This story 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.
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 [̔ aṣr]. 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 he could 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 [walīmah] 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 so clear that the new wife held his hands and explained to him:
“I am blind—from looking at forbidden things. 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 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 dad for having you as his son-in-law!”
This blessed couple would have a son, who would then have a daughter they named Ḥanīfah.
Read this section only after thinking about the story yourself, and maybe after re-reading it too. Hearing someone else’s opinion before forming your own prevents reaching original thoughts. Reflecting on the story will give true value to what you just spent a portion your life reading.
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 so on become 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: the young man stole something—that too from another Muslim whom he is bound to protect, honor and love! What did God do to him because of that? Gave him a dream-like marriage. This is God’s Mercy.
Furthermore, 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 immediately 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” (Qur’ān 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 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!”5
Looking at the words spoken by the father, nothing he said was a *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 lost people’s trust.7
The couple are actually the parents of Imam Abu Hanifa, according to the sources found. This fact was only hinted at in the body of the story because any mention of this story online has been followed up by people debating that it’s someone else’s parents. The actual purpose and benefit of this story is independent of that, and so not mentioning this detail directly is to keep focus on the main point.
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 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).
What wisdom have you gathered from this story?
- 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]
- From The Gracious Quran by Dr. Zaki Hammad [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]