The Story of the Shaykh from Azhar and the Prostitute.

This story was narrated by Shaykh Ali Tantawi in his memoir about Shaykh Ahmad Al-Zayaat.

Shaykh Ali Tantawi said:

“The Shaykh (Ahmad Al-Zayaat) was a teacher, who did not know anything of this world except: The Azhar where he used to teach, the house he used to live in, and the road between them.”

This story was narrated by Shaykh Ali Tantawi in his memoir about Shaykh Ahmad Al-Zayaat.

Shaykh Ali Tantawi said:

“The Shaykh (Ahmad Al-Zayaat) was a teacher, who did not know anything of this world except: The Azhar where he used to teach, the house he used to live in, and the road between them.”

“As years passed by, and he got older, his health started to deteriorate, and he needed to rest. So the doctor forced him to take some time of, and suggested that he goes somewhere away from his place of work and residence, and advised him to enjoy the quietness and calmness of the parks next to the Nile.”

“So one day, the Shaykh went out and stopped a carriage (as cars were not that available at the time). He told the driver: My son, take me to a nice place were I can enjoy the view and relax.”

“The driver of the carriage, however, was a wicked person, and took the Shaykh to a place in Egypt, which at the time had several prostitution houses.”

After arriving he told the Shaykh: “Here [we are].”

The Shaykh said: “O son, Magrib prayer is drawing near, where can I pray? Take me first to the Mosque.”

The Driver [pointing to one of those houses] said: “The Mosque is over there.”

The door [of the place] was open, and the lady running that house was sitting, in the manner those like her usually sit.

When the Shaykh saw her, he lowered his gaze. He saw a seat, so he headed there and sat, waiting for the Call for prayer (Adhan).

[The woman in confusion, just] stared at him.

What brought that man here?

He doesn’t look like any of her regular customers.

She kept thinking to herself, but did not dare ask him what he was doing here.

What kept her from asking was the shyness that remained in her heart, even as a prostitute. However, that shyness only appears in front of people of Piety.

He, on the other hand, kept doing Tasbeeh (saying Subhan Allah), until he heard the Adhan of Maghrib from far away.

He asked her: “Where is the Moazin (Person who calls for prayers) here?”

“Why didn’t he call for prayer when the time entered?”

“Are you his daughter?”

She… kept silent.

He waited for a while, and then said: “My daughter, Maghrib time is short, and it is not permissible to delay it, and I do not see anyone here, so if you have your Wudu (ablution) then pray behind me Jama’ah.”

He gave the call for prayer, and without looking at her, as he was about to give the Iqamah, he noticed stillness behind him?!

He asked: “What is wrong? Don’t you have your Wudu?”

All of a sudden, as if her Iman (Faith) woke up and she remembered the old days. The days when she was filled with purity, and was away from sin, she started to cry loudly, and threw herself at his feet.

The Shaykh surprised, did not know in what way he can calm her.

She then, started narrating her story.

He saw in her words great regret, and felt the truth in her repentance. He realized the sincerity in what she was saying, so he told her: “Listen, my daughter, to what the Lord of all creation says: {Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the Mercy of Allah. Indeed Allah forgives all sins …”} (39:53).”

“All sins, my daughter, all sins…”

“The door of repentance is open to every sinner and it is so wide that it can encompass them all no matter how heavy their load [of sins] is … even Kufr.”

“So whoever disbelieves in the all Mighty, after he was a believer, but repents before the hour of his death comes, and he was sincere in his repentance, and he renewed his Islam, Allah will accept him.”

“Allah, my dear daughter, is the most Generous of all. Did you ever hear of anyone generous shutting the door in the face of those who come seeking him?”

“Stand up and go wash yourself, and cover yourself. Go and clean your skin with water and your heart with repentance and regret. Approach your Lord, and I will wait for you. But do not delay, so that we do not miss Maghrib prayer.”

“She did as he asked, and returned to him with a new dress and a new heart. She stood behind him and prayed. She felt and tasted the sweetness of that prayer, and felt that this prayer purified her heart.”

When the prayer was over, he told her: “Come with me, and try to cut every relation you have with this place and everyone in it. Try to erase the time you spent here from your memory.”

“Consistently ask Allah for his forgiveness, and increase in doing righteous deeds.”

“Verily, adultery is not as big a sin as Kufr, and Hind [bint ‘Utbah – May Allah be pleased with her], who was a disbeliever and had animosity in her heart to the Prophet of Allah. After that she became from the righteous believers, and we started saying: Allah is well-pleased with her.”

“The Shaykh then took her to a house of righteous ladies, and then found her a righteous husband and advised him to take good care of her” 1/252.

Moral of The Story
So if you only think how many people are just like this woman. People who are drowning in filth, people who the dust from their sins gathered around their hearts shedding away its light.

These sins caused them to see the Truth as Falsehood and the Falsehood as Truth.

How much are they in need of one to take by their hands, and to clear the dust away from their hearts.

They do not need complicated educational and behavioral philosophical treatments, or theories in the manners of interaction and persuasion. Neither are they in need of complicated statements.

What they truly need is for someone to feel sorry for them and for their state … Someone to understand their situation and to hope for their guidance … Someone who would speak a word that would leave his heart, [and touch theirs]. A word which he seeks nothing from except the Face of Allah.

After this the light, that was for so long covered with sins, would emerge and their souls would return to its Fitrah, and would return to its harmony with the universe and to the true manner of life.


Author: Abu Tariq Abu Tariq Muhsin is a zakat officer for Zakat Centre of Federal Territory of Malaysia. A writer, researcher and publisher of various writing focusing on Zakat & Islamic studies.

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