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The Sahaabah were the companions of Prophet Muhammad(saas). They are described in glowing terms by the Prophet (saas) as the following hadith from Sahih Muslim shows:

Book 30, Number 6159
Narrated Aisha:

A person asked Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) as to who amongst the people
were the best. He said: Of the generation to which I belong, then of the second
generation (generation adjacent to my generation), then of the third generation
(generation adjacent to the second generation).

Below is a partial list of some of the companions of the Prophet (saas). Their lives remain a source of
inspiration for the later generations of Muslims, including today’s. May Allah be pleased with all of
them.

It was the fourth year after the Hijrah. The city of the Prophet was still under threat from within and without. From within the influential Jewish tribe, the Banu an-Nadir, broke their agreement with the Prophet and made plans to kill him. For this, they were banished from the city. This was in the month of Safar.

Two months of uneasy quiet passed. Then the Prophet received news that tribes from distant Najd were planning an attack. To pre-empt them, the Prophet gathered a force of over four hundred men and leaving one of his companions Uthman ibn Affan in charge of the city, set out eastwards.

Among this force was the young Madinan, Abbad ibn Bishr.

Arriving at Najd, the Prophet found the habitations of the hostile tribes strangely deserted of men. Only women were present as the men had taken to the hills. Some of them regrouped and prepared to fight. The time of Salat al-Asr (the afternoon prayer) came. The Prophet feared that the hostile tribesmen would attack them during prayer. He arranged the Muslims in ranks and divided them into two groups and performed the prayer as the Salat al-Khawf (the Prayer of Fear). With one group he performed one rakah while the other group stood on guard. For the second rak’ah (unit of prayer) the groups changed places. Each group completed its prayer with one rak’ah after the Prophet had finished…

On beholding the disciplined ranks of the Muslims the hostile tribesmen became uneasy and afraid. The Prophet had made his presence felt and something of his mission was now known at first hand in the central highlands of Arabia whence he departed peacefully.

On the way back, the Prophet pitched camp in a valley for a night. As soon as the Muslims had settled their camel mounts,

the Prophet peace be on him, asked,

“Who will be our guard tonight?”

“We, O Messenger of God,” said Abbad ibn Bishr and Ammar ibn Yasir both of whom had been paired off as ‘brothers’ by the Prophet when he arrived in Madinah after the Hijrah.

Abbad and Ammar left for the mouth of the valley to take up duty.

Abbad saw that his “brother” was tired and asked him,

“What part of the night do you wish to sleep, the first or the second?”

“I shall sleep during the first part,” said Ammar who was soon fast asleep quite close to Abbad.

The night was clear, calm and peaceful. The stars, the trees, and the rocks all appeared to celebrate in silence the praises of their Lord. Abbad felt serene. There was no movement, no threatening sign. Why not spend the time in ‘Ibadah (worship) and reciting the Quran? How delightful it would be to combine the performance of Salat with the measured recitation of the Quran which he so much enjoyed.

In fact Abbad was enthralled by the Quran from the moment he first heard it being recited by the mellow and beautiful voice of Musab ibn Umayr. That was before the Hijrah when Abbad was just about fifteen years old. The Quran had found a special place in his heart; day and night thereafter he would be heard repeating the glorious words of God so much so that he became known among the Prophet’s companions as the, “Friend of the Quran”.

Late at night, the Prophet once stood up to perform the Tahajjud Prayer in Aishah’s house which adjoined the masjid. He heard a voice reciting the Quran, pure and sweet and as fresh as when the angel Jibril revealed the words to him. He asked, “Aishah, is that the voice of Abbad ibn Bishr?” “Yes, O Messenger of God,” replied Aishah. “O Lord, forgive him,” prayed the Prophet out of love for him.

And so in the stillness of the night, at the mouth of the valley in Najd, Abbad stood up and faced the Qiblah. Raising his hand in surrender to God, he entered into the state of Prayer. Finishing the compulsory opening chapter of the Quran, he began reciting Surah al-Kahf in his sweet, captivating voice. Surah al-Kahf is a long Surah of one hundred and ten verses which deals in part with the virtues of faith, truth and patience and with the relativity of time.

While he was thus absorbed in reciting and reflecting upon the divine words, eternal words of illumination and wisdom, a stranger stalked the outskirts of the valley in search of Muhammad and his followers. He was one of those who had planned to attack the Prophet but who had fled into the mountains at the approach of the Muslims. His wife whom he had left in the village had been taken as a hostage by one of the Muslims. When he eventually found that his wife was gone, he swore by al-Lat and al-Uzzah (which were false gods) that he would pursue Muhammad and his companions and that he would not return unless he had drawn blood.

From a distance, the man saw the figure of Abbad silhouetted at the mouth of the valley and he knew that the Prophet and his followers must be inside the valley. Silently he drew his bow and let fly an arrow. Unerringly it embedded itself in Abbad’s flesh.

Calmly, Abbad pulled out the arrow from his body and went on with his recitation, still absorbed in his Salat. The attacker shot a second and a third arrow both of which also found their mark. Abbad pulled out one and then the other. He finished his recitation, made rukoo’ (bowing) and then Sujood (prostration). Weak and in pain, he stretched out his right hand while still in prostration and shook his sleeping companion. Ammar awoke.

Silently, Abbad continued the Salat to its end and then said,

“Get up and stand guard in my place. I have been wounded.”

Ammar jumped up and began to yell. Seeing them both the attacker fled into the darkness. Ammar turned to Abbad as he lay on the ground, blood flowing from his wounds.

“Ya Subhanallah (Glory be to God)! Why didn’t you wake me when you were hit by the first arrow?”

“I was in the midst of reciting verses of the Quran which filled my soul with awe and I did not want to cut short the recitation. The Prophet had commanded me to commit this surah to memory. Death would have been dearer to me than that the recitation of this surah should be interrupted.”

bbad’s devotion to the Quran was a sign of his intense devotion to and love for God, His Prophet and His religion. The qualities he was known for were his constant immersion in ‘Ibadah, his heroic courage and his generosity in the path of God. At times of sacrifice and death, he would always be in the front line. When it was time for receiving his share of rewards, he would only be found after much effort and difficulty. He was always trustworthy in his dealings with the wealth of Muslims. All this was recognized.

Aishah, the wife of the Prophet, once said,

“There are three persons among the Ansar whom no one could excel in virtue: Sad ibn Muadh, Usayd ibn Khudayr and Abbad ibn Bishr.”

Abbad died the death of a Shaheed (Martyr) at the battle of Yamamah. Just before the battle he had a strong feeling of death and martyrdom. He noticed that there was a lack of mutual confidence among the Muhaajireen (Migrants) and Ansaar (Residents). He was grieved and upset. He realized that there would be no success for the Muslims in these terrible battles unless the Muhaajireen and Ansaar were grouped in separate regiments so that it could be clearly seen who really bore their responsibility and who were truly steadfast in combat.

At the break of day when the battle commenced, Abbad ibn Bishr stood on a mound and shouted,

“O Ansaar, distinguish yourselves among men. Destroy your scabbards and do not forsake Islam!”

Abbad harangued the Ansar until about four hundred men gathered around him at the head of whom were Thabit ibn Qays, al-Baraa ibn Malik and Abu Dujaanah, the keeper of the Prophet’s sword. With this force, Abbad unleashed an offensive into the enemy’s ranks which blunted their thrust and drove them back to the “garden of death”.

At the walls of this garden, Abbad ibn Bishr fell. So numerous were his wounds, he was hardly recognizable.

He had lived, fought and died as a believer.

Abdullah was the son of Abbas, an uncle of the noble Prophet. He was born just three years before the Hijrah. When the Prophet died, Abdullah was thus only thirteen years old.

When he was born, his mother took him to the blessed Prophet who put some of his saliva on the babe’s tongue even before he began to suckle. This was the beginning of the close and intimate tie between Abbas and the Prophet that was to be part of a life-long love and devotion.

When Abdullah reached the age of discretion, he attached himself to the service of the Prophet. He would run to fetch water for him when he wanted to make wudhoo’. During Salat, he would stand behind the Prophet in prayer and when the Prophet went on journeys or expeditions, he would follow next in line to him. Abdullah thus became like the shadow of the Prophet, constantly in his company.

In all these situations he was attentive and alert to whatever the Prophet did and said. His heart was enthusiastic and his young mind was pure and uncluttered, committing the Prophet’s words to memory with the capacity and accuracy of a recording instrument. In this way and through his constant researches later, as we shall see, Abdullah became one of the most learned companions of the Prophet, preserving on behalf of later generations of Muslims… the priceless words of the Messenger of God. It is said that he committed to memory about one thousand, six hundred and sixty sayings of the Prophet which are recorded and authenticated in the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim.

The Prophet would often draw Abdullah as a child close to him, pat him on the shoulder and pray, “O Lord, make him acquire a deep understanding of the religion of Islam and instruct him in the meaning and interpretation of things.”

There were many occasions thereafter when the blessed Prophet would repeat this supplication for his cousin and before long Abdullah ibn Abbas realized that his life was to be devoted to the pursuit of learning and knowledge.

The Prophet moreover prayed that he be granted not just knowledge and understanding but wisdom. Abdullah related the following incident about himself, “Once the Prophet, peace be upon him, was on the point of performing wudhoo’; I hurried to get water ready for him. He was pleased with what I was doing. As he was about to begin Salat, he indicated that I should stand at his side. However, I stood behind him.

When the Salat was finished, he turned to me and said,

‘What prevented you from being at my side, O Abdullah?’

‘You are too illustrious and too great in my eyes for me to stand side by side with you,’ I replied.

Raising his hands to the heavens, the Prophet then prayed, “O Lord, grant him wisdom.” The Prophet’s prayer undoubtedly was granted for the young Abdullah was to prove time and again that he possessed a wisdom beyond his years. But it was a wisdom that came only with devotion and the pursuit of knowledge both during the Prophet’s lifetime and after his death.

During the lifetime of the Prophet, Abdullah would not miss any of his assemblies and he would commit to memory whatever he said. After the Prophet passed away, he would take care to go to as many companions as possible especially those who knew the Prophet longer and learn from them what the Prophet had taught them. Whenever he heard that someone knew a Hadeeth of the Prophet which he did not know he would go quickly to him and record it. He would subject whatever he heard to close scrutiny and check it against other reports. He would go to as many as thirty companions to verify a single matter.

Abdullah described what he once did on hearing that a companion of the Prophet knew a hadith unknown to him,

“I went to him during the time of the afternoon siesta and spread my cloak in front of his door. The wind blew dust on me (as I sat waiting for him). If I wished I could have sought his permission to enter and he would certainly have given me permission. But I preferred to wait on him so that he would be completely refreshed. Coming out of his house and seeing me in that condition he said: ‘O cousin of the Prophet! What’s the matter with you? If you had sent for me I would have come to you.’ ‘I am the one who should come to you, for knowledge is sought, it does not just come,’ I said. I asked him about the hadith and learnt from him.”

In this way, the dedicated Abdullah would ask, and ask, and go on asking. And he would sift and scrutinize the information he had collected with his keen and meticulous mind.

It was not only in the collection of hadith that Abdullah specialized. He devoted himself to acquiring knowledge in a wide variety of fields. He had a special admiration for persons like Zayd ibn Thabit, the recorder of the revelation, the leading judge and jurist consult in Madinah, an expert in the laws of inheritance and in reading the Quran. When Zayd intended to go on a trip, the young Abdullah would stand humbly at his side and taking hold of the reins of his mount would adopt the attitude of a humble servant in the presence of his master.

Zayd would say to him, “Don’t, O cousin of the Prophet.”

“Thus we were commanded to treat the learned ones among us,”

Abdullah would say. “And Zayd would say to him in turn, “Let me see your hand.” Abdullah would stretch out his hand. Zayd, taking it, would kiss it and say, “Thus we were commanded to treat the Ahl al-Bayt members of the household of the Prophet.”

As Abdullah’s knowledge grew, he grew in stature. Masruq ibn al Ajda said of him,

“Whenever I saw Ibn Abbas, I would say: He is the most handsome of men. When he spoke, I would say: He is the most eloquent of men. And when he held a conversation, I would say: He is the most knowledgeable of men.”

The Khalifah Umar ibn al-Khattab often sought his advice on important matters of state and described him as,

“The young man of maturity”.

Sad ibn abi Waqqas described him with these words,

“I have never seen someone who was quicker in understanding, who had more knowledge and greater wisdom than Ibn Abbas. I have seen Umar summon him to discuss difficult problems in the presence of veterans of Badr from among the Muhajirin and Ansar. Ibn Abbas would speak and Umar would not disregard what he had to say.”

It is these qualities which resulted in Abdullah ibn Abbas being known as, “The learned man of this Ummah”.

Abdullah ibn Abbas was not content to accumulate knowledge. He felt he had a duty to the Ummah to educate those in search of knowledge and the general masses of the Muslim community. He turned to teaching and his house became a university – yes, a university in the full sense of the word, a university with specialized teaching but with the difference that there was only one teacher: Abdullah ibn Abbas.

There was an enthusiastic response to Abdullah’s classes. One of his companions described a typical scene in front of his house,

“I saw people converging on the roads leading to his house until there was hardly any room in front of his house. I went in and told him about the crowds of people at his door and he said, ‘Get me water for wudhoo’.’

He performed wudhoo’ and, seating himself, said: ‘Go out and say to them: Whoever wants to ask about the Quran and its letters (pronunciation) let him enter.’

This I did and people entered until the house was filled. Whatever he was asked, Abdullah was able to elucidate and even provide additional information to what was asked. Then (to his students) he said, ‘Make way for your brothers.’

Then to me he said, ‘Go out and say, Who wants to ask about the Quran and its interpretation, let him enter’.

Again the house was filled and Abdullah elucidated and provided more information than what was requested.”

And so it continued with groups of people coming in to discuss Fiqh (jurisprudence), Halaal and Haraam (the lawful and the prohibited in Islam), Inheritance Laws, Arabic Language, Poetry and Etymology.

To avoid congestion with many groups of people coming to discuss various subjects on a single day, Abdullah decided to devote one day exclusively for a particular discipline. On one day, only the exegesis of the Quran would be taught while on another day only Fiqh (jurisprudence). The maghazi or campaigns of the Prophet, poetry, Arab history before Islam were each allocated a special day.

Abdullah ibn Abbas brought to his teaching a powerful memory and a formidable intellect. His explanations were precise, clear and logical. His arguments were persuasive and supported by pertinent textual evidence and historical facts.

One occasion when his formidable powers of persuasion was used was during the caliphate of Ali. A large number of supporters of Ali in his stand against Muawiyah had just deserted him. Abdullah ibn Abbas went to Ali and requested permission to speak to them. Ali hesitated fearing that Abdullah would be in danger at their hands but eventually gave way on Abdullah’s optimism that nothing untoward would happen.

Abdullah went over to the group. They were absorbed in worship. Some were not willing to let him speak but others were prepared to give him a hearing.

“Tell me” asked Abdullah, “what grievances have you against the cousin of the Prophet, the husband of his daughter and the first of those who believed in him?”

“The men proceeded to relate three main complaints against Ali. First, that he appointed men to pass judgment in matters pertaining to the religion of God – meaning that Ali had agreed to accept the arbitration of Abu Musa al-Asbari and Amr ibn al-Aas in the dispute with Muawiyah. Secondly, that he fought and did not take booty nor prisoners of war. Thirdly, that he did not insist on the title of Ameer al-Mu’mineen during the arbitration process although the Muslims had pledged allegiance to him and he was their legitimate Ameer. To them this was obviously a sign of weakness and a sign that Ali was prepared to bring his legitimate position as Ameer al-Mu’mineen into disrepute.

In reply, Abdullah asked them that should he cite verses from the Quran and sayings of the Prophet to which they had no objection and which related to their criticisms, would they be prepared to change their position.

They replied that they would and Abdullah proceeded,

“Regarding your statement that Ali has appointed men to pass judgment in matters pertaining to Allah’s religion, Allah Glorified and Exalted is He, says, ‘O you who believe! Kill not game while in the sacred precincts or in pilgrim garb. If any of you do so intentionally, the compensation is an offering, of a domestic animal equivalent to the one he killed and adjudged by two just men among.”

“I adjure you, by God! Is the adjudication by men in matters pertaining to the preservation of their blood and their lives and making peace between them more deserving of attention than adjudication over a rabbit whose value is only a quarter of a dirham?”

Their reply was of course that arbitration was more important in the case of preserving Muslim lives and making peace among them than over the killing of game in the sacred precincts for which Allah sanctioned arbitration by men.

“Have we then finished with this point?” asked Abdullah and their reply was , “Allahumma, na’am – O Lord, yes!” Abdullah went on,

“As for your statement that Ali has surrendered the title of Ameer al-Mu’mineen, (remember) that the Prophet himself, peace and blessings of God be on him, at the time of Hudaybiyyah, demanded that the polytheists write in the truce which he concluded with them, ‘This is what the Messenger of God has agreed…’ and they retorted, ‘If we believed that you were the Messenger of God we would not have blocked your way to the Ka’bah nor would we have fought you. Write instead: ‘Muhammad the son of Abdullah.’ The Prophet conceded their demand while saying, ‘By God, I am the Messenger of God even if they reject me.” At this point Abdullah ibn Abbas asked the dissidents, “Have we then finished with this point?

and their reply was once again, “Allahumma, na’am – O Lord, yes!”

One of the fruits of this verbal challenge in which Abdullah displayed his intimate knowledge of the Quran and the biography of the Prophet as well as his remarkable powers of argument and persuasion, was that the majority, about twenty thousand men, returned to the ranks of Ali. About four thousand however remained obdurate. These latter came to be known as Kharijites.

On this and other occasions, the courageous Abdullah showed that he preferred peace above war, and logic against force and violence. However, he was not only known for his courage, his perceptive thought and his vast knowledge. He was also known for his great generosity and hospitality.

Some of his contemporaries said of his household,

“We have not seen a house which has more food or drink or fruit or knowledge than the house of Ibn Abbas.”

He had a genuine and abiding concern for people. He was thoughtful and caring. He once said,

“When I realize the importance of a verse of God’s Book, I would wish that all people should know what I know.

When I hear of a Muslim ruler who deals equitably and rules justly, I am happy on his account and I pray for him…

When I hear of rains which fail on the land of Muslims, that fills me with happiness…”

Abdullah ibn Abbas was constant in his devotions. He kept voluntary fasts regularly and often stayed up at night in Prayer. He would weep while praying and reading the Quran. And when reciting verses dealing with death, resurrection and the life hereafter his voice would be heavy from deep sobbing.

He passed away at the age of seventy one in the mountainous city of Taif.

History would have by-passed this man as it had by-passed thousands of Arabs before him. He, like them, would have had no claim to attention or fame. The greatness of Islam, however, gave to Abdullah ibn Hudhafah the opportunity to meet two world potentates of his time: Khusraw Parvez the King of Persia and Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor.

The story of his encounter with Khusraw Parvez began in the sixth year of the hijrah when the Prophet decided to send some of his Companions with letters to rulers outside the Arabian peninsula inviting them to Islam.

The Prophet attached great importance to this initiative. These messengers were going to distant lands with whom there was no agreement or treaty. They did not know the languages of these lands nor anything about the ways and disposition of their rulers. They were to invite these rulers to give up their religion and forsake their power and glory and enter the religion of a people who shortly before were almost their subjects. The mission was undoubtedly hazardous.

To make known his plan, the Prophet called his companions together and addressed them. He started by praising God and thanking Him. He then recited the Shahadah and went on, “I want to send some of you to the rulers of foreign lands but don’t dispute with me as the Israelites disputed with Jesus, the son of Mary.”

“O Prophet of God, we shall carry out whatever you wish,” they responded. “Send us wherever you desire.”

The Prophet commissioned six of his Sahabah to carry his letters to Arab and foreign rulers. One of these was Abdullah ibn Hudhafah. He was chosen to take the Prophet’s letter to Khusraw Parvez, the Persian king.

Abdullah got his camel ready and bade farewell to his wife and son. He set out, alone, and traversed mountains and valleys until he reached the land of the Persians.

He sought permission to enter into the king’s presence informing the guards of the letter he was carrying. Khusraw Parvez thereupon ordered his audience chamber to be made ready and summoned his prominent aides. When they had assembled he gave permission for Abdullah to enter.

Abdullah entered and saw the Persian potentate dressed in delicate, flowing robes and wearing a great, neatly arranged turban. On Abdullah was the plain, coarse clothes of the bedouin. His head though was held high and his feet were firm. The honour of Islam burned fiercely in his breast and the power of faith pulsated in his heart.

As soon as Khusraw Parvez saw him approaching he signalled to one of his men to take the letter from his hand.

“No,” said Abdullah. “The Prophet commanded me to hand over this letter to you directly and I shall not go against a command of the Messenger of God.”

“Let him come near to me,” Khusraw said to his guards and Abdullah went forward and handed over the letter. Khusraw then called an Arab clerk who originally came from Hira and ordered him to open the letter in his presence and read its contents. He began reading, “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Khusraw the ruler of Persia. Peace on whoever follows the guidance . . .”

Khusraw only heard this much of the letter when the fire of anger burst within him. His face became red and he began to perspire around the neck. He snatched the letter from the clerk’s hand and began tearing it to pieces without knowing what else it contained and shouted, “Does he dare to write to me like this, he who is my slave?” He was angry that the Prophet had not given him precedence in his letter. He then commanded Abdullah to be expelled from his assembly.

Abdullah was taken away, not knowing what would happen to him. Would he be killed or would he be set free? But he did not want to wait to find out.

He said,

“By God, I don’t care what happens to me after the letter of the Prophet has been so badly treated.”

He managed to get to his camel and rode off.

When Khusraw’s anger had subsided he commanded that Abdullah be brought before him. But Abdullah was nowhere to be found. They searched for him all the way to the Arabian peninsula but found that he had gone ahead.

Back in Madinah, Abdullah told the Prophet how Khusraw had torn his letter to pieces and the Prophet’s only reply was, “May God tear up his kingdom.”

Meanwhile, Khusraw wrote to Badhan, his deputy in the Yemen, to send two strong men to “that man who has appeared in the Hijaz” with orders to bring him to Persia.

Badhan despatched two of his strongest men to the Prophet and gave them a letter to him in which he was ordered to go with the two men to meet Khusraw without delay. Badhan also asked the two men to get whatever information they could on the Prophet and to study his message closely.

The men set out, moving very quickly. At Ta’if they met some Quraysh traders and asked them about Muhammad. “He is in Yathrib,” they said and they went on to Makkah feeling extremely happy. This was good news for them and they went around telling other Quraysh, “You will be pleased. Khusraw is out to get Muhammad and you will be rid of his evil.”

The two men meanwhile made straight for Madinah where they met the Prophet, handed him the letter of Badhan and said to him, “The king of kings, Khusraw, has written to our ruler Badhan to send his men to get you. We have come to take you with us. If you come willingly, Khusraw has said that it will be good for you and he will spare you any punishment. If you refuse, you will know the power of his punishment. He has power to destroy you and your people.”

The Prophet smiled and said to them, “Go back to your mounts today and return tomorrow.”

On the following day, they came to the Prophet and said to him, “Are you prepared to go with us to meet Khusraw?”

“You shall not meet Khusraw after today,” replied the Prophet. “God has killed him and his son Shirwaih has taken his place on such a night and on such a month.”

The two men stared in the face of the Prophet. They were completely dumbfounded.

“Do you know what you are saying?” they asked. “Shall we write about this to Badhan?”

“Yes,” replied the Prophet, “and say to him that my religion has informed me about what has happened to the kingdom of Khusraw and that if he should become Muslim, I would appoint him ruler over what he now controls.”

The two men returned to the Yemen and told Badhan what had happened. Badhan said, “If what Muhammad has said is true, then he is a Prophet. If not then we shall see what happens to him.”

Not long afterwards, a letter from Shirwaih came to Badhan in which he said, “I killed Khusraw because of his tyranny against our people. He regarded as lawful the killing of leaders, the capturing of their women and the expropriating of their wealth. When this my letter reaches you, take the allegiance of whoever is with you on my behalf.”

As soon as Badhan had read Shirwaih’s letter, he threw it aside and announced his entry into Islam. The Persians with him in Yemen also became Muslim.

That’s the story of Abdullah ibn Hudhafah’s meeting with the Persian king. His meeting with the Byzantine emperior took place during the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab. It too is an astonishing story.

In the nineteenth year after the Hijrah, Umar despatched an army to fight against the Byzantines. In it was Abdullah ibn Hudhafah. News of the Muslim force reached the Byzantine emperior. He had heard of their sincerity of faith, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives in the way of God and His Prophet. He gave orders to his men to bring to him any Muslim captive they might take alive.

God willed that Abdullah ibn Hudhafah should fall captive to the Byzantines and he was brought before the Emperor. The Emperor looked at Abdullah for a long time. Suddenly he said, “I shall make a proposal to you.”

“What is it?” asked Abdullah.

“I suggest that you become a Christian. If you do this, you will be set free and I shall grant you a safe refuge.”

The prisoner’s reaction was furious,

“Death is preferable to me a thousand times to what you ask me to do.”

“I see that you are a bold man. However, if you respond positively to what I propose to you, I will give you a share in my authority and swear you in as my aide.”

The prisoner, shackled in his chains, smiled and said,

“By God, if you give me all that you possess and all that the Arabs have in exchange for giving up the religion of Muhammad, I shall not do so.”

“Then I shall kill you.”

“Do what you want,” answered Abdullah.

The emperor then had him put on a cross and ordered his soldiers to throw spears at him, first near his hands and then near his feet, all the while telling him to accept Christianity or at least give up his religion. This he refused over and over again to do.

The emperor then had him taken down from the wooden cross. He called for a great pot to be brought. This was filled with oil which was then heated under a fierce fire. He then had two other Muslim prisoners brought and had one of them thrown into the boiling oil. The prisoner’s flesh sizzled and soon his bones could be seen. The emperor turned to Abdullah and invited him to Christianity.

This was the most terrible test that Abdullah had had to face up till now. But he remained firm and the emperor gave up trying. He then ordered that Abdullah too be thrown into the pot. As he was being taken away he began to shed tears. The emperor thought that he had at last been broken and had him brought back to him. He once more suggested that Abdullah become a Christian but to his astonishment, Abdullah refused.

“Damn you! Why did you weep then?” shouted the emperor.

“I cried,” said Abdullah, “because I said to myself, ‘You will now be thrown into this pot and your soul will depart.’ What I really desired then was to have as many souls as the number of hairs on my body and to have all of them thrown into this pot for the sake of God.”

The tyrant then said, “Will you kiss my head? I will then set you free?”

“And all the Muslim prisoners also?” asked Abdullah.

This the emperor agreed to do and Abdullah said to himself,

“One of the enemies of God! I shall kiss his head and he shall set me and all other Muslim prisoners free. There can be no blame on me for doing this.”

He then went up to the emperor and kissed his forehead. All the Muslim prisoners were released and handed over to Abdullah.

Abdullah ibn Hudhafah eventually came to Umar ibn alKhattab and told him what had happened. Umar was greatly pleased and when he looked at the prisoners he said,

“Every Muslim has a duty to kiss the head of Abdullah ibn Khudhafah and I shall start.”

Umar then got up and kissed the head of Abdullah ibn Hudhafah.

History would have by-passed this man as it had by-passed thousands of Arabs before him. He, like them, would have had no claim to attention or fame. The greatness of Islam, however, gave to Abdullah ibn Hudhafah the opportunity to meet two world potentates of his time: Khusraw Parvez the King of Persia and Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor.

The story of his encounter with Khusraw Parvez began in the sixth year of the hijrah when the Prophet decided to send some of his Companions with letters to rulers outside the Arabian peninsula inviting them to Islam.

The Prophet attached great importance to this initiative. These messengers were going to distant lands with whom there was no agreement or treaty. They did not know the languages of these lands nor anything about the ways and disposition of their rulers. They were to invite these rulers to give up their religion and forsake their power and glory and enter the religion of a people who shortly before were almost their subjects. The mission was undoubtedly hazardous.

To make known his plan, the Prophet called his companions together and addressed them. He started by praising God and thanking Him. He then recited the Shahadah and went on, “I want to send some of you to the rulers of foreign lands but don’t dispute with me as the Israelites disputed with Jesus, the son of Mary.”

“O Prophet of God, we shall carry out whatever you wish,” they responded. “Send us wherever you desire.”

The Prophet commissioned six of his Sahabah to carry his letters to Arab and foreign rulers. One of these was Abdullah ibn Hudhafah. He was chosen to take the Prophet’s letter to Khusraw Parvez, the Persian king.

Abdullah got his camel ready and bade farewell to his wife and son. He set out, alone, and traversed mountains and valleys until he reached the land of the Persians.

He sought permission to enter into the king’s presence informing the guards of the letter he was carrying. Khusraw Parvez thereupon ordered his audience chamber to be made ready and summoned his prominent aides. When they had assembled he gave permission for Abdullah to enter.

Abdullah entered and saw the Persian potentate dressed in delicate, flowing robes and wearing a great, neatly arranged turban. On Abdullah was the plain, coarse clothes of the bedouin. His head though was held high and his feet were firm. The honour of Islam burned fiercely in his breast and the power of faith pulsated in his heart.

As soon as Khusraw Parvez saw him approaching he signalled to one of his men to take the letter from his hand.

“No,” said Abdullah. “The Prophet commanded me to hand over this letter to you directly and I shall not go against a command of the Messenger of God.”

“Let him come near to me,” Khusraw said to his guards and Abdullah went forward and handed over the letter. Khusraw then called an Arab clerk who originally came from Hira and ordered him to open the letter in his presence and read its contents. He began reading, “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Khusraw the ruler of Persia. Peace on whoever follows the guidance . . .”

Khusraw only heard this much of the letter when the fire of anger burst within him. His face became red and he began to perspire around the neck. He snatched the letter from the clerk’s hand and began tearing it to pieces without knowing what else it contained and shouted, “Does he dare to write to me like this, he who is my slave?” He was angry that the Prophet had not given him precedence in his letter. He then commanded Abdullah to be expelled from his assembly.

Abdullah was taken away, not knowing what would happen to him. Would he be killed or would he be set free? But he did not want to wait to find out.

He said,

“By God, I don’t care what happens to me after the letter of the Prophet has been so badly treated.”

He managed to get to his camel and rode off.

When Khusraw’s anger had subsided he commanded that Abdullah be brought before him. But Abdullah was nowhere to be found. They searched for him all the way to the Arabian peninsula but found that he had gone ahead.

Back in Madinah, Abdullah told the Prophet how Khusraw had torn his letter to pieces and the Prophet’s only reply was, “May God tear up his kingdom.”

Meanwhile, Khusraw wrote to Badhan, his deputy in the Yemen, to send two strong men to “that man who has appeared in the Hijaz” with orders to bring him to Persia.

Badhan despatched two of his strongest men to the Prophet and gave them a letter to him in which he was ordered to go with the two men to meet Khusraw without delay. Badhan also asked the two men to get whatever information they could on the Prophet and to study his message closely.

The men set out, moving very quickly. At Ta’if they met some Quraysh traders and asked them about Muhammad. “He is in Yathrib,” they said and they went on to Makkah feeling extremely happy. This was good news for them and they went around telling other Quraysh, “You will be pleased. Khusraw is out to get Muhammad and you will be rid of his evil.”

The two men meanwhile made straight for Madinah where they met the Prophet, handed him the letter of Badhan and said to him, “The king of kings, Khusraw, has written to our ruler Badhan to send his men to get you. We have come to take you with us. If you come willingly, Khusraw has said that it will be good for you and he will spare you any punishment. If you refuse, you will know the power of his punishment. He has power to destroy you and your people.”

The Prophet smiled and said to them, “Go back to your mounts today and return tomorrow.”

On the following day, they came to the Prophet and said to him, “Are you prepared to go with us to meet Khusraw?”

“You shall not meet Khusraw after today,” replied the Prophet. “God has killed him and his son Shirwaih has taken his place on such a night and on such a month.”

The two men stared in the face of the Prophet. They were completely dumbfounded.

“Do you know what you are saying?” they asked. “Shall we write about this to Badhan?”

“Yes,” replied the Prophet, “and say to him that my religion has informed me about what has happened to the kingdom of Khusraw and that if he should become Muslim, I would appoint him ruler over what he now controls.”

The two men returned to the Yemen and told Badhan what had happened. Badhan said, “If what Muhammad has said is true, then he is a Prophet. If not then we shall see what happens to him.”

Not long afterwards, a letter from Shirwaih came to Badhan in which he said, “I killed Khusraw because of his tyranny against our people. He regarded as lawful the killing of leaders, the capturing of their women and the expropriating of their wealth. When this my letter reaches you, take the allegiance of whoever is with you on my behalf.”

As soon as Badhan had read Shirwaih’s letter, he threw it aside and announced his entry into Islam. The Persians with him in Yemen also became Muslim.

That’s the story of Abdullah ibn Hudhafah’s meeting with the Persian king. His meeting with the Byzantine emperior took place during the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab. It too is an astonishing story.

In the nineteenth year after the Hijrah, Umar despatched an army to fight against the Byzantines. In it was Abdullah ibn Hudhafah. News of the Muslim force reached the Byzantine emperior. He had heard of their sincerity of faith, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives in the way of God and His Prophet. He gave orders to his men to bring to him any Muslim captive they might take alive.

God willed that Abdullah ibn Hudhafah should fall captive to the Byzantines and he was brought before the Emperor. The Emperor looked at Abdullah for a long time. Suddenly he said, “I shall make a proposal to you.”

“What is it?” asked Abdullah.

“I suggest that you become a Christian. If you do this, you will be set free and I shall grant you a safe refuge.”

The prisoner’s reaction was furious,

“Death is preferable to me a thousand times to what you ask me to do.”

“I see that you are a bold man. However, if you respond positively to what I propose to you, I will give you a share in my authority and swear you in as my aide.”

The prisoner, shackled in his chains, smiled and said,

“By God, if you give me all that you possess and all that the Arabs have in exchange for giving up the religion of Muhammad, I shall not do so.”

“Then I shall kill you.”

“Do what you want,” answered Abdullah.

The emperor then had him put on a cross and ordered his soldiers to throw spears at him, first near his hands and then near his feet, all the while telling him to accept Christianity or at least give up his religion. This he refused over and over again to do.

The emperor then had him taken down from the wooden cross. He called for a great pot to be brought. This was filled with oil which was then heated under a fierce fire. He then had two other Muslim prisoners brought and had one of them thrown into the boiling oil. The prisoner’s flesh sizzled and soon his bones could be seen. The emperor turned to Abdullah and invited him to Christianity.

This was the most terrible test that Abdullah had had to face up till now. But he remained firm and the emperor gave up trying. He then ordered that Abdullah too be thrown into the pot. As he was being taken away he began to shed tears. The emperor thought that he had at last been broken and had him brought back to him. He once more suggested that Abdullah become a Christian but to his astonishment, Abdullah refused.

“Damn you! Why did you weep then?” shouted the emperor.

“I cried,” said Abdullah, “because I said to myself, ‘You will now be thrown into this pot and your soul will depart.’ What I really desired then was to have as many souls as the number of hairs on my body and to have all of them thrown into this pot for the sake of God.”

The tyrant then said, “Will you kiss my head? I will then set you free?”

“And all the Muslim prisoners also?” asked Abdullah.

This the emperor agreed to do and Abdullah said to himself,

“One of the enemies of God! I shall kiss his head and he shall set me and all other Muslim prisoners free. There can be no blame on me for doing this.”

He then went up to the emperor and kissed his forehead. All the Muslim prisoners were released and handed over to Abdullah.

Abdullah ibn Hudhafah eventually came to Umar ibn alKhattab and told him what had happened. Umar was greatly pleased and when he looked at the prisoners he said,

“Every Muslim has a duty to kiss the head of Abdullah ibn Khudhafah and I shall start.”

Umar then got up and kissed the head of Abdullah ibn Hudhafah.

Abdullah ibn Jahsh was a cousin of the Prophet and his sister, Zaynab bint Jahsh, was a wife of the Prophet. He was the first to head a group of Muslims on an expedition and so was the first to be called “Amir al-Mu’mineen” (Commander of the Believers).

Abdullah ibn Jahsh became a Muslim before the Prophet entered the House of al-Arqam which became a meeting place, a school and a place of refuge for the early Muslims. He was thus one of the first to accept Islam.

When the Prophet gave permission for his Companions to emigrate to Madinah to avoid further persecution from the Quraysh, Abdullah ibn Jahsh was the second to leave, preceded only by Abu Salamah. Emigrating was not a new experience for Abdullah. He and some members of his immediate family had migrated before to Abyssinia. This time, however, his migration was on a far bigger scale. His family and relatives, men, women and children, migrated with him. In fact, his whole clan had become Muslims and accompanied him.

There was an air of desolation as they left Makkah. Their homes appeared sad and depressed as if no one had lived there before. No sound of conversation emanated from behind those silent walls.

Abdullah’s clan were not long gone when the alerted Quraysh leaders came out and made the rounds of the districts in Makkah to find out which Muslims had left and who had remained. Among these leaders were Abu Jahl and Utbah ibn Rabi’ah. Utbah looked at the houses of the Banu Jahsh through which the dusty winds were blowing. He banged on the doors and shouted, “The houses of the Banu Jahsh have become empty and are weeping for its occupants.”

‘Who were these people anyway,” said Abu Jahl derisively, “that houses should weep for them.” He then laid claim to the house of Abdullah ibn Jahsh. It was the most beautiful and expensive of the houses. He began to dispose freely of its contents as a king would share out his possessions.

Later, when Abdullah ibn Jahsh heard what Abu Jahl had done to his house, he mentioned it to the Prophet, peace be upon him, who said, “Aren’t you satisfied, O Abdullah, with what God has given you instead, a house in Paradise?”

“Yes, Messenger of God,” he replied, and became at peace with himself and completely satisfied.

Abdullah ibn Jahsh had scarcely settled down in Madinah when he had to undergo one of the most testing experiences. He had just begun to taste something of the good and restful life under the sponsorship of the Ansar after going through persecution at the hands of the Quraysh, when he had to be exposed to the severest test he had ever known in his life and carry out the most difficult assignment since he had become a Muslim.

The Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him, commissioned eight of his Companions to carry out the first military assignment in Islam. Among them were Abdullah ibn Jahsh and Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas.

“I appoint as your Commander the one who can best bear hunger and thirst,” said the Prophet and gave the standard to Abdullah ibn Jahsh. He was thus the first to be made Ameer over a contingent of believers.

The Prophet gave him precise instructions on the route he should take on the expedition and gave him a letter. He commanded Abdullah to read the letter only after two days travel.

After the expedition had been on its way for two days, Abdullah looked at the contents of the letter. It said, “When you have read this letter, press on until you come to a place called Nakhlah between Ta’if and Makkah. From there observe the Quraysh and gather whatever information you can on them for us.”

“At your command, O Prophet of God,” exclaimed Abdullah as he finished reading the letter.

Then he spoke to his colleagues:

“The Prophet has commanded me to proceed to Nakhlah to observe the Quraysh and gather information on them for him. He has also commanded me not to go further with anyone of you who is against the purpose of this expedition. So whoever desires martyrdom and is in total agreement with this expedition can accompany me. Whoever is not in agreement, may turn back without blame.”

“At your command, O messenger of Allah,” they all responded. “We shall go with you, Abdullah, wherever the Prophet of God has commanded.”

The group continued until they reached Nakhlah and began to move along the mountain passes seeking information on Quraysh movements. While they were thus engaged, they saw in the distance a Quraysh caravan. There were four men in the caravan: Amr ibn alHadrami, Hukm ibn Kaysan, Uthman ibn Abdullah and his brother Mughirah. They were carrying merchandise for the Quraysh: skins, raisins and other usual Quraysh stock in trade.

The Sahabah conferred together. It was the last day of the sacred months. “If we were to kill them,” they agreed, “we would have killed them in the inviolable months. To do so would be to violate the sacredness of this month and expose ourselves to the wrath of all Arabs. If we leave them alone for a day so that the month will be completed, they would have entered the inviolable precincts of Makkah and thus be secure from us.”

They continued consulting until finally they agreed to pounce on the caravan and take whatever merchandise they could as booty. Before long, two of the men were captured and one was killed; the fourth escaped.

Abdullah ibn Jahsh and his men took the two prisoners and the caravan on to Madinah. They went to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and informed him about what they had done. The Prophet was greatly upset and strongly condemned their action.

“By God, I did not command you to fight. I only commanded you to gather information on the Quraysh and observe their movements.” He granted a reprieve to the two prisoners and he left the caravan and did not take a single item from it.

Abdullah ibn Jahsh and his men then knew that they had fallen into disgrace and felt certain that they were ruined because of their disobeying the command of the Prophet. They began to feel the pressure as their Muslim brothers censured them and avoided them whenever they passed one another. And they would say, “These went against the command of the Prophet.”

Their discomfiture grew when they learnt that the Quraysh had taken the incident as a means to discredit the Prophet and denounce him among the tribes. The Quraysh were saying, “Muhammad has defiled the sacred month. He has shed blood in it, plundered wealth and captured men.”

Imagine the extent of the sadness felt by Abdullah ibn Jahsh and his men at what had happened, moreso because of the acute embarrassment they had caused the Prophet.

They were sorely tormented and the agony weighed heavily on them. Then came the good news that Allah, Glorified be He, was pleased with what they had done and had sent down revelation to His Prophet about this matter. Imagine their happiness! People came and embraced them, congratulating them on the good news and reciting to them what had been revealed in the glorious Qur’an about their action.

“They ask you about fighting in the sacred month. Say: Fighting therein is an enormity as well as preventing (people) from the path of God and disbelief in Him. Expelling people from the Masjid al Haram is a greater sin in the eyes of God. Moreover, persecution is greater than killing.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2: 212).

When these blessed verses were revealed, the Prophet’s mind was eased. He took the caravan and ransomed the prisoners. He became pleased with Abdullah ibn Jahsh and his men. Their expedition was certainly a major event in the early life of the Muslim community…

The Battle of Badr followed. Abdullah ibn Jahsh fought in it and was put to a great test, but a test to which his faith was equal.

Then came the Battle of Uhud. There is an unforgettable story involving Abdullah ibn Jahsh and his friend Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas concerning an incident that took place during the Battle of Uhud. Let us leave Sa’d to tell the story:

During the battle, Abdullah came to me and said,

“Aren’t you making a supplication to God?”

“Yes,” said I. So we moved aside and I prayed, “O Lord, when I meet the enemy, let me meet a man of enormous strength and fury. Then grant me victory over him that I might kill him and acquire spoils from him.” To my prayer, Abdullah said “Aameen” and then he prayed,

“Let me meet a man of great standing and enormous fury. I shall fight him for Your sake, O Lord, and he shall fight me. He shall take me and cut off my nose and ears and when I meet You on the morrow You will say, “For what were your nose and ear cut off?” And I would reply, “For Your sake and for the sake of Your Prophet.” And then You would say, “You have spoken the truth…”

Sa’d continues the story,

‘The prayer of Abdullah ibn Jahsh was better than mine. I saw him at the end of the day. He was killed and mutilated and in fact his nose and his ear were hung on a tree with a thread.’

God responded to the prayer of Abdullah ibn Jahsh and blessed him with martyrdom as He blessed his uncle, the Leader of Martyrs, Hamzah ibn Abdulmuttalib. The noble Prophet buried them together in a single grave. His pure tears watered the earth, the earth annointed with the fragrance of martyrdom.

When the Messenger of Allah, may peace and blessing be upon him, met secretly with Al-Madinah’s delegation in the outskirts of Makkah, away from the disbelievers of the Quraysh, twelve representatives of the Ansaar took an oath of allegiance in the first Pledge of ‘Aqabah.

‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah was one of those representatives who ushered Islaam to Al-Madinah and who paved the way for the Hijrah, which was considered an excellent springboard for Allah’s religion, Islaam.

‘Abdullah was also one of the great 73 of the Ansaar who gave the Prophet the Second Pledge of ‘Aqabah in the following year.

After the Prophet and his Companions emigrated and settled in Al-Madinah, ‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah was the most active Muslim of the Ansaar who strived to support the thriving religion.

He was also the most alert Muslim to the plots of ‘Abdullah ibn Ubay whom the people of Al-Madinah were about to crown king before the Muslims arrived.

He never got over the bitterness he felt for losing the chance of his lifetime to become a king. Therefore, he used his craftiness to weave deceitful plots against Islaam, while ‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah kept on tracing and detecting this craftiness with remarkable insight that frustrated most of Ibn Ubay’s manoeuvres and plots.

Ibn Rawahah (may Allah be pleased with him) was a scribe at a time in which writing was not prevalent. He was a poet; his poetry flowed with admirable fluency and strength. Ever since his Islam he devoted his poetic genius to its service.

The Messenger of Allah always admired his poetry, asking him to recite more of it. One day, as he was sitting among his Companions, ‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah joined them, so the Prophet asked him, “How do you compose a poem?”

‘Abdullah answered, “First I think about its subject matter, then I recite.”

He immediately recited,

O the good descendants of Al-Hasyim

Allah raised you to a high station

Of which you are worthy above all mankind.

My intuition made me realise at once

Your excelling nature,

Contrary to the disbelievers belief in you.

If you asked some of them for support and help,

They would turn you down.

May Allah establish the good that descends

On you firmly

And bestow victory upon you as He did to Musa.

The Prophet was elated and said, “I hope that Allah will make your feet firm, too.”

When the Prophet was circumambulating the Ka’bah in the compensatory Umrah (minor pilgrimage), lbn Rawahah recited to him,

Were it not for Allah, we would not have been Guided to the Right path nor charitable

Nor able to perform our prayers.

So descend, peace of mind and reassurance,

On us and establish our feet firmly

When we meet our enemy

In combat. If our oppressors tried to spread

Affliction and trial, unrest, among us

We will not give them way.

Muslims reiterated his graceful lines.

The active poet was saddened when the glorious verse descended saying: “And for the poets, only the erring people follow them.” (translation of the Quran: Surah Ash-Shu’ara: 224). But soon he was contented to hear another verse saying, “Except those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, and remember Allah frequently, and defend themselves after being oppressed.” (Ash-Shu’ara: 227)

When Islam rose up in arms in self-defence, Ibn Rawahah provided his service in all the battles: Badr, Uhud, Al-Khandaq, Al Hudaibiyyah, and Khaibar.

His perpetual slogan was these lines of poetry,

“O my soul, death is inevitable,

so it is better for you to be martyred.”

He shouted at the disbelievers in every battle,

“O disbelievers, get out of my way.

My Prophet has all the excellent qualities”.

The Battle of Mu’tah started, and, as we have mentioned, he was the third of the Commanders after Zaid and Ja’far. Ibn Rawaahah (May Allah be pleased with him) stood there as the army was about to leave Al- Madiinah and recited:

I truly ask the Most Beneficient’s forgiveness

and a mortal stroke of a sword

that will strike me down

foaming or a mortal stab

with a spear by a stubborn disbeliever

that will make my liver and intestine

show out of my body. So that

when people pass by my grave,

they will say: By Allah, you are

the most righteous warrior.

Indeed, a stroke or a stab that would convey him into the world of rewarded martyrs was his utmost wish. The army marched towards Mu’tah. When the Muslims saw their enemies, they estimated them at 200,000, for they saw endless waves of warriors. The Muslims glanced back at their small group and were stunned. Some of them suggested, “Let us send a message to the Prophet (peace be upon him) to tell him of the enormity of the enemy that surpassed all our expectations so he will either order us to wait for reinforcements or to pierce through the enemy lines.”

However, Ibn Rawaahah stood amidst the lines of the army and said,

“O my people, by Allah, we do not fight our enemies with numbers, strength or equipment, but rather with this religion which Allah has honored us with. So go right ahead: it is either one of two equally good options, victory or martyrdom.”

The Muslims, who were lesser in number and greater in faith, cried out, “By Allah, you spoke the truth.” The smaller army broke through the mighty host of 200,000 warriors in terrible and cruel fighting.

As we have mentioned, both armies met in fierce combat. The first commander, Zaid Ibn Haarithah, was struck down, he winning glorious martyrdom. The second in command was Ja’far Ibn Abi Taalib, who was overjoyed to be martyred. ‘Abd Allah took over the command and grabbed the standard from Ja’far’s failing upper arms. The fight reached the peak of ferocity. The smaller army was indistinct amidst the waves of the mighty hosts of Heraclius. When Ibn Rawaahah was a soldier, he attacked heedlessly and confidently. But now the command placed great responsibilities for the army’s safety on his shoulders. It seemed that for a moment he was overtaken by hesitation and dread, yet he instantly shook off those apprehensions, summoned his innate fearlessness and cried out,

“O my soul, you look as if you were afraid to cross the way that leads to Paradise. O my soul, I took an oath to fight. O my soul, death is inevitable, so you had better be martyred. Now I will experience the inevitability of death. What you have cared for so long is finally yours. So go ahead, for if you follow these two heroes, you will be guided to the way of Paradise.”

He meant the two heroes who had preceded him in martyrdom, Zaid and Ja’far. He darted into the Roman armies, fiercely and ruthlessly. Were it not for a previous ordainment from Allah that he was to be martyred on that day, he would have annihilated the fighting hosts. But destiny called and he was martyred. His body was struck down, yet his pure, valiant spirit was raised to the heavens. His most precious wish finally came true, so that

“When people pass by my grave, they will say:

By Allah you are the most righteous warrior!’

The fierce attack in Al-Balqaa’ in Syria went on. Back in Al Madiinah the Prophet (peace be upon him) was talking peacefully and contentedly with his Companions when he suddenly stopped talking. He closed his eyes a little, then opened them. A gleam flashed from them, yet it was tinged with sadness and compassion. He looked around sadly and said, “Zaid took the standard and fought until he was martyred.” He was silent for a while, then continued “Ja’far grasped it and fought until he was marytred. Then `Abd Allah lbn Rawaahah grasped it and fought until he was martyred.” He was silent for a while, then his eyes sparkled with elation, tranquility, longing, and joy as he said, “They were all raised to Paradise.”

What a glorious journey it must have been! What a happy succession! They all marched to conquer, they all were raised up to Paradise. The best salute to immortalize their memory rests in the Prophet’s words,

“They were raised up to await me in Paradise.”

What a glorious journey it must have been! What a happy succession!

‘radhiAllahanhuAbdullah ibn Salaam was a Jewish rabbi in Yathrib who was widely respected and honoured by the people of the city even by those who were not Jewish. He was known for his piety and goodness, his upright conduct and his truthfulness.

‘Abdullah ibn Salaam lived a peaceful and gentle life but he was serious, purposeful and organized in the way he spent his time. For a fixed period each day, he would worship, teach and preach in the temple. Then he would spend some time in his orchard, looking after date palms, pruning and pollinating. Thereafter, to increase his understanding and knowledge of his religion, he would devote himself to the study of the Torah.

In this study, it is said, he was particularly struck by some verses of the Torah which dealt with the coming of a Prophet who would complete the message of previous Prophets. ‘Abdullah ibn Salaam therefore took an immediate and keen interest when he heard reports of the appearance of a Prophet in Makkah. He said,

“When I heard of the appearance of the Messenger of God, peace be on him, I began to make enquiries about his name, his genealogy, his characteristics, his time and place and I began to compare this information with what is contained in our books. From these enquiries, I became convinced about the authenticity of his prophethood and I affirmed the truth of his mission. However, I concealed my conclusions from the Jews. I held my tongue…”

Then came the day when the Prophet, peace be on him, left Makkah and headed for Yathrib. When he reached Yathrib and stopped at Quba, a man came rushing into the city, calling out to people and announcing the arrival of the Prophet. At that moment, I was at the top of a palm tree doing some work. My aunt, Khalidah bint al-Harith, was sitting under the tree. On hearing the news, I shouted,

‘Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!’ (God is Great! God is Great!)

When my aunt heard my Takbeer, she remonstrated with me, ‘May God frustrate you…By God, if you had heard that Moses was coming you would not have been more enthusiastic.’

‘Auntie, he is really, by God, the ‘brother’ of Moses and follows his religion. He was sent with the same mission as Moses.’

She was silent for a while and then said, ‘Is he the Prophet about whom you spoke to us who would be sent to confirm the truth preached by previous (Prophets) and complete the message of his Lord?’

‘Yes,’ I replied.

Without any delay or hesitation, I went out to meet the Prophet. I saw crowds of people at his door. I moved about in the crowds until I reached close to him. The first words I heard him say were, ‘O people! Spread peace…Share food…Pray during the night while people (normally) sleep… and you will enter Paradise in peace…’

I looked at him closely. I scrutinized him and was convinced that his face was not that of an imposter. I went closer to him and made the declaration of faith that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.

The Prophet turned to me and asked, ‘What is your name?’

‘Al-Husayn ibn Salaam,’ I replied.

‘Instead, it is (now) Abdullah ibn Sallam,’ the Prophet (peace be upon him) said (giving me a new name).

Yes,’ I agreed. ‘Abdullah ibn Salaam (it shall be). By Him who has sent you with the Truth, I do not wish to have another name after this day.’

I returned home and introduced Islam to my wife, my children and the rest of my household. They all accepted Islam including my aunt KhaIidah who was then an old lady. However, I advised them then to conceal our acceptance of Islam from the Jews until I gave them permission. They agreed.

Subsequently, I went back to the Prophet, peace be on him, and said,

‘O Messenger of God! The Jews are a people (inclined to) slander and falsehood. I want you to invite their most prominent men to meet you. (During the meeting however), you should keep me concealed from them in one of your rooms. Ask them then about my status among them before they find out of my acceptance of Islam. Then invite them to Islam. If they were to know that I have become a Muslim, they would denounce me and accuse me of everything base and slander me.’

The Prophet kept me in one of his rooms and invited the prominent Jewish personalities to visit him. He introduced Islam to them and urged them to have faith in God…They began to dispute and argue with him about the Truth. When he realized that they were not inclined to accept Islam, he put the question to them, ‘What is the status of Al-Husayn ibn Salaam among you?’

‘He is our sayyid (leader) and the son of our sayyid. He is our rabbi and our ‘aalim (scholar), the son of our rabbi and ‘aalim.’

‘If you come to know that he has accepted Islam, would you accept Islam also?’ asked the Prophet.

‘God forbid! He would not accept Islam. May God protect him from accepting Islam,’ they said (horrified).

At this point I came out in full view of them and announced,

‘O assembly of Jews! Be conscious of God and accept what Muhammad has brought. By God, you certainly know that he is the Messenger of God and you can find prophecies about him and mention of his name and characteristics in your Torah. I for my part declare that he is the Messenger of God. I have faith in him and believe that he is true. I know him.’

‘You are a liar,’ they shouted. ‘By God, you are evil and ignorant, the son of an evil and ignorant person.’ And they continued to heap every conceivable abuse on me…”

Abdullah ibn Salaam approached Islam with a soul thirsty for knowledge. He was passionately devoted to the Quran and spent much time reciting and studying its beautiful and sublime verses. He was deeply attached to the noble Prophet and was constantly in his company.

Much of his time he spent in the masjid, engaged in worship, in learning and in teaching. He was known for his sweet, moving and effective way of teaching study circles of Sahabah who assembled regularly in the Prophet’s mosque.

Abdullah ibn Sallam was known among the Sahabah as a man from Ahlul-Jannah (the people of Paradise). This was because of his determination on the advice of the Prophet to hold steadfastly to the “most trustworthy handhold” – which is belief in and total submission to God.

At Shaykhan, halfway between Madinah and Uhud, the thousand strong Muslim army led by the Prophet stopped. The sun had begun to sink beneath the horizon. The Prophet dismounted from his horse Sakb. He was fully dressed for battle. A turban was wound about his helmet. He wore a breastplate beneath which was a coat of mail which was fastened with a leather sword belt. A shield was slung across his back and his sword hung from his side.

As the sun set, Bilal called the adhaan and they prayed. The Prophet then reviewed his troops once more and it was then that he noticed in their midst the presence of eight boys who despite their age were hoping to take part in the battle. Among them were Zayd’s son Usaamah and Umar’s son ‘Abdullah, both only thirteen years old. The Prophet ordered them all to return home immediately. Two of the boys however demonstrated that they were able fighters and were allowed to accompany the army to the Battle of Uhud while the others were sent back to their families.

From an early age, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar thus demonstrated his keenness to be associated with the Prophet in all his undertakings. He had accepted Islaam before he was ten years old and had made the Hijrah with his father and his sister, Hafsah, who was later to become a wife of the Prophet. Before Uhud he was also turned away from the Battle of Badr and it was not until the Battle of the Ditch the he and Usaamah, both now fifteen years old and others of their age were allowed to join the ranks of the men not only for the digging of the trench but for the battle when it came.

From the time of his hijrah till the time of his death more than seventy years later, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar distinguished himself in the service of Islaam and was regarded among Muslims as,

“The Good One, son of the Good One”, according to Abu Musa al-Ashari.

He was known for his knowledge, his humility, his generosity, his piety, his truthfulness, his incorruptibility and his constancy in acts of ‘Ibaadah (worship).

From his great and illustrious father, ‘Umar, he learnt a great deal and both he and his father had the benefit of learning from the greatest teacher of all, Muhammad the Messenger of God. ‘Abdullah would observe and scrutinize closely every saying and action of the Prophet in various situations and he would practise what he observed closely and with devotion. For example, if ‘Abdullah saw the Prophet performing Salat in a particular place, he would later pray in the same place. If he saw the Prophet making a supplication while standing, he would also make a du’a while standing. If he saw him making a du’a while sitting, he would do the same. On a journey if he saw the Prophet descend from his camel at a particular place and pray two rak’ats, and he had occasion to pass on the same route, he would stop at the same place and pray two rak’ats. In a particular place in Makkah, he once observed the Prophet’s camel making two complete turns before he dismounted and prayed two rak’ats. It might be that the camel did that involuntarily but ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar when he happened to be in the same place at another time, made his camel complete two turns before making it kneel and dismounting. He then prayed two rak’ats in precisely the same manner as he had seen the Prophet do.

Aa’ishah, may God be pleased with her, noticed this devotion of ‘Abdullah to the Prophet and remarked,

“There was no one who followed the footsteps of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, in the places where he alighted as did Ibn Umar.”

In spite of his close observance of the Prophet’s actions, Abdullah was extremely cautious, even afraid, of reporting the sayings of the Prophet. He would only relate a hadith if he was completely sure that he remembered every word of it. One of his contemporaries said,

“Among the companions of the Prophet, no one was more cautious about adding to or subtracting from the hadith of the Prophet than ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar.”

Similarly he was extremely cautious and reluctant to make legal judgments (Fatwas). Once someone came to him asking for a judgment on a particular matter and ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar replied,

“I have no knowledge of what you ask.”

The man went on his way and ‘Abdullah clapped his hands in glee and said to himself,

“The son of ‘Umar was asked about what he does not know and he said: I do not know.”

Because of this attitude he was reluctant to be a qaadhi (judge) even though he was well qualified to be one. The position of qaadhi was one of the most important and esteemed offices in the Muslim society and state bringing with it honor, glory and even riches but he declined this position when it was offered him by the Khalifah ‘Uthmaan. His reason for so doing was not that he underestimated the importance of the position of qaadhi but because of his fear of committing errors of judgment in matters pertaining to Islaam. ‘Uthman made him agree not to disclose his decision lest it might influence the many other companions of the Prophet who actually performed the duties of judges and jurist consults.

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar was once described as the “brother of the night”. He would stay up at night performing Salat, weeping and seeking God’s forgiveness and reading Qur’aan. To his sister, Hafsah, the Prophet once said, “What a blessed man is ‘Abdullah. Should he perform Salat at night he would be blessed even more.”

From that day, ‘Abdullah did not abandon Qiyaamul-Layl whether at home or on journeys. In the stillness of the nights, he would remember God much, perform Salat and read the Qur’aan and weep. Like his father, tears came readily to his eyes especially when he heard the warning verses of the Quran. ‘Ubayd ibn ‘Umayr has related that one day he read these verses to Abdullah ibn Umar,

“How then (will the sinners fare on Judgment Day) when We shall bring forward witnesses from within every community and bring you (O Prophet) as witness against them? Those who were bent on denying the truth and paid no heed to the Apostle will on that Day wish that the earth would swallow them but they shall not (be able to) conceal from God anything that has happened.” (Surah an-Nisa, [4]:41-42).

‘Abdullah cried on listening to these verses until his beard was moist with tears. One day, he was sitting among some close friends and he read, “Woe unto those who give short measure, those who, when they are to receive their due from people, demand that it be given in full but when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due. Do they not know that they are bound to be raised from the dead (and called to account) on an awesome Day, the Day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds?” (The Qur’aan, Surah al-Mutaffifin, [83]: 1-6). At this point he kept on repeating “the Day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds” over and over again and weeping until he was faint.

Piety, simplicity and generosity combined in ‘Abdullah to make him a person who was highly esteemed by the companions and those who came after them. He gave generously and did not mind parting with wealth even if he himself would fall in want as a result. He was a successful and trustworthy trader throughout his life. In addition to this he had a generous stipend from the Bayt al-Mal which he would often spend on the poor and those in need. Ayyoob ibn Wail ar-Rasi recounted one incident of his generosity,

One day ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar received four thousand dirhams and a velvet blanket. The following day Ayyub saw him in the market buying fodder for his camel on credit. Ayyoob then went to ‘Abdullah’s family and asked, “Didn’t Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman (meaning ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar) receive four thousand dirhams and a blanket yesterday?” “Yes, indeed,” they replied.
“But I saw him today in the market buying fodder for his camel and he had no money to pay for it.” “Before nightfall yesterday. he had parted with it all. Then he took the blanket and threw it over his shoulder and went out. When he returned it was not with him. We asked him about it and he said that he had given it to a poor person,” they explained.

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar encouraged the feeding and the helping of the poor and the needy. Often when he ate, there were orphans and poor people eating with him. He rebuked his children for treating the rich and ignoring the poor. He once said to them,

“You invite the rich and forsake the poor!”

For ‘Abdullah, wealth was a servant not a master. It was a means towards attaining the necessities of life, not for acquiring luxuries. He was helped in this attitude by his asceticism and simple life-style. One of his friends who came from Khurasan once brought him a fine elegant piece of clothing,

“I have brought this thawb for you from Khurasan,” he said. “It would certainly bring coolness to your eyes. I suggest that you take off these coarse clothes you have and put on this beautiful thawb.”

“Show it to me then,” said Abdullah and on touching it he asked, “Is it silk?”

“No, it is cotton,” replied his friend.

For a little while, ‘Abdullah was pleased. Then with his right hand he pushed away the thawb and said,

“No! I am afraid for myself. I fear that it shall make arrogant and boastful. And God does not love the arrogant boaster.”

Maymun ibn Mahran relates the following,

“I entered the house of Ibn Umar. I estimated everything in his house including his bed, his blanket, his carpet and everything else in it. What I found was not a hundred dirhams’ worth.”

That was not because Abdullah ibn Umar was poor. Indeed he was rich. Neither was it because he was a miser for indeed he was generous and liberal.

‘radhiAllahanhuAbdullah ibn Umm Maktum was a cousin of Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Mother of the Believers, may God be pleased with her. His father was Qays ibn Zaid and his mother was Aatikah bint Abdullah. She was called Umm Maktum (Mother of the Concealed One) because she gave birth to a blind child.

‘Abdullah witnessed the rise of Islam in Makkah. He was amongst the first to accept Islam. He lived through the persecution of the Muslims and suffered what the other companions of the Prophet experienced. His attitude, like theirs, was one of firmness, staunch resistance and sacrifice. Neither his dedication nor his faith weakened against the violence of the Quraysh onslaught. In fact, all this only increased his determination to hold on to the religion of God and his devotion to His messenger.

‘Abdullah was devoted to the noble Prophet and he was so eager to memorize the Qur’an that he would not miss any opportunity to achieve his heart’s desire. Indeed, his sense of urgency and his insistence could sometimes have been irritating as he, unintentionally, sought to monopolize the attention of the Prophet.

In this period, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was concentrating on the Quraysh notables and was eager that they should become Muslims. On one particular day, he met Utbah ibn Rabiah and his brother Shaybah, Amr ibn Hisham better known as Abu Jahl, Umayyah ibn Khalaf and Walid ibn Mughirah, the father of Khalid ibn Walid, the Khalid ibn Walid who was later to be known as Sayfullah or ‘the sword of God’. He had begun talking and negotiating with them and telling them about Islam. He so much wished that they would respond positively to him and accept Islam or at least call off their persecution of his companions.

While he was thus engaged, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum came up and asked him to read a verse from the Qur’an.

“O messenger of God,” he said, “teach me from what God has taught you.”

The Prophet frowned and turned away from him. He turned his attention instead to the prestigious group of Quraysh, hoping that they would become Muslims and that by their acceptance of Islam they would bring greatness to the religion of God and strengthen his mission. At this point the following revelation came to him,

“He frowned and tu4322-quran-at-the-islamic-museumrned away when the blind man approached him! Yet for all you knew, (O Muhammad), he might perhaps ha ve grown in purity or have been reminded of the Truth, and helped by this reminder. Now as for him who believes himself to be self-sufficient to him you gave your whole attention, although you are not accountable for his failure to attain to purity. But as for him who came unto you full of eagerness and in awe of God, him did you disregard. Nay, verily, this is but a reminder and so, whoever is willing may remember Him in the light of His revelations blest with dignity, lofty and pure, borne by the hands of messengers, noble and most virtuous.” (Surah Abasa 80: 116).

These are the sixteen verses which were revealed to the noble Prophet about Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum, sixteen verses that have continued to be recited from that time till today and shall continue to be recited.

From that day the Prophet did not cease to be generous to Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum, to ask him about his affairs, to fulfil his needs and take him into his council whenever he approached. In fact, in later years, he often greeted Ibn Umm Maktum with these words of humility, “Welcome unto him on whose account my Sustainer has rebuked me.”

When the Quraysh intensified their persecution of the Prophet and those who believed with him, God gave them permission to emigrate. ‘Abdullah’s response was prompt. He and Mus’ab ibn Umayr were the first of the Companions to reach Madinah.

As soon as they reached Yathrib, he and Mus’ab began discussing with the people, reading the Qur’an to them and teaching them the religion of God. When the Prophet, upon whom be peace, arrived in Madinah, he appointed ‘Abdullah and Bilal ibn Rabah to be muadh-dhins for the Muslims, proclaiming the Oneness of God five times a day, calling man to the best of actions and summoning them to success.

Bilal would call the adhaan and Abdullah would pronounce the iqaamah for the Prayer. Sometimes they would reverse the process. During Ramadan, they adopted a special routine. One of them would call the adhaan to wake people up to eat before the fast began.

The other would call the adhaan to announce the beginning of dawn and the fast. It was Bilal who would awaken the people and ‘Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum who would announce the beginning of dawn.

One of the responsibilities that the Prophet placed on ‘Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum was to put him in charge of Madinah in his absence. This was done more than ten times, one of them being when he left for the liberation of Makkah.

Soon after the battle of Badr, the Prophet received a revelation from God raising the status of the mujahideen and preferring them over the qa’ideen (those who remain inactive at home). This was in order to encourage the mujahid even further and to spur the qa’id to give up his inactivity. This revelation affected ibn Umm Maktum deeply. It pained him to be thus barred from the higher status and he said:

“O Messenger of God. If I could go on jihaad, I would certainly do.”

He then earnestly asked God to send down a revelation about his particular case and those like him who were prevented because of their disabilities from going on military campaigns.

His prayer was answered. An additional phrase was revealed to the Prophet exempting those with disabilities from the import of the original verse. The full verse became:

“Not equal are those who remain seated among the believers except those who possess disabilities and those who strive and fight in the way of God with their wealth and their persons…” (Surah an-Nisaa, 4: 95)

In spite of thus being excused from jihad, the soul of ‘Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum refused to be content with staying among those who remained at home when an expedition was in progress. Great souls are not content with remaining detached from affairs of great moments. He determined that no campaign should by-pass him. He fixed a role for himself on the battle field. He would say,

“Place me between two rows and give me the standard. I will carry it for you and protect it, for I am blind and cannot run away.”

In the fourteenth year after the hijrah, ‘Umar resolved to mount a major assault against the Persians to bring down their State and open the way for the Muslim forces. So he wrote to his governors,

“Send anyone with a weapon or a horse or who can offer any form of help to me. And make haste.”

Crowds of Muslims from every direction responded to ‘Umar’s call and converged on Madinah. Among all these was the blind mujahid, ‘Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum.

‘Umar appointed Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas commander over the army, gave him instructions and bade him farewell. When the army reached Qaadisiyyah, ‘Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum was prominent, wearing a coat of armour and fully prepared. He had vowed to carry and protect the standard of the Muslims or be killed in the process.

The forces met and engaged in battle for three days. The fighting was among the most fierce and bitter in the history of the Muslim conquests. On the third day, the Muslims achieved a mighty victory as one of the greatest empires in the world collapsed and one of the most secure thrones fell. The standard of Tawheed was raised in an idolatrous land. The price of this clear victory was hundreds of martyrs. Among them was ‘Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum.

He was found dead on the battlefield clutching the flag of the Muslims.

He was one of the first eight persons to accept Islam. He was one of the ten persons (al-asharatul mubashshirin) who were assured of entering Paradise. He was one of the six persons chosen by ‘Umar to form the council of shura to choose the Khalifah after his death.

His name in Jahiliyyah days was Abu ‘Amr. But when he accepted Islam the noble Prophet called him ‘Abdur-Rahman – the servant of the Beneficent God.

‘Abdur-Rahman became a Muslim before the Prophet entered the house of al-Arqam. In fact it is said that he accepted Islam only two days after Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq did so.

‘Abdur-Rahman did not escape the punishment which the early Muslims suffered at the hands of the Quraysh. He bore this punishment with steadfastness as they did. He remained firm as they did. And when they were compelled to leave Makkah for Abyssinia because of the continuous and unbearable persecution, Abdur-Rahman also went. He returned to Makkah when it was rumored that conditions for the Muslims had improved but, when these rumors proved to be false, he left again for Abyssinia on a second hijrah. From Makkah once again he made the hijrah to Madinah.

Soon after arriving in Madinah, the Prophet in his unique manner began pairing off the Muhaajireen and the Ansaar. This established a firm bond of brotherhood and was meant to strengthen social cohesion and ease the destitution of the Muhaajireen. ;Abdur-Rahman was linked by the Prophet with Sa’d ibn ar-Rabi’ah. Sa’d (may Allah be pleased with him) in the spirit of generosity and magnanimity with which the Ansaar greeted the Muhaajireen, said to Abdur-Rahman,

“My brother! Among the people of Madinah I have the most wealth. I have two orchards and I have two wives. See which of the two orchards you like and I shall vacate it for you and which of my two wives is pleasing to you and I will divorce her for you.”

‘Abdur-Rahman must have been embarrassed and said in reply,

“May God bless you in your family and your wealth. But just show me where the market is…”

‘Abdur-Rahman went to the market-place and began trading with whatever little resources he had. He bought and sold and his profits grew rapidly. Soon he was sufficiently well off and was able to get married. He went to the noble Prophet with the scent of perfume lingering over him.

“Mahyam, O ‘Abdur-Rahman!” exclaimed the Prophet – “mahyam” being a word of Yemeni origin which indicates pleasant surprise.

“I have got married,” replied Abdur-Rahman.

“And what did you give your wife as mahr (dowry)?”

“The weight of a nuwat in gold.”

“You must have a Walimah (wedding feast) even if it is with a single sheep. And may Allah bless you in your wealth,” said the Prophet with obvious pleasure and encouragement.

Thereafter ‘Abdur-Rahman grew so accustomed to business success that he said if he lifted a stone he expected to find gold or silver under it!

‘Abdur-Rahman distinguished himself in both the battles of Badr and Uhud. At Uhud he remained firm throughout and suffered more than twenty wounds some of them deep and severe. Even so, his physical Jihaad was matched by his Jihaad with his wealth.

Once the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, was preparing to despatch an expeditionary force. He summoned his companions and said, “Contribute Sadaqah (in giving charity) for I want to despatch an expedition.”

‘Abdur-Rahman went to his house and quickly returned.

“O Messenger of God,” he said, “I have four thousand (dinaars). I give two thousand as a loan to my Lord and two thousand I leave for my family. “

When the Prophet decided to send an expedition, which was at a distance, to Tabuk – the last Ghazwah of his life that he mounted – his need for finance and material was not greater than his need for men for the Byzantine forces were a numerous and well-equipped foe. That year in Madinah was one of drought and hardship. The journey to Tabuk was long, more that a thousand kilometers. Provisions were in short supply. Transport was at a premium so much so that a group of Muslims came to the Prophet pleading to go with him but he had to turn them away because he could find no transport for them.

These men were sad and dejected and came to be known as the Bakka’in or the Weepers and the army itself was called the Army of Hardship (‘Usrah). Thereupon the Prophet called upon his companions to give generously for the war effort in the path of God and assured them they would be rewarded. The Muslims’ response to the Prophet’s call was immediate and generous. In the forefront of those who responded was ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Awf. He donated two hundred awqiyyah of gold whereupon ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said to the Prophet:

“I have (now) seen ‘Abdur-Rahman committing a wrong. He has not left anything for his family.”

“Have you left anything for your family, ‘Abdur-Rahman?” asked the Prophet.

“Yes,” replied Abdur-Rahman. “I have left for them more than what I give and better.”

“How much?” enquired the Prophet.

“What God and His Messenger have promised of sustenance, goodness and reward,” replied Abdur-Rahman.

The Muslim army eventually left for Tabuk. There ‘Abdur-Rahman was blessed with an honor which was not conferred on anyone till then. The time of Salat came and the Prophet, peace be on him, was not there at the time. The Muslims chose ‘Abdur-Rahman as their Imaam. The first rak’ah of the Salaah was almost completed when the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, joined the worshippers and performed the Salah behind ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf. Could there be a greater honor conferred on anyone than to have been the Imaam of the most honored of God’s creation, the Imaam of the Prophets, the Imaam of Muhammad, the Messenger of God!

When the Prophet, peace be on him, passed away, ‘Abdur-Rahman took on the responsibility of looking after the needs of his family, the Ummahaat al-Muminin (the Mothers of the Believers). He would go with them wherever they wanted to and he even performed Hajj with them to ensure that all their needs were met. This is a sign of the trust and confidence which he enjoyed on the part of the Prophet’s family.

Abdur-Rahman’s support for the Muslims and the Prophet’s wives in particular was well-known. Once he sold a piece of land for forty thousand dinars and he distributed the entire amount among the Banu Zahrah (the relatives of the Prophet’s mother Aminah), the poor among the Muslims and the Prophet’s wives. When Aishah, may God be pleased with her, received some of this money she asked, “Who has sent this money?” and was told it was Abdur-Rahman, whereupon she said,

“The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said, “No one will feel compassion towards you after I die except the saabireen (those who are patient and resolute).”

The prayer of the noble Prophet that Allah should bestow barakah (blessings) on the wealth of ‘Abdur-Rahman appeared to be with ‘Abdur-Rahman throughout his life. He became the richest man among the companions of the Prophet. His business transactions invariably met with success and his wealth continued to grow. His trading caravans to and from Madinah grew larger and larger bringing to the people of Madinah wheat, flour, butter, cloths, utensils, perfume and whatever else was needed and exporting whatever surplus produce they had.

One day, a loud rumbling sound was heard coming from beyond the boundaries of Madinah normally a calm and peaceful city. The rumbling sound gradually increased in volume. In addition, clouds of dust and sand were stirred up and blown in the wind. The people of Madinah soon realized that a mighty caravan was entering the city. They stood in amazement as seven hundred camels laden with goods moved into the city and crowded the streets. There was much shouting and excitement as people called to one another to come out and witness the sight and see what goods and sustenance the camel caravan had brought.

Aa’ishah, may God be pleased with her, heard the commotion and asked, “What is this that’s happening in Madinah?” and she was told, “It is the caravan of ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Awf which has come from Syria bearing his merchandise.”

“A caravan making all this commotion?” she asked in disbelief.

“Yes, O Umm al-Mu’minin. There are seven hundred camels.”

Aa’ishah shook her head and gazed in the distance as if she was trying to recall some scene or utterance of the past and then she said, “I have heard the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, say: “I have seen ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Awf entering Paradise creeping.”

Why creeping? Why should he not enter Paradise leaping and at a quick pace with the early companions of the Prophet?

Some friends of his related to ‘Abdur-Rahman the hadith which ‘Aa’ishah had mentioned. He remembered that he had heard the hadith more than once from the Prophet and he hurried to the house of Aishah and said to her,

“Yaa Ummaah (O Mother)! Have you heard that from the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“You have reminded me of a hadith which I have never forgotten,”

he is also reported to have said. He was so over-joyed and added,

“If I could I would certainly like to enter Paradise standing. I swear to you, yaa Ummaah, that this entire caravan with all its merchandise, I will give fi sabilillah.”

And so he did. In a great festival of charity and righteousness, he distributed all that the massive caravan had brought to the people of Madinah and surrounding areas.

This is just one incident which showed what type of man ‘Abdur-Rahman was. He earned much wealth but he never remained attached to it for its own sake and he did not allow it to corrupt him.

‘Abdur-Rahman’s generosity did not stop there. He continued giving with both his hands, secretly and openly. Some of the figures mentioned are truly astounding: forty thousand dirhams of silver, forty thousand dinars of gold, two hundred awqiyyah of gold, five hundred horses to Mujaahideen setting out in the path of God and one thousand five hundred camels to another group of Mujaahideen, four hundred dinars of gold to the survivors of Badr and a large legacy to the Ummahaat al Muminin and the catalogue goes on. On account of this fabulous generosity, Aa’ishah said,

“May God give him to drink from the water of Salsabeel (a spring in Paradise).”

All this wealth did not corrupt ‘Abdur-Rahman and did not change him. When he was among his workers and assistants, people could not distinguish him from them. One day food was brought to him with which to end a fast. He looked at the food and said,

“Mus’ab ibn Umayr has been killed. He was better than me. We did not find anything of his to shroud him with except what covered his head but left his legs uncovered… Then God endowed us with the (bounties of) the world… I really fear that our reward has been bestowed on us early (in this world).”

He began to cry and sob and could not eat.

May Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Awf be granted felicity among,

“Those who spend their substance in the cause of God and follow up not their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury. For them their reward is with their Lord, on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.” (The Quran, Surah al-Baqarah, 2: 262).

Khalid ibn Zayd ibn Kulayb from the Banu Najjar was a great and close companion of the Prophet. He was known as Abu Ayyub (the father of Ayyub) and enjoyed a privilege which many of the Ansar in Madinah hoped they would have.

When the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him, reached Madinah after his hijrah from Makkah, he was greeted with great enthusiasm by the Ansar of Madinah. Their hearts went out to him and their eyes followed him with devotion and love. They wanted to give him the most generous reception anyone could be given.

The Prophet first stopped at Quba on the outskirts of Madinah and stayed there for some days. The first thing he did was to build a mosque which is described in the Qur’an as the “mosque built on the foundation of piety (taqwa)”. (Surah At-Tawbah 9: 108)

The Prophet entered Madinah on his camel. The chieftains of the city stood along his path, each one wishing to have the honour of the Prophet alighting and staying at his house. One after the other stood in the camel’s way entreating,

“Stay with us, O Rasoolullah.”

“Leave the camel,” the Prophet would say. “It is under command.”

The camel continued walking, closely followed by the eyes and hearts of the people of Yathrib. When it went past a house, its owner would feel sad and dejected and hope would rise in the hearts of others still on the route.

The camel continued in this fashion with the people following it until it hesitated at an open space in front of the house of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. But the Prophet, upon whom be peace, did not get down. After only a short while, the camel set off again, the Prophet leaving its reins loose. Before long, however, it turned round, retraced its steps and stopped on the same spot as before. Abu Ayyub’s heart was filled with happiness. He went out to the Prophet and greeted him with great enthusiasm. He took the Prophet’s baggage in his arms and felt as if he was carrying the most precious treasure in the world.

Abu Ayyub’s house had two storeys. He emptied the upper floor of his and his family’s possessions so that the Prophet could stay there. But the Prophet, peace be on him, preferred to stay on the lower floor.

Night came and the Prophet retired. Abu Ayyub went up to the upper floor. But when they had closed the door, Abu Ayyub turned to his wife and said,

“Woe to us! What have we done? The messenger of God is below and we are higher than he! Can we walk on top of the messenger of God? Do we come between him and the Revelation (Wahy)? If so, we are doomed.”

The couple became very worried not knowing what to do. They only got some peace of mind when they moved to the side of the building which did not fall directly above the Prophet. They were careful also only to walk on the outer parts of the floor and avoid the middle.

In the morning, Abu Ayyub said to the Prophet,

“By God, we did not sleep a wink last night, neither myself nor Umm Ayyub.”

“Why not, Abu Ayyub?” asked the Prophet.

Abu Ayyub explained how terrible they felt being above while the Prophet was below them and how they might have interrupted the Revelation.

“Don’t worry, Abu Ayyub,” said the Prophet. “We prefer the lower floor because of the many people coming to visit us.”

“We submitted to the Prophet’s wishes,” Abu Ayyub related, “until one cold night a jar of ours broke and the water spilled on the upper floor. Umm Ayyub and I stared at the water. We only had one piece of velvet which we used as a blanket. We used it to mop up the water out of fear that it would seep through to the Prophet. In the morning I went to him and said, ‘I do not like to be above you,’ and told him what had happened. He accepted my wish and we changed floors.”

The Prophet stayed in Abu Ayyub’s house for almost seven months until his mosque was completed on the open space where his camel had stopped. He moved to the rooms which were built around the mosque for himself and his family. He thus became a neighbour of Abu Ayyub. What a noble neighbour to have had!

Abu Ayyub continued to love the Prophet with all his heart and the Prophet also loved him dearly. There was no formality between them. The Prophet continued to regard Abu Ayyub’s house as his own. The following anecdote tells a great deal about the relationship between them.

Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, once left his house in the burning heat of the midday sun and went to the mosque. Umar saw him and asked, “Abu Bakr, what has brought you out at this hour? Abu Bakr said he had left his house because he was terribly hungry and Umar said that he had left his house for the same reason. The Prophet came up to them and asked, “What has brought the two of you out at this hour?” They told him and he said, “By Him in Whose hands is my soul, only hunger has caused me to come out also. But come with me.”

They went to the house of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. His wife opened the door and said,

“Welcome to the Prophet and whoever is with him.”

“Where is Abu Ayyub?” asked the Prophet. Abu Ayyub, who was working in a nearby palm grove, heard the Prophet’s voice and came hurriedly.

“Welcome to the Prophet and whoever is with him,” he said and went on, “O Prophet of God, this is not the time that you usually come.” (Abu Ayyub used to keep some food for the Prophet every day. When the Prophet did not come for it by a certain time, Abu Ayyub would give it to his family.)

“You are right,” the Prophet agreed.

Abu Ayyub went out and cut a cluster of dates in which there were ripe and half-ripe dates.

“I did not want you to cut this,” said the Prophet. “Could you not have brought only the ripe dates?”

“O Rasulullah, please eat from both the ripe dates (rutb) and the half ripe (busr). I shall slaughter an animal for you also.”

“If you are going to, then do not kill one that gives milk,” cautioned the Prophet.

Abu Ayyub killed a young goat, cooked half and grilled the other half. He also asked his wife to bake, because she baked better, he said.

When the food was ready, it was placed before the Prophet and his two companions. The Prophet took a piece of meat and placed it in a loaf and said, “Abu Ayyub, take this to Fatimah. She has not tasted the like of this for days.”

When they had eaten and were satisfied, the Prophet said reflectively,

“Bread and meat and busr and rutb!” Tears began to flow from his eyes as he continued:

“This is a bountiful blessing about which you will be asked on the Day of Judgment. If such comes your way, put your hands to it and say, ‘Bismillah’ (In the name of God) and when you have finished say, ‘Al hamdu lillah alladhee huwa ashba’na wa an’ama ‘alayna (Praise be to God Who has given us enough and Who has bestowed his bounty on us). This is best.”

These are glimpses of Abu Ayyub’s life during peace time. He also had a distinguished military career. Much of his time was spent as a warrior until it was said of him,

“He did not stay away from any battle the Muslims fought from the time of the Prophet to the time of Mu’awiyah unless he was engaged at the same time in another.”

The last campaign he took part in was the one prepared by Mu’awiyah and led by his son Yazid against Constantinople. Abu Ayyub at that time was a very old man, almost eighty years old. But that did not prevent him from joining the army and crossing the seas as a graze in the path of God. After only a short time engaged in the battle, Abu Ayyub fell ill and had to withdraw from fighting. Yazid came to him and asked, “Do you need anything, Abu Ayyub?”

“Convey my salaams to the Muslim armies and say to them:
‘Abu Ayyub urges you to penetrate deeply into the territory of the enemy as far as you can go, that you should carry him with you and that you should bury him under your feet at the walls of Constantinople.”‘

Then he breathed his last.

The Muslim army fulfilled the desire of the companion of the Messenger of God. They pushed back the enemy’s forces in attack after attack until they reached the walls of Constantinople. There they buried him.

(The Muslims beseiged the city for four years but eventually had to withdraw after suffering heavy losses.)

In the Waddan valley which connects Makkah with the outside world, lived the tribe of Ghifaar. The Ghifaar existed on the meagre offerings of the trade caravans of the Quraysh which plied between Syria and Makkah. It is likely that they also lived by raiding these caravans when they were not given enough to satisfy their needs.

Jundub ibn Junadah, nicknamed Abu Dharr, was a member of this tribe.

He was known for his courage, his calmness and his far sightedness and also for the repugnance he felt against the idols which his people worshipped. He rejected the silly religious beliefs and the religious corruption in which the Arabs were engaged.

While he was in the Waddan desert, news reached Abu Dharr that a new Prophet had appeared in Makkah. He really hoped that his appearance would help to change the hearts and minds of people and lead them away from the darkness of superstition. Without wasting much time, he called his brother, Anis, and said to him,

“Go to Makkah and get whatever news you can of this man who claims that he is a Prophet and that revelation comes to him from the heavens. Listen to some of his sayings and come back and recite them to me.”

Anis went to Makkah and met the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him. He listened to what he had to say and returned to the Waddan desert. Abu Dharr met him and anxiously asked for news of the Prophet.

“I have seen a man,” reported Anis, “who calls people to noble qualities and there is no mere poetry in what he says.”

“What do people say about him?” asked Abu Dharr.

“They say he is a magician, a soothsayer and a poet.”

My curiosity is not satisfied. I am not finished with this matter. Will you look after my family while I go out and examine this prophet’s mission myself?”

“Yes. But beware of the Makkans.”

On his arrival at Makkah, Abu Dharr immediately felt very apprehensive and he decided to exercise great caution. The Quraysh were noticeably angry over the denunciation of their gods. Abu Dharr heard of the terrible violence they were meting out to the followers of the Prophet but this was what he expected. He therefore refrained from asking anyone about Muhammad not knowing whether that person might be a follower or an enemy.

At nightfall, he lay down in the Sacred Mosque. ‘Ali ibn abi Talib passed by him and, realising that he was a stranger, asked him to come to his house. Abu Dharr spent the night with him and in the morning took his water pouch and his bag containing provisions and returned to the Mosque. He had asked no questions and no questions were asked of him.

Abu Dharr spent the following day without getting to know the Prophet. At evening he went to the Mosque to sleep and Ali again passed by him and said,

“Isn’t it time that a man knows his house?”

Abu Dharr accompanied him and stayed at his house a second night. Again no one asked the other about anything.

On the third night, however, Ali asked him, “Aren’t you going to tell me why you came to Makkah?”

“Only if you will give me an undertaking that you will guide me to what I seek.”

Ali agreed and Abu Dharr said:

“I came to Makkah from a distant place seeking a meeting with the new Prophet and to listen to some of what he has to say.”

Ali’s face lit up with happiness as he said, “By God, he is really the Messenger of God,” and he went on telling Abu Dharr more about the Prophet and his teaching. Finally, he said:

“When we get up in the morning, follow me wherever I go. If I see anything which I am afraid of for your sake, I would stop as if to pass water. If I continue, follow me until you enter where I enter.”

Abu Dharr did not sleep a wink the rest of that night because of his intense longing to see the Prophet and listen to the words of revelation. In the morning, he followed closely in Ali’s footsteps until they were in the presence of the Prophet.

“As-salaamu ‘alayka yaa Rasoolullah, (Peace be on you, O Messenger of God),” greeted Abu Dharr.

“Wa ‘alayka salaamullahi wa rahmatuhu wa barakaatuhu (And on you be the peace of God, His mercy and His blessings),” replied the Prophet.

Abu Dharr was thus the first person to greet the Prophet with the greeting of Islam. After that, the greeting spread and came into general use.

The Prophet, peace be on him, welcomed Abu Dharr and invited him to Islam. He recited some of the Qur’an for him. Before long, Abu Dharr pronounced the Shahadah, thus entering the new religion (without even leaving his place). He was among the first persons to accept Islam.

Let us leave Abu Dharr to continue his own story…

After that I stayed with the Prophet in Makkah and he taught me Islam and taught me to read the Qur’an. Then he said to me, “Don’t tell anyone in Makkah about your acceptance of Islam. I fear that they will kill you.”

“By Him in whose hands is my soul, I shall not leave Makkah until I go to the Sacred Mosque and proclaim the call of Truth in the midst of the Quraysh,” vowed Abu Dharr.

The Prophet remained silent. I went to the Mosque. The Quraysh were sitting and talking. I went in their midst and called out at the top of my voice,

“O people of Quraysh, I testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

My words had an immediate effect on them. They jumped up and said, “Get this one who has left his religion.” They pounced on me and began to beat me mercilessly. They clearly meant to kill me. But ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abdulmuttalib, the uncle of the Prophet, recognised me. He bent over and protected me from them. He told them,

“Woe to you! Would you kill a man from the Ghifar tribe and your caravans must pass through their territory?”

They then released me. I went back to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and when he saw my condition, he said, “Didn’t I tell you not to announce your acceptance of Islam?”

“O Messenger of God,” I said, “It was a need I felt in my soul and I fulfilled it.”

“Go to your people,” he commanded, “and tell them what you have seen and heard. Invite them to God. Maybe God will bring them good through you and reward you through them. And when you hear that I have come out in the open, then come to me.”

I left and went back to my people. My brother came up to me and asked, “What have you done?” I told him that I had become a Muslim and that I believed in the truth of Muhammad’s teachings.

“I am not averse to your religion. In fact, I am also now a Muslim and a believer,” he said.

We both went to our mother then and invited her to Islam.

“I do not have any dislike for your religion. I accept Islam also,” she said.

From that day this family of believers went out tirelessly inviting the Ghifaar to God and did not flinch from their purpose. Eventually a large number became Muslims and the congregational Prayer was instituted among them.

Abu Dharr remained in his deser t abode until after the Prophet had gone to Madinah and the battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq had been fought. At Madinah at last, he asked the Prophet to be in his personal service. The Prophet agreed and was pleased with his companionship and service. He sometimes showed preference to Abu Dharr above others and whenever he met him he would pat him and smile and show his happiness.

Aft er the death of the Prophet, Abu Dharr could not bear to stay in Madinah because of grief and the knowledge that there was to be no more of his guiding company. So he left for the Syrian desert and stayed there during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.

During tdesertgoodpiche caliphate of ‘Uthman, he stayed in Damascus and saw the Muslims’ concern for the world and their consuming desire for luxury. He was saddened and repelled by this. So Uthman asked him to come to Madinah. At Madinah he was also critical of the people’s pursuit of worldly goods and pleasures and they were critical in turn of his reviling them. ‘Uthman therefore ordered that he should go to Rubdhah, a small village near Madinah. There he stayed far away from people, renouncing their preoccupation with worldly goods and holding on to the legacy of the Prophet and his companions in seeking the everlasting abode of the Hereafter in preference to this transitory world.

Once a man visited him and began looking at the contents of his house but found it quite bare. He asked Abu Dharr, “Where are your possessions?”

“We have a house yonder (meaning the Hereafter),” said Abu Dharr, “to which we send the best of our possessions.”

The man understood what he meant and said, “But you must have some possessions so long as you are in this abode.”

“The owner of this abode will not leave us in it,” replied Abu Dharr.
Abu Dharr persisted in his simple and frugal life to the end. Once the amir of Syria sent three hundred dinars to Abu Dharr to meet his needs. He returned the money saying,
“Does not the amir of Syria find a servant more deserving of it than I?”

In the year 32 AH, the self-denying Abu Dharr passed away. The Prophet, peace be upon him, had said of him:

“The earth does not carry nor the heavens cover a man more true and faithful than Abu Dharr.”

“An Abi Hurayrata, radiyallahu anhu, qaal: qaala rasool Allahi, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam…”

“On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, may God be pleased with him who said: The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said… “.

Through this phrase millioradhiAllahanhuns of Muslims from the early history of Islam to the present have come to be familiar with the name Abu Hurayrah. In speeches and lectures, in Friday khutbahs and seminars, in the books of hadith and sirah, fiqh and ibadah, the name Abu Hurayrah is mentioned in this fashion.

Through his prodigious efforts, hundreds of ahaadeeth or sayings of the Prophet were transmitted to later generations. His is the foremost name in the roll of hadith transmitters. Next to him comes the names of such companions as ‘Abdullah the son of ‘Umar, Anas the son of Malik, Umm al-Mumininin ‘Aa’ishah, Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullah and Abu Said al-Khudri all of whom transmitted over a thousand sayings of the Prophet.

Abu Hurayrah became a Muslim at the hands of at-Tufayl ibn ‘Amr the chieftain of the Daws tribe to which he belonged. The Daws lived in the region of Tihamah which stretches along the coast of the Red Sea in southern Arabia. When at-Tufayl returned to his village after meeting the Prophet and becoming a Muslim in the early years of his mission, Abu Hurayrah was one of the first to respond to his call. He was unlike the majority of the Daws who remained stubborn in their old beliefs for a long time.

When at-Tufayl visited Makkah again, Abu Hurayrah accompanied him. There he had the honor and privilege of meeting the noble Prophet who asked him, “What is your name?”

“‘Abdush-Shams (Servant of a Sun),” he replied.

“Instead, let it be ‘Abdur-Rahmaan (the Servant of the Beneficent Lord),” said the Prophet.

“Yes, Abdur-Rahman (it shall be) O Messenger of God,” he replied.

However, he continued to be known as Abu Hurayrah, “the kitten man”, literally “the father of a kitten” because like the Prophet he was fond of cats and since his childhood often had a cat to play with.

Abu Hurayrah stayed in Tihamah for several years.

It was only at the beginning of the seventh year of the Hijrah that he arrived in Madinah with others of his tribe. The Prophet had gone on a campaign to Khaybar. Being destitute, Abu Hurayrah took up his place in the Masjid with other of the Ahl as-Suffah. He was single, without wife or child. With him however was his mother who was still a mushrik (polytheist). He longed, and prayed, for her to become a Muslim but she adamantly refused. One day, he invited her to have faith in God alone and follow His Prophet but she uttered some words about the Prophet which saddened him greatly. With tears in his eyes, he went to the noble Prophet who said to him, “What makes you cry, O Abu Hurayrah?”

“I have not let up in inviting my mother to Islam but she has always rebuffed me. Today, I invited her again and I heard words from her which I do not like. Do make supplication to God Almighty to make the heart of Abu Hurayrah’s mother incline to Islam.”

The Prophet responded to Abu Hurayrah’s request and prayed for his mother. Abu Hurayrah said,

“I went home and found the door closed. I heard the splashing of water and when I tried to enter my mother said, “Stay where you are, O Abu Hurayrah.” And after putting on her clothes, she said, “Enter!” I entered and she said, “I testify that there is no god but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger.”
“I returned to the Prophet, peace be on him, weeping with joy just as an hour before I had gone weeping from sadness and said: “I have good news, O Messenger of Allah. God has responded to your prayer and guided the mother of Abu Hurayrah to Islam.”

Abu Hurayrah loved the Prophet a great deal and found favor with him. He was never tired of looking at the Prophet whose face appeared to him as having all the radiance of the sun and he was never tired of listening to him. Often he would praise God for his good fortune and say,

“Praise be to God Who has guided Abu Hurayrah to Islam.
Praise be to God Who has taught Abu Hurayrah the Quran.
Praise be to God who has bestowed on Abu Hurayrah the companionship of Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace.”

On reaching Madinah, Abu Hurayrah set his heart on attaining knowledge. Zayd ibn Thabit the notable companion of the Prophet reported, “While Abu Hurayrah and I and another friend of mine were in the Masjid praying to God Almighty and performing Dhikr, the Messenger of God appeared. He came towards us and sat among us. We became silent and he said, “Carry on with what you were doing.”

So my friend and I made a supplication to God before Abu Hurayrah did and the Prophet began to say Aameen to our du’a.

Then Abu Hurayrah made a supplication saying:

“O Lord, I ask You for what my two companions have asked and I ask You for knowledge which will not be forgotten.”

The Prophet, peace be on him, said, ‘Ameen.’ We then said: ‘And we ask Allah for knowledge which will not be forgotten’, and the Prophet replied, ‘The Dawsi youth has asked for this before you.” With his formidable memory, Abu Hurayrah set out to memorize in the four years that he spent with the Prophet, the gems of wisdom that emanated from his lips. He realized that he had a great gift and he set about to use it to the full in the service of Islam.

He had free time at his disposal. Unlike many of the Muhajirin he did not busy himself in the market-places, with buying and selling. Unlike many of the Ansar, he had no land to cultivate nor crops to tend. He stayed with the Prophet in Madinah and went with him on journeys and expeditions.

Many companions were amazed at the number of hadeeth he had memorized and often questioned him on when he had heard a certain hadith and under what circumstances.

Once Marwan ibn al-Hakam wanted to test Abu Hurayrah’s power of memory. He sat with him in one room and behind a curtain he placed a scribe, unknown to Abu Hurayrah, and ordered him to write down whatever Abu Hurayrah said. A year later, Marwan called Abu Hurayrah again and asked him to recall the same ahaadeeth which the scribe had recorded. It was found that he had forgotten not a single word.

Abu Hurayrah was concerned to teach and transmit the ahaadith he had memorized and knowledge of Islaam in general. It is reported that one day he passed through the market of Madinah and naturally saw people engrossed in the business of buying and selling.

“How feeble are you, O people of Madinah!” he said.

“What do you see that is feeble in us, Abu Hurayrah?” they asked.

“The inheritance of the Messenger of God, peace be on him, is being distributed and you remain here! Won’t you go and take your portion?”

“Where is this, O Abu Hurayrah?” they asked.

“In the Masjid,” he replied.

Quickly they left. Abu Hurayrah waited until they returned. When they saw him, they said, “O Abu Hurayrah, we went to the Masjid and entered and we did not see anything being distributed.”

“Didn’t you see anyone in the Masjid?” he asked.

“O yes, we saw some people performing Salah, some people reading the Qur’aan and some people discussing about what is halal and what is haram.”

“Woe unto you,” replied Abu Hurayrah,” that is the inheritance of Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace.”

Abu Hurayrah underwent much hardship and difficulties as a result of his dedicated search for knowledge. He was often hungry and destitute. He said about himself,

“When I was afflicted with severe hunger, I would go to a companion of the Prophet and asked him about a verse of the Qur’aan and (stay with him) learning it so that he would take me with him to his house and give food. “

One day, my hunger became so severe that I placed a stone on my stomach. I then sat down in the path of the companions. Abu Bakr passed by and I asked him about a verse of the Book of God. I only asked him so that he would invite me but he didn’t.

Then ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab passed by me and I asked him about a verse but he also did not invite me. Then the Messenger of God, peace be on him, passed by and realized that I was hungry and said, “Abu Hurayrah!”

“At your command” I replied and followed him until we entered his house. He found a bowl of milk and asked his family, “From where did you get this?”

“Someone sent it to you” they replied.

He then said to me, “O Abu Hurayrah, go to the Ahl as-Suffah and invite them.” Abu Hurayrah did as he was told and they all drank from the milk.

The time came of course when the Muslims were blessed with great wealth and material goodness of every description. Abu Hurayrah eventually got his share of wealth. He had a comfortable home, a wife and child. But this turn of fortune did not change his personality. Neither did he forget his days of destitution. He would say,

“I grew up as an orphan and I emigrated as a poor and indigent person. I used to take food for my stomach from Busrah bint Ghazwan. I served people when they returned from journeys and led their camels when they set out. Then God caused me to marry her (Busrah). So praise be to God who has strengthened his religion and made Abu Hurayrah an imaam (leader).” (This last statement is a reference to the time when he became governor of Madinah.)

Much of Abu Hurayrah’s time would be spent in spiritual exercises and devotion to God. Qiyaam al-Layl – staying up for the night in prayer and devotion – was a regular practice of his family including his wife and his daughter. He would stay up for a third of the night, his wife for another third and his daughter for a third. In this way, in the house of Abu Hurayrah no hour of the night would pass without ‘ibaadah, dhikr and Salat.

During the caliphate of Umar, Umar appointed him as governor of Bahrain. Umar was very scrupulous about the type of persons whom he appointed as governors. He was always concerned that his governors should live simply and frugally and not acquire much wealth even though this was through lawful means.

In Bahrain, Abu Hurayrah became quite rich. Umar heard of this and recalled him to Madinah. Umar thought he had acquired his wealth through unlawful means and questioned him about where and how he had acquired such a fortune. Abu Hurayrah replied,

“From breeding horses and gifts which I received.”

“Hand it over to the treasury of the Muslims,” ordered Umar.

Abu Hurayrah did as he was told and raised his hands to the heavens and prayed,

“O Lord, forgive the Amir al-Muminin.”

Subsequently, Umar asked him to become governor once again but he declined. Umar asked him why he refused and he said:

“So that my honor would not be besmirched, my wealth taken and my back beaten.”

And he added,

“And I fear to judge without knowledge and speak without wisdom.”

Throughout his life Abu Hurayrah remained kind and courteous to his mother. Whenever he wanted to leave home, he would stand at the door of her room and say,

As-salaamu alaykum, yaa ummataah, wa rahrnatullahi wa barakatuhu (peace be on you, mother, and the mercy and blessings of God).”

She would reply, “Wa alayka-s salaam, yaa bunayya, wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu (and on you be peace, my son, and the mercy and blessings of God).” Often, he would also say,

“May God have mercy on you as you cared for me when I was small,”

and she would reply, “May God have mercy on you as you delivered me from error when I was old.” Abu Hurayrah always encouraged other people to be kind and good to their parents.

One day he saw two men walking together, one older than the other. He asked the younger one,

“What is this man to you?”

“My father,” the person replied.

“Don’t call him by his name. Don’t walk in front of him and don’t sit before him,” advised Abu Hurayrah.

Muslims owe a debt of gratitude to Abu Hurayrah for helping to preserve and transmit the valuable legacy of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace. He died in the year 59 AH when he was seventy-eight years old.

When he went to Basrah as governor of the city, he called the inhabitants to a meeting and addressed them,

“The Amir al-Muminin, Umar, has sent me to you to teach you the Book of your Lord and the Sunnah of His Prophet and to clean your streets for you.”

People were taken aback when they heard these words. They could easily understand that one of the responsibilities of a Muslim ruler was to instruct people in their religion. However, that one of his duties should be to clean streets was something new and surprising to them.

Who was this governor of whom the Prophet’s grandson, al-Hasan, may God be pleased with him said,

“There was no rider who came to Basrah who was better for its people than he.”

His real name was Abdullah ibn Qays but he was and continues to be known as Abu Musa al-‘Ashari. He left his native land, the Yemen, for Makkah immediately after hearing that a Prophet had appeared there who was a man of rare insight, who called people to the worship of One God and who insisted on the highest standards of morality.

At Makkah, he stayed in the company of the Prophet and gained knowledge and guidance. He returned to his country to propagate the word of God and spread the mission of the noble Prophet, peace be on him. We have no further news of him for more than a decade. Then just after the end of the Khaybar expedition he came to the Prophet in Madinah. His arrival there coincided with that of Ja’ffar ibn Abi Talib and other Muslims from Abyssinia and the Prophet welcomed them all with joy and happiness.

This time Abu Musa did not come alone. He came with more than fifty persons from the Yemen all of whom had accepted Islam. Among them were his two brothers, Abu Ruhm and Abu Burdah. The Prophet referred to the whole group as the “Asharis”. In fact he sometimes referred to all Yemenis as Asharis after Abu Musa al-Ashari. He often praised the group for their soft and tender-hearted nature and held them up to the rest of his companions as a high example of good behavior. He once said of them,

“If the Asharis go on an expedition or if they only have a little food among them, they would gather all they have on one cloth and divide it equally among themselves. They are thus from me and I am from them.”

Abu Musa soon became highly esteemed in the Muslim community. He had many great qualities. He was a Faqih (Jurist) endowed with intelligence and sound judgement and was ranked as one of the leading judges in the early Muslim community. People used to say,

“The judges in this ummah are four: Umar, Ali, Abu Musa and Zayd ibn Thabit.”

Abu Musa had a natural, uncomplicated disposition. He was by nature a trusting person and expected people to deal with him on the basis of trust and sincerity.

In the field of Jihad, he was a warrior of great courage and endurance and skill. The Prophet said of him, “The master of horsemen is Abu Musa.”

Abu Musa’s insight and the soundness of his judgment did not allow him to be deceived by an enemy in battle. In battle conditions he saw situations with complete clarity and executed his actions with a firm resolve.

Abu Musa was in command of the Muslim army traversing the lands of the Sasanian Empire. At Isfahan, the people came to him and offered to pay the Jizyah (in return for military protection) to make peace and avoid fighting. However. they were not sincere in their offer and merely wanted an opportunity to mount a treacherous attack on the Muslims. Abu Musa however saw through their real intentions and he remained on the alert. Thus when the Isfahanis launched their attack, the Muslim leader was not caught off-guard; he engaged them in battle and before midday of the following day, he had won a decisive victory.

In the major campaigns against the powerful Sasanian Empire Abu Musa’s role was outstanding. In the great Battle of Tustar itself, he distinguished himself as a military commander.

The Persian commander, Hormuzan, had withdrawn his numerous forces to the strongly fortified city of Tustar. The Caliph ‘Umar did not underestimate the strength of the enemy and he mobilized powerful and numerous force to confront Hormuzan. Among the Muslim forces were dedicated veterans like Ammar ibn Yasir, al-Baraa ibn Malik and his brother Anas, Majra’a al-Bakri and Salamah ibn Rajaa. Umar appointed Abu Musa as commander of the army.

So well fortified was Tustar that it was impossible to take it by storm. Several attempts were made to breach the walls but these proved unsuccessful. There followed a long and difficult siege which became even more testing and agonizing for the Muslims when, as we saw in the story of al-Baraa ibn Malik, the Persians began throwing down iron chains from the walls of the fortress at the ends of which were fastened red-hot iron hooks. Muslims were caught by these hooks and were pulled up either dead or in the agony of death.

Abu Musa realized that the increasingly unbearable impasse could only be broken by a resort to stratagem. Fortunately, at this time a Persian defected to the Muslim side and Abuquran-2154 Musa induced him to return behind the walls of the fortified city and use whatever artful means he could to open the city’s gates from within. With the Persian he sent a special force of hand-picked men. They succeeded well in their task, opened the gates and made way for Abu Musa’s army. Within hours the Persians were subdued.

In spite of the fact that Abu Musa was a strong and powerful warrior, he often left the battlefield transformed into a penitent, weeping person. At such times, he would read the Quran in a voice that profoundly stirred the souls of all who listened to him. Concerning his moving and melodious recitation of the Quran the Prophet, peace be on him, had said, “Abu Musa has indeed been given one of the flutes of the people of David.”

Also, ‘Umar, may god be pleased with him, often summoned Abu Musa and asked him to recite from the Book of God, saying,

“Create in us a yearning for our Lord, O Abu Musa.”

As a mark of his dedication to the Quran, Abu Musa was one of the few companions who had prepared a Mushaf – a written collection of the revelations.

Abu Musa only participated in fighting against the armies of Mushrikin, armies which tried to oppose the religion of God and extinguish the light of faith. When fighting broke out among Muslims, he fled from such conflict and never took any part in it. Such was his stand in the conflict that arose between ‘Ali and Mu’aawiyyah. It is in relation to this conflict and in particular his role as an adjudicator that the name of Abu Musa al-‘Ashari is most widely known.

Briefly, Abu Musa’s position appeared to be that of a ‘neutral.’ He saw Muslims killing each other and felt that if the situation were to continue the very future of the Muslim ummah would be threatened. To start off with a clean slate, the Khalifah ‘Ali should give up the position and Mu’aawiyyah should relinquish any claim to be Khalifah and the Muslims should be given a free choice to elect whoever they wanted as Khalifah.

It was of course true that ‘Ali held the position of Khalifah legitimately and that any unlawful revolt could only have as its object the challenging and overturning of the rule of law. However, developments had gone so far, the dispute had become so bloody and there seemed to be no end in sight except further bloodshed, that a new approach to a solution seemed the only hope of avoiding further bloodshed and continuous civil war.

When ‘Ali accepted the principle of arbitration, he wanted ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas to represent him. But an influential section of his followers insisted on Abu Musa. Their reason for so doing was that Abu Musa had not taken part in the dispute from its beginning. Instead he had kept aloof from both parties when he despaired of bringing about an understanding and a reconciliation and putting an end to the fighting. Therefore, they felt, he was the most suitable person to be the arbitrator.

‘Ali had no reason to doubt the devotion of Abu Musa to Islam and his truthfulness and sincerity. But he knew the shrewdness of the other side and their likely resort to ruses and treachery. He also knew that Abu Musa in spite of his understanding and his knowledge despised deceit and conspiracies and always wanted to deal with people on the basis of trust and honesty, not through cunning. ‘Ali therefore feared that Abu Musa would be deceived by others and that arbitration would end up with the victory of guile over honesty and that the situation would end up being more perilous than it was.

Adjudication nonetheless began with Abu Musa representing the side of ‘Ali and ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas representing the side of Muawiyah. A possible version of their historic conversation has been recorded in the book “Al-Akhbar at-Tiwal” by Abu Hanifah Ad-Daynawawi as follows:

Abu Musa:

O Amr, what do you think of this suggestion in which there is the common good of the ummah and the pleasure of Allah?

Amr: What is it?

Abu Musa:

et us nominate ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar as Khalifah. He himself has not intervened at all in this war.
Amr: What do you think of Muawiyah for the position?

Abu Musa:

It is neither opportune to have Muawiyah in this position nor does he deserve it.

Amr: Don’t you know that ‘Uthman was unjustly murdered?

Abu Musa:

Certainly.

Amr: And that his status among the Quraysh you know (is one of honor), and that Muawiyah is the wali of the blood of Uthman…. And God says in the Quran: “Whoever is killed unjustly, We have given his heir authority….” (The full verse of the Quran is: {Nor take life which God has made sacred except for a just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive). But let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped by the Law} Surah 17, verse 33 .) In addition to this he is the brother of Umm Habibah, the wife of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, and he is one of his companions.

Abu Musa:

Fear God, O Amr.. Regarding what you have mentioned about the status of Muawiyah, if the position of the Khalifah is based on status, the person most deserving of it is “Abrahah ibn Sabbah”. He is a descendant of Yemeni kings whose domain extended to the east and the west. And what status has Muawiyah in comparison with ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib? Regarding your statement that Muawiyah is the wali of Uthman, the person who has the first right to this is his son, ‘Amr ibn Uthman. However, if you agree with me, we could revert to the memory of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab and appoint his son ‘Abdullah, the pious one.

Amr: What prevents you from appointing my son ‘Abdullah he is virtuous, upright, one of those who were first to perform the Hijrah and who has been a long-standing companion of the Prophet.

Abu Musa:

Your son is a man of honesty and truth. But you have plunged him deeply into these wars. Come let us appoint the Good One, the son of the Good One – ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar.

Amr: O Abu Musa! The only person who can set this matter aright is a man who has two wisdom teeth who eats with one and feeds with the other (referring to the political astuteness of Muawiyah).

Abu Musa:

Woe to you, O ‘Amr. The Muslims are depending on us to solve this matter. They have fought with swords and spears. Let us not return them to a state of fitnah (trial).

Amr: What are you suggesting then?

Abu Musa:

I suggest that we leave the two men-‘Ali and Muawiyah. Then we set up a shura (council) among Muslims to let them choose from among themselves whoever they like.

Amr: I agree to this suggestion for indeed the common good of the people rests in it.

The above exchange shows Abu Musa to be a man of integrity and intelligence. He showed up the weakness of ‘Amr’s claims for Muawiyah to be the Caliph of the Muslims on the grounds of honor and status and on the grounds that he was the ‘heir’ to ‘Uthman.

By his suggestion that the son of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab be appointed as Khalifah, Abu Musa showed that he was not prepared to stick uncompromisingly to the side he represented and that he was willing to consider an appropriate companion of the Prophet as an alternative, for the good of the Muslim community.

‘Amr finally agreed on Abu Musa’s suggestion for a shura and for letting the Muslims decide freely whom they should have as Khalifah. It did not occur to Abu Musa that ‘Amr would not honor the agreement they had come to and that he would resort to deceit.

Before the agreement was announced in public, Ibn’ Abbas warned Abu Musa saying,

“I fear, by God, that ‘Amr might deceive you. If you have both agreed on something, then let him announce it before you…”

Abu Musa, because of the gravity of the situation, felt that ‘Amr would honor the agreement. On the following day, before the assembled Muslims, Abu Musa and ‘Amr got together. Abu Musa is said to have invited ‘Amr to speak first but he declined saying, “I would not go before you for you are more honoured than I am, you performed the Hijrah before I did and you are older than I.” With this Abu Musa advanced and spoke:

“O people! We have considered how best God would bring together the Ummah for their common good. It seems to us that the best solution in this regard is that the two men ‘Ali and Muawiyah should withdraw and that a shura should be formed so that people could choose for themselves who they want as the Khalifah.

I have agreed that Ali and Muawiyah should withdraw. You now deal with the situation and appoint as you Khalifah whoever you want.”

It was now Amr’s turn to make the same announcement. He got up and addressed the people, “O People! Abu Musa has said what you have heard. He has abandoned his friend (‘Ali). Like him I abandon his friend (‘Ali) and I confirm my friend Muawiyah (as Khalifah) for he is the heir to the Amir al-Muminin, ‘Uthman, and the one most deserves his position.”

Abu Musa was shocked by what he heard. He could not imagine that ‘Amr would commit such treachery even though he was warned about it. Filled with anger and disgust, he lambasted ‘Amr for his deceit and for ruining the chances of peace and reconciliation among Muslims. ‘Amr had thus turned the arbitration process into a farce.

kabahgraphicAbu Musa continued to remain neutral in the conflict which was ended by ‘Ali when he made a treaty with Muawiyah confirming him as the one responsible for governing Syria and Egypt.

Abu Musa himself left for Makkah and spent the rest of his life near the Sacred Mosque. During his life he had remained devoted to the noble Prophet and his righteous successors. During the life of the Prophet, the Prophet had appointed him and Mu’aadh ibn Jabal as governor of Kufah.

Abu Musa was particularly attached to the Quran, reading it constantly, memorizing it, understanding it and putting it into practice. His advice regarding the Quran is full of wisdom,

“Follow the Quran,” he said, “and do not desire that the Quran should follow you.”

In ‘ibaadah (worship), he showed a great deal of strength and endurance. On days when the heat was intense and almost unbearable, Abu Musa would be found fasting and he would say,

“Perhaps the thirst of the midday heat would prove to be quenching for us on the day of Qiyamah.”

As his end drew near, the words which he kept saying were words which he was wont to repeat throughout his life as a believer,

Allahumma antas-Salaam Wa minkas-Salaam
“O Lord, You are the Source of Peace And from You comes Peace…”