It had been a long week already, and it was only Wednesday. I was exhausted. But for a long time, I had been trying to arrange for some activity that my teenage daughter and I could do together. When she accepted to start English riding lessons, I was thrilled to have the chance to spend time with her and work with such an exquisite animal. And even though some might say the size of my scarf and the looseness of my clothing would be more fitting for riding an Arabian stallion in the desert, it is Allah I fear not those comments. So no matter how tired I felt or what others might think, this wasn't an opportunity I was not going to pass up.
I met her at school; after which we went to catch the bus out of town. Or at least to the stop from where I thought the bus would leave. Running a bit late, we got out of the taxi early and hurried to a bus stop that I figured was on the route headed to the village where the stables are located. Five minutes passed and then ten, but there was no sign of our bus. So we set out for the main station.
A bit disappointed by my lack of preparation, I tried to keep a smile on my face and remain positive. We could still make it, inshaAllah, and my daughter was being so understanding. She obviously really wanted to go riding, so I didn't let on that my preference at that time was to go home and take a nap.
Anyway, we hustled over to the other stop just before it was time for the bus to depart. Based on my calculations, we could be at the stables in an hour keeping our appointment with the trainer. What I didn't realize was the bus didn't go directly to the highway. It took a route through several areas of the city before heading out of town to the villages. Because we had missed the first bus, it was now rush hour too. After an hour, we were still in the city!
By the time we arrived at the stables, the trainer had become quite concerned about us. After praying and grabbing a quick bite to eat while the horses were saddled, we were ready to start our lessons. As tired and stressed as I was from all the hassle to get there, I didn't have much desire to ride. I would have been content just to watch my daughter working with the beautiful thoroughbred selected for her. But the sweet lady who is our trainer insisted, "You came all this way. You should ride too. Don't worry about catching the bus back to the city. The other family here lives near you and will take you home." I didn't want to impose, but my dear trainer insisted.
Walking out into the center of the arena, the smell of fresh sawdust filled the air giving it a refreshing crispness. As I approached the magnificent, chestnut colored creature that had been saddled for me, I couldn't resist brushing my hand over its forelock and long, sleek neck. What a powerful, elegant creation this is that Allah has put under our command.
Bismillah... I put my boot in the stirrup and swung onto the saddle. Then I experienced something almost too intense and gratifying to describe as I set out with the horse around the arena. It was as if my contact with that horse and our cooperation in this riding experience instantly filled some gap in my soul. Like firmly held those reigns at the base of that horse's neck and rhythmically glided around the arena was some innate need that I had. All my fatigue faded away in an instant, and the coordination between this fine steed and myself filled me with peace.
No wonder Suleyman (a.s.) loved these animals so much (Qur'an 38:31-33). No wonder that Allah mentions the horse in Surat-al-Adiyat: "By the steeds that run with panting breath." No wonder keeping a horse was praised by the Prophet (s.a.w.) as recorded in Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 486:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, " Horses are kept for one of three purposes: A man may keep them (for Allah's Cause) to receive a reward in the Hereafter; another may keep them as a means of protection; and a third may keep them to be a burden for him. As for the man for whom the horse is a source of reward, he is the one who ties it for Allah's Cause, and he ties it with a long rope in a pasture or a garden, then, whatever it eats or drinks in that pasture or garden will be added to his good deeds. And if it breaks its rope and jumps over one or two hills, then, for all its footsteps and its manure, good deeds will be written for him. And if it passes by a river and drinks of its water though its owner had no intention to water it from that river, even then he will have good deeds written for him. So that horse will be (a source of) reward for such a man.
If a man ties a horse for earning his livelihood and abstaining from asking others for help and he does not forget Allah's right, i.e. pays its Zakat and gives it to be used in Allah's Cause, then that horse will be a means of protection for him. But if a man ties it out of pride and to show off and to excite others, then that horse will be a burden (of sins) for him." Then Allah's Apostle was asked regarding donkeys. He replied, "Nothing has been revealed to me except this comprehensive Verse which includes everything:
'So whoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a smallest ant) shall see it; and whoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a smallest ant) shall see it.' (99.7-8)
How wonderful it is that our way of life in Islam encourages us to do so many things that benefit us like spending time with our children and riding horses! AllahuAkber!