I first read the story about Ali bin al-Mufiq in a book that I bought years ago for my children. Ali bin al-Mufiq was a cobbler who spent years saving money with the intention of performing Hajj.
One day, he went to his neighbour’s house just as they were about to have dinner. Although Ali bin al-Mufiq wasn’t hungry, he thought his neighbour would invite him to join them for dinner out of courtesy, as was the custom in Muslim families.
After a while, the neighbour said, “I’m sorry I cannot invite you to join us for dinner. You see, my family hasn’t eaten for three straight days. They’re famished. I went out and came across a dead donkey. I cut out some of the meat and brought it home. It’s halal for us, because of our extreme hunger. But it’s not halal for you.” On hearing this, Ali bin al-Mufiq went home, took the three thousand dinars he had saved for Hajj, and gave it to his neighbour.
This story came to light because of a dream the scholar Abdullah bin Mubarak had while he was sleeping near the Kaaba.
In his dream, Abdullah bin Mubarak saw two angels descend from the sky and start talking to each other. One of the angels asked the other, “Do you know how many people have come for Hajj this year?” The other angel replied, “Six hundred thousand have come for Hajj.” Abdullah bin Mubarak had also gone for Hajj that year.
The first angel asked, “How many people’s Hajj has been accepted?” The second replied, “I wonder if anyone’s Hajj has been accepted at all.” Abdullah bin Mubarak was grieved to hear that. Then he heard the other angel speak, “There is a cobbler in Damascus. His name is Ali bin al-Mufiq. He could not come for Hajj, but Allah has accepted his intention of Hajj. Not only will he get the reward for Hajj, but because of him, all the Hajjis will be rewarded.” (Ref: Compilation by Farhia Yahya. Based on the book ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak, al-Imam al-Qudwah’ by Muhammad ‘Uthman Jamal.)
Abdullah bin Mubarak awoke, and travelled all the way to Damascus to look for Ali bin al-Mufiq. The humble man he was, Ali bin Al-Mufiq was reluctant to relate why he couldn’t perform Hajj that year. He only told his story upon Abdullah bin Mubarak’s insistence.
Stories are like vitamins to the soul. They help you refocus on what’s important in life, lift your spirits when you’re down, inspire you when things seem all but mundane. I had actually lost my book and had been yearning to reread it for quite some time, when out of the blue, an e-mail arrived with the title “The Cobbler’s Hajj”. Instantly I opened the e-mail, the words were exactly as I remembered them. Running through the story felt like meeting a long lost dear friend.
We hear so many complaints from Muslims about the negativity they’re facing around the world. What are we doing, with what we have, to educate people better about Islam, to make their hearts less hostile and more open? To prove that Muslims are the most giving and generous? The poor Muslims in our midst also need a helping hand. Sometimes we’re caught too deep in our own lives, we fail to throw a glance at our neighbours, just to see if they’re doing alright.
Stop complaining, start doing. Change begins with you and me. Let’s together reach out to our neighbours, family and friends, Muslims and non-Muslims. See what they need, and help them with what we can. It doesn’t have to be money, althought sometimes that’s exactly what they need. It could be friendship, a shoulder to lean on during tough times, a listening ear or, at the very least, a smile that warms their hearts if you were to cross paths.
Throughout the ages, the best Muslims, men and women, were and are those who do what they can, with what they have. Many of the earliest Muslims were poor, not only in terms of wealth, but also in education. But a solid will was all they needed to start implementing change. Often times, it started with a friend, a neighbour, a family member, an acquaintance.
Just like the cobbler Ali bin al-Mufiq, true Muslims win hearts and minds with their kindness and generosity, putting others above themselves. Ali bin al-Mufiq wasn’t a scholar, or anyone famous. But he did what he could, with what he had, and that earned him a very special reward from Allah Most Kind, Most Generous.
The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One above the heavens will have mercy upon you.” [Sunan At-Tirmidhi]
This article was published in the November 2014 edition of Alwasat, the bilingual newspaper based in Melbourne, Australia. Read in online on page 24 http://issuu.com/alwasat2011/docs/november_2014 ].