This story is part of the Stories of the Righteous initiative, which aims to share narratives that inspire reform, faith and piety in all who read them — trying to fulfill our need of righteous company in a time when it’s hard to find.
IN THE FIRST CENTURY after the Migration [hijrah], there lived a pious man who constantly sought knowledge and spent all his time seeking it. He was content with his life — but in material terms, he was very poor.
One day he was extremely hungry; it burdened him so strongly that he left his home in search of any food. He wandered towards one of the lush gardens that lined the long roads. One was full of apple trees, their branches drooping over the fence and onto the road from the weight of their juicy fruits.
Our young man’s inner self whispered to him, calling him to eat an apple and take care of his hunger — no one would see him! And after all, nothing would happen if he ate just one apple from this great big orchard…
So the young man plucked an apple and ate it to satisfy his burning hunger.
But as he walked back home, his consciousness [nafs] started to ache and he questioned what he just did. He asked himself, how could I eat an apple from another Muslim’s wealth and possession, without asking for his permission before taking it? I haven’t even asked the owner for forgiveness after I stole from him! Woe upon me!
The young lad rose the next morning, determined to apologize to that garden’s owner.
“Sir, extreme hunger got hold of me yesterday, and I ate an apple from your garden without asking you — so today I have come to ask for your permission for having taken it,” the young man humbly admitted.
“By God, I will not forgive you! In fact, I am angry with you until the Day of Judgment — which is when I shall complain to Him about you!” Declared the owner.
Tears ran down the cheeks of our young man upon hearing his worst fears confirmed. He began to plead for forgiveness and fully showed his remorse. However, the owner refused to pardon him and grew even more stubborn, and started to walk back home. The young man followed right behind him and continued to ask for pardon until the garden owner entered his home and left him begging outside.
The young man refused to leave without making things right, and he remained outside the door hoping to ask again for forgiveness when the garden-owner would go for evening prayer [̔ aṣr]. When he did come out, he found the young man waiting with teary-red eyes and a face soaked in tears… his face glowed with such a light that outshone even his usual appearance of faith and knowledge.
“Sir, I am ready to work in your gardens without any payment for the rest of my life; I am willing to do this or anything else you wish! I only ask for your forgiveness,” the lad pleaded again. Hearing this offer, the garden-owner stopped to think for some time.
“Son, I am ready to forgive you — but on one condition.”
“Anything, sir! Give me any condition you wish!”
“You shall marry my daughter!” The owner proclaimed, and the youth was shocked.
“Well son… you must know that my daughter is blind, deaf and cannot speak — and she cannot walk either. For a long time I have been looking for a husband whom I can trust to take care of her, and accept her as she is with all her conditions. So I will forgive you for your theft — only if you accept her in marriage,” the owner explained.
The young lad’s mind whirled as he imagined living with such a burden, especially since he was just young and only starting to earn a living. How could such a wife take care of him and look after his house when she had such defects? He wondered how he could have any relationship with such a woman at all…
But then he reminded himself, Have patience regarding her, and at least save yourself from the eternal punishment that apple would cause you. Truly this life is short — and so a burden in it, is not a burden at all. He strengthened his resolve.
“Sir, I have accepted your daughter and I ask God to reward me for my intention; that He reward me with something better than what He inflicted me with,” he stated solemnly.
“Then we’ll celebrate your marriage [walīmah] at my place next Thursday — and I will be responsible for her dowry [mahr],” the owner concluded.
OUR YOUNG LAD WALKED with heavy steps; he carried a broken heart unlike any other groom on his wedding day. He hesitated to knock on the door and meet his fate, but it was already done. His father-in-law spoke to him a bit.
“Now feel free to enter the room where your bride is waiting. May God bestow His blessings [barakah] on and around you both! May He send upon both of you all goodness and mercy!” The father opened the door to where his daughter was waiting.
Our young man saw a girl whose face was whiter than than the Moon, whose hair hung loosely at her shoulders like silk. The young husband was stuck staring at this woman — this must be one of the Ladies of Paradise, he thought, who for some reason had come down to Earth!
“Peace be upon you, my husband,” she stood up and said.
He couldn’t believe his eyes or understand what was happening! He wondered why her dad said such awful things about his own daughter. The confusion in his eyes was so clear that the new wife grabbed hold of her husband’s hand and explained to him:
“I am blind from looking towards forbidden things; I am deaf from listening to forbidden talk; and I am unable to speak about forbidden things. My feet, too, do not walk towards the forbidden,” she explained, and he beamed with joy as he realized the Mercy of his Gracious Master.
“I am the only child of my father, and for many years now he has been searching for a good, pious husband for me. So when a young man came to him crying for pardon because he ate an apple, he told me, ‘Whoever fears eating a single apple he hasn’t asked permission for — he will surely look after my daughter and fear God enough to be good to her,’” she continued.
“So congratulations to me for having you as a husband, and congratulations to my dad for having you as his son-in-law!”
This blessed couple would have a son, who would then have a daughter he named Hanīfah.
Read this section only after thinking on this story yourself, and perhaps after re-reading it as well. Hearing someone else’s opinion before forming your own makes it easy to simply think like them, and harder to think your own original thoughts. This reflection is what gives value to what you just spent a prtion your life reading.
This marriage was decided based on piety — just as advised by the Messenger, may prayers and peace be upon him, and not for material concerns.
“A woman is married for four reasons: her property, her status, her beauty, and her religion. Thus, give precedence to the one with religion. …”1
The young man had no wealth as seen from his heavy hunger, and the father even had to cover his dowry for him! According to many people today, such a couple of have no right getting married to each other. But not only does that go against the clear counsel of the Prophet, greetings and peace be upon him, but also creates immense trials for people.
“When someone proposes marriage to one of you whose religion and character pleases you, then you should marry him. If you do not do so, there will be tribulations in the earth and the proliferation of corruption.”2
Looking through Reddit’s Muslim community, one of the most common concerns is marriage. Societal expectations, parental barriers, and the like all become obstacles from doing what is right, and can even help lead someone to the forbidden.
We must remember that our partner has already been decided by Him — so how foolish is it to worry about it, or take forbidden means towards it? Trust. Practically, parents supporting their kids so they can get married earlier than today’s norm can help prevent much evil.
Stories like this remind us that even if someone is not doing their part to look for a spouse (which we should), if the Provider wills we will get married. Think about this story: the young man stole something — that too from another Muslim whom he was supposed to protect! What did God do to him after that? Gave him a dream-like marriage. This is God’s Mercy.
Furthermore, this sort of blessed match is not something limited to the past; it happens here and now as well. Read this example from just one generation ago.
If we were in this man’s spot we would think, it’s just an apple I stole, not worth this much trouble. He’s Most Merciful, so let’s move on! But it’s from the young man’s deep knowledge that he knows how heavy a sin against someone actually is, that repentance from transgression against other people requires repaying the debt or seeking their pardon. And then it’s from the deepest of faith that he could apply what he knew.
“With regard to sins that have to do with the rights of other people, they can only be expiated by repenting from them. One of the conditions of repenting from them is restoring the rights of those who have been wronged.”3
Moreover, he embodied plain and simple reliance on God. When there is a difficult choice to make, someone can take the easy and ‘logical’ path, or take a harder choice for the sake of God forsaking your own comfort relying on Him that it will all work out best — in the Afterlife if not now.
In this story, there are two different hard choices to make; first admitting his error for stealing that apple by determinedly apologizing, and then accepting marriage with owner’s “impaired” daughter. He succeeded in both tests and was rewarded accordingly.
“Moreover, He shall provide for him from where he has never conceived. Thus whoever relies on God, then He is sufficient for him. …” (Qur’ān 65:3, as interpreted by Dr. Zakī Ḥammād)
Let us imagine ourselves in such situations — even if we decided to apologize, wouldn’t we have given up after a few tries, or when we heard the heavy condition of that marriage? It is the elect of the elect who could have passed such a trial, and we get to see how the Most Merciful rewards them in this life — and we can only imagine what awaits them in the next.
Let’s always remember Who is controlling every situation, Who is testing us, Who is protecting us, Who is helping us, and Who will recompense us. Remembrance is thus key.
The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Woe to the one who speaks lies to make people laugh. Woe to him! Woe to him!”4
Looking at the words spoken by the dad, none of it was ever a lie — it was simply unclear words that could mislead someone into an incorrect interpretation of them. He said she was blind. She explained later that she actually was blind — but only from seeing forbidden things. So the father actually said the truth, techincally.
He was not joking, but the tactic used here is the one used for the most preferable method of joking where only true words are used to make a misleading point in order to produce humor. This is how the Beloved, greetings and peace be upon him, used to have fun with his companions - may God be pleased with them.
It was said, “O Messenger of God, do you joke with us?” The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, I do not say anything but the truth.”5
See some examples of the Prophetic humor here, where the truth is always upheld.
However we must not joke excessively, or fall into using misleading words frequently.6
What wisdom have you gathered from this story? Let me know from the contact link at the bottom and I’ll put it here, if God wills, like a curated comments section.
The couple are the parents of Abū Hanīfa according to the sources found — and this fact has been only hinted at in the body of the story. This is because, any mention of this story online has been followed up by people debating that it’s someone else’s parents actually, and they completely miss the point of the story and lose out on its benefits.
The wording of this story is taken from this Ummah.com forum post — but worry not! It is also found on page 261 of Darussalam’s great Gems and Jewels, compiled by Abdul-Malik Mujahid. That is the strongest source found for this story.
The essence of the story is the same in both sources, but the forum post made the story longer and built it up by detailing actions (eg. saying he got up and walked until he got to a place, instead of merely stating he arrived at the place) — and so the write up is done off of the forum post version. The forum post has then been edited heavily; this is no academic source because it retells the story as storytellers do — emphasizing, stretching and striking in order to strengthen it’s message.
- Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 4802, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1466 [return]
- Sunan at-Tirmiḍī 1084 [return]
- Expiation for Transgression Against Rights of Others — An excellent reader on the topic [return]
- Sunan Abū Dāwūd 4990 [return]
- Sunan at-Tirmiḍī 1990 [return]
- Is It Impermissible to Tell Inappropriate Jokes? — A reader on the juristic details of joking [return]