The blessing of wearing my spongy bread sandals was written for me for quite some time, until I ventured back "home", where Allah Ta’ala Willed that I could purchase new Birkenstocks.
The strategy was to call the various shops beforehand inquiring if they had the style and size I needed, to save roaming around the city, and to kindly "prepare" them for a possible visit of a fully covered Muslimah! My son braved the end of the day traffic in one of the trendiest streets, lined with designer label boutiques and the flashiest of cars patiently awaiting the elite shoppers to return with their "booty". He soon returned to the car with my "booty". It was decided that I try the sandals on before we tackled the traffic home. My foot went from resting on spongy bread to being inside a boat! My attempt at ascertaining the size from the instructions on the website was way out. The saga we were trying to avoid became the imperative. I was dragged between oncoming trams and cars as we wove our way across the street.
It just so happened that as we were entering the shop a lady laden with numerous bags was on her way out. The ensuing shriek alerted curious onlookers to this unusual sight for such a location. Alhumdulillah the shop keeper was amazing. His spontaneous words: "What, haven’t you seen a Muslim before? They are normal people too!" He was a hilarious character, jokingly trying to sell me the hot pink flamingo design, or the psychedelic iridescent swirly-patterned ones. Remarking how they would offset the all-black ensemble! I was flabbergasted by his natural and sincere humour and the incredible array of styles compared to the decades ago when I first fell in love with Birkenstocks in their country of origin, Germany! This encounter was one of the highlights of my short visit to the realms of consumerism. My feet felt like dancing once inside my sandals.
They are now accompanied with the words of our Beloved Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wassalam: "Tie your camel and then trust in Allah Ta’ala", as I place them in a bag I made for them, which does not leave me when I go to Haramain.
This shoe tale pales into insignificance when we travel back and reflect upon the time of the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wassalam and his noble Sahabah RadhiAllahu anhum. Accounts of how two would share one pair of shoes whist marching to the call of Jihad, taking it in turns to wear the right then the left sandal. How they would visit each other across scorching barren sands and razor edged rubble, without shoes, nor socks, nor caps, nor shirts. How on long journeys they would bind rags on their feet for protection.
Shoes were also used along with dry palm stalks for flogging when necessary. Narrated Anas bin Malik RadhiAllahu anhu: "The Prophet beat a drunk with palm-leaf stalks and shoes."
To use the word "shoe" is still a great insult amongst Arab cultures.
Narrations comment on the dislike for ladies to wear trinkets, or ornaments that make a sound that draws attention to them, or to wear attachments to their footwear that gives the illusion of being taller. And yet observe how the shoe today is now a status symbol, an extension of the overall outfit that must mix and match in colour, design and expense. What used to be bare necessity have become objects of desire. Confusing necessity with desire is the source of corruption in the world. In the Words of Allah Ta’ala:
Corruption has appeared on land and sea as a result of people’s actions and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back. (30:41)
May we all be guided to only that which derives the pleasure of our Creator, Ta’ala, Ameen
Another aspect related to shoes is reported by Abu Hurairah RadhiAllahu anhu who heard the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wassalam say: "The Hour will not be established till you fight a nation whose shoes are made of hair." During the noble time of our Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wassalam, shoes were made with tanned leather, treated to remove the hair of the animal. Narrated ‘Isa bin Tahman: Anas RadhiAllahu anhu brought out to us two worn out leather shoes without hair and with pieces of leather straps. Later on Thabit Al-Banani told me that Anas RadhiAllahu anhu said that they were the shoes of the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wassalam.
I have heard that there are places in Pakistan where one can have Sunnah-style sandals made to order. SubhanAllah.
We also read that Allah’s Apostle SallAllahu alaihi wassalam said, "If you want to put on your shoes, put on the right shoe first; and if you want to take them off, take the left one first. Let the right shoe be the first to be put on and the last to be taken off." And how he SallAllahu alaihi wassalam mended his own sandals, and how he would take them off before entering a dwelling, and pick them up to carry them with his SallAllahu alaihi wassalam left hand. So many elements of the Sunnah we can adopt, gaining the rewards for such simple acts, Insha’Allah.
Take time to meditate on the blessed sandal of our beloved Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wassalam and be enlightened by the descriptions of his noble character and habits from the Shamaa-il Tirmidhi.
A potent reminder about shoes of another kind was narrated by Ibn Abbas RadhiAllahu anhu who reported that the Messenger of Allah SallAllahu alaihi wassalam said: "Of the inmates of the Fire, the one with the least punishment will be Abu Talib; he will be wearing a pair of shoes which will cause his brain to boil." Auudhu biLlahi min Dhalik.
May we all take heed and deeply contemplate all facets related to this ramble about shoes. Pondering on who will be washing our feet that have spent their days in various designs of shoes, how our feet, one and all, will share a similar white shroud wrapping them, carried and then placed in the grave, we all will be questioned about where, why, how they have taken us, how will we fare crossing the Sirat, standing on the Day of Judgement.
Ya Allah, Ya Lateef, shower Your Mercy upon us all; favour us all with Your Grace. Ameen
It is narrated on the authority of Abdullah b. Mas’ud RadhiAllahu anhu that the Apostle of Allah SallAllahu alaihi wassalam said: He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise." A person present at the time said: "Verily a person loves that his dress should be fine, and his shoes should be fine." He SallAllahu alaihi wassalam remarked: "Verily, Allah is Graceful and He loves Grace. Pride disdains the truth out of self-conceit and contempt for the people."
Ya Allah, Ya Lateef, make us not of the proud and haughty. Ameen.
During his caliphate, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab RadhiAllahu anhu was marching upon Damascus with his army. Abu ‘Ubaydah ibn Jarrah RadhiAllahu anhu was with him. They came upon a little lake. ‘Umar RadhiAllahu anhu descended from his camel, took off his shoes, tied them together, and hung them on his shoulder. He took the halter of his camel and together they entered the water. Seeing this happening in front of the army, Abu ‘Ubaydah RadhiAllahu anhu said, "O commander of the faithful, how can you be so humble in front of all your men?" ‘Umar RadhiAllahu anhu answered, "Woe, Abu ‘Ubaydah, if anyone else other than you thinks this way! Thoughts like this will cause the downfall of the Muslims. Don’t you see? We were indeed a very lowly people. Allah Ta’ala raised us to honor and greatness through Islam. If we forget who we are and wish other than Islam, which elevated us, the One who raised us surely will debase us."
Said Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasalam: "The most knowledgeable of my Ummah in matters of halal and haram is Muadh ibn Jabal." who was chosen by the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wassalam for his dignified qualities to journey to Yemen to impart Islam to the people. As he was preparing to leave the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wassalam said: "O Muadh, perhaps you shall not meet me again after this year. Perhaps when you return you shall see only my mosque and my grave." Tears rolled down Muadh RadhiAllahu anhu’s cheeks, but were soon changed to a smile upon hearing Rasulullah SallAllahu alaihi wasalam say: "For every step you make for the sake of Allah Ta’ala it will bring you closer to me in Jannah, the first step you take on the path for Allah Ta’ala all sins will be forgiven and for every other step your status will be raised in Jannah."
O Allah, whatever shoes we choose to step into, make each step leading us closer and closer to You Ta’ala and Your Habib SallAllahu alaihi wassalam. O Allah, reward us and instill within us the distinguished features and august character of Your Most Beloved, who You sent as the perfection of mankind. Ameen.
Keep yourself patient with those who call on their Lord morning and evening seeking to honour Allah; and do not disregard them, seeking the finery of the life of this world. (18:28)
All good is from Allah Ta’ala whereas mistakes are from this humble speck. May Allah Ta’ala Bless all readers, bringing you all closer to Him and His Rasul SallAllahu alaihi wasallam. Ameen.