Before Marriage Spouse

Musa & Safurah: a Courtship, a Romance

by Hena Zuberi

2910910883_6b2156e34a_oI am from Generation X. Raised on ‘Pretty in Pink’ and Sweet Dreams romance novels, some of my friends read Mills and Boons, others raved about the unattainable love in the Thorn birds; but I preferred the grand passion of Wuthering Heights. That was my idea of a romance – filling each other completely, a religion of love.

It also came from Indian movies; rich girl falls for poor guy, they dance around trees in the rain, then drama ensues from the family, enter Prem Chopra character, the guy runs off with girl, the end. Sometimes, he would dash in with a monologue and take her away while she was getting married to someone else. How many girls are still waiting for their Sir Salman/Saif/Shahrukh Khan to take them away on a white horse in a red lehnga?

When in love, according to Freud, “against all the evidence of  her/his senses, a wo/man who is in love declares ‘I’ and ‘you’ are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact.” This love is so destructive, so impossible; based on these notions, I have nursed many a heartbroken friend. I remember being in ER after she burnt herself with a cigarette because she wasn’t allowed to see him; another time helping to hide another’s bruises under makeup, where he punched her for talking to his buddy. My own quest was less for the pain, more for the eternal flutter in my heart. What were we thinking? Allah made us; He put these feelings in our heart, so why didn’t we ever think of turning to His book to see how ‘boy meets girl’ really works? It’s all in there.

I read of a great courtship, a love story that is so romantic it’s divine. The setting – Madyan, the land of frankincense, I can almost smell it lingering in the air. Historian Abdulla Al-Wohaibi writes that Madyan was “a flourishing ancient town with numerous wells and permanently flowing springs whose water had good taste. There were farms, gardens and groves of palm trees.”

Here we meet Safurah, the daughter of Shuyab `alayhi assalam (peace be upon him) at the side of a gushing spring, ‘keeping back, stopping her sheep from drinking with the sheep of the shepherds.’ And Musa (as), a fugitive on the run for eight days, crossing the burning desert sands from Egypt, feeding off nothing but tree leaves.

Their meeting is a beautiful example of chivalry; a perfect model of what it means to be a man and a woman. This was her daily routine and she waited out of her sense of modesty. She and her sister were strong women, after all herding their father’s flock wasn’t easy work. They were surrounded by rowdy men, reminding me of scenes from Liberty market in Lahore, Cairo’s Khan Khaleeli or the Westfield mall in Generic town, U.S.A. where rowdy boys hang out – men yelling, pushing, with little dignity or sense of composure. He, however, was a gentleman amongst the uncouth.

She didn’t need his help, she could have waited until all of the other men were done and then watered her flock, but that’s what makes it so special – that he still stood up to help her. Musa (as) was thirsty too but his sense of doing the right thing was stronger than his fatigue or his hunger. He was honorable – he could have ignored the sisters, could have said “I’m too tired, too important.” He had no relationship with these women. He didn’t know what family or religion they were from. All he saw was someone was being treated unfairly and for the sake of Allah, he was ready to help.

Sisters, a man like that will get you far in life. He will be just with your children, your parents and his parents. He will help you in your faith, your home and your life. As for the ones pushing each other to get the water from the well, they are the same brothers who will keep fighting for the dunya. They will keep working away for the next promotion and you will be left on the side like the two sisters from Madyan.

When Musa (as) approached the water, he saw that the shepherds had placed an immense rock, that could only be moved by ten men, over the mouth of the spring. ‘Musa embraced the rock and lifted it out of the spring’s mouth, the veins of his neck and hands standing out as he did so.’ He let their sheep drink and then put the rock back in its place.

After Musa (as) did this kind act, he went back in the shade of the tree and made du`a’. Unlike some MSA brothers who like to walk the sisters to their apartments and then ask them if they have food in the fridge, he didn’t ask the girls “Hey! I did you a favor, can you help me out now?”

No, he lies down on Allah’s green earth and makes this beautiful du`a’:


“So he watered (their flocks) for them, then he turned back to shade, and said: ‘My Lord! I am truly in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!'” (Qur’an, 28:24)

`Ata’ bin As-Sa’ib said in Tafsir ibn Kathir: “When Musa made that du`a’ the women heard him.”  What a beautiful du`a’ to make for all of us who are looking for a good partner or bliss in our married lives. This one du`a’ to Allah gave Musa (as) a job, a house and a family all at once. When you have nothing left except Allah, than you find that Allah is always enough for you.

The two sisters came home with the well-fed sheep, surprising their father Shuyab (as). He asked them what had happened and they told him what Musa (as) had done. So he sent one of them to call him to meet her father.

She said: “My father is inviting you so that he may reward you for watering our sheep.” In Tafsir ibn Kathir it states:
there came to him one of them, walking shyly, meaning she was walking like a free woman. Narrates `Umar ibn-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him: “She was covering herself from them (Musa) with the folds of her garment.”

Safurah is intelligent and intuitive. Abdullah bin Masud praised three people’s intuition: Abu Bakr Siddiq (ra) about `Umar ibn-Khattab, Yousuf ‘s (as) companion, and Safurah’s when she asked her father to hire Musa (as). “Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.” Her father said to her, ”What do you know about that?” She said to him, “He lifted a rock which could only be lifted by ten men, and when I came back with him, I walked ahead of him, but he said to me, walk behind me, and if I get confused about the route, throw a pebble so that I will know which way to go.”

He didn’t follow her, looking at her from behind – subhan’Allah. Imagine the scenario: he was a prince who must have had women throwing themselves at him but he ‘lowers his gaze’, which is the hukum for all Muslim men, but how many really adhere to that? Here Musa (as) is not Safurah’s husband yet, so he asks her to walk behind him, knowing very well that he doesn’t know the way but she does. It wasn’t a matter of ego or superiority; he was concerned about her honor as she was alone, without her sister; this way he was protecting her. Look at their society too – if all the men were such boors, could you put it past those people to gossip about her walking with him?

I often wonder how Musa (as) grew up to be this way? He came from such privilege, so much corruption existed in the court of Pharoah; he could have had any woman he wanted. But he learnt how to honor women from his pious foster mother, `Aasiya (ra); and continued this respect even hundreds of miles from his mother’s eyes. Mothers can be shields for their sons – even if the fathers are Pharoah.

Back to our courtship: Musa (as) takes Safurah’s ‘lead’ by making her throw stones to direct the route. Brothers, there’s a lesson for you here: it’s ok to ask for directions and consulting with a woman. Such a man’s bravado would be insulted today; he would be considered crazy or sexist for asking a woman to walk in his shadow and then make her do all the work! Armed with our liberal arts education, we often undervalue a man’s masculinity. Such hoopla is made over where the husband walks, in front, side by side, behind you. My husband is a foot and some taller than me, so big deal if he sometimes walks faster than me, he’s got longer legs. Other times he walks behind me especially in crowds and he is often there by my side. It doesn’t define us. Shouldn’t it matter more whether he is ahead, behind or by my side spiritually?

Safurah then hired Musa (as) and chooses to marry him under her father’s guidance. There was no long engagement and no endless conversations – no promises of unending love. How many times do we pass up great partners because we haven’t clicked? What did she like about him in those short meetings? First of all, she sees he is not a wimp, he stood up for her when they were strangers, imagine what he would do for her when she becomes his wife.

He complements her life; she needs a man in her household, to help her run her business (we see the same theme in the blessed union of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and our mother, Khadijah (ra). This story reinforces in me the reason why my husband is always going to be the leader of my family. He leads well so that I may willingly follow.

Musa (as) agrees to the terms Safurah’s family sets for their marriage. She admires his trust in Allah, his ability to problem solve, his strength and his manners. If women looked for his four characteristics in a man, instead of the countless other things we focus on, will we not find our own beautiful Musa?

Further, if we are consumed by the love we have for our spouse, will there be space in our hearts for Allah? Heathcliff and Catherine of Wuthering Heights had replaced God for each other. They needed to fuse their identities and thought they had attained heaven. Bronte’s mysticism notwithstanding, love like theirs is asocial, amoral and irresponsible. After reading Musa and Safurah’s love story though, I learned to love my husband for the right reasons: for his support, his strengths, and his sense of responsibility for the sake of Allah. After ten years, he still makes my heart flutter; but he doesn’t need to complete me. It’s enough that he complements me. And it is this evolving courtship that will inshaAllah knock the tunes out of every Indian movie.


Abdulla Al-Wohabi, The Northern Hijaz In The Writings of The Arab Geographers 800-1150 B.C., p. 142

Emily Bronte, Imelani. Religion, Metaphysics and Mysticism.

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  • SALAMS, GREAT POST, BUT I THINK THERES SOME KIND OF TYPO?? “”walking shyly, meaning she was walking like a free woman. Narrates `Umar ibn-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him: “She was covering herself from them (Musa) with the folds of her garment.”

    How can shyness mean walking like a free woman?
    excuse my ignorance

    • Yea, I know what you’re saying. This is the direct quote from the abridged translation of Ibn Kathir:

      It says just after this in the tafsir: “`Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “She came walking shyly, putting her garment over her face. She was not one of those audacious women who come and go as they please.” This chain of narrators is Sahih.

      This is a beautiful article. May Allah reward you sister for this great reminder of how to have a relationship that is truly best for us in this dunya and the akhirah.

    • Also, if you walk shyly it symbolizes how you are not already committed to another. So by “free” woman, it doesn’t mean that she is nonchalantly walking, it means literally she is not committed to another.

      Hope that helps!

  • salam, interesting article. i enjoyed reading it. indeed the scenes depicted in the quran are really beautiful. much can be learned from them. jazakiAllah khair, ws

  • salamualaikum

    mashallah awesome article. If the women of today were like Safurah [raa], I’m sure they would be found by men like Musa [AS] and vice versa.

  • As’salamings,

    Wohoo it’s up. *reads last line again*

    MashaAllah & jazakAllah & Hena. Pretty in Pink, the chivalrous Prophet Musa, a modest Safurah, ahhh. An excellent lesson in behaviour, goals and remembrance of Allah.

    Reposting with permission:

  • a very enjoyable read. This is one of my favorite lines:

    “Mothers can be shields for their sons – even if the fathers are Pharoah.”

  • Salaam, was reading your article at early morning in the office and it really made my day 😀 thank you, wonderful description of Prophetic way of living this life and of their blessed wives too. Would it be too much of me if I would ask you kindly to write a story of some other Prophetic couple? I think there is a plenty of material for the story..:)) All the best!

    • Alhamdulillah and waliakumasalam wa rahmatullahi wabarakatahu,
      What a lovely idea sister- I would love to work on that inshaAllah

  • Dear brother,
    The orders of Allah regarding modesty, covering oneself and draping one’s cloaks over oneself apply to the (free) believing women. They did not apply to slavegirls, who were in most cases non-Muslim. Therefore, walking like a free woman means to walk with modesty and covering oneself in public, as the latter part of Syedna Umer’s commentary clarifies.

    Hope that helps.

  • Dear Apa,

    Excellent stuff masha’Allah!

    The funny thing is I often refer to this romantic story and the values it embodies with young brothers, and whatever you wrote puts all that in clear words. I also got to learn some important details about the story from this.

    Also, Allah has provided a loving family and tayyib sustenance to many a brother in the tabligh effort through this amazing du’a, including yours truly as well as Haris!

      • Dear apa
        This is haleema from Melbourne, hope you haven’t forgotton me. I really appreciate the effort you have made. MashaAllah may Allah accept you and your family for deen of Allah swt.

  • ….he doesn’t need to complete me. It’s enough that he complements me …. i like that. its going to be my status in fb today. your article was truly enlightening. shukran jazilan. barakallahu feek!

  • Thanks sister for committing some of your time to the message of Islam…
    I highly enjoyed this.. keep it up!
    And may Allah SWT reward you for your efforts in His name!

  • Who is Sir Salman/Saif/Shahrukh Khan? Aren’t we supposed to be not to look other woman/man’s awraat?

    • Salaams,
      You are so right we are indeed supposed to lower our gaze. These men are Indian movie actors, who are often revered as heroes by many Muslim youth. Their Muslim sounding names further feeding the delusion.

      I was writing about my teens as I look at it from my 30s, knowing what I know now about the Quran, hoping my younger Muslim brothers and sisters may benefit from my experience without making the same mistakes.

  • Just got back from Geogia, and this was the first site that o checked upon getting back. Nice article and good lessons. Hope to one day find me a wife. Salaams to all and may Allah reward all those who helped in this site.

  • Salaam Hena,

    Thank you for this wonderful piece. I really enjoyed it, and love the Musa courtship story- one of my favorites!

    I have a question about one of your references- I am trying to find it, but not having any luck. Please explain the second reference: “Emily Bronte, Imelani. Religion, Metaphysics and Mysticism.”

    is this a book, article? What is the author’s name? Haven’t been able to find it.

    – Rabya

    • Wasalam,
      My bad- that was a typo- it is a website with an English professor’s notes on her class on Emily Bronte

      I. Melani, Religion, Metaphysics and Mysticism in the Wuthering Heights.
      Hope that clears it up.

  • A beautiful article. I can truly say that I know a man who holds all four of these qualities, not an indecent or flirtatious bone exists in him. Its difficult not to love someone like that. So I implore:

    ‘My Lord! I am truly in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!’” (Qur’an, 28:24)

  • Asslamoaikum Apa
    This is haleema, I realy appreciate the effort you have made MashaAllah. May Allah accept you and your family for his deen.

  • Having read such lovely artcile …i would say again and again..the following du’a hoping to find a Musa soon incha Allah

    ‘My Lord! I am truly in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!’” (Qur’an, 28:24)

  • Jazaki Allah khair dear sister. This is actually one of my favourite stories and one of my favourite duáas. Beautifully written & explained. I love it and will share with all I know. May Allah accept this from you! And may He bless us all with spouses who are from His best & beloved slaves! :)
    ‘My Lord! I am truly in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!’”

  • Salam, beautiful article!
    A spouse does not need to complete you, but complement you…Great point!

    In response to your question, “How many times do we pass off good offers because we don’t click?”
    It is also true that two people can be amazing and pious individuals, but they are not amazing for each other…for example, a pious Shi’a may not be able to marry a pious Sunni…and so on. The couple may be fine but the two families may have a lot of conflicts. Unfortunately, society is not as god-fearing and simple as it was during the time of Musa. But this story is definately an ideal prototype to try and follow.

  • Asalumalikum Sister Hena,
    Mashallah a very well written article that delivers a powerful message!! god job may Allah give you good in this duniya and the akirah for doing dawah!!

  • Assalamoalaikum,

    I simply love this article, reading this article with tearful eyes I was praying to Allah same dua as Musa (AS) may Allah also give us the same insight and select our spouse for right reasons and may Allah bless us with such spouse as Musa and Safurah… Beautiful love story, I have read many times but reading it today I felt as If I am reading it first time. Learned great lessons and increased my trust in Allah…

    May Allah Bless you sister…
    Loads of love and prayers,

  • A beautiful article, and a very necessary one for allour sisters and daughters to read…many of whom understand that the Western way and Bollywood style of Romance is the real thing. When we sa”La illa ha Illa la..” it means Allah is first before anything OR anyone, including our husbands, wives or even our children. With Allah being first in our lives, we can be assured of forming beautiful relationships with each other based on trust, respect and a much BIGGER, all encompassing kind of love ..(not the limiting, obsessive kind of love that the soapies promote..)

  • salams,
    nice story and wonderful extra detail in it.
    thing is you say we should look for these brothers…my dear sister…what the brothers look for is the matter…you see Musa AS was satisfied with the simplicity and purity of living of these girls lives but most brothers today desire something other…eg absolute physical beauty before they even consider someone…a mark of the raunch culture that they are overtly exposed…yes they want what the raunch culutre professes as long as its packaged in a nikab!

    interesting also that Musa AS didnt ask about her age…a second thing which muslim men are obsessed with…

    i have to say, muslim men are in a very sad state today…

  • I too am from generation x, growing up on stories of the bronte’s and jane austin, fairy tales and romance movies. In my mind I’ve been waiting for that prince or knight to come ‘save’ me. This story and your article has inspired me in more ways then I can express. Shukran for this inspiring and wonderfully written text. You have made me realise that you should love someone, not for the romance but for your Imaan and for the pleasure of Allah. I have also realised I am not in need of ‘salvation’ and no man can ‘save’ me. My faith completes me and marriage is just a mere part of that faith. I have read many articles and stories with the same theme as this but none have been so eloquently written and none have affected me or inspired me as yours. Shukran and thank you for this. May Allah take you from strenght to strenght and may HE keep those butterflies in your tummy always.

  • “So he watered (their flocks) for them, then he turned back to shade, and said: ‘My Lord! I am truly in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!’” (Qur’an, 28:24)

    By the word, “whatever good that You bestow upon me”, Musa(alaihis salaam) perhaps didn’t necessarily mean that this good was the spouse he wanted in Safura. Becoz, its not mentioned in the Quran whether his heart was inclined towards her. So we can’t be sure of this feeling in him. Maybe, he didn’t know what good there was in the meeting, but he simply prayed to Allah to grant him the good that was in it, which only Allah knew, but perhaps he didn’t.
    There’s also another point to be noted. Musa(a.s.) was coming from a far away land, famished and exhausted. So, maybe he was saying to Allah that he was in need and by that supplication he meant that only Allah can satisfy his needs, and that he was waiting for it.
    Only Allah knows, what Musa(a.s.) meant by that, and we can merely speculate.

  • Subhana’allah subhana’allah subhana’allah .. I hadnt heard this one before.. and believe me THIS is definitely the most sweetest and beautiful love story I’ve heard!! Truly truly amazing!! :) .. It definitely is gona be shared on my blog, Insha’allah!! :) .. Loved it! Jazakallahu Khair for the beautiful post and the lessons learnt! :)
    May Allah help us love and respect our spouses for the sake of Allah. Ameen! :)

  • A beautifully written piece, alhumdulilah. It really did bring tears to my eyes, and touches me deeply every time I read it. May Allah bless the author.

  • Assalamu Alaikum…This is truly lovely but not being comfortable with the romantic details it had, I had sent this article to my teacher Umm Muhammad (Translator of the Noble Qur’aan by Saheeh International) to ask what she thought of it…this is how she replied:

    Umm Muhammad: Wa alaikumus-salam, Actually, I did not feel too comfortable about this story although some good points were made. Too much emphasis on romance, which is not suggested in the Qur’anic version.
    In addition, not all of the commentary should be taken as fact. We only accept as true what can be verified in the Qur’an & authentic hadith. And Allah knows best.

  • I loved every single word of this post! SubhanAllah.
    May Allah continue to give you the tawfeeq to write articles addressing social issues. May He put barakah and love in your family life and may He grant you, your spouse, children and loved ones a high place in Jannah tul firdaus.

  • Salaams, this was a beautiful article, mA. I was just recounting this story today & this article has reminded me of so many more lessons from this story.

    JazakAllah khair! :)

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