Issue 72 / November - December 2009
An Epic from the Epoch of Qur'an and Epical Deeds
Abdullah Bin Mubarak
I was on my journey to Hajj. Travelling through the lands of Iraq and Syria, I came across an old woman all on her own. I greeted her and she answered me with the verse, âPeace! is the word from the Lord All-Compassionateâ (Ya Sin 36:58). âWhat are you doing here?â I asked her. She replied, âWhomever God leads astray there is no one to guide him; and He leaves them wandering blindly in their rebellion.â (Aâraf 7:186). I realized that she was lost. Asked where she was travelling to, she answered me with the verse, âAll-Glorified is He Who took His servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque the environs of which We have blessed, so that We might show him some of Our signs. Surely He is the One Who hears and seesâ (Israâ 17:1). I realized that she had fulfilled her duty of Hajj in the previous group and now was travelling to Quds (Jerusalem).
âHow long have you been lost?â I asked her. âFor three nightsâ (Maryam 19:10) was her Qurâanic rejoinder. I offered her food. She replied with, âObserve the Fast until night sets inâ (Baqarah 2:187). âYes, but we are not in the month of Ramadan,â said I. âWhoever does a good work voluntarily, surely God is All-Responsive to thankfulness, All-Knowingâ (Baqarah 2:158) was her response. âIt is permissible to break fast on a journey,â I informed her. âYet better it is for him who volunteers greater good, and that you should fast (when you are able to) is better for you, if you but knew (the worth of fasting)â (Baqarah 2:184) she responded.
I asked her why she did not converse in the way I conversed. âNot a word does he/she utter but there is a watcher by him/her, ever-present,â (Qaf 50:18) recited she. I put a question to her: âWhere do you belong?â âDo not follow that of which you have no knowledge, and refrain from groundless assertions and conjectures. Surely the hearing, the sight, and the heart â each of these is subject to questioning about itâ (Israâ 17:35) was her Qurâanic response. âI sinned; please forgive me,â I pleaded. âNo reproach this day shall be on you. May God forgive you; indeed, He is the Most Merciful of the mercifulâ (Yusuf 12:92) said she. I offered to let her ride on my camel so as to deliver her swiftly to her convoy. âWhatever good you do, surely God has full knowledge of itâ (Baqarah 2:215) she thanked me. I brought my camel and as she was about to mount on the animal, she said, âTell the believing men that they should restrain their gazeâ (Nur 24:30). I cast my eyes down. Just as she was about to climb on the camel, the animal shied and moved forward, and her clothing was torn a little. âWhatever affliction befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned,â (Shura 42:30) she murmured. âBe patient, let me hold the camel!â said I. Reciting the verse, âWe made Solomon understand the case more clearly. We granted each of them sound, wise judgment and knowledgeâ (Anbiya 21:79) she said, implying that I was more successful at controlling the camel. She mounted the camel and recited the verses, âSo that you sit secure on their backs, (and), then remember and reflect on the favor of your Lord when you settle securely on them, and say: All-Glorified is He Who has subjugated this to our use. We were never capable (of accomplishing this by ourselves). And surely, to our Lord we are indeed bound to returnââ (Zukhruf 13â14). âCome on!â said I, so as to urge the camel on. âBe modest in your bearing, and subdue your voice. For certain, the most repugnant of voices is the braying of donkeys,â (Luqman 31:19) she warned me. While walking, I began to recite poetry. âRecite from the Qurâan what is easy for you!â (Muzzammil 73:20) was her advice. âBut reciting poetry is not forbidden in Islam!â I protested. âHe grants the Wisdom to whomever He wills, and whoever is granted the Wisdom has indeed been granted much good. Yet none except people of discernment reflect and are mindfulâ (Baqarah; 269) was her reply.
We travelled for a long while; later I asked her whether she was married. âO you who believe! Do not ask about things which, if made manifest to you, would give you troubleâ (Maidah 5:101) she snapped back. Soon, we caught up with her convoy, and I asked her, âDo you know anybody in the caravan?â âWealth and children are an adornment of the present, worldly life!â (Kahf 18:46) said she, and I realized that she had children. I asked her their names. âGod accepted Ibrahim as a friend; spoke to Musa; O Yahya! Hold fast to the Book!â (Nisa 4:125, 164; Maryam 19:12) was the answer. I called towards the caravan, âO Ibrahim, O Musa, O Yahya!â Three saintly-faced youths quickly appeared. She gave them money, reciting the verse, âSend one of you to the city with this coin of yours: let him see what food is most pure there (and so lawful), and bring a supply from it. But let him behave with utmost care and guarded courtesy,â (Kahf 18:19). When her children brought the food, she recited the verse, âEat and drink to your heartsâ content for all that you sent ahead in advance in days pastâ (Haqqah 69:24).
I told her children that if they would not tell me the reason why their mother talked in that way, I would not touch even the smallest part of the food. âOur mother,â they said, âfor fear that she might blurt out some foul words that would call down Godâs wrath, has been speaking through the Holy Qurâan for the last forty years.ââ
Abdullah bin Mubarak (d. 797 AH) was an important figure from the second generation after the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Suat Erguvan is the Academic Coordinator of the Rumi Forum, Islamabad.