Miriam Islam starts a new series looking at inspiring relationships in the families of the prophets.
Imagine you were on a long car journey with your family; you would hope it would be uneventful and stress-free. At best you expect the roads to be clear; at worst you would expect long traffic queues. What you certainly wouldn’t expect is your husband to come back, after a service stop, and tell you that he has been talking to a burning tree! You would think he has gone completely mad right? Who talks to trees? An even more pressing question: do trees even talk to humans? You would conclude no! Therefore he must be mad.
Yet, something similar happened to the wife of Musa (AS). The family of Musa (AS) were travelling to Egypt from Midiyan. They were making a long, arduous journey in the desert. Travelling in the desert in the scorching heat, for over two days, it would be an understatement to say they were exhausted. To make matters worse, they lost their way. Musa u advised them to stop and rest whilst he went away to look for shelter and civilisation.
When Musa (AS) came back, he was a changed man. He told his wife he had approached a fire and his name had been called. He recounted that Allah (SWT) had spoken to him and had appointed him as a prophet.
One minute a husband, the next a prophet!
And his wife accepted it, just like that. She believed him. She actually believed that Allah (SWT) had spoken to him at the fire! His wife didn’t question his claims – nor did she question his sanity, and she certainly didn’t mock him. So, what kind of woman takes extraordinary claims upon faith without a second thought? Clearly, a very extraordinary woman.
This woman was Safura bint Shuayb. This is the woman whom Ibn Masud (RA) stated was one of the most foresighted of the three renowned for their wisdom and foresightedness:
1. Abu Bakr for appointing Umar (RA) as his successor to the caliphate.
2. The master of Yusuf (AS)
3. Safura for recommending Musa (AS) to her father for employment.
But what was it about Musa (AS) that made her conviction so firm? He wasn’t a prophet when they met, nor when they got married. Let us delve a little further back to when they first met. Musa (AS) had just fled Egypt after slaying one of Pharaoh’s men. It was through Allah’s (SWT) will that he was to arrive in Midiyan. There, tired and weak from hunger, he took shelter near a well. Musa (AS) observed two young women, standing further back, waiting to water their sheep. He asked them why they were there. They replied that due to their father’s old age they had to look after the flock. Their modest nature prevented them from standing near the men. (Al-Qasas:23-24)
Musa (AS) offered to water their flock for them as they would be unable to move the stone that covered the mouth of the well. The women observed that he was very strong as he easily lifted the stone and drew water for them. Musa (AS) then returned to his spot, where the women overheard him making the following supplication: “My Lord, I am truly in need of any good You have in store for me.” (Al-Qasas:24)
The women returned home and related the whole incident to their father. He insisted on inviting Musa (AS) over as repayment for his kindness. One of them came walking shyly up to him and said: “My father invites you so that he can pay you your wage for drawing water for us.” (Al-Qasas:25)
A specific reference to Safura’s modesty is made in the above verse as lessons for women to draw from. The very manner in which she walked was an indication of her chastity – her inner convictions of modesty were conveyed through her actions. This same chaste behaviour was observed in Musa u when Safura recommended him to her father. “Hire him, father. The best person to hire is someone strong and trustworthy.” (Al-Qasas: 26)
Her father wondered how she could possibly know he was trustworthy. Safura related, when he was invited to their house, he had requested that she follow behind him (so he would not be able to observe her figure in any untoward way), and she should indicate the path by throwing stones towards him. (Ibn Kathir. Stories of the Prophet).
This example reiterates that chastity is equally incumbent upon men. They need to employ taqwa and lower their gaze when encountering non-mahram women. Musa (AS) had the opportunity of looking at a woman – but he didn’t. He gave it up out of respect and honour for her. How many men would really do that? Upon this account Shuayb employed Musa (AS) and requested he marry his daughter Safura. As a father, he had his daughter’s best interests at heart. Despite Musa’s confession of killing an Egyptian, her father overlooked that fact and saw the goodness in him.
Due to Musa’s characteristics of honesty and nobility, Safura married Musa (AS). She didn’t look down on him because he was a shepherd and hired by her father. She didn’t look at the material aspects, nor did she consider his looks. She looked at his character alone. More significantly, it was for her modesty, humility and wisdom that Allah (SWT) chose her to be a prophet’s wife.
It is precisely because of Musa’s (AS) characteristics that his wife immediately believed everything he said – even the conversation he had had at the fire. Safura trusted everything he said because she knew him best, and knew he wouldn’t make such claims without basis. Musa u respected her too much to be making up fantasy tales. He was so overwhelmed he needed to share what had happened with whom he was closest to. He was confident in his belief that his wife wouldn’t doubt or mock him. They had a close, loving relationship, and it was due to this mutual respect and support that Musa (AS) was able to embark on his mission. Without her support and encouragement, it’s possible that Musa (AS) may not have been able to so easily accomplish his work as a prophet. Of course, ultimately his help came from Allah (SWT), but his mission was all the more bearable with a believing, supportive wife.
The next time your husband reveals something absurd about himself, or shares his hopes and dreams, accept it. Respect it. Support it. Be part of the same team like Musa’s wife did. Don’t make him question his own integrity and beliefs. Consider his best characteristics and overlook his flaws – they are minor in the bigger picture.
We all need support and encouragement to pursue our dreams. It’s quite possibly true, as the saying goes, that ‘Behind every great man is a great woman’. So, be the extraordinary woman who helps greatness happen.