Qays bin Mulawwah and Layla Al ‘Aamiriyyah were brought up together from childhood rearing the animals. Layla was the daughter of Qays’ cousin. Qays and his niece fell in love with each other when they were both very young and the love deepened day after day.
Qays began writing poems about his love for Layla, mentioning her name often. When Qays asked Layla’s father for her hand in marriage, her father refused because there was a conflict between the families of Qays and Layla.
Layla later married a young noble and rich merchant belonging to the Taqif tribe in Ta’if. When Qays heard of her marriage, he fled from home and began wandering the surrounding desert. His obsession with Layla was so great that people of the town began calling him “Majnun” (مَجْنُون), which means “mad” or “crazy”.
Majnun’s family eventually gave up on his return and left food outside for him in the desert. He could sometimes be seen reciting poetry to himself or writing in the sand with a stick. Layla is generally depicted as having moved to a place in Northern Arabia with her husband, where she became ill and eventually died.
In some versions, Layla died of heartbreak from not being able to see her would-be lover. Majnun was later found dead in the wilderness, near Layla’s grave. He had carved three verses of poetry on a rock near the grave, which was the last three verses attributed to him.
The Desire of Qays for Layla
أَحَبُّ شَيْءٍ إِلَى الإِنْسَانِ مَا مُنِعَ
The most beloved thing to a man is the prohibitionArab proverb
This proverb originates from a verse of the poem of Qays that he wrote for Layla when he was in love with her and her father had prohibited their marriage. Instead of him desisting from his love for her, he expressed his grief in a poem that said the most beloved thing to a man is what he is prevented from.
حُبٌّ – Love, affection or passion
شَيْءٌ – Thing or Object
إِلَى – To
إِنْسَانٌ – Human or man
مَنَعَ – Prevent or Prohibit
Shaytan Tempts us to Taste What is Prohibited
The poem and proverb reflect the struggles humans have with desire. Humans become more attracted to prohibitions because of their strong desire for absolute freedom. They do not want to be restricted from anything, and the nature of greediness stems from the root of struggling to control desires. Thus, when a man has nothing, he desires what he does not have. Yet, when he has something, he desires what is with others.
Allah SWT told us in the Quran:
مَن يُوقَ شُحَّ نَفْسِهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his soul – it is those who will be the successful.
The word “shuhh” used in the verse has been translated as “stinginess“, but it also has a broader meaning. The word “bukhl” means stinginess alone, while “shuhh“ means “stinginess and greediness”.
Shaytan does not want us to be successful, so he tempts us to taste what is prohibited. Allah SWT told us about the story of our father, Prophet Adam (AS), when he was asked to eat from every fruit of Jannah except one. Prophet Adam (AS) obeyed Allah SWT until when shaytan came to tempt him with what was prohibited. This story is relayed to us in the Quran:
فَوَسْوَسَ إِلَيْهِ الشَّيْطَانُ قَالَ يَا آدَمُ هَلْ أَدُلُّكَ عَلَىٰ شَجَرَةِ الْخُلْدِ وَمُلْكٍ لَّا يَبْلَىٰ
Then Satan whispered to him; he said, “O Adam, shall I direct you to the tree of eternity and possession that will not deteriorate?”
Fasting as a Prescription to Control Our Desires
Allah SWT, with His mercy, equipped us with many tools to help us turn away from the tempting whispers of Shaytan. One of them is fasting, which was prescribed to teach us to control our desires and develop righteousness (taqwa).
يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنوا كُتِبَ عَلَيكُمُ الصِّيامُ كَما كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذينَ مِن قَبلِكُم لَعَلَّكُم تَتَّقونَ
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.
So let us hold firmly to the rope of Allah so that we may be protected from stinginess and greed, attain righteousness, and achieve success, InshaAllah.