close long lasting friends khalas as well.
For that 1.5 year old kid I didn’t fall into any of those categories. So why call me khala?
I’m noticing this growing phenomenon of girls my age (ahem late 20s) referring to themselves and their friends/acquaintances as khalas to their children. I find this extremely annoying.
Khala is a major title, growing up we would always hear that your khala is like your mother. I used to think this is just another one of those Desi notions that probably stemmed from Hindu traditions.
This notion actually has Islamic roots, our beloved Prophet (PBUH) gave maternal aunts a high status.
“A man came to Allah’s Prophet (Peace be upon Him) and said: ‘O Prophet! I have committed a major sin. Do you think that I can atone for it?’
He asked: “Do you have a mother living?”
The man answered in the negative.
The Prophet (Peace be upon Him) asked the man: “Do you have a maternal aunt living?”
The man answered in the positive. Allah’s Prophet (Peace be upon Him) said to him: “Be good and kind to her.” (Tirmidhi 1904)
“The sister of the mother has a status similar to the mother.” (Bukhari #2552)
After learning that I realized that our Khalas should be given great honor and respect. Hence the reason why I think to toss around the word ‘Khala” for any other average jo-lie, seems almost degrading to the title.
I think the reason why we end up resorting to khala is because we have a problem with the word Aunty.
Our generation of folks growing up here have given ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ this comical yet negative connotation.
We think Aunties just like to sit around gossip, watch dramas (or create them) and drink chai. Well, I try to avoid gossip, and I love my Pakistani dramas BUT I don’t drink chai. I guess I’m a semi-aunty, but nonetheless still an a-u-n-t-y.
Even if I didn’t do any of those things, I’m a married woman with children and their friends will and should refer to me as aunty. I don’t take offense to that and neither should any other person.
I would not want my child calling an acquaintance ‘khala’ for no reason. It may just be a title but to me that word means a lot.
If my close friend’s children refer to me as khala then I take it as an obligation to try to live up to it. To make it a point to ask about their well being, their new hobbies and to acknowledge big milestones in their lives. I wouldn’t do that for just any kid.
Granted, some of my “aunties” have over time become more than aunties (but less than Khalas). I still refer to them as aunties but would treat them with love and more respect simply due to the nature of my relationship with them.
Aunty is not a bad word nor does it mean you’re the ‘old’ ‘nosy’ and ‘annoying’ lady from the community whose going around causing havoc.
There are a number of cool aunties out there and I plan on being one of them insha’Allah, or I just might be a typical aunty in denial…