Will you explain the hadith of “the story of a leper, a blind man and a bald-headed man” narrated by Abu Hurayra? Do the diseases of leprosy and baldness originate from the bad traits of people? How should a bald person think?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Not all misfortunes are grief; it is necessary not to see every misfortune, illness or disaster as a manifestation of wrath or bad trait. On the contrary, many misfortunes may be manifestations of mercy.

The real and harmful misfortune is the one that hits our belief, Islam and ethics.  It is necessary to take refuge in Allah from those misfortunes all the time and beg Allah. (see Tirmidhi, Daawat: 79)

However, misfortunes that are not related to the religion are not actually misfortunes. Some of them are Allah’s warning; some of them are atonement for sins; some of them, like illnesses, are Allah’s gifts and cleanliness. (see Bukhari, Iman: 39, Muslim, Birr: 52)

As a matter of fact, the following glad tidings are given in narrations:

“When a tree with ripen fruits is shaken, its fruits fall; similarly, sins fall when a person with malaria shivers.” (Bukhari, Marda: 3, 13, 16; Muslim, Birr: 45)

“Fire removes the corrosion on gold and silver; similarly, the illness of a Muslim remove his sins." (Ibn Majah, Tibb 18)

It is stated in another hadith that Allah sends the heaviest and most severe misfortunes to His beloved slave: 

“The Prophets are tried the most severely, then those nearest to them, then those nearest to them. A man is tried according to his religion; if he is firm in his religion, his trials are more severe, and if he is frail in his religion, he is tried according to the strength of his religion. The servant shall continue to be tried until he is left walking upon the earth without any sins.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd 57; Ahmad b. Hanbal 1,172, 174)

"If a slave cannot reach the rank prepared for him in Paradise with his deeds, Allah sends a misfortune to his body or wealth or family and enables him to reach that rank with his patience." (Ahmad b. Hanbal V-272)

Therefore, there may be many reasons and wisdoms for the misfortunes that hit a believer. However, all of them are useful for him. 

Accordingly, misfortunes, disasters and illnesses may hit us due to the sins we have committed and to eliminate those sins as atonement for them or to enable us to reach high ranks in Paradise.

On the other hand, when we say misfortune, we understand “being tested through misfortunes”. The results of heavy tests are big. The questions asked in the test for an ordinary official and a high-level administrator are not the same. The first one is easier than the second one but the result of the second one is more important than the result of the first one.

In Risale-i Nur Collection, goodness is studied in two parts: “essentially good” and “good in terms of results”. We can give some examples for those classifications: Day is essentially good and night has a goodness peculiar to itself. One of them reminds being awake the other being asleep. Is it not clear that we need both of them?

On the other hand, fruit is essentially good but medication is good in terms of its results.

The incidents that man faces are either like day or like night. Health is like day and illness is like night. If it is thought that illness is atonement for sins, shows man his weakness, warns him about his worshipping and makes his heart turn toward his Lord by leaving the world behind, it will be seen that it is as great a boon as health at least. Health is the feast day of the body; illness is the food of the heart.

“Night and day” are only one chain of the manifestations of “jalal and jamal”, which are continuously active in the universe. Electricity has positive and negative poles; the eye has a black part and a white part; the blood has red cells and white cells, and so on. We are surrounded by those dual systems in our inner and outer world; we receive different benefits from them.

The translation of a verse closely related to the issue is as follows:  

“…But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you...” (al-Baqara, 2/216)

The verse is related to jihad but its decree is general. This verse shows us another “dual” system: War and peace. Peace is like day; everybody likes it; war is like night. However, the future of those who do not fight when it is necessary becomes dark; their descendants will live in darkness. Those who are martyred in jihad are raised to the rank of sainthood all of a sudden and their worldly life is like night compared to their new life.

On the other hand, misfortunes are a test of patience for man; the reward of passing this test is great.

Lastly, they are all divine blows. Allah of them may have a share in general misfortunes. A misfortune may be a penalty for a group, a warning for another group and atonement for sins for yet another group. 

In individual misfortunes, the safest way, in our opinion, is as follows: If a misfortune hits us, we should blame our soul and cause it to repent. If a misfortune hits others, we should regard it as a means of improvement for them. Thus, we will cover a lot of ground and be freed from having bad thoughts about others.

The hadith about "the story of a leper, a blind man and a bald-headed man" mentioned in the question is as follows:

“There were three people from Sons of Israel: a leper, a blind man and a bald-headed man. Allah willed to test them. So, He sent them an angel disguised as a human being.

The angel came to the leper first and said, “What thing do you like most?

He replied, “Good color and good skin, removal of the state from me that make people feel disgusted.”

The angel touched him and his illness was cured, and he was given a good color and beautiful skin.

The angel asked him, “What kind of animals do you like best?

He replied, “Camels.” So, the leper was given a she-camel that was pregnant for ten months.

And, the angel said to him, “May Allah bless you in it!” and disappeared. The angel then went to the bald-headed man and said,

“What thing do you like most?”

He said, “I like good hair and wish to be cured of this disease, which makes people feel repulsion for me.”

The angel touched him and his illness was cured, and he was given good hair.

The angel asked him, “What kind of animals do you like best?”

He replied, “Cattle.” He was given a pregnant cow.

The angel said, “May Allah bless you in it!” and went to the blind man. He asked the blind man,

“What thing do you like best?”

He said, “I want Allah to restore my eyesight to me so that I may see the people.”

The angel touched his eyes and Allah gave him back his eyesight.

The angel asked him, “What kind of animals do you like best?”

He replied, “Sheep.” He was given a pregnant sheep at once.

Afterwards, all the three pregnant animals gave birth to young ones, and multiplied and brought forth so much that one of the three men had a herd of camels filling a valley, and one had a herd of cows filling a valley, and one had a flock of sheep filling a valley.

Then the angel, disguised in the shape and appearance of a leper, went to the leper and said,

I am a poor man, who has lost all means of livelihood while on a journey. So none will satisfy my need except Allah and then you. In the Name of Him Who has given you such nice color and beautiful skin, and so much property, I ask you to give me a camel so that I may reach my destination.

The man replied, “No, so many people have rights on them.” He refused to help him.

The angel said, “I think I know you; were you not a leper to whom the people had a strong aversion? Were you not a poor man, and then Allah gave you health and wealth?

The man said, “You have spoken too much. I got this wealth through inheritance from my ancestors.”

The angel said, “If you are telling a lie, let Allah make you as you were before.“ Then, he left and went to the bald man disguised in the shape and appearance of a bald man. He told him the same things as he told the first one and asked for help. He refused to help as the first one did.

The angel said, to him,

“If you are telling a lie, let Allah make you as you were before.” Then, the angel, went to the blind man disguised in the shape of a blind man and said to him,

“I am a poor man and a traveler, whose means of livelihood have been exhausted while on a journey. I have nobody to help me except Allah, and after Him, you yourself. I ask you in the Name of Him Who has given you back your eyesight to give me a sheep, so that with its help, I may complete my journey.”

The man said, “No doubt, I was blind and Allah gave me back my eyesight; I was poor and Allah made me rich; so take anything you wish from my wealth. By Allah, I will not stop you for taking anything you need of my wealth which you may take for Allah’s sake.”

The angel replied, “Keep your wealth with you. You have been tested, and Allah is pleased with you and will punish your two companions.” Then, he disappeared. (see Bukhari, Anbiya 50; Muslim, Zuhd 10)

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