(Taken from my notes of a lesson by Hadi Hammad. This article is also published here)
Jaabir narrated: The Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “My parable and that of yours is like a man who kindled a fire. When it has illuminated all around him, the moths and the grasshoppers began to fall therein. He tried to push them away, but they overcame him and jumped into it. I am catching hold of your waist ties (to save you) from fire, but you slip away from my hands” (Muslim)
We see in this great authentic Hadeeth, the mercy and care the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) had for his Ummah. Allaah says:
“Perhaps, you would kill yourself (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم) in grief, over their footsteps (for their turning away from you) because they believe not in this narration (the Qur’aan)” [Suratul Kahf:6]
It would grieve the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) when it would be revealed to him about specific incidents and cases of corruption that will befall his Ummah in the future. This sadness that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) had for his Ummah is also seen in the Hadeeth about our father Adam (عليه السلام) when the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) saw him in the skies:
“I asked Jibreel who he was and he replied: He is Adam (عليه السلام) and these parties on his right and his left are the souls of his descendents. Those of them on his right are the inmates of Paradise and the party on his left side are the inmates of Hell; so when he looked towards his right side, he laughed, and when he looked towards his left side, he wept” [Sahih Muslim]
This shows the sorrow our father Aadam (عليه السلام), has for his children when he sees them in the Hellfire. This is the same for the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) since he has seen some of what lies in wait for his Ummah.
In the Hadeeth of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) we see three different parallels. The first is that of the man, and its counterpart is the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم). The second is that of the moths and the grasshoppers which represent the Ummah. The third is that of the fire; this is the fire of the dunya (worldly life) but its counterpart is the Fire of the afterlife.
When the fire was lit, the moths and grasshoppers fell in; the wisdom behind choosing the parable of moths and grasshoppers is their weakness and their inability to choose what is beneficial to what is harmful. If there is a light in the house the moth will go directly to its source, despite the entire house being lit. They start to imagine the room as dark, so they fly directly to the light. Today there are electric bug killers which emit a light to attract the bugs. The insects cannot tell the difference so they go to it and die. The problem the bugs have is that they cannot differentiate as to whether going to this light is beneficial or not. So why do moths do this? When they are in a room, they think they are in darkness and they think the light is the exit (like the light at the end of the tunnel). This is just as the sinner, he doesn’t know that he is in a blessing of being a Muslim and that sins will destroy him; the light surrounding the fire is their destruction and they go straight to it.
These people fall into the fire due to their following of sins, even though the Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) tries to prevent them. The light surrounding the fire is what causes the moths and grasshoppers to go to it; they think the light is good for them just as the sinner thinks that sin is good for him. They cannot differentiate between the good and the bad.
Points of benefit:
1) The Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is described to have pity, mercy and care for his Ummah; He is grabbing the waist bands to stop the people from entering the fire.
2) This Hadith contains naseehah (advice); survival, success and happiness are due to the man pushing the moths and grasshoppers away. The Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is pushing us away from this fire, so we must realise that staying away from sins will lead to success and following them can lead to destruction.
3) The Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) would strike examples in order to explain things. This entire hadeeth demonstrates this. It is a teaching method that we should adopt if we are to teach the religion of Islam, in a way that the people will understand.
4) We are warned from following the light that we perceive to be good, as it may not be so. This is a warning against doing anything that would be a reason for you to enter the fire.
5) The Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) gave the parable of those who are disobedient from the Ummah as being like moths and grasshoppers. The similarity of the moth and the sinner is that they don’t know what is good/bad and they are ignorant of such matters.
6) The Hadith shows that the fire is surrounded by temptations and desires; this is the light which is what attracts the moths and grasshoppers to it, and it is the desires which attract the sinner.
7) Showing the Muslim how important it is to help others; we must push the sinners away from sins just as the man pushes away the moths and grasshoppers.