The point of this entire article could be summarized as: “Read the Qurʿān!” So instead of staying here, go read some Qurʿān and think on it deeply—that’d be better for both you and me. I highly recommend this translation! Bye-bye 👋.
The Importance of Stories
One of the foremost ways to improve one’s self is to be with righteous people. People who inspire you by their actions, uphold their duty to you by way of advice, and who try their foremost to stay away from all that is bad. Such people are the best of friends one should stick close to.
“Your best friend is the one who: seeing him reminds you of God, speaking to him increases your knowledge, and his actions remind you of the hereafter.” (Al-Muḥāsibī)
But we may not be blessed with such company—it is a provision under His control like all else. Withholding it from us may be a test to see what we do; it could be saving us from harmful peers, or more likely, saving others from our bad influence; it might be separating us from creation so we can draw closer to Him.
Regardless, the human has a need to socialize and be with people. We will spend time with whatever company we can find. Either good or bad traits will soak into us based on the nature of our companions, to the extent of our time with them. It is for this reason bad company must be avoided, and good company sought out—we will become like them.
“A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends” (Sunan Abī Dāwūd).
But if we cannot find good company, how should we fulfill our need for it? By reading stories of righteous people.
God—His glory be glorified!—has given the human being an immense capacity for empathy. It’s so powerful that it’s acceptable for someone to cry at the death of a fictional character in some story—even though logically, crying for that made up story is foolish and delusional. Human beings experience stories as if they are in them, as if the characters are their close friends.
Thus this characteristic can be used to fulfill our need for righteous company—by reading stories of pious people we can spend time with them, in a way. To read stories of the righteois is like having righteous company.
“If it is difficult for one to remain in the company of the pious all the time, then the substitute is for one to study the lives of our pious predecessors and their advices” (Ashraf ʿAlī Thanwī)
Stories can even be the better, safer form of company because only the dead are safe to follow—the living have yet to succeed, and may even fail, and imitating while their final destination is not clear can lead us to doom. And to accompany the dead means to reflect on their stories.
Also, teaching using stories is one of the methods used by the greatest Teacher in His Scriptures to teach the worst of all students: the forgetful mankind. Thus there is no more fitting a substitute for righteous company than stories of the righteous.
Read the stories of the righteous, for that has a profound effect on the heart. (Shaykh Yaḥyā Rhodus, paraphrased)
So if we are unable to witness actions that speak a thousand words, let us at least seek out words that can convey to us those actions.
- As we struggle regarding marriage, stress about the process and fear how feasible it is to ‘keep it halal’, this is the story of a young man who married someone he didn’t want to marry because he feared God Almighty. He chose to rely upon Him and tried to please Him, making his story a striking reminder that if someone trusts Him, they will never be disappointed.
- As we become meeker in living our faith (if we know what we should be doing in the first place), this is the story of someone who knew his position in the world and sincerely wanted to just try to please God, regardless of how he appeared to other people. This is a reminder of where our priorities must lie, what our perspective needs to be.
This initiative aims to share great stories heard or read online, and also a few experiences from this day and age. There are already many stories available, but they are often structured suboptimally or feature linguistic errors.
The stories will thus be re-written and edited to make them more readable—cleaning up punctuation and grammar while also making minor edits to maximize their impact. Just as storytellers emphasize important points and gloss over unnecessary details, the stories will be re-written in such a way that their lesson is even clearer.
Also, many stories are currently available in audio or video formats only. Those media have their own benefits, but the written word is better for close analysis with word-by-word precision. Thus writing them is a new effort and would make them accessible to those with hearing challenges.
In addition to retelling stories, reflections on their content and lessons will be provided as well. They will analyze the events of the story itself while also making connections to broader ideas and morals. Each story teaches lessons itself, but can also be used as a springboard to jump into related ideas and learn much more.
But most important is your own reflection and thought regarding the story. Why did the story feel so moving to you? Do you relate to it somehow? What have you learnt? How will you live differently in light of the lesson you have learnt? The provided reflection is just an example—what will truly benefit you are your own thoughts regarding the story. By reflecting on other’s experiences we may learn to reflect on our own—a priceless skill.
Finally, in-depth sourcing will also be provided for each story. Stories curently available online are often uncited and lack any source. When two different sites mention the same source they may translate it differently as well. This effort will look for multiple sources for each story, combine between them to get a fuller version of the story. All while keeping in mind that whether the story truly happened or not does not change its benefit to us in the least.
Thus, each indivdual story becomes a mini-training session. A powerful story that teaches important lessons, followed by an example reflection to aid your own, finished with a note about the sourcing of the story exposing you to academic processes.
Of course, if you remember a memorable story and want me to cover it, let me know! Or, write it up yourself and send it here! Whatever you feel could allow you to please our Merciful Creator, do it. And then contact me from the link at the bottom so I can be a part of it too, in any way I can 💗.