The point of this entire article could be summarized as: Read the Quran! So instead of staying here, go read it and reflect—that’d be better for both you and me. I highly recommend The Gracious Quran translation, article about it in progress!
The Importance of Stories
One of the best ways to improve ourselves is to spend time with righteous people. People who inspire by their actions, uphold their duty to advise, and try their best to stay away from the bad. These are the people we 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 God’s Control, like everything 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.
A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends. (Sunan Abī Dāwūd)
Regardless, we need to socialize and be with people. 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 pursued—we will become who we spend time with.
But if we cannot find good company, how should we fulfill our need for it? By reading stories of righteous people.
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. (Mawlana Ashraf ʿAlī Thanwī)
God, His Glory be glorified, has given all people an immense empathy. Empathy allows us to relate with other people’s feelings and experiences, so much that we feel them ourselves. It’s so powerful that we find it acceptable 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. We human beings experience stories as if we are in them, and the characters are our close friends.
Stories are the armies of Allah by which He strengthens the hearts of the seekers. (Imām Abul-Qāsim Junayd)
Thus, we can use this characteristic to fulfill our need for righteous company. By reading stories of virtuous people we can spend time with them, in a way. Reading stories of the righteous is like having righteous company.
Stories can be even better than actual company, because only the dead are safe to follow. The living have yet to succeed and may even fail, so following them while their final destination is not clear can lead us to doom along with them. We can accompany the dead by learning (and through empathy, living) their stories.
Discussing and sharing the stories of the pious scholars is more beloved to me than studying fiqh. (Imām Abū Ḥanīfa)
Also, stories and examples are used by the greatest Teacher in His Scriptures to teach the worst of all students: the forgetful humankind. Thus there is no more fitting a substitute for righteous company than stories of the righteous. The Prophets, peace be upon them all, were righteous company for their companions. Now, their stories are our good company.
Read the stories of the righteous, for that has a profound effect on the heart. (Shaykh Yaḥyā Rhodus, paraphrased)
If we are unable to witness actions that speak a thousand words, let us at least seek out words that can show us those actions. Without further ado, the stories:
- 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—only because he feared Allah the Exalted. He chose to rely upon God and tried to please Him, making this story a striking reminder that if someone trusts Him, they will never be disappointed.
- As we become shier to live our faith, if we do so in the first place, this is the story of someone who knew his humble position in the world and sincerely wanted to 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 the great stories heard or read online, and also a few experiences from this day and age. These are already available, but they are often structured poorly or feature linguistic errors. Sometimes, different sources have different wordings and details as well.
The stories will thus be re-written. Punctuation and grammar will be refined. The plot of each story will also be adjusted to maximise readability and emphasize the morals. Just as storytellers edit the stories they tell, this series focuses on the purpose of each story instead of verbatim accuracy.
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 analysis. Writing them is a new effort and would also help those with hearing challenges.
In addition to retelling stories, reflections on their content and lessons will be provided. 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 starting point to explore related ideas and learn much more.
But most important is your own reflection and thought about the story. Why did the story feel so moving to me? Do I relate to it somehow? What have I learnt? How will I live differently in light of the lesson? 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 of the truly righteous.
Finally, in-depth sourcing will be provided for each story. Stories curently available online are often uncited and lack any source, but that will be corrected here. 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 them (their details and wording) to get a fuller version of the story. All while keeping in mind whether the story truly happened or not doesn’t change its benefit for us.
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 💗.