Friday, October 25, 2013

When Beauty is Not to Blame

Ibn Abbas narrated: A beautiful woman, from among the most beautiful of women, used to pray behind the Prophet. Some of the people used to go to pray in the first row to ensure they would not be able to see her. Others would pray in the last row of the men, and they would look from underneath their armpits [in rukoo' and sujood] to see her. Because of this act, in regard to her, Allah revealed, "Verily We know the eager among you to be first, and verily We know the eager among you to be behind." (Surah al-Hijr ayah 24)

(Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud Tayalisi, Baihaqi, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, and Nasai and it is judged sahih by Albani. He includes it as #2472 in his Silsilat al-Ahadith as-Sahih)

Why is this narration so fascinating? Because it reveals how even in the time of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam), the Sahabah had differing levels of emaan and even in salah - a time when all worldly desires are meant to be put aside - they still acted upon their desires.

Yet to me, the most interesting part of this narration is that when Allah sent down a revelation concerning this situation, He did not rebuke the woman - He rebuked the men who forgot their khushoo', the men who forgot that Allah is Ever-Watching, the men who forgot that Allah can easily expose those who claim piety yet act in a contrary manner. Allah is the One Who reminded these men that their intentions are fully known to Him.

Note the way that Ibn 'Abbas (radhiAllahu 'anhu) shared this story. This woman was publicly known, and though her name is not mentioned in the narration, her identity was obviously common knowledge amongst the people of Medinah.

It was also known that the pious men were those who made a point of fighting temptation by removing themselves from a situation where they would feel weak, whereas those whose emaan was weaker were those who purposely lingered behind to indulge their desires.

Now, can you imagine the embarrassment and shame of those men who were publicly rebuked by Allah? Can you imagine having all of Medinah *and* those who were visiting Madinah at the time, knowing that *your* weak and sinful behavior was the cause of Allah sending down Divine Revelation to warn you of His Knowledge? This aayah was and remains a public reminder and rebuke to all Muslim men who attempt to dress up their inappropriate behavior with a guise of 'religiousness.' It is a reminder that Muslim men are responsible for lowering their gazes, for controlling their behavior, for removing themselves from a situation where they feel weak. It is a reminder that they CANNOT blame their own weakness of faith, character, or actions on women!

This anecdote, combined with other ahadeeth that discuss the relationship of men and women in the public sphere (the masjid), display how RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) trained his Companions in the appropriate way of interacting with the other gender.

For example, RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) made it a habit to remain sitting forward (towards the qiblah) after his tasleem, giving the women a chance to leave the masjid before the men (remember, there was no physical barrier between the men and women at the time). He displayed respect towards these women (including and especially those who did not wear niqab), and thus trained his male Companions do act similarly.

Alas, both Muslim men and women alike have forgotten the beautiful akhlaaq and adab that *should* mark our actions, especially in mixed-gender interactions. Thus we have an Ummah which has gone to two extremes: attempting to segregate the genders to an unhealthy level to the point where a simple, innocent conversation is considered zina; or throwing out any notion of hijab, lowering the gaze, and considering any and all behaviour between the genders - even zina - to be acceptable.

In both cases, diseased hearts are created and fostered, because there is no holistic understanding of the Qur'an and Sunnah. Islam came to transform the Ummah from one of ignorance to one of beauty, honour, dignity, and respect. To reach that state, we *must* go back to the understanding of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his Companions. Only then can we possibly start seeing the men and women of this Ummah coming together, as they were meant to be, to cooperate upon birr and taqwa: goodness and righteousness.



Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Lovely post.

Wish more people understood or cared to understand this.

I hate getting told I should wear the niqab if I am beautiful, when niqab has nothing to do with that for me, and that is a wrong and purely cultural understanding. Or that people then were different than now.

Mezba said...


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Moosa said...

Great post!
it's such a shame that Muslim men today overcome their lust not by the behavior of the prophet, but by building a physical wall and send women to some other room. A true shame that does make Mosques more like brothels; where lust is not overcome.

Anonymous said...

Yes, its too bad so called 'salafis' don't like following the salaf. Both Hazrat Omar and Sayidina Aisha disliked and in almost all cases stopped women coming from the mosque.

Sayidina Fatimah Az-Zahra has said the best thing for a woman is not to be seen by men.

If only women followed and had the understandings of the Ummil Hatil Mumineen instead of following their personal whims.

Best place for a woman to pray is her home from Sahih Hadith.

The Prophet SAWAWS didn't stop women because they were sooo desperate to see him and be near him. Their love for him was genuine unlike women of nowadays. Real Iman can not enter the hearts until one loves Rasulullah SAWAWS and his family more than oneself and their family.

AnonyMouse said...


You are of course entitled to your opinion; however, there are records of narrations that prove that the Sahabah *never* prevented women from going to the masaajid, because doing so was in direct contradiction to the command of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) to not stop women from attending the masaajid.

FedUp said...

Anonymous is obviously one of those sexist people that believe it's a woman's job to make it easier for men to lower their gaze which is so not true and their are too many hadith for me to even bother listing them. Get a clue anonymous, you're not God. Women don't wear the hijab for you or to please you. We wear it for Allah swt. Not everything revolves around men. You can take your sexist attitude back to the pre-Islamic days.

Anonymous said...

different anonymous: yes, and why is it that men from communities where women are typically holed up at home, and/or where the norm is to be covered in black from head to toe, are the ones who can't "function" in the presence of open faces, let alone hair, or even worse....elbows!!! considering the non-Muslim women during the time of Muhammad SWA walk around with exposed chests...

Yasmin bint Yahya Roberts said...

as salaam alaikum,

I have several times referred to this post regarding the unnecessary usage of partitions in masajid, but today when I looked up this ayah on Tafseer ibn Kathir, I noticed that ibn Kathir himself RH states that this ayah is not about rows at all. So now I'm perplexed. Here's the quote:

"And indeed, We know the first generations of you who had passed away....

ibn Abbas said,

"The first generations are all those who have passed away since the time of Adam. The present generations and those who will come afterward refer to those who are alive now and who are yet to come, until the Day of Resurrection."

Something similar was narrated from Ikrimah, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatdah, Muhammad bin Ka'b, Ash-Sha'bi and others.

ibn Jarir reported from Muhammad bin Abi Ma'shar from his father, that;

he heard Awn bin Abdullah discussing the following ayah with Muhammad bin Ka'b: (And indeed, We know the first generations of you who had passed away, and indeed, We know the present generations of you (mankind), and also those who will come afterwards)

and it was stated that it refers to the rows for prayer. Muhammad bin Ka'b said, "This is not the case. It refers to those who are dead and have been killed, and those who have yet to be created."

AnonyMouse said...

Wa 'alaikumus-salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

It could be very possible that there is more than one meaning to the aayah, and that there were other narrations surrounding it as well - Allahu a'lam.