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Short Stories

By:
Martyr Bint Al-Huda

THE HOMELESS AUNT
Khadijah listened as her aunt tearfully complained to them about her miserable situation. She was saying, "So you see, I have received nothing for my trouble. Both of my children disregard all that I have suffered for their sake. I sold my last gold ornament to send my daughter abroad. I have mortgaged my house twice to enable my son to become a doctor. I sold a valuable carpet so that I could buy a colour T .V. to please my daughter. Do they appreciate or even remember such sacrifices? No. My son wants me to stay away from his home since his wife can't tolerate my presence in the company of her aristocratic visitors. She says she wants to be free in my son's house, as if I deprived her of her freedom.”
“I thought that my daughter would be happy to have me live in her house. She is my only daughter. You remember how I helped her to live a life free from worry. Do you know how she treated me in return? Like a maid in her service who should clean her house for her and look after her child while she and her husband spent their time at theaters and clubs. Yesterday, she was out until one in the morning. Her child cried and cried and I couldn’t calm him. When she finally came home, I was tired and complained about her behavior. I wanted her to treat me like her mother, not like a servant or a baby sitter….”
“Can you guess what she said to me? Without any shame, she told me that since she gave me shelter and food, I had no cause to complain. She also told me that she valued her freedom and was not ready change for the sake of either her child or her mother."
She wept bitterly, unable to continue. Khadijah gave her something to drink and Khadijah's mother tried to comfort her sister. Khadijah told her aunt gently, “…It is a pity that you have taken so much trouble to raise your children. You have brought them up in such away that you yourself produced the present state of affairs. You thought that your daughter's happiness could be found in unlimited freedom, and, as a result, she did not learn what her responsibilities were towards you. You helped her neglect her religious duties. Your methods have backfired. She enjoyed life to the utmost without the least concern for Allah, and she forgot the high position Allah the almighty has assigned to a mother. She forgot the Qur'anic verse: And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, reprimand them not, nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion and say: Oh, my Lord! Have compassion on them as they brought me up. (al-Isra, 23 & 24)
And the Qur'anic verse: “...and keep up prayer, surely prayer is timed ordinance for the believers” (al-Nisa, 103)
"You should have taught her the verse in the Holy Qur'an concerning hijab," continued Khadijah, “...and let them (women) wear their covering over their bosoms and not display of their ornaments..” (al-Nisa, 31)
"The result of being raised with no regard to religious duties is always deviation from the right path. There is a great difference between one who spends long hours watching television and indecent films and a person who spends his nights reading religious books which tell him that caring for parents is equal to worshipping Allah, and that Paradise lies at the feet of mothers. You have sold your gold ornament," she continued, "and sent your daughter abroad, but you have forgotten that such travel can uproot all good instincts still buried within her conscience. She has returned to you a figure empty of compassion."
Her aunt sighed deeply and said, "You are quite right, Khadijah. It is my own fault, but I have realized this too late. I followed my husband's advice, which was to raise my children free of all complexes, and to allow them to have whatever they desired. Now, I see how mistaken I have been. Your parents, who brought you up with much attention to religious instructions, are quite happy with you." Khadijah replied, "They are happy as well with my husband and with my brother's wife. My husband encourages me to fulfil my duty towards my parents in order to please Almighty Allah."
Her aunt then said, "I wish I had chosen a righteous husband for my daughter to help her rid herself of all deviation. She should not have married a man who gambles and drinks."
Khadijah then asked, “Why did you agree to such a marriage?"
"It was his expensive car that attracted my daughter, and the high dowry impressed me and prompted me to accept him as a son-in-law," replied her aunt. Sorrowfully, Khadijah said, "Oh, how frank you are, dear aunt! It is a pity that you have realized the truth too late. May Allah save you from this loss, since you admit your fault."
The aunt spent a week in her sister's house, and during that time neither her daughter nor her son showed any concern for her well-being. Khadijah's mother wanted her sister to live with them, but their house was small. The aunt was seriously pressed for a place to live. One morning, Khadijah and her husband said to her, “Please come and stay with us. We really would like to have you. Don't disappoint us."
"Oh, I am a broken-hearted woman. What can I do for you ?” her aunt replied. Then she accepted their kind offer gratefully. Khadijah mentioned a narration of the Prophet of Islam (s) in this regard, which states: A Muslim believer came to the Prophet (s) and asked what he could do to please Allah. The Prophet (s) asked him if he had a mother, and the man said: “No". Then the Prophet (s) asked if he had an aunt, and he answered: "Yes". The Prophet (s) recommended that he should look after her and love her because she had the same position as mother. The aunt feared that she would be a burden to them.
But Khadijah's husband said, "Please do not say such a thing. I lost my mother too early in life to enjoy her love and care. Perhaps Allah has sent you to make up for that loss. You can live with us and you can receive your son and daughter here whenever you like."
Khadijah's mother, who was seated nearby, said, "They are quite serious about wanting you to live with them. I would be very happy to know that you are near my daughter."
The aunt moved to her new home and was comfortable and at ease for the first time in her life. She never felt like an intruder, and Khadijah accompanied her when she attended religious meetings. The aunt benefited very much from these meetings and enhanced her religious knowledge. She compared Khadijah's happy marriage to her daughter's. She could feel the harmony and spiritual understanding between Khadijah and her husband, and recalled her daughter's life, which was full of quarrels resulting from jealousy, selfishness and indifference. She could easily differentiate between the normal, healthy life of her niece and the disturbed, unnatural one of her daughter. She could do nothing but pray to Allah to guide her daughter and son to the right path.
Early one morning a few months later, the doorbell rang continuously, and Khadijah hurried to open it. She was surprised to see her cousin standing at the door, carrying her child in her arms. Her eye was black and she looked pale. Khadijah welcomed her cousin and took her to her mother's room. The mother was surprised to see her daughter, and she rushed towards her to take her in her arms. She thought that her daughter longed to see her and she had regretted her past behaviour. But her daughter sat down on the nearest chair without the faintest idea of her mother's feelings.
The daughter said, “My husband has turned me out of our house, as if I were a piece of used furniture that could be replaced." Her mother's face grew pale and she said, “He turned you out? When? How?"
Her daughter replied, "Oh, mother. You know how he is. He returns home late every evening, quite drunk. He throws himself on the bed dead with sleep. When I object to his behaviour, he reminds me of our deal that we should respect each other's freedom. I can do nothing but keep silent, since this idea of freedom was my wish from the beginning. But things have grown worse recently. He has started to help himself by my salary and deprived me of my rights in my house.
"Yesterday he said he would no longer tolerate the chains of marriage and made me leave my own home. I spent the night in the garden. I have nowhere to go! My only brother won't allow me to stay in his house. I have none to turn to but you."
Her mother did not know what to say. She thought her niece was kind enough to have her in her house. Could she bring someone else to live with her? It was too much a favor to ask. Khadijah, who had heard everything, knew of her aunt's hidden suffering. She decided to save her the trouble. She told her cousin, "You have done the correct thing by coming to your mother. She will be happy to have you with her until things get better."
The distraught young woman thanked her cousin for her kind help and said, "Oh, how grateful I am to you, Khadijah! You have been so kin d to my mother. Now you are doing me a great favor."
Khadijah smiled and said, "Oh, don't say such things. You should consider this house as your own." The aunt was so moved that she rushed to Khadijah and kissed her. She said, "How wonderful you are, my dear! What great faith you have."
Khadijah whispered into her ear, "Please aunt, tell your daughter to wear her hijab as long as she is in our house." The aunt answered immediately, "Oh, yes, I have Already decided to do so."
She settled herself near her daughter and said "I have never felt such comfort in my life as I feel here. I have found in your cousin Khadijah and her husband love and care that I never found in you and your brother. You are my own children, but you showed ingratitude towards me, while my niece and her husband flood me with kind feelings. I wish you knew the reason." She was silent for a while. Then her daughter said, "Oh, mother, surely it is faith in Allah and His Pleasure that dominates their life, while we lack such faith."
"Praise is due to Allah the Almighty that you have realized the truth by yourself I" said her mother. "Therefore, you should start to show regret for the past and return to religion by first wearing your hijab." The daughter looked down at the floor and was silent. Then Khadijah said “..I think she has found out what happens when one neglects one's religion. She now feels the importance of Islamic ethics."
Her cousin looked up at her and said “You are right, Khadijah. I am tired of this life of pretence. I need someone to lead me and teach me true faith and real salvation with no submission to other's wishes and desires. But I can't help wondering what people will say about me."
Khadijah replied, “You always tried to please people in the past, which made you their slave. You have gained nothing from that but false happiness. You have wasted years, running the wrong way. Now, it is time for you to come back to your religion and understand Islamic values in order to gain happiness in this life and the Hereafter."
“Will Allah accept my repentance after years of deviation?", her cousin asked.
“Yes, of course, Allah loves those who repent and hates those who insist on doing wrong." Then Khadijah recited the Qur'anic verse: “Do they not know that Allah accepts repentance from his servants and takes the alms, and that Allah is All Compassionate? Say: Work and Allah will see your (good) work and so will His Apostle and the believers ...” (al-Bara’at, 104 & 105)
The cousin spent a few weeks with her mother. She was greatly affected by Khadijah's strong faith. Khadijah did her best to help her, and she gave her some Islamic books that she read and discussed later. Khadijah's cousin eventually became a good Muslim, and she knew she could no longer live with a man addicted to drinking and gambling. She filed for divorce. She gave up all her rights to her home in return for keeping her only child. She intended to raise him to be a good believer.

A MUSLIM STUDENT'S DIARY
I was feeling depressed yesterday because of Layla's words. She tried to prejudice the class against me, saying that my Islamic dress was nothing but immature behavior designed to attract attention. Her words were cutting and left me spiritually hurt. How difficult it is when a woman doubts her purpose in life! She often acts harshly towards Muslim women. I was shocked, dismayed and hurt by her words.
I thought about the matter at home and sought guidance from Allah. I realized that I was not immature, as Layla had claimed. In fact, being an adolescent is but a stage of an individual's physical and mental growth. At this stage, knowledge flourishes and rids itself of childhood confusion. One becomes used to life's contradictions.
Hence, my attitude towards hijab is not abnormal. I rationalized that attracting attention is not accomplished by wearing long garments, but through dressing without hijab. I used to go out in public without Islamic dress before Allah guided me to the right path. I could actually feel the sharp looks of men wherever I went. I always noticed and was embarrassed by their looks
and their obvious pleasure at seeing an unlimited exposure of beauty. Now that I have my hijab on, what can they be attracted to? If they look, they see nothing to excite them. This hijab reminds them that a Sacred Law protects the blessed creatures of the Creator.
I have come to a conclusion: Layla does not understand her words and I only feel sorry for her. Her beauty may become spoiled by this corrupted society. I pray to Allah to help me guide her in understanding Islam.
Feb. 7th, 19...
Yesterday I was. waiting for my friend, Wala, to come over so we could study for exams together. She did not 15 show up, and I became worried. I waited for her to phone me but she didn't. She has just now phoned to apologize and to tell me that she isn't feeling well. I wished her a speedy recovery.
I like Wala very much because she is a good Muslim. Our beliefs, dreams and hopes are the same. We became friends at the beginning of the school years. Harmony in beliefs and ideals brings strangers together, while disputes always leave close friends apart.
Today we are going to have our weekly Islamic meeting. We shall recite some Qur'anic verses and try to understand their meaning, than we will discuss religious subjects. I wonder if Wala is coming.
Feb.12th,19...
Our meeting last week was a real success. Despite her illness, Wala attended and gave an interesting lecture about religion's sublime aim. I, in turn, spoke about the issue of obedience and disobedience in regard to Islamic instructions. One of the sisters complained of her mother's insistence that she not wear hijab. This Muslim girl wondered if she had to obey her mother's orders, since obeying parents is a religious duty. I explained to her that she should obey her parent’s orders as long as their rules did not violate religious instructions or cause Allah's displeasure. She can disobey her mother and keep her hijab to please her Creator.
March 2nd, 19...
I have really tried hard to make Layla listen to me. She has often been unyielding; however, I won't give up. I feel she has changed a bit. I gave her some Islamic books about why women should dress modestly. She accepted the books and promised to read them and discuss them with me.
When I visited Layla's home yesterday, she gave me a warm welcome. I shall never regret this visit. We discussed the Islamic books and she asked whether she could continue her high school studies with hijab. I assured her that Islam has ordered both men and women to seek knowledge. The Prophet's hadith relates: "It is an Islamic duty for men and women to learn."
March 11th,19...
How happy I am! I have seen Layla wearing her Islamic dress in school. She has become a good Muslim girl. In our history lesson today, the teacher claimed that if the Holy Qur'an were revealed today, it would not order woman to wear hijab, since woman today plays a significant role in society. She cannot be isolated within the house. I asked the teacher to allow me to answer her point of view. I told the class that:" Throughout history woman has been involved in society. In fact, she played a significant role in ancient civilizations. Women were queens and empresses. In the Holy Qur'an, for instance, the Queen of Saba is mentioned: Surely I found a woman ruling over them and she has been given abundance and she has a mighty throne. (al-Naml, 23)
"History also tells us of Cleopatra, who ruled Egypt and resorted to suicide when she was defeated by the Roman invaders. However, past civilizations generally considered women to be inferior to men. Some religions considered woman to be unclean and did not allow her to perform religious rituals or enter places of worship.
I continued, “Islam neither isolated woman nor belittled her contributions to society. On the contrary, Islam has given a woman equal rights, as is clearly stated in the Qur'anic verse: “I will not waste the work of any worker among you whether male or a female; the one of you being from the other...I will most certainly make them enter gardens beneath which rivers flow; a reward from Allah, and with Allah is yet better reward.” (Aale-Imran, 194)
"In another Qur'anic verse concerning hijab, Islam does not address women only; men, as well, are ordered to cast down their eyes. Had Islam aimed at isolating woman, there would not have been the necessity for such an order: Say to the believing men to cast down their looks and guard their private parts... and say to the believing women to cast down their looks and guard their private parts and not to display their ornaments except what appears thereof; and let them wear their head covering over their bosoms and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers or their sons... and turn to Allah all of you, oh, believers, so that you may be successful. (al-Nur, 37)
“Islamic history illustrates the role of women in the Muslim community. Women were present at the Prophet's battles. They nursed the wounded and supplied water and food to the believers. Some even carried a sword and defended Islam. The Prophet (s) appreciated their role and gave them their share of the spoils. We also read in Islamic history that Muslim women held meetings to recite and interpret the Qur'an. Such evidence indicates that Islam never isolated women or negated their role in the community...Furthermore, hijab is necessary for woman and is in harmony with her nature and man's nature too. Men are inclined naturally towards women and women are inclined to draw men towards them. Hence the exposure of woman without hijab in society can arouse the inner instincts that lead to sexual relations that affect not only individuals, but the family and the community as well. One illustration of this is in the Western so-called civilized societies where corruption and immorality are increasing and more and more homes are being broken."
March 26th, 19...
I have noticed recently that my dear friend Saffia does not look well. Though she has not missed our meetings, I feel something is wrong with her. I wish I could help her. I know nothing about her family. May be she needs money and does not want others to know about her hardship. She is quite wrong. Muslim believers do not care for an easy life, and they are kind to each other. What counts are good, righteous deeds as mentioned in the Qur'an: As for the scum, it vanishes as jetsam, what profits men, abides in the earth.
(al-Ra'ad, 17)
April 20th, 19...
At last I have discovered the reason for Saffia's uneasiness. She lives in a humble house and thinks this may cause her to be ashamed among her friends. I managed to make her change her opinion. I told her our great Prophet (s), the greatest man in history who achieved the most sacred mission, was a poor man. He could have lived as a king or an emperor, but he did not. Fatimah (a), his daughter, lived in a humble house with a minimum of furniture. The Prophet's companions lived the same sort of humble life. History relates that a great fire broke out in Al-Madyin (in Iraq) when the companion, Salman al-Farsi, was the ruler. People rushed to save their valuable possessions, but Salman carried nothing but a small bundle of clothes, a Qur'an, a prayer rug and a water pot. He was heard to have said, “In this way, light travelers are saved."
May 2nd, 19...
I came across an old friend of mine the other day. She used to be a very optimistic and active girl with tremendous belief in Islam. She never hated others or harbored any ill intention towards anybody. She trusted all her friends and was ready to help them in order to please Almighty Allah. Anyway, it had been a long time since I last saw her. I was so happy to meet her again, but I was shocked to see that she had changed into a different person with a pessimistic view towards life. She was sad to see that those around her never differentiated between good and bad deeds. She had nearly lost confidence in everything and had resorted to living a solitary life, avoiding both friends and relatives. She was spiritually depressed. When I saw her in such a state, I realized she had been a victim of our deviated society. I told my friend, "Do you really regret your good deeds? "I felt the question put her at a loss. I hoped she would say "No", but she remained silent. I said to her gently, "Say, no, please. Doing good is something wonderful and gives spiritual satisfaction. Never regret good actions. It is enough that you can examine your deeds and find that nothing shameful stains your record. Allah will surely reward you. Don't regret anything and don't be hopeless. Life is filled with promise and there are those who appreciate good deeds. Please don't let disappointment with society cause you to hate it. If you fall, try again and remove this cloud of doubt in order to see more clearly. Keep on being a good righteous believer, think of Allah's reward and you will feel much better': she listened to me attentively and I hope my words will be of some help.
. May 22nd, 19...
Today a Muslim sister has asked me to explain a phrase in Du'a Kumail: "...Oh, Allah! I appeal to you by your Holy Names to make me pray to you day and night...
The sister asked, "How could one pray continuously day and night? We live in an age that requires cooperation with others in order for us to carry out our various jobs and daily work. How can we put aside our duties and resort to du'a all the time?" I said to her, "Be at ease, sister. We are not supposed to pray day and night. Though it is a good habit that gains reward, this is not everything. Many people glorify and praise Allah with their tongues but forget Him in their deeds. We can enrich our lives with prayer easily and without neglecting our duties. "Religious rituals, such as daily prayers, can be reflected in our actions. If you are a good housewife, then you are a righteous individual glorifying II day and night. One of the Prophet's traditions relates that a woman came to him and asked “what women could do in that way of jihad.” The Prophet (s) said, "Righteousness and good house management are features of good Muslim woman and are well-rewarded by Allah. A woman, whether a housewife or a young girl, can be in the service of Allah All the time, if she gives a helping hand to the needy for the pleasure of Allah. Any help to others for the sake of heavenly reward is a du'a and a prayer to Allah the Exalted. Any hardship endured for the sake of elevating the Word of Allah is a prayer. Any good idea on behalf of the community's welfare is an act of worship."
Reference to Allah's bounties without the notion of kibr (self-pride), can be a prayer. A smile without the intention of flattery or pretension can be a prayer to Allah. But telling a person's secrets or someone’s defect without the least necessity and for non-religious aim is disobedience to Allah's orders.
"Our final exams draw near and we should schedule our time wisely in order to pass them successfully and prove that Islamic activity can not hinder study or prevent reading. In fact, it can widen the scope of the brain and deepen thinking.

CHOOSING A WIFE
Seeing that his mother was in a good mood, Ahmad sat near her and said, 'Mother, I have an idea which should bring you much joy.” His mother answered eagerly, "My son, all that you give me makes me happy. What is on your mind?”
“You know," he told her, "I have finished my studies and can afford to begin a family. I have decided to marry."
His mother's face brightened with a smile. "This is very good news! I have long awaited such a day,” she told him. "How often I have wished you would marry one of your cousins. Praise be to Allah that you have made this decision before it is too late!." Ahmad exclaimed, "Before it's too late? What do you mean?" "Your cousin Maryam is now old enough to marry. Every day there is someone visiting her home, seeking her hand."
Ahmad sat silently for a moment and said, “Then why should we bother her suitors?"
“What do you mean, Ahmad?," asked his mother, dismayed.
"My cousin Maryam is not fit for me.”
"Why not? No, my son, you’re mistaken. I shall go and see about your engagement tomorrow," his mother told him.
Ahmad frowned and said, “No, mother. Please do not do such a thing. I will not agree to this.” "When she becomes your fiancé, you will feel love for her. Put aside your fears. Maryam is beautiful, and she has a respectable job."
Ahmad disagreed, “No. This matter only concerns me."
Ahmad's mother thought for a moment and said, “If you dislike Maryam, then there's my brother's daughter. She is as beautiful as Maryam, and she has inherited a large sum of money from my brother.
"Mother, please think about this matter from my point of view. I need someone to share my life, not a business partner.”
His mother became angry and sharply asked, “What's wrong with my niece? Why isn't she good enough to be your wife?”
Ahmad replied, “She is not a practicing Muslim. I want a Muslim wife."
Ahmad's mother laughed sarcastically and said, "You speak as if you were an angel who could only marry another angel. Why don't you stop saying such nonsense, my son? You are an educated young man, you should give up your impossible ideals.”
“I am neither an angel, nor do I seek a saint for a wife. I am a Muslim believer looking for a girl who also believes in Islam." replied Ahmad.
Ahmad's mother told him, “I don't know any girls who share your ideals."
He said, “I know someone who measures up to my expectations."
Startled by this admission, Ahmad's mother asked, “You know someone? Who is she? Since when do you begin friendship with girls?"
Ahmad answered quickly, “I didn't mean that I know a girl personally, but I know of her." "I see," she said. "You have already chosen your wife. Who is this lucky girl?" “Mother, please be more understanding. I hope you will take my side and persuade father to agree with my choice."
This appeal to Ahmad's mother softened her, and she said, “I swear that I think only of your welfare. I'll help you. Tell me, what are this girl’s qualifications?"
Ahmad told her, “Nothing matters except the religious aspect. She is Muslim, and wears complete hijab.” "Oh, then she is uneducated!" "No, she has a high school education and her religious knowledge is extensive."
Then his mother asked, “What family is she from? Do I know them?"
"She is from a good family known for their piety", Ahmad told her. "Of what use is a well-known family if a girl has no Islamic morals?" He silently beseeched Allah to give him the patience to overcome his mother's resistance. "A happy marriage doesn't depend on fame or wealth. Happiness stems from spiritual nearness and mutual understanding." Then, in a different tone of voice his mother asked,
"What does her father do for a living?" "He is a grocer," Ahmad replied.
"A grocer?!", she exclaimed. “Yes. He is a grocer and a very righteous man. He is the head of a happy and virtuous family."
Ahmad's mother interrupted him, “You are the son of a wealthy man; with your college degree you wish to marry a grocer's daughter? What a shame! Yet you ask me to assist you! If I had chosen the daughter of a jeweler, how would you feel?"
His mother replied, "There is a big difference between a jeweler and a grocer.”
“The only difference is with regard to the substance. The former sells rings and the latter sells sugar. Both work in order to earn money," Ahmad answered.
His mother lamented, "Imagine your father's reaction to this news! "
Ahmad said firmly, " This is my desire, either you help me or I'll do it myself."
He spoke so seriously that his mother laughed mockingly, saying, "Does the matter require a great effort? The least move you make, they will give their daughter to you gladly."
Ahmad shook his head in doubt and said, "Wait and see!"
“What an odd situation this is! Am I to present my son to a grocer's daughter? What special beauty does this girl possess to make you blind to every other consideration?'
“I have not yet seen her," Ahmad said.
"Then how do you know she's not ugly?" asked his mother.
"I know she is not. As far as good conduct is concerned, physical beauty is of little importance."
"Oh Ahmad, my amazement never ceases."
The next morning, Ahmad told his father of his intentions. His father became angry, but Ahmad remained determined to marry the woman of his choice. Finally his father agreed and Ahmad asked his mother to visit the girl's home to make the proposal and overcome any obstacles.
The following afternoon Ahmad's mother, accompanied by his oldest sister, went to the girl's house. On the way there, Ahmad's sister asked her mother what the girl's name was. Her mother replied, " I forgot to ask him! "When they knocked on the family's door, they were surprised to see a beautiful young girl open it. The girl was surprised to see the two unfamiliar women, but she showed them into the living room and went to tell her mother that they had visitors. Her mother welcomed the guests and waited for them to explain the reason for their visit. After exchanging greetings, Ahmad's mother asked who the young girl was who had opened the door. “It was my daughter, Zaynab," she replied. "Do you have any other daughter?" asked Ahmad's mother. “No, she's my only daughter", replied her mother. Ahmad's mother and sister were delighted to learn that the beautiful girl was Zaynab. Just then, Zaynab entered with coffee for their visitors. She sat next to Ahmad's sister and they soon found much to discuss. Then she collected the empty coffee cups and left the room.
Ahmad's mother began, "We have come with a blessed aim. We would be happy to have your daughter Zaynab as a wife for my son." She praised her son for his intelligence, his good looks and his wealth, but she neglected to mention his firm Islamic beliefs, which was very important to Zaynab's mother. Therefore, Ahmad's mother was stunned when Zaynab's mother shook her head slowly and said, “I'm very sorry. It is difficult for me to agree to this proposal; in fact, it's impossible." With much surprise, Ahmad's mother asked, “What is impossible?"
“My daughter is still young. I'm sure your son can find a girl who suits him." Ahmad's mother protested, "But Zaynab suits him well! Would you be kind enough to justify your refusal?"
“I only have one daughter, and I should be sure of her future married life."
“But Ahmad is well-off financially," said his mother. “He is an engineer!"
Zaynab's mother replied, “Zaynab would not marry someone because he is wealthy or has a college degree."
Ahmad's mother was at a loss for words. “Then what will ensure your daughter's happiness and consent?"
“When a mother looks for a wife for her son, she should mention her son's conduct.” said the mother of Zaynab. "My daughter is a committed Muslim. She wants a Muslim husband, and remember, my daughter wears hijab, and your son may want a modern wife, who dresses like his mother and sister.”
Ahmad's mother laughed with relief and told her, “You're correct. I haven't mentioned his conduct. I thought that other aspects of his character were of more importance. My son is a faithful Muslim. He is, in fact, looking for a wife who observes hijab. Be sure that my appearance (un-Islamic clothing) is not to Ahmad's taste."
Zaynab's mother also smiled and said, "You should have told me earlier! Please give us your address so we can visit you and learn more about your son."
"We hope you can come early next week," said Ahmad's mother.
Ahmad was waiting anxiously for his mother's return. As soon as she and her daughter returned home he asked, “Well, mother? How was your visit?"
"It was very strange," she replied.
“What was strange?", he asked. “Has anything bad happened?"
"Oh no, Ahmad. But I never expected such a thing," she answered. "Then they have refused?" Ahmad's father said, "How could a grocer's daughter refuse a wealthy young man?"
Ahmad's mother turned to her husband and said, " They did, in fact, refuse..."
"What! they refused?” asked the father. "I spoke about Ahmad's good qualities, but I didn't mention his Islamic morals. My appearance also caused her to decline my proposal because her daughter is a very faithful Muslim. When I realized their objections, I told them that you are a true Muslim as well. I have come to respect them very much. They don't care about status or wealth.”
“Have you seen the girl?”, asked Ahmad's father.
"Yes, she is lovely and polite. Ahmad is a lucky man to have made such a choice."
The following week, Zaynab's family paid a visit to Ahmad’s home and plans were made for the upcoming wedding. They were soon married and there was much rejoicing.

A VISIT TO A BRIDE
After finishing her morning prayer, Fatimah usually sat down to recite a chapter from the Holy Qur'an. She always found great pleasure in reading each verse as she thought about the sublime meaning of the Divine words. At such times, she felt as if she was existing on a higher plane, a spiritual world with a sacred atmosphere. The words taught her lessons and flooded her life with new light when she read the Qur'anic verses:
And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion. Most surely, there, are signs in this for people who reflect. (al-Rum, 21)
And,
And they who say: Oh our Lord! Grant us in our wives and our offspring the joy of our eyes and make us guides to those who guard (against evil). (al-Furqan, 74)
The words reminded her of famous Muslim believers. She gave a deep sigh. She really felt quite sad when she saw some Muslims failing to continue striving towards perfection. However, there were still promising examples. She thought about her friend, Khadijah, who had just begun her married life and was visiting some holy shrines during her honeymoon. Khadijah was a good Muslim sister who chose her partner carefully and according to religious measures. She rejected all anti-Islamic traditions that distorted the meaning and essence of marriage. She always said that, according to Islam, marriage is the first brick of a foundation in raising a generation of good believers. Fatimah beseeched Allah to guide her dear friend along the right path in her new life. She had barely finished her prayer when one of her Muslim friends rang the doorbell. She had come to tell Fatimah that Khadijah had returned from her honeymoon and that she had settled in her new home. Fatimah rushed to put on her hijab to go and visit her, but the sister told Fatimah it was too early to go that day, and that Khadijah was not quite ready to receive visitors. Fatimah was surprised. How could Khadijah refuse a Muslim sister's visit? She felt sad and said, "I can hardly believe this. Why don't we go and clear up the matter?”
The sister replied, “Oh, perhaps Khadijah will be annoyed for some particular reason."
Fatimah said, "Yes, it may be so. Otherwise, she would not refuse her sister's visit simply because she lacked furniture or some similar reason. She has never been concerned about materialistic things."
Fatimah spent that day depressed. She feared Khadijah might yield to the false values of society, yet she knew that her friend was a good believer and would not change easily.
At nine o'clock that evening, the doorbell rang and Fatimah went to open it. She was so pleased to see Khadijah standing there that she could hardly believe her eyes. They exchanged kisses and words of welcome and Fatimah congratulated Khadijah, and told her of her desire to visit her. Khadijah expressed surprise at the delay in visiting her, but Fatimah said, " Have you not announced that you are not ready to receive friends?”
Khadijah replied, “Why should I? I have missed you all so much and have been waiting for your visit since my arrival."
Fatimah said, "Well someone said that your house was not fit yet for visitors."
Khadijah was surprised and said, "Oh, dear! Since when have I cared for such trifles? How can you believe it?" Fatimah was pleased to hear this. She said, “Praise be to Allah! How happy I am to hear you say this! But such un-Islamic rumors should be stopped. We are quite happy that you have begun your married life in harmony with your religious beliefs. We shall soon visit you, God willing."
Khadijah warmly replied, “You are all welcome any time. The sooner, the better."
The next morning Fatimah phoned the other sisters and told them of her proposed visit to Khadijah on that day. While she was thinking about telling her cousin, she heard her talking to her mother. Fatimah went to her and asked her to join them, but her cousin said, “Oh, thank you, but..."
Fatimah was surprised at her cousin's answer, and asked, “What is the matter with you? Didn't you say that you wanted to go with us?"
Her cousin replied, “Yes, but it is clear that you do not want me to accompany you."
Fatimah was amazed. “What makes you think so?" she asked.
Her cousin answered, "How can you inform me of the visit on the same day? How am I to get ready when I need at least two days to get anew dress and buy a nice present? Do you think I can go without a gift?"
Fatimah said, “Not necessarily. A present can enhance friendship and is recommended in our religion. But buying a present should not cause financial strain. Otherwise, it seems as if it were a tax to be paid. A present can be something simple and still special. Our Prophet (s) used to accept even a cup of milk as a present."
Fatimah's cousin retorted, “Don't you think it would be shameful to give her a cheap present?"
Fatimah said firmly, “A gift is not valuable because of its price, but by its being given. A useful book, for instance, is a good gift. As for anew dress, I suggest you visit Khadijah in your old dress and you can buy a new one another time."
The cousin thought for a while, than agreed to go. On that day, the new bride Khadijah was busy with her daily work. She baked a cake for her expected visitors.
She was active and at ease. Thinking of the upcoming visit, she recalled pleasant memories of the past. The doorbell rang and one of her relatives, who also happened to be her neighbor, was at the door. Khadijah welcomed her and invited her in. They sat down and chatted a while.
Her relative told Khadijah about their district, most of the inhabitants of which were wealthy. Khadijah said, "I do not care much for this aristocratic district. A true Muslim does not change his or herself to fit in with any particular class of people."
The relative answered, "Well, I just wanted to tell you about some matters concerning the district where you have settled."
"Does it really matter?" asked Khadijah.
"The style of your hijab is not accepted here. You look peculiar.”
Khadijah proudly replied, "I am happy to look different in my decent Islamic dress."
Bewildered, her relative asked, "Why should you be happy to be so different from the rest?"
Khadijah said, "First of all, my aim is to obey my Creator and gain His pleasure. Also, when I wear my hijab, I surely remind others of Allah and their obligation to worship Him cording to the Qur'anic verse:
And I have not created the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me.
(al-Zariat, 56)
“My duty is to enjoin the good and forbid evil. Through my appearance I call people to Allah's religion. In any case, thank you for your advice."
Khadijah's relative could not believe her ears. She changed the subject, saying, "You are expecting some guests, aren’t you? I smell fresh cake."
Khadijah smiled and said, "Yes, I expect some of my sisters in faith."
"It is pity you have not furnished your home yet,"
Khadijah's relative remarked, looking around the living room. "Since you have no chairs, I can lend you some, and any other things you might need."
"Thank you very much, but I do not need to borrow any chairs. I can manage without them. I consider such things to be of little value. I believe in the Qur'anic verse:
...And the embellishment of gold, and all of this is naught but provision of this world's life; and the hereafter is with your Lord; only for those who guard (against evil)." (al-Zukhruf, 35)
That evening, Khadijah entertained her friends, who enjoyed the visit and were warmly welcomed by the bride.

DETERMINATION
It was a gloomy, overcast night. The wind was blowing and it was going to storm. Khadijah and her three young children were sitting on an old worn carpet in their room Khadijah looked out the window often, trying not to draw her children’s attention. She was worried that the storm would break before her husband arrived. Finally, hearing the key turn in the lock, she quickly got up, telling her children to go welcome their father.
"Oh mother", said the youngest child, "Has he brought us food?" She gently scolded him, saying, "This is not important. Don't ask him this question." The children ran towards their father and, although she was upset, Khadijah, too, greeted him with a smile. Her husband had brought a few pieces of bread and cheese, which he handed to his wife. She soon served the simple meal on plates that had lost their colour through long use.
Khadijah spoke cheerfully while they ate and later the children slept, dreaming of sweets, toys and games. Their parents sat quietly for a while.
"So this year is about to end," Khadijah's husband, Hassan, said bitterly, "And I still haven't found a job. We have spent our savings and sold what we could of our furniture. We have nothing left with which to fight our hunger."
His wife replied, "We still have faith and determination, which are the keys to all which is good and brings happiness."
"What good thing or happiness has our faith brought us? Our children are wearing torn clothes and are hungry. It is this very faith that has made life difficult for us, and it is guidance, which has led us to poverty! In the past we were living in luxury..."
Khadijah interrupted her husband, asking, "What kind of luxury was it? Since when has gambling been a way of providing for one's family! Allah has said that gambling is forbidden to Muslims. How could we have been happy knowing that the food we ate and the clothes we wore would send us to the Fire in the Hereafter? Our gain caused others to go hungry and naked!
"Yes, Khadijah," Hassan said. "I know you are right. For these very reasons I gave up gambling, but it has brought us nothing. I thank you for helping me out of that bottomless pit. All praise belongs to Allah for His guidance. Still, poverty is bitter and the shamefulness of being needy is almost unbearable."
Upon hearing these words, Khadijah consoled him saying, "Oh Hassan, it is only temporary. Allah says that with every difficulty comes relief. The life of the Hereafter is the real and endless one. We still have hope. This future, everlasting life is the one we should care about and make ready with good deeds. Don't regret what has passed; instead, thank I Allah for possessing the means of obtaining His forgiveness. Happiness belongs to those who are patient while facing hardships and avoid disobeying Allah."
"Oh Khadijah, I am not without hope, but I'm afraid that Satan will cause me to sin- then I will fall and lose everything."
"I still have my gold wedding ring," his wife said.
"Tomorrow I shall sell it and we will have money for a while. Almighty Allah will help us. Be confident that you will find a job, with Allah's help. Allah doesn't leave those who worship Him without hope of His compassion. You will surely see how the future will brighten for you, and how generous Allah is to those who believe."
With a sigh, her husband replied,” If you think so, I will believe you but what is the wisdom behind our hardship?"
"Oh, Hassan!" She cried. "Don't you know the Qur'anic verse: "And we will most certainly test you with what you fear, and hunger, and loss of property and lives. Therefore, give good news to the patient" (al-Baqarah, 155)
"But when will this hardship end?" he asked.
"As soon as we pass our test successfully," she replied. "Through patience, prayer, and avoiding sinful ways of getting money, we shall succeed."
At this point, the couple stopped talking and fell asleep, putting their trust in Allah. At dawn they awoke for their morning prayers. Afterwards, Khadijah began preparing breakfast and her husband sat down to recite some suras from the Qur'an. When the children woke up, their mother poured tea for them. One of the children asked for bread. He said, “My friend and his brothers have eggs and butter every morning."
His mother, feeling great pain in her heart, smiled, kissed him and said, "'Tomorrow, by Allah's will, you will have whatever you like."
The child innocently asked, “Why do you say: 'By Allah's will'?"
"Because," she replied, “It is Allah Who gives us everything and helps us to do our work. Without His will, we can't even breathe."
"Mother, does that mean Allah will give us eggs and bread for breakfast?"
“Yes, my son. By the will of Allah it will happen." The father listened to his wife. He was greatly surprised by her strong faith. He began to feel hopeful and confident. He started talking with his children about the days to come and how Allah would help him to find a good job. Then he would buy whatever sweets and fruits they like. Then there was a knock at the door. Wondering whom it could be at such an early hour, Hassan went to find out. When he returned, his face was shining with happiness. Upon seeing this, his wife said, "Hassan, I feel our test is over."
In a voice choking with emotion, he replied. "Yes, my dear wife, Allah, the Exalted, has ended our test. Praise to Allah, it has happened with your patience, efforts and faith. There is a hadith which says: ‘A good woman is better than 1000 men’ Our hardship is finished by the grace of Allah and your strong faith."
"Was it the messenger of Hajj Sahib?"
"No, it was Hajj Sahib himself. He said that he had been looking for someone to manage his business and heard about our situation and my past experience. Allah used him as the way to save us from despair and to give us hope, as Allah promised to the patient believers. Hajj Sahib said to me, ‘You are now cleaner and purer than all of us. You are now as one newly born.’”

THE LOST DIARY
It was by chance that Tuqa found a small diary lying on the ground outside the public library. When she picked it up and opened it to the first page, she read the following lines:
4.8.87
“Am I strong enough to hold onto these tiny threads of hope? Can I continue in spite of these difficulties and reach the source of light behind these clouds? Who can give me a helping hand so that I can endure this cruel life? Oh God, what darkness surrounds me!" Tuqa read another page:
26.8.87
"Again I resort to my diary to complain about my suffering. I feel as if my nerves are about to shatter ...I have no one to talk to; no one at all. Oh, why can't I sleep? The moon and the stars gaze upon me as if mocking my dreams."Tuqa looked for an address in the diary but she could only find a name-Huda Najafi. She went into the library and asked to see the list of book borrowers of the past week. Finally, she found the name she was looking for. Huda's address was written next to her name, so Tuqa decided to pay her a visit to return the diary and see if she could help this troubled sister.
The next day, Tuqa went to Huda's house. As she rang the bell, she wondered if she was doing the right thing. But since she knew that her intention was pure, she was at ease. A young girl opened the door, and Tuqa asked to see Huda. The girl asked her to enter and showed her to Huda's room. Huda was surprised to see an unknown visitor, but she welcomed Tuqa with a warm smile. They shook hands and sat down. Tuqa took the diary out of her purse and gave it to Huda, who was very happy to see it. She held it close and said, "Thanks God I have it -at last! Thank you for bringing it to me!"
Tuqa introduced herself and said, "Please excuse me for reading a few pages of your diary. I found it yesterday on the ground, near the library."
“There is nothing to apologize for! I have suffered greatly since I lost it. I was nearly heart-broken when I realized that my diary was missing."" Why should you be so upset at the loss of a few pages?" asked Tuqa.
"These words reflect my innermost feelings; they are like apart of my soul,” replied Huda.
"But such reflections are but a small part of a person's thoughts, since life is an enormous theatre comprised of countless images. Life is like a wild garden wherein various kinds of flowers fill the air with their fresh scent. Yet there are also trees and thorny weeds in the garden, which may hurt a person. The earth from which flowers emerge nourishes weeds as well."
Huda listened attentively, and then said, "Thorns cause one to bleed, and weeds hinder the growth of blossoms." "It isn't always so," replied Tuqa. "Hopes and disappointments follow each other in turn. This is a natural law of life. However, great one's sufferings are, one still hopes for the dawn which follows even the darkest night."
In a weary voice, Huda said, "But this dark night may be so long that it causes one to lose hope." "You can counter feelings of hopelessness by having true faith in Allah's help and guidance. A life of hardship is of no value if one forgets about Allah and His Compassion. Master yourself, and you can direct your thoughts and actions towards the right path." "But some things are beyond a person's control and cause pain and disappointment," Huda persisted.
"Still", said Tuqa, "Disappointment is not in itself evil. If a believer has strong faith, a new door opens when another is closed. Never give up hope.”
Tears formed in Huda's eyes and she said, “I don't know. Perhaps Allah has sent you to save me from my despair.”
Tuqa recited a verse from the Holy Qur'an:
“...and despair not of Allah's Mercy; surely none despairs of Allah's Mercy except the unbelievers” (Yusuf, 87)
Then Tuqa stood up, saying it was time for her to leave in order to reach home and perform the evening prayer. Huda begged her to stay a little longer and suggested that they pray together. After praying, they resumed their discussion and Tuqa reminded Huda of the Qur'anic verse:
Do people think they will be left alone saying: We believe, and not be tried? And certainly we tried those before them so Allah will certainly know who are true and He will certainly know the liars. (al-Ankabut, 2 & 3)
Tuqa added, “I all that we experience during our brief lifetimes prepares our soul to control itself through using good will. Some losses are considered to be disasters while, in fact, they are disguised blessings. A calamity which disrupts a happy life may be a means to crystallize thoughts and can direct a person towards faith in Allah and obedience to His orders."
"My dear friend Tuqa, I thought that I was a good believer in Almighty Allah, but I was about to fall apart."
Tuqa firmly stated, “Faith will defeat earthly concerns through submission to Allah and acceptance of His Will. Failures can teach us many useful lessons. Hardships can make a person wise if they stand firm."
Thinking that she had given enough advice for one afternoon, Tuqa tried to change the subject, “Aren't you going to ask me how I found your home?" Huda replied, “I believe Allah sent you to me, no matter how you found you way."
It was time for Tuqa to leave, and Huda made her promise to visit again soon. The next meeting between Tuqa and Huda took place a few days later. This time, Tuqa decided it was better to let Huda do most of the talking. Huda talked about her younger sister, whom she said had a great desire for learning. Huda said, "She studies continuously, but I fear that she may one day give up her studies."
Tuqa asked, "What makes you think so? I think that she may become even more interested in acquiring knowledge as she gets older." "But life is not generous enough to help one achieve one's dreams and wishes,"
Huda replied. "Pessimism should not dominate anyone's thoughts. If evil has an effect on a person's life, goodness is still more effective. Rays of sunlight can penetrate the thickest clouds," Tuqa said. She felt that her friend still needed encouragement, so she added, "Muslims know the origin of life, the story of creation. Almighty Allah gave all human beings the opportunity to perform good deeds in this life and has given them the chance to worship Him. This worshipping of Allah gives us the opportunity to evolve into more, which will benefit us in the next life, the Hereafter. Therefore, if one comprehends the aim behind this worldly life, the death of a dear one can be tolerated.
"As for suffering due to material poverty, a wise person should know that true poverty is embodied in spiritual shortcomings, which can bring about various illnesses," Tuqa concluded.” Nevertheless, poverty can cause one to be ashamed,"
Huda said, "There is nothing shameful about poverty,"
Tuqa told her. "One should be ashamed to be rich and dishonest. A poor man who remains virtuous and rejects dishonest means of living enjoys self-respect. Poverty not only is not a source of shame, it is an aspect of the lives of righteous believers. As Allah states:
And We will most certainly try you with something of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits,' and give good news to the patient. (al-Baqarah, 155)
Tuqa continued, “A Muslim is not envious of another's good fortune. He feels optimistic that he will have his r turn one day. A wise believer has a strong will, and if he is betrayed by a friend he will not regret the loss of such a person. Perhaps such an experience will cause him to choose his friends more carefully."
“But one can be hurt by ingratitude or even aggression when one tries to help another."
Tuqa answered, “This is not the case with a true Muslim who does not trade his good deeds. He is ready to help purely based on his good faith and expects nothing from anyone but Allah. It s better that good deeds be rewarded in the Hereafter."
“What you're saying is true. You have been so kind and helpful to me that I can hardly find a way to express my gratitude", Huda said.
Tuqa told her, “There is a narration from our Prophet (s) ‘If one cares for a fellow believer, one should manifest one's concern.' The best thing you can do is to respond to Islamic ideals and think over my words. As material concerns bring about unhappiness, so do spiritual values lead to happiness. Imam Ali (a) says: ‘If a man behaves properly in matters concerning himself and Allah, Allah keeps proper the matters between him and other people; and if a man keeps proper his affairs for the next life, than Allah keeps proper for him his affairs of this world...' " (Nahjul Balagha)
Feeling much better, Huda said, “Due to your helpful words, I feel optimistic about the future. I shall never feel hopeless again. I will use my faith like a weapon to confront hopelessness and to strengthen my will."
Tuqa happily replied, “Faith produces security and calmness. Faith itself is obedience to Allah's commandments. Through faith, earthly concerns are shaped and invested with various meanings. Hence, sickness can alleviate sins and disappointment can lead to victory. The Qur'an says:
Surely We have made whatever is on earth an embellishment for it, so that we may try them (as to) which of them is best in work. (al- Kahaf, 7)
“We are tested by Allah throughout our lives. Now that you have helped me out of my difficulties, will you remain my friend?"
Huda asked. “Of course! Our common faith has sealed our friendship. The best sort of friendship is based on spiritual harmony and righteous ideals. Such a foundation is unshakeable. The faith that floods a believer's heart is enough to flood the entire universe with mercy and compassion."
"Have you noticed how few establish relations based on faith and common ideals?" asked Huda.
“Yes that is precisely why the majority fail and friendship so often turns into enmity. But since we are inspired by faith and we have good intentions to reform society, Allah will surely help us."

INGRATITUDE
Waiting is often a source of annoyance. The longer the wait, the greater the feelings of hopelessness. Aminah was waiting for her friend. Huda, who had promised to visit her that day. It was nearly nine o'clock in the evening, and Huda still hadn't arrived. Aminah could not stop worrying. She knew that something important had kept her friend at home. She tried reading a book, but couldn't concentrate. At half past nine, the telephone rang. Aminah rushed to answer it, and Huda was on the line, apologizing for not coming. She promised to come the following day. The next day, Aminah was so happy to see Huda that she hardly noticed her paleness. They sat together to talk, and Aminah noticed the lack of warmth and animation that was usually evident in Huda's voice. She was saddened by her friend's unspoken distress. Huda was not only a sister in faith for Aminah; she was also a torch that lit the darkness for her. Huda's strong belief and worthy ideals attracted the admiration of others. She was calm and wise when she advised her Muslim sisters.
Hoping to discover what was wrong, Aminah asked her friend, “Now, what prevented you from showing up yesterday?
“Sometimes I am unable to keep my promises," Huda replied, sighing.
"That is not unusual," Aminah told her. “Various reasons can prevent a person from carrying out his plans sometimes."
Aminah saw that Huda was too upset to even speak. "Are you crying?", she asked. Tears should be shed for the sake of Allah. What is important enough to make you so upset?" Do you imagine that I would cry for any reason other than His cause? In fact, my sadness is for the sake of Allah."
Aminah tried to reassure her friend, “Then you have no reason to be upset, because you are on the right path. You should find comfort and solace in your faith. Shouldn't a Muslim feel happiness knowing that she is hastening towards Allah with a clear conscience? Such a person hearkens to the Prophet's (s) words: "How I long to meet them-the true believers."
"That is exactly the source of my sorrow," Huda replied. "I am afraid that I may stop in the middle of the road and that I will fall to meet the Seal of the Prophets with an unblemished record." "Do you feel that you are performing your religious duties inadequately?", asked Aminah.
"Oh no, I always do my best. But, sometimes one is forced to ...", Huda broke off her sentence.” Forced to disobey religious' commandments?" I would never do such a thing, even if the world pressured me to do so!", asserted Huda. "My discomfort arises from the thought that I cannot increase my Islamic activities so that I may reach a higher stage. I sometimes feel depressed when I think that I'll never reach perfection."
Aminah admonished her friend," How can you feel depressed? Don't you know that it is unbelievers who despair of Allah's Mercy and Forgiveness?"
Huda replied, "Of course, I do not despair of Allah's Mercy, but when I encounter ingratitude or unfair treatment, I feel that it is due to my inadequateness or to a lack of faith on my part. Hence, I feel at a loss and do not know what to do. I fear that such self-doubt may endanger my spiritual strength."
"All aspects of a Muslim's life are based upon adhering to religious principles. One should recognize one's faults and weaknesses and work to correct them. Strive to increase
your Islamic activities and efforts, " advised Aminah. "I have thought deeply about this matter", said Huda, "but I have come to no conclusion. This is why I have confided in you. A Muslim is like a mirror, which can reflect a fellow believer's faults and also show how they can be corrected."
"But I haven't seen any faults in you," Aminah answered. "So I can only advise you to continue on the right path; the one which you are on now. You have the ability to plant seeds in every sort of soil. If anyone doubts or mocks your good intentions, another person will benefit from the fruits of your knowledge. An important aspect of a believer's life is suffering which brings him or her closer to Allah. When one has a divine aim, the negative reactions of others are not of any value. For Allah, a good deed will be rewarded tenfold. Such efforts will inspire others. Please don't allow any pessimistic thoughts to dominate your thoughts. You are young and active, so don't lay down your weapon or leave the field. Have confidence in yourself and you will surely overcome all difficulties."
"Thank you so much!" Huda exclaimed, embracing her friend." Your words have brought me tremendous relief. I feel sure now that I will continue on the correct path and that Allah will help me to do so."

INNER DEBATE
As Samia was anxiously waiting for her favorite television program to begin, unusual feelings were dominating her thoughts. Although her eyes were fixed on the T .V. screen, her mind was elsewhere. She was not feeling quite like her old self. She was disturbed and felt uneasy and the lively music of the television did not cheer her up as it normally did. Samia said to herself, “They were only few words yet they have spoiled my evening. Why should I take the matter so seriously?" She tried to concentrate on the program, but the words still echoed in her mind. She listened to the music, but she heard a voice telling her, "This is the real loss and the ultimate weakness. Why should one let a song or a show influence one's life? One should be affected by a good deed or a wise saying. A useful word can elevate the spirit of its recipient."
Samia was troubled by this inner dialogue. It conflicted with her usual thoughts. She told herself, “This discomfort is the result of Sana's words, which are still ringing in my head. Why should I care about what she said? I have been living such a life since my childhood. I like to dance and listen to music." She moved to a different chair and settled closer to the television.
Samia tried her best to forget Sana's words and to enjoy the program, but tears involuntarily came to her eyes. Again the inner voice whispered to her "What weakness! A few minutes ago, you were laughing for no reason. You were happily enjoying the music. Now you are crying. What is this? Are you living in a world of illusions? or is it some gloomy sadness which causes you to cry for no special reason?" She recalled the unlikely source of her uneasiness. She was not used to hearing such an inner dialogue.
Could it be the result of Sana's words, which might be truth and guidance? The music on the T.V. ended and Samia still felt an inner struggle. She tried to forget her friend's words and keep to her usual behavior, yet the word haram kept echoing in her mind. What could haram mean? Disobedience? Allah's displeasure? Hell?
Oh, yes. She remembered Sana's recitation of some particular Qur'anic verses:
...then be on your guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel, it is prepared for the unbelievers. (al-Baqarah, 24)
Most surely the righteous shall be in bliss; on thrones they shall gaze; you will recognize on their faces the brightness of bliss. (al-Mutaffifin, 22-24)
Oh, you who believe! save yourselves and your families from the fire whose fuel is men and stone. (al-Tahreem, 6)
Samia seriously thought about how she had been spending her time in un-Islamic activities and concluded that such practices would displease Almighty Allah, and that she would eventually suffer for her actions. She might suffer the following day or years later. She remembered how much it hurt when her finger accidentally touched the bottom of a hot iron and how she ran to find relief. Would there be a remedy in Hell?
Again she recalled some verses from the Qur'an:
...And as to him who is given his book behind his back, he shall call for perdition, and enter into the burning fire, surely he thought that he would never return. Yea! Surely his Lord does ever see him. (al-Inshiqaq, 10-15)
Samia left the living room and returned to her bedroom. She felt as if someone was mocking her innermost feelings.
"How shameful for one to enjoy this worldly life and forget the everlasting one! It is a sign of the utmost weakness to allow desire and fun to dominate one's life without the least consideration for Allah's instructions" the voice told her.
Confused, Samia sat down and thought seriously about the various thoughts filling her mind. Sana could advise and guide her towards the right pat. She made up her mind to see her soon. She suddenly felt great comfort and relief at this idea. She fell asleep dreaming of the next day's meeting and the meaning of true repentance.

SOCIAL MEASURES
The lady of the house, dressed in the latest fashion, was waiting impatiently for her daughter Zaynab to get dressed for the wedding party. The lady was impatient, and walked up and down the room. Now and then she stopped in front of a mirror to have a look at her image. Her daughter was a bit late, so she rang a bell and a pretty maid came in the room. She was wearing a short dress and had her hair done.
The woman admired the attractive maid and said, "I see, Samia, you have finished before your little lady. Go and tell her to hurry up. We have no time to spare.. It takes an hour to reach the bride's house."
The maid replied, "Yes, my lady." Samia left the room and soon returned, saying that Zaynab would be getting ready now. Zaynab's mother became angry and exclaimed, "What has she been doing all this time?"
The maid answered, "She has been praying."
"Praying?! Oh, what an abnormal girl she is! Go again and tell her to hurry up."
The maid went out and came back to announce that Zaynab was coming.
The mother said, "What did you say? How could she get ready in such a short time? Surely she will bring disgrace to me at this party. How I pity her. She is spoiling her beauty by negligence and indifference." Admiring herself again in the mirror, she saw her daughter enter with a smile on her angelic face.
The daughter said, "Here I am mother, quite ready."
Her mother gave her a sharp look, and said ironically, "Of course you are ready! What is this? Are you going in this long dress? Where is your make-up? Is there a girl of your age who does not know how to color her lips or put on eyeliner except you ? I have been waiting all this time while you did nothing but pray. Now you say you are ready!"
Zaynab waited for her mother to finish, then she said politely, "Yes, I have performed my prayers since it is my religious duty, and I cannot pray at the party which will end after prayer time. My dress is not that long, but it certainly is not a mini. My hair is tidy, with no need to waste my time at a hairdresser to be polluted with chemicals. As for the make-up, of course, I know how to color my eyes and my lips, but I feel this is not necessary. I like to show myself as I am, with no mask on my face. "
Her mother turned her head away, disapproving of her daughter's logic. She said, "Let us leave before you get on the pulpit and give us a long sermon, as is your habit. But I feel bitterness when I see the maid exceeds you in her good appearance."
Zaynab replied, "If such measures are the true criterion, I agree that she does exceed me." The mother stated,” In fact, I don't know how you are going to face the famous people there. You will appear so poor and humble among the men and women."
"The party is not for both sexes," Zaynab replied.
"Had it been like that, I would not have agreed to go. In any case, there will not be any singers or music of any kind."
The mother laughed in a mocking tone and said,
"Then the party is for giving a religious speech on the decency of hijab."
Zaynab answered quietly, "No! There is no religious speech. It is only a formal farewell party to a bride starting her honeymoon."
The mother feared delay, so she said to her daughter, "Come on; tell me the details on our way to the party." Zaynab put on a long black coat and a scarf on her head as she always did. They got into their car, with the maid carrying a box of her mistress's cosmetics.
While they were driving, Zaynab's mother asked her daughter, "How do you know that the party is not for both sexes?" Zaynab answered, " It was supposed to take place at one of the clubs, according to the bride's mother. But my friend, the bride, is a good believer, as you know. Thus she refused to have her wedding party according to western values, or in defiance of religious morals. Quarrels started between the mother and daughter. But the groom took the side of the bride, and my friend insisted on canceling the celebration. Finally her mother gave in and agreed to have a simple farewell party."
Zaynab's mother was astonished and asked, "Does the groom have the same reactionary beliefs as the bride?" Zaynab tried to smile at her mother's cruel words.
She said, "Of course he has the same beliefs, and he is of equal moderation. Otherwise, she would not have agreed to marry him. A good believer does not marry a playboy who is totally different in beliefs and ideals. Disputes in such matters are a serious threat to a marriage. How can you brand such ideals 'reactionary' while they are the essence of our religion? They are clearly elaborated in the Holy Qur'an .Our belief is the right path, while the non-Islamic way is the reactionary one, since it goes back to the primitive stage of humanity when there were no Divine creeds or human values."
Her mother was affected by the argument and she said," You are right, but civilization requires something different."
Zaynab replied, "Oh, mother! What civilization is this ? Tragedies and disasters are under the surface. Bright masks hide devilish motives and inhuman desires. Oh, mother! We should not be fooled by this civilization."
The mother spoke in a sorrowful tone, "This is the general attitude of the day and the social measures that count."
"We shall try to defeat such perceptions," Zaynab said. "We will prove that in a society, a young girl can show herself through her real personality -not by her make-up or her fashionable clothing. When she has an independent personality, she will taste the sweetness of victory. It is contrary to woman's true nature to expose herself in a framework of fashion or make-up, which is only a means for public exposure."
They arrived at the house of the bride. The mother tapped her daughter on the shoulder and said, "May Allah bless you. I wish I could have your strong faith and self-confidence."

THE RED ALERT
When Ahmad returned home, his wife Maryam was still out. He sat down next to his children and joined them in their game. Afterwards, he picked up a book and passed the time reading. Finally at 10 o'clock that evening his wife returned home. She did not even allow Ahmad to greet her, but quickly rushed passed him to her room and took off the mask that transfigured her natural form. She looked less beautiful but more gentle. From her behavior, Ahmad knew that she had something to tell him.
As soon as the children went to bed, she said to her husband, "Oh, Ahmad, you have not asked me about my visiting today."
Ahmad smiled and said, "I hope you have enjoyed yourself."
Maryam said, “…I had a wonderful time! The house and the garden were magnificent, and their table was rich with delicious foods. My friend, Hana, had the most beautiful wig. Dr. Iram's wife wore an expensive suit. It was quite beautiful."
Her husband smiled ironically and asked, “The suit or the Dr.'s wife?"
“Oh, the suit was wonderful! But I was too embarrassed to enjoy the visit," she added. Ahmad silently beseeched Allah to give him patience and said to himself," This is just the beginning; Allah will help me in the end." He did not answer his wife's remarks. She continued, "It seems as if you do not care for me. Am I nothing to you? You do not ask the reason for my uneasiness. You regard me as if I were a stranger.”
Maryam seemed truly upset, so her husband said to himself, "I place my affairs before Allah. If I do not ask her the reason, she will cry.”
He gently asked her, “Why do you think such a thing? You are my dear wife and the mother of my children. Why are you upset? Were you embarrassed by your clothing?"
"Oh no, although it was not as beautiful as the Dr.'s wife's suit. I can buy a better one in the future. The source of my uneasiness has been in my failing to ask my friends to visit me. It has been a long time since I last invited them to my home. How would they account for such delay? Surely they will think it is due to some financial hardship, or that you are a miser or ignorant of social formalities. Such ideas hurt me, since I know you are an excellent husband and a good father."
"Thank you for the compliment. Now what exactly do you want?"
Maryam replied, "Today is the fifth of the month. I can fix a day for their visit as long as we can afford to spend some money."
"You talk as if the event is a victorious battle in need of great preparation," Ahmad said. His wife laughed, "No. it is not like that, but it doest cost....”
Ahmad said, "But how can we manage until the end of the month if your party will be expensive? We are already in debt. Now you want to make matters worse." "You can borrow some money from your friends," his wife suggested. "You know I have borrowed from many of them. How can I ask for more?"
"Oh, how miserable I am! I was brought up in a rich family and lived a luxurious life. Now I cannot even afford to invite my friends over for an afternoon. Oh, what a shame! How am I to face them? Can I show myself in society? This means I must isolate myself and give up all of my friends." Maryam started crying, while her husband tried to convince her of his viewpoint. She never listened to him, but said, “Oh, surely I shall suffer from sickness. If I stay two days at home, I shall suffer a nervous breakdown and lose my appetite."
Finally, Ahmad gave in and agreed to his wife's demand. His wife arranged everything for the special day. She asked her sisters to help her arrange the rooms for the occasion. She would have never imagined that the outcome of her party could be the destruction of her family life. On the day of the party, Maryam asked her husband to stay out until a late hour and she sent her children to her mother's house. She got herself ready for her guests, who arrived shortly before sunset. They were all dressed in the latest fashion and with full makeup. The home was soon filled, and gossip and idle speculation dominated the conversation. Each was criticized by the other. One's dress was not to the taste of the other; and this hairdo was not nice as another's. Silly talk and jokes filled the air.
At 8 o'clock, Maryam called her guests to dinner. Suddenly the phone rang and one of the guests was called. As soon as this lady put down the phone, she came to Maryam and apologized for having to leave at once. Her husband had warned of a red alert and she had to reach home before the lights went out. Upon hearing this news, the other guests rushed towards the door. They left without even a good-bye. Maryam emerged from the kitchen to see that her guests had all disappeared. She was shocked and dismayed to see her party come to such an end, especially when she thought about all the trouble she had gone to and the dispute with her husband about the matter. She had hoped to make a good impression on her friends. She sat down and wept bitterly. She wished her husband would come home early, before the red alert sounded. She waited to hear its wailing but there was none.
At 10 o'clock Ahmad came and was surprised to see the house empty. His wife told him the whole story. She feared that he would be angry, but he was quite at ease. He said, "It may be a lie. There is no need for an alert since there are no impending raids. Anyway, I hope you have learned a lesson."
The wife said, "Indeed, I have. I won't undergo such an experience again."
The next day, Maryam's friend phoned and apologized for the previous evening. Her husband had lied to her in order to get her home early since her child had been crying for his mother.
Maryam told her friend that it had been a silly joke, but a good lesson too.

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