Peaceful Families, Part 4: "Calm as a Midsummer Night"
Based on a sermon by Imam Abu Taleb
My honored brothers and sisters, we begin by praising Allah, the Exalted, the Almighty. I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship and unconditional obedience except the one true God. I bear witness that Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him is the last of His Prophets and the seal of His Messengers.
قال الله تعالى:
وَالَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا هَبْ لَنَا مِنْ أَزْوَاجِنَا وَذُرِّيَّاتِنَا قُرَّةَ أَعْيُنٍ وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا
My brothers and sisters, we have been discussing and reflecting on this great verse in the Quran, Surah Furqan, verse 74, where Allah says “Those who pray, ‘Our Lord, give us joy in our spouses and offspring. Make us good examples to those who are aware of You’.” We have been studying the hadeeth of the Prophet, صلى الله عليه و سلم, called the Hadith of Umm Zara, narrating an exchange between the Mother of the Believers, A'ishah bint Abi Bakr, رضي الله عنها, and our Prophet, رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم. This hadeeth gives the stories of eleven homes with scenes and the challenges that we face in our human relationships, not only between husbands and wives or parents and sons and daughters, but indeed, in all of our relationships - in the masjid, in our friendships, in our places of work. Some of the homes have great characteristics that we should model as part of our Islamic behavior and "adab" and others model behavior that we should avoid. For the first three homes we discussed, you can review the articles and recordings online, إن شاء الله
We previously talked about three characteristics to avoid based on the description the first three women gave about their husbands. Today, we come to a wife who gives a glowing praise of her husband. She describes his calmness, the strength of his speech, the excellence of his character and she gives a description that he is as calm as a midsummer night. So before we describe it, I want to ask you - Can you imagine if, as a husband, your wife were to describe you like that? And you as a wife, if your husband were to think of you like that? What if your children, in their ups and downs and their challenges, knew that you were the best place to turn for advice and support? How would it affect your relationships at work and your relationship in the masjid and your friendships?"
That's what I want us to think about throughout today. As we come to the glowing praise of this man, we pray that Allah grants us in our tongues and our hearts the characteristics that made him worthy of this description.
A quick review of the hadeeth,
عن عائشة بنت أبي بكر رضي الله عنهما قالت: جلس إحدى عشرة امرأة، فتعاهدن وتعاقدن أن لا يكتمن من أخبار أزواجهن شيئًا.
Remember that this hadeeth is narrated in a conversation from our Mother, A'ishah where she says that eleven women gathered with the agreement that they wouldn't hide anything about their homes. So we learn from this narration the pluses and the minuses, the good things, both as men and women. At the end, we will come to a household that is so strong that Rasul Allahصلى الله عليه و سلم will say, "I was to you like this man to his wife” except that the Prophet had not divorced his wife like the husband in the story.
To review, the first woman described her husband as follows:
زوجي لحم جمل غث، على رأس جبل وعر لا سهل فيرتقى ولا سمين فينتقل
The first woman described her husband as camel meat, which is low-grade meat. She further described him like a low quality meal that you only can only get to at the top of a high mountain, out of reach. The metaphor is that he is has a difficult personality and that he is arrogant on top of it. We learn from this description many things, but among them, that we should treasure our homes and not make unhealthy comparisons to the outside. We should be pleased with what Allah gave us and work to better it. We should also learn to come down from our mountains. There is little that is more destructive to a relationship than arrogance that creeps into our hearts and there is little that keeps us further from al-Jannah than that arrogance as well.
In the second home,
زوجي لا أبث خبره، إني أخاف أن لا أذره، إن أذكره أذكر عجره وبجره
The second wife said, "I don't mention my husband's news, my secrets." She said, "If I mention it, I'll mention all of his outer and inner flaws and I won't be able to stop."
So we learn from this part of the hadeeth the importance of guarding the home's secrets. From the evils of our time is that there are young people who married and don't understand that a home and a relationship is a trust from Allah سبحانه و تعالى and its boundaries and walls are to be guarded. Some things must even be guarded from the parents and the in-laws because now there's a new relationship to honor and protect.
Similarly, we should guard with the utmost care with our friendships and people's secrets. The diseases of backbiting and looseness of the tongue البهتان ,الغيبة, النميمة, will be the source of much regret on the Day of Judgement. Muslims have started to take very casually that they openly criticize others outside their presence and we should be very cautious of this bad characteristic.
Then the third home, which we discussed last khutbah,
: قالت الثالثة
زوجي العشنق، إن أنطق أطلق وإن أسكت أعلق
The third wife spoke about a state of despair that she finds herself in. If she speaks, then she will be divorced and if she is silent, then she is stuck. She spoke about the lack of empathy from her husband as if he is a mind without a heart or a heart without a mind. She described him as hasty, oversensitive, quick to judge. We spoke about the importance of making a safe space at home where our spouses and children feel at ease even if they make mistakes.
But one brother mentioned to me the other day, he said, "This hadeeth is very difficult and heavy because everyone is complaining." Everyone is complaining because this is a reality of our world. Many of us don't know how to celebrate and praise the good in other people and even if everything is good, we still find any wrong thing. I remember a teacher once told me that there are people who, if you hand them a glass of beautiful, blessed Zam Zam, they will pull out a speck of dust or a stone in it.
But now in this hadeeth we switch to a person who sees her home differently. InshAllah weإن شاء الله hope that we also start to see our children and spouses and relationships differently, in a good and generous light.
I want to give you a quick introduction. If you understand this introduction, you'll understand the woman's description. Try to recall last summer, one of the really hot and humid days in Raleigh where you felt like the sun was baking us. As you know, Ramadhan was during Summer this year and so the hunger and thirst made it harder. As that day progresses, Maghrib finally comes in. You break your fast, get ready for 'Ibaadah and then come to al-Masjid for 'Isha' and Salah at-Taraweeh.
You may recall as you step outside that feeling of a midsummer night. As you step out of your car, there is that beauty and calmness in the air. Perhaps the moon is out. The heat is gone. There might be a light breeze creating coolness around you. Many people love to sit in this calm, beautiful weather and enjoy a cup of tea and speak with friends. It's one of the most enjoyable things for many people during the Summer.
This woman says, "My husband is like the calm of that midsummer night.
زوجي كليل تهامة لا حر ولا قر، ولا مخافة ولا سآمة
She says, "My husband is like the night of تهامة."
What is تهامة “Tahaama”? It is an area in the Arabian Peninsula that has a hot, blistering climate and it is arid and dry. The day has that uncomfortable heat of the Arabian desert. But at night, that desert is cool and a breeze comes bringing cooler air to the valley and plain of تهامة. Tahaama.
Tahaama تهامة was known to Quraish and the people of RasulAllah رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم. This valley تهامة is surrounded by mountains. So, if a harsh, strong wind comes, it is broken by the mountains and what enters in the valley is a soft, cool breeze.
So, when she says, "زوجي كليل تهامة"she is saying that interacting with this person is like the calm and the breeze of a midsummer night after a blistering hot day. Can you imagine if Allah blessed you or I with the adab of Islam to be like this? If people saw you like this, could you imagine what would happen in your workplace? Could you imagine what would happen to your work and your volunteering? People would flock to be associated with you. Could you imagine what would happen to your family? If people saw you as cool and calm, measured, even-tempered.
She says, "زوجي كليل تهامة" and then she gives four specific descriptions that help us understand what it takes to be like this.
She says, "لا حر ولا قر"
حر “Harr” in Arabic means hot. Even in English, when someone is really angry we say, "He's hot." So, the description here is that when he speaks, he's not quick-tempered. What occurs to the heart doesn't just come out of the mouth without a filter. Every word is measured. If the person in front of him is misbehaving, he remembers that those words are accountable before Allah سبحانه و تعالى
He's not hot tempered, he's not sharp-tongued, he's not always ready to explode. Remember that Imam as-Shafi says in a poem that “al-habeeb,” الحبيب, a true beloved friend is not, “من احتجت إلى مداراته,” it’s not the person who, when you speak to them, you're worried which button are you going to press that's going to send them off the deep end. He said, الحبيب is the one who meets you and greets you and you don't worry about what you say. You feel safe when you speak to them.
So in the hadith, the woman says, "لا حر", he's not hot-tempered. Rather he is the opposite, “ولا قر”, He is not “Qarr” - cold, unconnected, and unempathetic.
In Arabic, when somebody displays no emotions, we say this person is بارد , literally “cold” or expressionless. Many of our young brothers and sisters fall into a trap and I want you to listen closely so you don't fall into it. Many of our young brothers and sisters, if their parents or an elder or a teacher are speaking to them, what do they do? They’re not looking up. They’re staring at their phone. They’re saying "Yes, uh-huh" but their face is not there. This is an aspect of being قر, - cold, being unconnected.
From the Sunnah of the Prophet, صلى الله عليه وسلم, is that when people would speak to him, he would let them finish what they wanted to say. When they would address him, he would turn his whole body to them, not staring at them to intimidate them but showing his full attention with his body, face, and eyes. . سبحان الله, Subhanallah, so many of us have strayed so far from the Sunnah that we use the opposite as a way to harm those we don't like. We walk past them and we turn away or stare at our phones. This is sending a message. Even if you don’t mean it from your heart, your words and the behavior are saying to the person, "You're not worthy of respect. What you're saying is not worth listening to."
The Prophet, صلى الله عليه وسلم, was far from this. Our hearts and our faces and body should be congruent. We should honor people and if those people are our parents or our elders or our teachers, they are even more deserving of caution in this respect.
My brothers and sisters, I want to mention an important point. Many of us, in our families, we do care. In our relationships in the masjid, we care. We're not bad people on the inside. We care about what our children did during the day, we care about the story that our spouses want to tell us, we care about the brother that we're passing by. Inside, we do care. But we set a trap for people, because our silence, our behavior could be mistaken for not caring. So, it's so important that what is in the heart is reflected on the face and the body and the tongue.
If our children are telling us about the day, we shouldn’t stare at our phones and multitask. We put it down, focus on them, and ask questions. If our spouse has been away, we don't interrogate them just to quickly learn what happened. Rather, we ask with genuine curiosity so if there's something good, we encourage and celebrate it and if there's something less than that, we help improve it.
So many of us are good people on the inside but we've forgotten how to show that in our behavior and our tongues. Something we learn from this house in this hadith is the importance of good speech. We'll close with it in the second khutbah, إن شاء الله
I ask Allah عز وجل to make us have the Islamic adab and to be even tempered and of good character and to implement the Sunnah of رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم.
[End of first part]
The hadeeth continues,
: قالت الرابعة
زوجي كليل تهامة لا حر ولا قر، ولا مخافة ولا سآمة
The woman closes by saying that when you speak to him, you do not feel fear nor do you feel grief and sadness. That when you speak to him, you feel thirsty for more and more companionship. They could speak to each other till the morning, you wouldn't get bored and when you speak, you feel safe and comforted.
My brothers and sisters, no one was more deserving of this description than Rasulallah
رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم. Many of us have presented a false choice for our masaajid and our homes. We do not know how to combine showing respect and having a safe space, pushing people to be better but having the ability to help them along that journey without restricting them until they explode in rebellion.
So the Prophet’s, صلى الله عليه و سلم, mosque, al-Masjid an-Nabawi, was the most serene and comfortable of places. It was not only for the perfect Muslims - there were great companions who loved Allah and His Messenger and frequented that place but struggled with alcohol. There were great companions who felt the inclination for zina but they felt comfortable speaking to him, عليه الصلاة و السلام. He combined the rules of the masjid and the greatness of a Prophet but the accessibility of a caring father and brother and mentor and Prophet.
To continue the hadith, this woman says,
ولا مخافة ولا سآمة
That when you speak to this person, that they have the ability to make you feel safe. If you make a mistake, they help you correct it and if you do well, they celebrate every step on the journey to being better. There is not grief or anger with them.
So when there is a problem, the Muslim is not the one that focuses on every problem and finds every reason to be pessimistic. The better Muslim, is the one who can be optimistic and find solutions and have tawakkal and trust that ultimately, outcomes are in Allah's, سبحانه و تعالى, control and command but we have to do our part.
My brothers and sisters, from the dimensions that we have forgotten in our households is the importance of speaking well. Scholars distinguish between al-'ilm (knowledge) and adab (etiquette and behavior and Islamic characteristics). People of that time would not only find teachers (مدرسين ) for their children but they would find مؤدبين (mu’addibeen) and مربين (murbeen) people that would teach them how to behave, how to speak, how to be a good Muslim. Even the khulafaa themselves would specifically find people that would train their children in these characteristics.
Perhaps the gaps in our speech is just an indication of the hardness that we have let creep into our hearts and so when our hearts became hard, the speech became a reflection of it. So, a key part of the journey for people who want to be described in this positive way by their spouses and children and companions and neighbors – as the calm of a midsummer night - is to learn and teach our children how to speak and how to behave, how to understand Islamic character. Do not underestimate the power of the smallest gestures and experiences to shape the life and destiny of your children. When people are struggling with something in a relationship, we see it written on their faces, the tension of a conflict that is 15 years old they have not yet forgiven. When you do that, you keep from yourself the calm of this midsummer night. The believer is the one who treats others for the sake of Allah, سبحانه وتعالى, the one who learns to forgive and the one who learns how to find the brightness in a dark spot.
So I pray to Allah, سبحانه و تعالى, that He opens our hearts to reinvest in our homes. I pray to Allah, سبحانه و تعالى, that He makes us near to our children and that He makes us near to our spouses. I pray to Allah, عزوجل, that He rids us of all bad characteristics, that He grants us the ability to be even tempered, of Islamic character. I pray to Allah, عزوجل, that He teaches us the importance of speech and allows us to say the best of things and to avoid foul speech. I pray to Allah to make us from those that are fearful of the return to Him and the account to Him.