Reflect upon the following story and the lessons we can take from it:
On the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās (radhyAllāhu ‘anhumā) that the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) dispatched a military unit. Upon gathering the booty they found a man who said, “I’m not from them! I fell in love with a woman and followed her here – allow me to at least look at her then you can do with me as you wish!”
The woman, tall and ebony-skinned, came forward and he said to her,
“Submit to me O Hubaysh,
before life comes to an end.
Have you not seen how I found you and followed you
To Halyah, through tight mountainous ravines?
Is it not the right of the lover to yearn
After suffering the entire night in pursuit and heat of the noon?”
She said, “Yes! May I be sacrificed for you!”
Then they took the man and killed him. The woman fell on his body, gasped once or twice, then died.
When the unit returned to the Messenger of Allah (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and informed him of what had happened, he said, “There wasn’t even a single merciful man amongst you?!”
This narration, collected by Imām al-Nasā’i (al-Kubra, 8663) as well as al-Tabarāni, has a hasan chain, which al-Haythami also stated. Ibn Hajr declared the chain authentic in al-Fath, although there is a dispute about its strength amongst the Muhaddithīn.
A powerful and sad hadith, it contains many benefits for the interested reader. Before that, some explanation to the hadith itself:
– A sarīyyah is a military unit that would be sent out by the leader either to spread the message of Islam or for more acute actual battle scenarios, all depending on instructions and the situation at hand. This particular unit as described by the hadith had come across a rebellious group of Arabs who refused to accept the rule of law which was in operation in the land and instead attacked the unit and hence some were taken as prisoners and a death sentence was passed on all of them, except that the man in this narration wasn’t part of the original group of rebels – explaining as he does that he was only in the area of the battle because he had ended up there by chance, having fallen in love with a woman and followed her there – but yet was killed – mistakenly – along with the other criminals despite his protests.
– Such units were sent out often and unfortunately, mistakes would occur, the most famous of them with a similar rebuke from the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is related in the Sahīh of Imam al-Bukhari when Khālid b. al-Walid killed a prisoner which led the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to invoke, “O Allah! I am innocent of what Khalid has done!”
– The place in which the above narration occurred was called al-Halyah (also said to be al-Halbah in some narrations). Halyah was though to be from the plains of Yemen yet it is more likely to be within Arabia itself, near a place called Tihāma. This is supported by other ahādith which mention this incident with slight differences (see no.10356 of al-Majma‘ al-Zawā’id, also no. 8787 of Sunan al-Kubrā of al-Nasā’i).
– The name of this lady was Hubayshah but he referred to her with a term of endearment by shortening her name to “Hubaysh”, something done similarly by the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) when he would affectionately call Ā‘ishah simply “Ā‘ish” as narrated by Imam al-Bukhāri in his Sahīh.
– The man was infatuated with this woman, forgetting even death for a moment just to look at her one more time and even asked her to allow him this with his statement ‘submit yourself’ i.e. don’t begrudge me this last moment. Other scholars mentioned that it might mean ‘accept Islam’ or even ‘give me peace’ but the first position seems to fit the context and Allah knows best.
– The woman’s response ‘fadaytuka’ is a well known expression of love and sacrifice amongst the Arabs, being an extreme sign of love and commitment. Indeed, the companions would often come and express their loyalty to the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) with the same term. The context of the story and the clear love on display necessitates the translation as it has been given.
The beauty of this narration is that it shows some of the excellence of the Arabs in their poetry, their concern for love and romance, and emphasises the overriding principle of ease and gentleness in Islam as illustrated by the Prophet, despite Islam’s strict disciplinary and penal code in times of necessity.
So, from the many lessons, points of law and indeed benefits of this narration as mentioned by the scholars:
1. The intrinsic gentle nature of the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
2. Pardoning precedes punishment.
3. The power of love and its consequences, to the extent that it can make a man forget death.
4. Love (and its consequent sadness) can kill as illustrated by how Hubaysh died of grief.
5. A lesson to be learnt for those attempting to give fatwa to kill someone – it is the most difficult and unenviable of responsibilities.
6. The virtue of mercy to the creation, even if they differ with you.
7. The concern of the leader for giving all people the possibility of hearing about Islam, and hence his emphasis on da’wah.
8. That the leaders should always be fully appraised by those under his command so that he can either confirm their actions or correct them.
9. Both men and women of that time were equal in their knowledge of Arabic language and culture. Shouldn’t we give our women greater opportunity today to do the same?
10. It is permissible to look at a non-Mahram woman if there is a need; how else were the Sahābah able to describe her skin so accurately?
11. The intrinsic disadvantages of keeping continual company of such criminals or evil people. The man wasn’t even from this group yet he was taken because he was with them.
12. The severity of the Sahābah, radhyAllāhu ‘anhum, on kufr and criminals.
13. There is no need for expiation/blood money if the Mujāhidīn make an honest mistake after their best efforts of ijtihād. Did they make their best effort? There is discussion on this point.
14. Punishment is not immediate; a delay for requests or other reasons is allowed.
15. The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would often reprimand his Companions, and as here, with severity.
16. The Sahābah are not ma‘sūm (protected from making mistakes and sinning).
And Allah ‘azza wa jall knows best.