I like history because I like stories. So to begin my “quest” I got this book called The Men Around the Messenger by Khaalid Muhammad Khaalid translated by Sheik Muhammad Mustafa Gemeiah of Al Azhar Administration. Highlight stories of the Prophet Muhammad (S)’s companions (excluding the four caliphates-who have their own books). Each chapter is presented in a sort of time-capsule way that allows you to envision traveling back to the early years of Islam and takes you through the life of each individual and tells their story.
I am not going to re-tell their stories. Rather, I have highlighted parts that really stood out to me, causing me to pause, think, be in awe. The stories themselves are all gems and I highly recommend this book to anyone. I’ll begin with a companion who’s name is probably very familiar for most people: Abu Dhar Al-Ghifaariy
Abu Dhar Al-Ghifaariy was from a tribe that was known for being dangerous thieves and highway-robbers. He was strong and powerful both physically and mentally. He came to Islam when it was in it’s early stages. However the minute he heard about Islam and the truth of the Messenger of Allah (SWT) he wanted to shout it out to everyone he knew. Muhammad (S) was in wonder about the conversion of Abu Dhar when he found out he was from the notorious tribe of Gifaar, and in his wonder he smiled and said, “Allah guides whom He wills. Indeed, Allah guides whom He wills”
Abu Dhar was a man who knew how to use his sword (coming from a formidable tribe), however Muhammad (pbuh) advised Abu Dhar to use his words which were just as powerful as a sharp blade. After getting into a few skirmishes with the Quraish because of his overzealous attitude to call people to Islam openly, Muhammad (peace be upon him) sent Abu Dhar back to his people of Gifaar and stay with them “until my order reaches you” (of course we know this is when Islam went to Medina). And in the protection of Medina when Islam had the capacity to grow without persecution, Abu Dhar came back to Muhammad (pbuh) with not only his entire tribe of Gifaar as Muslim but the entire neighboring tribe of Bani Aslim. Without a doubt the Prophet (pbuh)’s wonder and astonishment increased, and he expressed his wonder on that day saying, “Allah guides whom He wills“
I can only imagine what it must have been. You never know who Allah (SWT) will guide. There is no “fit the bill” description of those who enter Islam expect within their heart and only Allah (SWT) can read people’s hearts. Prime examples would be: Yusuf Islam former singer and heartthrob of the western world. People come into Islam by the guidance of Allah (SWT) and leave the world asking the question: why?
Another example is Yousef Estes. A former Preacher of Catholicism brought into the fold Islam without any Muslim preaching Islam to him. It’s one those things. It makes you wonder, because you know there’s something to it. There is something about Islam that reaches peoples hearts quicker than words each the ear.
Muhammad (S) expressed his opinion of Abu Dhar in a words so encompassing:
“The earth never carried above it, nor did the sky ever shade under it a more truthful tongue than Abu Dhar’s”
I read this. And read it again. I wonder how the earth and sky must have felt to be in the presence of Abu Dhar? Due to Prophet (pbuh)’s advising Abu Dhar would use his tongue as a sword, speaking the sharpness of truth that caused stir in the Islamic world even after Muhammad (S) returned to Allah (SWT).
In fact the Prophet once asked him, “O Abu Dhar, what would you do if you witnessed a time when commanders monopolize the spoils of war?” He replied, “I swear by Allah Who sent you with the truth, I would strike him down with my sword!” The Prophet (pbuh) said to him, “Shall I guide you what is better? Be patient till you meet me.”
During the rule of Umar (R) Islam thrived, “No governor of the Caliph, whether in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, or anywhere else in the region, could ever eat a kind of sweet unaffordable by ordinary people without such a piece of information soon reaching ‘Umar, who would immediately order that governor to return to Al-Madiinah, where he would face a severe punishment”
THIS. This quote makes you think about society today and about the human heart that longs to meet His lord. Because I can’t imagine ANY of the leaders of today-any one of them-feeling they don’t deserve entitlement. Or bonuses. Or a nice chair. Or an nice office. There’s an incredible distinction between a leader and their people. A glamor. A title. In fact many of the world leaders today sit in relative comfort why their people are getting kicked out of their homes, while their people have turned to street begging (I’ve seen more begars on the streets of Chicago in the past four years than my entire life), or in some cases while their people are being slaughtered (Syria and Egypt come to mind).
There are two types of leaders, those that fear their power and those that crave it. Those that fear power are not weak. They know that they will be accountable in front of God for their people and they will answer to Him and Allah sees everything. And that is something that is worthy of real, blinding fear. Though in today’s age I can’t imagine a leader of people being accountable for eating a sweet that his people could not afford. I can’t imagine the kind of moral character and personality that would give up their ego and live his life modestly serving the needs of his people. But this is history. And it happened once. Which means, maybe, just maybe it can happen again.
After the passing of ‘Umar the Islamic world underwent “a tremendous gap, causing inevitable reactions beyond human expectations. What sort of change? the assassination of Umar opened the door of fitna (trials) in the Muslim world. Trials between Muslims of that likes that can be seen even today, from great wars and battles between Muslims to the smallest of arguments among us. And things like money-created by Allah to be obedient to His servants for the benefit of mankind-turned into a tyrant master. And power-a responsibility that pious people tremble when thinking about its horrible charge in the Hereafter-turned into a means of authority, wealth and destructive luxury.
And it was during this time (after both Muhammad (S) and Umar (R) passed, that Abu Dhar used his tongue as the Prophet had advised him years ago, that his tongue was a sharp as a sword. He traveled the Muslim world with a chant,
Announce to those who hoard up gold and silver, the warning of branding irons with which their foreheads and bodies will be branded in the hereafter!”
His chant was in reference to a passage in the Quran (9:34-35) that gives the a warning of those who hoard the wealth the punishment in the hereafter.
His chant became one that was heard across the Muslim worlds, one that inspired the people to reflect and change. The hype could me comparable to Obama’s speech for “Change” or Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream” it was a signature of the time. Abu Dhar saw that wealth was being accumulated and monopolized for power and being turned into a means of supremacy and abuse. The worst of which had afflicted Syria. (Another surprise, sometimes it feels like the world we live today is falling apart. But I believe that perhaps the world always feels like it is falling apart in every time period.) When he was called from Syria to Al-Madina by Uthman (R) (the current Calipha) who had been informed by the Syrian governor that Abu Dhar “Spoils the people of Syria” with his talks. Abu Dhar arrived in Al-Madina and Uthman (R) kindly presented Abu Dhar his decision, “Stay here beside me. You will be endowed with blessings day and night”. But this was Abu Dhar who wanted nothing more than to follow Allah (SWT) in the way that had been during the Prophet (pbuh)’s era and he responded, “I don’t need your world!”
I don’t need your world. We’re so tempted to LIVE this Life. To yolo our days away with Drake and Rhianna. But there is SO much more! In fact if LIFE was all there was to our existence, I can understand where dark depression comes from. But as Muslims we know that there is a life of the grave, the Day of Judgement, the final reckoning, Heaven and Hell. And LIFE compared to that is just the test. The entrance exam, the MCAT of an entire progression just the first step, difficult but only the first of many things to come.
What truly broke my heart is that Abu Dhar wished so much that the Prophet’s Companions would not be appointed as governors and would not collect fortunes, but would rather stay as they always had been: as spiritual guides to the right path of Allah’s worshipers.
Abu Dhar was not tempted with the world we call dunya. He was offered the governorship of Iraq, a country that posses so many natural riches, and declined saying, “By Allah, you will never temp with your world”
This duyna and all its jewels were presented to Abu Dhar’s and he never accepted it. He stayed patient until the day he died knowing that he would meet Allah (SWT) and Muhammad (pbuh) soon.