Said Ibn Zayd
Zayd the son of Amr stood away from the Quraysh crowd as they celebrated one of their festivals. Men were dressed in rich turbans of brocade and expensive Yemeni burdabs. Women and children were also exquisitely turned out in their fine clothes and glitte ring jewelry. Zayd watched as sacrificial animals, gaily caparisoned were led out to slaughter before the Quraysh idols. It was difficult for him to remain silent. Leaning against a wall of the Kabah, he shouted: "O people of Quraysh! It is God Who has created the sheep. He it is Who has sent down rain from the skies of which they drink and He has caused fodder to grow from the earth with which they are fed. Then even so you slaughter them in names other than His. Indeed, I see that you are an ignorant folk."
Zayd's uncle al-Khattab, the father of Umar ibn al-Khattab, seethed with anger. He strode up to Zayd, slapped him on the race and shouted: "Damn you! We still hear from you such stupidity. We have borne it until our patience is exhausted." Al-Khattab then incited a number of violent people to harass and persecute Zayd and make life extremely uncomfortable for him. These incidents which took place before Muhammad's call to Prophethood gave a foretaste of the bitter conflict that was to take place between the upholders of truth and the stubborn adherents of idolatrous practices. Zayd was one of the few men, known as hanifs, who saw these idolatrous practices for what they were. Not only did he refuse to take part in them himself but he refuse d to eat anything that was sacrificed to idols. He proclaimed that he worshipped the God of Ibrahim and, as the above incident showed, was not afraid to challenge his people in public.
On the other hand, his uncle al-Khattab was a staunch follower of the old pagan ways of the Quraysh and he was shocked by Zayd's public disregard for the gods and goddesses they worshipped. So he had him hounded and persecuted to the point where he was forced to leave the valley of Makkah and seek refuge in the surrounding mountains. He even appointed a band of young men whom he instructed not to allow Zayd to approach Makkah and enter the Sanctuary.
Zayd only managed to enter Makkah in secret. There unknown to the Quraysh he met with people like Waraqah ibn Nawfal, Abdullah ibn Jahsh, Uthman ibn al-Harith and Umaymah bint Abdul Muttalib, the paternal aunt of Muhammad ibn Abdullah. They discussed how deeply immersed the Arabs were in their misguided ways. To his friends, Zayd spoke thus: "Certainly, by God, you know that your people have no valid grounds for their beliefs and that they have distorted and transgressed from the religion of Ibrahim. Adop t a religion which you can follow and which can bring you salvation."
Zayd and his companions then went to Jewish rabbis and Christian scholars and people of other communities in an attempt to learn more and go back to the pure religion of Ibrahim. Of the four persons mentioned, Waraqah ibn Nawfal became a Christian. Abdullah ibn Jahsh and Uthman ibn al-Harith did not arrive at any definite conclusion. Zayd ibn Amr however had quite a different story. Finding it impossible to stay in Makkah, he left the Hijaz and went as far as Mosul in the north of Iraq and from there southwest into Syria. Throughout his journeys, he always questioned monks and rabbis about the religion of Ibrahim. He found no satisfaction until he came upon a monk in Syria who tol d him that the religion he was seeking did not exist any longer but the time was now near when God would send forth, from his own people whom he had left, a Prophet who would revive the religion of Ibrahim. The monk advised him that should he see this Pro phet he should have no hesitation in recognizing and following him.
Zayd retraced his steps and headed for Makkah intending to meet the expected Prophet. As he was passing through the territory of Lakhm on the southern border of Syria he was attacked by a group of nomad Arabs and killed before he could set eyes on the Mes senger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace. However, before he breathed his last, he raised his eyes to the heavens and said: "O Lord, if You have prevented me from attaining this good, do not prevent my son from doing so." When Waraqah heard of Zayd's death, he is said to have written an elegy in praise of him. The Prophet also commended him and said that on the day of Resurrection "he will be raised as having, in himself alone, the worth of a whole people".
God, may He be glorified, heard the prayer of Zayd. When Muhammad the Messenger of God rose up inviting people to Islam, his son Said was in the forefront of those who believed in the oneness of God and who affirmed their faith in the prophethood of Muham mad. This is not strange for Said grew up in a household which repudiated the idolatrous ways of the Quraysh and he was instructed by a father who spent his life searching for Truth and who died in its pursuit. Said was not yet twenty when he embraced Islam. His young and steadfast wife Fatimah, daughter of al-Khattab and sister of Umar, also accepted Islam early. Evidently both Said and Fatimah managed to conceal their acceptance of Islam from the Quraysh and e specially from Fatimah's family for some time. She had cause to fear not only her father but her brother Umar who was brought up to venerate the Kabah and to cherish the unity of the Quraysh and their religion.
Umar was a headstrong young man of great determination. He saw Islam as a threat to the Quraysh and became most violent and unrestrained in his attacks on Muslims. He finally decided that the only way to put an end to the trouble was to eliminate the man who was its cause. Goaded on by blind fury he took up his sword and headed for the Prophet's house. On his way he came face to face with a secret believer in the Prophet who seeing Umar's grim expression asked him where he was going. "I am going to kill Muhammad..." There was no mistaking his bitterness and murderous resolve. The believer sought to dissuade him from his intent but Umar was deaf to any arguments. He then thought of diverting Umar in order to at least warn the Prophet of his intentions.
"O Umar," he said, "Why not first go back to the people of your own house and set them to rights?" "What people of my house?" asked Umar. "Your sister Fatimah and your brother-in-law Said. They have both forsaken your religion and are followers of Muhammad in his religion..." Umar turned and made straight for his sister's house. There he called out to her angrily as he approached. Khabbab ibn al-Aratt who often came to recite the Quran to Said and Fatimah was with them then. When they heard Umar's voice, Khabbab hid in a corne r of the house and Fatimah concealed the manuscript. But 'Umar had heard the sound of their reading and when he came in, he said to them: "What is this haynamah (gibbering) I heard?"
They tried to assure him that it was only normal conversation that he had heard but he insisted: "Hear it I did," he said, "and it is possible that you have both become renegades." "Have you not considered whether the Truth is not to be found in your religion?" said Said to Umar trying to reason with him. Instead, Umar set upon his brother-in-law hitting and kicking him as hard as he could and when Fatimah went to the defence of her husband, Umar struck her a blow on her face which drew blood. "O Umar," said Fatimah, and she was angry. "What if the Truth is not in your religion! I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God."
Fatimah's wound was bleeding, and when Umar saw the blood he was sorry for what he had done. A change came over him and he said to his sister: "Give me that script which you have that I may read it." Like them Umar could read, but when he asked for the script, Fatimah said to him: "You are impure and only the pure may touch it. Go and wash yourself or make ablutions." Thereupon Umar went and washed himself, and she gave him the page on which was written the opening verses of Surah Ta-Ha. He began to read it and when he reached the verse, 'Verily, I alone am God, there no deity but me. So, worship Me alone, and be const ant in Prayer so as to remember Me, 'he said: "Show me where Muhammad is."
Umar then made his way to the house of al-Arqam and declared his acceptance of Islam and the Prophet and all his companions rejoiced. Said and his wife Fatimah were thus the immediate cause which led to the conversion of the strong and determined Umar and this added substantially to the power and prestige of the emerging faith. Said ibn Zayd was totally devoted to the Prophet and the service of Islam. He witnessed all the major campaigns and encounters in which the Prophet engaged with the exception of Badr. Before Badr, he and Talhah were sent by the Prophet as scouts to Hawra on the Red Sea coast due west of Madinah to bring him news of a Quraysh caravan returning from Syria. When Talhah and Said returned to Madinah the Prophet had already set out for Badr with the first Muslim army of just over three hundred men.
After the passing away of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, Said continued to play a major role in the Muslim community. He was one of those whom Abu Bakr consulted on his succession and his name is often linked with such companions as U thman, Abu Ubaydah and Sad ibn Abi Waqqas in the campaigns that were waged. He was known for his courage and heroism, a glimpse of which we can get from his account of the Battle of Yarmuk. He said: "For the Battle of Yarmuk, we were twenty four thousand or thereabout. Against us, the Byzantines mobilized one hundred and twenty thousand men. They advanced towards us with a heavy and thunderous movement as if mountains were being moved. Bishops and p riests strode before them bearing crosses and chanting litanies which were repeated by the soldiers behind them.
When the Muslims saw them mobilized thus, they became worried by their vast numbers and something of anxiety and fear entered theft hearts. Thereupon, Abu Ubaydah stood before the Muslims and urged them to fight. "Worshippers of God" he said, "help God and God will help you and make your feet firm." "Worshippers of God, be patient and steadfast for indeed patience and steadfastness (sabr) is a salvation from unbelief, a means of attaining the pleasure of God and a defence against ignominy and disgrace."
"Draw out your spears and protect yourselves with your shields. Don't utter anything among yourselves but the remembrance of God Almighty until I give you the command, if God wills." "Thereupon a man emerged from the ranks of the Muslims and said: "I have resolved to die this very hour. Have you a message to send to the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace?"
"Yes" replied Abu Ubaydah, "convey salaam to him from me and from the Muslims and say to him: O Messenger of God, we have found true what our Lord has promised us." "As soon as I heard the man speak and saw him unsheathe his sword and go out to meet the enemy, I threw myself on the ground and crept on all fours and with my spear I felled the first enemy horseman racing towards us. Then I fell upon the enemy and God r emoved from my heart all traces of fear. The Muslims engaged the advancing Byzantines and continued fighting until they were blessed with victory."
Said was ranked by the Prophet as one of the outstanding members of his generation. He was among ten of the companions whom the Prophet visited one day and promised Paradise. These were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Abdur-Rahman ibn Awl, Abu Ubaydah , Talhah, az-Zubayr, Sad of Zuhrah, and Said the son of Zayd the Hanif. The books of the Prophet's sayings have recorded his great praises of the Promised Ten (al-'asharatu-l mubashshirun) and indeed of others whom on other occasions he also gave good tid ings of Paradise.
Salim Mawla Abi Hudhayfah
In giving advice to his companions, the noble Prophet, peace be on him, once said: "Learn the Quran from four persons: Abdullah ibn Masud, Salim Mawla Abi Hudhayfah, Ubayy ibn Kab and Muadh ibn Jabal." We have read about three of these companions before. But who was this fourth companion in whom the Prophet had so much confidence that he considered him a hujjah or competent authority to teach the Quran and be a source of reference for it? Salim was a slave and when he accepted Islam he was adopted as a son by a Muslim who was formerly a leading nobleman of the Quraysh. When the practice of adoption (in which the adopted person was called the son of his adopted father) was banned, Salim sim ply became a brother, a companion and a mawla (protected person) of the one who had adopted him, Abu Hudhayfah ibn Utbah. Through the blessings of Islam, Salim rose to a position of high esteem among the Muslims by virtue of his noble conduct and his piety.
Both Salim and Abu Hudhayfah accepted Islam early. Abu Hudhayfah himself did so in the face of bitter opposition from his father, the notorious Utbah ibn Rabi'ah who was particularly virulent in his attacks against the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his companions. When the verse of the Quran was revealed abolishing adoption, people like Zayd and Salim had to change their names. Zayd who was known as Zayd ibn Muhammad had to be called after his own natural father. Henceforth he was known as Zayd ibn Harithah. Sali m however did not know the name of his father. Indeed he did not know who his father was. However he remained under the protection of Abu Hudhayfah and so came to be known as Salim Mawla Abi Hudhayfah. In abolishing the practice of adoption, Islam wanted to emphasize the bonds and responsibilities of natural kinship. However, no relationship was greater or stronger than the bond of Islam and the ties of faith which was the basis of brotherhood. The ea rly Muslims understood this very well. There was nobody dearer to anyone of them after Allah and His Messenger than their brethren in faith.
We have seen how the Ansar of Madinah welcomed and accepted the Muhajirin from Makkah and shared with them their homes and their wealth and their hearts. This same spirit of brotherhood we see in the relationship between the Quraysh aristocrat, Abu Hudhayfah, and the despised and lowly slave, Salim. They remained to the very end of their lives something more than brothers; they died together, one body beside the other one soul with the other. Such was the unique greatness of Islam. Ethnic background and s ocial standing had no worth in the sight of God. Only faith and taqwa mattered as the verses of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet emphasized over and over again:
"The most honorable of you in the sight of God, is the most God-fearing of you," says the Quran. "No Arab has an advantage over a non-Arab except in taqwa (piety)," taught the noble Prophet who also said: "The son of a white woman has no advantage over the son of a black woman except in taqwa." In the new and just society rounded by Islam, Abu Hudhayfah found honor for himself in protecting the one who was a slave. In this new and rightly-guided society rounded by Islam, which destroyed unjust class divisions and false social distinctions Salim found himself, through his honesty, his faith and his willingness to sacrifice, in the front line of the believers. He was the "imam" of the Muhajirin from Makkah to Madinah, leading them in Salat in the masjid at Quba which was built by the blessed hands of the Prophet himself. He became a competent authority in the Book of God so much so that the Prophet recommended that t he Muslims learn the Quran from him. Salim was even further blessed and enjoyed a high estimation in the eyes of the Prophet, peace be on him, who said of him.
"Praise be to God Who has made among my Ummah such as you." Even his fellow Muslim brothers used to call him "Salim min as-Salihin - Salim one of the righteous". The story of Salim is like the story of Bilal and that of tens of other slaves and poor persons whom Islam raised from slavery and degradation and 'made them, in the society of guidance and justice - imams, leaders and military commanders. Salim's personality was shaped by Islamic virtues. One of these was his outspokenness when he felt it was his duty to speak out especially when a wrong was committed. A well-known incident to illustrate this occurred after the liberation of Makkah. The Prophet sent some of his companions to the villages and tribes around the city. He specified that they were being sent as du'at to invite people to Islam and not as figh ters. Khalid ibn al-Walid was one of those sent out. During the mission however, to settle an old score from the days of Jahiliyyah, he fought with and killed a man even though the man testified that he was now a Muslim.
Accompanying Khalid on this mission was Salim and others. As soon as Salim saw what Khalid had done he went up to him and reprimanded him listing the mistakes he had committed. Khalid, the great leader and military commander both during the days of Jahil iyyah and now in Islam, was silent for once. Khalid then tried to defend himself with increasing fervor. But Salim stood his ground and stuck to his view that Khalid had committed a grave error. Salim did not look upon Khalid then as an abject slave would look upon a powerful Makkan nobleman. Not a t all. Islam had placed them on an equal footing. It was justice and truth that had to be defended. He did not look upon him as a leader whose mistakes were to be covered up or justified but rather as an equal partner in carrying out a responsibility and an obligation. Neither did he come out in opposition to Khalid out of prejudice or passion but out of sincere advice and mutual self-criticism which Islam has hallowed. Such mutual sincerity was repeatedly emphasized by the Prophet himself when he said:< P> "Ad-dinu an-Nasihah. Ad-din u an-Nasihah. Ad-din u an-Nasihah." "Religion is sincere advice. Religion is sincere advice. Religion is sincere advice."
When the Prophet heard what Khalid had done, he was deeply grieved and made long and fervent supplication to his Lord. "O Lord," he said, "I am innocent before you of what Khalid has done." And he asked: "Did anyone reprimand him?" The Prophet's anger subsided somewhat when he was told: "Yes, Salim reprimanded him and opposed him." Salim lived close to the Prophet and the believers. He was never slow or reluctant in his worship nor did he miss any campaign. In particular, the strong brotherly relationship which existed between him and Ab u Hudhayfah grew with the passing days. The Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, passed away to his Lord. Abu Bakr assumed responsibility for the affairs of Muslims and immediately had to face the conspiracies of the apostates which resulted in the terrible battle of Yamamah. Among t he Muslim forces which made their way to the central heartlands of Arabia was Salim and his "brother", Abu Hudhayfah.
At the beginning of the battle, the Muslim forces suffered major reverses. The Muslims fought as individuals and so the strength that comes from solidarity was initially absent. But Khalid ibn al-Walid regrouped the Muslim forces anew and managed to achie ve an amazing coordination. Abu Hudhayfah and Salim embraced each other and made a vow to seek martyrdom in the path of the religion of Truth and thus attain felicity in the hereafter. Yamamah was their tryst with destiny. To spur on the Muslims Abu Hudhayfah shouted: "Yaa ahl al-Qu ran - O people of the Quran! Adorn the Quran with your deeds," as his sword flashed through the army of Musaylamah the imposter like a whirlwind. Salim in his turn shouted: "What a wretched bearer of the Quran am I, if the Muslims are attacked from my direction. Far be it from you, O Salim! Instead, be you a worthy bearer of the With renewed courage he plunged into the battle. When the standard-bearer of the Muhajirin, Zayd ibn al-Khattab, fell. Salim bore aloft the flag and continued fighting. His right hand was then severed and he held the standard aloft with his left hand whi le reciting aloud the verse of the glorious Quran:
"How many a Prophet fought in God's way and with him (fought) large bands of godly men! But they never lost heart if they met with disaster in God's way, nor did they weaken (in will) nor give in. And God loves those who are firm and steadfast." What an i nspiring verse for such an occasion! And what a fitting epitaph for someone who had dedicated his life for the sake of Islam! A wave of apostates then overwhelmed Salim and he fell. Some life remained with him until the battle came to an end with the death of Musaylamah. When the Muslims went about searching for their victims and their martyrs, they found Salim in the last thro es of death. As his life-blood ebbed away he asked them: "What has happened to Abu Hudhayfah?" "He has been martyred," came the reply. "Then put me to lie next to him," said Salim.
"He is close to you, Salim. He was martyred in this same place." Salim smiled a last faint smile and spoke no more. Both men had realized what they had hoped for. Together they entered Islam. Together they lived. And together they were martyred. Salim, that great believer passed away to his Lord. Of him, the great Umar ibn al-Khattab spoke as he lay dying: "If Salim were alive, I would have appointed him my successor."
This is a story of a seeker of Truth, the story of Salman the Persian, gleaned, to begin with, from his own words: I grew up in the town of Isfahan in Persia in the village of Jayyan. My father was the Dihqan or chief of the village. He was the richest person there and had the biggest house. Since I was a child my father loved me, more than he loved any other. As time went by his love for me became so strong and overpowering that he feared to lose me or have anything happen to me. So he kept me at home, a veritable prisoner, in the same way that young girls were kept. I became devoted to the Magian religion so much so that I attained the position of custodian of the fire which we worshipped. My duty was to see that the flames of the fire remained burning and that it did not go out for a single hour, day or night.
My father had a vast estate which yielded an abundant supply of crops. He himself looked after the estate and the harvest. One day he was very busy with his duties as dihqan in the village and he said to me: "My son, as you see, I am too busy to go out to the estate now. Go and look after matters there for me today." On my way to the estate, I passed a Christian church and the voices at prayer attracted my attention. I did not know anything about Christianity or about the followers of any other religion throughout the time my father kept me in the house away from people. When I heard the voices of the Christians I entered the church to see what they were doing. I was impressed by their manner of praying and felt drawn to their religion. "By God," I said, "this is better than ours. I shall not leave them until the sun sets." I asked and was told that the Christian religion originated in AshSham (Greater Syria). I did not go to my father's estate that day and at night, I returned home. My father met me and asked what I had done. I told him about my meeting with the Christians and how I was impressed by their religion. He was dismayed and said:
"My son, there is nothing good in that religion. Your religion and the religion of your forefathers is better." "No, their religion is better than ours," I insisted. My father became upset and afraid that I would leave our religion. So he kept me locked up in the house and put a chain on my feet. I managed however to send a message to the Christians asking them to inform me of any caravan going to Syria. Before long they got in touch with me and told me that a caravan was headed for Syria. I managed to unfetter myself and in disguise accompanied the caravan to Syria. There, I asked who was the leading person in the Christian religion and was directed to the bishop of the church. I went up to him and said: "I want to become a Christian and would like to attach myself to your service, learn from you and pray with you." The bishop agreed and I entered the church in his service. I soon found out, however, that the man was corrupt. He would order his followers to give money in chanty while holding out the promise of blessings to them. When they gave anything to spend in the way oRGod however, he would hoard it for himself and not give anything to the poor or needy. In this way he amassed a vast quantity of gold. When the bishop died and the Christians gathered to bury him, I told them of his corrupt practices and, at their request, showed them where he kept their donations. When they saw the large jars filled with gold and silver they said. "By God, we shall not bury him." They nailed him on a cross and threw stones at him.
I continued in the service of the person who replaced him. The new bishop was an ascetic who longed for the Hereafter and engaged in worship day and night. I was greatly devoted to him and spent a long time in his company. (After his death, Salman attached himself to various Christian religious figures, in Mosul, Nisibis and elsewhere. The last one had told him about the appearance of a Prophet in the land of the Arabs who would have a reputation for strict honesty, one who would accept a gift but would never consume charity (sadaqah) for himself. Salman continues his story.) A group of Arab leaders from the Kalb tribe passed through Ammuriyah and I asked them to take me with them to the land of the Arabs in return for whatever money I had. They agreed and I paid them. When we reached Wadi al-Qura (a place between Madinah and Syria), they broke their agreement and sold me to a Jew. I worked as a servant for him but eventually he sold me to a nephew of his belonging to the tribe of Banu Qurayzah. This nephew took me with him to Yathrib, the city of palm groves, which is how th e Christian at Ammuriyah had described it.
At that time the Prophet was inviting his people in Makkah to Islam but I did not hear anything about him then because of the harsh duties which slavery imposed upon me. When the Prophet reached Yathrib after his hijrah from Makkah, I was in fact at the top of a palm tree belonging to my master doing some work. My master was sitting under the tree. A nephew of his came up and said: "May God declare war on the Aws and the Khazraj (the two main Arab tribes of Yathrib). By God, they are now gathering at Quba to meet a man who has today come from Makkah and who claims he is a Prophet." I felt hot flushes as soon as I heard these words and I began to shiver so violently that I was afraid that I might fall on my master. I quickly got down from the tree and spoke to my master's nephew. "What did you say? Repeat the news for me." My master was very angry and gave me a terrible blow. "What does this matter to you? Go back to what you were doing," he shouted.
That evening, I took some dates that I had gathered and went to the place where the Prophet had alighted. I went up to him and said: "I have heard that you are a righteous man and that you have companions with you who are strangers and are in need. Here is something from me as sadaqah. I see that you are more deserving of it than others." The Prophet ordered his companions to eat but he himself did not eat of it. I gathered some more dates and when the Prophet left Quba for Madinah I went to him and said: "I noticed that you did not eat of the sadaqah I gave. This however is a gift for you." Of this gift of dates, both he and his companions ate. The strict honesty of the Prophet was one of the characteristics that led Salman to believe in him and accept Islam.
Salman was released from slavery by the Prophet who paid his Jewish slave-owner a stipulated price and who himself planted an agreed number of date palms to secure his manumission. After accepting Islam, Salman would say when asked whose son he was: "I am Salman, the son of Islam from the children of Adam." Salman was to play an important role in the struggles of the growing Muslim state. At the battle of Khandaq, he proved to be an innovator in military strategy. He suggested digging a ditch or khandaq around Madinah to keep the Quraysh army at bay. When Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Makkans, saw the ditch, he said, "This strategem has not been employed by the Arabs before." Salman became known as "Salman the Good". He was a scholar who lived a rough and ascetic life. He had one cloak which he wore and on which he slept. He would not seek the shelter of a roof but stayed under a tree or against a wall. A man once said to him: "Shall I not build you a house in which to live?" "I have no need of a house," he replied.
The man persisted and said, "I know the type of house that would suit you." "Describe it to me," said Salman. "I shall build you a house which if you stand up in it, its roof will hurt your head and if you stretch your legs the wall will hurt them." Later, as a govenor of al-Mada'in (Ctesiphon) near Baghdad, Salman received a stipend of five thousand dirhams. This he would distribute as sadaqah. He lived from the work of his own hands. When some people came to Mada'in and saw him working in the palm groves, they said, "You are the amir here and your sustenance is guaranteed and you do this work!" "I like to eat from the work of my own hands," he replied. Salman however was not extreme in his asceticism. It is related that he once visited Abu ad-Dardaa with whom the Prophet had joined him in brotherhood. He found Abu adDardaa's wife in a miserable state and he asked, "What is the matter with you."
"Your brother has no need of anything in this world*" she replied. When Abu ad-Dardaa came, he welcomed Salman and gave him food. Salman told him to eat but Abu adDardaa said, "I am fasting." "I swear to you that I shall not eat until you eat also." Salman spent the night there as well. During the night, Abu ad-Dardaa got up but Salman got hold of him and said:
"O Abu ad-Dardaa, your Lord has a right over you. Your family have a right over you and your body has a right over you. Give to each its due." In the morning, they prayed together and then went out to meet the Prophet, peace be upon him. The Prophet supported Salman in what he had said. As a scholar, Salman was noted for his vast knowledge and wisdom. Ali said of him that he was like Luqman the Wise. And Ka'b al-Ahbar said: "Salman is stuffed with knowledge and wisdom—an ocean that does not dry up." Salman had a knowledge of both the Christian scriptures and the Qur'an in addition to his earlier knowledge of the Zoroastrian religion. Salman in fact translated parts of the Qur'an into Persian during the life-time of the Prophet. He was thus the first person to translate the Qur'an into a foreign language. Salman, because of the influential household in which he grew up, might easily have been a major figure in the sprawling Persian Empire of his time. His search for truth however led him, even before the Prophet had appeared, to renounce a comfortable and affluent life and even to suffer the indignities of slavery. According to the most reliable account, he died in the year thirty five after the hijrah, during the caliphate of Uthman, at Ctesiphon.
About twenty years before the start of the Prophet's mission, that is about the middle of the sixth century CE, an Arab named Sinan ibn Malik governed the city of al-Uballah on behalf of the Persian emperor. The city, which is now part of Basrah, lay on t he banks of the Euphrates River. Sinan lived in a luxurious palace on the banks of the river. He had several children and was particularly fond of one of them who was then barely five years old. His name was Suhayb. He was blond and fair-complexioned. H e was active and alert and gave much pleasure to his father. One day Suhayb's mother took him and some members of her household to a village called ath-Thani for a picnic. What was to be a relaxing and enjoyable day turned out to be a terrifying experience that was to change the course of young Suhayb's life forev er. That day, the village of ath-Thani was attacked, by a raiding party of Byzantine soldiers. The guards accompanying the picnic party were overwhelmed and killed. Ali possessions were seized and a large number of persons were taken prisoner. Among these w as Suhayb ibn Sinan. Suhayb was taken to one of the slave markets of the Byzantine Empire, the capital of which was Constantinople, there to be sold. Thereafter he passed from the hands of one slave master to another. His fate was no different from thousands of other slaves w ho filled the houses, the palaces and castles of Byzantine rulers and aristocrats.
Suhayb spent his boyhood and his youth as a slave. For about twenty years he stayed in Byzantine lands. This gave him the opportunity to get a rare knowledge and understanding of Byzantine/ire and society. In the palaces of the aristocracy, he saw with hi s own eyes the injustices and the corruption of Byzantine life. He detested that society and later would say to himself: "A society like this can only be purified by a deluge." Suhayb of course grew up speaking Greek, the language of the Byzantine Empire. He practically forgot Arabic. But he never forgot that he was a son of the desert. He longed for the day when he woul d be free again to join his people's folk. At the first opportunity Suhayb escaped from bondage and headed straight for Makkah which was a place of refuge or asylum. There people called him Suhayb "ar-Rumi" or "the Byzantine" because of his peculiarly hea vy speech and his blond hair. He became the halif of one of the aristocrats of Makkah, Abdullah ibn Judan. He engaged in trade and prospered. In fact, he became quite rich.
One day he returned to Makkah from one of his trading journeys. He was told that Muhammad the son of Abdullah had begun calling people to believe in God alone, commanding them to be just and to do good works and prohibiting them from shameful and reprehen sible deeds. He immediately enquired who Muhammad was and where he stayed. He was told. "(He stays) in the house or' al-Arqam ibn Abi al-Arqam. Be careful however that no Quraysh sees you. If they see you they would do (the most terrible things to you). You are a stranger here and there is no bond of asabiyyahi to protect you, neither have you any clan to help you." Suhayb went cautiously to the house of al-Arqam. At the door he found Ammar ibn Yasir the young son of a Yemeni father who was known to him. He hesitated for a moment then went up to Ammar and said: "What do you want (here), Ammar?" "Rather, what do you want here'?" countered Ammar. "I want to go to this man and hear directly from him what he is saying."
"I also want to do that." "Then let us enter together, ala barakatillah (with the blessings of God)." Suhayb and Ammar entered and listened to what Muhammad was saying. They were both readily convinced of the truth of his message. The light of faith entered their hearts. At this meeting, they pledged fealty to the Prophet. declaring that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. They spent the entire day in the company of the noble Prophet. At night, under cover of darkness, they left the house of al-Arqam, their hearts aglow with the light of faith and their faces beaming with happiness. Then the familiar pattern of events followed. The idolatrous Quraysh learnt about Suhayb's acceptance of Islam and began harassing and persecuting him. Suhayb bore his share of the persecution in the same way as Bilal, Ammar and his mother Sumayyah, Kha bbab and many others who professed Islam. The punishment was inhuman and severe but Suhayb bore it all with a patient and courageous heart because he knew that the path to Jannah is paved with thorns and difficulties. The teachings of the noble Prophet ha d instilled in him and other companions a rare strength and courage.
When the Prophet gave permission for his followers to migrate to Madinah, Suhayb resolved to go in the company of the Prophet and Abu Bakr. The Quraysh however found out about his intentions and foiled his plans. They placed guards over him to prevent him from leaving and taking with him the wealth, the gold and the silver, which he had acquired through trade. After the departure of the Prophet and Abu Bakr, Suhayb continued to bide his time, waiting for an opportunity to join them. He remained unsuccessful. The eyes of his guards were ever alert and watchful. The only way out was to resort to a stratagem. One cold night, Suhayb pretended he had some stomach problems and went out repeatedly as if responding to calls of nature. His captors said one to another: "Don't worry. Al-Laat and al-Uzza are keeping him busy with his stomach."
They became relaxed and sleep got the better of them. Suhayb quietly slipped out as if he was going to the toilet. He armed himself, got ready a mount and headed in the direction of Madinah. When his captors awoke, they realized with a start that Suhayb was gone. They got horses ready and set out in hot pursuit and eventually caught up with him. Seeing them approach, Suhayb clambered up a hill. Holding his bow and arrow at the ready, he shou ted: "Men of Quraysh! You know, by God, that I am one of the best archers and my aim is unerring. By God, if you come near me, with each arrow I have, I shall kill one of you. Then I shall strike with my sword." A Quraysh spokesman responded: By God , we shall not let you escape from us with your life and money. You came to Makkah weak and poor and you have acquired what you have acquired.."
"What would you say if I leave you my wealth?" interrupted Suhayb. "Would you get out of my way?" "Yes," they agreed. Suhayb described the place in his house in Makkah where he had left the money, and they allowed him to go. He set off as quickly as he could for Madinah cherishing the prospect of being with the Prophet and of having the freedom to worship God in peace. On his way to Madinah, whenever he felt tired, the thought of meeting the Prophet sustained him and he proce eded with increased determination. When Suhayb reached Quba, just outside Madinah where the Prophet himself alighted after his Hijrah, the Prophet saw him approaching. He was over-joyed and greeted Suhayb with beaming smiles.
"Your transaction has been fruitful, O Abu Yahya. Your transaction has been fruitful." He repeated this three times. Suhayb's face beamed with happiness as he said: "By God, no one has come before me to you, Messenger of God, and only JibriI could have t old you about this." Yes indeed! Suhayb's transaction was fruitful. Revelation from on high affirmed the truth of this: "And there is a type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of God. And God is full of kindness to His servants." (The Quran, Surah al-Baqarah, 2:2O7).
What is money and what is gold and what is the entire world so long as faith remains! The Prophet loved Suhayb a great deal. He was commended by the Prophet and described as preceding the Byzantines to Islam. In addition to his piety and sobriety, Suhayb was also light-hearted at times and had a good sense of humor. One day the Prophet saw him eating dates. He noticed that Suhayb had an infection in one eye. The Prophet said to him laughingly: "Do you eat ripe dates while you have an infection in one eye ?" "What's wrong?" replied Suhayb, "I am eating it with the other eye." Suhayb was also known for his generosity. He used to give all his stipend from the public treasury fi sabilillah, to help the poor and those in distress. He was a good example of the Quranic verse: "He gives food for the love of God to the needy, the orph an and the captive." So generous was he that Umar once remarked:
"I have seen you giving out so much food that you appear to be too extravagant." Suhayb replied: "I have heard the Messenger of God say: 'The best of you is the one who gives out food.'" Suhayb's piety and his standing among MusIims was so high that he was selected by Umar ibn al-Khattab to lead the Muslims in the period between his death and the choosing of his successor. As he lay dying after he was stabbed by a Magian, Abu Lulu, while leading the Fajr Salat, Umar summoned six of the companions: Uthman, Ali, Talhah, Zubayr, Abdur Rahman ibn Awl, and Sad ibn Abi Waqqas. He did not appoint anyone of them as his successor , because if he had done so according to one report "there would have been for a short time two Khalifahs looking at each other". He instructed the six to consult among themselves and with the Muslims for three days and choose a successor, and then he said:
"Wa-l yusalli bi-n nas Suhayb - Let Suhayb lead the people in Salat." In the period when there was no Khalifah, Suhayb was given the responsibility and the honor of leading the Salat and of being, in other words, the head of the Muslim community. Suhayb's appointment by Umar showed how well people from a wide variety of backgrounds were integrated and honoured in the community of Islam. Once during the time of the Prophet, a hypocrite named Qays ibn Mutatiyah tried to pour scorn and disgrace on se ctions of the community. Qays had come upon a study circle (halqah) in which were Salman al-Farsi, Suhayb ar-Rumi and Bilal al-Habashi, may God be pleased with them, and remarked:
"The Aws and the Khazraj have stood up m defence of this man (Muhammad). And what are these people doing with him'?" Muadh was furious and informed the Prophet of what Qays had said. The Prophet was very angry. He entered the mosque and the Call to Prayer was given, for this was the method of summoning the Muslims for an important announcement. Then he stood up, praised and glorified God and said: "Your Lord is One. Your ancestor is one. Your religion is one. Take heed. Arabism is not conferred on you through your mother or father. It is through the tongue (i.e. the language of Arabic), so whoever speaks Arabic, he is an Arab."
Suhayl Ibn Amr
At the Battle of Badr, when Suhayl fell into the hands of the Muslims as a prisoner, Umar ibn al-Khattab came up to the Prophet and said: "Messenger of God! Let me pull out the two middle incisors of Suhayl ibn Amr so that he would not stand up and be able to speak out against you after this day." "Certainly not, Umar," cautioned the Prophet. "I would not mutilate anyone lest God mutilate me even though I am a Prophet." And calling Umar closer to him, the blessed Prophet said: "Umar, perhaps Suhayl will do something in the future which will please you."
Suhayl ibn Amr was a prominent person among the Quraysh. He was clever and articulate and his opinion carried weight among his people. He was known as the khatib or spokesman and orator of the Quraysh. He was to play a major role in concluding the famous truce of Hudaybiyyah. Towards the end of the sixth year after the Hijrah, the Prophet and about fifteen hundred of his Sahabah left Madinah for Makkah to perform Umrah. To make it known that they were coming in peace, the Muslims were not armed for battle and carried only their travellers swords. They also took with them animals for sacrifice to let it be known that they were really coming on pilgrimage. The Quraysh learnt of their approach and immediately prepared to do battle with them. They vowed to themselves that they would never allow the Muslims to enter Makkah. Khalid ibn al-Walid was despatched at the head of a Quraysh cavalry force to cut off the approaching Muslims. Khalids army stood waiting for them at a place called Kara al-Ghamim. The Prophet learnt in advance of Khalid's position. Although committed to the struggle against them, he was keen not to have any encounter then with the Quraysh forces. He asked: "Is there any man who could take us (to Makkah) on a different route to avoid the Quraysh?"
A man from the Aslam tribe said he could and took the Muslims through the difficult terrain of Warah and then on fairly easy marches, finally approaching Makkah from the south. Khalid realized what the Muslims had done and returned frustrated to Makkah. The Prophet camped near Hudaybiyyah and indicated that if the Quraysh would give any hint of a truce out of veneration for the sacred time and place, he would respond. The Quraysh sent Badil ibn Warqa with a group of men from the Khuzaah tribe to find out why the Muslims had come. Badil met the Prophet and when he returned to the Quraysh and informed them of the peaceful intentions of the Prophet and his companions, they did not believe him because they said he was from the Khuzaah who were allies of Muhammad. "Does Muhammad intend," they asked, "to come upon us with his soldiers (in the guise of) performing Umrah? The Arabs would hear that he moved against us and entered Makkah by force white a state of war existed between us. By God this will never happen with our approval."
The Quraysh then sent Halis ibn Alqamah, the chieftain of the Ahabish who were allies of the Quraysh. When the Prophet, peace be on him, saw Halis he said, "This man is from a people who think greatly of animal sacrifice. Drive the sacrificial animals in full view of him so that he can see them. This was done and Halis was greeted by the Muslims chanting the talbiyyah: "Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk." On his return, Halis exclaimed: "Subhana Allah - Glory be to God. These people should not be prevented from entering Makkah. Can lepers and donkeys perform the Hajj while the son of alMuttaIib (Muhammad) be prevented from (visiting) the House of God? By the Lord of the Kabah, may the Quraysh be destroyed. These people have come to perform Umrah." When the Quraysh heard these words, they scoffed at him: "Sit down! You are only a nomad Arab. You have no knowledge of plots and intrigues." Urwah ibn Masud, the Thaqafi chieftain from Tail, was then sent out to assess the situation. He said to the Prophet: "O Muhammad! You have gathered all these people and have come back to your birthplace. The Quraysh have come out and pledged to God that you would not enter Makkah against them by force. By God, all these people might well desert you." At that Abu Bakr went up to Urwah and said with disdain: "We desert him (Muhammad)? Woe to you."
As Urwah was speaking, he touched the Prophet's beard and Mughirah ibn Shubah rapped his hand saying, "Take away your hand," and Urwah retorted: "Woe to you! How crude and coarse you are." The Prophet smiled. "Who is this man, O Muhammad?" asked Urwah. "This is your cousin, Al-Mughirah ibn Shubah." "What perfidy!" Urwah hissed at Al-Mughirah and continued to insult him. Urwah then surveyed the companions of the Prophet. He saw that whenever he gave them an order, they hastened to carry it out. When he made ablutions they vied with one another to help him. When they spoke in his presence, they lowered their voices, and they did not look him in the eye out of respect for him. Back with the Quraysh, Urwah showed that he was obviously impressed: "By God, O people of the Quraysh, I have been to Chosroes in his kingdom and I have seen Caesar the Byzantine emperor in the plenitude of his power, but never have I seen a king among his people like Muhammad among his companions. I have seen a people who would not abandon him for anything. Reconsider your position. He is presenting you with right guidance. Accept what he has presented to you. I advise you sincerely... I fear that you will never gain victory over him."
"Don't speak like that," said the Quraysh. "We will have him go back this year and he can return in the future." Meanwhile, the Prophet summoned Uthman ibn Affan and sent him to the Quraysh leaders to inform them of his purpose in coming to Makkah and to ask their permission for the MusIims to visit their relatives. Uthman was also to cheer up the Mustadafin among the Muslims who still lived in Makkah and inform them that liberation would not be long in coming... Uthman delivered the Prophet's message to the Quraysh and they repeated their determination not to allow the Prophet to enter Makkah. They suggested that Uthman could make tawaf around the Kabah but he replied that he would not make tawaf while the Messenger of God was prevented from doing so. They then took Uthman into custody and a rumor spread that he was killed. When the Prophet heard this, his attitude changed.
"We shall not depart," he said, "until we fight." He summoned the Muslims to take bayah, an oath of allegiance, to fight. The herald cried out: "O people, al-bayah, al-bayah." They flocked to the Prophet as he sat under a tree and swore allegiance to him that they would fight. Soon after however, the Prophet ascertained that the rumor was false. It was at this point that the Quraysh sent Suhayl ibn Amr to the Messenger of God with the brief to negotiate and persuade the Prophet to return to Madinah without entering Makkah. Suhayl was chosen no doubt because of his persuasiveness, his toughness and his alertness major qualities of a good negotiator. When the Prophet saw Suhayl approaching, he immediately guessed the change in the position of the Quraysh. "The people want reconciliation. That's why they have sent this man."
The talks between the Prophet and Suhayl continued for long until finally agreement was reached in principle. Umar and others were very upset with the terms of the agreement which they considered to be harmful to the cause of Islam and a defeat for the Muslims. The Prophet assured them that this was not the case and that he would never go against the command of God and that God would not neglect him. He then called Ali ibn Abi Talib to write down the terms of the treaty: "Write: Bismillahi-r Rahmani-r Rahim." "I don't know this (phrase)", interjected Suhayl. "Write instead 'Bismika Allahumma - In Your name, O Allah." The Prophet conceded and instructed Ali to write 'Bismika Allahumma.' He then said: "Write: 'This is what has been agreed between Muhammad the Messenger of God and Suhayl ibn Amr..." Suhayl objected: "If I had testified that you were indeed the Messenger of God, I would not be fighting you. Write instead you name and the name of your father." So the Prophet again conceded this and instructed Ali to write: 'This is what has been agreed upon by Muhammad the son of Abdullah and Suhayl ibn Amr. They have agreed to suspend war for ten years in which people would enjoy security and would refrain from (harming) one another. Also, that whoever from among the Quraysh should come to Muhammad without the permission of his wali (legal guardian), Muhammad would send him back to them and that if any who is with Muhammad should come to the Quraysh, they would not send him back to him.
Suhayl had managed to save the Makkans face. He had attempted to and got as much as possible for the Quraysh in the negotiations. Of course he was assisted in this by the noble tolerance of the Prophet. Two years of the Hudaybiyyah treaty elapsed during which the Muslims enjoyed a respite from the Quraysh and were freed to concentrate on other matters. In the eighth year after the Hijrah however the Quraysh broke the terms of the treaty by supporting the Banu Bakr in a bloody aggression against the Khuzaah who had chosen to be allies of the Prophet.
The Prophet took the opportunity to march on Makkah but his object was not revenge. Ten thousand Muslims converged on Makkah reaching there in the month of Ramadan. The Quraysh realized that there was no hope of resisting let alone of defeating the Muslim forces. They were completely at the mercy of the Prophet. What was to be their fate, they who had harried and persecuted the Muslims, tortured and boycotted them, driven them out of their hearths and homes, stirred up others against them, made war on them? The city surrendered to the Prophet. He received the leaders of the Quraysh in a spirit of tolerance and magnanimity. In a voice full of compassion and tenderness he asked: "O people of the Quraysh! What do you think I will do with you?" Thereupon, the adversary of Islam of yesterday, Suhayl ibn Amr, replied: "We think (you will treat us) well, noble brother, son of a noble brother. ". "A radiant smile flashed across the lips of the beloved of God as he said: "Idhhabu... wa antum at-tulaqaa. Go, for you are free."
At this moment of unsurpassed compassion, nobility and greatness, all the emotions of Suhayl ibn Amr were shaken and he announced his Islam or submission to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. His acceptance of Islam at that particular time was not the Islam of a defeated man passively giving himself up to his fate. It was instead, as his later life was to demonstrate, the Islam of a man whom the greatness of Muhammad and the greatness of the religion he proclaimed had captivated. Those who became Muslims on the day Makkah was liberated were given the name "At-Tulaqaa" or the free ones. They realized how fortunate they were and many dedicated themselves in sincere worship and sacrifice to the service of the religion which they had resisted for years. Among the most prominent of these was Suhayl ibn Amr.
Islam moulded him anew. Ali his earlier talents were now burnished to a fine excellence. To these he added new talents and placed them all in the service of truth, goodness and faith. The qualities and practices for which he became known can be described in a few words: kindness, generosity, frequent Salat, fasting, recitation of the Quran, weeping for the fear of God. This was the greatness of Suhayl. In spite of his late acceptance of Islam, he was transformed into a selfless worshipper and a fighting fidai in the path of God. When the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, passed away, the news quickly reached Makkah, where Suhayl was still resident. The Muslims were plunged into a state of confusion and dismay just as in Madinah. In Madinah, Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with him, quelled the confusion with his decisive words: "Whoever worships Muhammad, Muhammad is dead. And whoever worships Allah, Allah is indeed Living and will never die."
In Makkah Suhayl performed the same role in dispelling the vain ideas some Muslims may have had and directing them to the eternal truths of Islam. He called the Muslims together and in his brilliant and salutary style, he affirmed to them that Muhammad was indeed the Messenger of Allah and that he did not die until he had discharged his trust and propagated the message and that it was the duty of all believers after his death to apply themselves assiduously to following his example and way of life. On this day more than others, the prophetic words of the Messenger shone forth. Did not the Prophet say to Umar when the latter sought permission to pull out Suhayls teeth at Badr: "Leave them, for one day perhaps they would bring you joy"? When the news of Suhayl's stand in Makkah reached the Muslims of Madinah and they heard of his persuasive speech strengthening the faith in the hearts of the believers, Umar ibn al-Khattab remembered the words of the Prophet. The day had come when Islam benefitted from the two middle incisors of Suhayl which Umar had wanted to pull out.
When Suhayl became a Muslim he made a vow to himself which could be summarized in these words: to exert himself and spend in the cause of Islam at least in the same measure as he had done for the mushrikin. With the mushrikin, he had spent long hours before their idols. Now he stood for long periods with the believers in the presence of the one and only God, praying and fasting. Before he had stood by the mushrikin and participated in many acts of aggression and war against Islam. Now he took his place in the ranks of the Muslim army, fighting courageously, pitting himself against the fire of Persia and the injustice and oppression of the Byzantine empire.
In this spirit he left for Syria with the Muslim armies and participated in the Battle of Yarmuk against the Byzantines, a battle that was singularly ferocious in its intensity. Suhayl was someone who loved his birthplace dearly. In spite of that, he refused to return to Makkah after the victory of the MusIims in Syria. He said: "I heard the Messenger of God, peace be on him, say: 'The going forth of anyone of you in the path of God for an hour is better for him than his life's works in his household.' "He vowed: "I shall be a murabit in the path of God till I die and I shall not return to Makkah." For the rest of his life, Suhayl remained true to his pledge. He died in Palestine in the small village of 'Amawas near Jerusalem.
Talhah ibn Ubaydullah
Returning to Makkah in haste after a trading trip to Syria, Talhah asked his family: "Did anything happen in Makkah since we left?" "Yes," they replied. "Muhammad ibn Abdullah emerged alleging that he is a Prophet and Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr) has followed him." "I used to know Abu Bakr," said Talhah. "He is an easy-going, amiable, gentle man. He was an honest and upright trader. We were quite fond of him and loved sitting in his company because of his knowledge of Quraysh history and genealogy." Later, Talhah went to Abu Bakr and asked: "Is it true what they say, that Muhammad ibn Abdullah has appeared as a Prophet and that you follow him." "Yes," replied Abu Bakr and went on to tell Talhah about Muhammad and what a good thing it would be if he too followed him. Talhah in turn told Abu Bakr the story of his strange recent encounter with an ascetic in the market-place of Busra in Syria. The ascetic is said to have told Talhah that someone called "Ahmad" would appear in Makkah about that time and that he would be the last of the Prophets. He also told Talhah, so the story goes, that the Prophet would leave the sacred precincts of Makkah and migrate to a land of black soil, water and palm trees...
Abu Bakr was astonished by the story and took Talhah to Muhammad. The Prophet, peace be on him, explained Islam to Talhah and recited some portions of the Quran to him. Talhah was enthusiastic. He related to the Prophet his conversation with the ascetic of Busra. There and then, Talhah pronounced the Shahadah - that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. He was the fourth person who had been introduced to Islam by Abu Bakr. The Quraysh were astounded by the young Talhah's acceptance of Islam. The one who was most dismayed and unhappy was his mother. She had hoped that he would one day be a leader in his community because of his noble character and his outstanding virtues. Some of the Quraysh, anxious and worried, went to Talhah as soon as they could to wean him away from his new religion but found him firm and unshakable as a rock. When they despaired of using gentle persuasion to achieve their aim, they resorted to persecution and violence. The following story is related by Masud ibn Kharash:
"While I was making saiy between as-Safa and al-Marwa, there appeared a crowd of people pushing a young man whose hands were tied behind his back. As they rushed behind him, they rained down blows on his head. In the crowd was an old woman who lashed him repeatedly and shouted abuses at him. I asked: 'What's the matter with this young man?' 'This is Talhah ibn Ubaydullah. He gave up his religion and now follows the Banu Hashim man.' 'And who is the woman behind him?' I asked. 'She is as-Sabah bint al-Hadrami, the young man's mother,' they said. The Quraysh did not stop there. Nawfal ibn Khuwaylid, nicknamed the 'lion of the Quraysh" bound Talhah with a rope and with the same rope he tied up Abu Bakr and then handed them over to the mindless and violent mob of Makkah to be beaten and tortured. The shared experience no doubt drew Talhah and Abu Bakr closer together! Years passed and events of great significance took place. Talhah grew in stature as he bore the pain and suffering of being tested in the path of God and His Prophet. He gained the unique reputation among Muslims of being called the "living martyr". The Prophet, peace be on him, also called him "Talhah the Good" and "Talhah the Generous".
The name of the "living martyr" was earned during the Battle of Uhud. Talhah had missed the Battle of Badr. He and Said ibn Zayd had been sent outside Madinah on a mission by the Prophet and when they returned, the Prophet and his companions were already on the way back from Badr. They were both sad at having missed the opportunity of taking part in the first campaign with the Prophet but were tremendously pleased when he told them they would get the same reward as those who actually fought. At the Battle of Uhud, when the Muslims fell into disarray at the beginning of hostilities the Prophet became dangerously exposed. There were about eleven men of the Ansar at his side and one Muhajir - Talhah ibn Ubaydullah. The Prophet clambered up the mountain hotly pursued by some mushrikin. The Prophet, peace be on him, shouted:
"The one who repulses these people from us will be my companion in Paradise." "I, O Messenger of god," shouted Talhah. "No, stick to your position," replied the Prophet. A man from the Ansar volunteered and the Prophet agreed. He fought until he was killed. The Prophet went further up the mountain with the mushrikin still in close pursuit. "Isn't there someone to combat these?" Talhah again volunteered but the Prophet ordered him to maintain his position. Another person immediately came forward, fought and was killed. This happened until all who stood by the Prophet were martyred except Talhah. "Now, yes," signalled the Prophet and Talhah went into battle. By this time, the Prophet's teeth had been broken, his forehead had been slashed, his lips had been wounded and blood was streaming down his face. He was drained of energy. Talhah plunged into the enemy and pushed them away from the Prophet. He turned back to the Prophet and helped him a little further up the mountain and put him to lie on the ground. He then renewed his attack and successfully repulsed the enemy. About this occasion Abu Bakr said:
"At that moment, Abu Ubayd ibn al-Jarrah and I were far from the Prophet. When we came close to him to render assistance to him, the Prophet said: 'Leave me and go to your companion (meaning Talhah)." There was Talhah, bleeding profusely. He had numerous wounds, from sword, spear and arrow. His foot had been cut and he had fallen into a hollow where he lay unconscious. Thereafter, the Prophet, peace be on him, said: "Whoever is pleased to see a man still walking on earth who had completed his span (of life), let him look at Talhah ibn Ubaydallah."
And, whenever Uhud was recalled, As-Siddiq, may God be pleased with him, would say: "That day, that entire day, belonged to Talhah." That was the story of how Talhah became to be called the "living martyr". There were unnumerabIe incidents which led to him being called "Talhah the Good" and "Talhah the Generous". Talhah was an astute and successful merchant who travelled widely to the north and south of the Arabian peninsula. It is said that after one of his trips to Hadramawt, he had profits amounting to some seven hundred thousand dirhams. His nights would be anxious and worried on account of this vast wealth. On one such night, his wife, Umm Kulthum the daughter of Abu Bakr, said to him:
"What's wrong with you, O father of Muhammad? Perhaps I have done something to hurt you.'?" "No ," replied Talhah. "You are a wonderful wife for a Muslim man. But I have been thinking since last night: How can a man think of his Lord and Sustainer when he goes to sleep with this wealth in his house?" "Why should it bother you so much ," remarked Umm Kulthum. "What about all the needy ones in your community and all your friends? When you get up in the morning share it out among them." "God bless you. You are really marvellous, the daughter of a marvellous man," said Talhah to his wife. In the morning, Talhah gathered up the money in bags and distributed it among the poor Muhajirin and Ansar.
It is related that a man came up to Talhah requesting help and also mentioning some common family connection between them. "This family connection someone has mentioned to me before," said Talhah who was in fact known for his generosity to all members of his clan. Talhah told the man that he had just sold a piece of land to Uthman ibn Affan for several thousand dirhams. The man could have the money or the land which could be re-purchased from Uthman. The man opted for the money and Talhah gave it all to him.
Talhah was well-known for helping persons who had debt problems, heads of families who experienced hardship, and widows. One of his friends, as-Saib ibn Zayd, said of him: "I accompanied Talhah ibn Ubaydallah on journeys and I stayed with him at home and I have not found anyone who was more generous with money, with clothes and with food than Talhah." No wonder he was called "Talhah the Good" and "Talhah the Generous". The name Talhah is also connected with the first fitnah or civil war among Muslims after the death of the prophet, peace be on him.
The seeds of trouble were sown during the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan. There were many complaints and accusations against him. Some mischief-makers were not content with accusations only but were determined to finish him off. In the year 35 AH (656 CE) a group of insurgents stormed Uthman's house and murdered him while he was reading the Quran. It was one of the most shocking events in the early history of Islam. Ali was persuaded to accept the responsibility of the Caliphate and all Muslims swore allegiance to him, including Talhah and Zubayr ibn al-Awwam. Talhah and Zubayr were deeply shocked by the murder of Uthman. They were horrified and felt strongly that the murderers should be punished and that justice should be done. But the punishment of the murderers was not an easy task in as much as the crime was not just the work of a few individuals but involved a large number of persons.
Talhah and Zubayr sought Ali's permission to go to Makkah to perform Umrah. They met Aishah the wife of the Prophet. She was greatly shocked when she heard of the assassination of Uthman. From Makkah, Talhah, Zubayr and Aishah set off for Basrah where large numbers were gathering to seek revenge for the death of Uthman. The forces gathered at Basrah seemed to present an open challenge to Ali. As the caliph of the Muslims and the head of the entire Muslim State, he could not tolerate any insurrection or armed revolt against the State. But what a difficult and awesome task he faced! To deal with the revolt, he had to confront his brothers, his companions and his friends-followers of the Prophet and his religion, those who often fought side by side with him against the forces of shirk, those whom he respected and loved.
The forces clamoring for vengeance for Uthman and those supporting Ali met at a place called Kuraybah, near Basrah. Ali desired to avoid war and settle matters by peaceful means. He used every means at his disposal to achieve peace. He clung to every hope of avoiding confrontation. But the dark forces at work against Islam and how numerous were these, were determined that matters should come to a terrible and bloody end.
Ali wept. He wept bitterly when he saw Aishah, the "Mother of the Believers" in her hawdaj or palanquin astride a camel at the head of the army which now emerged to fight him. And when he saw Talhah and Zubayr, two close companions of the Prophet, in the midst of the army, he shouted to them to come out to him. They did and Ali said to Talhah: "O Talhah, have you come with the wife of the Messenger of Allah to fight along with her...?" And to Zubayr he said: "O Zubayr, I implore you, by God, do you remember the day when the Prophet. peace be on him, passed by you and we were in such and such a place and he asked you: 'Do you love Ali?' and you said: 'Why shouldn't I love my cousin and one who follows my religion...?'"
Ali continued talking to them reminding them of the bonds of brotherhood and faith. In the end both Talhah and Zubayr withdrew from participation in this civil war. They withdrew immediately when they saw the situation in a different light. But they paid for that withdrawal with their lives. As they withdrew, a man named Amr ibn Jarmouz followed Zubayr and cowardly murdered him while he performed Salat. Talhah was killed by an arrow allegedly shot by Marwan - a cousin of Uthman who was too blinded by rage and the desire to seek revenge for his kinsman to respond to the possibility of avoiding war and bloodshed among Muslims. The murder of Uthman had become Talhah's tryst with destiny. He did not participate in the fighting and killing that followed that came to be known in history as the "Battle of the Camel". Indeed, if he had known that the fitnah would have degenerated into such insane hatred and bitterness and resulted in such a bloody outcome, he would have resisted it. He was not keen to fight Ali. He was simply appalled by the murder of Uthman and wanted to see justice done. Before the beginning of the battle he had said in a voice choked with emotion:
"O Lord, for the sake of Uthman, take from me this day until You are pleased." Then when Ali faced him and Zubayr, they saw the correctness of his position and withdrew from the field of battle. Yet, in these difficult circumstances, martyrdom was reserved for them. The Battle of Camel came to an end. Aishah, the mother of the believers, realized that she had precipitated matters and left Basrah for the Sacred Mosque and then to Madinah distancing herself from the conflict. Ali provided well for her journey giving her all the comfort and honor due to her.
When the numerous dead from the battle were brought together, Ali led the funeral prayer for them all, those who were with him and those who were against him. And when he had finished burying Talhah and Zubayr he bade farewell to them with a heavy heart, a heart filled with tenderness and love. "I really hope," he said in simple and sublime words, "that Talhah, az-Zubayr, Uthman and I will be among those of whom God has said: 'And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of injury and rancor; they will be brothers joyfully facing each other on thrones of dignity.' "(The Quran, Surah al-Hijr, 15:47)
Then he looked tenderly and sorrowfully on the graves of his brothers in faith and said: "I have heard with these two ears of mine the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, saying: "Talhah and az-Zubayr are my companions in Paradise!"
Thabit Ibn Qays
Thabit ibn Qays was a chieftain of the Khazraj and therefore a man of considerable influence in Yathrib. He was known for the sharpness of his mind and the power of his oratory. It was because of this that he became the khatib or the spokesman and orator of the Prophet and Islam. He became a Muslim at the hands of Musab ibn Umayr whose cool and persuasive logic and the sweetness and beauty of his Quran recital proved irresistible. When the Prophet arrived in Madinah after the historic Hijrah, Thabit and a great gathering of horsemen gave him a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Thabit acted as their spokesman and delivered a speech in the presence of the Prophet and his companion, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. He began by giving praise to God Almighty and invoking peace and blessings on His Prophet and ended up by saying: "We give our pledge to you, O Messenger of God, that we would protect you from all that we protect ourselves, our children and our wives. What would then be our reward for this?"
The speech was reminiscent of words spoken at the second Pledge of Aqabah and the Prophet's reply as then was the same: "Al-Jannah - Paradise!" When the Yathribites heard the word "al-Jannah" their faces beamed with happiness and excitement and their response was: "We are pleased, O Messenger of God! We are pleased, O Messenger of God ." From that day on the Prophet, peace be on him, made Thabit ibn Qays his Khatib, just as Hassan ibn Thabit was his poet. When delegations of Arabs came to him to show off their brilliance in verse and the strength of their oratory skills which the Arabs to ok great pride in, the Prophet would call upon Thabit ibn Qays to challenge their orators and Hassan ibn Thabit to vaunt his verses before their poets. In the Year of the Delegations, the ninth after the Hijrah, tribes from all over the Arabian peninsula came to Madinah to pay homage to the Prophet, either to announce their acceptance of Islam or to pay jizyah in return for the protection of the Muslim s tate. One of these was a delegation from the tribe of Tamim who said to the Prophet:
"We have come to show our prowess to you. Do give permission to our Shaif and our Khatib to speak." The Prophet, peace be on him, smiled and said: "I permit your Khatib. Let him speak." Their orator, Utarid ibn Hajib, got up and held forth on the greatness and achievements of their tribe and when he was finished the Prophet summoned Thabit ibn Qays and said: "Stand and reply to him." Thabit arose and said: "Praise be to God Whose creation is the entire heavens and the earth wherein His will has been made manifest. His Throne is the extent of His knowledge and there is nothing which does not exist through His grace. "Through His power He has made us leaders and from the best of His creation He has chosen a Messenger who is the most honorable of men in lineage, the most reliable and true in speech and the most excellent in deeds. He has revealed to him a book and chos en him as a leader of His creation. Among all creation, he is a blessing of God.
"He summoned people to have faith in Him. The Emigrants from among his people and his relations who are the most honorable people in esteem and the best in deeds believed in him. Then, we the Ansar (Helpers) were the first people to respond (to his call for support). So we are the Helpers of God and the ministers of His Messenger." Thabit was a believer with a profound faith in God. His consciousness and fear of God was true and strong. He was especially sensitive and cautious of saying or doing anything that would incur the wrath of God Almighty. One day the Prophet saw him looking not just sad but dejected and afraid. His shoulders were haunched and he was actually cringing from fear. "What's wrong with you, O Abu Muhammad?" asked the Prophet. "I fear that I might be destroyed, O Messenger of God," he said. "And why?" asked the Prophet. "God Almighty," he said, "has prohibited us from desiring to be praised for what we did not do but I find myself liking praise. He has prohibited us from being proud and I find myself tending towards vanity." This was the time when the verse of the Qur an was revealed: "Indeed, God does not love any arrogant boaster."
The Prophet, peace be on him, then tried to calm his anxieties and allay his fears and eventually said to him: "O Thabit, aren't you pleased to live as someone who is praised, and to die as a martyr and to enter Paradise?" Thabit's face beamed with happiness and joy as he said: "Certainly, O Messenger of God." "Indeed, that shall be yours," replied the noble Prophet. There was another occasion when Thabit became sad and crest-fallen, when the words of the Quran were revealed: "O you who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet and neither speak loudly to him as you would speak loudly to one another, lest all your deeds come to naught without your perceiving it."
On hearing these words, Qays kept away from the meetings and gatherings of the Prophet in spite of his great love for him and his hitherto constant presence in his company. He stayed in his house a/most without ever leaving it except for the performance o f the obligatory Salat. The Prophet missed his presence and evidently asked for information about him. A man from the Ansar volunteered and went to Thabit's house. He found Thabit sitting in his house, sad and dejected, with his head bowed low. "What's the matter with you?" asked the man. "It's bad," replied Thabit. "You know that I am a man with a loud voice and that my voice is far louder than that of the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace. And you know what has been revealed in the Quran. The only result for me is t hat my deeds will come to naught and I will be among the people who go to the fire of hell."
The man returned to the Prophet and told him what he had seen and heard and the Prophet instructed him to return to Thabit and say: "You are not among the people who will go to the fire of hell but you will be among the people of Paradise." Such was the tremendously good news with which Thabit ibn Qays was blessed. The incidents showed how alive and sensitive he was to the Prophet and the commands of Islam and his readiness to observe the letter and the spirit of its laws. He subjected himse lf to the most stringent self-criticism. His was a God-fearing and penitent heart which trembled and shook through the fear of God.
Thumamah Ibn Uthal
In the sixth year after the hijrah, the Prophet, may the blessings of God be on him, decided to expand the scope of his mission. He sent eight letters to rulers in the Arabian peninsula and surrounding areas inviting them to Islam. One of these rulers was Thumamah ibn Uthal. Thumamah was one of the most powerful Arab rulers in pre-Qur'anic times. This is not surprising since he was a chieftain of the Banu Hanifah and one of the rulers of al- Yamamah whose word no one dared to challenge or disobey. When Thumamah received the Prophet's letter, he was consumed by anger and rejected it. He refused to listen to the invitation of Truth and goodness. More than that, he felt a strong desire to go and kill the Prophet and bury his mission with him. Thumamah waited and waited for a convenient time to carry out his design against the Prophet until eventually forgetfulness caused him to lose interest. One of his uncles, however, reminded him of his plan, praising what he intended to do.
In the pursuit of his evil design against the Prophet, Thumamah met and killed a group of the Prophet's companions. The Prophet thereupon declared him a wanted man who could lawfully be killed on sight. Not long afterwards, Thumamah decided to perform umrah. He wanted to perform tawaf around the Ka'bah and sacrifice to the idols there. So he left al-Yamamah for Makkah. As he was passing near Madinah, an incident took place which he had not anticipated. Groups of Muslims were patrolling the districts of Madinah and outlying areas on the lookout for any strangers or anyone intent on causing trouble. One of these groups came upon Thumamah and apprehended him but they did not know who he was. They took him to Madinah and tied him to one of the columns in the mosque. They waited for the Prophet himself to question the man and decide what should be done with him. When the Prophet was about to enter the mosque, he saw Thumamah and asked his companions, "Do you know whom you have taken?"
"No, messenger of God," they replied. "This is Thumamah ibn Uthal al-Hanafi," he said. "You have done well in capturing him." The Prophet then returned home to his family and said, "Get what food you can and send it to Thumamah ibn Uthal." He then ordered his camel to be milked for him. All this was done before he met Thumamah or had spoken to him. The Prophet then approached Thumamah hoping to encourage him to become a Muslim. "What do you have to say for yourself9" he asked. "If you want to kill in reprisal," Thumamah replied, "you can have someone of noble blood to kill. If, out of your bounty, you want to forgive, I shall be grateful. If you want money in compensation, I shall give you whatever amount you ask." The Prophet then left him for two days, but still personally sent him food and drink and milk from his camel. The Prophet went back to him and asked, "What do you have to say for yourself7" Thumamah repeated what he had said the day before. The Prophet then left and came back to him the following day. "What do you have to say for yourself?" he asked again and Thumamah repeated what he had said once more. Then the Prophet turned to his companions and said, "Set him free."
Thumamah left the mosque of the Prophet and rode until he came to a palm grove on the outskirts of Madinah near al-Baqi' (a place of luxuriant vegetation which later became a cemetery for many of the Prophet's companions). He watered his camel and washed himself well. Then he turned back and made his way to the Prophet's mosque. There, he stood before a congregation of Muslims and said: "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger." He then went to the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and said: "O Muhammad, by God, there was never on this earth a face more detestable than yours. Now, yours is the dearest face of all to me." "I have killed some of your men," he continued, "I am at your mercy. What will you have done to me?" "There is now no blame on you, Thumamah," replied the Prophet. "Becoming a Muslim obliterates past actions and marks a new beginning." Thumamah was greatly relieved. His face showed his surprise and joy and he vowed, "By God, I shall place my whole self, my sword, and whoever is with me at your service and at the service of your religion."
"O Rasulullah," he went on, "when your horsemen captured me I was on my way to perform umrah. What do you think I should do now?" "Go ahead and perform your umrah," replied the Prophet, "but perform it according to the laws of God and His messenger." The Prophet then taught him how to perform umrah according to Islamic rules. Thumamah left to fulfil his intention. When he reached the valley of Makkah, he began shouting in a loud, resonant voice: "Labbayk Allakumma labbayk. Labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Innal hamda wa-n ni'mata laka wa-l mulk Laa shareeka lak. (Here I am at Your command O Lord, Here I am. Here I am. No partner have You. Here I am. Praise, bounty and Dominion belong to You. No partner have You.") He was thus the first Muslim on the face of the earth to enter Makkah reciting the talbEyah.
The Quraysh heard the sound of the talbiyah and felt both anger and alarm. With drawn swords, they set out towards the voice to punish the one who had thus assaulted their preserve. As they came closer to him, Thumamah raised his voice even higher while reciting the talbiyah and looked upon them with pride and defiance. One of the Quraysh young men was particularly incensed and was about to shoot Thumamah with an arrow when the others grabbed his hand and shouted: "Woe to you! Do you know who this is? He is Thumamah ibn Uthal, ruler of al-Yamamah. By God, if you should harm him, his people would cut our supplies, with dire consequences for us." Swords were replaced in their scabbards as the Quraysh went up to Thumamah and said: "What's wrong with you, Thumamah? Have you given in and abandoned your religion and the religion of your forefathers?"
"I have not given in," he replied, "but I have decided to follow the best religion. I follow the religion of Muhammad. " He then went on: "I swear to you by the Lord of this House that after my return to al-Yamamah, no grain of wheat or any of its produce shall reach you until you follow Muhammad." Under the watchful eyes of the Quraysh, Thumamah performed umrah as the Prophet, peace be upon him, had instructed him. He dedicated his sacrifice to God alone.
Thumamah returned to his land and ordered his people to withhold supplies from the Quraysh. The boycott gradually began to have effect and became more and more stringent. Prices began to rise. Hunger began to bite and there was even fear of death among the Quraysh. Thereupon, they wrote to the Prophet, saying: "Our agreement with you (the treaty of Hudaybiyyah) is that you should maintain the bonds of kinship but you have gone against that. You have cut the bonds of kinship. You have killed and caused death through hunger. Thumamah ibn Uthal has cut our supplies and inflicted harm on us. Perhaps you would see fit to instruct him to resume sending us what we need."
The Prophet immediately sent a messenger instructing Thumamah to lift the boycott and resume supplies to the Quraysh. This Thumamah did. Thumamah spent the rest of his life in the service of his religion, abiding by the undertaking he had given to the Prophet. When the Prophet died, many Arabs began leaving the religion of God in great numbers. Musaylamah, the imposter, began calling the Banu Hanifah to believe in him as a Prophet. Thumamah confronted him and said to his people: "O Banu Hanifah, beware of this grievous matter. There is no light or guidance in it. By God, it will only bring distress and suffering to whoever joins this movement and misfortune even to those who do not join. "O Banu Hanifah, two prophets do not come at the same time and there shall be no Prophet after Muhammad and no Prophet to share in his mission."
He then read out to them the following verses of the Qur'an: "Ha Mim. The revelation of this Book is from God the Almighty, the Knowing. He forgives sins and accepts repentance. He is severe in punishment and has a long reach. There is no god except Him. To Him is the journey's end." (Surah Ghafir; verses 1-3). "Can you compare these words of God with the utterings of Musaylamah?" he asked. He then gathered together all those who had remained in Islam and began to wage a jihad against the apostates and to make the words of God supreme. The loyal Muslims of Banu Hanifah needed additional help to stand against the armies of Musaylamah. Their arduous task was completed by the forces despatched by Abu Bakr but at the cost of many a Muslim life.
"O Abu Mundhir! Which verse of the Book of God is the greatest?" asked the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace. "Allah and His Messenger know best," came the reply. The Prophet repeated the question and Abu Mundhir replied. "Allah, there is no god but He, the Living the Self-Subsisting. Neither slumber overtakes him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on earth, ..." and most likely he went on to complete the Verse of the Throne (Ayat al-Kurs i). The Prophet smote his chest with his right hand in approval on hearing the reply and with his countenance beaming with happiness, said to Abu Mundhir. "May knowledge delight and benefit you, Abu Mundhir." This Abu Mundhir whom the Prophet congratulated on the knowledge and understanding which God had bestowed on him was Ubayy ibn Kab, one of his distinguished companions and a person of high esteem in the early Muslim community.
Ubayy was one of the Ansar and belonged to the Khazraj tribe. He was one of the first persons of Yathrib to accept Islam. He pledged allegiance to the Prophet at Aqabah before the Hijrah. He participated in the Battle of Badr and other engagements there after. Ubayy was one of the select few who committed the Quranic revelations to writing and had a Mushaf of his own. He acted as a scribe of the Prophet, writing letters for him. At the demise of the Prophet, he was one of the twenty five or so people who knew the Quran completely by heart. His recitation was so beautiful and his understanding so profound that the Prophet encouraged his companions to learn the Quran from him and from three others. Later, Umar too once told the Muslims as he was dealing wi th some financial matters of state: "O people! Whoever wants to ask about the Quran, let him go to Ubayy ibn Kab..." (Umar went on to say that anyone wishing to ask about inheritance matters should go to Zayd ibn Thabit, about questions of fiqh to Muadh ibn Jabal and about questions of mone y and finance, to himself.)
Ubayy enjoyed a special honor with regard to the Quran. One day, the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, said: "O Ubayy ibn Kab! I have been commanded to show or lay open the Quran to you." Ubayy was elated. He knew of course that the Prophet only received commands from on high. Unable to control his excitement, he asked: "O Messenger of God...Have I been mentioned to you by name?" "Yes," replied the Prophet, "by your own name and by your genealogy (nasab) in the highest heavens." Any Muslim whose name had been conveyed to the heart of the Prophet in this manner must certainly have been of great ability and of a tremendously high stature. Throughout the years of his association with the Prophet, Ubayy derived the maximum benefit from his sweet and noble personality and from his noble teachings. Ubayy related that the Prophet once asked him:
"Shall I not teach you a surah the like of which has not been revealed in the Tawrah, nor in the Injil, nor in the Zabur, nor in the Quran?" "Certainly," replied Ubayy. "I hope you would not leave through that door until you know what it is," said the Prophet obviously prolonging the suspense for Ubayy. Ubayy continues: "He stood up and I stood up with him. He started to speak, with my hand in his. I tried to delay him fearing that he would leave before letting me know what the surah is. When he reached the door, I asked: "O Messenger of God! The surah which you promised to tell me..." He replied: "What do you recite when you stand for Salat?" So, I recited for him Fatihatu-l Kitab (the Opening Chapter of the Quran) and he said: "(That's) it! (That's) it! They are the seven oft-repeated verses of which God Almighty has said: We have given you the seven oft-repeated verses and the Mighty Quran."
Ubayy's devotion to the Quran was uncompromising. Once he recited part of a verse which the Khalifah Umar apparently could not remember or did not know and he said to Ubayy: "Your have lied," to which Ubayy retorted; "Rather, you have lied." A person who heard the exchange was astounded and said to Ubayy: "Do you call the Amir al-Muminin a liar?" "I have greater honor and respect for the Amir al-Muminin than you," responded Ubayy," but he has erred in verifying the Book of God and I shall not say the Amir al-Muminin is correct when he has made an error concerning the Book of God."
"Ubayy is right," concluded Umar. Ubayy gave an idea of the importance of the Quran when a man came to him and said, "Advise me," and he replied: "Take the Book of God as (your) leader (imam). Be satisfied with it as (your) judge and ruler. It is what the Prophet has bequeathed to you. ( It is your) intercessor with God and should be obeyed..." After the demise of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, Ubayy remained strong in his attachment to Islam and his commitment to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. He was constant in his ibadah and would often be found in the mosque at night, after the last obligatory Prayer had been performed, engaged in worship or in teaching. Once he was sitting in the mosque after Salat with a group of Muslims, making supplication to God. Umar came in and sat with them and asked each one to recite a dua. They all did until finally Ubayy's turn came. He was sitting next to Umar. He felt somewhat over-awed and became flustered. Umar prompted him and suggested that he say: "Allahumma ighfir lanaa. Allahumma irhamnaa. O Lord, forgive us, O Lord, have mercy on us."
Taqwa remained the guiding force in Ubayy's life. He lived simply and did not allow the world to corrupt or deceive him. He had a good grasp of reality and knew that however a person lived and whatever comforts and luxuries he enjoyed, these would all fad e away and he would have only his good deeds to his credit. He was always a sort of warner to Muslims, reminding them of the times of the Prophet, of the Muslims' devotion to Islam then, of their simplicity and spirit of sacrifice. Many people came to him seeking knowledge and advice. To one such person he said. "The believer has four characteristics. If he is afflicted by any misfortune, he remains patient and steadfast. If he is given anything, he is grateful. If he speaks, he speaks the truth. If he passes a judgment on any issue, he is just." Ubayy attained a position of great honor and esteem among the early Muslims. Umar called him the "sayyid of the Muslims" and he came to be widely known by this title. He was part of the consultative group (mushawarah) to which Abu Bakr, as Khalifah, refer red many problems. This group was composed of men of good sense and judgment (ahl ar-ray) and men who knew the law (ahl al-fiqh) from among the Muhajirin and Ansar. It included Umar, Uthman, Ali, Abdur Rahman ibn Awl, Muadh ibn Jabal, Ubayy ibn Kab and Z ayd ibn Harith. Umar later consulted the same group when he was Khalifah. Specifically for fatwas (legal judgments) he referred to Uthman, Ubayy and Zayd ibn Thabit.
Because of Ubayy's high standing, one might have expected him to have been given positions of administrative responsibility, for example as a governor, in the rapidly expanding Muslim state. (During the time of the Prophet in fact he had performed the fun ction of a collector of sadaqah.) Indeed, Ubayy once asked "What's the matter with you? Why don't you appoint me as a governor?" "I do not want your religion to be corrupted" replied Umar. Ubayy was probably prompted to put the question to Umar when he saw that Muslims were tending to drift from the purity of faith and self-sacrifice of the days of the Prophet. He was known to be especially critical of the excessively polite and sycophan tic attitude of many Muslims to their governors which he felt brought ruin both to the governors and those under them. Ubayy for his part was always honest and frank in his dealings with persons in authority and feared no one but God. He acted as a sort o f conscience to the Muslims. One of Ubayy's major fears for the Muslim ummah was that a day would come when there would be severe strife among Muslims. He often became overwhelmed with emotion when he read or heard the verse of the Quran."
"Say: He (Allah) has power to send calamities on you, from above and below, or to cover you with confusion in party strife, giving you a taste of mutual vengeance, each from the other." (Surah al-An'am, 6: 65) He would then pray fervently to God for guidance and ask for His clemency and forgiveness. Ubayy died in the year 29 AH during the caliphate of Uthman.
Umayr ibn Sad became an orphan at an early age. His father died leaving him and his mother poor and destitute. His mother eventually married again, to one of the richest men in Madinah. His name was Julas ibn Suwayd who was from the powerful tribe of al-Aws. Umayr was well looked after by Julas and loved him as a son would love a father. Indeed he began to forget that he was an orphan. As Umayr grew older, Julas fondness and love for him grew. Julas would marvel at the intelligence he displayed in everything he did and at the honesty and trustworthiness which characterized his behavior. When he was barely ten years old, Umayr became a Muslim. Faith found in his tender heart a secure niche and penetrated deeply into his being. In spite of youthfulness, he would never delay in the performance of salat behind the noble Prophet. Often he would be found in the first row of worshippers, hoping for the thawab promised those who attend mosques early and sit in the foremost rows. His mother was particularly pleased whenever she saw him going to and coming from the mosque, sometimes with her husband and sometimes alone.
Umayr's days passed in this fashion with no major disturbance to upset his calm and contentment. This idyllic state, however, could not last forever. Umayr was soon to face a most difficult test for a boy of his age, a test which shook the peaceful and loving atmosphere of his home and challenged the steadfastness of his faith. In the ninth year after the Hijrah, the Prophet, peace and blessings of God be on him, announced his intention to lead an expedition to Tabuk against the Byzantine forces. He ordered the Muslims to get themselves ready and make the necessary preparations. Usually when the Prophet wanted to go on a military campaign he would not give precise details of his objective or he would set off in a direction opposite to his intended destination. This was for security purposes and to confound the enemy's intelligence service. This he did not do in announcing the expedition to Tabuk. This was perhaps because of the great distance of Tabuk from Madinah, the enormous difficulties expected and the overwhelming strength of the enemy.
The preparations needed for this expedition had to be extensive. In spite of the fact that summer had set in and the intense heat produced languor and listlessness, and in spite of the fact that the date crops needed harvesting, the Muslims responded enthusiastically to the call of the Prophet and busied themselves in preparing for the arduous campaign ahead. There was however a group of munafiqun or hypocrites who outwardly had declared their acceptance of Islam but inwardly did not believe in it. They were critical of the expedition and tried to weaken the resolve of the Muslims. They even ridiculed the Prophet in their private gatherings. Disbelief and hatred remained in their hearts. One day, shortly before the army was due to set out, the young Umayr ibn Sad returned home after performing Salat in the mosque. He was all agog with excitement. He had just witnessed the great generosity and the spontaneous spirit of sacrifice which the Muslims displayed in preparing for the expedition. He had seen women of the Muhajirin and the Ansar donating their jewellery and their ornaments to buy provisions and equipment for the army. He had seen Uthman ibn Affan handing over a purse containing a thousand gold dinars to the Prophet and Abdur Rahman ibn Awl carrying on his shoulders two hundred awqiyyah of gold and placing it before the noble Prophet. Indeed he had even seen a man trying to sell his bed in order to purchase a sword for himself.
At home, he recalled these moving and inspiring scenes. He was surprised however that Julas was so slow in preparing for the expedition with the Prophet and at his delay in contributing especially since he was quite rich and could afford to give generously. Umayr felt that he had to arouse his ardor or stir his sense of generosity and manliness. So with great enthusiasm he related what he had seen and heard at the mosque particularly the case of those believers who, with great fervor, had come to enlist themselves in the army and were turned away by the Prophet because there was not sufficient means of transport. He related how sad and disappointed these people were at not realizing their desire to go on the path of Jihad and sacrifice for the sake of Islam. Julas' response was sharp and shocking. "If Muhammad is true in claiming that he is a Prophet ," he shouted angrily, "then we are all worse than donkeys." Umayr was flabbergasted. He could not believe what he had heard. He did not think that a man as intelligent as Julas could have uttered such words, words which put him instantly outside the pale of faith.
A host of questions paced through his mind and he immediately began to consider what action he should take. He saw in Julas' silence and his tardiness to respond to the Prophet's call, clear signs of a traitor to God and His Prophet, who wanted to bring harm to Islam in just the same way as the munafiqun who were plotting and conspiring against the Prophet. At the same time he saw a man who had treated him as a father and who was kind and generous to him, who had taken him as an orphan and had saved him from poverty. Umayr had to choose between preserving this close relationship with Julas on the one hand and dealing with his treachery and hypocrisy on the other. The choice was painful but his decision was swift. He turned to Julas and said:
"By God, O Julas, there is no one on the face of the earth, after Muhammad ibn Abdullah, dearer to me than you. You are the closest of men to me and you have been most generous to me. But you have uttered words which, if I should mention them will expose and humiliate you. If I conceal them, however, I will be a traitor to my trust and destroy myself and my religion. I will, therefore, go to the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, and tell him what you have said. It is up to you to clarify your position." The young Umayr went to the mosque and told the Prophet what he had heard from Julas. The Prophet asked him to stay with him and sent one of his companions to summon Julas. Julas came, greeted the Prophet and sat in front of him. The Prophet, peace be upon him straightaway asked him: "What did you say that Umayr ibn Sad heard?" and he mentioned what Umayr had reported to him.
"He has lied against me, O Messenger of God, and has fabricated this. I have not uttered anything of the sort" asserted Julas. The companions of the Prophet looked alternately at Julas and Umayr hoping to detect on their faces what their hearts concealed. They began to mutter among themselves. One of those in whose hearts was the disease of hypocrisy asserted: "The youth is a nuisance. He is bent on defaming someone who has been good to him." Others replied: "Not at all. He is a youth who grew up in obedience to God. The expressions on his face attest to his truthfulness." The Prophet, peace be on him, turned to Umayr and saw his flushed face and the tears streaming down his cheeks. Umayr prayed:
"O Lord, send down a revelation on Your Prophet to verify what I have told him." Julas meanwhile continued to defend what he had said: "What I have told you, O Messenger of God, is certainly the truth. If you wish, make us swear an oath in your presence. I swear by God that I did not say anything of the sort that Umayr reported to you." As the companions turned to Umayr to hear what he had to say, they saw the Prophet come under a special mood of serenity and they realized that he was being inspired. Immediately there was complete silence as they gazed intently at the Prophet in anticipation. At this point, fear and terror gripped Julas and he began to look tremulously at Umayr. The Prophet, having received the revelation, recited the words of God:
"(The hypocrites) swear by God that they have said (nothing wrong); yet most certainly they have uttered a saying which is a denial of the truth, and have thus denied the truth after having professed their self-surrender to God; for they were aiming at something which was beyond their reach. And they could find no fault (with the Faith) save that God had enriched them and (caused) His Apostle to enrich them out of His bounty. Hence, if they repent, it will be for their own good; but if they turn away, God will cause them to suffer a grievous suffering in this world and in the life to come and they will find no helper on earth, and none to give them succour." (The Quran, Surah at-Tawbah, 9:74). Julas trembled with fear at what he heard and in his anguish, could hardly speak. Finally, he turned to the Prophet and said: "I do repent, O Messenger of God. I do repent. Umayr told the truth and I lied. I beseech God to accept my repentance..."
The Prophet turned to the young Umayr. Tears of joy moistened his youthful face, radiant with the light of faith. With his noble hand, the Prophet tenderly took his ear and said: "Young man, your ear has been true in what it heard and your Lord has confirmed the truth of what you said." Julas returned to the fold of Islam and was a good and faithful Muslim thereafter. The companions realized that by his generosity and good treatment of Umayr, he had reformed. Whenever Umayr was mentioned, Julas would say: "My God reward Umayr with goodness on my behalf. He certainly saved me from kufr and preserved my neck from the fire of hell." Umayr grew up and distinguished himself in later years with the same devotion and firmness which he had shown in early life.
During the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab, the people of Hims in Syria complained much and bitterly of the governors appointed to the city even though Umar in particular used to pay special attention to the type of men he chose as his provincial governors. In selecting a governor, Umar would say: "I want a man who when he is among the people and is not their amir, should not behave as their amir, and when he is among them as an amir, he should behave as one of them. "I want a governor who will not distinguish himself from the people by the clothes he wears, or the food he eats or the house he lives in." "I want a governor who would establish Salat among the people, treat them equitably and with justice and does not close his door when they come to him in need."
In the light of the complaints of the people of Hims and going by his own criteria for a good governor, Umar ibn al-Khattab decided to appoint Umayr ibn Sad as governor of the region. This was despite the fact that Umayr at that time was at the head of a Muslim army traversing the Arabian peninsula and the region of great Syria, liberating towns, destroying enemy fortifications, pacifying the tribes and establishing masjids wherever he went. Umayr accepted the appointment as governor of Hims reluctantly because he preferred nothing better than Jihad in the path of God. He was still quite young, in his early twenties. When Umayr reached Hims he called the inhabitants to a vast congregational prayer. When the prayer was over he addressed them. He began by praising and giving thanks to God and sending peace and blessings on His Prophet Muhammad. Then he said:
"O people! Islam is a mighty fortress and a sturdy gate. The fortress of Islam is justice and its gate is truth. If you destroy the fortress and demolish the gate you would undermine the defences of this religion. "Islam will remain strong so long as the Sultan or central authority is strong. The strength of the Sultan neither comes from flogging with the whip, nor killing with the sword but from ruling with justice and holding fast to truth." Umayr spent a full year in Hims during which, it is said, he did not write a single letter to the Amir al-Muminin. Nor did he send any taxes to the central treasury in Madinah, neither a dirham nor a dinar. Umar was always concerned about the performance of his governors and was afraid that positions of authority would corrupt them. As far as he was concerned, there was no one who was free from sin and corrupting influences apart from the noble Prophet, peace be upon him. He summoned his secretary and said: "Write to Umayr ibn Sad and say to him: "When the letter of the Amir al-Muminin reaches you, leave Hims and come to him and bring with you whatever taxes you have collected from the Muslims."
Umayr received the letter. He took his food pouch and hung his eating, drinking and washing utensils over his shoulder. He took his spear and left Hims and the governorship behind him. He set off for Madinah on foot. As Umayr approached Madinah, he was badly sunburnt, his body was gaunt and his hair had grown long. His appearance showed all the signs of the long and arduous journey. Umar, on seeing him, was astonished. What's wrong with you, Umayr?" he asked with deep concern. "Nothing is wrong with me, O Amir al-Muminin," replied Umayr. "I am fine and healthy, praise be to God, and I carry with me all (my) worldly possessions." "And what worldly possessions have you got?" asked Umar thinking that he was carrying money for the Bayt al-mal or treasury of the Muslims."
"I have my pouch in which I put my food provisions. I have this vessel from which I eat and which I use for washing my hair and clothes. And I have this cup for making wudu and drinking..." "Did you come on foot?" asked Umar. "Yes, O Amir al-Muminin." "Weren't you given from your amirship an animal to ride on?" "They did not give me one and I did not ask them."
"And where is the amount you brought for the Baytalmal?" "I didn't bring anything." "And why not?" "When I arrived at Hims," said Umayr, "I called the righteous persons of the town to a meeting and gave them the responsibility of collecting the taxes. Whenever they collected any amounts of money I would seek their advice and spent it (all) on those who were deserving among them."
At this point, Umar turned to his secretary and said: "Renew the appointment of Umayr to the governorship of Hims." "Oh, come now," protested Umayr. "That is something which I do not desire. I shall not be a governor for you nor for anyone after you, O Amir al-Muminin." With that Umayr asked the Khalifah's permission to go to his village on the outskirts of Madinah to live there with his family. This Umar granted. A long time passed since Umayr had gone to his village and Umar decided to put him through a test to make sure of his circumstances. He said to one of his trusted aides called al-Harith:
"Harith, go to Umayr ibn Sad and stay with him as though you were a guest. If you see on him any signs of luxury or good living, return quietly as you went. If, however, you find him in straitened circumstances give him these dinars." Umar handed Harith a bag with a hundred dinars. Al-Harith set our for Umayr's village and found his home after making enquiries. "As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah," he greeted Umayr. "Wa alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu," replied Umayr and asked, "From where have you come?" "From aI-Madinah." "How arr the Muslims there?" "Fine." "How is the Amir al-Muminin?" "He is fine and doing well." "Has he applied the hudud laws?" "Yes. He carried out the sentence of punishment on his own son for committing the crime of adultery. His son died as a result of the punishment." Al-Harith continued: "O Allah, help Umar. I only know that he has a great love for you." Al-Harith stayed as Umayr's guest for three nights. On each night he was given only a small flat piece of barley bread. On the third day a local man said to Harith: "Umayr and his family are suffering great hardship. They only have these loaves which they have given you in preference to themselves. They are hungry and in great distress. Harith went to Umayr and gave him the bag of money. "What is this?" asked Umayr.
"The Amir al-Muminin sent it to you." "Return it to him. Give him my greetings of peace and tell him that Umayr has no need of it." "Take it, O Umayr," shouted his wife who was listening to the conversation between her husband and his guest. "If you need it, you can spend it. If not, you can spend it in other appropriate ways, for those in need here are many." When al-Harith heard what she had said, he placed the dinars in front of Umayr and left. Umayr took the money and placed it in a small bag. He only went to sleep that night after he had distributed the money to those in need and especially to the children of those who had been martyred. Al-Harith returned to Madinah and was questioned by Umar al-Faruq. "What have you seen, Harith?" "A very distressing situation, O Amir al-Muminin." "Did you give him the dinars?" "Yes, O Amir al-Muminin." "What did he do with them?" "I don't know. But I think that he did not keep a single dirham of it for himself." Al-Faruq wrote to Umayr: "When you receive this letter, I do not put it down until you come to me." Umayr proceeded straightaway to Madinah. Umar greeted and welcomed him and proceeded to question him. "What did you do with the dinars, Umayr?" "You have no responsibility for the money after you have donated it to me." "I adjure you to tell me what you did with it." "I stored it away for myself so that I could benefit from it a day when neither wealth nor children will be of any avail." Tears came to Umar's eyes as he said: "I swear that you are one of those who are hard against themselves even when they are in dire need." And he ordered a camel load of food and two garments to be given to Umayr who protested:
"About the food, we do not need it, O Amir al-Mumineen. I left two saas of barley with my family and when we have finished that, Allah- Great and Exalted is He - will provide. As for the two garments, I will take them for (my wife). Her dress is now in tatters and she is almost naked." Not long after that meeting with Umar al-Faruq, Umayr ibn Sad passed away to his Lord. He was not weighted down with the cares and burdens of the world and he was concerned to provide plenty of provisions for the hereafter. Umar received the news of his death with a heavy heart and said in deep sorrow: "I have wished to have men like Umayr ibn Sad whose help I could seek in dealing with the affairs of Muslims."
Umayr Ibn Wahb
Umayr ibn Wahb al-Jumahi returned safely from the Battle of~Badr. His son, Wahb, was left behind, a prisoner in the hands of the Muslims. Umayr feared that the Muslims would punish the youth severely because of the persecution he himself had meted out to the Prophet and the torture he had inflicted on his companions. One morning Umayr went to the Sacred Mosque to make tawaf around the Ka'bah and worship his idols. He found Safwan ibn Umayyah sitting near the Ka'bah, went up to him and said: "Im Sabahan (Good Morning), Quraysh chieftain." "Im Sabahan, Ibn Wahb," replied Safwan. "Let us talk for some time. Time only goes by with conversation." Umayr sat next to him. The two men began to recall Badr, the great defeat they had suffered and they counted the prisoners who had fallen into the hands of Muhammad and his companions. They became deeply distressed at the number of great Quraysh men who had been killed by the swords of the Muslims and who lay buried in the mass grave at alQalib in Badr.
Safwan ibn Umayyah shook his head and sighed, "By God, there can be no better after them." "You are right," declared Umayr. He remained silent for a while and then said, "By the God of the Ka'bah, if I had no debts and no family whose loss I fear after me, I would go to Muhammad and kill him, finish off his mission and check his evil." He went on in a faint, subdued voice, "And as my son Wahb is among them, my going to Yathrib would be beyond doubt." Safwan ibn Umayyah listened intently to the words of Umayr and did not wish this opportunity to pass. He turned to him and said: "Umayr, place all your debt in my hands and I will discharge it for you whatever the amount. As for your family, I shall take them as my own family and give them whatever they need. I have enough wealth to guarantee them a comfortable living." "Agreed," said Umayr. "But keep this conversation of ours secret and do not divulge any of it to anyone." "That shall be so," said Safwan.
Umayr left the Masjid al-Haram with the fire of hatred against Muhammad blazing in his heart. He began to count what he needed for the task he had set himself. He knew that he had the full support and confidence of the Quraysh who had members of their families held prisoner in Madinah. Umayr had his sword sharpened and coated with poison. His camel was prepared and brought to him. He mounted the beast and rode in the direction of Madinah with evil in his heart. Umayr reached Madinah and went directly towards the mosque looking for the Prophet. Near the door of the mosque, he alighted and tethered his camel. At that time, Umar was sitting with some of the Sahabah near the door of the Mosque, reminiscing about Badr, the number of prisoners that had been taken and the number of Quraysh killed. They also recalled the acts of heroism shown by the Muslims, both the Muhajirun and the Ansar and gave thanks to God for the great victory He had given them. At that very moment Umar turned around and saw Umayr ibn Wahb alighting from his camel and going towards the Mosque brandishing his sword. Alarmed, he jumped up and shouted. "This is the dog, the enemy of God, Umayr ibn Wahb. By God, he has only come to do evil. He led the Mushrikeen against us in Makkah and he was a spy for them against us shortly before Badr. Go to the Messenger of God, stand around him and warn him that this dirty traitor is after him."
Umar himself hastened to the Prophet and said, "O Rasulullah, this enemy of God, Umayr ibn Wahb, has come brandishing his sword and I think that he could only be up to something evil." "Let him come in," said the Prophet. Umar approached Umayr, took hold of him by the tails of his robes, pressed the back of his sword against his neck and took him to the Prophet. When the Prophet saw Umayr in this condition he said to Umar: "Release him." He then turned to Umayr and said: "Come closer." Umayr came closer and said, "Anim Sabahan (the Arab greeting in the days of Jahiliyyah)."
"God has granted us a greeting better than this, Umayr," said the Prophet. "God has granted us the greeting of Peace—it is the greeting of the people of Paradise." "What have you come for?" continued the Prophet. "I came here hoping to have the prisoner in your hands released, so please oblige me." "And what is this sword around your neck for?" quizzed the Prophet. "Tell me the truth. What have you come for, Umayr?" prodded the Prophet.
"I have only come to have the prisoner released," insisted Umayr. "No. You and Safwan ibn Umayyah sat near the Ka'bah recalling your companions who lie buried at al-Qalib and then you said, 'If I had no debt or no family to look after, I would certainly go out to kill Muhammad.' Safwan took over your debt and promised to look after your family in return for your agreeing to kill me. But God is a barrier between you and your achieving your aim." Umayr stood stupefied for a moment, then said: "I bear witness that you are the messenger of God." "We used, O messenger of God," he continued, "to reject whatever good you had brought and whatever revelation came to you. But my conversation with Safwan ibn Umayyah was not known to anyone else. By God, I am certain that only God could have made this known to you. Praise be to God Who has led me to you that He may guide me to Islam." He then testified that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah and became a Muslim. Thereupon, the Prophet instructed his companions:
"Instruct your brother in his religion. Teach him the Qur'an and set free his prisoner." The Muslims were extremely happy with Umayr's acceptance of Islam. Even Umar, who once said of him, "A pig is certainly dearer to me than Umayr ibn Wahb" came up to the Prophet and exclaimed, "Today, he is dearer to me than some of my own children." Thereafter Umayr spent much time increasing his knowledge of Islam and filling his heart with the light of the Qur'an. There, in Madinah, he spent the sweetest and richest days of his life away from what he had known in Makkah. Back in Makkah, Safwan was filled with hope and would say to the Quraysh, "I will soon give you some great news that would make you forget the events of Badr."
Safwan waited for a long time and then gradually became more and more anxious. Greatly agitated, he would go out and ask travellers what news they had of Umayr ibn Wahb but no one was able to give him a satisfactory reply. Eventually a rider came and said, "Umayr has become a Muslim." The news hit Safwan like a thunderbolt. He was certain that Umayr would never become a Muslim and if he ever did then everyone on the face of the earth would become Muslim also. '4Never shall I speak to him and never shall I do anything for him," he said. Umayr meanwhile kept on striving to gain a good understanding of his religion and memorize whatever he could of the words of God. When he felt he had achieved a certain degree of confidence, he went to the Prophet and said:
"O Rasulullah, much time has passed since I used to try to put out the light of God and severely tortured whoever was on the path of Islam. Now, I desire that you should give me permission to go to Makkah and invite the Quraysh to God and His Messenger. If they accept it from me, that will be good. And if they oppose me, I shall harass them as I used to harass the companions of the Prophet." The Prophet gave his consent and Umayr left for Makkah. He went straight to the house of Safwan ibn Umayyah and said: "Safwan, you are one of the chieftains of Makkah and one of the most intelligent of the Quraysh. Do you really think that these stones you are worshipping and making sacrifice to, deserve to be the basis of a religion? As for myself, I declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."
At Umayr's hands, many Makkans became Muslims, but Safwan did not. Later, during the liberation of Makkah, Safwan ibn Umayyah attempted to flee from the Muslim forces. Umayr, however, obtained an amnesty from the Prophet for him and he too became a Muslim and distinguished himself in the service of Islam.
Umm Salamah! What an eventful life she had! Her real name was Hind. She was the daughter of one of the notables in the Makhzum clan nicknamed "Zad ar-Rakib" because he was well known for his generosity partlcularly to travellers. Umm Salamah's husband was Abdullah ibn Abdulasad and they both were among the first persons to accept Islam. Only Abu Bakr and a few others, who could be counted on the fingers of one hand, became Muslims before them. As soon as the news of their becoming Muslims spread, the Quraysh reacted with frenzied anger. They began hounding and persecuting Umm Salamah and her husband. But the couple did not waver or despair and remained steadfast in their new faith. The persecution became more and more intense. Life in Makkah became unbearable for many of the new Muslims. The Prophet, peace be upon him, then gave permission for them to emigrate to Abyssinia. Umm Salamah and her husband were in the forefront of these muhajirun, seekers of refuge in a strange land. For Umm Salamah it meant abandoning her spacious home and giving up the traditional ties of lineage and honour for something new—hope in the pleasure and reward of Allah.
Despite the protection Umm Salamah and her companions received from the Abyssinian ruler, the desire to return to Makkah, to be near the Prophet and the source of relevation and guidance persisted. News eventually reached the muhajErun that the number of Muslims in Makkah had increased. Among them were Hamzah ibn Abdulmuttalib and Umar ibn al-Khattab. Their faith had greatly strengthened the community and the Quraysh they heard, had eased the persecution somewhat. Thus a group of the muhajErun, urged on by a deep longing in their hearts, decided to return to Makkah. The easing of the persecution was but brief as the returnees soon found out. The dramatic increase in the number of Muslims following the acceptance of Islam by Hamzah and Umar only infuriated the Quraysh even more. They intensified their persecution and torture to a pitch and intensity not known before. So the Prophet gave permission to his companions to emigrate to Madinah. Umm Salamah and her husband were among the first to leave.
The hijrah of Umm Salamah and her husband though was not as easy as they had imagined. In fact, it was a bitter and painful experience and a particularly harrowing one for her. Let us leave the story now for Umm Salamah herself to tell . . . When Abu Salamah (my husband) decided to leave for Madinah, he prepared a camel for me, hoisted me on it and placed our son Salamah on my lap. My husband then took the lead and went on without stopping or waiting for anything. Before we were out of Makkah however some men from my clan stopped us and said to my husband: "Though you are free to do what you like with yourself, you have no power over your wife. She is our daughter. Do you expect us to allow you to take her away from us?" They then pounced on him and snatched me away from him. My husband's clan, Banu Abdulasad, saw them taking both me and my child. They became hot with rage.
"No! By Allah," they shouted, "we shall not abandon the boy. He is our son and we have a first claim over him." They took him by the hand and pulled him away from me. Suddenly in the space of a few moments, I found myself alone and lonely. My husband headed for Madinah by himself and his clan had snatched my son away from me. My own clan, Banu Makhzum, overpowered me and forced me to stay with them. From the day when my husband and my son were separated from me, I went out at noon every day to that valley and sat at the spot where this tragedy occurred. I would recall those terrible moments and weep until night fell on me. I continued like this for a year or so until one day a man from the Banu Umayyah passed by and saw my condition. He went back to my clan and said: "Why don't you free this poor woman? You have caused her husband and her son to be taken away from her." He went on trying to soften their hearts and play on their emotions. At last they said to me, "Go and join your husband if you wish."
But how could I join my husband in Madinah and leave my son, a piece of my own flesh and blood, in Makkah among the Banu Abdulasad? How could I be free from anguish and my eyes be free from tears were I to reach the place of hijrah not knowing anything of my little son left behind in Makkah? Some realised what I was going through and their hearts went out to me. They petitioned the Banu Abdulasad on my behalf and moved them to return my son. I did not now even want to linger in Makkah till I found someone to travel with me and I was afraid that something might happen that would delay or prevent me from reaching my husband. So I promptly got my camel ready, placed my son on my lap and left in the direction of Madinah. I had just about reached Tan'im (about three miles from Makkah) when I met Uthman ibn Talhah. (He was a keeper of the Ka'bah in preIslamic times and was not yet a Muslim.)
"Where are you going, Bint Zad ar-Rakib?" he asked. "I am going to my husband in Madinah." "And there isn't anyone with you?" "No, by Allah. Except Allah and my little boy here." "By Allah, I shall never abandon you until you reach Madinah," he vowed. He then took the reins of my camel and led us on. I have, by Allah, never met an Arab more generous and noble than he. When we reached a resting place, he would make my camel kneel down, wait until I dismounted, lead the camel to a tree and tether it. He would then go to the shade of another tree. When we had rested he would get the camel ready and lead us on.
This he did every day until we reached Madinah. When we got to a village near Quba (about two miles from Madinah) belonging to Banu Amr ibn Awf, he said, "Your husband is in this village. Enter it with the blessings of God. " He turned back and headed for Makkah. Their roads finally met after the long separation. Umm Salamah was overjoyed to see her husband and he was delighted to see his wife and son. Great and momentous events followed one after the other. There was the battle of Badr in which Abu Salamah fought. The Muslims returned victorious and strengthened. Then there was the battle of Uhud in which the Muslims were sorely tested. Abu Salamah came out of this wounded very badly. He appeared at first to respond well to treatment, but his wounds never healed completely and he remained bedridden.
Once while Umm Salamah was nursing him, he said to her: "I heard the Messenger of God saying. Whenever a calamity afflicts anyone he should say, "Surely from Allah we are and to Him we shall certainly return." And he would pray, 'O Lord, give me in return something good from it which only You, Exalted and Mig hty, can give.'" Abu Salamah remained sick in bed for several days. One morning the Prophet came to see him. The visit was longer than usual. While the Prophet was still at his bedside Abu Salamah passed away. With his blessed hands, the Prophet closed the eyes of his dead companion. He then raised these hands to the heavens and prayed:
"O Lord, grant forgiveness to Abu Salamah. Elevate him among those who are near to You. Take charge of his family at all times. Forgive us and him, O Lord of the Worlds. Widen his grave and make it light for him." Umm Salamah remembered the prayer her husband had quoted on his deathbed from the Prophet and began repeating it, "O Lord, with you I leave this my plight for consideration . . ." But she could not bring herself to continue . . . "O Lord give me something good from it", because she kept asking herself, "Who could be better than Abu Salamah?" But it did not take long before she completed the supplication. The Muslims were greatly saddened by the plight of Umm Salamah. She became known as "Ayyin al-Arab"— the one who had lost her husband. She had no one in Madinah of her own except her small children, like a hen without feathers.
Both the Muhajirun and Ansar felt they had a duty to Umm Salamah. When she had completed the Iddah (three months and ten days), Abu Bakr proposed marriage to her but she refused. Then Umar asked to marry her but she also declined the proposal. The Prophet then approached her and she replied: "O Messenger of Allah, I have three characteristics. I am a woman who is extremely jealous and I am afraid that you will see in me something that will anger you and cause Allah to punish me. I am a woman who is already advanced in age and I am a woman wh o has a young family."
The Prophet replied: "Regarding the jealousy you mentioned, I pray to Allah the Almighty to let it go away from you. Regarding the question of age you have mentioned. I am afflicted with the same problem as you. Regarding the dependent family you have mentioned, your family is my family." They were married and so it was that Allah answered the prayer of Umm Salamah and gave her better than Abu Salamah. From that day on Hind al Makhzumiyah was no longer the mother of Salamah alone but became the mother of all believers— Umm al-Mu'mineen.
Uqbah Ibn Aamir
After a long and exhausting journey, the Prophet, peace be on him, is at last on the outskirts of Yathrib. The good people of the city go out to meet him. Many crowd the narrow streets. Some stand on roof-tops chanting La ilaha ilia Allah and Allahu Akbar in sheer joy at meeting the Prophet of Mercy and his loyal companion, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. The small girls of the city come out gaily beating their daffs and singing the words of welcome: Tala 'a-l badru alaynaa Min Thaniyaati-l Wadaa' Wajaba-sh shukru alaynaa Maa da'aa lillaahi daa' Ayyuha-l mab 'uthu finaa Ji'ta bi-l amri-l mutaa' Ji'ta sharrafta-l Madinah Marhaban yaa khayra-d daa'. "The full moon has come upon us. From beyond the hills of Thaniyaati-l Wadaa Grateful we must be. For what to God he calls? O you who has been sent among us? You came with a mission to be obeyed. You came, you honoured the city; Welcome, O best of those w ho call (to God). As the procession of the blessed Prophet wended its way, all around there were joyful hearts, tears of ecstasy, smiles of sheer happiness.
Far away from these scenes of jubilation and delight was a young man named Uqbah ibn Aamir al-Juhani. He had gone out to the bawadi, the open expanses of desert, to graze his flocks of sheep and goats on the sparse vegetation. He had wandered far in searc h of fodder for his hungry flock. It was difficult to find suitable grazing grounds and he was constantly afraid that his flock would perish. They were all he possessed and he did not want to lose them. The happiness which engulfed Yathrib, henceforth to be known as the radiant city of the Prophet, soon spread to the near and distant bawadi and reached every nook and corner of the land. The good news of the Prophet's arrival finally reached Uqbah as he t ended his flocks far away in the inhospitable desert. His response to the news was immediate as he himself relates: "The Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, came to Madinah while I was tending my sheep. When I heard the news of his coming, I s et out to meet him without delay. When I met him I asked: 'Will you accept my pledge of allegiance, O Messenger of God?' 'And who are you?' asked the Prophet. 'Uqbah ibn Aamir al-Juhani ,' I replied. 'Which do you prefer,' he asked, 'the pledge of a nomad or the pledge of someone who has migrated?' 'The pledge o f someone who has migrated,' I said. So the Messenger of God took the same pledge from me as he did from the Muhajirin. I spent the night with him and then went back to my flock.
There were twelve of us who had accepted Islam but we lived far from the city tending our sheep and goats in the open country. We came to the conclusion that it would be good for us if we went to the Prophet daily, so that he could instruct us in our reli gion and recite for us whatever revelation he had received from on high. I told the others: 'Take turns to go to the Messenger of God, peace be on him. Anyone going may leave his sheep with me because I am too worried and concerned about my own flock to leave them in the care of someone else.' Each day, one after another of my friends went to the Prophet, leaving his sheep for me to look after. When each returned, I learnt from him what he had heard and benefitted from what he had understood. Before long, however, I returned to my senses and sa id to myself:
'Woe to you! Is it because of a flock of sheep that you remain thin and wretched and lose the opportunity to be in the company of the Prophet and to speak directly to him without an intermediary':' With this, I left my flock, went to Madinah and stayed in the masjid close to the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace." Uqbah had no reason to regret having taken this fateful decision. Within a decade, he had become one of the outstanding scholars among the companions of the Prophet, a competent and beautiful reciter of the Quran, a military commander and later on one of the eminent Muslim governors as Islam spread east and west with astonishing rapidity. He could never have imagined as he left his flock to follow the teachings of the noble Prophet, that he would have been among the vanguard of the Muslim forces that libe rated fertile Damascus - then known as the "mother of the universe" and that he would have a house for himself among its verdant gardens. He could never have imagined that he would be one of the commanders who liberated Egypt, then known as the "emerald o f the world", and that he would be one of its governors.
The fateful decision however was taken. Alone, without possessions. or relatives, Uqbah came to Madinah from the hawadi. He stayed with others like him on the Suffah or elevated part of the Prophet's mosque, near his house. The Suffah was like a reception point where people like Uqbah would go because they wanted to be close to the Prophet. They were known as the "Ashab as-Suffah" and the Prophet once described them as the "guests of Islam". Because they had no income, the Prophet always shared his food with them and encouraged others to be generous to these "guests". They spent much of their time studying the Quran and learning about Islam. What a marvellous opportunity they had! They were i n close and regular contact with the Prophet. He had a special love and concern for them and took care to educate them and look after them in all respects. Uqbah gave an example of how the Prophet trained and taught them. He said: "One day, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came out to us while we were on the Suffah and asked: 'Which of you would like to go out to the open country or a valley every day and fetch for himself two beautiful, black camels?' (Such camels were considered prize possessions. )
'Everyone of us would like that, O Messenger of God,' we all replied. 'Now,' he said, 'each one of you should go to the mosque and learn two ayats (verses) of the Book of God. This is better for him than two camels; three verses are better than three camels; four verses are better than four camels (and son)." In this way, the Prophet tried to bring about a change in attitudes among those who had accepted Islam, a change from obsession with acquiring worldly possessions to an attitude of devotion to knowledge. His simple example provided them with motivation an d a powerful incentive to acquire knowledge. On other occasions, the Ashab as-Suffah would ask questions of the Prophet in order to understand their religion better. Once, Uqbah said, he asked the Prophet, "What is salvation?" and he replied: "Control your tongue, make your house spacious for guests and spurn your mistakes."
Even outside the mosque, Uqbah tried to stay close to the Prophet. On journeys, he often took the reins of the Prophet's mule and went wherever the Prophet desired. Sometimes he followed directly behind the Prophet, peace be on him, and so came to be call ed the redif of the Prophet. On some occasions, the Prophet would descend from his mount and allow Uqbah to ride while he himself walked. Uqbah described one such occasion: "I took hold of the reins of the Prophet's mule while passing through some palm groves of Madinah. 'Uqbah ,' the Prophet said to me, 'don't you want to ride.'?' I thought of saying 'no' but I felt there might be an element of disobedience to the Prophet in such a reply so I said: 'Yes, O Prophet of God.'
The Prophet then got down from his mule and I mounted in obedience to his command. He began to walk. Shortly afterwards I dismounted. The Prophet mounted again and said to me: 'Uqbah, shall I not teach you two surahs the like of which has not been heard before.'?' 'Certainly, O Messenger of God,' I replied. And so he recited to me "Qul a'udhu bi rabbi-l Falaq" and "Qul a'udhu bi rabbi-n nas" (the last two surahs of the Quran). I then said the Iqamah for Salat. The Prophet led the Salat and recited these two surahs. (Afterwards), he said: 'Read both these surahs when you go to sleep and whenever you wake up.'" The above instances show "continuous education" at its best, at home, in the mosque, riding, walking in the open school of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
Two objectives occupied Uqbah's attention throughout his life; the search for knowledge and jihad in the path of God. He applied his energies totally to these objectives. In the field of learning, he drank deeply from the fountain of knowledge that was the Messenger of God, peace be on him. Uqbah became a distinguished muqri (reciter of the Quran), a muhaddith (recorder and narrator of the sayings of the Prophet); a faqih (jurist); a faradi (expert on the Islamic laws of inheritance); an adib (literateur); a fasih (orator) and a sha'ir (poet). In reciting the Quran, he had a most pleasant and beautiful voice. In the stillness of the night, when the entire universe seems peaceful and tranquil, he would turn to the Book of God, and recite its overpowering verses. The hearts of the noble companion s would be drawn to his recitation. Their whole being would be shaken and they would be moved to tears from the fear of God which his recitation induced.
One day Umar ibn al-Khattab invited him and said: "Recite for me something from the Book of God, O Uqbah." "At your command, O Amir al-Muminin," said Uqbah and began reciting. Umar wept till his beard was wet. Uqbah left a copy of the Quran written in his own hand. It is said that this copy of the Quran existed until quite recently in Egypt in the well-known mosque named after Uqbah ibn Aamir himself. At the end of this text was written: "Uqbah ibn Aamir al-Juh ani wrote it." This Mushaf of Uqbah was one of the earliest copies of the Quran in existence but it was lost in its entirety with other priceless documents due to the carelessness of Muslims. In the field of Jihad, it is sufficient to know that Uqbah fought beside the Prophet, peace be on him, at the Battle of Uhud and in all the military engagements thereafter. He was also one of the valiant and daring group of shock troopers who were tested to their maximum during the battle for Damascus. In recognition for his outstanding services, the commander of the Muslim forces then, Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah, despatched Uqbah to Madinah to convey the good news of the liberation of Damascus to Umar ibn al-Khattab. Uqbah spent eight days and seven nights, from Friday to Friday, in a continuous forced march to bring the news to Umar.
Uqbah was one of the commanders of the Muslim forces that liberated Egypt. For three years he was the Muslim governor of Egypt after which he received orders from the Caliph Muawiyah to mount a naval expedition to the island of Rhodes in the Mediterranean Sea. An indication of Uqbah's enthusiasm for jihad is the fact that he committed to memory the sayings of the Prophet on this subject and became a specialist in narrating them to the Muslims. One of his favorite pastimes was to practice the skill of spear thro wing. Uqbah was in Egypt when he became fatally ill. He gathered his children together and gave them his final advise. He said: "My children, guard against three things: Don't accept; my saying attributed to the Prophet, peace be on him, except from a reliable authority. Do not incur debts or take up a loan even if you are in the position of an imam. Don't compose poetry for your hearts might be distracted thereby from the Quran."
Uqbah ibn Aamir al-Juhani, the qari, the alim, the ghazi, died in Cairo and was buried at the foot of the Muqattam hills.
Utbah Ibn Ghazwan
Umar ibn al-Kattab, the head of the rapidly expanding Muslim State went to bed early just after the Salat al-Isha. He wanted to have a rest and feel refreshed for his nightly tour of inspection of the capital city which he often did incognito. Before he could/all asleep however, the post from the outlying regions of the State arrived informing him that the Persian forces confronting the Muslims were proving especially difficult to subdue. They were able to send in reinforcements and supplies from many pl aces to relieve their armies on the point of defeat. The letter urged Umar to send reinforcements and in particular it said: "The city of al-Ubullah must be considered one of the most important sources providing men and material to the Persian forces under attack." Umar decided then to despatch an army to take the city of al-Ubullah and cut off its line of supplies to the Persian armies. His main problem was that he had so few men left with him in the city. That was because young men, men of maturity and even old men had gone out on campaigns far and wide in the path of God, fi sabilillah.
In these circumstances he determined to follow the strategy which he knew and which was well-tried that is, to mobilize a small force and place it under the leadership of a strong and able commander. He considered, one after another the names of the indiv iduals who were still with him, to see who was the most suitable commander. Finally, he exclaimed himself: "I have found him. Yes I have found him." He then went back to bed: The person he had in mind was a well-known mujahid who had fought at Badr, Uhud, al-Khandaq and other battles. He had also fought in the terrible battles of Yamamah and emerged unscathed. He was in fact one of the first to a ccept Islam. He went on the first hijrah to Abyssinia but had returned to stay with the Prophet in Makkah. He then went on hijrah to Madinah. This tall and imposing companion of the Prophet was known for his exceptional skill in the use of spears and arrows.
When morning came, Umar called his attendants and said: "Call Utbah ibn Ghazwan for me," Umar managed to put together an army of just over three hundred men and he appointed Utbah as their commander with the promise that he would send reinforcements to hi m as soon as possible. When the army was assembled in ranks ready to depart, Umar al-Faruq stood before them bidding them farewell and giving instructions to his commander, Utbah. He said: "Utbah, I am sending you to the land of al-Ubullah. It is one of the major fortresses of the enemy and I pray that God helps you to take it. When you reach the city, invite its inhabitants to the worship of God. If they respond to you, accept them (as Muslims). If they refuse, then take from them the jizyah.. If they refuse to pay the jizy ah then fight them... And fear God, O Utbah, in the discharge of your duties. Beware of letting yourself become too haughty or arrogant for this will corrupt your hereafter. Know that you were a companion of the Messenger of God, may God bless him and gr ant him peace. God honoured you through him after your being insignificant. He strengthened you through him after you were weak. You have become a commander with authority and a leader who must be obeyed. What a great blessing if this does not make you v ain and deceive you and lead you to Jahannam. May God protect you and me from it."
With this chastening advice and prayer, Utbah and his army set off. Several women were in the army including his wife and the wives and sisters of other men. Eventually they reached a place called Qasbaa not very far from al-Ubullah. It was called Qasbaa because of the abundance of reed-like stalks which grew there. At that point the army was absolutely famished. They had nothing to eat. When hunger gripped them, Utbah ordered some of his men to go and search the land for something to eat. One of the men told the story of their search of food:
"While we were searching for something to eat, we entered a thicket and, lo and behold there were two large baskets. In one there were dates and in the other small white grains covered with a yellow husk. We dragged the baskets with the grain and said: "T his is poison which the enemy has prepared for you. Don't go near it all." We went for the dates and began eating from it. While we were busy eating the dates, a horse which had broken loose from its tether went up to the basket of grain and began eating from it. By God, we seriously thought of slaughtering it before it should die (from the alleged poison) and benefit from its meat. However, its owner came up to us and said: "Leave it. I shall look after it for the night and if I feel that it is going to die, I will slaughter it."
In the morning we found the horse quite healthy with no sign of ill effects. My sister then said: 'Yaa akhi, I have heard my father saying: Poison does not harm (food) if it is placed on fire and cooked well.' We then took some of the grain, placed it in a pot and put it on a fire. After a short while my sister called out: 'Come and see how it has become red and the husks have begun to separate leaving white grains.' We placed the white grains in a large bowl and Utbah said to us: 'Mention the name of Allah on it and eat it.' We ate and found it exceedingly delicious and good. We learnt after that the grain was called rice."
The army of Utbah then went on to the fortified city of al-Ubullah on the banks of the River Euphrates. The Persians used al-Ubullah as a massive arms depot. There were several fortresses in the city from which towers sprang. These were used as observatio n posts to detect any hostile movements outside the city. The city appeared to be impregnable. What chance had Utbah of taking it with such a small force armed with only swords and spears? A direct assault was obviously futile and so Utbah had to resort to some stratagem. Utbah had flags prepared which he had hung on spears. These he gave to the women and ordered them to march behind the army. His instructions to them then were: "When we get near to the city, raise the dust behind us so that the entire atmosphere is filled with it."
As they neared al-Ubullah, a Persian force came out to confront them, they saw the Muslims boldly advancing, the flags fluttering behind them and the dust which was being churned up and which filled the air around. They thought that the Muslims in front o f the flags were merely the vanguard of the advancing army, a strong and numerous army. They felt they would be no match for such a foe. They lost heart and prepared to evacuate the city. Picking up whatever valuables they could, they rushed to boats anch ored on the river and abandoned their well-fortified city. Utbah entered al-Ubullah without losing any of his men. From this base he managed to bring surrounding towns and villages under Muslim control. When news spread of Utbah's successes, and of the richness of the land he had occupied, many people flocked to the region in search of wealth and easy living.
Uqbah noted that many Muslims now inclined towards a soft life and followed the ways and customs of the region and that this weakened their determination to continue struggling. He wrote to Umar ibn al-Khattab asking for permission to build the garrison town of Basrah. He described the locations he had chosen for the city and Umar gave his assent. Basrah lay between the desert and the ports of the Gulf and from this base expediti ons were launched further east. The positioning of the town was for maximum military effectiveness (not merely to support an army of occupation).
Utbah himself planned the city and built its first great masjid which was a simple enclosure, roofed over at one end and suitable for mass assemblies. From the mosque, Utbah and his men went out on military campaigns. These men eventually settled on the land and built houses. Utbah himself however did not build a house for himself but continued to live in a tent of cloth. He had seen how preoccupation with worldly possessions had caused many people to forget themselves and their real purpose in life. He had seen how men who no t long ago knew no food better than rice boiled in their husks, getting accustomed to sophisticated Persian patisserie like fasludhanj and lawzinaj made with refined flour, butter, honey and nuts of various kinds to the point where they hankered after the se things.
Utbah was afraid that his din would be affected by his dunya and he was concerned about his hereafter. He called men to the masjid of Basrah and addressed them thus: "O people! The dunya will come to an end and you will be carried from it to an abode which will not wane or disappear. Go to it with the best of your deeds. I look back and see myself among the early Muslims with the Messenger of Allah may God bless him and grant him peace. We had no food then apart from the leaves of trees and our lips would fester. One day I found a burdah. I tore it in two and shared it with Sad ibn Abi Waqqas. I made an aazar with one half and he did the same with the other half. Here we are today. There is not one of us but he is an amir of one of the garrison towns. I seek Allah's protection lest I become great in my own estimation and little in the sight of Allah.." With these words Utbah appointed someone else to stand in his place, and bade farewell to the people of Basrah.
It was the season of pilgrimage and he left to perform the Hajj. He then travelled to Madinah and there he asked Umar to relieve him of the responsibility of governing the city. Umar refused. He could not easily dispense with a governor of the quality of Utbah and said to him: "You place your trusts and your responsibilities on my neck and then you abandon me to myself. No, by God, I shall never relieve you." So Umar prevailed upon him and commanded him to return to Basrah, Utbah knew that he had to obey the Amir al-Muminin but he did so with a heavy heart. He mounted his camel and on his way he prayed:
"O Lord, do not send me back to Basrah. O Lord, do not send me back to Basrah." He had not gone far from Madinah when his camel stumbled. Utbah fell and the injuries he sustained proved to be fatal.
People are made up of basic "metals" or qualities. The best of them in JahilEyyah are the best of them in Islam, according to a hadith of the Prophet. Here are two pictures of a noble companion—one during his life in Jahiliyyah and the other after he became a Muslim. In Jahiliyyah, this Sahabi was known as Zayd al-Khayl. When he became a Muslim, the Prophet renamed him Zayd al-Khayr. The tribe of Aamir were afflicted one year by a severe drought which destroyed crops and vegetation and caused livestock to perish. So bad was it that one man left the tribe with his family and went to Hira. There he left his family with the words, "Wait for me here till I return to you." He swore to himself not to return to them until he earned some money for them or died in the process.
The man took some provisions with him and walked all day in search of something for his family. At nightfall, he found himself in front of a tent. Nearby a horse was tethered and he said to himself: "This is the first booty." He went to the horse, untied it and was about to mount it when a voice called out to him: "Leave it and take your life as booty." He hastily abandoned the horse.
For seven days he walked until he reached a place where there was a pasture for camels. Nearby was an enormous tent with a leather dome, signs of great riches and wealth. The man said to himself: "Doubtless this pasture has camels and doubtless this tent has occupants." The sun was about to set. The man looked inside the tent and saw a very old man in the centre. He sat down behind the old man without the latter realizing his presence.
The sun soon set. A horseman, imposing and well built, approached. He rode his mount erect and tall. Two male servants accompanied him, one on his right and the other on his left. With him were almost a hundred she-camels and in front of them a huge male camel. Clearly he was a well-endowed man. To one of the servants he said, pointing to a fat camel: "Milk this and give the old man a drink."-The shaykh drank one or two mouthfuls from the full vessel which was brought to him and left it. The wanderer went up to it stealthily and drank all the milk in it. The servant returned, took the vessel and said:
"Master, he has drunk it all." The horseman was happy and ordered another camel to be milked. The old man drank only one mouthful and the wanderer drank hall ol what was left so as not to arouse the suspicion of the horseman. The horseman then ordered his second servant to kill a sheep. Some of it was grilled and the horseman fed the shaykh until he was satisfied. He and the two servants then ate. After this, they all slept soundly; their snoring filled the tent.
The wanderer then went to the she-camel, untied and mounted it. He rode off and the she camels followed. He rode throughout the night. At daybreak he looked around in every direction but did not see anyone following him. He pushed on until the sun was high in the sky. He looked around and suddenly saw something like an eagle or a big bird in the distance coming towards him. It quickly gained on him and soon he saw that it was the horseman on his horse . The wanderer dismounted and tied the he-camel. He took out an arrow and placed it in his bow and stood in front of the other camels. The horseman stopped at a distance and shouted: "Untie the camel." The man refused saying how he had left behind him a hungry family in Hira and how he had sworn not to return unless he had money or died in the process.
"You are dead if you do not untie the camel," said the horseman. The wanderer again refused to do so. The horseman threatened him once more and said: "Hold out the reins of the camel. There are three knots in it. Tell me in which of them you want me to place my arrow." The man pointed to the middle knot and the horseman lodged an arrow right in the centre as if he had neatly placed it there with his hand. He did the same with the second and third knots. At that, the man quietly returned his own arrow to his quiver and gave himself up. The horseman took away his sword and his bow and said to him:
"Ride behind me." The man expected the worst fate to befall him now. He was at the complete mercy of the horseman who said: "Do you think I will cause you harm when you have shared with Muhalhil (the old man, his father) his drink and his food last night?" When the man heard the name Muhalhil, he was astonished and asked: "Are you Zayd al-Khayl?" "Yes," said the horseman. "Be the best captor," pleaded the man. "Don't worry," replied Zayd al-Khayl calmly. "If these camels were mine, I would give them to you. But they belong to one of my sisters. But stay some days with me. I am about to make a raid."
Three days later he raided the Banu Numayr and captured about a hundred camels, as booty. He gave them all to the man and sent some men with him as guards until he reached his family in Hira. The above is a story of Zayd al-Khayl as he was in Jahiliyyah recounted by the historian ash-Shaybani. The books of Siyar give another picture of Zayd al-Khayl as he was in Islam . . . When Zayd al-Khayl heard the news of the Prophet, peace be upon him, he made some of his own enquiries and then decided to go to Madinah to meet the Prophet. With him was a big delegation of his people among whom were Zurr ibn Sudoos, Malik ibn Jubayr, Aamir ibn Duwayn and others. When they reached Madinah, they went straight to the Prophet's Mosque and tethered their mounts at its door. It happened that as they entered, the Prophet was on the mimbar addressing the Muslims. His speech aroused Zayd and his delegation and they were also astonished by the rapt attention of the Muslims and the effect of the Prophet's words on them. The Prophet was saying:
"I am better for you than al-Uzza (one of the main idols of the Arabs in Jahiliyyah) and everything else that you worship. I am better for you than the black camel which you worship besides God." The Prophet's words had two different effects on Zayd al-Khayl and those with him. Some of them responded positively to the Truth and accepted it. Some turned away and rejected it. One of the latter was Zurr ibn Sudoos. When he saw the devotion of the believers to Muhammad, both envy and fear filled his heart and he said to those with him: "I see a man who shall certainly captivate all Arabs and bring them under his sway. I shall not let him control me ever." He then headed towards Syria where it is said he shaved his head (as was the practice of some monks) and became a Christian.
The reaction of Zayd and others was different. When the Prophet had finished speaking, Zayd stood up, tall and impressive-looking in the midst of the Muslims and said in a loud and clear voice: "O Muhammad, I testify that there is no god but Allah and that you are the messenger of Allah." The Prophet came up to him and asked, "Who are you?" "I am Zayd al-Khayl the son of Muhalhil." "From now on you are Zayd al-Khayr instead, not Zayd al-Khayl," said the Prophet. "Praise be to God Who has brought you from the hills and dales of your native land and softened your heart towards Islam." Thereafter he was known as Zayd al-Khayr (Zayd the Good).
The Prophet then took him to his house. With them were Umar ibn al-Khattab and some other Companions. The Prophet gave him a cushion to sit on but he felt very uncomfortable to recline thus in the presence of the Prophet and he returned the cushion. The Prophet handed it back to him and he returned it to him. This happened three times. Eventually, when they were all seated, the Prophet said to Zayd al-Khayr: "O Zayd, no man has ever been described to me and when I see him he does not fit the description at all except you. You have two characteristics which are pleasing to God and His Prophet."
"What are they?" asked Zayd. "Perseverance and sagacity," replied the Prophet. "Praise be to God," said Zayd, "Who has given me what He and His Prophet like." He then turned directly to the Prophet and said: "Give me, O rnessenger of God, three hundred horsemen and I promise you that I will secure Byzantine territory with them." The Prophet praised his fervour and said, "What manner of man are you!" During this visit, all those who stayed with Zayd became Muslims. They then desired to return to their homes in Najd and the Prophet bade them farewell. The great desire of Zayd al-Khayr to work and fight for the cause of Islam, however, was not to be realised.
In Madinah al-Munawwarah at that time there was an epidemic of fever and Zayd al-Khayr succumbed to it and said to those with him: "Take me away from the land of Qays. I have the fever of small pox. By God, I shall not fight as a Muslim before I meet Allah, the Mighty the Great." Zayd took the road to his people in Najd in spite of the fact that the fever became more and more intense and slowed him down. He hoped at least to get back to his people and that they would become Muslims, through God's grace, at his hands. He struggled to overcome the fever but it got the better of him and he breathed his last on the way before reaching Najd. Between his acceptance of Islam and his death, however, there was no time for him to have fallen into sin.
Scanned from: "Companions of The Prophet", Vol.1, By: Abdul Wahid Hamid.