The Emperor and the Seed

Sprouting seed

An emperor in the Far East was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his children, all of whom were corrupt and a great disappointment to him, the emperor decided to try something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.”

The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor!”

One boy named Ling was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, 4 weeks, 5 weeks went by. Still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants but Ling didn’t have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by-still nothing in Ling’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed.

Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But honest about what happened, Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful-in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kinds laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey nice try.”

When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back.

“My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!” All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front.

Ling was terrified. “The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”

When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name.

“My name is Ling,” he replied.

All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!”

Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!”

The Prophet taught, “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. And a man keeps on telling the truth until he becomes a truthful person. Falsehood leads to Al-Fajur (i.e. wickedness, evil-doing), and Al-Fajur (wickedness) leads to the fire, and a man may keep on telling lies until he is written before Allah as a liar.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 8:116]

Be the Person You Are Looking For

Double rainbow and bluebird

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

When seeking a marriage partner, or even if you’re already in a relationship, be the kind of person you want to be with. If you want someone who puts Allah first, then put Allah first! If you’re looking for someone kind and open hearted, then be kind and open hearted. If you want someone athletic and slim who loves sports and the outdoors, then be athletic and spend time outdoors. If you want someone who is calm and trustworthy, then express those traits in your own life.

If you want someone who is absolutely honest, then be absolutely honest!

For those who are already married and wish their partners were different in some way, realize that you cannot change anyone else. The impetus to change has to come from them. What you can do is set an example. Walk the path yourself, and hold out your hand, and maybe your partner will follow. Just make sure you do it with love, not with judgment. I’m sure you’ve noticed that if you’re close to someone who is dedicated to something, you get interested in it too, sometimes without even meaning to. If you have a friend who loves to play ping pong, you’ll end up playing ping pong with them sooner or later. This happens in marriages too. Show your love for Quran, or salat, or healthy food, or fitness, and it will rub off on your partner.

For those who are seeking a partner, spend less time looking outward, and more time filling your own heart with love and joy.

Don’t imagine that you can be irreligious, selfish and sedentary, and yet attract someone who is pious, generous, and fit. And if you are miserable, you’re not going to attract someone happy who will complete you and fill your life with joy. I’m sorry to break it to you, but it doesn’t work that way. If you are depressed and emotionally unhealthy, you are going to attract one of two types:

1. Someone who is also unhappy and unhealthy in ways that build on your misery like pieces of a sick puzzle. These kinds of matches are destructive, and lead to silent, non-communicative marriages; or infidelity and/or divorce.

2. A predator who may be stronger than you but is still unhealthy, and will prey on your unhappiness and weakness, using you up the way an olive press squeezes oil from the fruit.

Become a Diamond Among the Stones

If you are unhappy, then transform yourself first. Work on your spirit, mind, and body. Get involved in the world, exercise, study, strengthen your imaan, develop some hobbies, make friends. Pursue your goals and dreams.

Please understand, I’m not saying that you should develop these qualities just to attract a partner. No, do it for God and for yourself, so that you can grow as a human being. Be active in your ‘ibadah (worship), be humble and sincere. Do it for your own soul, and your heart.

If you do this, then you will find that good people will be automatically attracted to you. Like attracts like. If you are joyful, confident and sweet, you will appeal to someone similiar. Of course you might also attract lying, cheating bozos – the world is riddled with them – but you’ll be able to see through their lies and kick them to the curb.

Look, you don’t have to be perfect. Out of all the qualities I’ve mentioned, the most important is sincerity. It’s okay if you’ve got flaws. I sure do! I can make my daughter Salma a peanut butter sandwich (she likes it with honey) or scrambled eggs, and I can open a tin of green beans, but beyond that I couldn’t cook my way out of a tissue box. I weigh more than I should (my knees remind me of it daily), and I’m a klutz with mechanical repairs. Some of these things I’m working on, and others I’m not too concerned about, but I’m always struggling to improve myself in some way, every day. The crucial thing is, I’m sincere. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not, and if I find that my words don’t match my deeds, then I try to reform my deeds, or I moderate my speech.

Be sincere. Be honest. Live the life you aspire to. Be the ideal you that you see in your mind. You will become a joy magnet, and the ideal person who is fated for you will find you even in a crowd, like a diamond among the stones.

Let’s Tell Our Children the Truth

Waterfall in the Great Rift Valley, Africa

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

If we lie to our children and pretend that we are perfect and that life is always wonderful, we do them a disservice. Young children are idealistic by nature, inclined to believe that all people are good, that adults have the answers, and that their parents are the best and strongest people in the world. They believe that the adults are managing the world properly as they should.

As they grow older they begin to see through our pretenses. They see that our words don’t match our deeds, and that adult society is running the world into the ground, ravaging the natural environment, making war, and destroying their futures in the process. So our children become deeply disappointed. This disappointment leads to cynicism and bitterness. That’s when we lose them to alcohol or drugs, gangsterism or bizarre countercultures.

That’s when, in Western society, children begin getting tattoos and piercings, wearing black clothing and chains, getting drunk and having casual sex, listening to screaming metal music, and generally saying to adult society, “I see through your lies, and I want nothing to do with you. Since there’s nothing to believe in, I won’t even try.”

Some parents strive to maintain the facade because they have no truth to offer. They are caught up in a meaningless consumerist lifestyle. Or they may see the hypocrisy of adult society but have no alternative to offer.

We do! We have Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta’alaa. We have the Qur’an, the Prophets, and the tremendous life lesson of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). We have the amazing lives of the Sahabah, and all the heroes of Muslim history. We have the shahadah, salat, zakat, sawm, and Hajj. We have something real, a genuine alternative to corruption and malaise, but first we must be on the path. We must be dedicated. We don’t have to be perfect but we must be sincere.

So let’s do that, and then let’s tell our children the truth.

Let’s tell them, “I’m not perfect and neither is any other human being, but I’m working on it Insha’Allah, and I love you, and that’s what counts. Yes, there is evil and hypocrisy in the world. Yes, adult society is largely superficial and selfish. But each of us has the ability to change the world. Each of us is powerful. Go out there and be a force for change in the world. Imagine the world as it should be, then work to bring it about. Be sincere, be strong, keep Allah in your awareness, and do what you can. If you do that, then you have succeeded. No matter what, I will always love you and be proud of you.”

See also: Tell the Truth and Watch Your Relationships Shine

Tell the truth and watch your relationships shine

Yellow sunlight and clouds

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

“O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and be with the true ones.” – Quran 9:119

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

“You must be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man will keep speaking the truth and striving to speak the truth until he will be recorded with Allah as a Siddeeq (speaker of the truth). Beware of telling lies, for lying leads to immorality and immorality leads to Hellfire. A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar.” (Muslim)

Ali Ibn Abi Talib (ra) said: “The truth teller achieves three things: trust, love, and respect.”

You know the expression, “The truth shall set you free?” It might be amended to say, “Telling the truth shall set you free.”

Being honest is liberating. It might be difficult or emotionally uncomfortable at times, but it’s so much more freeing to the spirit than lying, or living a lie. We don’t have to remember what lies we told to whom, or whether someone will uncover something from our pasts. We don’t have to feel like hypocrites for speaking words we don’t really mean.

The Body Tells the Truth

Did you know that a liar is betrayed by his own body? We all know about the obvious signs that are monitored by lie detectors, such as increased body temperature (manifested visually as sweating), and raised blood pressure. But there are many other signs that are detectable visually. If you live in the USA you may have seen the television drama “Lie to Me”, about a scientist who acts as a human lie detector by studying body language and facial “micro-expressions”. This is based on real science.

For example, when people are lying, they generally avoid eye contact. Frequently, liars will gaze downward and to the right. Another sign is that liars often fidget, moving hands or feet, drumming fingers, or adjusting clothing. Also, liars may subconsciously try to “hide” the lie by covering their mouths, or making a motion that is symbolic of covering the face, such as touching the nose or an eye. These are all attempts to cover up the lie, and are a subconscious expression of shame. Lastly, the liar may fold his arms or cross his legs, which are defensive gestures, as if he is trying to cover himself up.

SubhanAllah. Even when a person’s mind is willing to lie, the body is not. It’s as if a part of him is adhering to fitra, the pure nature of every human being, and is unwilling to go along with the sin.

After all, the body is always in a state of submission to Allah. The heart beats as Allah made it to do, the blood flows, the nerves fire, the cells generate energy, carry oxygen or process waste, white blood cells attack invaders… all these autonomous processes go on without conscious thought, obeying the imperatives given to them by Allah. This is an expression of Islam at the most basic level. So even when a person’s tongue may commit a sin by lying, on a deeper level the body is still in submission.

In fact, everything in existence submits to Allah and praises Him, and functions as a sign of His power. Allah says,

“Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whomever is within the heavens and the earth and [by] the birds with wings spread [in flight]? Each has known his [means of] prayer and exalting [Him], and Allah is Knowing of what they do.

And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the destination.

Do you not see that Allah drives clouds? Then He brings them together, then He makes them into a mass, and you see the rain emerge from within it. And He sends down from the sky, mountains [of clouds] within which is hail, and He strikes with it whom He wills and averts it from whom He wills. The flash of its lightening almost takes away the eyesight.

Allah alternates the night and the day. Indeed in that is a lesson for those who have vision.

Allah has created every [living] creature from water. And of them are those that move on their bellies, and of them are those that walk on two legs, and of them are those that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.” (Quran 24: 41-45)

All of the things described in these verses exist in submission to Allah. Only we, children of Adam (and the jinn), have been given the ability to disobey. When we rebel – and that includes lying – we come into conflict with Allah, with society, with all other living creatures, with the weather that surrounds us, and even with the night and day!

Last but not least, we come into conflict with our own bodies. How could that be anything but harmful? Isn’t it a sign to us that lying is wrong on a very deep level?

Truth Builds Trust

My daughter Salma is three years old. She goes to bed at 7:30pm, and I remain beside her until she sleeps. On certain evenings I have a martial arts class, and I hope that Salma will fall asleep quickly so I can hurry to my class before it’s over (my mother watches her until I return). Sometimes Salma asks me, “Baba, are you staying home tonight or going to your class?”

I know that if I lie and say, “I’m staying home,” that will comfort her and she’ll fall asleep quickly, allowing me to go to class. On the other hand, if I say, “I’m going to my class,” she’ll deliberately struggle to stay awake, chattering and rolling around in bed, because she does not want me to leave.

So what do I do? I say, “If you fall asleep soon I will go to my class, otherwise I will stay.” I tell her the truth, even it means that I miss my class, because I could not live with myself if I lied to her for selfish reasons, even if it’s a “harmless” lie.

Some days I get to my class, some days I don’t.

I follow this same strategy in every aspect of my relationship with her. If she says, “Baba, can we go to the zoo on Saturday?” I never say, “We’ll see,” just to placate her and change the subject. Someone did that with me in my childhood and I always hated it because I knew that it really meant “no” and was just an obfuscation. So with Salma I might say, “If it’s sunny we can go to the zoo Insha’Allah,” and when the day comes and it’s sunny I will take her to the zoo no matter what, short of an emergency. Or I might say, “Sorry baby, we need to go shopping on Saturday and we won’t have time.”

My point is that I’m always honest with her even when the answer may upset her, and the result is that she trusts me. I see in my interaction with her that she accepts my word and believes me.

I know these are small examples. There’s nothing earth shaking about telling the truth to a little child. But you know, many people do routinely lie to their children for the sake of convenience.

Wael's daughter Salma at the Fresno Zoo

Wael’s daughter Salma at the Fresno Zoo

Le’ts be ourselves and be honest. Le’ts take these small examples and do a close examination of our interactions with all our family members, our friends, our work colleagues, and our business partners. Do we sometimes lie to simplify matters or to make ourselves look good?

Or do we always tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable?

If we were to adopt a policy of truth at all times, what consequences would that have? Really think about it. How would it affect our credibility, our friendships, and our work relationships?

I believe that, contrary to what our fears and insecurities may tell us, being honest in all our relationships would lay a deep and strong foundation and allow those relationships to flourish.

Tell the Truth Without Harm

There should be no exceptions to honesty, but telling the truth is not a compulsion to harm yourself, nor a justification for harming others.

For example, no Muslim should openly manifest his immoral actions or past. It was narrated that Saalim ibn ‘Abd-Allah said: I heard Abu Hurayrah say: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say:

“All of my Ummah will be fine except for those who commit sins openly. Part of committing sins openly is when a man does something at night and Allah conceals it, but in the morning he says, ‘O So-and-so, last night I did such and such.’ His Lord had covered his sin all night, but in the morning he removed the cover of Allah.”(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5721; Muslim, 2990)

In my capacity as an editor of IslamcAnswers.com, I have often been anonymously asked some version of this question: “I lived a sinful lifestyle at one point, including committing zinaa, but I have repented. Now I am engaged to be married and my fiancé wants to know about my past. What should I say? If I tell him/her everything, he may break off the engagement, but if I lie then I’ll be building a future on a foundation of dishonesty.”

My response is that one should give a reply along these lines: “My past is between me and Allah. For whatever sins I have committed, I have asked Allah’s forgiveness and continue to do so. I will not say more. Please judge me according to the person I am now, just as I will do with you.”

If that response is not satisfactory to the other person and he continues to pry, I guarantee you he is not good husband (or wife) material for you. If you don’t tell him everything, he will continue to harangue you endlessly. And if you do, he will be jealous and probably never forgive you. No one needs that kind of judgment in life.

Of course if something material has resulted from past mistakes – for example if one has a child from a past relationship, or has acquired an STD – then that must be revealed, as these are things that will affect a spouse in a continuing way.

Truth Builds Rock-Solid Friendships

As far as harming others, Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh): “Who is the most excellent among the Muslims?” He said, “One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

If you see your brother making a serious mistake, correct him in the kindest possible way. That is a form of honesty. If you have nothing good to say, stay silent. That too is is an aspect of truth telling. No matter what, do not be needlessly hurtful.

Telling the truth in this way creates strong and healthy friendships, because it builds trust. Real friends don’t just tell you what you want to hear. They don’t say, “Oh yeah, you’re great, that’s wonderful,” when inside they’re thinking, “What a crazy thing to do,” or, “What is he up to now?”

But they’re not cruel or harsh either. They tell you the truth kindly. If they think you’re doing something harmful, they tell you with compassion. When you have a friend like that, you know you can trust every word out of his/her mouth, so when your friend compliments or supports you it means something and lifts your spirit, because you know it’s from the heart.

Real friends are not saccharine-sweet liars, nor are they relentlessly negative. They see the good in you, they appreciate you and let you know it, but when you need some honest advice they are there with the right words.

And I’ll tell you something: most people respect truth-tellers, even if they don’t agree with what’s being said.

The other key component is that real friends are discreet. Many years ago I had two good friends – I’ll call them Ali and Mo (not their real names) – who were given scholarships to study at the Islamic University of Madinah. They left together. After some time I heard a rumor that Mo had gotten in some trouble in Saudi Arabia and had been arrested and jailed. I did not know the details. When Ali returned to California for summer break, I asked him, “What happened to Mo? Tell me the whole story.” To my great frustration, Ali would not reveal a single detail. All he said was, “The Saudi authorities are planning to deport Mo; when he returns you can ask him yourself.” Mo was my friend too, I was concerned about him. Plus, I admit that it was such a juicy piece of gossip that I could not resist. But Ali would not budge, even though I was several years older than him and had been like a brother to him for years.

One consequence is that I trust Ali more than most. I know that he’s as firm as a mountain. I know that if I tell him something in confidence he will not repeat it, and that he never backbites or gossips about my faults.

Real friends keep your secrets, don’t speak about you to others, don’t repeat rumors. Again, that builds a rock-solid foundation of trust.

I want to be a friend like that, don’t you?

See Also: Let’s Tell Our Children the Truth

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