The exemplary young Companions: Selflessness


Rahmatullah Khan Shakir (1901-2000), Former Assistant Editor and Manager of Al Fazl

The young Companionsra of the Holy Prophetsa were sacrifice incarnate for their brethren. The annals of Islamic history are full of their sacrifices, out of which only a few instances are given below.

Hazrat Ikrimahra bin Abi Jahl, Hazrat Harithra bin Hisham and Hazrat Sohailra bin Umar got fatally wounded in a battle and felt extremely thirsty. In that state, somebody brought water for Hazrat Ikrimahra. It is evidently clear, how precious a few drops of water would have been for him.

In normal circumstances, making sacrifice for others and sacrificing one’s sentiments for others is not a big deal. But when one can see his end as nigh and knows that at such a crucial time, even a single drop of water can become water for life for him, at that stage how difficult it is to ignore oneself and give preference to the need of one’s brother over that of himself.

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But hundreds of thousands of blessings be upon the Holy Prophetsa, who revolutionised the erstwhile barbarians of the desert Arabs, who had been bloodthirsty for each other, into those who totally ignored their own condition when they found their brother in need.

When the water was brought to Hazrat Ikrimahra, he noticed Hazrat Sohailra looked longingly to the water. On account of his Islamic brotherhood and passion for sacrifice, it became impossible for him to drink it himself while his thirsty brother was lying next to him. And so, he said to the water carrier to let Sohail drink first.

In compliance, the water carrier took the water to Hazrat Sohailra. But he too had drunk from the same spiritual fountain whose every drop contained selflessness.

At that time, Hazrat Sohailra noticed Hazrat Harithra lying next to him, looking longingly to the water. Having seen this, it became impossible for him to drink. How could he prefer his own self over his brother, and ignoring his brother, drink the water himself.

Therefore, he said to the water carrier to have Harithra drink first. When the water carrier eventually reached Harithra, the result was that none of the three fatally injured could drink of it as they gave their lives in sacrificing the water for each other. (Al-Isti‘ab, Vol. 3, p. 1084)

A point to remember is that none of the three had blood relation with each other. It was the Islamic brotherhood which made it impossible for them to pass down the water while their brother needed it too. Reflect! Can this feeling be generated in a man through any worldly effort?

A Muslim wanted to build a wall around his orchard, but a tree that belonged to another person stood in its way. The owner of the orchard requested the Holy Prophetsa that he wanted to buy that tree to straighten his wall, but the owner of the tree was not ready to give it to him. The Holy Prophetsa said to the owner of the tree that if he gave him the tree, he would be rewarded with trees in paradise. Even then he would not give it to him.

The Holy Prophetsa did not want to command him to do so. When Hazrat Thabitra bin Dahdah, another young Companion of the Holy Prophetsa, learnt of what the Holy Prophetsa had said, he became anxious to get the trees in paradise by fulfilling the desire of the Holy Prophetsa. Without any delay, he went to the owner of the tree and offered him to exchange the tree with an orchard he himself had possessed. What else did the latter need? The deal was done.

After finalising the deal, Hazrat Thabitra came to the Holy Prophetsa and apprised him about the deal and that he was ready to give the tree to the one who had wanted to build the wall. The Holy Prophetsa was very pleased to hear this and said that many a tree were for Thabit in paradise. Thereafter, Hazrat Thabitra came to his wife in his orchard and asked her to vacate it, for he had sold the orchard in exchange for a tree in paradise. The pious wife was very pleased to learn all this and said that it was a real bargain.

Besides their spirit of selflessness, this incident also shows the state of faith of the Companions of the Holy Prophetsa. To sacrifice one’s property in lieu of a profit in the afterlife is never possible unless one believes from the core of their heart that the words from the mouth of the Holy Prophetsa are totally true.

After reading this incident, when we look at the state of our age, we notice how people fight and quarrel with their brothers on trivial matters. Not only do they not prepare themselves for any sacrifice, but they try to find legal loopholes to deprive them of their dues and lawful rights and recourse to various ruses and excuses. Our heads hang low with humiliation to see all this. (Al-Isabah, Vol. 7, p. 100)

Hazrat Labidra bin Rabi‘ah was a very generous man. He had vowed in the time of ignorance that whenever cool breeze blew, he would sacrifice some animals to feed people. He always kept this vow. But a time came when his financial circumstances were not as good, but he did not let his vow break. As he himself was very conscious of keeping this vow, his brothers in faith were no less conscious than him. To help their brother satisfy his vow, whenever breeze blew, as a charity, they would send some animals to Labidra so he could keep his vow. Despite that they were not directly obliged to do so, never would they be unmindful of this sacrifice for their brother. (Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. 5, p. 186)

After the demise of the Holy Prophetsa, his Companions had gathered at Saqifah Banu Sa‘idah to resolve the issue of Khilafat. Some of the people were faced with agitation as not everyone was properly educated and the prejudice of the Arabs is a known fact; for these reasons, this occasion was very sensitive.

Had the blessed company of the Holy Prophetsa not made his Companions selfless incarnate and eliminated their egoism, a minor urge of the prejudice of the time of ignorance would have been enough to open the door of a dangerous uprising.

Even at that time, the spirit of selflessness can be seen to be dominating among the Companions. Apprehending this danger, a young Companion, Hazrat Zaid bin Thabitra, rose to his feet and said, “The Holy Prophetsa was an immigrant [Muhajir], therefore his Khalifa should also be from among the immigrants. We are proud to be his Ansar (Helpers). As we had been his Ansar, we would like to be the Ansar of his Khulafa as well.”

As a result of this selflessness and disregard for their own sentiments, the door to disagreement and contention was closed. And despite the fact that the Muslims belonged to different tribes and clans, the issue of Khilafat was resolved peacefully, without any contention. (Al-Isabah, Vol. 7, p. 100)

At the martyrdom of Hazrat Hamzahra in the battle of Uhud, his real sister, Hazrat Safiyyahra, gave two sheets of cloth to her son, Hazrat Zubairra, to be used for the burial of his uncle, Hazrat Hamzahra. As the burial cloth was being wrapped around Hazrat Hamzahra, Hazrat Zubairra noticed the body of an Ansari lying next to Hazrat Hamzahra. The body had no burial cloth to cover it. He could not bear to see his maternal uncle being given two sheets for burial, while another Muslim brother was lying bereft of even a single burial cloth. Therefore, he gave one sheet for the body of the Ansari. But one sheet would not suffice for Hazrat Hamzahra. If his head was covered, his feet would go uncovered and if the feet were covered, the head was uncovered. At this, the Holy Prophetsa instructed to cover his face with the sheet and put some grass and leaves on his feet. (Al-Isti‘ab, Vol. 3, p. 1291)

What a great people they were! Even at the time of mourning, when one loses all sense, the Companionsra would not be unmindful of their brothers, so much so that they would not discriminate even among the dead, and would not close their eyes from their needs.

A large number of people were indebted to Hazrat Qais bin Ibadah. Once, when he fell ill, debtors were hesitant to come to enquire after him. When he learnt of this, he had it publicly announced that he had wiped off all the debts. At this, people so much thronged to enquire after him that the staircase of the upper-storey in which he was lying broke down. (Ibid)

Hazrat Kathirra bin Salat was indebted to Hazrat Amir Mu‘awiyahra. Amir Mu‘awiyahra wrote to Marwanra to take his house in lieu of the debt. Marwanra called for Hazrat Kathirra and asked him to return the debt within three days or to be ready to give his house in exchange. Hazrat Kathirra did not want to give his house, but he had not arranged any money. The amount he had with him fell 30 thousand short. It occurred to him to go to Qaisra bin Ibadah for help; so he went and asked for a loan of 30 thousand dirhams, which he readily granted. With this amount in hand, when he went to Marwanra, God knows for what reason he returned the money and also decided not to take the house as well. As Kathirra did not need the money now, he readily went to Qaisra to return the money. But Qaisra said, “I do not take a thing back once I have given it”. (Tabqat Ibn Sa‘d, Vol. 3, p. 221)

Hazrat Talhara, a young companion, would look after the less privileged people of Banu Tamim and pay off dues on behalf of their debtors. A Sabihah Taimi was in debt of 30 thousand dirhams, but Hazrat Talhara paid it all off from his own pocket. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Zakat)

The Companionsra of the Holy Prophetsa were free from even an iota of greed and always looked after their brothers. Once, the Holy Prophetsa wished to gift Hazrat Umarra something. He replied, “O Messengersa of Allah! I do not need it at present. Please give it to somebody who stands in greater need than me.” (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab-un-Nikah)

The Companionsra of the Holy Prophetsa were selflessness personified and they would be ever ready to sacrifice for their brothers. If all other incidents of sacrifice are forgotten, even then, one incident is such whose example the history of mankind fails to present. Most of the Muslim immigrants [Muhajireen] who reached Medina were extremely poor and indigent. They had nothing to eat or wear, nor had they any place of shelter.

But the sincerity and sacrifice of the Ansar of Medina for their immigrant brothers was so unprecedented that the latter did not even feel that they were in a place they did not belong to. The Ansar vacated their houses to lodge them; shared their wealth, farmlands and orchards with them, so much so that Hazrat Saadra bin Rabi, whose brotherhood was established with Abdur Rahmanra bin Auf, proposed to offer one of his two wives, and said, “I divorce one wife so that you may marry her”. Hazrat Abdur Rahmanra refused to accept this offer on account of it being illegal and even Hazrat Saadra deemed it illegal, but to show how much sacrifice he can make for his brother, he made such an offer. They set such a brilliant example of sacrifice that the history of the world has never been able to present a similar example. (Al-Isti‘ab, Vol. 4, p. 1645)

Once, an orphan boy sued somebody about the ownership of an oasis. The Holy Prophetsa gave his verdict against the orphan, who, as a result, started crying. The rolling down tears left a deep impression on the Holy Prophetsa. Out of mercy for the boy, the Prophetsa said to the man that though the verdict had been given in his favour, but if he withdrew in favour of the boy, Allah the Almighty would reward him with paradise. Not all men are on the same rank of cognisance of God, nor is this possible, so he showed reluctance to accept this suggestion.

Another Companion, Hazrat Abu Dardara, was present there. When he heard it from the lips of the Holy Prophetsa, his love for property cooled down in his heart and in that very moment, he decided to make a sacrifice for the young orphan boy and achieve paradise in reward. Therefore, he offered the owner of the orchard to exchange his orchard with that of his. The latter accepted the offer readily, because it was a great bargain.

Having settled the exchange with him, Hazrat Abu Dardara presented himself to the service of the Holy Prophetsa and submitted, “O Messengersa of Allah! If I gave the oasis which you desired to be given to the boy, would I be rewarded with an orchard in paradise?” The Holy Prophetsa replied, “Yes.” Thus, he gave the orchard to the orphan boy. (Al-Isti‘ab, vol. 4, p. 1645)

If the readers reflect on these examples and see how they should discharge the responsibility of sacrificing their sentiments for their brothers, reconciling between two brothers, helping the poor and paying off their debts, treating kindly those who forbear losses in the path of Allah and satisfying their needs, a revolution can be brought among the Muslims in a short period of time.

As a result of this, they, as a nation, will amaze the world with their progress and advancement. But alas! The Muslims are not even familiar with the meaning of the word “selflessness”, and they fail to see beyond their own self and their family.

(Translated by Shahid Mahmood Ahmad from the original Urdu, Muslim Naujawanon kay Sunehri Karnamey)

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