(This write-up is a transcription of the poignant story narrated by Shaykh Kamal El-Mekki at the end of his lecture The Forbidden Love)
His name was Tha’laba ibn Abdur Rahman (رضى الله عنه). He was a young man about the age of sixteen. He used to always run errands for the Prophet (ﷺ). He (ﷺ) would send him here and there to do something. One day the Prophet (ﷺ) sent him to do something and he was walking through the city of Madinah. He passed by a house with an open door. He glanced inside and saw a type of curtain that they used (during their time) to cover the shower area. The wind blew that curtain and Tha’laba (رضى الله عنه) saw a Muslim woman inside, who was bathing. And it was as if he glanced for a bit too long, until he saw something. And then he came to his senses. Thereafter, he was overtaken by an extreme feeling of guilt and hypocrisy. He said to himself, “Audhubillah (I seek refuge with Allah)! How can I be of the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ), one who is close to him (ﷺ), who runs his (ﷺ) errands, and be so horrible as to disrespect people’s privacy?” Then he said (to himself), “I disrespected the awarh of the Muslims, Allah will send an ayah and reveal and mention me with the hypocrites.” He feared to return to the Prophet (ﷺ), fearing that the Prophet (ﷺ) would tell him that he is a hypocrite. So he ran away.
The Prophet (ﷺ) waited for him for hours. He (ﷺ) waited from one period to the next. Then he (ﷺ) started to ask about him as the days went by. The Prophet (ﷺ) would ask, “Have you seen Tha’laba?” Days passed. So (one day) he (ﷺ) sent Umar ibn al-Khattaab (رضى الله عنه) and Salman al-Faarisi (رضى الله عنه) to go and look for him in the streets of Madinah. They came back and said, “O Prophet of Allah! We searched for him in the roads, the markets, and the meadows, and we could not find him. Perhaps he will come back.” So the Prophet (ﷺ) waited.
After a while, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “O Omar! O Salman! Go and look for him in the outskirts of Madinah.” So they went and came to a set of mountains between Makkah and Madinah, where some nomads were herding their goats. The nomads saw that the companions were looking for something. They asked them, “Are you looking for something?” They said, “We are looking for a boy. His description is such and such.” They said, “Perhaps you are looking for al-fatal bakka, the young man who is always crying.”
Omar said, “I do not know about that. We are looking for a boy with such and such description. But what about this young boy you are talking about?” They said, “On the other side of this mountain is a young man, and for forty days we heard nothing from him but crying and istigfaar.”
So Omar (رضى الله عنه) asked, “When does he come down?
They said, “When the sun sets, he comes to us. We give him a little bit of milk. He drinks it while he is mixing his tears with it (meaning while he is drinking, he is still crying), and then he goes up to the mountain again while he is crying.”
Then Omar (رضى الله عنه) asked, “How can we see him?” “When the sun sets,” replied the Arabs.
So Omar and Salman (رضى الله عنهمَا) hid, and when the sun set, Tha’laba ibn Abdur Rahman (رضى الله عنه) came down, looking sad and dejected. His head was lowered and tears were running down his face. He had lost a lot of weight. He came to the Arabs and they gave him some milk. He took it and brought it to his mouth, but he began to cry so much that he could not drink. Finally he drank what he could and he turned to go back to the mountain.
Then Omar and Salman (رضى الله عنهمَا) came to him, and when he saw them, he was so scared that he said, “What do you want from me?” They said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) wants you.”
Tha’laba asked, “What does he want from me?” They said, “We do not know.” He said, “Did Allah reveal ayah about me?” They said, “We do not know.” He asked, “Did Allah mentioned me with the hypocrites?” They said, “We do not know.” He said, “People! Please do not embarrass me. Leave me to die alone on the side of this mountain.” So they said, “By Allah! We won’t leave you.”
So he struggled but they took him back to Madinah. And they took him to his home. He was crying harder than ever. Omar (رضى الله عنه) went and told the Prophet (ﷺ) that they had found Tha’laba ibn Abdur Rahman.
He (ﷺ) asked, “Where did you find him?” Omar (رضى الله عنه) said, “We found him on the side of a mountain. And he is at home now. You can visit him if you like.”
The Prophet (ﷺ) went and entered upon him (Tha’laba). When he saw the Prophet (ﷺ), he was so scared that he screamed out, “O Messenger of Allah! Has Allah revealed ayah about me?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “No.” “Has Allah mentioned me with the hypocrites?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “No.” Then Tha’laba increased in crying. The Prophet (ﷺ) sat near him. He (ﷺ) took his head and put it on his blessed thigh.
Tha’laba cried and said, “O Prophet of Allah! Remove a head that is full of sins and transgressions. I am lesser and not deserving.”
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “No.”
Then the Prophet (ﷺ) asked him, “O Thalaba! What do you wish for?” He said, “I wish for the mercy of Allah subhanau wat’ala.”
“And what are you afraid of?” He said, “I am afraid of the punishment of Allah.”
The Prophet (ﷺ) made dua for him while he (Tha’laba) was crying. Tha’laba (رضى الله عنه) said, “Ask forgiveness for me, O Prophet of Allah!”
Suddenly Tha’laba (رضى الله عنه) jolted and (his body) shook. He said to the Prophet (ﷺ), “I feel as though ants are walking between my flesh and my bones.”
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Do you feel that? That is death and it is coming to you.”
Then Tha’laba kept saying the shahadah and istigfaar until the soul left his body. When he died, the Prophet (ﷺ) washed him, covered him, and led the prayer over him. While they (the companions) were carrying him over to the cemetery, the Prophet (ﷺ) was walking behind his body, but he (ﷺ) was walking on the tip of his toes, as if it was very crowded. Omar (رضى الله عنه) said, “O Messenger of Allah! You are walking on the tip of your toes, but people have given you a lot of room.” He (ﷺ) said, “O Omar! May Allah have mercy of you! By Allah! I do not find a place to put my foot because of how the angels are crowding me over him.”
O my brothers in faith! Knowing the high standard this companion set for us, will you not lower your gaze? Will you not stop humiliating yourself by looking at something that Allah did not allow us to look at? What will you reply when Allah asks you the following questions on the Day of Judgement?
O My Slave! What had made you careless concerning your Lord, the Most Generous?
O My Slave! What did you do to please Me?
O My Slave! Why did you not fear Me?
O My Slave! How did you receive the call of the Messenger?
O My Slave! You used to look to what was unlawful, although you knew I was watching over you.
O My Slave! You used to listen what was forbidden although you knew I heard what you were listening to.
O My Slave! You used to utter what was unlawful although I was there to listen to you.
Was I not there to see you while you were walking to unlawful places, where sins were committed?
Was I not there to watch your heart and know your evil desires and intentions?
Did you not deny My existence and My Power over you?
Will you not follow the command of Allah, the Mighty and the Most High, where He said:
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. [The Noble Quran 24:30]