Chapter 4: Believers Overcome Their Difficultıes Through Mutual Support And Self-Sacrifice (1/2)
Times of difficulty, which are generally quite rare, are actually very valuable moments created by Allah for believers to show the strength of their love, faithfulness, and submission to Him. Moreover, at the same time they can earn greater rewards for the life of the Hereafter. They may not make a special effort to encounter difficulty and hardship, but when they do they realize the reason why they occur.
The prophets sent throughout history experienced exile, oppression, danger, and sometimes even death, but they endured it all with the eager joy of belief. For example, the Prophet Joseph (as) was falsely accused and spent years in prison, leading members of the Prophet Abraham's (as) people tried to burn him alive, the Prophet Moses (as) was threatened and oppressed by Pharaoh, and Prophet Lot's (as) people tried to exile him. But each of these blessed individuals remained faithful, trusted in Allah, and submitted to Him in the face of these difficulties.
Such great men of Islam as Bediuzzaman Said Nursi placed a high value on each difficulty that they were forced to endure throughout their lives. Said Nursi, whose superior moral character will be discussed in further detail in the following pages, spent years in prison and exile and was crushed by oppression. Despite sickness, poverty, and hardship in his old age, he submitted to Allah and put his trust in Him. In his most difficult moments, he thought about the best interests of Islam and Muslims, was determined in his acts of self-sacrifice, and was an example of superior morality to his students. The sincere efforts of the Master and his followers were, by Allah's permission, an important means of imparting the Qur'an's moral teachings to the masses.
Today, all Muslims should show the same eager determination to adhere to and spread the Qur'an's moral teachings. Their difficulties should not cause them to despair; rather, they must resolve to earn the reward offered by these valuable moments in a spirit of unity and self-sacrifice. Worldly preoccupations and personal interests should never stand in the way of living by this morality, for in the Hereafter each person will be called to account for whatever good and bad deeds he or she has done.
In the Qur'an Allah tells us that the believers will be successful and that the Qur'an's morality will prevail. Allah, Who is above every defect and rich beyond need, is definitely the victor. On the other hand, a human being is a needy creature that has to win His pleasure and approval. Allah needs only to speak the word "Be" to accomplish His will. Thus, each person must work to attain his or her salvation by assuming each responsibility and doing their best to fulfill it.
The result that Allah has determined will come to pass. Those who help in this, with His permission, will be rewarded for their efforts in His Presence in the Hereafter. Those who avoid self-sacrifice, on the other hand, will be losers themselves, for they will have missed forever the opportunities and possibilities of earning the rewards that flow from sacrificing their interests.
Allah always helps those who sincerely desire to live this superior moral life and will give them success:
As for those who make Allah their friend, and His messenger and those who believe, it is the party of Allah who are victorious. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 56)
Allah has written: "I will be victorious, I and My messengers." Allah is Most Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Mujadala: 21)
… Help comes from no one but Allah, the Almighty, the All-Wise, and so that He might cut off a group of those who do not believe or crush them and they might be turned back in defeat. (Surah Al 'Imran: 26-27)
In the pages that follow, we will look at some very good examples from the lives of our Prophet (saas) and his Companions, as well as at the self-sacrificial acts of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. We will see how great success can be attained and difficulties overcome by acting in unity and solidarity and with self-sacrifice.
Our Prophet's (saas) Self-Sacrificial Morality
The ability to act in solidarity with other people is a secret of belief that can be seen in the believers' success in the face of adversity. When we look at what has happened to them throughout history, we see that they have always been able to surmount their difficulties in this way. Beginning with our Prophet (saas) and his Companions, believers have practiced this morality. In addition, their mutual self-sacrificial support has enabled Islam and the Qur'an's morality to spread throughout the world.
Our Prophet (saas) called upon his unbelieving people to renounce their misguided beliefs and serve only Allah. While delivering this message, he endured much hardship due to his people's belief that this message would harm their interests. His people joined together against our Prophet (saas) and the believers, and did all they could to stop them. They did not agree to give up their traditional idolatry, set many traps for him, asked him to bring a revelation that would please them, and then did their best to either kill, exile, or imprison him. In order to prevent the message from influencing their people, they accused him of being crazy, practicing sorcery, being mentally incompetent, lying, and being a poet. But our Prophet (saas) showed great patience and trust when confronted with such abuse, and always countered them with the Qur'an's moral teachings. He did not alter the Revelation or consider anyone's gain; he just obeyed Allah. Despite the continuous pressure and hardship he encountered, he continued to proclaim the message, struggle with the unbelievers, and take total responsibility for the Muslim community's physical and religious well-being.
Of course, his superior morality was an example to all Muslims. Even in the most difficult situations, he first considered what was good for Islam and his community's well-being, security, and contentment. In this regard, he showed his superior understanding of self-sacrifice. On the battlefield and in times of hunger, need, and sickness, our Prophet (saas) displayed great care for his followers and treated them with mercy and compassion.
The Companions, following the Prophet Muhammad's (saas) superior understanding of self-sacrifice, showed an excellent moral character both personally and materially. Their unity and solidarity, which rested on a spirit of self-sacrifice, gave them great strength and, by Allah's mercy, enabled them to defeat the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Even though they were small in numbers, they gradually increased until Islam spread throughout Arabia.
Above all, our Prophet (saas) sacrificed greatly in regard to his personal desires by giving up what he wanted for the benefit of his community, both in this world and Hereafter. He continually gave of himself in order to educate those who were new to the Qur'an's morality. They are informed in several verses :
The desert Arabs say: "We believe." Say: "You do not believe. Say rather: 'We have become Muslim,' for belief has not yet entered into your hearts. If you obey Allah and His messenger, He will not undervalue your actions in any way. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Surat al-Hujurat: 14)
The desert Arabs are more obdurate in unbelief and hypocrisy and are more likely not to know the limits that Allah has sent down to His messenger. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba: 97)
Some of the desert Arabs around you are hypocrites, and some of the people of Madina are obdurate in their hypocrisy. You do not know them, but We know them. We will punish them twice over, and then they will be returned to a terrible punishment. (Surat at-Tawba: 101)
Our Prophet (saas) always responded to his people with the Qur'an's moral teachings:
Indeed, you are truly vast in character. (Surat al-Qalam: 4)
You have an excellent model in the messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much. (Surat al-Ahzab: 21)
If people can be patient in the face of wrong attitudes that spring from ignorance, hidden intentions, bad moral character, injustice, and nevertheless respond according to the Qur'an's morality, they are good examples of self-sacrifice. It is a sign of particular excellence if, when they are entitled to something, they can forego their rights and endure being treated unjustly. Ignorant people may not appreciate this moral excellence; in fact, they may not even notice it. But those sincere believers who seek only to win Allah's favor can be forgiving, patient, and conciliatory even when it is most difficult for them. When faced with his people's evil intentions, our Prophet (saas) sacrificed his own desires in order to win Allah's approval. He always wanted to improve them and exhort them to be good. Allah informs us of our Prophet's (saas) love for the believers, his self-sacrifice, and his good moral character:
It is a mercy from Allah that you were gentle with them. If you had been rough or hard of heart, they would have scattered from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult with them about the matter. Then, when you have reached a firm decision, put your trust in Allah. Allah loves those who put their trust in Him. (Surah Al 'Imran: 159)
A messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is distressing to him. He is deeply concerned for you, gentle and merciful to the believers. (Surat at-Tawba: 128)
But because they broke their covenant, We have cursed them and made their hearts hard. They distort the true meaning of words and have forgotten a good portion of what they were reminded of. You will never cease to come upon some act of treachery on their part, except for a few of them. Yet pardon them and overlook. Allah loves good-doers. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 13)
It is reported that Aisha (ra) said, "He was very affectionate and kind in dealing with the people." (Imam Ghazzali's Ihya' `Ulum ad-Din, The Book of Religious Learnings [New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, 2001], 2:240.) Husain (ra) is reported to tell about the Prophet's (saas) self-sacrificial moral character as follows:
I asked my father how the Prophet (saas) would sit. He replied: "The Prophet of Allah would sit only in remembrance. In the same way that certain places were not allocated to him, so he would cause others to avoid so doing. When he arrived at an assembly, he would sit wherever there was empty space and would tell the Companions to do the same. He would give his share to everyone sitting with him. Nobody sitting with him could draw the conclusion that there was anyone superior than himself in the Prophet's sight. The Prophet would be patient with anyone who sat with him or came to him with a need, and he would be the one to leave the Prophet. Whoever needed anything from the Prophet would have his need met by him or be sent away with pleasant words. His smiling face and proper moral values enriched those people."(Yusuf Kandahlawi, Hayat al-Sahaba (Life of the Companions), vol. 1, Sentez Nesriyat, p. 28)
Another report mentions his moral superiority:
Ibrahim al-Taimi narrates on the authority of his father, who said: "We were sitting with Hudhaifa. A man said: ‘If I had been alive in the time of the Messenger of Allah (saas), I would have fought by his side and striven hard for his causes.' Hudhaifa said: ‘You might have done that… I was with the Messenger of Allah (saas) on the night of the Battle of Abzib. We were gripped by a violent wind and severe cold. The Messenger of Allah (saas) said: ‘The man who [goes reconnoitering and] brings me news of the enemy shall be ranked with me on the Day of Judgment by Allah (the Glorious and Exalted).' Then he said: ‘Get up Hudhaifa, [and] bring me the news of the enemy.' Presenting myself before him, I gave him information about the enemy. When I had done so, I began to feel cold, so the Messenger of Allah (saas) wrapped me in an extra blanket with which he used to cover himself while praying. So I continued to sleep until it was morning.'" (Sahih Muslim, book 19, no. 4412)
Together with his matchless moral character, our Prophet (saas) devoted his life and his possessions to Allah: Say: "My prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds" (Surat al-An'am: 162). He did this so that the Qur'an's morality could spread everywhere, thereby enabling contentment, peace, and love to prevail among all people. He was eager to achieve this end and, content in his submission to Allah, put up with all kinds of hardship.
Our Prophet (saas) spent three years secretly proclaiming his message with great caution. Many people accepted Islam and the number of Muslims was growing. At the end of three years, by Allah's command, he openly announced Islam and his prophethood to the Quraysh. These unbelievers became hostile and initiated a pitiless struggle with him that consisted of trying to silence him by resorting to all kinds of cruelty and even attempted murder. Led by Abu Lahab, Umm Jamil (Abu Lahab's wife), and Abu Jahl, the leading men of the Quraysh fought to stop him.
But all of their efforts were in vain. This made the Meccan unbelievers and tribal leaders very uneasy. Despite this opposition, however, the number of Muslims grew daily and the neighboring tribes began to accept Islam. The conversion of such people as Umar (ra) and Hamza (ra) and the subsequent strengthening of Islam greatly worried them. Seeing that they could not deter conversions by torture and violence, and that they could not prevent Islam's spread, they and their allies tried to suppress Muslims and their allies through a complete trade and social boycott.
They attached this decision to the wall of the Ka'bah, and soon all Makkans complied. As a result, Muslims moved away to live together. The unbelievers would not allow any food to reach them and allowed them to come to the market to buy food only during the pilgrimage season. Even then, standing on the corners, the Makkans would do all they could to make their purchases difficult. Sometimes they threatened the merchants, bought up all of their stock, or met caravans bringing food to Mecca before they arrived and did their best to turn them against the Muslims.
As a result, the Muslims suffered terrible hunger and famine. His uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadija (ra) sold of all their possessions to meet the Muslims' needs. Despite three years of anxiety, hunger, and famine, the unbelievers could not prevent the spread of Islam. Under these harsh conditions and with great self-sacrifice, the Prophet (saas) perfectly carried out his duty of spreading the message.
Three years later, the leaders of the Quraysh ended the boycott but not their efforts against the Muslims. Abu Talib was one of the influential figures in Mecca and, although he did not become a Muslim, both he and Khadija (ra) supported the Prophet Muhammad (saas) from the beginning. When they died, the Quraysh gained courage and increased their opposition. Due to Abu Talib's position within the tribe and the protection he extended to the Prophet (saas), the Qurayshi leaders had hesitated to move against our Prophet (saas). But now that Abu Talib was dead, they resorted to all manner of pressure, suppression, torture, threats, and cruelty to stop him and prevent the Muslims from practicing their religion.
After ten years of preaching, the still increasing levels of verbal and physical oppression caused our Prophet (saas) to decide to address the tribes who lived outside of Mecca. With Zayd ibn Harith (ra), he went to Ta'if to invite the Thaqif tribe to accept Islam and protect the Muslims from the Qurayshi unbelievers. He stayed with them for ten days, explaining Islam to the tribal leaders. But the people of Ta'if worshipped Lat, and none of them accepted his message. He spoke to each leader individually, but saw that they were ignorant, arrogant, and hostile, and endured their bad treatment with great patience.
Our Prophet (saas) tried every way to protect the Muslims living in Mecca, where each Muslim was living under the threat of death, torture, starvation, or exile. He showed his superior moral character by walking to Ta'if and doing all he could to show them the true way. Even though they treated him badly, he endured all of these things so that Islam would spread and the Muslims would be secure.
When he returned to Mecca, our Prophet (saas) saw that the Muslims were more oppressed than ever. So, he began to preach the message to the Arab tribes who visited Mecca to perform the pilgrimage in its proper season and to attend Mecca's periodic festivals. He explained the Qur'an to them and invited them to accept Islam with great patience and trust, all the while enduring whatever abuse was thrown at him by Abu Lahab and other unbelievers.
In the eleventh year, a group of six Madinan travelers embraced Islam. Respected and influential members of their tribes, they returned to Madinah and called their relatives to Islam. After a short time, Islam spread throughout Madinah. In the two pilgrimage seasons following this event, the Madinans returned to Mecca to speak with our Prophet (saas) and pledged their allegiance. When the Makkans learned of this, they increased their oppression and tried to make it impossible for the Muslims to live in the city. Given this reality, Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saas) that the Muslims should move to Madinah. Worried that the Makkan and Madinan Muslims would form a very strong union, the Makkan unbelievers tried to prevent the Muslims from leaving. They arrested and tortured some and intercepted others.
Until a command came from Allah, our Prophet (saas), together with Abu Bakr (ra) and Ali (ra), remained in Mecca. Unaware that Allah was protecting the Prophet (saas), Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab, and other unbelieving leaders decided to organize more verbal and physical assaults against him. In this instance, they chose a strong man from each tribe and decided to set yet another trap in order to kill him. Since all of them would be involved, they thought that our Prophet's (saas) tribe would be unable to respond:
When those who do not believe were planning to imprison, kill, or expel you. They were planning and Allah was planning, but Allah is the best Planner. (Surat al-Anfal: 30)
But Allah protected the Prophet (saas) from this trap. After this event, they sent out armed men to intercept him and Abu Bakr (ra), who were now on their way to Madinah. Allah foiled this trap as well:
If you do not help him, Allah helped him when the unbelieveres drove him out and there were two of them in the cave. He said to his companion: "Do not be despondent, [for] Allah is with us." Then Allah sent down His serenity upon him and reinforced him with troops you could not see. He made the word of those who did not believe the lowest [of the low]. The word of Allah is the uppermost. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba: 40)
Of course, the unbelievers were not content to limit their traps to this one. Their leaders, among them Abu Lahab, Umm Jamil, and Abu Jahl, did whatever they could to make things difficult for our Prophet (saas) and suppress him. They even tried to kill him. Allah tells us in the Qur'an about the consequences they faced:
Ruin to the hands of Abu Lahab and ruin to him! His wealth has not helped him, nor anything he has earned. He will burn in a Flaming Fire. And so will his wife, the firewood-carrier, with a rope of twisted fibre round her neck. (Surat al-Masad: 1-5)
While struggling against the prevailing idolatry of his fellow Arabs, our Prophet (saas) served as a role model for all believers of adhering to the Qur'an's morals, self-sacrifice, determination, and trust in Allah. Many hadiths mention his superior moral character and generosity:
Ibn 'Abbas said: "The Prophet (saas) was the most generous … Verily, the Messenger of Allah (saas) is more generous at giving bounty or charity than the blowing wind." (Sahih al-Bukhari)
Jabir (ra) said: "The Prophet (saas) would never deny anything he was asked for." (Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:503)
Anas reported that the Prophet (saas) was the best of people, the most generous of people, and most courageous of people. (Sahih al-Bukhari)
"If the mountain of Uhud turns into gold for me [Muhammad], I will not let three nights pass with even a dinar for myself." (Sahih al-Bukhari)
In another hadith, our Prophet (saas) told Aisha (ra):
"Do not turn away a poor man ... even if all you can give is half a date. If you love the poor and bring them near you ... Allah will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection." (Hadith at-Tirmidhi, 1376)
Another hadith speaks of his superior moral character in this regard:
He was the most modest, was without pride, and his tongue was most eloquent without prolongation of speech. His constitution was the most beautiful. (Imam Ghazzali, Ihya' `Ulum ad-Din, 2: 237-41)
Our Prophet (saas) also urged believers to be generous:
In one sermon, after giving thanks to Allah, he said: "O people! Know that Almighty Allah has chosen Islam for you as the religion. Adorn your Islam with generosity and moral virtues. I wish you to know that generosity is a tree of paradise whose roots are in paradise and whose branches are in this world. Those of you who are generous will have clung to one of those branches, and that branch will take them to paradise. As for parsimony, that is a tree with its roots in hell and its branches in this world. It will carry to hell he who clings to one of its branches by being parsimonious." The Prophet (saas) later twice said, "Be generous on the path of Allah." (Yusuf Kandahlawi, Hayat al-Sahaba, Hz. Muhammed ve Ashabının Yaşadığı İslami Hayat (Life of the Companions: The Islamic Life of Prophet Muhammad and His Companions), vol. 2, Sentez Nesriyat, Temel Eserler Serisi: 2/2, p. 192)
The Companions' (ra) Self-Sacrificial Character
Prophet Muhammad (saas) and all of the other prophets engaged in a determined, courageous, and self-sacrificial struggle to spread true religion and establish the Qur'an's morality. A similar struggle dominated the lives of those people who accepted Muhammad (saas) as a prophet while he was still alive: the Companions. They gave him great material and personal support, and their moral character continues to inspire all believers even today. They are honored for their courage and determination, as well as for their strong faith and unconditional loyalty to Allah and His Prophet (saas). Even under the most difficult circumstances, they sought Allah's approval by putting their own desires second to those of the Prophet (saas). They left their former lives behind without a second thought and, in spite of the ensuing threats and pressure, accepted the true religion, along with the ensuing difficulties and distress, for the sake of winning Allah's approval.
Some of them belonged to powerful tribes, while others were slaves of the unbelievers. They all knew that they would meet with all manner of verbal and physical attacks, false accusations, cruelty, and torture. Although they had seen many instances of this, they did not hesitate to obey the call of the Prophet (saas). They suffered many assaults from the unbelievers but this did not deter them from following the true path. They took refuge in Allah, and patiently entrusted themselves to Him. From that time on, they remained steadfast in their belief and in their hope that Allah would keep them safe.
Joining themselves to him in love and loyalty, they supported him and were sincere in their attempts to spread His religion and the Qur'an's morality. In addition, they considered all of the ensuing hostility as a blessing and a way to attain Allah's mercy. In fact, they even counted being wounded and killed as positive means to this end: Say: "What do you expect to befall us, except for one of the two best things? But what we expect to happen to you is for Allah to punish you either directly from Himself or through our hands. So wait. We are waiting with you" (Surat at-Tawba: 52). Their love of Allah and the Prophet (saas) enabled them to show extraordinary courage, determination, and eagerness.
These people immediately answered Allah's call and remained true to their promises to the end: [Believers say:] "Our Lord, we heard a caller calling us to faith: 'Believe in your Lord!' and we believed. Our Lord, forgive us our wrong actions, erase our bad actions, and take us back to You with those who are truly good" (Surah Al 'Imran: 193). They gave up their worldly possessions without a second thought to inaugurate Islam's peace, contentment, and further spread among their people. One hadith records Asad ibn Zurara's words about the Companions' determined loyalty:
"O, Prophet of Allah. … Whoever Allah wishes to be on the true path and whoever seeks good in all affairs, all of these things will be easy for them. We responded to you with all we have, believed in what you brought, and approved the knowledge of Allah installed in our hearts. We swear allegiance to you in this regard. We swear allegiance to our Lord and yours. The hand of Allah is above our hands. Our blood is before your blood. Our hands are under your hands. From whatever we protect our own selves, our children, and our women, so do we protect you from them. If we fulfill these promises, we do this for Allah and we thank Him for it. O Prophet of Allah, I speak these words in all sincerity. Help comes only from Allah."28
At the time of the battle of Badr, during the second year of the Prophet's (saas) residence in Madinah, the tiny Muslim community was unprepared for war. However, the Companions' courage and willingness to sacrifice what they valued did not lessen. By declaring that they "will not hold back from any act of service or self-sacrifice,"29Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) expressed their dedication to the Prophet (saas). All of the other Companions were just as eager and determined. For example, Miqdad ibn al-Aswad, a cavalryman whom the Prophet (saas) praised as being worth a thousand soldiers, never compromised his belief in Allah despite all of the torture unleashed against him. In fact, he said:
-O Prophet of Allah. Tell us what Allah commands us [to do], and we will obey you. We do not say, as the Jews said to Prophet Moses: "You go with your Lord and fight the enemy! … We will wait here." All of us are ready to fight on your right, on your left, before you, and behind you.30
In all things, the Companions knew that "The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves" (Surat al-Ahzab: 6) and so risked their lives to protect him. One Companion, Sammas ibn Uthman al-Makhzumi, who is still remembered for his high moral character, threw himself in front of someone who was going to strike the Prophet (saas) from behind during the Battle of Uhud and was martyred.
Many other Companions, all of whom had a profound belief in Allah and a firm love for the Prophet (saas), showed the same moral character. Some of them died while protecting him, while others were gravely wounded and yet continued to think of his safety and security before their own.
After Abu Bakr (ra) and Uthman (ra), Talha ibn Ubaydullah had the honor of being among the first Muslims. For this reason, he endured torture. But during the battle of Uhud, this great hero protected the Prophet (saas). When all of the Companions fighting by the Prophet's (saas) side lay dead, only Talha was left to protect him. He continued to do so, despite his many sword wounds.
In order to prevent Malik ibn Zubayr from wounding the Prophet (saas) with his arrows, Talha shielded the Prophet (saas) with his hand. As a result, he lost all of his fingers. He had around eighty wounds on him, and yet never deserted the Prophet's (saas) side. When Abu Bakr (ra) and Sa`ad ibn Abi Waqqas came to the Prophet's (saas) side, Talha fainted from a loss of blood. When he came to himself, he cared only about the Prophet (saas):
Our beloved Prophet (saas) told Abu Bakr to run at once to help Talha. Abu Bakr sprinkled holy water over Talha's face to bring him around. As soon as Talha awoke he asked: "O, Abu Bakr. How is the Prophet?" [Abu Bakr replied:] "The Prophet is well. It was he who sent me." [Talha said:] "Infinite thanks to Allah. If he is alive, all sufferings are as nothing.".31
As we can see, the Companions competed in sincerity and faithfulness among themselves for the honor of shielding the Prophet (saas). As a result, Allah made them a source of inspiration for all Muslims. Their sincere struggle, sincere joy of belief, love for Allah, and dedication to the Prophet (saas) led to Islam's rapid spread throughout the world (by Allah's permission) and to mass conversions.
When we look at their lives, we see that all of them, just like Talha, first thought of the Prophet (saas), other Muslims, and the spread of Islam regardless of their own personal circumstances. Even in the arms of death, their first questions were about his security, the condition of the Muslims, and whether or not the battle had been won. Good news with regard to these things cheered them.
One of the finest examples of this moral character was found in an-Nu`man ibn Muqarrin al-Muzani, who joined the Prophet (saas) in the defeat of Mecca and the Battle of Hunayn. This commander died during an expedition that Umar (ra) ordered against Iran. But even as he lay dying, his main concern remained the Muslim community's security and success. Telling others not to worry about him, he urged the soldiers to continue fighting:
Nu`man ibn Muqarrin mounted his horse and toured the troops. He stopped beside every standard and encouraged them to battle. He then said: "If anyone is martyred, even myself, let nobody gather around him. Let nobody hang back from the attack." A fierce battle took place. Nu`man, commander of the army of Islam, fell. "Place a garment over me, attack the foe without waiting, and do not let my state alarm you or cause you to relax."
When Nu`man was wounded and fell, I went to his side. Remembering his words that nobody should lose time with anyone else, even for him, I did not linger. The Persian army was defeated. The battle was over. I went to Nu`man. He was about to die. He asked me: "What did the Muslims do?" [I replied:] "Allah gave us victory." [He said:] "Alhamdulillah!" Nu`man ibn Muqarrin then breathed his last and expired. 32
Other examples of great self-sacrifice can be seen in those Companions, regardless of age, whose love for Allah, enthusiasm for His religion, and faithfulness to the Prophet (saas) made them desire to follow him into battle. Abu Sa`id al-Khudri, who had been too young to fight at Badr, asked the Prophet (saas) to let him fight at Uhud. However, the Prophet (saas) told him to stay in Madinah with the other children.33
Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr was 12 years old when he fought in the Battle of Yarmuk, and four years later he participated in the defeat of Egypt. This young man's enthusiasm and courage have remained examples to all Muslims.34 Also, the elderly and crippled Amr ibn al-Jamuh was so convinced of Islam's truth and so desired to win Allah's approval that he asked our Prophet (saas) to let him fight at Uhud. His request was granted, and he was martyred there.35 Abu Talha fought alongside the Prophet (saas)until the latter's death, and then alongside Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar (ra) until they died. Despite his advanced years, he insisted on fighting one more battle and, during the ensuing sea battle, was killed.36 We can see that these blessed people spent their whole lives striving to win Allah's approval and, despite their age, they were so inspired by Islam that they found enough physical strength to fight.
In addition to the children and old men, another group of Companions stands out because of their faithfulness, courage, and self-sacrifice: pious women. One of them, Umm `Umara Nasiba bint Kaab distributed water to the warriors and bandaged their wounds. Earlier, at Aqaba, she had participated in the oath-taking ceremony that "they would protect Allah's Prophet (saas) like they protected themselves, their women, and their children." Seeing that the battle was going against the Muslims and that the enemy was pressing on the Prophet of Allah (saas), she took up a sword to defend him. Along with some other Companions, she used her body to shield him and received many wounds.37
Ikrima ibn Abi Jahl always put the Prophet's (saas) safety before that of himself, his tribe, and his relatives. He fought at Yarmuk against the Byzantines during Abu Bakr's (ra)reign. The Muslims were victorious, but he, along with al-Harith ibn Hisham and Suhayl ibn Amr, were seriously wounded. History records their self-sacrifice:
Al-Harith ibn Hisham, Suhayl ibn Amr, and Ikrima ibn Abi Jahl were seriously wounded and fell at the battle of Yarmuk. Al-Harith asked for water to drink. One of the soldiers brought him some water. Seeing that Ikrima was looking at him, he said: "Take this water to Ikrima." As Ikrima was taking the water, he saw that Suhayl was looking at him. He did not drink the water, but said: "Take this water and give it to Suhayl." But Suhayl died before he could reach him. At this, the water-bearer ran to Ikrima. But Ikrima had also died. He immediately rushed to al-Harith, but al-Harith had also died.38
We can see that the Companions, when at the point of death and in moments of extreme need, thought first of their fellow Muslims. Without a doubt, this great self-sacrifice came from their firm belief in Allah and the Hereafter and their sincere submission to Him.
The Companions were never daunted by their difficulties. Even though they might have been justified in not fighting in His way because of their own needs and distress, they made no excuses. They were always eager to do as much as they could and to spend all their personal and material strength. One of the best examplars of this attitude is Zayd ibn Suhvan. While fighting at Qadisiyyah, where 600 Muslims were killed, he was wounded and lost his arm. But he wanted to continue fighting, because his belief was so strong.39 Ilba' ibn Jahsh-al'Ijli, who was seriously wounded at Qadisiyyah, also continued to fight until he died.40
Wounded people may be concerned about themselves and try to escape further harm. But this was not true of the Companions. Knowing that whatever danger they faced was for their own good, they insisted on struggling as best they could in order to win Allah's favor. They continued fighting even when they were wounded and knew that they were dying, for they saw death as something good and welcomed martyrdom. For this reason, they never retreated from the struggle to carry out Allah's will.
This attitude is exemplified by Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, who fought alongside the Prophet (saas) at Dhat-ur-Riqa`:
Al-Bukhari, on the authority of Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari, narrated that they set out on an expedition with the Messenger of Allah. "We were six in number and had (with us) only one camel which we rode turn by turn. Our feet were injured. My feet were so badly injured that my nails came off. We, therefore, bandaged our feet with rags, so this expedition was called Dhat-ur-Riqa` (i.e. the expedition of rags.)"41
Mus`ab ibn Umayr, who carried the Muslim standard and had stayed by our Prophet's (saas) side at Uhud, is an important role model of determined self-sacrifice. After he lost his right arm, he raised the standard in his left arm. When he lost that arm, he made his body a shield to defend the Prophet (saas). He eventually was killed by a spear.
Qatada ibn Nu`man is also known for his devotion and self-sacrifice toward our Prophet (saas):
The Prophet had been given a bow. On the Day of Uhud, he gave that bow to me. I remained by the Prophet's side, shooting arrows with it, until it no longer served any purpose. Then, for the whole day, I made myself a shield against any arrows that might strike him. An arrow fired at him would find me before hitting its target. Eventually, an arrow came and one of my eyeballs protruded…42 On the Day of Uhud, I protected the Prophet's face with my face, and Abu Dujana Simak, an Ansari, protected his back with his own back. That day, many arrows struck Abu Dujana's back.43
Ibn Ishaq narrates an example of the self-sacrificial enthusiasm that Muslims displayed, committed to winning Allah's approval:
I was present at the Battle of Uhud. My brother was also there. We both left the battle wounded. When the Prophet's herald declared: "Everyone will follow the enemy," I said to my brother: "Let's not miss fighting together with the Prophet." I swear to Allah, we had no animal to ride and were both severely wounded. We set out together with the Prophet. But I was less heavily wounded than my brother. When he fell exhausted, I carried him a little on my back, and he walked a little. This went on until the Muslims reached their destination.44
Allah gives the good news of Paradise to all sincere Muslims who, like the Companions, voluntarily sacrifice their own interests and possessions to win His approval:
Their Lord responds to them: "I will not let the deeds of any doer among you go to waste, male or female – you are both the same in that respect. Those who migrated and were driven from their homes, and who suffered harm in My way and fought and were killed, I will erase their bad actions and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing under them, as a reward from Allah. The best of all rewards is with Allah." (Surah Al 'Imran: 195)
The Companions' Self-Sacrifice in Giving Alms
In many respects, the Companions led very difficult lives, for they were the first Muslims in a very traditional society of hostile unbelievers. Thinking that their ancestral religion would be harmed, the unbelievers spared no effort to silence the believers, divert them from their faith, and even kill them.
Subjected to all sorts of psychological pressure, cruelty, torture, and accusations, they lived much of their lives under the threat of death and, as revealed in the Qur'an, struggled with terrible fear, starvation, and oppression. This treatment lasted for years, during which all business, trade, and sometimes even social relations were severed. In addition, some of their families and tribes excluded them. Sometimes they could find nothing to eat, and thus had to endure starvation and thirst, as well as cold and the sicknesses that such conditions cause. But they endured all of these things willingly and courageously, for they knew that Allah was testing them and that if they were successful, they would win His approval: "We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and life and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast"(Surat al-Baqara: 155). By acting in unity, and with a spirit of solidarity, not to mention using all of their possessions in His path, they overcame their adversities.
They did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives and possessions, and were examplary sacrificers of their own interests. Their total belief in Allah and the Hereafter prevented them from considering giving what they had to others as a loss; on the contrary, they regarded each opportunity to do so as an opportunity to win His love and approval. As Allah says:"And how is it with you that you do not give in the way of Allah, when the inheritance of the heavens and Earth belongs to Him? Those of you who gave and fought before the victory are not the same as those who gave and fought afterwards. They are higher in rank. But to each of them Allah has promised the best. Allah is aware of what you do"(Surat al-Hadid: 10).
Allah also informs the important role of piety and pure intention: "Their flesh and blood do not reach Allah, but your heedfulness does reach Him. In this way, He has subjected them to you so that you might proclaim Allah's greatness for the way that He has guided you. Give good news to the good-doers" (Surat al-Hajj: 37). Someone with many possessions can find many occasions for sacrificial giving, while someone with more restricted means may have more limited opportunities. But if their intentions are pure, the latter group's sacrificial giving will also be well-rewarded, for one's reward in the Hereafter depends upon one's sincerity.
When we look at the Companions' deeds, we must realize that their sincerity was more important than what or how much they gave. All of them strove with whatever they had:
Each person faces a particular direction, so race each other to the good. Wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together. Truly, Allah has power over all things. (Surat al-Baqara: 148)
At a time when the unbelievers forced the Muslims to endure the constant threat of starvation, thirst, cold, sickness, oppression, and torture, they donated their vineyards and gardens, wells, houses and food, and material possessions. Talha ibn Ubaydullah, mentioned above, was a prime example of this attitude. At a time when Muslims were in greatest need, he bought a well and offered it to them:
So that the Muslims would not suffer thirst during the battle of Dhil Qarada, Talha bought a well and donated it to the faithful. At that time, buying and donating a well was an act of enormous generosity. By himself, he fed the combatants during the Battle of 'Usra. His daily income was a thousand pieces of gold. He watched over the orphaned, met the needs of the poor, and helped the helpless. He gave money to the needy. All of the needs of the Banu Taym [tribe] were met with his help. Talha found husbands for their widows and paid the debts of the indebted.45
Abu Talha, who came from one of Madinah's richest families, gave all he had to win Allah's approval and showed the same fine moral qualities:
Malik related to me that Ishaq ibn Abdullah ibn Abi Talha heard Anas ibn Malik say: "Abu Talha had the greatest amount of property in palm-trees among the Ansar in Madinah. His dearest piece of property was Bayruha, which was in front of the mosque. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, used to go into it and drink from the pleasant water that was in it."
Anas continued: "When the verse 'You will not obtain rightness of action until you expend of what you love,' (Surat al-Baqara: l76), Abu Talha went to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said: 'O Messenger of Allah. Allah, the Blessed, the Exalted, has said: "You will not obtain rightness of action until you expend of what you love." The property which I love the best is Bayruha. It is sadaqa [alms] for Allah. I hope for its good and for it to be stored up with Allah. Place it wherever you wish, O Messenger of Allah.'"46
Another Companion noted for his generous spirit was Sa`d ibn Ubada. When our Prophet (saas) moved to Madinah, he spent seven months in his house. Sa`d prayed to Allah for the means to be generous, and his self-sacrifice is related in the following episode:
In the years of famine and drought, Sa`d ibn Ubada provided food for the people, helped those stranded by the wayside, welcomed guests in the finest manner, helped in the times of want and need, and assisted the tribes in reaching their homes. At the Garad expedition, which took place in 627, he gave the army ten camel loads of dates as provisions, and gave food to the entire army during its campaign against the Banu Qurayza which took place immediately after the Battle of Khandaq. Sa`d ibn Ubada also owned a castle. Here, he gave food and drink to 80 poor Companions without families, known as the People of Suffa. He also had a well dug and placed it at the Muslims' disposal.
S`ad ibn Ubada and Sa`d ibn Muadh, two of the most eminent members of the Aws and Khazraj tribes, rendered great services to Islam. Their services and the sacrifices they made for Muslims were truly astonishing. They rendered the greatest services with their property and lives, with nothing left they did not sacrifice for this purpose. Sa`d ibn Ubada, one of the most prominent Companions, always served Islam and encouraged Madinah's Muslims to sacrifice for and serve Islam.47
Al-Arqam ibn Abi'l-Arqam, who belonged to one of Mecca's richest and most influential families, was one of the first people to accept the Prophet's (saas) message. At this time, when the small Muslim community was praying in secret, Arqam offered his house, located on the Ka`bah's west side, to our Prophet (saas) for the Muslims' use. This was a great blessing for the Muslims. Our Prophet (saas) and about 10-15 believers moved into this house and used it as a safe place in which they could pray and from which they could spread Islam. They stayed in that house for three years, delivering the message and welcoming new converts. This house played an important role in the history of Islam, for as many as forty Companions, including Umar (ra), stayed there.48 When we consider the Muslims' difficult situation at that time, we can better understand just how important Arqam's generosity was.
Abu Bakr (ra), in addition to his fine moral character, is another excellent example of self-sacrificial behavior. He willingly gave all of his possessions at a time when Muslims were perhaps most in need, in order to strengthen them and aid the spread of Islam. In fact, he was the first person to give alms specifically for this cause:
In times of peace and of campaign, Abu Bakr never abandoned the Prophet (saas). He always accompanied him. He was always at his side, ready to sacrifice his property and life. Abu Bakr, our Prophet's first successor [caliph], was ever at the forefront in giving up his assets in order to strengthen the religion and fighting the enemy.
When the Prophet (saas) told everyone to help out in the Battle of Tabuk, everyone donated a part of their property. Then Abu Bakr handed over his property. The Prophet (saas)turned to him and asked: "O Abu Bakr, have you left anything at home?" [Abu Bakr replied:] "O, Prophet, I have left nothing at home. I have brought it all here. I have left them with Allah and His Prophet."The Prophet also asked Umar, who had donated half of his possessions, whether he had left anything for his family. "Yes, I have brought only half of my possessions," he replied. "The other half I have left for them." When Umar heard that Abu Bakr had brought all that he possessed, he said: "He has surpassed me in all auspicious deeds in which we have contended."49
Although Abd ar-Rahman ibn Awf was one of the richest Companions, he had no love of possessions and attached no importance to them or to his wealth. For him, living as a Muslim was the only thing that mattered. He fought alongside our Prophet (saas) in all of the battles, gave away many of his possessions to help the Muslim community, freed his captives after the battle of Uhud, and distributed a lot of his gold among them. He provided many horses and loaded camels for the Tabuk campaign.50 Ibn Abbas relates:
Six months after returning from Ta'if, I went to the Prophet (saas). Allah commanded him to embark on the Tabuk campaign. This was at the time of the fiercest heat in Hijaz. There were large numbers of hypocrites. Moreover, the people of the Suffa had also increased considerably at that time. Staying in a house next to the mosque, they survived on the alms given by the Prophet (saas) and other believers. When hostilities broke out, the Muslims divided them among themselves. Those Muslims with sufficient means agreed to feed four people or to militarily equip one. Then they all went off to fight together. In this campaign, the Prophet (saas) commanded the Muslims to spend their assets in Allah's way and earn His approval. They abided by that command and spent their assets in order to attain His mercy. Mounts were provided for some poor Muslims, but some were left on foot. That day, Abd ar-Rahman ibn Awf donated 200 uqiyya of money [1 uqiyya is a measure of weight equivalent to 40 dirhams]. This was the day's greatest donation. The Prophet (saas)asked him: "Have you left anything for your family?" He replied: "Yes, I have left them more than what I have given." When the Prophet (saas)asked: "What have you left them?" Abd ar-Rahman replied: "The goodwill and auspiciousness promised by Allah and His Messenger."51
Like all of the Companions, Uthman (ra) obeyed the Prophet's (saas) call during the Tabuk campaign. He equipped one-third of the army and spent, in this way, more than others for His cause. In fact, one account says that after his contribution, the army needed nothing else.52
Once when there was a famine in Madinah, Uthman (ra) bought for the Companions a 100-camel caravan loaded with wheat from Damascus. Later, he distributed all of it free of charge to the poor and the Companions in Madinah. He then killed the camels and distributed the meat to the poor.53
Another Companion known for his generosity was Abd-Allah ibn Umar, the son of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra). One account mentions his moral character:
Abd-Allah ibn Umar did not die until he emancipated a thousand people. He gave anything that he began to love to the needy for the sake of Allah. In this way, he labored according to: "You will not attain true goodness until you give of what you love" (Surah Al 'Imran: 92).54
Allah announces the following good news to all Muslims who show the same moral qualities as the Companions did:
Anyone, male or female, who does right actions and is a believer, will enter the Garden. They will not be wronged by so much as the tiniest speck. (Surat an-Nisa': 124)
28- Yusuf Kandahlawi, Hayat as-Sahaba, Sentez Nesriyat, 1:90.