Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari
In the Waddan valley which connects Makkah with the outside world, lived the tribe of Ghifar. The Ghifar 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 Rasulullah, (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 f1rst 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 Ghifar 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 desert 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.
After 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 the 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."
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 Jaffar 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 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 Abu 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 anti never look any part in it. Such was his stand in the conflict that arose between Ali and Muawiyah. 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 Muawiyah 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 Imam 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 Imam 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.
Imam 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
"An Abi Hurayrata, radiyallahu anhu, qal.' qala rasul Allahi, sallallahu alayhi wa sailam..." Through this phrase millions 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 n ame Abu Hurayrah is mentioned in this fashion: "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 his Prodigious efforts, hundreds of ahadith 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 Aishah, Jabir 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?" "Abdu Shams - Servant of a Sun," he replied. "Instead, let it be Abdur-Rahman - 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 and 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 h is 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. 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 Isl am." 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 h is 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 to Him, 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 d oing." "So my friend and I made a supplication to God before Abu Hurayrah did and the Prophet began to say Ameen to our dua. "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 I slam. 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 hadith 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 Ab u Hurayrah again and asked him to recall the same ahadith 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 ahadith he had memorized and knowledge of Islam in general. It is reported that one day he passed through the suq 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 Salat, some people reading the Quran 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 an ayah of the Quran 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 an ayah 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 an ayah 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 "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 l ed 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 imam." (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. Qiyam 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 o f 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 ibadah, dhikr and Salat.
During the caliphate of Umar, Umar appointed him as governor of Bakrain. 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 wea lth 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 b reeding 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 th e 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 wh en 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.
Rarely can one find a closer bond between two persons such as existed between Muhammad the son of Abdullah and Abu Sufyan the son of al-Harith. (This Abu Sufyan of course was not the same as Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, the powerful Quraysh chieftain.) Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith was born about the same time as the blessed Prophet. They resembled each other a great deal. They grew up together and for a time lived in the same household. Abu Sufyan was a cousin of the Prophet. His father, al-Harith, was the brother of Abdullah; both were sons of Abd al-Muttalib. Abu Sufyan was also a foster-brother of the Prophet. He was for a short time nursed by the lady Halimah who looked after the young Muhammad in the tough and bracing atmosphere of the desert. In their childhood and youth, Abu Sufyan and Muhammad were close and intimate friends. So close were they, that one might naturally have expected Abu Sufyan to have been among the first to respond to the call of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and follow wholeheartedly the religion of truth. But this was not to be, at least not for many, many years. From the time the Prophet made public his call to Islam and first issued the warning to members of his clan about the dangers of continuing in their existing state of unbelief, injustice and immorality, the fire of envy and hatred erupted in the breast of Abu Sufyan. The bonds of kinship snapped. Where once there was love and friendship, there was now revulsion and hate. Where once there was brotherhood, there was now resistance and opposition.
Abu Sufyan at this time was renowned as one of the best fighters and horsemen of the Quraysh and one of their most accomplished poets. He used both sword and tongue in the battle against the Prophet and his mission. All his energies were mobilized in denouncing Islam and persecuting the Muslims. In whatever battle the Quraysh fought against the Prophet and whatever torture and persecution they meted out to the Muslims Abu Sufyan had a part to play. He composed and recited verses attacking and vilifying the Prophet. For twenty years almost this rancor consumed his soul. His three others brothers - Nawfal, Rabiah and Abdullah, had all accepted Islam but not he. In the eighth year after the Hijrah, however, shortly before the Islamic liberation of Makkah, Abu Sufyan's position began to shift, as he explains: "When the movement of Islam became vigorous and well-established and news spread of the Prophet's advance to liberate Makkah, the world caved in on me. I felt trapped. 'Where shall I go?' I asked myself. 'And with whom?' To my wife and children, I said: 'Get ready to leave Makkah. Muhammad's advance is imminent. I shall certainly be killed. I shall be given no quarter should the Muslims recognize me.' 'Now,' replied my family, 'you must realize that Arabs and non-Arabs have pledged their obedience to Muhammad and accepted his religion. You are still bent on opposing him whereas you might have been the first to support and help him.'
They continued trying to influence me to re-consider my attitude to Muhammad's religion and to re-awaken in me affection towards him. Eventually God opened my heart to Islam. I got up and said to my servant, Madhkur: 'Get ready a camel and a horse for us.' I took my son Jafar with me and we galloped with great speed towards al-Abwa between Makkah and Madinah. I had learnt that Muhammad had camped there. As I approached the place, I covered my face so that no one could recognize and kill me before I could reach the Prophet and announce my acceptance of Islam directly to him. Slowly, I proceeded on foot while advance groups of Muslims headed towards Makkah. I avoided their path out of fear that one of the Prophet's companions would recognize me. I continued in this fashion until the Prophet on his mount came into my view. Coming out into the open, I went straight up to him and uncovered my face. He looked at me and recognized me. But, he turned his face away. I moved to face him once again. He avoided looking at me and again turned away his face. This happened repeatedly. I had no doubt - as I stood there facing the Prophet that he would have been pleased with my acceptance of Islam and that his companions would have rejoiced at his happiness. When, however, the Muslims saw the Prophet, peace be on him, avoiding me, they too looked at me and shunned me. Abu Bakr met me and violently turned away. I looked at Umar ibn al-Khattab, my eyes pleading for his compassion, but I found him even more harsh than Abu Bakr. In fact, Umar went on to incite one of the Ansar against me.
'O enemy of God,' lashed out the Ansari, 'you are the one who persecuted the Messenger of God, peace be on him, and tortured his companions. You carried your hostility towards the Prophet to the ends of the earth'. The Ansari went on censuring me in a loud voice while other Muslims glared at me in anger. At that point, I saw my uncle, al-Abbas, and went to him seeking refuge. 'O uncle,' I said. 'I had hoped that the Prophet, peace be on him, would be happy about my acceptance of Islam because of my kinship to him and because of my position of honor among my people. You know what his reaction has been. Speak to him then on my behalf that he may be pleased with me.' 'No, by God,' replied my uncle. 'I shall not speak to him at all after I have seen him turning away from you except if an opportunity presents itself. I do honor the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him, and I stand in awe of him.' 'O uncle, to whom then will you abandon me?' I pleaded. 'I do not have anything for you except what you have heard,' he said. Anxiety and grief took hold of me. I saw Ali ibn Talib soon after and spoke to him about my case. His response was the same as that of my uncle. I went back to my uncle and said to him: 'O uncle, if you cannot soften the heart of the Prophet towards me, then at least restrain that man from denouncing me and inciting others against me.'
'Describe him to me,' said my uncle. I described the man to him and he said: 'That is Nuayman ibn al-Harith an-Najjari.' He sent for Nuayman and said to him: 'O Nuayman! Abu Sufyan is the cousin of the Prophet and my nephew. If the Prophet is angry with him today, he will be pleased with him another day. So leave him...' My uncle continued trying to placate Nuayman until the latter relented and said: 'I shall not spurn him anymore.' "When the Prophet reached al-Jahfah (about four days journey from Makkah), I sat down at the door of his tent. My son Jafar stood beside me. As he was leaving his tent, the Prophet saw me and averted his face. Yet, I did not despair of seeking his pleasure. Whenever he camped at a place, I would sit at his door and my son Jafar would stand in front of me... I continued in this fashion for some time. But the situation became too much for me and I became depressed. I said to myself: 'By God, either the Prophet, peace be on him, shows he is pleased with me or I shall take my son and go wandering through the land until we die of hunger and thirst.' When the Prophet came to hear of this, he relented and, on leaving his tent, he looked more gently towards me then before. I so much hoped that he would smile." Eventually the Prophet relented and told Abu Sufyan, "There is now no blame on you." He entrusted the newcomer to Islam to Ali ibn Abi Talib saying: "Teach your cousin how to perform wudu and about the Sunnah. Then bring him back to me." When Ali returned, the Prophet said:
"Tell all the people that the Messenger of God is pleased with Abu Sufyan and that they should be pleased with him." Abu Sufyan continued: "The Prophet then entered Makkah and I too entered in his entourage. He went to the Sacred Mosque and I also went, trying my best to remain in his presence and not separate from him on any account... Later, at the Battle of Hunayn. the Arabs put together an unprecedented force against the Prophet, peace be on him... They were determined to deal a mortal blow to Islam and the Muslims. The Prophet went out to confront them with a large number of his companions. I went out with him and when I saw the great throngs of mushrikin, I said: 'By God. today, I shall atone for all my past hostility towards the Prophet. peace be on him, and he shall certainly see on my part what pleases God and what pleases him.' When the two forces met, the pressure of the mushrikin on the Muslims was severe and the Muslims began to lose heart. Some even began to desert and terrible defeat stared us in the face. However, the Prophet stood firm in the thick of battle astride his mule "Ash-Shahba" like a towering mountain, wielding his sword and fighting for himself and those around him... I jumped from my horse and fought beside him. God knows that I desired martyrdom beside the Messenger of God. My uncle, al-Abbas, took the reins of the Prophet's mule and stood at his side. I took up my position on the other side. With my right hand I fended off attacks against the Prophet and with my left I held on to my mount.
When the Prophet saw my devastating blows on the enemy, he asked my uncle: 'Who's this?' 'This is your brother and cousin. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith. Be pleased with him. O Messenger of God.' 'I have done so and God has granted forgiveness to him for all the hostility he has directed against me.' My heart soared with happiness. I kissed his feet in the stirrup and wept. He turned towards me and said: 'My brother! Upon my life! Advance and strike!' The words of the Prophet spurred me on and we plunged into the positions of the mushrikin until they were routed and fled in every direction." After Hunayn, Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith continued to enjoy the good pleasure of the Prophet and the satisfaction of being in his noble company. But he never looked the Prophet directly in the eye nor focussed his gaze on his face out of shame and embarrassment for his past hostility towards him. Abu Sufyan continued to feel intense remorse for the many and dark days he had spent trying to extinguish the light of God and refusing to follow His message. Henceforth, his days and nights he would spend reciting the verses of the Quran. seeking to understand and follow its laws and profit by its admonitions. He shunned the world and its adornments and turned to God with every fibre of his being. Once the Prophet. peace be on him, saw him entering the mosque and asked his wife: "Do you know who is this, Aishah?" "No, O Messenger of God." she replied. This is my cousin. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith. See, he is the first to enter the masjid and the last to leave. His eyes do not leave his shoelace."
When the Prophet, peace be on him, passed away, Abu Sufyan felt intense grief and wept bitterly. During the caliphate of Umar, may God be pleased with him, Abu Sufyan felt his end drawing near. One day people saw him in al-Baqi, the cemetery not far from the Prophet's mosque where many Sahabah are buried. He was digging and fashioning a grave. They were surprised. Three days later, Abu Sufyan was lying stretched out at home His family stood around weeping but he said: "Do not weep for me. By God, I did not commit any wrong since I accepted Islam." With that, he passed away.
Abu Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah
His appearance was striking. He was slim and tall. His face was bright and he had a sparse beard. It was pleasing to look at him and refreshing to meet him. He was extremely courteous and humble and quite shy. Yet in a tough situation he would become strikingly serious and alert, resembling the flashing blade of a sword in his severity and sharpness. He was described as the "Amin" or Custodian of Muhammad's community. His full name was Aamir ibn Abdullah ibn al-Jarrah. He was known as Abu Ubaydah. Of him Abdullah ibn Umar, one of the companions of the Prophet, said: "Three persons in the tribe of Quraysh were most prominent, had the best character and were the most modest. If they spoke to you, they would not deceive you and if you spoke to them, they would not accuse you of Iying: Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Uthman ibn Affan and Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah." Abu Ubaydah was one of the first persons to accept Islam. He became a Muslim one day after Abu Bakr. In fact, it was through Abu Bakr that he became a Muslim. Abu Bakr took him, Abdur Rahman ibn Auf, Uthman ibn Maz'un and al-Arqam ibn abi al Arqam to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and together they declared their acceptance of the Truth. They were thus the first pillars on which the great edifice of Islam was built. Abu Ubaydah lived through the harsh experience, which the Muslims went through in Makkah, from beginning to end. With the early Muslims, he endured the insults and the violence, the pain and the sorrow of that experience. In every trial and test he remained firm and constant in his belief in God and His prophet. One of the most harrowing experiences he had to go through, however, was at the battle of Badr.
Abu Ubaydah was in the vanguard of the Muslim forces, fighting with might and main and as someone who was not at all afraid of death. The Quraysh cavalry were extremely wary of him and avoided coming face to face with him. One man in particular, however, kept on pursuing Abu Ubaydah wherever he turned and Abu Ubaydah tried his best to keep out of his way and avoid an encounter with him. The man plunged into the attack. Abu Ubaydah tried desperately to avoid him. Eventually the man succeeded in blocking Abu Ubaydah's path and stood as a barrier between him and the Quraysh. They were now face to face with each other. Abu Ubaydah could not contain himself any longer. He struck one blow to the man's head. The man fell to the ground and died instantly. Do not try to guess who this man was. It was, as stated earlier, one of the most harrowing experiences that Abu Ubaydah had to go through, how harrowing, it is almost impossible to imagine. The man in fact was Abdullah ibn al-Jarrah, the father of Abu Ubaydah! Abu Ubaydah obviously did not want to kill his father but in the actual battle between faith in God and polytheism, the choice open to him was profoundly disturbing but clear. In a way it could be said that he did not kill his father—he only killed the polytheism in the person of his father.
It is concerning this event that God revealed the following verses of the Qur'an: "You will not find a people believing in God and the Last Day making friends with those who oppose God and His messenger even if these were their fathers, their sons, their brothers or their clan. God has placed faith in their hearts and strengthened them with a spirit from Him. He will cause them to enter gardens beneath which streams flow that they may dwell therein. God is well pleased with them and they well pleased with Him. They are the party of God. Is not the party of God the successful ones?" (Surah al-Mujadilah 58:22) The response of Abu Ubaydah at Badr when confronted by his father was not unexpected. He had attained a strength of faith in God, devotion to His religion and a level of concern for the ummah of Muhammad to which many aspired. It is related by Muhammad ibn Ja'far, a Companion of the Prophet, that a Christian delegation came to the Prophet and said, "O Abu-l Qasim, send one of your companions with us, one in whom you are well pleased, to judge between us on some questions of property about which we disagree among ourselves. We have a high regard for you Muslim people." "Come back to me this evening," replied the Prophet, "and I will send with you one who is strong and trustworthy.'Umar ibn al-Khattab heard the Prophet saying this and later said: "I went to the Zuhr (midday) Prayer early hoping to be the one who would fit the description of the Prophet. When the Prophet had finished the Prayer, he began looking to his right and his left and I raised myself so that he could see me. But he continued looking among us until he spotted Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah. He called him and said, 'Go with them and judge among them with truth about that which they are in disagreement." And so Abu Ubaydah got the appointment."
Abu Ubaydah was not only trustworthy. He displayed a great deal of strength in the discharge of his trust. This strength was shown on several occasions. One day the Prophet despatched a group of his Sahabah to meet a Quraysh caravan. He appointed Abu Ubaydah as amir (leader) of the group and gave them a bag of dates and nothing else as provisions. Abu Ubaydah gave to each man under his command only one date every day. He would suck this date just as a child would suck at the breast of its mother. He would then drink some water and this would suffice him for the whole day. On the day of Uhud when the Muslims were being routed, one of the mushrikeen started to shout, "Show me Muhammad, show me Muhammad." Abu Ubaydah was one of a group of ten Muslims who had encircled the Prophet to protect him against the spears of the Mushrikeen. When the battle was over, it was found that one of the Prophet's molar teeth was broken, his forehead was bashed in and two discs from his shield had penetrated into his cheeks. Abu Bakr went forward with the intention of extracting these discs but Abu Ubaydah said, "Please leave that to me." Abu Ubaydah was afraid that he would cause the Prophet pain if he took out the discs with his hand. He bit hard into one of the discs. It was extracted but one of his incisor teeth fell to the ground in the process. With his other incisor, he extracted the other disc but lost that tooth also. Abu Bakr remarked, "Abu Ubaydah is the best of men at breaking incisor teeth!"
Abu Ubaydah continued to be fully involved in all the momentous events during the Prophet's lifetime. After the beloved Prophet had passed away, the companions gathered to choose a successor at the Saqifah or meeting place of Banu Sa'aadah. The day is known in history as the Day of Saqifah. On this day, Umar ibn al-Khattab said to Abu Ubaydah, "Stretch forth your hand and I will swear allegiance to you for I heard the Prophet, peace be upon him say, 'Every ummah has an amin (custodian) and you are the amin of this ummah.' " "I would not," declared Abu Ubaydah, "put myself forward in the presence of a man whom the Prophet, upon whom be peace, commanded to lead us in Prayer and who led us right until the Prophet's death." He then gave bay'ah (the oath of allegiance) to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. He continued to be a close adviser to Abu Bakr and his strong supporter in the cause of truth and goodness. Then came the caliphate of Umar and Abu Ubaydah also gave him his support and obedience. He did not disobey him in any matter, except one. The incident happened when Abu Ubaydah was in Syria leading the Muslim forces from one victory to another until the whole of Syria was under Muslim control. The River Euphrates lay to his right and Asia Minor to his left. It was then that a plague hit the land of Syria, the like of which people had never experienced before. It devastated the population. Umar despatched a messenger to Abu Ubaydah with a letter saying: "I am in urgent need of you. If my letter reaches you at night I strongly urge you to leave before dawn. If this letter reaches you during the day, I strongly urge you to leave before evening and hasten to me.
When Abu Ubaydah received Umar's letter, he said, "I know why the Amir al-Mu'mineen needs me. He wants to secure the survival of someone who, however, is not eternal." So he wrote to Umar: "I know that you need me. But I am in an army of Muslims and I have no desire to save myself from what is afflicting them. I do not want to separate from them until God wills. So, when this letter reaches you, release me from your command and permit me to stay on." When Umar read this letter tears filled his eyes and those who were with him asked, "Has Abu Ubaydah died, O Amir al-Mu'mineen?" "No," said he, "But death is near to him." Umar's intuition was not wrong. Before long, Abu Ubaydah became afflicted with the plague. As death hung over him, he spoke to his army: "Let me give you some advice which will cause you to be on the path of goodness always. "Establish Prayer. Fast the month of Ramadan. Give Sadaqah. Perform the Hajj and Umrah. Remain united and support one another. Be sincere to your commanders and do not conceal anything from them. Don't let the world destroy you for even if man were to live a thousand years he would still end up with this fate that you see me in." "Peace be upon you and the mercy of God." Abu Ubaydah then turned to Muadh ibn Jabal and said, "O Muadh, perform the prayer with the people (be their leader)." At this, his pure soul departed.
Muadh got up and said: "O people, you are stricken by the death of a man. By God, I don't know whether I have seen a man who had a more righteous heart, who was further from all evil and who was more sincere to people than he. Ask God to shower His mercy on him and God will be merciful to you."
Early in the morning, Abu-d Dardaa awoke and went straight to his idol which he kept in the best part of his house. He greeted it and made obeisance to it. Then he anointed it with the best perfume from his large shop and put on it a new raiment of beauti ful silk which a merchant had brought to him the day before from Yemen. When the sun was high in the sky he left his house for his shop. On that day the streets and alleys of Yathrib were crowded with the followers of Muhammad returning from Badr. With them were several prisoners of war. Abu-d Dardaa surveyed the crowds and t hen went up to a Khazraji youth and asked about the fate of Abdullah ibn Rawahah. "He was put through the most severe tests in the battle," "but he emerged safely..." Abu-d Dardaa was clearly anxious about his close friend, Abdullah ibn Rawahah. Everyone in Yathrib knew the bond of brotherhood which existed between the two men from the days of Jahiliyyah, before the coming of Islam to Yathrib. When Islam came to the city, Ibn Rawahah embraced it but Abu-d Dardaa rejected it. This however did not rupture the relationship between the two. Abdullah kept on visiting Abu-d Dardaa and tried to make him! see the virtues, the benefits and the excellence of Islam. But with e very passing day, while Abu-d Dardaa remained a mushrik, Abdullah felt more sad and concerned. Abu-d Dardaa arrived at his shop and sat cross-legged on a high chair. He began trading-buying and selling and giving instructions to his assistants unaware of what was going on at his house. For at that very time, Abdullah ibn Rawahah had gone to the hou se determined on a course of action. There, he saw that the main gate was open. Umm ad-Dardaa was in the courtyard and he said to her:
"As-salaamu alayki - Peace be unto you, servant of God." "Wa alayka-s salaam - And unto you be peace, O brother of Abu-d Dardaa." "Where is Abu-d Dardaa?" he asked. "He has gone to his shop. It won't be tong before he returns." "Would you allow me to come in?" "Make yourself at home," she said and went about busying herself with her household chores and looking after her children. Abdullah ibn Rawahah went to the room where Abu-d Dardaa kept his idol. He took out an adz which he had brought with him and began destroying the idol while saying: "Isn't everything batil which is worshipped besides Allah?" When the idol was completely smashed, he left the house. Abu-d Dardaa's wife entered the room shortly afterwards and was aghast at what she saw. She smote her cheeks in anguish and said: "You have brought ruin to me, Ibn Rawahah." When Abu-d Dardaa retur ned home, he saw his wife sitting at the door of the room where he kept his idol. She was weeping loudly and she looked absolutely terrified. "What's wrong with you?" he asked.
"Your brother Abdullah ibn Rawahab visited us in your absence and did with your idols what you see." Abu-d Dardaa looked at the broken idol and was horrified. He was consumed with anger and determined to take revenge. Before long however his anger subside d and thoughts of avenging the idol disappeared. Instead he reflected on what had happened and said to himself: "If there was any good in this idol, he would have defended himself against any injury." He then went straight to Abdullah and together they went to the Prophet, peace be on him. There he announced his acceptance of Islam. He was the last person in his district to become a Muslim. From this time onwards, Abu-d Dardaa devoted himself completely to Islam. Belief in God and His Prophet animated every fibre of his being. He deeply regretted every moment he had spent as a mushrik and the opportunities he had lost to do good. He realize d how much his friends had learnt about siam in the preceding two or three years, how much of the Quran they had memorized and the opportunities they had to devote themselves to God and His Prophet. He made up his mind to expend every effort, day and nigh t to try to make up for what he had missed. Ibadah occupied his days and his nights. His search for knowledge was restless. Much time he spent memorizing the words of the Quran and trying to understand the profundity of its message. When he saw that busin ess and trade disturbed the sweetness of his ibadah and kept him away from the circles of knowledge, he reduced his involvement without hesitation or regret. Someone asked him why he did this and he replied: "I was a merchant before my pledge to the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace. When I became a Muslim, I wanted to combine trade (tijarah) and worship (ibadah) but I did not achieve what I desired. So I abandoned trade and inclined tow ards ibadah.
"By Him in whose hand is the soul of Abu-d Dardaa, what I want to have is a shop near the door of the masjid so that I would not miss any Salat with the congregation. Then I shall sell and buy and make a modest profit every day." "I am not saying," said Abu-d Dardaa to his questioner, "that Allah Great and Majestic is He has prohibited trade, but I want to be among those whom neither trade nor selling distracts form the remembrance of God ." Abu-d Dardaa did not only become less involved in trade but he abandoned his hitherto soft and luxurious life-style. He ate only what was sufficient to keep him upright and he wore clothes that was simple and sufficient to cover his body. Once a group of Muslims came to spend the night with him. The night was bitterly cold. He gave them hot food which they welcomed. He himself then went to sleep but he did not give them any blankets. They became anxious wondering how they were going to s leep on such a cold night. Then one of them said: "I will go and talk to him." "Don't bother him," said another. However, the man went to Abu-d Dardaa and stood at the door of his room. He saw Abu-d Dardaa lying down. His wife was sitting near to him. They were both wearing light clothing which could not protect them from the cold and they had no blankets. Abu-d Dardaa said to his guest: "If there was anything we would have sent it to you." During the caliphate of Umar, Umar wanted to appoint Abu-d Dardaa as a governor in Syria. Abu-d Dardaa refused. Umar persisted and then Abu-d Dardaa said: "If you are content that I should go to them to teach them the Book of their Lord and the Sunnah of their Prophet and pray with them, I shall go."
Umar agreed and Abu-d Dardaa left for Damascus. There he found the people immersed in luxury and soft living. This appalled him. He called the people to the masjid and spoke to them: "O people of Damascus! You are my brethren in religion, neighbors who live together and helpers one to another against enemies. "O people of Damascus! What is it that prevents you from being affectionate towards me and responding to my advice while I do not seek anything from you. Is it right that I see your learned ones departing (from this world) while the ignorant among you are not learning. I see that you incline towards such things which Allah has made you answerable for and you abandon what He has commanded you to do. "Is it reasonable that I see you gathering and hoarding what you do not eat, and erecting buildings in which you do not live, and holding out hopes for things you cannot attain. "Peoples before you have amassed wealth, made great plans and had high hopes. But it was not long before what they had amassed was destroyed, their hopes dashed and their houses turned into graves. Such were the people of Aad, O people of Damascus. They filled the earth with possessions and children. "Who is there who will purchase from me today the entire legacy of Aad for two dirhams?" The people wept and their sobs could be heard from outside the masjid. From that day, Abu-d Dardaa began to frequent the meeting places of the people of Damascus. He moved around in their market-places, teaching, answering questions and trying to arouse a nyone who had become careless and insensitive. He used every opportunity and every occasion to awaken people, to set them on the right path.
Once he passed a group of people crowding around a man. They began insulting and beating the man. He came up to them and said: "What's the matter?" "This is a man who has committed a grave sin," they replied. "What do you think you would do if he had fallen into a well?" asked Abu-d Dardaa. "Wouldn't you try to get him out?" "Certainly," they said. "Don't insult him and don't beat him. Instead admonish him and make him aware of the consequences of what he had done. Then give praise to God Who has preserved you from falling into such a sin." "Don't you hate him?" they asked Abu-d Dardaa. "I only detest what he had done and if he abandons such practice, he is my brother." The man began to cry and publicly announced his repentance. A youth once came up to Abu-d Dardaa and said: "Give me advice, O companion of the Messenger of God," and Abu-d Dardaa said to him: "My son, remember Allah in good times and He will remember you in times of misfortune. "My son, be knowledgeable, seek knowledge, be a good listener and do not be ignorant for you will be ruined. "My son, let the masjid be your house for indeed I heard the Messenger of God say: The masjid is the house of every God-conscious person and God Almighty has guaranteed serenity, comfort, mercy and staying on the path leading to His pleasure, to those for whom masjids are their houses."
On another occasion, there was a group of people sitting in the street, chatting and looking at passers-by. Abu-d Dardaa came up to them and said: "My sons, the monastery of a Muslim man is his house in which he controls himself and lowers his gaze. Beware of sitting in market-places because this fritters away time in vain pursuits." While Abu-d Dardaa was in Damascus, Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, its governor, asked him to give his daughter in marriage to his (Muawiyah's) son, Yazid. Abu-d Dardaa did not agree. Instead he gave his daughter in marriage to a young man from among the poor whose character and attachment to Islam pleased him. People heard about this and began talking and asking: Why did Abu-d Dardaa refuse to let his daughter marry Yazid? The question was put to Abu-d Dardaa himself and he said: "I have only sought to do wh at is good for ad-Dardaa." That was his daughter's name. "How?" enquired the person. "What would you think of ad-Dardaa if servants were to stand in her presence serving her and if she were to find herself in palaces the glamour of which dazzled the eyes? What would become of her religion then?" While Abu-d Dardaa was still in Syria, the Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab came on an inspection tour of the region. One night he went to visit Abu-d Dardaa at his home. There was no light in the house. Abu-d Dardaa welcomed the Caliph and sat him down. The tw o men conversed in the darkness. As they did so, Umar felt Abu-d Dardaa's "pillow" and realized it was an animal's saddle. He touched the place where Abu-d Dardaa lay and knew it was just small pebbles. He also felt the sheet with which he covered himse lf and was astonished to find it so flimsy that it couldn't possibly protect him from the cold of Damascus. Umar asked him:
"Shouldn't I make things more comfortable for you? Shouldn't I send something for you?" "Do you remember, Umar," said Abu-d Dardaa, "a hadith which the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, told us?" "What is it?" asked Umar. "Did he not say: Let what is sufficient for anyone of you in this world be like the provisions of a rider? " "Yes," said Umar. "And what have we done after this, O Umar?" asked Abu-d Dardaa. Both men wept no doubt thinking about the vast riches that had come the way of Muslims with the expansion of Islam and their preoccupation with amassing wealth and worldly possessions. With deep sorrow and sadness, both men continued to reflect on this si tuation until the break of dawn.
Abu-l Aas ibn ar-Rabiah
Abu-l Aas belonged to the Abd ash-Shams clan of the Quraysh. He was in the prime of his youth, handsome and very impressive looking. He was the epitome of Arab chivalry and was endowed with all the characteristics of pride, manliness and generosity. He took great pride in the traditions of his ancestors. Abu-l Aas inherited the Quraysh love for trade. The Quraysh of course were known to be masters of the two annual trading expeditions. the winter expedition to the south, to Yemen. and the summer expedition to the north. to Syria. These two expeditions are mentioned in the Quran in the chapter named after the Quraysh. The caravans of Abu-l Ads always plied between Makkah and Syria. Each caravan was made up of two hundred men and a hundred camels. People would entrust their wealth and their goods to him to trade on their behalf because of his skill as a merchant. his honesty and his trustworthiness. The maternal aunt of Abu-l Aas was Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, the wife of Muhammad ibn Abdullah. She treated him like a mother would her own son, with love and affection. Muhammad too was extremely fond of him. The years went by quickly in the household of Muhammad and Khadijah. Zanaib, their eldest daughter, soon grew up and blossomed forth like a lovely flower. She was much sought after in marriage by the sons of respectable Makkan nobles. And why not? She was one of the most distinguished Makkan girls in lineage and social standing. She was blessed with the most honorable father and mother. And she had the finest morals and behavior.
Which one of these scions of Makkan nobility would win her hand? Abu-l Aas ibn Rabi'ah was the one who did. Abu-l Aas and Zaynab were only married a few years when the Divine light of Islam radiated over Makkah. Muhammad, the father of Zaynab, was now the Prophet of God, sent to convey the religion of guidance and truth. He was commanded to convey the message of Islam first to his family and nearest relatives. The first women to believe in him and accept Islam were his wife Khadijah and his daughters Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum and Fatimah. Fatimah was very young at the time. Zaynab's husband however did not like leaving the religion of his forefathers and he refused to adopt the religion which his wife now followed although he was completely devoted to her and loved her dearly with a pure and sincere love. Before long, the confrontation between the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the Quraysh developed and grew bitter. The Quraysh felt that it was intolerable for their sons to remain married to Muhammad's daughters. They also considered that it would be an embarrassing and difficult situation for Muhammad if his daughters were to be returned to his household. So they went to Abu-l Aas and said: "Divorce your wife, Abu-l Aas, and send her back to her father's house. We shall then marry you to any of the most charming and noble women of the Quraysh you desire." "No, by God," said Abu-l Aas firmly. "I shall not divorce my wife and I do not wish to have in her place any woman in all the world." Muhammad's other two daughters, Ruqayyah and Umm Kulthum were divorced by their husbands and returned to his home. The Prophet in fact was delighted when they came back to him and he had hoped that Abu-l Aas would also return Zaynab to him except that at that time he had no power to compel him to do so. The law forbidding the marriage of a Muslim woman to a nonbelieving man was not yet in force.
The Prophet, peace be on him, migrated to Madinah and his mission became stronger. The Quraysh felt even more threatened by him ,red went out to confront him at Badr. Abu-l Aas was compelled to go along with the Quraysh army. He did not really have d desire to fight the Muslims nor did he feel any inclination to join them. But his position among the Quraysh- one of honor and trust - impelled him to go along with their campaign against Muhammad. The battle of Badr ended in d terrible defeat for the Quraysh and the forces of shirk. Some were killed, some were taken prisoner and some managed to escape. Among those, who were taken prisoner was Abu-l Aas, the husband of Zaynab. The Prophet fixed amounts for the ransom of the prisoners of war varying from one thousand to four thousand dirhams, according to the wealth and social standing of the prisoner. Quraysh messengers went to and fro between Makkah and Madinah bearing the ransom money to free their relatives held in Madinah. Zaynab sent her messenger to Madinah bearing the ransom demand to free her husband. The ransom amount included a necklace which her mother, Khadijah, had given to her before she died. When the Prophet saw the necklace, his face at once became covered with a veil of sadness and he felt a surge of tenderness for his daughter. He turned to his companions and said: "Zaynab has sent this amount to ransom Abu-l Aas. If you see fit to set free her prisoner and return her possession to her, then do so." "Yes," his companions agreed. "We shall do whatever we can to soothe your eyes and make you happy." The Prophet set one condition on Abu-l Aas before he freed him, that he should send his daughter Zaynab to him without delay.
As soon as he reached Makkah, Abu-l Aas began making arrangements to carry out his promise. He ordered his wife to prepare herself for the journey and told her that her father's messengers were waiting for her just outside Makkah. He prepared provisions and a mount for her and instructed his brother, Amr ibn ar-Rabi'ah, to accompany her and hand her over personally to the Prophet's emissaries. Amr slung his bow over his shoulders, took up his quiver of arrows, placed Zaynab in her hawdaj and left Makkah with her in the broad light of day, in full view of the Quraysh. The Quraysh were furious. They pursued Zaynab and Amr until they caught up with them. Zaynab was scared. Amr stood poised with his bow and arrow and shouted: "By God, if any man come near to her, I would plunge this arrow in his neck". Amr was known to be an excellent marksman. Abu Sufyan ibn Hath, who had by this time joined the Quraysh group, went up to Amr and said: "Son of my brother, put away your arrow and let me talk to you." This Amr did and Abu Sufyan went on: "What you have done is not prudent. You left with Zaynab in full view of the people. All the Arabs know the disasters we suffered at Badr at the hands of her father, Muhammad. If you leave with his daughter in the open as you have done, the tribes would accuse us of cowardice and they would say that we have been humiliated. Return with her and ask her to stay in her husband's house for a few days so that people could say that we brought her back. Thereafter you can take her away quietly and secretly from us and take her to her father. We have no need to detain her."
Amr agreed to this and Zaynab returned to Makkah. A few days later, in the middle of the night Amr took Zaynab and handed her over to the Prophet's emissaries just as his brother had instructed. After the departure of his wife, Abu-l Aas stayed on in Makkah for several years. Then, shortly before the conquest of Makkah, he left for Syria on a trading mission. On the return journey from Syria his caravan consisted of some one hundred camels and one hundred and seventy men. As the caravan approached Madinah, a detachment of Muslims took them by surprise. They impounded the camels and took the men as captives to the Prophet. Abu-l Aas however managed to escape. During the night which was pitch black, Abu-l Aas entered Madinah fearful and alert. He searched around until he came to Zaynab's house. He asked her for protection and she gave it to him. At dawn, the Prophet, peace be on him, came out to the masjid to perform the Dawn Prayer. He stood erect in the mihrab and said "Allahu Akbar" to begin the Prayer. The Muslims behind him did the same. At that point Zaynab shouted from the women's section of the masjid: "O people! I am Zaynab the daughter of Muhammad. I have given protection to Abu-l Aas. Do give him your protection also." When the Prayer was finished, the Prophet turned to the congregation and said: "Have you heard what I heard?" "Yes, Messenger of Allah," they replied. "By Him in Whose hand is my soul, I knew nothing of this until I heard what you heard. He is asking protection from the Muslims." Back at home the Prophet said to his daughter: "Prepare a place of rest for Abu-l Aas and let him know that you are not lawful for him." He then summoned the men of the expeditionary force which had taken the camels and the men of the caravan and said to them:
"You have taken the possessions of this man. If you are kind to him and return his property, we would be pleased. If however you do not agree then the goods is booty sanctioned by God which you have a right to." "We would certainly return his possessions to him, Messenger of God," they replied and when Abu-l Aas came to collect his goods, they said to him: "You belong to the Quraysh nobility. You are the nephew of the Messenger of God and his son-in-law. Would you accept Islam? We would hand over all this wealth to you. You would then have for your own enjoyment whatever wealth and possessions the Makkans entrusted to you, and stay with us here in Madinah." "What an evil thing you are asking me do, to enter a new religion while committing an act of treachery!" Abu-I Aas retorted. Abu-l Aas returned to Makkah with the caravan and handed over all the wealth and goods to their rightful owners. Then he asked: "O people of Quraysh! Is there any money left with me belonging to any one of you which he has not taken?" "No," came the reply. "And may God bless you with goodness. We have indeed found you noble and trustworthy."
Then Abu-I Aas announced: "Since I have now handed over to you what is rightfully yours, I now declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. By God, the only thing that prevented me from declaring my acceptance of Islam while I was with Muhammad in Madinah was my fear that you would think that I did so only to appropriate your wealth. Now that I have discharged my trust in this matter, I now declare that I am a Muslim..." Abu-l Aas then left for Madinah where the Prophet received him hospitably and returned his wife to him. The Prophet used to say about him: "He spoke to me and was truthful to me. He made promises to me and remained faithful to his word."
In the ninth year of the Hijrah, an Arab king made the first positive moves to Islam after years of feeling hatred for it. He drew closer to faith (iman) after opposing and combating it. And he finally pledged allegiance to the Prophet, peace be on him, after his adamant refusal to do so. He was Adiyy, son of the famous Hatim at-Taai who was known far and wide for his chivalry and fabulous generosity. Adiyy inherited the domain of his father and was confirmed in the position by the Tayy people. Part of his strength lay in the fact that a quarter of any amount they obtained as booty from raiding expeditions had to be given to him. When the Prophet announced openly his call to guidance and truth and Arabs from one region after another accepted his teachings, Adiyy saw in his mission a threat to his position and leadership. Although he did not know the Prophet personally, and had nev er seen him, he developed strong feelings of enmity towards him. He remained antagonistic to Islam for close upon twenty years until at last God opened his heart to the religion of truth and guidance. The way in which Adiyy became a Muslim is a remarkable story and he is perhaps the best person to relate it. He said: "There was no man among the Arabs who detested God's Messenger, may God bless him and grant him peace, more than I, when I heard about him. I was then a man of status and nobility. I was a Christian. From my people I took a fourth of their booty as was th e practice of other Arab kings. When I heard of the Messenger of God, peace be on him, I hated him. When his mission grew in strength and when his power increased and his armies and expeditionary forces dominated east and west of the land of Arabs, I said to a servant of mine who looked after my camels:
'Get ready a fat camel for me which is easy to ride and tether it close to me. If you hear of an army or an expeditionary force of Muhammad coming towards this land, let me know.' One evening, my servant came to me and said: "Yaa Mawlaya! What you intend ed to do on the approach of Muhammad's cavalry to your land, do it now." 'Why? May your mother lose you!' 'I have seen scouts searching close to the habitations. I asked about them and was told that they belonged to the army of Muhammad,' he said. 'Bring the camel which I ordered you to get ready.' I said to him. I got up then and there, summoned my household (including) my children and ordered them to evacuate the land we loved. We headed in the direction of Syria to join people of our own faith among the Christians and settle among them. We left in too much haste for me to gather together our entire household. When I took stock of our situation, I discovered that part of my family was missing. I had left my own sister in our Najd homelands together with the rest of the Tayy people. I did not have any means to return to her. So I went on with those who were with me until I reached Syria and took up residence there among people of my own religion. As for my sister, what I feared for her happened.
News reached me while I was in Syria that the forces of Muhammad entered our habitations and took my sister together with a number of other captives to Yathrib. There she was placed with other captives in a compound near the door of the Masjid. The Prophet, peace be upon him, passed by her. She stood up before him and said: 'Yaa Rasulullah! My father is dead and my guardian is not here. Be gracious to me and God will be gracious to you! 'And who is your guardian?' asked the Prophet. 'Adiyy ibn Hatim.' she said. 'The one who fled from God and His Prophet?' he asked. He then left her and walked on. On the following day, the same thing happened. She spoke to him just as she did the day before and he replied in the same manner. The next day, the same thing happened and she despaired of getting any concession from him for he did not say anything. Then a man from behind him indicated that she should stand up and talk to him. She therefore stood up and said: 'O Messenger of God! My father is dead and my guardian is absent. Be gracious to me and God will be gracious to you.' I have agreed he said. Turning to those about him, he instructed: likewise `Let her go for her father loved noble ways, and God loves them.'
'I want to join my family in Syria,' she said. "But don't leave in a hurry," said the Prophet, "until you find someone you can trust from your people who could accompany you to Syria. If you find a trustworthy person, let me know." When the Prophet left, she asked about the man who had suggested that she speak to the Prophet and was told that he was Ali ibn Abi Talib, may God be pleased with him. She stayed in Yathrib until a group arrived among whom was someone she could trust. So she went the Prophet and said: 'O Messenger of God! A group of my people have come to me and among them is one I can trust who could take me to my family.' The Prophet, peace be on him, gave her fine clothes and an adequate sum of money. He also gave her a camel and she left with the group. Thereafter we followed her progress gradually and waited for her return. We could hardly believe what we heard about Muhammad's generosity towards her in spite of my attitude to him. By God, I am a leader of my people. When I beheld a woman in herhawdaj c oming towards us, I said: 'The daughter of Hatim! It's she! It's she!'
When she stood before us, she snapped sharply at me and said: 'The one who severs the tie of kinship is a wrongdoer. You took your family and your children and left the rest of your relations and those whom you ought to have protected.' 'Yes, my sister,' I said, 'don't say anything but good.' I tried to pacify her until she was satisfied. She told me what had happened to her and it was as I had heard. Then I asked her, for she was an intelligent and judicious person: "What do you think of the mission of this man (meaning Muhammad peace be on him)?" "I think, by God, that you should join him quickly." she said. "If he is a Prophet, file one who hastens towards him would enjoy his grace. And if he is a king, you would not be disgraced in his sight while you are as you are." I immediately prepared myself for travel and set off to meet the Prophet in Madinah without any security and without any letter. I had heard that he had said: 'I certainly wish that God will place the hand of Adiyy in nay hand.'
I went up to him. He was in the Masjid. I greeted him and he said: 'Who is the man? 'Adiyy ibn Hatim,' I said. He stood up for me, took me by the hand and set off towards his home. By God, as he was walking with me towards his house, a weak old woman met him. With her was a young child. She stopped him and began talking to him about a problem. I was standing (all the while). I said to myself: 'By God, this is no king.' He then took me by the hand and went with me until we reached his home. There he got a leather cushion filled with palm fibre, gave it to me said: 'Sit on this!' I felt embarrassed before him and said: 'Rather, you sit on it.' 'No, you,' he said. I deferred and sat on it. The Prophet, peace be on him, sat on the floor because there was no other cushion. said to myself:
'By God, this is not the manner of a king!' He then turned to me and said: 'Yes, Adiyy ibn Hatim! Haven't you been a "Rukusi" professing a religion between Christianity and Sabeanism?' 'Yes,' I replied. 'Did you not operate among your people on the principle of exacting from them a fourth, taking from them what your religion does not allow you?' 'Yes,' I said, and I knew from that he was a Prophet sent (by God). Then he said to me: 'Perhaps, O Adiyy, the only thing that prevents you from entering this religion is what you see of the destitution of the Muslims and their poverty. By God, the time i s near when wealth would flow among them until no one could be found to take it. 'Perhaps, O Adiyy, the only thing that prevents you from entering this religion is what you see of the small number of Muslims and their numerous foe. By God, the time is near when you would hear of the woman setting out from Qadisiyyah on her camel until she reaches this house, not fearing anyone except Allah.
'Perhaps what prevents you from entering this religion is that you only see that sovereignty and power rest in the hands of those who are not Muslims. By God, you will soon hear of the white palaces of the land of Babylon opening up for them and the treas ures of Chosroes the son of Hormuz fall to their lot.' 'The treasures of Chosroes the son of Hormuz?' I asked (incredulously). 'Yes, the treasures of Chosroes the son of Hormuz,' he said. Thereupon, I professed the testimony of truth, and declared my acceptance of Islam." One report says that when Adiyy saw the simplicity of the Prophet's life-style, he said to him: "I testify that you do not seek high office in this world nor corruption," and he announced his acceptance of Islam. Some people observed the Prophet's treatm ent of Adiyy and said to him: "O Prophet of God! We have seen you do something which you have not done to any other." "Yes," replied the Prophet. "This is a man of stature among his people. If such a person come to you, treat him honorably." Adiyy ibn Hatim, may God be pleased with him, lived for a long time. He later said: "Two of the things (which the Prophet spoke of) came to pass and there remained a third. By God, it would certainly come to pass. "I have seen the woman leaving Qadisiyya h on her camel fearing nothing until she arrived at this house (of the Prophet in Madinah).
"I myself was in the vanguard of the cavalry which descended on the treasures of Chosroes and took them. And I swear by God that the third event will be realized." Through the will of God, the third statement of the Prophet, on him be choicest blessings a nd peace, came to pass during the time of the devout and ascetic Khalifah, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz. Wealth flowed among the Muslims so much so that when the town-criers called on people throughout the Muslim domain to come and collect Zakat, no one was foun d in need to respond.
Aishah Bint Abi Bakr
The life of Aishah is proof that a woman can be far more learned than men and that she can be the teacher of scholars and experts. Her life is also proof that a woman can exert influence over men and women and provide them with inspiration and leadership . Her life is also proof that the same woman can be totally feminine and be a source of pleasure, joy and comfort to her husband. She did not graduate from any university there were no universities as such in her day. But still her utterances are studied in faculties of literature, her legal pronouncements are studied in colleges of law and her life and works are studied and resear ched by students and teachers of Muslim history as they have been for over a thousand years. The bulk of her vast treasure of knowledge was obtained while she was still quite young. In her early childhood she was brought up by her father who was greatly liked and respected for he was a man of wide knowledge, gentle manners and an agreeable presen ce. Moreover he was the closest friend of the noble Prophet who was a frequent visitor to their home since the very early days of his mission. In her youth, already known for her striking beauty and her formidable memory, she came under the loving care and attention of the Prophet himself. As his wife and close companion she acquired from him knowledge and insight such as no woman has ever acqui red. Aishah became the Prophet's wife in Makkah when she was most likely in the tenth year of her life but her wedding did not take place until the second year after the Hijrah when she was about fourteen or fifteen years old. Before and after her wedding she maintained a natural jollity and innocence and did not seem at all overawed by the thought of being wedded to him who was the Messenger of God whom all his companions, including her own mother and father, treated with such love and reverence as they gave to no one else. About her wedding, she related that shortly before she was to leave her parent's house, she slipped out into the courtyard to play with a passing friend:
"I was playing on a see-saw and my long streaming hair was dishevelled," she said. "They came and took me from my play and made me ready." They dressed her in a wedding-dress made from fine red-striped cloth from Bahrain and then her mother took her to the newly-built house where some women of the Ansar were waiting outside the door. They greeted her with the words "For good and for happines s may all be well!" Then, in the presence of the smiling Prophet, a bowl of milk was brought. The Prophet drank from it himself and offered it to Aishah. She shyly declined it but when he insisted she did so and then offered the bowl to her sister Asma wh o was sitting beside her. Others also drank of it and that was as much as there was of the simple and solemn occasion of their wedding. There was no wedding feast. Marriage to the Prophet did not change her playful ways. Her young friends came regularly to visit her in her own apartment.
"I would be playing with my dolls," she said, "with the girls who were my friends, and the Prophet would come in and they would slip out of the house and he would go out after them and bring them back, for he was pleased for my sake to have them there." S ometimes he would say "Stay where you are" before they had time to leave, and would also join in their games. Aishah said: "One day, the Prophet came in when I was playing with the dolls and he said: 'O Aishah, whatever game is this?' 'It is Solomon's hor ses,' I said and he laughed." Sometimes as he came in he would screen himself with his cloak so as not to disturb Aishah and her friends. Aishah's early life in Madinah also had its more serious and anxious times. Once her father and two companions who were staying with him fell ill with a dangerous fever which was common in Madinah at certain seasons. One morning Aishah went to visit him and was dismayed to find the three men lying completely weak and exhausted. She asked her father how he was and he answered her in verse but she did not understand what he was saying. The two others also answered her with lines of poetry which seemed to her to be nothing but unintelligible babbling. She was deeply troubled and went home to the Prophet saying:
"They are raving, out of their minds, through the heat of the fever." The Prophet asked what they had said and was somewhat reassured when she repeated almost word for word the lines they had uttered and which made sense although she did not fully underst and them then. This was a demonstration of the great retentive power of her memory which as the years went by were to preserve so many of the priceless sayings of the Prophet. Of the Prophet's wives in Madinah, it was clear that it was Aishah that he loved most. From time to time, one or the other of his companions would ask: "O Messenger of God, whom do you love most in the world?" He did not always give the same answer to this question for he felt great love for many for his daughters and their children, for Abu Bakr, for Ali, for Zayd and his son Usamah. But of his wives t he only one he named in this connection was Aishah. She too loved him greatly in return and often would seek reassurance from him that he loved her. Once she asked him: "How is your love for me?" "Like the rope's knot," he replied meaning that it was strong and secure. And time after time thereafter, she would ask him: "How is the knot?" and he would reply: "Ala haaliha in the same condition."
As she loved the Prophet so was her love a jealous love and she could not bear the thought that the Prophet's attentions should be given to others more than seemed enough to her. She asked him: "O Messenger of God, tell me of yourself. If you were between the two slopes of a valley, one of which had not been grazed whereas the other had been grazed, on which would you pasture your flocks?" "On that which had not been grazed," replied the Prophet. "Even so," she said, "and I am not as any other of your wives. "Everyone of them had a husband before you, except myself." The Prophet smiled and said nothing. Of her jealousy, Aishah would say in later years: "I was not, jealous of any other wife of the Prophet as I was jealous of Khadijah, because of his constant mentioning of her and because God had commanded him to give her good tidings of a mansion in Paradise of precious stones. And whenever he sacrifice d a sheep he would send a fair portion of it to those who had been her intimate friends. Many a time I said to him: "It is as if there had never been any other woman in the world except Khadijah."
Once, when Aishah complained and asked why he spoke so highly of "an old Quraysh woman", the Prophet was hurt and said: "She was the wife who believed in me when others rejected me. When people gave me the lie, she affirmed my truthfulness. When I stood f orsaken, she spent her wealth to lighten the burden of my sorrow.." Despite her feelings of jealousy which nonetheless were not of a destructive kind, Aishah was really a generous soul and a patient one. She bore with the rest of the Prophet's household poverty and hunger which often lasted for long periods. For days on e nd no fire would be lit in the sparsely furnished house of the Prophet for cooking or baking bread and they would live merely on dates and water. Poverty did not cause her distress or humiliation; self-sufficiency when it did come did not corrupt her style of life.
Once the Prophet stayed away from his wives for a month because they had distressed him by asking of him that which he did not have. This was after the Khaybar expedition when an increase of riches whetted the appetite for presents. Returning from his sel f-imposed retreat, he went first to Aishah's apartment. She was delighted to see him but he said he had received Revelation which required him to put two options before her. He then recited the verses: "O Prophet! Say to your wives: If you desire the life of this world and its adornments, then come and I will bestow its goods upon you, and I will release you with a fair release. But if you desire God and His Messenger and the abode of the Hereafter, th en verily God has laid in store for you an immense reward for such as you who do good." Aishah's reply was: "Indeed I desire God and His Messenger and the abode of the Hereafter," and her response was followed by all the others.
She stuck to her choice both during the lifetime of the Prophet and afterwards. Later when the Muslims were favored with enormous riches, she was given a gift of one hundred thousand dirhams. She was fasting when she received the money and she distributed the entire amount to the poor and the needy even though she had no provisions in her house. Shortly after, a maidservant said to her: "Could you buy meat for a dirham with which to break your fast?" "If I had remembered, I would have done so," she said. The Prophet's affection for Aishah remained to the last. During his final illness, it was to Aishah's apartment that he went at the suggestion of his wives. For much of the time he lay there on a cou ch with his head resting on her breast or on her lap. She it was who took a toothstick from her brother, chewed upon it to soften it and gave it to the Prophet. Despite his weakness, he rubbed his teeth with it vigorously. Not long afterwards, he lost con sciousness and Aishah thought it was the onset of death, but after an hour he opened his eyes. Aishah it is who has preserved for us these dying moments of the most honoured of God's creation, His beloved Messenger may He shower His choicest blessings on him.
When he opened his eyes again, Aishah remembered Iris having said to her: "No Prophet is taken by death until he has been shown his place in Paradise and then offered the choice, to live or die." "He will not now choose us," she said to herself. Then she heard him murmur: "With the supreme communion in Paradise, with those upon whom God has showered His favor, the Prophets, the martyrs and the righteous..." Again she heard him murmur: "O Lord, wit h the supreme communion," and these were the last words she heard him speak. Gradually his head grew heavier upon her breast, until others in the room began to lament, and Aishah laid his head on a pillow and joined them in lamentation. In the floor of Aishah's room near the couch where he was lying, a grave was dug in which was buried the Seal of the Prophets amid much bewilderment and great sorrow.
Aishah lived on almost fifty years after the passing away of the Prophet. She had been his wife for a decade. Much of this time was spent in learning and acquiring knowledge of the two most important sources of God's guidance, the Quran and the Sunnah of His Prophet. Aishah was one of three wives (the other two being Hafsah and Umm Salamah) who memorized the Revelation. Like Hafsah, she had her own script of the Quran written after the Prophet had died. So far as the Ahadith or sayings of the Prophet is concerned, Aishah is one of four persons (the others being Abu Hurayrah, Abdullah ibn Umar, and Anas ibn Malik) who transmitted more than two thousand sayings. Many of these pertain to some of the most in timate aspects of personal behavior which only someone in Aishah's position could have learnt. What is most important is that her knowledge of hadith was passed on in written form by at least three persons including her nephew Urwah who became one of the greatest scholars among the generation after the Companions. Many of the learned companions of the Prophet and their followers benefitted from Aishah's knowledge. Abu Musa al-Ashari once said: "If we companions of the Messenger of God had any difficulty on a matter, we asked Aishah about it."
Her nephew Urwah asserts that she was proficient not only in fiqh but also in medicine (tibb) and poetry. Many of the senior companions of the Prophet came to her to ask for advice concerning questions of inheritance which required a highly skilled mathem atical mind. Scholars regard her as one of the earliest fuqaha of Islam along with persons like Umar ibn al-Khattab, Ali and Abdullah ibn Abbas. The Prophet referring to her extensive knowledge of Islam is reported to have said: "Learn a portion of your r eligion (din) from this red colored lady." "Humayra" meaning "Red-coloured" was an epithet given to Aishah by the Prophet. Aishah not only possessed great knowledge but took an active part in education and social reform. As a teacher she had a clear and persuasive manner of speech and her power of oratory has been described in superlative terms by al-Ahnaf who said: "I have heard speeches of Abu Bakr and Umar, Uthman and Ali and the Khulafa up to this day, but I have not heard speech more persuasive and more beautiful from the mouth of any person than from the mouth of Aishah." Men and women came from far and wide to benefit from her knowledge. The number of women is said to have been greater than that of men. Besides answering enquiries, she took boys and girls, some of them orphans, into her custody and trained them under her care and guidance. This was in addition to her relatives who received instruction from her. Her house thus became a school and an academy.
Some of her students were outstanding. We have already mentioned her nephew Urwah as a distinguished reporter of hadith. Among her women pupils is the name of Umrah bint Abdur Rahman. She is regarded by scholars as one of the trustworthy narrators of ha dith and is said to have acted as Aishah's secretary receiving and replying to letters addressed to her. The example of Aishah in promoting education and in particular the education of Muslim women in the laws and teachings of Islam is one which needs to be followed. After Khadijah al-Kubra (the Great) and Fatimah az-Zahra (the Resplendent), Aishah as-Siddiqah (the one who affirms the Truth) is regarded as the best woman in Islam. Because of the strength of her personality, she was a leader in every field in knowledg e, in society, in politics and in war. She often regretted her involvement in war but lived long enough to regain position as the most respected woman of her time. She died in the year 58 AH in the month of Ramadan and as she instructed, was buried in the Jannat al-Baqi in the City of Light, beside other companions of the Prophet.