On Friday night, a very warm hearted sister invited me to her home to a sisters gathering. Was I happy, or was I happy? I haven’t been in that kind of an environment for a very long time. There was a time, when it was a norm in my life to attend Islamic gatherings with others, to learn and love each other for the sake of Allah. But a new home, a new city, a new life with children meant I hadn’t done something like this for over six years.
The yummy food spread which so vibrantly represented the diverse mix of sisters attending was the start to a beautiful night. We ate, we joked and spoke about life. I was very kindly asked by the host of the night to prepare a short reminder for the gathering, something that we can take a little lesson from.
I did a little prep and chose a story that the Prophet ﷺ shared with us, recorded in Hadith. A story of a monk from Bani Israel, and it wasn’t the famous story of Barsisa that we all get shivers from when someone tells us about his final disobedience to Allah. It was a story of another monk, similar to Barsisa, who had also worshipped Allah for 60 years.
He too was tested with temptation, when a woman came to him and he ended up spending six nights with her, committing zina. But he realised his mistake, his grave sin and with urgency left his own Masjid and found shelter for his remorseful soul in another Masjid where no one knew him.
This monk, whose heart was filled with sincere tawbah spent three whole days and nights making istighfar and tawbah to Allah, in which time he didn’t eat or drink anything. Not as part of his tawbah but because he was so immersed in seeking forgiveness, he didn’t even realise about his hunger or thirst. Some other people noticed him doing this and realised he hadn’t eaten anything, so they gave him a piece of bread. He took this bread and found two others who looked hungry. He broke his bread in half and gave one half to the person on his right and the other to the person on his left. He then came back to where he was and went into sajdah, asking Allah to forgive him. It was in this state, Allah decided to take his life and sent the angel of death.
It is what happens afterwards that makes my heart and eyes go wide open. Allah brought forward scales to weigh this monk’s deeds. Allah put his 60 years of worship on one side and then the six days of sin on another. The six days outweighed the 60 years, making that side of the scale heavier. But then the piece of bread the monk had given as charity was brought forward and put on the scales and it weighed heavier than the six days of sin.
What does reading this do to you? Do all your sins and good actions come flashing back at you all at once? Do you start thinking “oh subhanAllah, which one of my sin will weigh more than my good actions?” Do you start thinking about everything we can do to make sure we cover our bad actions? Yes, I know, lots and lots of conversations start taking place within the heart and mind after knowing this last part of this monk’s story.
There are many lessons to take from this particular story. I will list six of them here:
1. The monk’s sin only affected himself but the good action affected others. We must ask ourselves how many people are we harming with our sins. Imam Shafi is known to have said: “good tidings for the one who dies and his sins die with him.”
2. The monk recognised his sin before others caught him. Self reflection is very important and it is usually more sincere. He didn’t continue with his sin, he realised its seriousness and stopped it himself.
3. His good deed came after his bad deed, which covered his bad action. We should always follow a bad deed with a good one and know that even in our lowest moment Allah calls us to His Mercy.
4. Look a the sin vs the hasanah – we should let the beauty of our good deed extinguish the ugliness of our sins. We will definitely sin, we will definitely fall short, but let our tawbah wipe out the affects of our sins – so the sin doesn’t dictate further sinful decisions and actions but the good stops the sin from continuing on.
5. The monk didn’t go out and look for the bread to give in charity. The bread came to him. The bread is part of his risq that Allah pushed towards him because of his sincere repentance. The bread came to him as goodness and he chose to use it for a good action.
6. Was the 60 years of this monk’s worship a waste of time? Many might say, what was the point of his long worship when he still sinned and was forgiven? This is a very lazy way of thinking. It was because of his 60 years of devotion to Allah, that he was able to recognise with urgency that he wronged. Not only did he see his mistake but it made him go into such tawbah that he forgot everything else around him. It was the work of 60 years that prepared him for such a tawbah – a state that he died in. The 60 years were his good roots that showed fruition at the end of his life.
I shared this story on Friday night, to give myself and others hope that as long as we have life, we have hope to do better. We should know that life will be about us wronging ourselves and others, and others wronging us – but Allah gives us chances with every breath we take, to right our wrong. We can make things better for our afterlife, for our scales by consciously thinking about performing actions most beloved to Allah. This monk’s 6 nights weighed heavier than 60 years, but the bread, a single piece of bread weighed greater than all of that. He didn’t give in charity thousands of pounds, but he gave away with sincerity a piece of bread many of us will put in the bin with little to no thought.
Do good. Don’t stop doing good. We will all wrong. We will sin. But do more good. Turn to Allah with such repentance that He opens doors of good actions for us. Make our hearts such, that it recognises bad and runs to Allah with hands held up in tawbah. The nafs is to be worked with; no good or bad will happen, without our own work being a part of it, let that work be made up of more good than bad.
May Allah reward the sister who invited me, not everyone with a big home has a big heart ❤️ Ameen.
May Allah send angels to witness all such gatherings where He is mentioned to grow only in love of Him and his Prophet ﷺ.
This story is narrated in a sahih Hadith narrated by Abdullah ibn Masood and recorded in the Mussanad of Ibn Shaybah.
You can listen to Imam Omar Suleiman tell this story as part of a Jummah khutbah here