Once, while asleep near the Kaaba, the great scholar Abdullah bin Mubarak had a dream. He saw two angels descend from the sky, engrossed in conversation.
One angel asked: “Do you know how many people have come for Hajj this year?”
The other replied: “Six hundred thousand, by the last count.”
“How many people’s Hajj have been accepted?”
“I wonder if anyone’s Hajj has been accepted at all.”
When he heard this, Abdullah bin Mubarak grew sad. After all, he too had gone for Hajj that year. He thought, “So many people have come from all over the world, crossing jungles, deserts, mountains and seas, suffering so many hardships, bearing so many expenses. Have their efforts gone in vain? Allah never lets anyone’s good effort go waste”.
In the midst of such thoughts, the scholar heard the second angel speak: “Oh, I remember! There is a cobbler in Damascus med Ali bin al-Mufiq. He could not come for Hajj this year, but Allah has accepted his intention of Hajj. Not only will he get his reward, but because of him, all other Hajjis will be rewarded.”
When Abdullah bin Mubarak woke up, he decided to go to Damascus and seek out this cobbler whose mere intention to go to Hajj carried so much weight.
On reaching the city, he asked around and was led to the cobbler’s house. Ali bin al-Mufiq was surprised to see the renowned scholar at his door. He warmly invited the visitor in and soon they were talking animatedly.
At an opportune moment, the scholar asked: “So, have you made any plans to go for Hajj?”.
Ali replied “For thirty years, I have thought of nothing else. I worked and saved and filly had enough money this year to go for Hajj. But Allah did not will it”.
Abdullah bin Mubarak pressed to know more, but the cobbler looked away and again replied, “It was Allah’s will”.
The scholar persisted, and filly the cobbler told his story: “Some time back, I went over to my neighbor’s house. His family was just sitting down for dinner. Earlier on such occasions, he would invariably invite me to partake with him the food on his table. But on this day, that did not happen.
“I was not hungry, but I could see that my neighbor was inwardly ashamed and grieving. Without embarrassing him further, I was thinking how to take my leave when he blurted out: ‘Forgive me, my brother! I cannot invite you to share our food tonight. You see, we have been going without food for the last three days. Today, I could no longer bear to see the tears of my starving children. So I went out looking for food and found a donkey lying dead on a field. In my desperation, I cut out some of its meat and brought it home. Because of our extreme hunger, it is permitted for us to eat this, but I cannot offer it to you.’
Ali continued: “When I heard this, my heart wept. I rushed home, collected the three thousand dirs I had saved for Hajj, and gave it to my neighbor to make a new beginning. I too had gone hungry while saving money for Hajj, but helping my neighbor at his time of distress was more important. My desire to go for Hajj stays with me. It will come to pass if Allah so wills.”
Greatly moved by the story, Abdullah bin Mubarak told the cobbler of his dream. The great scholar had at last received a glimpse of how merciful Allah holds up ever so gently those who suffer, and how his blessings are bestowed upon those who practise his infinite compassion.