Narrated 'Ata bin Abi Rabah: Ibn 'Abbas said to me, 'Shall I show you a woman of the people of Paradise?' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'This black woman came to the Prophet and said, 'I get attacks of epilepsy and my body becomes uncovered; please invoke Allah for me.' The Prophet said (to her), 'If you wish, be patient and you will have (enter) Paradise; and if you wish, I will invoke Allah to cure you.' She said, 'I will remain patient,' and added, 'but I become uncovered, so please invoke Allah for me that I may not become uncovered.' So he invoked Allah for her.' [al-Bukhari]
The black woman is not known by her name or her exact whereabouts, rather she is known by her deeds, her faith, her modesty, her chastity, and for her being an inhabitant of Paradise. When Abdullah Ibn Abbas radhiya Allahu anhu said 'this black woman', he did not mean to point at her race or to belittle her in any way. Indeed, he but meant to teach the people around him a great principle of Islam which is shown in the hadith: 'Allah does not look at your pictures (shapes) and bodies but He looks at your hearts (and your deeds).' [Muslim] She (the black woman) was physically sick, yet she sought cure in the du`a of the Messenger of Allah, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam. She knew that the one who cures is Allah, and Allah would answer the du`a of His Messenger salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam.
The fact that the Prophet salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam said: 'If you wish, be patient and you will have (enter) Paradise' is a proof for the virtue and reward of patience during sickness. In another Hadith, he, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam, says: 'Whenever a hardship affects the Muslim, he will be forgiven for it even when he is picked by a spike.' [Muslim]
The black women preferred the suffering of this world to getting the eternal reward of Paradise. She suffered from sickness, yet her pain and discomfort did not force her to forego pleasing Allah. And no matter who one is, if one is in the path of Allah, one will encounter difficulties, because Paradise is rounded by hardships. If things are easy and life is rosy, then one must check oneself; are we following the true Islam? Especially in this western environment it may be difficult for a young woman to wear the dress of modesty, the hijab (even though it is mandatory), not to talk to men and keep away from them (which is also mandatory), except if necessary.
All these may be difficult to achieve for some in the beginning, but when one overcomes herself for the sake of Allah, then all the other obstacles become baseless. So, how to overcome oneself? By knowing Allah by His Names and Attributes; by loving and obeying Allah and His Messenger, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam; and then the help of Allah will come, insha'Allah.
She (the black woman) preferred being patient, but could not tolerate that her honor, her modesty and her chastity be damaged or even touched, nor that any part of her body be uncovered, though she had no control over it. Indeed she was a real slave and servant of Allah; she was a faithful, a believer, a Muslimah, a righteous and pious woman, a truthful woman, and she was loyal to Allah and His Messenger, salla Allahu alaihi wa sallam. Not only having these awe-inspiring qualities, she was also a wise and a great woman, as her memorable words rang ...: '... but I become uncovered, so please invoke Allah for me that I may not become uncovered.'
It can also be inferred that the righteous Muslim woman inherently loves to be covered (from her head to her toe, covering her head as well as her body), loves modesty and chastity and hates revealing her body and her beauty. The black woman, radhiya Allahu `anha could sustain being so sick but could not bear to be uncovered in front of people. The issue, one must understand, is not of black or white or Arab or non-Arab, rich or poor, noble or not, it is rather of a creed so deeply rooted in the hearts of Muslims like blood flows in the arteries and veins of people. They are those who are totally committed to Islam. Fourteen Hundred years of history showed that Muslim women could sustain hunger, poverty, sickness but could never sustain disobeying Allah. The wife would tell her husband when leaving for work: 'Fear Allah in us, for we can sustain hunger and thirst but we cannot sustain Hell fire [i.e. do not acquire unlawful earning].'
Insha’Allah in this we all, men and women, can take a deep and rich lesson, so that we too maybe inhabitants of Paradise.
Reference: Haled Abu Sailm, Da`wah magazine, Iss. 1514, page 32.
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