A Muslim widow left the town with her two daughters, after her husband’s death, in desperation to find security and livelihood. She reached a city and found a Muslim scholar around whom people were gathered. She left her little daughters in the Masjid and approached the scholar in hope of some help. She introduced herself as a widow from a different town with two daughters. She also clarified that she isn’t a prostitute and belongs to a respectable family. The scholar out of sheer self righteousness asked for the proof of her chastity but the widow excused herself as she was new in that town and nobody could affirm of her respectable background. But without any help from the scholar and with her integrity being in doubt, she found herself in misery.
She, in hope, asked help from a security guard there who immediately arranged a space in his home for the widow and her daughters. He provided them food and instructed his own women to take care of their guests.
Before we assume the story’s lesson is that a security guard is better than a scholar, which is a correct assumption apparently but, premature, we must know some more things about the story. The story has been recorded by a very famous traditional Muslim scholar, Imaam al-Zahabi. There is one more important thing to note, the security guard was a Zoroastrian!
The same night the Muslim scholar dreamt of the day of judgement, the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s Peace be upon him) was there and there was a green palace made of emeralds right in front of him. The balcony and the dome of the palace were made of rubies,pearls and corals. “This palace belongs to whom?”, he asked the Prophet and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) replied, “To a Muslim.”
Finding this a great opportunity he proclaimed, “I am a Muslim!”
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) turned to him and said, “Prove it!”
At this the scholar was baffled, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, “You asked that widow to prove her chastity and so I am asking you to prove your Islam.”
The scholar got up from his dream in shock and realised that the dream was to teach him a lesson. The first thing in the morning, he looked for the widow and after being informed about her stay at the Zoroastrian’s house he asked the Zoroastrian guard to send them over to his home. But the guard refused bluntly by saying that his family has been blessed by the widow and her daughters being his guests. The scholar offered an amount of one thousand dinar but found it a futile attempt. Suddenly, the guard told him that the same palace was shown to him too in his dream as if this was less shocking for the scholar the guard also told him that the palace belonged to him because he and his family accepted Islam at the hands of the widow last night. In his dream the Prophet(Peace be upon him) asked him about the widow and her daughters and he replied that they were with him. And so, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) congratulated him because the palace belonged to his family and also eternal paradise was waiting for him.
We need to clearly understand that the right beliefs combined with the right attitude makes us a true Muslim. Today we might have people arguing about the right beliefs but devoid of the right attitude towards others making this world a miserable place. Islam asks it’s followers to have the right beliefs but also have the right attitude. The guard had the right attitude towards the one in need and so was blessed with the right beliefs and a huge reward but the scholar, who was judgmental, missed a great opportunity to own that palace even after having the right beliefs.
But let us understand this more deeply. What if the widow was actually an unchaste woman? Doesn’t that justify the attitude of the scholar? No!
No matter how drenched a person is in sin, we as Muslims are not asked to judge, hate or scorn at anyone because if that was the case then the Prophet would have allowed the people of Taa’if to be crushed between the mountains but instead he hoped that one day their children would understand better. This shows that the Prophet’s (Peace be upon him) attitude was never negative but always positive even towards the people who hurt him to death.
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) in an authentic hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari told a story about a prostitute who gave water to a thirsty dog out of her compassion and was forgiven.
If we were to be asked about that woman, then the majority of us would have arranged her a ticket to hell but Allah is not like us! He loves us more than our own mothers and this should lead us to have a positive attitude towards others because we expect and we should expect love from Allah even after consistently sinning. This is what the Prophet (Peace be upon him) meant when he said that none of us truly believes until we love for our brother what we love for ourselves. It is amazing to read the comments of a great scholar, Imaam al nawawi, who said that brother here does not just mean a Muslim brother but rather also includes the human brother. So, in Islam, our beliefs are intertwined with our attitude such that we have to love for every human being what we love for ourselves to be true believers.
In another authentic narration collected by Imaam Muslim we are told that a righteous man from the children of Israel used to ask a person to give up drinking but the drunkard just couldn’t help himself. One day the drunkard rudely asked the righteous man, “Who are you to stop me from drinking? Are you my guardian?” The righteous man might have had the right beliefs but had the wrong attitude. He swore by Allah and said, “Allah will never forgive you.”
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) commented that Allah took an offence to the righteous man’s arrogance and said, “Who are you to speak on my behalf. I will obliterate your good deeds and accept the repentance from the drunkard.”
Here again we see that Allah does not like the people with an attitude problem making them arrogant no matter how religious they maybe.
Right attitude includes being humble, non-judgemental, understanding, respectful and forgiving.
In another narration collected by Imaam al-bukhari, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) told about a man who unknowingly gave charity to a thief. When the people made a fuss about it, he praised Allah and decided to give charity again but this time he unknowingly gave it to a prostitute. The people started gossiping again, he praised Allah and decided to give charity again but this time he unknowingly gave it to a rich man. His three attempts to give charity to a deserving person failed in his sight until someone with the right attitude told him that his charity to the thief could help him stop stealing. The charity to the prostitute could help her get out of that profession and the charity to the rich man could help his miserliness and make him realise the importance of giving charity.
We could go on with the examples in the Islamic tradition that not just focus on the right beliefs but also help us adjust our attitude towards our fellow human beings be they Muslims or non-muslims, be they righteous or sinful.
We must drive home the point made by a brilliant teacher of the Quran, Nouman Ali Khan, who always says that
Islam is 90% attitude!