This is a story of one of the companions of Rasulullah SAW whose name was Tha’laba ibn Abdur rahman RA.
He was a young man about the age of 16 and he would always run errands for Nabi Muhammad SAW. One day Rasulullah SAW sent Tha’laba RA to do something for him (SAW). As Tha’laba RA was walking through the city of Madina he passed by a house with an open door. Glancing inside he saw a type of curtain that they used to cover the shower area with, the wind blew this curtain and he saw a Muslim woman bathing. And it’s as if he glanced for too long until he saw something and he came back to his senses. He was overtaken by an extreme feeling of guilt and hypocrisy. And he said to himself “I seek refuge in Allah SWT, how can I be of the companions of the Prophet SAW, one who is close to him, who runs his errands, and be so horrible as to disrespect the peoples’ privacy.”
Having felt as though he disrespected the aurah of the Muslims he thought that Allah SWT would send down aayah and mention him among the hypocrites. And so he feared to return Rasulullah SAW thinking he (saw) would tell him that he is a hypocrite.
Out of fear he ran away.
Rasulullah SAW waited for him for hours. He (SAW) waited for Tha’laba RA from one prayer to the next and asked others if they had seen him. When days had passed he (SAW) sent Umar ibn Khattaab RA and Salman al Farsi RA to go look for him in the streets of Madina. After looking for him they returned and said, “Oh Rasulullah SAW, we searched for him in the roads, the markets and the meadows but we could not find him, perhaps he will come back.” And so Rasulullah SAW waited. But after a while he asked to go and look for Tha’laba RA on the outskirts of Madina.
Umar RA and Salman RA came to a set of mountains between Makkah and Madina where some nomads were herding their goats. Seeing that they were looking for something, the nomads asked them about it. Umar RA and Salman RA told them they were looking for a boy. So they said, “Perhaps you are looking for the young man who is always crying.” Umar RA said, “I don’t know about that but we are looking for a boy who is this tall and this complexion, but what about this young boy you are talking about?” The nomads told Umar RA and Salman RA that on the other side of the mountain there was a young boy and for forty days they have heard nothing but crying and Istigfaar from him. They told them that the boy returned from his side of the mountain at sunset, when he comes to them and they give him a little milk which he drinks while crying and then returns to the top of the mountain crying.
So Umar RA and Salman RA hid and waited for the sun to set. When Tha’lab RA came down, he looked sad and dejected, his head was lowered and tears ran down his face. He had lost a lot of weight. And as the days before, he went to the goat herders for a bit of milk. After drinking the milk he made to leave when Umar RA and Salman RA approached him. He became so scared that he asked them what they wanted from him. They told him that Rasulullah SAW was looking for him. He wanted to know what Rasulullah SAW wanted from him. They didn’t know they told him.
Still scared, he asked whether Allah SWT had revealed aayat about him and mentioned him with the hypocrites and again they told him they didn’t know. So Tha’laba asked them not to embarrass him and to leave him to die on the mountain. Refusing to leave him, they took him back to Madina and they returned him to his home. He was crying harder than ever.
Umar RA returned to Rasulullah SAW with the news that they had found Tha’laba RA on the side of a mountain. So Rasulullah SAW went to Tha’laba’s RA home and when he saw Nabi Muhammad SAW Tha’laba screamed out, “Oh Rasulullah, has Allah revealed aayat about me? Has Allah mentioned me with the hypocrites?” And Rasulullah SAW told him no.
Tha’laba RA began to cry and his crying increased, Rasulullah SAW sat next to him and he (SAW) took his head and put on his blessed thigh. Tha’laba RA cried and asked Rasulullah SAW to remove a head that is full of sins and transgressions from his (SAW) thigh, “I am lesser and not deserving.” Rasulullah SAW told him no.
“What are you afraid of?” Rasulullah SAW asked him. “I am afraid of the punishment of Allah.” Then Rasulullah SAW asked him, “what do you wish for?” and Tha’laba RA said he wished for the forgiveness of Allah SWT. Rasulullah SAW then made du’a for him. Tha’laba RA began crying and said “Ask for forgiveness for me Oh Rasulullah.”
Suddenly Tha’laba RA jolted and shook and said to Rasulullah SAW, “I feel as though ants are walking between my flesh and my bones.” Rasulullah SAW asked him, “Do you feel that?” and Tha’laba RA said yes. And Rasulullah SAW told him, “That is death, it is coming to you.” Tha’laba RA kept saying the Shahadah and made Istigfaar until his soul left his body. Rasulullah SAW washed him and covered him and led the prayer over him.
When they carried Tha’laba’s RA body to his grave, Rasulullah SAW walked on the tips of his toes as if it were very, very crowded. This caused Umar RA to ask him, “Ya Rasulullah, you are walking on the tips of your toes but the people have given you a lot of room.”
Rasulullah SAW said to Umar RA, “May Allah have mercy on me Oh Umar. Wallahi I do not find the place to put my feet because of how the angels are crowding around.”
We imagine certain sins to be as insignificant as a straw but in the time of Rasulullah SAW they used to count them among the things that could destroy a man. And in this story Tha’laba ibn Abdur rahman RA took a gaze at a woman but the sin became so much of a weight on him. This is something that so many of us have taken for granted, looking at images of the opposite gender – mostly of women – in magazines, on television, billboards, and on the internet and we have become so used to it that we don’t think anything of it, like looking at newscasters who present the news for example. People don’t remember to lower their gaze.
Ibn Masood RA said that a believer treats a sin as if it were a mountain over his head that may fall on him at any moment where a regular person looks at a sin like it is a fly that sat on his nose and he waved it away.
Rasulullah SAW said, “Beware of minor sins for they add on until they destroy the man.”