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The Acid Test of Imaan


While our Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was on the journey of Mi’raaj, he suddenly perceived the most exquisite fragrance. On smelling this fragrance, he asked Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam), “O Jibreel! What is this exquisite fragrance?” Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) replied, “It is the fragrance of the grave of the woman who would comb the hair of Fir‘aun’s daughter and her children.”

The history behind the incident of this woman is as follows:

There was a king of the Banu Israaeel who had two sons, Khadhir and Ilyaas. Khadhir had embraced Islam at the hands of a monk who he would sometimes pass by. One day, Ilyaas said to their father, the king, “My brother, Khadhir, has no inclination or desire to become king after you. Why don’t you get him married so that he will perhaps get a son who can succeed you as king?” The king accepted the advice of his son, Ilyaas, and got Khadhir married to a beautiful, virgin girl.

When he met his wife, Khadhir said to her, “I have no need for a wife. If you so wish, I will divorce you and let you go, and if you so wish, you can remain with me and worship Allah Ta‘ala. However, you will have to keep my secret and not inform anybody that I am not intimate with you due to my being constantly engaged in ‘ibaadat.” The girl chose to remain with him and they thus lived together for one year, worshipping Allah Ta‘ala.

When one year had elapsed, the king summoned Khadhir’s wife and asked her, “You and my son are both young so why do you not have a child yet?” The girl faithfully guarded the secret of her husband and replied,“Children are from the side of Allah Ta‘ala. If he wishes, there will be a child and if he does not wish, there will be no child.” The king suspected that the girl might be barren and thus commanded Khadhir to divorce her. He thereafter got Khadhir married to a woman who had previously been married and borne children.

When Khadhir met his new wife, he put the same two options to her; either he divorce her and she leave or she remain with him and worship Allah Ta‘ala without divulging his secret. As the first wife had done, the second wife chose to remain with Khadhir and worship Allah Ta‘ala. When one year had elapsed, the king summoned Khadhir’s wife and asked her why they still did not have a child. The woman divulged the secret of Khadhir and replied, “He does not have any need for women (due to his excessive ‘ibaadat and has thus not shared the bed with me).” When the king heard this, he sent for Khadhir who realized that his secret had been divulged and thus fled to an island in the ocean. The king instantly sent men in pursuit to capture him and bring him back. The men, however, could not find Khadhir.

Two wood gatherers came to the island though and they happened to see Khadhir. When they returned, one of them went to the king and reported that he had sighted Khadhir. When asked if he had any proof, he referred the king to his companion who had also seen Khadhir. When the king asked his companion to confirm that they had indeed seen Khadhir, the companion decided to protect Khadhir and denied that they had seen him. The king thus concluded that the first man was lying and had him killed. The king also blamed the second wife of Khadhir for his disappearance, claiming that he fled because she had divulged his secret, and thus executed her as well.

In the meantime, the woman who had been Khadhir’s first wife was now residing in a corner of the city where she remained engaged in the ‘ibaadat of Allah Ta‘ala. One day, a man passed by who she overheard reciting “Bismillah”. She was surprised and asked him, “Where did you learn this?” On her enquiry, he revealed that he was the wood gatherer who had met Khadhir on the island. This wood gatherer later on married this woman and she bore him children. This man later on became the treasurer of Fir‘aun and this same woman, his wife, later on became the maid of Fir‘aun’s daughter, Maa-ilah.

This maid was once combing the hair of Fir‘aun’s daughter when the comb slipped and fell from her hand. As it fell, she muttered and said, “May Fir‘aun be cursed” after which she picked the comb up saying, “In the name of Allah Ta‘ala”. On hearing this, Fir‘aun’s daughter asked, “Are you referring to my father?” The maid replied, “No! My Lord, your Lord and the Lord of your father is Allah Ta‘ala.” Fir‘aun’s daughter slapped her and immediately rushed to Fir‘aun and told him what the maid had said. Fir‘aun was enraged and sent for her. When she was brought, he asked her, “Do you worship a lord besides me?” She fearlessly replied, “Yes, I only worship He who is my Lord, your Lord and the Lord of everything.”Fir‘aun’s rage now knew no bounds and he mercilessly killed her children, one by one, in order to try and force her to renounce her Islam. Before Fir‘aun could kill her youngest child who was a small, breastfeeding baby, the baby miraculously spoke and gave the mother courage saying, “O Mother! Remain steadfast for you are on the truth!” When Fir‘aun then advanced to end her life as well, she requested him to at least arrange for all their bodies to be buried together in one grave. Fir‘aun obliged and they were thus buried together.

Ibnu ‘Abbaas (radhiyallahu ‘anhuma) has mentioned that four people had spoken in their infancy; ‘Isa (‘alaihis salaam), the baby in the incident of Juraij, the baby who testified to the innocence of Yusuf (‘alaihis salaam) and the baby of the maid of Fir‘aun’s daughter.

(References: Al Bidaayah wan Nihaayah vol. 1 pg. 387 & 392, Tafseer Ibni Katheer vol. 4 pg. 394, Majma‘uz Zawaa’id #230, Saheeh Ibni Hibbaan #2903 & 2904)


1. The first wife of Khadhir was faithful and loyal to him and kept his secret. It was perhaps on account of her obedience to her husband that Allah Ta‘ala saved her from the king whereas the king killed the wife who was unfaithful and disloyal to Khadhir.

2. When a person has Allah Ta‘ala, the Creator, on his side, he will not have any fear for the creation. The maid was thus able to openly declare her imaan before the tyrant, Fir‘aun, despite knowing well the consequences and punishments that would follow.

3. When true awareness of the Hereafter sets in, to the point where it is as real to a person as the world he is living in, he will be prepared to undergo any difficulty in order to attain Jannah. He realizes that misery is short lived and fleeting in this world and pleasures are eternal in the Hereafter. Hence the maid was able to watch her children being ruthlessly killed and then sacrifice her own life, understanding that the difficulty was actually a small price to pay for the eternal bliss of Jannah. We do not face the trial of being killed and watching the merciless murder of our children. Our challenges are minor and of a social nature viz. “What will people say if I dress modestly? How will society view me if I wear the hijaab and niqaab? Will people accept me if I become a true Muslim?” To lose the acceptance of and not fit in with people who are themselves far from Allah Ta‘ala is a minor sacrifice which will earn us the reward of Jannah.

4. Allah Ta‘ala rewards those who assist and help His friends and loyal servants. Hence Allah Ta‘ala blessed the wood gatherer who had protected Khadhir with imaan. ┈┅·̣̇·̥̊·̣̥̇̊ː̗̲̀(̥̊آمين )̥̊ː̖́·̣̥̇̊·̥̊·̣̇┅┈

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