Lessons from Surah Tahreem
By Zakia Usmani
The Quran is filled with amazing stories that display significant and meaningful lessons for all to benefit from. But not all of the stories are based upon the lives of Prophets, some are based on pious women who were tested and went through trials of their own, namely Mariam and Aasia. May Allah (SWT) be pleased with them. Because of their high status and beautiful example, Allah (SWT) has granted them the best of the best in Jannah as opposed to the wives of Prophet Nuh (AS) and Prophet Lut (AS), whose wives were, and will always remain, examples of women who earned the anger of Allah (SWT).
In Surah Tahreem, Allah (SWT) introduces the wives of the Prophets Nuh (AS) and Lut (AS) and their outcomes:
Allah presents an example of those who disbelieved: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut. They were under two of Our righteous servants but betrayed them, so those prophets did not avail them from Allah at all, and it was said, “Enter the Fire with those who enter.” (Al Qur’an; Chapter 66: Verse 10)
Both these women had committed an unimaginable crime – they betrayed their husbands, who not only were righteous men but also the Prophets of Allah (SWT).
As mentioned in Surah Ankaboot, Verse 14, Nuh (AS) preached to his people and called them to the worship of Allah for 950 years. Despite his persistent efforts, only a handful of people believed. According to some scholars, only 80 people converted to Islam during his lifetime. The example of the patience exhibited by Nuh (AS) is second to none, and all this while enduring grief and disappointment from his family, including his own wife and son – who chose not to believe.
There are lessons in the story of Nuh (AS) for all of us – always remain patient while giving daawah and spreading the message of Islam to those around you. Hidaayah (guidance) is not in the hands of the daa’i (messenger), but in the hands of Allah (SWT), and sometime those closest to us fail to see the truth – remain steadfast, be a muhsin (one who does utmost good) and continue to make du’a (invocation) in the face of hardship, like Nuh (AS).
In the case of Prophet Lut (AS), he had the task of bringing the people who were participating in homosexuality, robbery and murder, to the right path. But despite his warnings and admonitions, his efforts were fruitless. At the end, Allah (SWT) brought down His punishment, the story of which is narrated several times in the Qur’an. In Surah Hijr, we learn in Verse 61 onwards, that Allah (SWT) sent angles disguised as young handsome men to visit Lut (AS). This was a test for the people of his nation, especially his wife, who failed her husband by telling the townsmen about the men in her home. This created a very difficult situation for Lut (ES), and her actions brought about the anger of Allah (SWT) upon her. To Lut (AS), the angels then revealed their true identities and Allah brought down his punishment on the town the next morning after Prophet Lut (AS) and his followers left town. In Surah Hijr, Allah (SWT) concludes… Indeed, we will save them all, except his wife. Allah decreed that she is of those who remain behind. (Al Qur’an; Chapter 15: Verse 59-60)
The very important lesson we learn from the story of Lut (AS) is that Allah knows the state of our hearts, and we will be judged based on our intentions. Outwardly, the wife of Lut (AS) may have seemed like she was supporting her husband, but Allah knew the condition of her heart, and brought out her true colors by testing her. Just like fire purifies gold, Allah tests our hearts to see how pure our intentions are – and if they are corrupt, no association or relation will be able to save us.
Through the stories of these two women, we learn that Islam, and Allah’s judgement is completely fair and just. Many Muslims believe that just being born a Muslim will enable them to enter Jannah. Many Muslims believe that having a religious spouse will automatically take them to Jannah with no effort on their part. But these stories clearly prove that this isn’t the case. Your parents, children nor spouse can save you from the punishment of Allah if you aren’t willing to put in any effort. The only way to save yourself from Allah’s punishment by doing what is pleasing to Him.
An occurring theme in both these stories is the strong sense of patience each prophet displayed. Despite the grief and torment their wives caused and despite their refusal to see their wrong-doings, both prophets exercised utmost good with them. They didn’t break ties with their wives like the couples of today, nor did they seek revenge. Instead they turned to Allah (SWT) and prayed for their guidance.
The women mentioned above are the worst examples of disbelieving women. So who are the best women role models Allah (SWT) mentioned to us in the Qur’an? They are Aasia and Mariam, may Allah (SWT) be pleased with them.
Aasia was the wife of the most arrogant man in history, Fir’aun, and the foster mother of Musa (ES).
And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Fir’aun, when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Fir’aun and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people. (Al Qur’an; Chapter 66: Verse 11)
This amazing woman, was married to the worst of husbands imaginable – the ruler of Egypt at the time, who thought of himself as god. When Fir’aun found out about Aasia’s beliefs, he tortured her to no end – but despite the torment, she held strong onto her beliefs and only turned towards Allah (SWT) for help. The example of her strength is second to none as she gave up her status as a Queen, her riches and luxuries, even her safety and her life – all to please Allah (SWT). Aasia’s devotion and love for Allah is why she is known as such a strong woman in Islam and an example for all. The devotion, patience, faith and courage she had under all types of difficult situations presents an outstanding example and message to all believers. At the end, Fir’aun ordered his men to nail her to the ground and put a heavy boulder on her chest under the scorching sun. But Allah helped her, as during the last painful seconds of her life, she said to her Lord, “My Lord, build for me a home with you in paradise, and save me from Fir’aun and his work, and save me from the unjust people.” According to scholars, it was then that Allah (SWT) opened the sky for her and showed her home in Jannah, she smiled as Allah took away her soul. May Allah be pleased with her and reunite us with her in Jannah. Ameen.
Aasia is an example for all those who are attached to this world and its temporary benefits. So attached to the temptations of this world that they don’t sacrifice anything for Allah (SWT). Aasia had everything imaginable – she had the palace, the kingdom, the freedom, the power, but she also knew that what she had will end and what Allah has will always last. She gave all of dunya, including her life, for the love of Allah, for the sake of Allah. What do we give for Allah?
Another such example of excellence lies in Mariam, a devoted servant of Allah who guarded her chastity and remained steadfast on Allah’s path. She was an honorable woman who was raised in Masjid Al-Aqsa, and Allah (SWT) chose her to be the best of the women of this world. Even when she became pregnant with Esa (AS) and had to face the people of her town, she put all her trust in Allah (SWT) and in turn He helped her in the most miraculous of ways – He allowed her new-born son, Esa (AS) to defend her and turned her hardships into goodness. To this day, she serves to be a great example of how we should also trust Allah in every matter of life. She is also a great role model of how to be devoted in our worship and how to maintain our modesty. We ask Allah to bless her and reunite us with her in Jannah. Ameen.
There are a few lessons that we can learn from Aasia and Mariam’s stories:
Firstly, Allah may test our faith by holding us back from health, riches or family in order to see if we stay firm on our beliefs and turn towards Him. In Surah Baqarah, Allah says “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, who, when disaster strikes them, say, Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return.” (Al Qur’an; Chapter 2: Verse 155-156) So whenever you find yourself struggling in life, remember that this is a test from Allah, so don’t fail in it by abandoning your religion for the sake of worldly pleasure and remember that you are going to be rewarded for being patient. If you do pass the tests just like Aasia and Mariam, your faith will be stronger than it was at the beginning.
Secondly, Allah works in mysterious ways to bring His blessings to those who stay truthful to their faith and in times of hardship. Remember, “Allah has full power and control over His Affairs” (Al Qur’an; Chapter 12: Verse 21). The real test of Islam is not to believe in the seen, but the unseen.
Thirdly, Aasia had supposedly lost everything of this world. How did she deal with it? She dealt with it with great patience and complete and absolute trust in Allah (SWT) that He will make things right. She asked for Allah’s companionship in place of Fir’aun’s and asked for a house near Him in Jannah in place of her palace. So Allah granted her dua. Whenever any injustice is done against you in life, or you give up something for the sake of Allah, know that Allah has better things instore for you.
Fourthly, these two role models did win in the end. But they were tested severely, and their faith was shaken several times. But they stood firm, remained patient and asked Allah for help. And that’s how our lives should also be if we want to continue on the straight path. It’s important that we read and understand the translation of the Qur’an in an attempt to learn the lessons in it as these are a source of mercy and guidance from Allah (SWT) for all of us.
Lastly, Fir’aun was arrogant due to his status and his wealth. Being wealthy or being famous isn’t a bad thing in itself. Wealth and status is good unless it’s hurting your faith, or your treatment towards others. Your wealth and status shouldn’t be something to be proud and arrogant over, it was Allah (SWT) who gave it to you and it is Allah (SWT) who can take it away from you in a blink of an eye. All the blessings that Allah gives us in dunya, be it wealth, children, or status – should be a means of increasing our gratitude and not a means of arrogance.
In the end, it all comes down to this one question: Are you willing to give up what you desire for the One you believe in?