“I, ya Rasulullah!” Such were the words of the great Companion, Abu Hurayrah in acceptance of the request of his beloved, when he asked, “Who among you will accept of me the following words and adopt and execute their meaning or teach someone to adopt them and act according to them?”
Then, as Abu Hurayrah recalls: “So he held my hand and counted five things according to my five fingers as follows.”
Upon pondering over this sentence, one can rightfully assume that this act of the Prophet of teaching Abu Hurayrah in such a personal manner – one by one, on the fingers of his hand – was a significant step in the effort to keep these words etched in his heart. In fact, it was a method of aiding him in fulfilling the responsibility to which he agreed to moments earlier.
So, what were these teachings that numbered the fingers of Abu Hurayrah’s hand?
( مَنْ يَأْخُذُ عَنِّي هَؤُلاَءِ الكَلِمَاتِ فَيَعْمَلُ بِهِنَّ أَوْ يُعَلِّمُ مَنْ يَعْمَلُ بِهِنَّ ؟ فَقَالَ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ : فَقُلْتُ : أَنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ !
فَأَخَذَ بِيَدِي فَعَدَّ خَمْسًا وَقَالَ :
اتَّقِ الْمَحَارِمَ تَكُنْ أَعْبَدَ النَّاسِ ، وَارْضَ بِمَا قَسَمَ اللَّهُ لَكَ تَكُنْ أَغْنَى النَّاسِ ، وَأَحْسِنْ إِلَى جَارِكَ تَكُنْ مُؤْمِنًا ، وَأَحِبَّ لِلنَّاسِ مَا تُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِكَ تَكُنْ مُسْلِمًا ، وَلاَ تُكْثِرِ الضَّحِكَ ، فَإِنَّ كَثْرَةَ الضَّحِكِ تُمِيتُ القَلْبَ ) .
رواه أحمد والترمذي والطبراني في الأوسط
- Keep away from prohibited things and you will be the best of worshipers.
- Be content with what Allah has given you, and you will be the richest of people.
- Be good to your neighbor and you will be a true believer.
- Love for other people what you love for yourself and you will be a (perfect) Muslim.
- Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter deadens the heart.
(Recorded by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi)
“Keep away from prohibited things and you will be the best of worshipers.”
In such concise words, our Prophet taught us that worship is not only in bringing forth good deeds, but also in abstaining from the prohibited. Extra prayers, fasting and charity are praiseworthy, but inclusive in worship is to be able to place boundaries between yourself and that which is haram. This is of particular importance to those sins that we may have become desensitized to, and as a result are prone to falling into them regularly.
Yusuf, , was in a situation with the wife of Al-Aziz, where there were many reasons available for him to easily fall into the haram. Yet he proved to be among the “best of worshipers” when she invited him to the forbidden, and he proclaimed; “I seek refuge in Allah (or Allah forbid)!” (Yusuf 12:23). In fact, his ardent will to stay away from the prohibited led him to prefer the life of prison; “O my Lord! Prison is dearer to me than that to which they invite me. Unless You turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them and be one (of those who commit sin and deserve blame or those who do deeds) of the ignorant.” (Yusuf 12:33).
To establish our personal level of ubudiyyah (worship) to Allah , we should turn to our situation in cases where a sin is of easy access to us. Are we able to give our wealth in charity, yet weak when the desire to lie or indulge in ill-talk arises? Or perhaps it is easy for a person to perfect their conduct, yet they have fallen into the desire of not paying heed to acquiring their wealth from only the purest and halal of sources? The examples are many, and each of us can relate, on a personal level, which of the haram actions we are prone to slipping into.
In a hadith narrated by Thawban, the Prophet warned against this when he described the situation of those who fall into the prohibited when they are far from the eyes of others. He said:
“I certainly know people of my ummah who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawbaan said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.’ He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshiping at night as you do, but they will be people who, when they are alone, transgress the sacred limits of Allah.” (Ibn Majah).
The Prophet himself was the utmost example of protecting himself from the haram. Anas narrated that the Prophet passed a date fallen on the way and said, “Were I not afraid that it may be from a sadaqa (charitable gifts), I would have eaten it.” (Bukhari).
So while we undergo efforts to increase our good deeds, we should also pay heed to those evil deeds, whether they are actions of the heart, tongue or limbs, which bar us from reaching this status. This is particularly to those ones which come about in daily life, such as evil talk or letting our gazes roam. Let us become more aware of our actions and work on building a barrier that stands between us and Allah’s prohibitions, thus serving as a step in the path of earning this title of the “best of worshipers.”
“Be content with what Allah has given you, and you will be the richest of people.”
This beautiful part of the hadith, if truly and sincerely applied, can relieve heavy burdens off the most slender of shoulders. How many times have we allowed ourselves to be overcome by worries whose main source was not being fully content with what Allah has granted us?
We have laid forth excuses and placed barriers to our achievements, many of which arise from not being content. We tell ourselves, “If I lived in such and such place, I would be able to do such and such. And if I had what so and so had, I would….” The list is endless. It is true that perhaps we did not always openly proclaim such sentences, but we know that at times they have at least crossed our mind and deceived us into believing that our state of failure to achieve is unchangeable.
Allah says, (interpretation of the meaning) “And do not extend your eyes toward that by which We have given enjoyment to [some] categories of them, [its being but] the splendor of worldly life by which We test them. And the provision of your Lord is better and more enduring.” (Ta-ha 20:131).
In order to fulfill this command, we should remember that whatever Allah decrees for the believers is better for them, and this is only for the believers. We should also avoid looking towards those who have been given more than us in matters of this dunya and divert our attention to the state of those who have been given less; who are deprived of blessings that we forget in ourselves. Think of the poor laborer who is able to fall fast asleep in the middle of his busy workplace, and the wealthy businessman who is deprived of sleep in the softest of beds. Think particularly of those who have lost both; their dunya due to an unhappy life of misery and lost their akhira (Hereafter) due to being deprived of the blessing of Islam. You will surely feel that you are among the richest of creation. Our Prophet said,
“Successful is the one who has entered the fold of Islam and is provided with sustenance which is sufficient for his needs, and Allah makes him content with what He has bestowed upon him.” (Muslim).
Another aspect of contentment is keeping oneself from asking from others and avoiding being dependent on them. An example of such character is that of the Companions of the Prophet , who if they dropped their whip while mounted on their riding animal, would not ask someone to retrieve it for them, although it would have been easier. Rather they would dismount and pick it up themselves, because they did not want to be dependent on others.
The meaning of contentment is not to be stretched to the matters of the Hereafter, as it is only praiseworthy in application to matters of this world. As for increasing virtuous deeds, then ‘greed’ is more befitting since the Muslim should always be in search of more. Allah says,
(interpretation of the meaning) “Race toward forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whose width is like the width of the heavens and earth.” (Al-Hadeed 57:21).
Allah says, (interpretation of the meaning) “And your Lord creates what He wills and chooses; not for them was the choice.” (Al-Qasas 28:68). A man may be poor, yet healthy. Another may be wealthy, yet he wishes for good health more than wealth. Be pleased with what Allah has given you, and you will be the richest of people. Through this principle, we are able to overcome Shaytaan’s technique of making us feel sorry for ourselves as well as purify our hearts of diseases, such as envy. Such a teaching is in fact a key to one’s very own gate to riches that even those with much gold and silver have not been able to unlock.
“Be good to your neighbor and you will be a true believer.”
After focusing on points pertaining to strengthening our own souls, the Prophet’s third piece of advice relates to strengthening one’s belief through the fulfillment of the rights of those around us. A wonderful opportunity is present everyday to try and strengthen our bond with our neighbors. It is one of the most virtuous of deeds; the Prophet
“Jibreel kept advising me of the rights of neighbors so much that I thought he would make them my heirs.” (Agreed upon).
Whether it is through a smile, a kind word or a simple gift, all of these kind actions have an effect on the hearts and are of the best forms of silent da’wah. The sign of the true mu’min is that he is good to his neighbors; perhaps it may be such a simple deed for some, but the reward is great.
“Love for other people what you love for yourself and you will be a (perfect) Muslim.”
This advice from the Prophet is repeated often in gatherings, lectures and articles. Although it may be easy to say, this much-needed characteristic that strengthens community bonds and raises our status as Muslims, actually requires effort in achieving. This is because we sometimes limit the application of this characteristic to our hearts only and do not extend it practically in our lives. So, if for example, we love that we have knowledge, we should love that others have access to this knowledge as well. If we love that our acts of worship are done in a correct manner, likewise should this love stretch forth so that we may teach those whose worship may be contrary to the Shari’ah while they know not. When you have knowledge that what they are doing is incorrect and would not like for yourself to be left in the darkness if you were in their place, try to gently correct them and teach them what is right. Passing on knowledge is one example; by reflecting and asking ourselves the question of ‘would I like this for myself?’ before many acts and words is a step in the path of applying this principle in everyday life.
An extraordinary example of putting this teaching into practice is that of some of our righteous predecessors. Ibrahim al-Nakha’ee rahimahullah was a’war al-‘ayn (blind in one eye), and his student Sulayman ibn Mihran suffered from weak eyesight (a’mash al-‘ayn). Ibn al-Jawzi related a story about them in his book Al-Muntathim that they were walking in the streets of Al-Kufah headed to the masjid.
As they were walking, Imam Al-Nakha’ee said, “Sulayman, can you take one road and I take another? For I fear that if we were to pass together by the foolish people, they would say, ‘A’war – one eyed – is leading an a’mash – bleary eyed- (through the road) and they would then have backbitten us and fallen into sins.”
So Sulayman replied, “O Abu ‘Imran! What is wrong then when we are rewarded while they are sinful?”
Ibrahim al-Nakha’ee replied, “SubhanaAllah! Bal naslam wa yaslamun! Rather, that we be safe (from their backbiting) and they be safe (of sin) is better than if we are rewarded and they are sinful!” (al-Muntathim fee Tareekh al Muluk wal Umam).
Their application of this principle reached heights that perhaps we never even thought it could reach. Such were the hearts that understood the meaning of the one who wished good for his people even after he died in the ayah (interpretation of the meaning); “It was said, “Enter Paradise.” He said, “I wish my people could know of how my Lord has forgiven me and placed me among the honored.” (Surah Yaseen 36:26,27)
“Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter deadens the heart.”
For every believer who wishes to keep the heart alive with faith, the Prophet taught in the final advice of this hadith that excessive laughter is a cause for a dead heart. Let no believer assume that this implies he or she must wear a frown in order to keep the heart alive with faith, for the Prophet had the most cheerful countenance and taught us that to smile was a rewarded act of sadaqa.
Hence, if we are among those who have trouble keeping a cheerful face, this is not an opportunity to prove the virtue of such an expression, rather it is a chance to rethink and realize that while excessive laughter is denounced, a smile is praised and written as a good deed. Such a simple change in expression, will surely lead us to see notable change in our hearts towards others and in their character towards us.
The Prophet used to make his Companions laugh and his Companions would make him laugh. But he taught us not to be excessive in laughter for it will cause a dead heart and dry eyes. Let us not be among those who only keep the company of those who make us laugh and find anyone else “boring.” Or those who only attend lectures of those who have the highest sense of humor. Or those who read only that which makes them laugh and watch only those programs that make them laugh. Rather, even in laughter, our religion teaches moderation. It is possible to forget this, and that is why our Prophet did not forget to remind us; so that we may pay attention to the weight laughter carries in our everyday lives.
Such concise words, amounting to the fingers of one hand, yet beautiful in meaning and comprehensive in application. With the same enthusiasm of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with Him, who took upon himself the task of taking care of them until they reached us, let us work on remembering them, applying them and letting them affect our lives. Perhaps now, you will look at your fingers and view them from a different perspective, as you count on them 5 steps towards a more noble life.
What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam
Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.
The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.
In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.
It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.
Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.
With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:
“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”
The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.
The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.
While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.
First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.
The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:
One Hundred and Twenty Days:
The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.
This view is shaped by the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood :
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..
“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”
The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.
This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood :
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…
“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”
Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.
Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.
No Excuse Required:
The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.
Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.
Only Under Extreme Risks:
The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.
As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.
Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.
For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.
The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.
This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.
Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.
Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:
Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:
((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))
“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)
Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.
Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.
Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.
As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.
Lesson 11 From Surah Al-Kahf
Tafsir Verses 72-81
Alhamdulillah last session we were able to explore the meanings and lessons of verses 60-70. InshAllah, we’ll try our best to cover the meanings of verse 71-82. As we learned in the last session, this passage of the Surah deals with a very unique and interesting episode from the life of Musa . It’s the story of his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. We reached the point in the story where Musa finally finds Khidr and asks with the utmost humility and respect to allow him to be his student. This highlights Musa’s sincerity in seeking knowledge, his lack of pride and his willingness to humble himself in front of Khidr despite his own status as a Prophet.
But Khidr initially declined his request telling him, “Truly you will not be able to bear patiently with me. And how can you be patient with that which you have no knowledge?” Khidr recognized that he would do things that Musa would find to be illogical, irrational and even impermissible. Things that on the surface level seem to be horrible and despicable. Musa was sent as a Prophet of Divine Law, while Khidr had been entrusted with some unique knowledge and actions that seemed to be contradictory to that law. So he explained to Musa that he wouldn’t be able to be patient with him and his actions. But Musa was extremely eager to learn. He resolved to be patient and obedient while relying upon the will of Allah ﷻ.
He tells Khidr, “You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I shall not disobey you in any matter.” Khidr finally gave in and both of them set off on their way. This is where we’ll pick up the story again. Allah ﷻ says,
Verse 71: So they both went on till, when they had embarked upon a ship, he made a hole in it. He said, “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.”
They set out walking together along the shore looking for a ship to ride. As they were walking a ship of sailors passed by them and Khidr asked for a ride. The sailors knew Khidr so they let both him and Musa come on board without any charge. After traveling for a while Khidr got up and pulled out one of the planks from the bottom of the ship using an ax making a hole in it. This placed everyone on the ship in danger of drowning. Obviously, this seemingly absurd and cruel behavior surprised Musa . He was literally in shock. He couldn’t understand why Khidr would do such a thing to someone who helped him out. This went against his moral compass of what’s right and wrong. Musa forgot about the conditions of his teacher and objected. These people gave us a free ride and you’re pulling a plank to drown their ship. You’ve done something bad. “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.” Khidr then reminded him gently with patience.
Verse 72: He said, “Did I not say that you can never bear with me patiently?”
Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to be patient with me and my actions? The way he says this shows that he was willing to overlook and tolerate Musa’s (as) impatience. Musa (as) felt a sense of regret and apologized to Khidr telling him that he completely forgot about his deal.
Verse 73: He (Musa) said, “Do not hold me responsible for what I forgot, and do not make my course too difficult for me.”
Basically he apologized. He said please don’t hold me responsible for what I forgot and allow me to continue travelling in your company. While telling the story the Prophet ﷺ says, “the first (question) was out of forgetfulness. While this conversation was taking place a bird came and sat on the side of the boat and took a sip of water from the ocean. Khidr said to Musa, ‘my knowledge and yours combined in comparison to the knowledge of Allah is like the sip of water compared to the ocean.’” Khidr accepting his apology and they continued travelling on their way.
Verse 74: So, they moved ahead until when they met a boy, he killed him (the boy). He (Musa) said, “Did you kill an innocent soul while he did not kill anyone? You have committed a heinous act indeed.”
“So they continued…” They both got off the ship and started walking along the shore until they came across a young boy playing with his friends. Khidr went up to this young boy and killed him by either strangling him to death or striking him on his head. This was too much for Musa (as) to handle. He objected even more vehemently. How can he kill an innocent young boy for no reason whatsoever? To Musa (as) this seemed absolutely absurd, cruel and unjustified. It was too much for him to tolerate patiently despite his promise not to question anything that he saw. So he said, How can you kill a pure innocent child for no reason whatsoever? You have done something unjustified and have committed a heinous act. Once again Khidr reminds him of the condition that he made and the promise that Musa (as) had given.
Verse 75: He said, “Did I not tell you that you can never bear with me patiently?”
Didn’t I warn you that you wouldn’t be able to handle what I would do? Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to remain silent when I do certain things? In this reminder, Khidr added the word “laka” to show that this time his reminder is more severe and clearer. The first time someone forgets and makes a mistake it’s overlooked. The second time it’s also overlooked but with a sense of hesitation. Musa again feels a sense of regret for breaking his word and not sticking to the conditions of Khidr. He’s now done this twice so he apologizes by saying,
Verse 76: He said, “If I ask you about something after this, do not keep me in your company. You have had enough excuses from me.”
Musa (as) again apologizes but this time gives himself one last chance. He said if he questions Khidr one more time then Khidr can choose to part ways with him. Once again Khidr accepts his apology and they set off on their way. After commenting on this part ibn Kathīr narrates a hadīth from the Prophet ﷺ. He writes, “Ibn Jarir narrated from Ibn `Abbas that Ubayy bin Ka`b said: “Whenever the Prophet ﷺ mentioned anyone, he would pray for himself first. One day he said:
- «رَحْمَةُ اللهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى مُوسَى لَوْ لَبِثَ مَعَ صَاحِبِهِ لَأَبْصَرَ الْعَجَبَ، وَلَكِنَّهُ قَالَ:
- ﴿إِن سَأَلْتُكَ عَن شَىْءٍ بَعْدَهَا فَلاَ تُصَاحِبْنِى قَدْ بَلَغْتَ مِن لَّدُنِّى عُذْراً﴾»
May the mercy of Allah be upon us and upon Musa. If he had stayed with his companion he would have seen wonders, but he said, (`If I ask you anything after this, keep me not in your company, you have received an excuse from me.’))” That brings us to the third and last adventure they had together.
Verse 77: Then, they moved on until they came to the people of a town and sought food from them. But they refused to show them any hospitality. Then, they found there a wall that was about to fall down. So he (Khidr) set it right. He (Musa) said, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.”
Musa and Khidr continued traveling until they came upon the people of a town that most commentators identify as the ancient city of Antioch. Being tired and hungry they asked them for some food but they refused to give them any or show them any hospitality whatsoever. As they were leaving the city they came across a wall that was about to fall down. Khidr stopped by it and repaired it. Now, this situation is also bizarre; Khidr is a complete stranger in a town that refused to give them food or host them yet he still stops and fixes their wall for nothing in return. Musa finds the situation full of irony. Why should a stranger exert so much effort in rebuilding a wall in a town where they were denied even a little food and all hospitality? He should have at least demanded some money for his labor and then they could have bought some food to eat.
Musa couldn’t hold himself so he objected, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.” And that was the end of their relationship. Khidr responded,
Verse 78: He said, “This is the parting between me and you. I shall inform you of the meaning of that which you were unable to bear with patiently.”
Meaning, this is the end of our relationship and this is where we’ll part ways. But before we go our separate ways I’ll explain to you the wisdom and hidden meaning behind everything I did. Up till this point in the story, we’ve probably been just as impatient as Musa ; we have no clue why Khidr did the things he did. But he then explains everything is detail; why he pulled a plank out of the bottom the ship, why he killed an innocent child and why he rebuilt the wall without taking anything in return.
Verse 79: As for the ship, it belonged to some poor people who worked at sea. I wanted to damage it, for just beyond them was a king who was seizing every ship by force.
Khidr is explained that his act of damaging the ship was, in reality, a means of saving it. It comes in a narration that these poor people were ten brothers, 5 of them were handicapped while the other five worked. The ship was their only source of income. The king was a cruel, tyrannical oppressor who would take ships by force. The damage done to the ship made it undesirable for the king and ultimately saved it for its owners. Had it been seaworthy, it would certainly have been confiscated by the tyrannical king. Perpetrating some small damage to the boat saved it from the greater harm and ruinous injustice which was certain to take place without it. Hence, causing such damage was a good and kindly action. So damaging the ship actually turned out to be a good thing.
Verses 80-81: And as for the young boy, his parents were believers and we feared that he would make them suffer much through rebellion and disbelief. So we desired that their Lord give them in exchange one who is better than him in purity, and nearer to mercy.
Although the young child seemed to be pure and innocent in reality the seeds of disbelief and wickedness were entrenched in his heart. If he had grown up he would have been a source of grief and sorrow for his parents who were believers. Their love for this child would have led them towards evil and wickedness as well. They would suffer because of the rebellion and disbelief. So Allah told Khidr to kill this boy to spare them that grief and to replace him with a child that would be better and more dutiful. Now obviously the parents weren’t aware of this at this time so to them this was a huge loss and tragedy. They weren’t aware of the future difficulties that they were saved from by his death.
Qatādah said, “His parents rejoiced when he was born and grieved for him when he was killed. If he had stayed alive, he would have been the cause of their doom. So let a man be content with the decree of Allah, for the decree of Allah for the believer, if he dislikes it, is better for him than if He were to decree something that he likes for him.” That’s why in connection to these verses ibn Kathīr رحمهم الله quotes the hadīth, “Allah does not decree anything for a believer, save that it is better for him.”
- «لَا يَقْضِي اللهُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ مِنْ قَضَاءٍ إِلَّا كَانَ خَيْرًا لَه»
It is mentioned in a narration that the parents were blessed with a pious daughter who gave birth to a Prophet. So the murder of this child actually turned out to be something good in the long run.
Verse 82: And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and beneath it was a treasure belonging to them. Their father was righteous, and your Lord desired that they should reach their maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I didn’t do this upon my own command. This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.
Khidr explained to Musa that the wall that was about to fall that he rebuilt was covering a treasure that belonged to two orphan boys. If the wall had fallen down the treasure would be exposed and the orphan children would’ve been deprived of their wealth. By rebuilding the wall Khidr made it possible for them to access their treasure when they grew up. This was done partially because their father was a righteous and pious man. Khidr then explains to Musa that he didn’t do any of these things based on his own accord or understanding. Rather he did them according to the Divine command, decree, and will of Allah ﷻ. “And I didn’t do this upon my own command.” He concludes by saying, “This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.” Meaning, this is the explanation of my actions that you didn’t understand and weren’t able to be patient with.
1) One of the most powerful and profound lessons we learn from this entire episode is that oftentimes a tragedy is a blessing in disguise. Everything that happens in this world, whether good or bad, happens according to the Divine will and decree of Allah ﷻ. There’s some deep divine wisdom behind every single thing that happens in this world. When something good happens we recognize it as a blessing. For example, if we get a good job, get a raise at work, purchase a new car or are blessed with the birth of a child. All of recognize this as something positive. On the other hand whenever we face setbacks, difficulties, hardships and tragedies we tend to lose patience.
This incident is teaching us that difficulties, tests, trials, and hardships are oftentimes blessing in disguise. The first thing to understand is that Allah isn’t sending these difficulties our way to break us or destroy us. Rather he’s sending them our way to test our patience and faith, as a source of mercy and a reminder. As a way of nurturing and training us. He’s reminding us to turn back to Him, to hold on to our faith, to be steadfast, patient, strong, and to persevere. When we’re struggling and going through difficult times we shouldn’t assume that somehow Allah is displeased with us. Similarly, when we’re comfortable and enjoying life we shouldn’t assume that Allah is pleased with us. The opposite can be true. The Prophet said,
- « إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الْخَيْرَ عَجَّلَ لَهُالْعُقُوبَةَ فِى الدُّنْيَا وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الشَّرَّأَمْسَكَ عَنْهُ بِذَنْبِهِ حَتَّى يُوَفَّى بِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ
“If Allah wants good for his servant, He hurries on His punishment in this world, and if He wills ill for a servant, he holds back punishing him for his sin so He can give it to him in full on the Day of Resurrection.”
Everything we face in this world is actually a source of blessing for us. The Prophet said:
- «مَا يُصِيبُ المُسْلِمَ مِنْ نَصَبٍ،وَلاَ وَصَبٍ، وَلاَ هَمِّ، وَلاَ حُزْنٍ، وَلاَ أَذًى، وَلاَ غَمِّ، حَتَّىالشَّوْكَةِ يُشَاكُهَا؛ إِلاَّ كَفَّرَ الله بِهَا مِنْ خَطَايَاهُ»
“No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his sins by it.”
Allah tells us that the main tool, the key to deal with the world and all the problems it contains is through patience and turning towards Him. When we’re dealing with our problems we should turn to Allah. We should make dhikr, read Quran, spend time in prayer and reflection and try to be around good company. We should try to focus our attention, our spiritual and emotional energy on our relationship with Allah instead of our problem. By doing so we’ll find peace and comfort. True contentment. Part of patience is recognizing that whatever we’re going through is something that we can handle. Whatever we’re going through will not last forever. That’s why throughout the Quran whenever Allah consoles and comforts the Prophet He reminds him to be patient and to turn to him. “So be patient over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord.” (20:130) “So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth.” (30:60) “So be patient, [O Muhammad], over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting.” (50:39)
2) Being content with the Divine decree of Allah ﷻ.
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