Showcasing The Shyness Of A Shepherdess
Allah mentions good people in the Qur’an and highlights their good points when He is pleased with them so that we indirectly identify the stamp of approval He has given in order to incorporate that behavior in our own actions.
In the following incident from the life of Prophet Musa, Allah describes a shy young woman’s praiseworthy demeanor. The verses quoted are from Surah Al-Qasas (28: 23-28) and the explanation is from Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir.
“And when he arrived at the water (a well) of Madyan,” which means when he reached Madyan and went to drink from its water, “for it had a well where shepherds used to water their flocks,” meaning he found there a group of men watering, “and besides them, he found two women who were keeping back,” which means, they were stopping their sheep from drinking with the sheep of those shepherds, lest some harm comes to them. When Musa saw them, he felt sorry for them and took pity on them.
“He said: “What is the matter with you?” meaning, ‘why do you not water your flocks with these people?’
“They both said: “We cannot water until the shepherds take…” meaning, `we cannot water our flocks until they finish.’
“And our father is a very old man,” which means, “this is what has driven us to what you see.”
“So he watered (their flocks) for them, then he turned back to shade, and said: ‘My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!”’
“Towards the shade,” Ibn Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, and As-Suddi said: “He sat beneath a tree.”
Ata’ Bin As-Sa’ib said: “When Musa said: ‘My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!’ the women heard him.”
When the two women came back quickly with the sheep, their father was surprised that they returned so soon. He asked them what had happened, and they told him what Musa had done. So he sent one of them to call him to meet her father. Allah says:
“Then there came to him one of them, walking shyly” – meaning, she was walking like a free woman, as it was narrated from Umar Bin Al-Khattab: “She was covering herself from him with the folds of her garment.”
Umar 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.
“She said: ‘Verily, my father calls you that he may reward you for having watered (our flocks) for us.’”
This is an example of good manners: She did not invite him directly lest he has some suspicious thoughts about her. Rather she said: “My father is inviting you so that he may reward you for watering our sheep,” i.e., give you some payment for that.
Imam Sa’di says in his Tafsir, “This (description) points to her proper upbringing and her good character, for indeed Haya is from the most honorable of manners, and is a special trait in women. It also shows that Musa did not assist them to receive payment; but rather, it was because of the honorable and strong nature of his soul and his upright manners.”
“So when he came to him (the father) and narrated the story,” means, he told (the father) about his story and why he had to leave his country.
“He said: ‘Fear you not. You have escaped from the people who are wrongdoers.’”
“And said one of them: ‘O my father! Hire him! Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.’” One of the two daughters of the man said this, and it was said that she was the one who had walked behind Musa.
Umar, Ibn Abbas, Shurayh Al-Qadi, Abu Malik, Qatadah, Muhammad Bin Ishaq, and others narrated that her father asked her, “What do you know about that?” She replied, “He lifted a rock which could only be lifted by 10 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.”