Asking the Right Questions


Abdullah, a friend of yours, has been looking to get married for a really long time now. One day Abdullah confides in you that it’s been getting increasingly hard for him to maintain his chastity. He is approaching 35 years of age and is still single. The haram options are way too accessible in today’s world and are extremely tempting to resist.

How would you respond to Abdullah?

Some of us might try to help him with more resources for finding a spouse. Some of us might advise him to fast, based on the hadith of our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ,and some would make Du’a and advise him to be patient, have faith and fear Allah. It’s even likely that some of us might be irate and feel offended. Sometimes we forget that we live in a world full of fitnah and it’s easy for even practising brothers and sisters to slip into haram. As an Ummah, a huge family of muslim brothers and sisters, we have a responsibility to help one another in our weak times, provide counsel when we can, and always keep the life of our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as a beautiful and perfect source of guidance and inspiration. Our Prophet ﷺ encountered a similar situation in his lifetime when a Sahabi came and asked permission to commit zina (fornication). 

Let us reflect on how our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ responded to him:

Abu Umamah reported: A young man came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and he said, “O Messenger of Allah, give me permission to commit adultery.” The people turned to rebuke him, saying, “Quiet! Quiet!” The Prophet said, “Come here.” The young man came close and he told him to sit down. The Prophet said, “Would you like that for your mother?” The man said, “No, by Allah, may I be sacrificed for you.” The Prophet said, “Neither would people like it for their mothers. Would you like that for your daughter?” The man said, “No, by Allah, may I be sacrificed for you.” The Prophet said, “Neither would people like it for their daughters. Would you like that for your sister?” The man said, “No, by Allah, may I be sacrificed for you.” The Prophet said, “Neither would people like it for their sisters. Would you like that for your aunts?” The man said, “No, by Allah, may I be sacrificed for you.” The Prophet said, “Neither would people like it for their aunts.” Then, the Prophet placed his hand on him and he said, “O Allah, forgive his sins, purify his heart, and guard his chastity.” After that, the young man was never again inclined to anything sinful.

[Source: Musnad Aḥmad 21708

Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Arna’ut]

Isn’t his ﷺ response just perfect? Full of compassion, wisdom and genuine concern for his ﷺ fellow Muslim brother?

We should perhaps appreciate the Prophet’sﷺ reaction even more as counsellors, psychologists, therapists, and other mental health specialists. Let’s break down the takeaways:

  • Our Prophet ﷺ is giving the privacy and space necessary for such a delicate and critical conversation, by calling the Sahabi (companion of the prophet) closer and asking him to sit. 

Even though the other companions started rebuking and reprimanding him to stop him from asking such a question, the Prophet ﷺcalled him closer to him rather than just ignoring or scolding him. We learn that having confusion and questions in life is natural. The person asking the question isn’t really aware of the graveness or silliness of it. It seems genuine to him. And hence we should also genuinely try to answer and assist them. We learn how important it is to provide that safe space where people can express themselves freely. This also boosts the confidence of other companions and encourages them to discuss their issues, problems and confusions instead of engaging in haram. It was this calm approach to stressful situations that made the people around the Messenger ﷺ so comfortable and honest with him.  Additionally, it is mentioned in numerous Hadiths that the people around the Messenger ﷺ would feel as though their presence was of utmost importance to him. 

Now my dear brothers and sisters, reflect upon our lives and ponder whether we truly pay attention to the confusions and questions of our children, siblings, and younger people? 

Do we extend the benefit of the doubt to our loved ones?

Are we driving them closer or away from Islam?

Do we have such relationships in our home where the other person feels comfortable approaching us about ANYTHING? 

If not, then what’s preventing us from following this lovely Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ?

  • The subsequent action of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ might be viewed by modern psychology as something called ‘reflective questioning”, which can simply to understood as “Asking the right questions”

Reflective Questioning falls under “Active listening” which is a fundamental and crucial component of Counselling. The Prophet ﷺ understood that the Sahabi was so preoccupied with his desires and needs that he was unable to distinguish right from wrong. He needed a reality check. So, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ drove head straight into it and asked the question, “Would you prefer the same for your mother?”  He then posed the same question regarding the other mahrams (a family member with whom marriage would be considered permanently unlawful); sisters, daughters and so on.   

The Sahabi was prompted by this thoughtful question to step back from his desires and give the subject some serious thought. The use of his mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts in the context of Zina must have acted like a cold splash of water, which was necessary to realise what was really happening. We can see this as a way of ‘confrontation’ with reality. The Sahaba immediately realised the seriousness of the question and answered each one with full conviction. We further note that the Prophet ﷺ also validated the Sahabi’s answers by stating that the other people would also not like it for their mahram relations. 

Subhan Allah, what we now know as a very important part of a therapy setting, was actually practised by our Prophet ﷺ centuries ago when these terms weren’t even in use. Such was the counsel of the most perfect man to walk on earth. 

Let’s now take a moment to understand that it’s a natural consequence of living in this Duniya of instant gratification to get derailed and be swept by our whims and desires. Our only goal is to do the next big thing because of the horse blinders this materialistic life has placed on us. We don’t consciously consider it, even though that’s what we actually need, to pause, refocus and remember our ultimate purpose in life. 

  • Finally, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ touched the Sahabi and made a beautiful Du’a for the Sahabi. Take note of the Prophet’s decision to prioritise the psychological component above making Du’a for the Sahabi right away.  We can see that Du’a, the spiritual component, is undoubtedly a crucial element, but we also need to consider what the situation actually requires. We need to ask ourselves,“Would it be preferable if we identified the issue’s underlying causes and sought help for them first?”

Making Du’a and taking the spiritual route is, of course, vital for arriving at the right solutions for our problems, but sometimes it’s also important to understand where our issues must be arising from. The best course of action might just be to ask the proper questions of ourselves and other people.

4 thoughts on “Asking the Right Questions

  1. Aiah Neamatallah says:

    I really appreciate your writing as it addresses not only one topic but a couple. I take it as a reminder for us as humans to exercise our humility in one another, to excuse each other for our thoughts and our mistakes, and to have space to listen to our brothers and sisters without ridiculing them or attacking them.
    SubhanAllah, I like how you invited us to reflect on our actions, are we paying attention to our youth’s confusion, are we bringing them closer to Islam or are we confusing them and making them run away!!!
    May Allah guide us to His straight path and grant us sincere intentions ya rab. Ameen.
    Jazakom Allahu khairan.

  2. Maryati M Dahim says:

    A good reminder to myself to suspend jugement and not be too quick to offer advice. Each person’s struggle is different and we may not know their needs immediately. We seek Allah’s guidance to ask the right questions, with gentleness, in times of helping others.

    Aal-e-Imran 3:159
    “By an act of mercy from God, you [Prophet] were gentle in your dealings with them- had you been harsh, or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you- so pardon them and ask forgiveness for them. Consult with them about matters, then, when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in God: God loves those who put their trust in Him.”

  3. as1siddiq says:

    Jazakumullah khayra. It is a beautiful and concise piece. However, it becomes a problem when finding the questions may appear difficult considering the way life is viewed today.

    A scenerio:
    A: would you prefer that for your mother or sister?
    B: Well, I don’t mind. It’s her life and she’s free to do whatever she wants.

    May Allah safeguard our faith.

  4. Yumna says:

    It’s an amazing piece of work put out explained well with the prophet ‘s example as it is necessary in today’s generation with different influences present , to know about how our prophet responded to such issues barakallah fee

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