The Woman with Wooden Sandals
“The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) delivered a lengthy sermon one day covering the affairs of the world and the Hereafter. He also said: ‘Surely, the first thing that destroyed the Bani Israil were the poor and needy women who went to great lengths for their clothes and colours. They wore colourful clothes which only the wealthy women could afford.’ He then mentioned one woman of the Bani Israil who was short-statured. She got for herself wooden sandals to conceal her height and got made for herself a ring with an opening which was locked from the top. She filled it with musk. She then walked with tall or fat women. The people sent a man behind them and he recognized the tall women but not the one with wooden sandals.” [Sahih Muslim]
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) cautioned his Companions about the world and its colourful life, and encouraged them to think of the Hereafter. He advised them to refrain from doing what the Bani Israil had done that caused them to become accursed. He traced for them the roots of the destruction of the Bani Israil.
The beginning of their destruction lay in their wealthy people making ostentatious displays in matters of dress, personal adornment, eating and drinking. They spent lavishly on these things. Poor people were impressed by the standard of the rich, the poor men’s wives vied with the rich men’s wives, tried to fit in with them, and do as they did. This burdened the poor men considerably.
When rich people act a certain way, it is but natural that the poor will sooner or later try to imitate them. This will then compound their financial problems for them.
Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) did not give some people wealth so that they could lord it over others. He gave it to them to earn their Akhirah with it. It is human nature to want to distinguish oneself. But Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) put this ambition in us so that we try to outdo each other in racing to Jannah and trying to acquire its higher levels. This is what the Sahabah competed for.
We, on the other hand, compete for the petty distinctions of this world. We try to show that we are better than others based on the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the languages we speak, and the technology we use. These are false standards of judgement and worthless in the eyes of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).
Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) commands women to use the veil, adopt a simple life, and disdain artificiality. The aim of a Muslim is not to gain prominence in worldly life but to prepare himself/herself for the Hereafter and seek the pleasure of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).