An Unwilling Marriage
IN THE FIRST CENTURY after the Migration [hijrah], there lived a pious man who constantly sought knowledge. He 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. He went out to search for something to eat while his stomach burdened him more and more. He wandered towards one of the lush gardens that lined the long roads. This was a garden full of apple trees—their branches drooped over the fence and onto the road due to the weight of their juicy fruits.
The 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! Nothing would happen if he ate just one apple from this giant orchard…
The young man plucked an apple and ate it, and satisfied his burning hunger.
As he walked back home, however, his consciousness [nafs] started to ache. He questioned what he had done. How could I eat an apple from another Muslim’s wealth and possession, without asking for his permission before taking it? I’m not even asking the owner for forgiveness after I stole from him! Woe upon me!
Determined to correct his mistake, the young lad rose the next morning and searched for the garden’s owner. He quickly found him:
“Sir, extreme hunger got hold of me yesterday and I ate an apple from your garden without asking you. Today I have come to ask for your permission after having taken it,” the young man humbly admitted.
“By God, I do not forgive you! In fact, I am angry with you until the Day of Judgment. On that Day I will complain to God about you!” Declared the owner.
Tears ran down the cheeks of the young man as his worst fears were confirmed. He began to plead the owner for forgiveness and fully showed his regret. However, the owner actually grew 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.
He remained outside the door hoping to ask again for forgiveness when the garden-owner would leave for the evening prayer [̔'asr]. At that time, he found the young man waiting with teary-red eyes and a face soaked in tears… his face glowed with 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 young man 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 will marry my daughter!” The owner proclaimed, and the youth was shocked.
“But 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 her conditions. So I will forgive you for your theft only if you accept her in marriage” the owner explained.
The young man’s mind spun as he imagined a future with such a burden, especially since he was just young and barely earning a living. How could such a wife take care of him and look after his house when she had such defects? How could he have a relationship with such a woman at all?
But then he reminded himself, Persevere with this terrible marriage and get pardon—that would save yourself from the eternal punishment. Truly this life is short: a burden in it, is not a burden at all. He strengthened his resolve, and agreed:
“Sir, I accept your daughter and I ask God to reward me for my intention—that He reward me with something better than what He has inflicted me with,” he stated solemnly.
“Then we’ll celebrate your marriage [walimah] at my place next Thursday. I’ll be responsible for her dowry [mahr], then,” the owner concluded.
THE YOUNG LAD WALKED to his bride’s home with heavy steps. He hesitated to knock on the door and meet his fate, but the matter was already sealed. His father-in-law let him in, and they spoke a bit.
“Now, feel free to enter the room where your wife 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.
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—was this his wife?! Why had her father said such awful things about his own daughter? The confusion in his eyes was clear so she held his hands and explained to him:
“I am blind—from looking at forbidden sights. I am deaf—to forbidden talk. And I am unable to speak—about forbidden things. My feet, too, do not walk towards the forbidden,” she explained. The young man smiled, and then laughed with joy as he realized the sheer mercy of his Gracious Master.
“I am the only child of my father, who for many years had been searching for a good, righteous husband for me. So when a young man came to him crying for forgiveness just because he ate a single apple, he told me, ‘Whoever fears God enough that stealing a single apple drives him to tears… such a man will surely look after my daughter and fear God enough to be good to her!'” his wife continued.
“So congratulations to me for having you as a husband, and congratulations to my father for having you as his son-in-law!”
This blessed couple would name their son Nuʿman, and he later became the father of Hanifa.
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