Sharifa, an orphan girl, spent her early years in a small town. She married a peasant from the hill country who took her to live in a house he shared with his mother. The new home in which she lived, although plain and small, was made pleasant by the singing of the birds all around it, the shining of the sun above it, and the blooming of the lovely flowers in the garden.
Before the summer had past, Sharifa grew worried and weary because her mother-in-law was always ill. The sickness made it unpleasant to be near her. Therefore, no one came to visit their home. Then the poor girl’s husband went off to the fruit harvest and ordered her not to go out. She could not even go to the saints’ tombs to get relief from her cares. In addition, the month of fasting fell in the late summer that year, so the days of fasting were very long and hot. Indeed, Sharifa was lonely.
Sharifa knew her husband would return home a few days before the festival which marked the breaking of the fast. She decided she would ask him to let her go visit some friends on the festival day. So she prepared him his favourite food for supper to make his heart glad. Then, when she saw his smiling face, she presented her request. After considering the matter, he said: “Truly, you have been alone the whole summer. I will see Sayyid at the cafe tonight. As his house is opposite us, he may perhaps tell his family to take you with them.” She was glad to hear this, for she remembered that she had seen Hanifa, the wife of Sayyid, at her wedding, and that she looked pleasant like her own mother.
When her husband left the next morning, she opened her box of clothes. As soon as she saw them, her joy turned into sadness. Throughout the summer the dust had invaded the old box and ruined her clothes, even the few good ones that she owed.
However, she comforted herself with the thought that there were still three days left in which to wash her things in her garden stream. This she would do the next day, to be ready for the third day.
However, that afternoon the wind blew strongly and the small house shook all night. When the wind ceased in the morning, it rained all day. As she worried about her washing, her head began to hurt and her heart ached.
When she awoke from sleep the day before the festival, the sun was brightly shining and the birds were singing their lovely songs. Immediately, she took her bundle of clothes to the stream. But the water was dirty and slimy, for the rain had stirred up the mud and clay to mix with the clear water. She washed as hard as she could.
She soon saw that her efforts made matters only worse. The clay stained her clothes and they now appeared dirtier than ever. Tears fell from her eyes. She felt that she would be forced to stay in her house like a prisoner. She would only hear and see her husband and unpleasant mother-in-law, while others enjoyed the celebration for the breaking of the fast.
While Sharifa continued to weep over her life, she suddenly heard women’s voices a little distance away. She looked over the cactus hedge and saw Hanifa, Sayyid’s wife, and her daughter. They were carrying bundles of clothes on their heads. Sharifa clapped her hands to gain their attention. When Hanifa turned, Sharifa asked her and her daughter to come to her house. Seeing Sharifa’s tears, Hanifa asked: “Why are you crying, my daughter? You know that you are coming with me tomorrow to see the world.”
Sharifa answered: “That is why I am crying. Look at my clothes, how dirty they are! I cannot get them clean. So how can I come with you and shame myself before everyone during the festival?”
Hanifa replied: “My daughter, you are a child of the town and do not know the ways of the village. Why do you wash your clothes in the stream after the rains? Do you not know that there is a clear spring behind the olive tree?”
“I know nothing about it at all,” said Sharifa. “How should I know things when no one teaches me?”
Hanifa replied: “Look at the clothes which I have just washed. They are perfectly clean, and now I will spread them in the sun to dry. There is yet time and the sun is still strong. Run and ask your mother-in-law to let you go with me to the spring.”
Sharifa quickly went to ask the old woman. With a sour look,the old woman replied: “That’s your business. If your husband comes home and does not find you here, you may get a scolding. So think about it.”
Rejecting the old woman’s advice, Sharifa took the risk and went to the spring with Hanifa. When they approached the spring, they saw many women coming with bundles of dirty clothes and going away with beautifully clean ones. When she looked at the spring, she saw that it cleaned away all the stains. The spring poured out from a rock and appeared as clear as crystal. As she washed her clothes, the spring water removed all the dirt, even those stains she had added by washing them in the muddy water. Joyfully, she then spread her clothes in the sun. Its rays increased their beauty.
On the day of the festival, Sharifa left her house with a heart that leaped for joy. She felt that she had never experienced a festival like it, for the days of her loneliness had passed away like a dream.
Friend, like Sharifa, you also may have had many days being weary and lonely. It may be that your thoughts too have been directed towards heaven to that great gathering that will take place on the Day of judgment. Perhaps you even desire it.
But you know also that the Day of Judgment is a holy day. Therefore, you try to purify yourself in preparation for it. You work to spiritually cleanse yourself. You do good works, pray to the prophets, visit special shrines and holy places, hoping that they will be able to remove your burdens.
Yet your prayers, fasts and similar deeds are all mixed with evil just as the water of the stream was mixed with mud. Often your good deeds are mixed with selfishness and the ways of the world. Therefore, they cannot take away your sins.
You know too that the prophets and saints were all descendants of Adam like us. They were born into this world as we were. They died and returned to dust as everyone else does. Every one of them has to answer for his own sins; thus no one of them can take away your sins. Visits to their tombs will not cleanse your sins.
Your good deeds may even add to the stain of sin in your heart instead of removing the sin that was there. The longer you live, the more you will understand that you cannot do perfect deeds. God, who knows all things, declares that this is beyond your power. He says in His Holy Word through His prophet Job: “Nothing clean can ever come from anything as unclean as man.”1
While you are struggling with such vain efforts, your days are passing. Soon will come the time for your sun to set before the day of resurrection. But this day will not find you ready.
Listen, O friend, someone has come near to you just as Hanifa came near to Sharifa’s garden. He is able to tell you about a cleansing spring of water as clear as crystal. This spring is able to wash away your sins, those sins that make you spiritually unclean. The stream can make you pure and clean.
This spring is Jesus the Messiah. Although He became a man and a prophet, yet He was more than a man and a prophet. For He came into this world from God, as pure as the stars. The prophets, however fair their lives may have appeared, were in need of forgiveness for their sins. They, too, prayed for the forgiveness of their sins. But in the Lord Jesus the Messiah there was no trace of sin. He never prayed for forgiveness of sin because He never needed forgiveness.
Since Jesus was pure and sinless, He was able to die for all others. He is able to wash away our sins. Our evidence for this is His resurrection from the dead on the third day after He gave His life as a sacrifice for all people. Indeed, this matter may be beyond our understanding. Yet, this message is the very heart of His Holy Book, the Injil, His Good News for us.
We may not know exactly how the water cleanses our clothes. Yet we do believe that it removes the dirt and stain. Jesus Christ can do the same for the sins of any who will come to Him. The Holy Injil says that he “washes away the sin of the world.”2 By accepting that God has forgiven us through Jesus and has cleansed our hearts now, we can be ready for the great Day of Judgment.
Do not be sad. Come to the Messiah, God’s spiritual spring, and immerse your heart in these cleansing waters. Then, on the Day of Judgment, you will awaken pure and spotless, ready and eager to joyfully celebrate in God’s holy presence.
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