Khedive Ismail Pasha was appointed as the ruler over Egypt by the Ottoman Empire. During his reign, Egypt and Ethiopia were at war from 1874 to 1876. Due to the disunity that existed between the various commanders of the Egyptian army, Egypt suffered numerous defeats during this war, and was ultimately unsuccessful against Ethiopia.
One day, Khedive Ismail felt depressed and overcome by anxiety on account of the defeats that Egypt was suffering. He thus mounted his conveyance and set out with his minister, Shareef Pasha, hoping to find a way to relieve his anxiety and dispel his worries. While they were out, he turned to Shareef Pasha and asked him, “When you have a serious problem that you need to solve, what do you do?” Shareef Pasha answered, “It is my habit that when I have a problem, I request the pious ‘Ulama to recite the kitaab, Saheeh Bukhaari, on my behalf. Through the blessings of this kitaab, Allah Ta‘ala assists me to solve my problem.” Khedive Ismail replied, “We will speak to the Shaikh of Al-Azhar and ask him to arrange for Saheeh Bukhaari to be recited.”
Accordingly, Shaikh Aroosi, the Shaikh of Al-Azhar, gathered the pious ‘Ulama who began to recite Saheeh Bukhaari. However, news of the Egyptian army’s defeat continued to arrive. After some time, Khedive Ismail and Shareef Pasha went to the ‘Ulama where Khedive Ismail said to them in anger, “Either the kitaab that you are reciting is not Saheeh Bukhaari, or you are not the pious ‘Ulama that we think you to be, like the pious ‘Ulama of the past. Allah Ta‘ala has not assisted us in any way through you and your recitation!”
On hearing this outburst, the gathering of ‘Ulama remained silent. However, an old ‘Aalim, seated in the last row of the gathering, spoke up and said, “It is your fault, Ismail, as Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has said, ‘You will certainly command people towards righteousness and forbid them from evil, or Allah Ta‘ala will allow the evil among you to rule over you. Thereafter, when the pious among you will make du‘aa, it will not be accepted.’” When the old ‘Aalim said this, there was pin drop silence. After a few moments, Khedive Ismail and Shareef Pasha turned and left without uttering a word.
As soon as they left, the other ‘Ulama began to reproach him for speaking against the ruler as they feared that he would be punished or killed. Mere moments later, Shareef Pasha returned and informed the old ‘Aalim that Khedive Ismail had summoned him. The other ‘Ulama were now convinced that the old ‘Aalim was departing to his death, and they thus began to bid him farewell.
The old ‘Aalim accompanied Shareef Pasha to the palace of Khedive Ismail. On entering, they found Khedive Ismail in the hall with a chair before him. After seating the old ‘Aalim in the chair, Khedive Ismail said, “Repeat what you said to me earlier, in Al-Azhar.” When the old ‘Aalim repeated the hadeeth of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and explained what it meant, Khedive Ismail asked, “What evils have we committed due to which this calamity has befallen us?” The old ‘Aalim replied, “Have the mixed courts (courts with jurisdiction over residents of foreign nationality) not begun to pass laws permitting interest and usury? Has adultery and fornication not been allowed? Has wine and alcohol not been legalised?” In this manner, the old ‘Aalim continued citing many more examples of evils and sins that were undeniable realities. He then concluded saying, “When this is our lamentable condition, how can we expect to receive the assistance of Allah Ta‘ala?”
After hearing him out, Khedive Ismail exclaimed, “What can we do? We cannot help it! There are non-Muslims living here with us and we need to appease them!” The old ‘Aalim responded, “In that case, what is the fault of Saheeh Bukhaari, and what can the ‘Ulama do to help you? (i.e. when you wish to compromise Deen to appease the kuffaar, then you should not blame Saheeh Bukhaari and should not expect the du‘aa of the ‘Ulama to avail you, as you have caused yourself to be deprived of the assistance of Allah Ta‘ala).”
Khedive Ismail lowered his head and pondered over the profound words of the old ‘Aalim for some time. Eventually, he raised his head and submitted, “You are right and you have spoken the truth.” Saying this, he allowed the old ‘Aalim to return to Al-Azhar where he was received by the other ‘Ulama who were joyous over his safe return.
(Min Akhlaaqil ‘Ulama pgs. 97)
1. Today, everybody is looking for solutions to the problems that we face. Whether it is crime, corrupt leaders or people undergoing persecution, people from all walks of life are affected and worried. In this regard, people often say, “When will the help of Allah Ta‘ala come? Why are we undergoing these difficulties?” The answer is that we need to revive Deen and the sunnah in our lives and cease committing sins, in order to receive the assistance of Allah Ta‘ala.
2. The old ‘Aalim took the courage to address the ruler and correct him, explaining to him that what he was doing was incorrect. In a similar way, we should all strive to make a difference where possible. First of all, we will make an effort to identify and rectify our own wrongs. Thereafter, we are obligated to save our families from the fire of Jahannum. We will try to help each and every person, in whatever manner possible, to reach Jannah, together with making du‘aa for the person and all Muslims at large.