lnformation and Articles About Florence Nightingale, a famous woman in British history
Florence Nightingale FactsBorn: May 12, 1820 Florence
Died: August 13, 1910 United Kingdom
Nickname: The Lady With The Lamp
Accomplishments: Pioneer of Professional Nursing
View articles featuring Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale SummaryFlorence Nightingale was a guiding force in the field of nursing. She was born May 12, 1820, to William “WEN” and Frances “Fanny” Nightingale in Florence, Italy. Her parents named her after the city she was born in; just over two years earlier they had named her sister—Frances Parthenope “Parthe”—after Parthenopolis, a Greek settlement now part of Naples, Italy. William Nightingale was the son of a Sheffield, England, banker and had changed his surname to Nightingale from Shore in order to inherit the estate of a great uncle, a mining magnate in Lea, Derbyshire, England. In 1817, William married Frances “Fanny” Smith, the daughter of William Smith, an abolitionist Whig member of Parliament. They embarked on an extended tour of the Mediterranean for their honeymoon, returning to England in 1821 with their two daughters.
Florence Nightingale’s Early LifeThe Nightingales lived at Lea Hall from 1821 to 1825, until their new home, Lea Hurst was completed. However, Fanny deemed Lea Hurst inadequate almost immediately, with “only 15 bedrooms” and located too far from London. It became their summer home. William purchased Embley Park, a large estate in Hampshire, which became their permanent residence.
It was at Embley Park in February 1837 that Florence received a calling from God; she wrote “God has spoke to me and called me to His service.” Though she did not know what that service would be, she knew that the society life her parents and sister enjoyed so much was not going to be enough for her. She had begun a courtship with Richard Monckton Milnes, a childhood friend, and began spending time visiting the poor and sick. She asked to stay on at Lea Hurst after the rest of the family returned to Embley in 1843, but Fanny would not allow it. In the fall of 1845, the village of Wellow was hit with an influenza epidemic, and Florence nursed several people on their deathbed.
Florence knew what her calling was by this time, but the rest of her family, her mother in particular, thought she had chosen an occupation at odds with her position in society. At the time, nurses were stereotyped as coming from the lower classes with social standing little better than prostitutes, but Florence was determined to change that. In 1849, after a long courtship, she finally refused marriage to Milnes, who went on to marry Annabella Hungerford Crewe. He and his wife continued to be staunch supporters and friends of Florence.
Florence Nightingale: The NurseAfter Florence nursed her great-aunt Elizabeth Evans through her final illness, Fanny considered turning her aunt’s home, Cromford Bridge House, into a nursing home in an attempt to placate Florence, but this was not enough. Florence began studying nursing in earnest, reading everything that had been written about the vocation, volunteering at hospitals, and visiting a nursing institution in Germany for training several times. She began to notice that many of the popular treatments available—blood letting, administering infusions of arsenic, mercury, and opiates—were actually killing more patients than they saved. She believed and began proving she could save more patients from death by caring for their basic needs—keeping them warm, clean, rested, and well-fed.
In 1853, in the face of continued opposition and strong objections from her family, Florence was appointed Superintendent of Nurses at the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances in London. She agreed to take the position only on the condition that the institution begin accepting patients of all religions, not just members of the Church of England. At the facility, Florence was able to demonstrate her administrative and nursing skills, cutting the cost of patient care while improving the standard of care. She did not receive pay for this position and was responsible for her own expenses.
Florence Nightingale In The Crimean WarIn March 1854, the Crimean War began when Britain and France declared war on Russia after the latter invaded autonomous areas of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Much of the fighting occurred in the Crimea, on the Black Sea. The British wounded were transported 300 miles across the sea to Scutari (now Üsküdar), just outside of what is now Istanbul, Turkey. Florence had already planned to travel to the Crimea when, in October, the Secretary of War, Sir Sidney Herbert, asked her to gather a group of nurses to nurse the wounded at the military hospital in Scutari. On November 4, 1854, she arrived with 37 other nurses at the Barracks Hospital, a huge, quadrangular building with sides nearly a quarter mile long. Approximately 18,000 wounded and dying men lay in rooms and lined the corridors. The conditions in the hospital were deplorable: there were miles of corridors stuffed with wounded and dying men; bandages were rags that were clotted with blood; food consisted of watery soup; and sanitary conditions were such that cholera and lice were rampant.
During the next 21 months, Florence worked to improve conditions in the hospital. She and her nurses bathed the soldiers, washed their linens, and fed them more substantial food. She eventually established a separate kitchen with her own money to prepare easily digested food for patients. She secured a source of clean drinking water and improved overall sanitary conditions. She set up a system for receiving patients, the basis of modern triage. The mortality rate declined 2% because of her efforts. She personally attended to countless men, many on their deathbeds. She made so many endless rounds, carrying a lamp with her in the late hours of the night, that she became known as the “Lady with the Lamp,” a nickname that was published in an account of her work in The London Times.
Support for Florence’s efforts to improve conditions for the war wounded spilled over into her efforts to establish nursing as a vocation for women. On November 29, 1855, a public meeting was held in London to formally recognize her efforts, resulting in the creation of the Nightingale Fund—the only recognition Florence would accept. She used this fund after the war to help establish the Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London in 1860, the first official nursing school in England.
Florence traveled to Balaclava in May 1855 to visit hospitals in and around the city. She became ill with “Crimean fever”—probably brucellosis, a bacterial infection that became chronic. She was acutely ill for 12 days, and although she recovered enough to return to Scutari and her duties there, she periodically became chronically ill at least through the 1870s.
The Crimean War ended in February 1856 and in March, Florence returned to Balaclava, staying there until the hospitals closed. She returned privately to England, arriving at Lea Hurst in August. In September, she met with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Balmoral to discuss improvements that should be made to the military hospital system.
From 1857 onward, Florence was periodically bedridden as the result of Crimean fever; however, she continued to work—writing, advising, and mentoring. In 1857, she issued a confidential report on the army medical department during the Crimean War. The next year, she published Notes on Matters affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army. In both works, she used statistics to prove her point and was a pioneer in the graphical representation of statistics—the polar area diagram was also known as the Nightingale rose diagram.
A Pioneer In NursingHer reports and testimony before a commission on the sanitary conditions of the army led to numerous improvements and the opening of an army medical college in 1861, a year after the Nightingale Training School was established. Florence also advised the army on sanitary conditions in India during and after the India Mutiny of 1857, which led to the establishment of a Sanitary Department within the Indian government. In 1859, Florence published Notes on Nursing. She intended the book to help in the practice of nursing, not to be a comprehensive guide—it continues to be used as an introduction to nursing today.
During the American Civil War (1861–1865) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), Florence was asked for advice by various countries and independently by doctors and nurses. In the 1870s, she mentored Linda Richards, the first professionally trained American nurse, who established nurse training programs in the U.S. and Japan.
Florence helped establish numerous nursing organizations throughout the remainder of her life and received numerous awards for her work, including the German order of the Cross of Merit and the French gold medal of Secours aux Blessés Militaires. Queen Victoria awarded her the Royal Red Cross in 1883. She was appointed a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John in 1904 and became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit in 1907. She was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London in 1908. On May 10, 1910 she was presented with the badge of honor of the Norwegian Red Cross Society. On August 13 of that same year, Florence died peacefully at her home in London. An offer was extended for burial at Westminster Abbey but her family refused, burying her in the graveyard at St. Margaret Church in East Wellow, Hampshire, close to Embley Park.
The Lady With The LampFlorence Nightingale was distinctly not the romantic, retiring Victorian gentlewoman most of us imagine. She was a bright, tough, driven professional, a brilliant organizer and statistician, and one of the most influential women in 19th-century England.
The best-known aspect of her life–nursing wounded soldiers at Scutari Hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War–comprised, in fact, a very small part of her 50-year career, but provided the springboard from which it all began.
Looking through a rough reproduction window at the London museum that bears her name is a little like peering over Nightingale’s shoulder in the Crimea and confronting the intimate details of life there–including her hand-drawn plan of the nurses’ quarters in the Barrack Hospital at Scutari, her personal seal and wax for letters, some of her books and her dispatch case, as well as an original letter written from the hospital and her famous lamp.
The museum’s permanent exhibit documents not only the war years, but also follows Nightingale throughout her extraordinary but largely overlooked life. A brief introductory film emphasizes her wealthy Victorian upbringing and expectations of a brilliant social career.
In fact, Florence Nightingale accomplished so much during her full life that it is intriguing to wonder how she might be remembered had the public not become so fixated on the romantic image of her night-time rounds by candlelight at Scutari. This small museum highlights all of her many accomplishments: introducing sanitary science to nursing and the British Army; raising the image of the British soldier from a brawling lowlife to a heroic working man; transforming nursing from an occupation which previously had been considered fit only for prostitutes to a respectable profession; establishing a nursing school at St. Thomas’s Hospital; laying out the principles of nursing in print in 1860; and revolutionizing the public health system of India without leaving England.
Ironically, during much of her long and accomplished life (she died in 1910, at the age of 90) the general public assumed she was already dead. Nightingale actually encouraged this misinformation. She returned from the Crimea under an assumed name and walked the last few miles to her parents’ home from the train station. Uninterested in her celebrity status, she wanted only to continue her work in peace and quiet. She refused photographs and interviews, and avoided anything not directly related to her work for a Royal Commission investigating health in the British Army. Although she was undoubtedly the driving force behind the work, she almost never appeared in public.
Her thoughts and work were with the army. In a private note, written at the end of 1856, she wrote:
Oh my poor men who endured so patiently. I feel I have been such a bad mother to you to come home and leave you lying in your Crimean grave. Seventy-three percent in eight regiments during six months from disease alone–who thinks of that now? But if I could carry any one point which would prevent any part of the recurrence of this our colossal calamity then I should have been true to the cause of those brave dead.
In the post-war period, Nightingale began studying new designs for modern hospitals all over Europe, in order to help the army reform its health and sanitary systems. In Paris she found a revolutionary design in which separate units, or pavilions, made up one large hospital. By making each pavilion a light and airy self-contained unit, the hospital minimized the spread of infections. She later succeeded in promoting this design in England.
Her research culminated in Notes on Hospitals, published in 1859, which combined two papers presented the year before at the Social Science Congress. Her words had a profound effect. She addressed every aspect of hospital management, from the purchase of iron bedsteads to replace the wooden ones, to switching to glass cups instead of tin.
The 108-page book went on into three editions and established Nightingale once more as an international authority. Her advice and approval were sought for hospitals all over Europe, from Holland to Portugal and even far-off India.
In particular, the governors of St. Thomas’s Hospital in London consulted with her on a matter key to the hospital’s future. The ancient hospital in Southwark was situated on land needed by railroads for a new line. The hospital’s governors had to decide whether they should sell the entire property and build a new facility in a better location, or allow the railroad to buy only part of the land and rebuild the hospital on the remainder. Some governors felt the hospital should stay where it had been for hundreds of years, serving the same community.
When they asked Nightingale for her opinion, rather than simply accepting the notion that the hospital was in fact serving patients in the area, she drew up and analyzed statistics on the origin of St. Thomas’s patients and proved that most did not come from the immediate neighbourhood as the governors had assumed.
She also compiled a convincing body of statistics to prove that moving the hospital to a healthier site would improve the patients’ chances of recovery. After completing her analysis, in a telling display of political acumen, she sent it not to the body of governors as a whole, but to one particular governor: the Prince Consort.
In the end, the governors decided to move St. Thomas’s to its present location in Lambeth. At the time, Nightingale deemed the site to be unhealthy; nevertheless, the hospital was constructed with the pavilions she endorsed, and was finally completed in 1871. If you look carefully from Westminster Bridge, you can see the remaining pavilions wedged in between more contemporary parts of the hospital that have since engulfed the original. Ask for directions in the museum, and you can walk through the new parts of the hospital to Nightingale’s original entrance hall.
Success piled on success. In 1860, after five years of gruelling work, she completed a voluminous report that resulted in the development of an Army Medical School in addition to greatly improved army barracks, hospitals, and living conditions for soldiers.
Also in 1860 she founded the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St. Thomas’s Hospital. Far more than merely giving her name to the school, Nightingale personally advised on all matters of instruction, admissions supervision, and discipline. Her involvement extended beyond her professional duties; she often invited graduates to tea and kept in touch with them long after they had launched their careers.
Nightingale also published a 75-page booklet, Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not. A popular book, its initial reception still did not foretell of its lasting importance. The book is still in print today in a facsimilie of the first edition and in a reprint of the second enlarged edition. In fact, it is the best-selling item in the museum’s small shop. “I think if you’re only going to buy one thing from our shop, it’s going to be Notes on Nursing,” says Alex Attewell, curator of the museum.
While medical knowledge has significantly increased since Nightingale’s time, her common sense and wisdom still forms a solid basis for caring for people. She believed, first and foremost, in hygiene (fresh air, cleanliness, clean water, proper drainage, and plenty of light), and constant consideration for the patient’s feelings. In one particularly empathetic passage, she addresses the importance of a quiet environment:
Unnecessary noise, or noise that creates an expectation in the mind, is that which hurts a patient. It is rarely the loudness of the noise, the effect upon the organ of the ear itself, which appears to affect the sick. How well a patient will generally bear, e.g., the putting up of a scaffolding close to the house, when he cannot bear the talking, still less the whispering, especially if it be a familiar voice, outside his door.
Nightingale’s common-sense approach to health is a main theme throughout the museum’s exhibits. “We’re interested in exploring what of her writing is still relevant today,” Attewell says.
Because of her work on army medical reform, she was asked to contribute to a study of the problems of health in India. British troops on the subcontinent had the highest mortality rates of all–in 1859 the death rate was 69 per thousand, as opposed to 17 per thousand in England. Through statistics and endless study, (compiled, amazingly, without ever visiting India) she discovered what no one else had noticed: that the English way of life could simply not be transferred to a hot climate.
Her 23-page treatise on conditions in India (as compared with the government’s 2,028 pages of small print) was printed at her own expense and sent to anyone with influence, including Queen Victoria. Once again, Nightingale revealed what no one even wanted to consider: that terrible living and working conditions were killing British troops as they had in the Crimea.
Yet again she emphasized that improving the health of British troops would require improving sanitary standards as a whole. For four years Nightingale worked daily on the meticulous paperwork and statistics required to reform life in India. Her influence went beyond paperwork. Newly assigned viceroys to India visited her home for briefings before setting out for their new post.
In 1896, Nightingale “retired to her bed”, but, far from slowing down, she continued working on home health visiting, as the English call public health. “Her writing is extraordinarily relevant to today’s health visiting,” Attewell says.
In an attempt to find out just how pertinent her writing is to the health profession today, the museum sent out questionnaires to 700 public health supervisors around the country. More than half came back almost immediately. “Usually you’d think a 10 per cent response would be good,” Attewell says. “I think the interest we’ve got in the questionnaire shows there’s still extraordinary interest in her writing.” Yet more evidence of the timeless value in the work and wisdom of this remarkable woman.
Copyright 2014 British Heritage.
1. 1. From Protest to Engagement Shaykh Hamza Yusuf 23rd February 2007 Central Hall, Westminster, London
[Opening Dua] People have been here a long time, we lost some people, they just either had to go and catch the tube, or they had something on the tube they wanted to watch or something, I don’t know. I wanted to make a few remarks. First of all, I want to address a few issues that I think are important and perhaps not for most of the people in the room, but for other people and I would like you to convey this to the other people. There are people that have been talking about the work that is being done by Fuad Nahdi, by Abdul- Rehman, by Fareena and by the other groups that have been involved in this effort; that this is government propaganda; that these are stooges of the government of England. I’m sure some of you have heard some of these things, so I want to say a few things about them. First of all, there’s a verse in the Qur’an that is very interesting to me, and probably to most of you, [verse in Arabic] ‘If people incline towards reconciliation, incline with them’ Wa tawakal alAllah ‘and trust in God’ inahu Huwa Samiul Aleem. [Arabic verse] When they want to incline towards peace, you incline towards peace; and if they want to deceive you, if there’s some hidden ulterior motive, God is enough for you. Don’t worry about that, that’s not your concern. Peace is so precious, that anybody who reaches out for peace, you should reach out with them for peace. And there is another thing I want to say about this government – who do you think this government is? They are called civil servants. Who do you think pays their money? Where do you think this money is from that the government has? It’s from the pockets of the British people, who pay taxes. There are 2 million Muslims in this country paying taxes; they don’t want a little refund?
2. 2. No seriously, I mean, I’m just amazed at this. Abu Hanifah said, [Arabic] The wealth of the non-Muslims, if they want to give it to you, it is permissible to take it. Now, I’m going to be honest with you – I did not want to come here. I was in California; my wife is a brilliant cook. Really. There’s no hotel food that compares to her food. It’s not why I married her, she learnt to cook after I married her; but she’s a brilliant cook. Her food is very good. It’s nourishing, I feel good when I eat her food. And she cooks it with love. You can’t get that in a restaurant. I can taste the anxiety in their food, I can taste the anger of the cook. My cells feel it. And I also have really good tea. I come to England, I buy the tea and I take it back. I have a big supply. My tea is much better than the tea they give at any hotel I’ve ever stayed at in England. I learned how to make tea from Abdul Adheem Sanders, excellent tea-maker. If anybody has ever had his tea, they’ll know what I mean. So, why leave the comfort of my home? Because my Shaykh, Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, asked me to. He said this is an important thing, so come. So I came. I’m tired, and whenever I get tired I become more open, because my defences are down. I’m going to tell you some true things. I used to not like the English people. Seriously, I thought they were cynical. You know, the English people, the way they roll their eyes, there’s a certain way; there’s a smirk that comes on their mouths when you say something. Really very subtle things that you notice about the English. You know there’s a cynicism that’s particularly Anglo-Saxon in its nature and it’s really interesting. But I’ll tell you something - I have come to love these people, and for a number of reasons. I want to talk about this because it’s very important for all of you who are living here. This country is an amazing country. It has done many wrongs, and we could bring an Irish person here tonight and they could talk for hours about what this country has done wrong. We could bring Welsh people, they might not be as eloquent as the Irishmen, but they could also talk for several hours about what the English have done to them. And, you could bring some of my tribe, from Scotland, really, you could bring some of them down, and they could give you with a nice brogue, they’ll let you know what the English did. From Edward Longshanks on, or even before that. They’ll tell you about the English. But each one of these people has been challenged to learn to live with the English. Really. The Scots are very civil; some of them want independence, quite a number of them, but how are they going about gaining that independence? They are not blowing up things. They have other ways of doing it. The Welsh de-evolution, it’s been a long time. They say the Welsh are the Irish who couldn’t swim. You know it’s been a long time since the Welsh have been occupied. Much longer than Palestine. But the Welsh are a gentle people. I love the Welsh and I love the Irish. But it’s taken me a while to really appreciate the subtleties of these different cultures. And so I really want to say, there’s two ways that you can live in your life; one is the way of husn dhann – having a good opinion; and the other way is the way of su’a dhann. Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah doesn’t tolerate ghiba; it’s one of the things that I love about his majlis. You can’t say anything about anybody, even people that you should say things about, he won’t let you say anything about them. Years ago, we were at a gathering and somebody mentioned something about Jamaludin al Afghani, who died a long time ago, two centuries ago. So somebody said something
3. 3. and Shaykh Abdullah said something I have never forgotten. He said [Arabic] ‘Have a good opinion of the dead, we’ve tried having bad opinions, we’ve tested it as a way of being in the world.’ Our Prophet, Salallahu alayhi wa sallam, had the best of opinions. Whenever the Quraish reached out for him, he reached out for them. Mu’awiyah (we know in the Arabic tradition they call it Sh’ar Mu’awiyah, the hair of Mu’awiyah) is one of the most brilliant politicians in human history. He is a case study. The leadership secrets of Mu’awiyah would be a bestseller. Mu’awiyah said. ‘If there was a hair of a relationship between me and somebody else, if he pulled on it, I would release; if he would release, I would pull. A hair of relationship; just to keep that opening there, that potential.' You should be thankful to have people like Mockbul Ali inside the Foreign Office. I have a good opinion of that young man. He’s a bright young man and has good intentions. He’s there representing your community. You live here, you pay taxes, this is your government. This is not Rawalpindi; this is not Karachi; this is not Cairo. This is not some funny place off in the middle of the Muslim world where if you say anything against the government, suddenly you’re in chains, being dragged away. No. This is a country that you are citizens of; [Arabic verse] ‘I swear by this land and you are a lawful citizen of this land.’ You are citizens; this is not subjection; you are not subjects. The British are citizens and subjects, but this is something superficial. The Queen can’t just arbitrarily send you off to the prison. We should be wary of some of these laws being passed as they are against the essential nature of this country, and we have to remind the English - ‘You are the people of the Magna Carta; you are the people of Habeas Corpus; this is your tradition – you gave this to the western world. You are the people of John Locke and you are the people of John Wesley, who this glorious hall is named after, one of the greatest reformers in western civilisation, who worked with William Wilberforce.' I want to tell you about William Wilberforce. This was a man, who from the early twenties was with a group in Clapham. One day, 132 black Africans were thrown overboard on a ship called the Zong. It was a slave ship coming from West Africa to the Americas. It was an English ship. 132 black people were thrown into the ocean and drowned, and this was considered legal by the laws of the land. This group of young people, who still had that spark of hope, recognised how despicable this act was, how unacceptable this act was, and they started a small group of abolitionists, to end the slave trade. At a time when almost every single Member of Parliament was supported by the slave lobby. Things haven’t changed all that much. But Wilberforce did not give up. He worked day and night - he was an incredible connector; he connected with people all over the country, got people to sign things and he brought these in as a Member of Parliament. He worked with beautiful people like Hannah Moore. Several years ago I suggested to the Muslim women in this country to start up a Hannah Moore Benevolence Society, because you should know Hannah Moore. You should know who Hannah Moore is. She’s a beautiful Englishwoman. She was stunningly beautiful in her looks. When she came to London, she took everybody by storm. She was a playwright, she was a literary figure, she was a poetess, she was all of these things, but in the end she had a spiritual conversion and she became one of the staunchest anti-slavery spokespeople in this country. She started night schooling – one of her greatest contributions.
4. 4. This is England to me. England is not the tyranny of Ireland; that’s the worst of human nature that you find in any civilisation. That’s not England to me. England to me is these incredible ideals embodied by people like Florence Nightingale. I love Florence Nightingale. I have studied and read all of her works. I told my wife – you’re the only woman I know who is jealous of a woman who died over a hundred years ago. I fell in love with Florence Nightingale. Florence Nightingale said England needs to go to the Sufis. She wrote this in her book. She said England needs to go to the Sufis. Florence Nightingale entered the Sultan Hassan Mosque, where Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa gives the khutbah, and she said for the first time, she found what she was looking for. She said, I never found this in the churches of England. She said, I found equality, and that there was a place for women in this religion. You know, they chased her out with a stick, and yet, she said, I don’t blame them. She went to Al-Azhar, she was struck by the spirituality, and she says in her diary, ‘I’ve heard in my heart something telling me turn to Mecca, face Mecca, face Mecca, all of humanity is one, we are all under One God, and there is salvation for all of us. I kept hearing in my heart there is no God but God, believe in the One true God.’ She was a Unitarian, she was not a Trinitarian. This is Florence Nightingale, one of the great icons of the British people. This was a woman who was given a Qilada, this extraordinary medal by the Sultan Abdul Majid of the Ottoman Empire because she came and served the Turkish soldiers that were victims of the Crimean War as well as she served the British soldiers, because she didn’t differentiate between people. This is England to me. This is the England I want to see. This is the England I want to remind these people of, who they are. They’ve forgotten who they are. These are the people of the great reforms of the western civilisation, and we of all people should be reminding them. We share these things with you. You’ve forgotten who you are like we’ve forgotten who we are. This is the age of senility. We’re all in spiritual dementia. This is the old age, the dotage of humanity, and we need reminders. We’ve got collective Alzheimer’s Disease, and some of us have “sometimer’s” disease – we forget and then we remember. This is England to me, and it flows in my blood; I have ancestors from this land, this is my qawm. Ya qawmee - this is what every prophet (saw) said to his people, Oh my people. They weren’t following his way, they were fighting and they were opposing him. Ya qawmee, [Arabic] He didn’t say [Arabic]. ‘No you’re wrong, I want good for you [Arabic] I just want to help, as much as I’m able to.’ This is our teaching, to go out and to engage these people. I was on an airplane, and this man came up to me, and he said, ‘Brother, I love your work!’ I said, “Masha’Allah, thank you so much.” He said, “No, no, really, its just so amazing what you did, it’s incredible…Let me ask you one question.” I said sure, and he said “Why did you give up singing?” So after I sang him a few bars of Peace Train, one of my favourite songs, I told him I lost my voice. No, I said that’s Yusuf Islam! We have the same name. There’s three Yusufs tonight, it’s Yusuf muka’ab, Yusuf to the third power. But I want to end with a story about one of my favourite people. Who can tell me, and not from the Ulema, who can tell me who Sayyidina Umar’s favourite poet is. People say “Sayyidina Umar liked poetry?! Didn’t he just listen to the Qur’an?” The favourite poet of Umar ibn al Khattab was Zuhair ibn Abi Sulma. Who is Zuhair ibn Abi Sulma? He is the father of Ka’ab ibn Zuhair, the man who wrote the Burda (The Poem of the Cloak). He is also the father of Ka’ab’s younger brother who became Muslim before Ka’ab. Zuhair did not meet
5. 5. the Prophet, he died one year before. But I want to tell you a little bit about why Zuhair wrote his mu’alaqa and I want to use this as a metaphor for what we need to do. The Arabs call something ayam al arab. Ayam al arab are the days of the Arabs. That’s why Allah changed ayam al arab to ayamillah. [Arabic] because the Arabs had their days, Allah has His days. The days of the Arabs were momentous things that happened to them, they say [Arabic], they used to write their history in their poetry. There was a war called harb ud Dahis. You know who Dahis is? It’s amazing we know his name. Dahis was a horse. It’s called the War of Dahis, the Horse. And Dahis was owned by a man named Zuhair ibn Uqais al Absi. He had a friend who was from the Dhibyan tribe – Hudaifa bin Malik, who had a horse called Ghabra. Now, Hudaifa was very jealous of Dahis, the horse of Zuhair, so he asked him to race. So the two horses, they decided they’d race a hundred arrow shots – they shoot one time, two times, for a hundred times and then they race. Well, the horses started out, and Ghabra was winning, but once it got into the heavy sand, Dahis took the lead. There was a group of Dhibyanites who were hiding in ambush, and they ambushed Dahis and stopped him from winning the race, so Ghabra won. So what was the bet? A hundred camels. So Hudaifa said “Give me a hundred camels because you lost.” And then the Abs people said “No, we saw the ambush, he didn’t lose. You lost; you cheated, give us a hundred camels.” They kept on and on and on. Finally, Zuhair ibn Qais got so angry, he killed the brother of Hudaifa. He threw a spear at him and killed him. That started the war between ‘Abs and Dhibyan. You know how long that war lasted? Forty years – over a stupid horse race. Much later – after many many people were killed from ghatafan, to the point where you know what Zuhair ibn Qais ended up doing? He went to Oman, became a Christian and spent the last days of his life weeping over the war he started. Because he said he could never look at anybody from his tribe, because he had caused so much suffering and bloodshed amongst these people. So, what happens? There was a man, Al-Harith Al Absi, Harith ibn Awf. This man asked his cousin, Kharijah bin Sinan, “Which tent of the Arabs do you think would not let me marry his daughter?” And she said, “Definitely Aws Atta’i – he would never let you marry his daughter.” So what does he do? This is a typical male problem. He gets on his camel and he heads for this guy’s tent to ask for his daughter. Of all the things he can’t get, that’s the thing he wants – this is a human problem. So he gets there, and this man Aws comes out and says, “Good morning. What are you doing up here, ya Sayyid al Arab?” Al Harith said “I want to marry your daughter.” Aws said “Get the hell out of here.” I mean really, that’s pretty much what he said! This made Al Harith furious and he left. So what does Aws do? He goes into the house and his wife asks him “What happened, who was that?” He says “It was Al Harith bin Awf, As Sayyid al Arab.” “What did he want?” “He wanted to marry one of my daughters.” She said, “If he is the Sayyid al Arab, why didn’t you marry one of the daughters to him?” He said “That’s a good point, it’s just that he caught me off guard and I was angry.” And she said, “Well go make amends.”
6. 6. He said, “I can’t. What’s done is done.” She said, “What do you mean what’s done is done? You mess everything up and then you’re not going to go fix it? Go out there!” And he says, “What do I say?” “Just tell him you got him in a bad mood. And tell him to come back and we’ll work things out.” So he goes, and Al Harith initially is angry, but he comes. What does Aws do? He says, “I want you to choose one of my daughters. I have three daughters.” The first one comes out. She says, “I don’t want to marry him.” Remember, this is "Arab women had no rights"? He says, “Why not?” She says, “First of all I’m not that good-looking, I’m not his cousin, and he’s going to take me far away and he’ll grow tired of me, divorce me, and then what?” So he says, “Good point. Bring the second daughter.” She comes. “I want you to marry this man. What do you say?” “Look, my first sister is better looking than I am, I don’t have any talents, and I don’t want to go far away from you because who is going to protect me if he gets feisty with me?” “Good point.” Finally the hope is on the last daughter, the little one, Buhaysa. She comes in, and he says, “Listen, Al Harith wants to marry you. What do you say? She said, “ Well, given that I’m the most attractive of my sisters, I’m extremely talented, and I have a most distinguished father, I don’t see how he could refuse me, and then if he treats me badly, God will definitely let him have it!” So he says great, and they get married. As they’re moving out, they set up a tent next to the house, he goes in to consummate the marriage (that’s a nice word for things people do on their wedding night). So when he gets in there, she says, “What kind of a woman do you take me for? We’re right next to my father and my brothers. Let's go.” So they ride off and a little way out, he tells his cousin, “Listen you go up ahead, and I’ll catch up with you later.” He stops by the side and sets up the tent. She says, “What kind of woman do you think I am? This is the way people who take women in wars behave! Take me to your home, slaughter sheep, make a big festival!” He thinks, “This is a high minded woman.” So he takes her and then his cousin says, “Did you do what you wanted to do?” He said no, and explains to him. So they get back, and he does a big festival. When it’s all done, he comes in, “How’s things now?” She said, “I want to ask you one question. What kind of a man are you? I thought you were a man of honour but I want to ask you one question: How is it that you can delight in women
7. 7. when there are people, Arabs, right now killing each other over a horse race? If you want me as a wife, go out and spread peace amongst these men, and end this bloodshed.” He goes out and tells his cousin, and the cousin says, “This is a high minded woman, and she will give you great sons, so let us go and do this.” They went out and got the Abs and the Dhibyan to agree that if they were to count all of the dead, whoever had the most killed, these two men would pay 3000 camels from their own wealth - to end this war. And this is when Zuhair wrote his mu’alaqa in praise of these two men, for what they did. But I think it’s Buhaysa that he should have written a mu’alaqa about, because that is where it has to come from. It’s the women in our homes – they are the one who can change this situation more than anybody else. Our women need to be like Buhaysa and get our men squared away. I really mean that. You are the vicegerents of God. Extremism is here to stay folks. This is the most extreme society, and I’m talking about the whole globe right now. We’re in the most extreme conditions in human history. We’ve got extreme eating. When I grew up, small was like this, medium was like that, and large…..Now, that’s medium! That’s extreme eating. I used to eat with 10 people around a plate. And now people are walking around, unable to control themselves anymore. They are having to take out Victorian seats in the theatres of England because the American fat behinds can’t fit in them anymore. This is our reality – we’re extreme. We’re eating extreme. Look at the extreme sports in this country. You know what Sky Television says? It says ‘If your religion is football, then worship with us.' They call us idiots because our community kill people over what somebody said about the Prophet (saw) and yet they kill each other because some football team beat another football team. There are sufaha everywhere, but really, what is more stupid, to kill over a stupid football game or to kill because the greatest person in your life has been desecrated, denigrated? They’re both wrong, but don’t call our people fools and not call your own people fools. This is extremism at its worst. Look at the pornography that they have, the denigration of these poor women. You know, the word in Arabic for oppression is related to the word for prostitute, because prostitutes are the most oppressed human beings on the planet. And there’s sexual slavery all over this planet. Some of the biggest downloads in the Muslim world, on Google, according to their own statistics, is pornography. What’s happened to people? Really – think about this. We’re in extreme conditions. We need the abolition from our nafs. The Arabs say, [Arabic] The free man is a slave as long as he desires other than God, and the slave is a free man as long as he is content. This is real abolition. This is what William Wilberforce is about – his movement needs to be resurrected, but we need liberation from our own egos. Jazakumallahu Khairan. It has been an honour. I love you, I love this country. I want to see good for this country. Really. And this Government – there’s much to say about the bad things of this government, and you know my criticism. I’m against the war in Iraq. I want the war to end. I want these British troops home. I don’t want them over there. I don’t want the American troops over there. I am against this – I have always been against it. Really, I am completely against it, on both sides – they’re both unacceptable. It's terrorism on both sides. They’re both terroristic conditions. You’re terrorising people in their homes, using cluster bombs in Lebanon. Really, this is terrorism, and it needs to be condemned as terrorism. And I condemn it. We all condemn it. So we need to recognise that. But this Government has much good in it, and our teachers teach us, [Arabic] If you’re in a blessing, watch out, you better guard it, because once you lose it, it’s gone, and disobedience is what causes it to be lost. And the Arabs say that Allah (Most High), He said that, [Arabic]
8. 8. A ni’m, if you don’t recognise them, [Arabic] Losing your blessings is what teaches you your blessings, so before you lose them, count your blessings.
[Arabic] Jazakumallahu khairan. Wasalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.