From Rags to Riches


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Nouman Ali Khan is the founder and CEO of Bayyinah, , an Islamic educational institute in the USA, and serves as a lead instructor for several programmes including Dream, travelling seminars and Bayyinah TV.

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I would like to share with you a story about despair. It is an inspirational story, especially for those who are going through difficult times in their lives. It is the story of the Dua (prayer) of Prophet Musa (as) in the Quran. We all know the mistake he made in his youth: he accidentally killed a man, and then he ran away from Egypt until he came to the waters of Madyan. A lot of things must have happened on the journey from Egypt to Madyan. It was not a short journey, yet Allah (swt) chose not to mention that and instead focused on the following details in Surah Qasas:

“And when he arrived at the water of Madyan (Midian) he found there a group of men watering (their flocks), and besides them he found two women who were keeping back (their flocks). He said: ‘What is the matter with you?’ They said: ‘We cannot water (our flocks) until the shepherds take (their flocks). And our father is a very old man.’ So he watered (their flocks) for them, then he turned back to shade, and said: ‘My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!’ Then there came to him one of the two women, walking shyly. She said: ‘Verily, my father calls you that he may reward you for having watered (our flocks) for us.’ So when he came to him and narrated the story, he said: ‘Fear you not. You have escaped from the people who are Zalimun (polytheists, disbelievers, and wrong-doers).’ And said one of them (the two women): ‘O my father! Hire him! Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.’ He said: ‘I intend to wed one of these two daughters of mine to you, on condition that you serve me for eight years, but if you complete ten years, it will be (a favour) from you. But I intend not to place you under a difficulty. If Allah will, you will find me one of the righteous.’ He [Musa] said: ‘That (is settled) between me and you whichever of the two terms I fulfill, there will be no injustice to me, and Allah is Surety over what we say.’” (Al-Qasas 28:23-28)

It is important to note the details of the story. Allah (swt) chose a select number of real life stories to appear in the Quran, and He chose which details to share with us. There are no unimportant details in the Quran. The story begins with Musa (as) wearing rags, weary after a long journey, wanted by the law (with the order for him to be killed on sight), homeless, jobless, and penniless. In short, he was at the lowest point anyone can reach in life. It ends with Musa (as) employed, with a home and a family. How did this drastic change take place?

Musa (as) made a mistake, he repented for it, and he wanted to be forgiven. When you want to be forgiven by Allah (swt), you look for an indication of His forgiveness. One of the indications of forgiveness is that Allah (swt) sends you opportunities to help others. Musa (as) helped the two girls. Then he sat down in the shade away from them; he didn’t stick around and try to make small talk with them. He sat down at a distance and prayed to Allah (swt). He stated his position:  he was bankrupt and in need; in Arabic it means “my back is broken”.

We know Musa (as) is a strong man; yet he is expressing his utter helplessness before Allah (swt). The good he asks for has two meanings. One is that he is asking for the chance to do good deeds in order to atone for his past mistake. He knows what he has to make up for. So he is expressing his willingness to volunteer for the next project. The other good he is asking for is a positive change in his situation in life. It is a prayer of desperation from a man who has nothing left.

What happens next? In response to his prayer, one of the girls comes to him with an offer to pay him for his help. She had gone home with her sister and relayed the event to their father, who, being an old man, could not go out to work and had to depend on his daughters to take care of the sheep. He trusted his daughters’ description of Musa (as) to the extent that he sent only one of them, alone, to bring him back to the house. When Musa (as) came, he told the old man his whole life story, with the two girls listening in the background. One of the girls called her father to the side and advised him to hire Musa (as). The old man understood that she liked him and he resolved to make him his son-in-law. If he could trust him enough to look after his sheep, he could trust him enough to marry his daughter. He had also solved the trouble of having a male shepherd working in a house with two unmarried girls. He married his Arab daughter to a child of Israel; he chose good character over ethnicity. The only marriage mentioned in the Quran is interracial.

I would like to give some advice especially to Desi people. When someone offers you something, the first thing you say is “no, thanks”, as a show of self-respect. When you are truly in need, don’t bother with that; take the good Allah (swt) sends your way. Musa (as) didn’t ask the girls for money; he asked Allah (swt). The job offer came because of the prayer. What I’m trying to tell you is let’s take the example of a job. If a friend tells you about a good job, that is from Allah (swt). Take it!

All those brothers who are trying to get married, there is hope for you in this story. You cannot arrive to meet your prospective father-in-law in a worse state than Prophet Musa (as) did.

You may say, “But he was a prophet! Something special like that won’t happen for me.” Every Friday, we’re supposed to recite the story of the people of the cave. In Surah Kahf, we see the story of the youths receiving the miracle of being saved from the polytheistic society; we see miraculous help being sent to non-prophets. You just have to ask. Help will come in ways you cannot imagine. We have to be people of optimism and hope. We have to be people who learn prayers from the Quran and make them with a sincere heart.

You can watch the original lecture at: http://bit.ly/prophetmusaprayer. Condensed and edited for Hiba Magazine by Iqra Asad

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