More than 1,000 years ago, a poor woman by the name of Umm Ma’bad and her husband Aktham had set up a camp in the desert. Despite being poor, they did their best to have food and drink available on a daily basis at this camp to anyone who passed by.
One day, after Aktham had set out to graze his sheep, a small group of men arrived. They asked if Umm Ma’bad had any food or drink, for which they were even willing to pay money. Because of a drought, however, Umm Ma’bad regretfully said that she had nothing to offer.
One of the men saw one sickly goat and asked, “Does this goat have any milk?” Umm Ma’bad replied that the goat was too weak to give milk. The man said, “Would you allow me to milk her?” Umm Ma’bad, surprised at the question, permitted the man to do so. The man prayed and, to the astonishment of Umm Ma’bad, began milking the goat. Ultimately, the goat was milked three separate times and everyone present was able to drink the milk, with additional milk leftover.
The group of men then mounted their camels and left. Later, Aktham returned and, upon seeing the milk, asked his wife what had happened. “A blessed man passed by us,” she replied. “Describe him to me,” said Aktham. Umm Ma’bad said,
I saw a man who is distinctly handsome and of a beautiful countenance. He is well-built, neither blemished by a big belly nor disfigured by an unusually small head. The pupils of his eyes are very dark, his eyelashes are very long and the area around the pupils is extremely white. His eyebrows are perfectly close. He has very dark hair, a rather long neck, and a thick beard.
When he remains silent he is ever contemplative and when he speaks, eminence and splendour exhibit in his words. His words are like sliding stringed pearls. He is a gifted orator whose words are neither too few nor too many. He has the clearest wand and the most audible voice as he speaks. When you look at him from afar, he is the most handsome of all people, and when you move closer to him, he is the most pleasant of them.
You will never be tired of looking at him. He is like a branch between two branches. He is the most handsome of the three and the most important of them. He has companions who honour him; when he speaks they listen to his words and when he commands they hasten to carry out his order. They serve and gather around him. He neither frowns or nags.
That man was Prophet Muhammad (saw), accompanied by Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) and his freed slave Hazrat Amar bin Fuhairah (ra). They were coming from Mecca and had stopped at Hazrat Umm Ma’bad’s camp on their way to Medina – i.e. this was the time of the Hijra.
Of its many salient points, one can understand this story to underscore the importance of the hadith, “The best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few” (Ibn Majah). Hazrat Umm Ma’bad and her husband fully personified this hadith and did so at a time when they had no knowledge of Islam. And they were amply rewarded for it. The couple would soon make their way to Medina and become Muslim. (Al Tabaqat al Kabir).
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