This marriage was decided based on piety, just as advised by the Messenger of God, 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 pay the dowry on his behalf! 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 difficulty 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 more become unnecessary obstacles from doing what is good, and can lead people to forbidden actions.
At the same time, we must remember that our partner has already been decided by God—how foolish is it to worry about something under His control? Or even take forbidden means towards it? Trust God, then take action yourself towards the best outcome in the best way.
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 so we will get married.
Think about this story in summary: the young man stole something—that too from another Muslim whom he is bound to protect, honor and love extra! What did God do to him because of that? Gave him a dream-like marriage. This is God’s Mercy.
Finally, this sort of blessed match is not something limited to ‘special’ people from the past; it happens here and now as well. Read this example from just one generation ago.
If we were in this young man’s place, we would think, I just stole one apple, it’s not worth this much trouble. God is the Most Merciful, so I’ll just move on! But it’s from the young man’s deep knowledge that he knows how heavy a sin against someone actually is. Repentance from wronging other people requires repaying that debt or seeking their pardon. And then it’s from the deepest of faith that he could apply what he knew and take the right action.
“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 embodies 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. The latter choice means giving up our own comfort, just relying on Him that it will all work out best—in the Afterlife if not now. This is faith.
In this story, there are two hard choices to make: first admitting his error for stealing an apple and determinedly apologizing, and then accepting marriage with the owner’s ‘impaired’ daughter. Note that both challenges were caused by his initial error—but instead of delivering punishment immediately, Allah offers his slaves numerous chances to make up for their errors, and even rise to higher ranks. The young man succeeded in both his tests and was rewarded accordingly. This is the Mercy of Allah!
“Moreover, He shall provide for him from where he has never conceived. Thus whoever relies on God, then He is sufficient for him. God shall, indeed, attain His purpose. Truly, for all things God has apportioned a due measure” (Quran 65:3)4
Let us imagine ourselves in such a situation: even if we decided to apologize to the one we wronged, wouldn’t we have given up after a few tries, or when we heard the heavy condition of that marriage? It is the best of the best who could have passed such a trial, and we get to see how the Most Merciful rewards them in this life. We can only imagine what awaits them in the Hereafter!
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, not just on the lips but in the heart.
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Woe to the one who speaks lies to make people laugh. Woe to him! Woe to him!”5
Looking at the words spoken by the father: nothing he said was a full lie. He used unclear words that can mislead someone into an incorrect interpretation. He said she was blind, and she explained later that she actually was blind—but only from seeing forbidden things, instead of everything like originally implied. So the father technically said the truth.
He was not joking, but the tactic used here is an example of the most preferred 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 Allah 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.”6
See some examples of the Prophetic humor here, where the truth is always upheld while making fun.
At the same time we must not joke excessively, or fall into using misleading words regularly and so lose people’s trust.7
Source of this Story
The couple in the story are the parents of Imam Abu Hanifa, according to the sources found. I did not mention this originally when I wrote this post because any mention of this detail leads to fruitless debate. The actual purpose and benefit of this story has nothing to do with the people in this story, but everything to do with their actions.
The bulk of the wording of this story is taken from this Ummah.com forum post. More authoritatively, the story is also found on page 261 of Darussalam’s Gems and Jewels by Imam Abdul-Malik Mujahid. That is the strongest source found for this story at this time.
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 that he arrived at the place).
This story and reflection is part of the Stories of the Righteous project, which shares narratives that inspire reform, faith and piety in all who read them—trying to fulfill our need for righteous company in a time when it’s hard to find
Expiation for Transgression Against Rights of Others — An excellent reader on the topic ↩︎