Rahmatullah Khan Shakir (1901-2000), Former Assistant Editor and Manager of Al Fazl
Like many other traits, the quality of keeping one’s promise is very noticeable in the lives of the Companionsra, so much so that they would not disregard it even when made to their antagonists. And at the cost of any loss, they would not break their promises.
In the time of Hazrat Umarra, when the Muslim forces were fighting the Romans and had conquered Homs, after consultation, it was decided as a military strategy to leave the conquered territory and for the whole force to gather in Damascus once again. But the jizyah had been collected from the inhabitants of the conquered areas, in whose lieu the Muslims had guaranteed their security.
Once the decision of leaving the conquered area was made, all that had been collected from them was returned to them as their security could not have been guaranteed. The local Christians and the Jews were so impressed by this gentle behaviour of the Muslim forces that they supplicated with deep anguish for them to come back soon. (Kitab al-Kharaj, Qazi Abu Yusuf, p. 31)
Keeping a promise made by a slave
Once, during the siege of a castle by the Muslim forces, a Muslim slave guaranteed security to the inhabitants of the castle. As the guarantee was not given by a Muslim leader, the Muslims in general refused to keep the promise. But the besieged people pleaded that they were unaware whether the man who made a promise was a slave or a freed-man, therefore the promise to them must be kept.
Ultimately when the matter was presented to Hazrat Umarra for a final decision, he said, “The promise of a Muslim slave is like that of the whole people, therefore the promise must be kept.” (Futuh al-Buldan, p. 139)
Breaking a peace treaty
The Muslims were so particular about keeping their promises that they had the courage to stop even a mighty ruler when they saw any relapse in it.
Once, Hazrat Amir Muawiyahra made a peace treaty with the Romans. The allocated time was not over yet when the Muslims started preparing for an advance on them. When Hazrat Umarra bin Ansah learnt of the Muslims’ preparation for the advance, he mounted a horse and reached Hazrat Muawiyahra and [referring to the treaty] said, “We must keep our promise. Going against one’s word is inappropriate for a Muslim.” (Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Jihad, Bab fil-Imam Yakunu bainahu wa bainal-Aduwwi Ahdun)
Honouring a promise with local people
The Muslims would not back out from their word, even to the non-believers. Amir Muawiyahra appointed Hazrat Aqbahra bin Amir as the governor of Egypt. He wanted to have a residential house built for himself in a town in Egypt. For this purpose, he selected a piece of uncultivated land which no one owned. A servant of his suggested that he select a better piece of land as the selected land was not very good. But Hazrat Aqbahra replied that that was impossible because a condition of the treaty to the non-Muslim subjects was that no piece of land would be taken out of their control. (Maqrezi, Vol 1. p. 208)
Blood money for not honouring one’s word
It has already been discussed that a group of seventy huffaz, or qura was sent to educate some people in faith at their request. But the disbelievers attacked them and killed all of them except two. One of the two was Hazrat Umarra bin Umayya Dhahri.
On his way back to Medina, he happened to see two men from the clan of Banu Amir. Out of revenge, Hazrat Umarra slew both of them. In Medina, when he gave the full account of the martyrdom of the huffaz, he also talked about slaying the two men of Banu Amir. The Holy Prophetsa said, “As for these two they had given their word to us, therefore slaying them was not justified. Now we must give their blood-money in compensation.” (Sirat Ibn Hisham, Vol. 2, p. 186, Qatl-il-Amirin)
The Prophetsa honouring his word and leaving Mecca as promised
According to the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, the Muslims were allowed to come to Mecca for Umrah the next year, but could not stay over three days in Mecca.
The next year, the Holy Prophetsa, accompanied by 2,000 Muslims, came for Umrah and after performing the Umrah, his Nikah was solemnised with Hazrat Maimunahra.
On the fourth day, a delegation of the idolaters came to the Holy Prophetsa and asked him to leave Mecca as three days had passed. He said that if they permitted, he would like to give the feast of walima there and invite the Meccans as well. But they said they did not need the feast of walima and that he must keep his word. Thus, he immediately had their departure announced and halted at the valley of Sarf out of Mecca. (Sirat Ibn Hisham, Vol. 2, p. 372, Zawaj-ir-Rasul bi-Maimunah)
Keeping promise despite deception
After the death of Musailamah, the imposter, in the Battle of Yamamah, some of his troops were made captive whereas some others escaped. Inside the castle and the city of Yamamah, mostly women and children were left. But Hazrat Khalidra was unaware of this fact.
One of the captives, Maja‘ah bin Mararah, said that still there was a large number of troops with plentiful supplies and who could engage the Muslims for a long time. He said that if he was allowed, he would go inside the castle and try for reconciliation. Hazrat Khalidra agreed and allowed him to go inside the castle.
When he went inside, he armed the women and children and stood them along the city-wall to show that a formidable army was in the castle and so that the Muslims might show leniency towards them in the conditions of the peace treaty. In any case, a treaty was agreed on and the inhabitants were granted some concessions. But the Muslim army learned of Maja‘ah’s trick only when they entered the castle.
Hazrat Khalidra asked him as to why he deceived him. He replied that his people would have perished had he not done so. Even though he had cheated, as far as the peace treaty was concerned, Hazrat Khalidra deemed it necessary to abide by it and did not violate even a single term of it.
Shortly afterwards, the order of Hazrat Abu Bakrra, Leader of the Faithful, was received that all the able-bodied men of Yamamah be killed and the women and children made captives. But since the treaty had been signed before the order was received, it was not complied with. This incident is one of the prominent incidents of the Muslims’ keeping their word. (Tarikh al-Tabari, Bab Zikr Baqiyyati Khabar Musailimatul-Kazzab, Vol. 3, p. 299)
Hormuzan was a leader of the Persians. When the Persians fled after losing the battle of Qadisiyyah, Hormuzan established an independent state of his in Khuzestan.
After losing the battle against the Muslim troops, he surrendered to rebel again. The Muslims once again defeated him, but when he saw that the king of Persia was marching against the Muslims, he joined hands with him and fought against the Muslims. After much struggle and many battles, he requested for a treaty of reconciliation, on a proviso that the Muslims would send him before their Khalifa in Medina and that he would gladly accept any decision made by him. Thus, he was sent to Medina.
When he was presented before Hazrat Umarra, he was asked as to why he broke his word so many times. Hormuzan said that he was thirsty. Water was brought. He said he feared that he would be killed while drinking the water. Hazrat Umarra assured him not to worry at all and that he would not be harmed as long as he finished the water. Hearing the words, he put down the glass and refused to drink it. And said, “According to your word, you cannot kill me now.”
Everyone can understand that this was not a promise. A statement was made in a different sense altogether which was exploited and that, too, from a person who had broken his word a lot on many occasions and had been a nuisance for a long time. Despite all this, Hazrat Umarra said, “Though you have cheated me, but I will not cheat you and will not order your execution.” (Tarikh al-Tabari, Zikr Fathah Ramhurmaz wa Tustar, Vol. 4, p. 88)
(Translated by Shahid Mahmood Ahmad, Missionary in Ghana, from the original Urdu, Muslim Nau-jawanon kay Sunehri Karnamey)