Sunday, May 25, 2014

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-Quranic 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 Kabah 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 yourself " 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 yourself " 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 fulfill his intention. When he reached the valley of Makkah, he began shouting in a loud, resonant voice:

"Labbayk Allahumma labbayk. Labbayka Laa shareeka Laka labbayk. Innal hamda wan ni´mata Laka wall 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 talbiyah.

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 impostor, 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 Quran: "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 uttering 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 dispatched by Abu Bakr but at the cost of many a Muslim life.

Ubayy Ibn Kab

"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-Kursi).

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 thereafter. 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 with 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 money 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 fade 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, referred 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 Zayd 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 function 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 sycophantic 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 of 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 al-AnsarI

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 al JumahI

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. Umar 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 Kabah and worship his idols. He found Safwan ibn Umayyah sitting near the Kabah, 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 al-Qalib in Badr.

Safwan ibn Umayyah shook his head and sighed, "By God, there can be no better after them."

"You are right," declared Umar. He remained silent for a while and then said, "By the God of the Kabah, 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:

"Umar, 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 Umar. "But keep this conversation of ours secret and do not divulge any of it to anyone."

"That shall be so," said Safwan.

Umar 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 .

Umar 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.

Umar 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, "Im Sabaha" (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 Umar.

"No. You and Safwan ibn Umayyah sat near the Kabah 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."

Umar stood stupefied nor 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 Quran 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 Quran. 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 travelers 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 "Umar 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. "Never shall I speak to him and never shall I do anything for him," he said.

Umar 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 worship ping 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. Umar, 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

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 particularly to travelers. 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 honor 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 revelation and guidance persisted.

News eventually reached the muhajirun 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 muhajirun, 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 from me, hoisted me on it and placed our son Salamah on my lap. My husband then took the lead end 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 end snatched me away from him. My husbands 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 in 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 realized 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 Tanim (about three miles from Makkah) when I met Uthman ibn Talhah. (He was a keeper of the Kabah in pre-lslamic 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 the 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 Mighty, 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 who 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-Mumineen.

Select Your Language