Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas

Prologue: Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas was the maternal uncle of the Prophet SAW who has gone down in the annals of history as the Hero of Qadisiyyah and the Conqueror of Ctesiphon. He was blessed with much influence and wealth until his death in 54 AH at eighty years old

The renowned Commander-In-Chief

Makkah was situated in a narrow valley where there was no vegetation, no livestock, and no rivers. Desert separates the town from the rest of the world. During the day the heat was unbearable and the nights were still and lonely. But tribes flock to it like animals in the open country flock to a water-hole. While there was no government rules. There was neither a religion to guide people except one which promote the worship of stone idols. The people loved for elegant poetry.

In the town lies a particular young man who was below twenty. He is short and well-built and has a very heavy crop of hair. People compare him to a young lion. He comes from a rich and noble family. He is very attached to his parents and is particularly fond of his mother. He spends much of his time making and repairing bows and arrows and practising archery as if preparing himself for some great encounter.

People recognize him as a serious and intelligent young man. He finds no satisfaction in the religion and way of life of his people, their corrupt beliefs and disagreeable practices. He was none other than Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas.

One morning Abu Bakar As-Siddiq came up and spoke to him. He explained that Muhammad Ibn Abdullah the son of his late cousin Aminah Binti Wahab had been given Revelations and sent with the religion of guidance and truth. Abu Bakar then took him to Muhammad in one of the valleys of Makkah. It was late afternoon the Prophet had just prayed Solat Al-Asar.

Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas was excited and overwhelmed and responded readily to the invitation to truth and the religion of One God. The fact that he was one of the first persons to accept Islam was something that pleased him greatly.

The Prophet SAW was also greatly pleased when Sa’ad became a Muslim. He saw in him signs of excellence. The fact that he was still in his youth promised great things to come. It was as if this glowing crescent would become a shining full moon before long. Perhaps other young people of Makkah would follow his example, including some of his relations.

Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas was in fact a maternal uncle of the Prophet SAW since he belonged to the Bani Zuhrah, the clan of Aminah Binti Wahab, the mother of the Prophet, peace be upon him. For this reason he is sometimes referred to as Sa'ad of Zuhrah, to distinguish him from several others whose first name was Sa’ad. The Prophet SAW is reported to have been pleased with his family relationship to Sa’ad. Once as he was sitting with his companions, he saw Sa’ad approaching and he said to them: "This is my maternal uncle. Let a man see his maternal uncle!"
While the Prophet SAW was delighted with Sa’ad's acceptance of Islam, Sa’ad mother was not. Sa’ad relates:

"When my mother heard the news of my Islam, she flew into a rage. She came up to me and said: "O Sa’ad! What is this religion that you have embraced which has taken you away from the religion of your mother and father...? By God, either you forsake your new religion or I would not eat or drink until I die. Your heart would be broken with grief for m e and remorse would consume you on account of the deed which you have done and people would censure you forever more. I said to her: 'Don't do (such a thing), my mother, for I would not give up my religion for anything.' However, she went on with her threat. For days she neither ate nor drank. She became emaciated and weak. I went to her asking whether I should bring her some food or something to drink but she persistently refused, insisting that she would neither eat nor drink until she died or I abandoned my religion. I said to her: 'Yaa Ummah! In spite of my strong love for you, my love for God and His Messenger is indeed stronger. By God, if you had a thousand souls and one soul after another was to depart, I would not abandon my religion for anything.' When she saw that I was determined she relented unwillingly and ate and drank."

It was concerning Sa’ad's relationship with his mother and her attempt to force him to recant his faith that the words of the Quran were revealed:
"And we enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents. In pain upon pain did his mother bear him and his weaning took two years. So show gratitude to Me and to your parents. To Me is the final destiny. But if they strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no knowledge, obey them not. Yet bear them company in this life with justice and consideration and follow the way of those who turn to Me. In the end, the return of you all is to Me and I shall tell you (the truth and meaning of) all that you used to do." (Surah Luqman, 31: 14-15).
In these early days of Islam, the Muslims were careful not to arouse the sensibilities of the Quraish. They would often go out together in groups to the glens outside Makkah where they could pray together without being seen. But one day a number of idolaters came upon them while they were praying and rudely interrupted them with ridicule. The Muslims felt they could not suffer these indignities passively and they came to blows with the idolaters. Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas struck one of the disbelievers with the jawbone of a camel and wounded him. This was the first blood shed in the conflict between Islam and kufur - a conflict that was later to escalate and test the patience and courage of the Muslims. After the incident, however, the Prophet SAW enjoined his companions to be patient and forbearing for this was the command of God:

"And bear with patience what they say and avoid them with noble dignity. And leave Me alone to deal with those who give the lie to the Truth, those who enjoy the blessings of life (without any thought of God) and bear with them for a little while." (Surah al Muzzammil, 71: 1O).

More than a decade later when permission was given for the Muslims to fight. Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas was to play a distinguished role in many of the engagements that took place both during the time of the Prophet and after.

He fought at The Battle of Badar together with his young brother Umayr who had cried to be allowed to accompany the Muslim army for he was only in his early teens. Sad returned to Madinah alone for Umayr was one of the fourteen Muslim martyrs who fell in the battle.

At the Battle of Uhud, Sa’ad was specially chosen as one of the best archers together with Zaid, Saib Ibn Uthman Ibn Mazun and others. Sa’ad was one of those who fought vigorously in defence of the Prophet SAW after some Muslims had deserted their positions. To urge him on, the Prophet, peace be on him, said: "Irmi Sa’ad...Fidaaka Abi wa Ummi “Shoot, Sa’ad ...may my mother and father be your ransom."Of this occasion, Ali Ibn Abi Talib said that he had not yet heard the Prophet SAW, promising such a ransom to anyone except Sa’ad. Sa’ad was also known as the first companion to have shot an arrow in defence of Islam.

And the Prophet SAW once prayed for him: "O Lord, direct his shooting and respond to his prayer."Sa’ad was one of the companions of the Prophet SAW who was blessed with great wealth. Just as he was known for his bravery, so he was known for his generosity.

During the Farewell Pilgrimage with the Prophet, he fell ill. The Prophet SAW came to visit him and Sa’ad said:

"O Messenger of God. I have wealth and I only have one daughter to inherit from me. Shall I give two thirds of my wealth as sadaqah?" "No," replied the Prophet. "Then, (shall I give) a half?" asked Sa’ad and the Prophet again said 'no'. "Then, (shall I give) a third?' asked Sad.”Yes," said the Prophet. "The third is much. Indeed to leave your heirs well-off' is better than that you should leave them dependent on and to beg from people. If you spend anything seeking to gain thereby the pleasure of God, you will be rewarded for it even if it is a morsel which you place in your wife's mouth."
Sa’ad was blessed thereafter with many children. Sa’ad is mainly renowned as the Commander-In-Chief of the strong Muslim army which Umar despatched to confront the Persians at Qadisiyyah. Umar wanted nothing less than an end to Sasanian power which for centuries had dominated the region. To confront the numerous and well-equipped Persians was a most daunting task. The most powerful force had to be mustered.

Umar sent dispatches to Muslim governors throughout the state to mobilize all able-bodied persons who had weapons or mounts, or who h ad talents of oratory and other skills to place at the service of the battle.

Bands of Mujahidin then converged on Madinah from every part of the Muslim domain. When they had all gathered, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab consulted the leading Muslims about the appointment of a commander-in-chief over the mighty army. Umar himself thought of leading the army but Ali Ibn Abi Talib suggested that the Muslims were in great need of him and he should not endanger his life. Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas was then chosen as the Commander-In-Chief.

Abdur-Rahman Ibn Awf, one of the veterans among the Sahabah said: "You have chosen well! Who is there like Sa’ad?"

Umar stood before the great army and bade farewell to them. To the Commander-In-Chief he said:

"O Sa’ad! Let not any statement that you are the uncle of the Messenger of God or that you are the companion of the Messenger of God distract you from God. God Almighty does not obliterate evil with evil but he wipes out evil with good. "O Sa’ad! There is no connection between God and anyone except obedience to Him. In the sight of God all people whether nobleman or commoner are the same. Allah is their Lord and they are His servants seeking elevation through taqwa and seeking to obtain what is with God through obedience. Consider how the Messenger of God used to act with the Muslims and act accordingly..."

Umar thus made it clear that the army was not to seek conquest for the sake of it and that the expedition was not for seeking personal glory and fame.

The three thousand strong army set off. Among them were ninety nine veterans of Badar, more than three hundred of those who took the Pledge of Riffwan (Satisfaction) at Hudaybiyyah and three hundred of those who had participated in the liberation of Makkah with the noble Prophet. There were seven hundred sons of the companions. Thousands of women also went on to battle as auxiliaries and nurses and to urge the men on to battle. The army camped at Qadisiyyah near Hira. Against them the Persians had mobilized a force of 120,ooo men under the leadership of their most brilliant commander, Rustum.

Umar had instructed Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas to send him regular dispatches about the condition and movements of the Muslim forces, and of the deployment of the enemy's forces. Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas wrote to Umar about the unprecedented force that the Persians were mobilizing and Umar replied to him: "Do not be troubled by what you hear about them nor about the (forces, equipment and methods) they would deploy against you. Seek help with God and put your trust in Him and send men of insight, knowledge and toughness to him (the Chosroes) to invite him to God... And write to me daily."Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas understood well the gravity of the impending battle and kept in close contact with the military high command in Madinah. Although commander-in-chief, he understood the importance of shura. Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas did as Umar instructed and sent delegations of Muslims first to Yazdagird and then to Rustum, inviting them to accept Islam or to pay the jizyah to guarantee their protection and peaceful existence or to choose war if they so desired.

The first Muslim delegation which included Numan Ibn Muqarrin was ridiculed by the Persian Emperor, Yazdagird.

Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas sent a delegation to Rustum, the commander of the Persian forces. This was led by Rubiy ibn Amir who, with spear in hand, went directly to Rustam's encampment.

Rustam said to him: "Rubiy! What do you want from us? If you want wealth we would give you. We would provide you with provisions until you are sated. We would clothe you. We would make you become rich and happy. Look, Rubiy! What do you see in this assembly of mine? No doubt t you see signs of richness and luxury, these lush carpets, fine curtains, gold embroidered wails, carpets of silk...Do you have any desire that we should bestow some of these riches which we have on you?" Rustum thus wanted to impress the Muslim and allure him from his purpose by this show of opulence and grandeur.

Rubiy Ibn Amir looked and listened unmoved and then said: "Listen, O commander! Certainly God has chosen us that through us those of His creation whom He so desires could be drawn away from the worship of idols to Tawhid (the affirmation of the unity of God), from the narrow confines of preoccupation with this w world to its boundless expanse and from the tyranny of rulers to justice of Islam. Whoever accepts that from us we are prepared to welcome him? And whoever fights us, we would fight him until the promise of God comes to pass."

Rustum asked "And what is the promise of God to you?” Rubiy Ibn Amir replied "Paradise for our martyrs and victory for those who live."

Rustum of course was not inclined to listen to such talk from a seemingly wretched person the likes of whom the Persians regarded as barbaric and uncivilized and whom they had conquered and subjugated for centuries.

The Muslim delegation returned to their commander in-chief. It was clear that war was now inevitable. Sa’ad's eyes filled with tears. He wished that the battle could be delayed a little or indeed that it might have been somewhat earlier. For on this particular day he was seriously ill and could hardly move. He was suffering from sciatica and he could not even sit upright for the pain.

Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas knew that this was going to be a bitter, harsh and bloody battle. And for a brief moment he thought that the Messenger of God had taught the Muslims that none of them should say: "If… because it implied a lack of will and de termination and wishing that a situation might have been different was not the characteristic of a firm believer.” So, despite his illness, Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas got up and stood before his army and addressed them.

He began his speech with a verse from the glorious Quran: "And indeed after having exhorted (man), We have laid it down in all the books of Divine wisdom that My righteous servants shall inherit the earth." (Surah al-Anbiya’, 21:1O5).
When the address was over, Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas performed Solat Az-Zuhur with the army. Facing them once again, he shouted the Muslim battle cry "Allahu Akbar" four times and directed the fighters to attack with the words: "Hayya ala barakatillah Charge, with the blessings of God." Standing in front of his tent, Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas directed his soldiers and spurred them on with shouts of Allahu Akbar (God is Most Great) and La hawla wa la quwwata ilia billah (there is no power or might save with God).

The battle was raged for four days. The Muslims displayed valor and skill. But a Persian elephant corps wrought havoc in the ranks of the Muslims. The ferocious battle was only resolved when several renowned Muslim warriors made a rush in the d direction of the Persian commander. A storm arose and the canopy of Rustam was blown into the river. As he tried to flee he was detected and slain. Complete confusion reigned among the Persians and they fled in disarray.

The battle had costs some thirty thousand persons on both sides fell in the course of four days' fighting. In one day alone, some two thousand Muslims and about ten thousand Persians lost their lives.

The Battle of Qadisiyyah is one of the major decisive battles of world history. It sealed the fate of the Sasanian Empire just as the Battle of Yarmuk had sealed the fate of the Byzantine Empire in the east.

Two years after Qadisiyyah, Sa’ad went on to take the Sasanian capital. By then he had recovered his health. The taking of Ctesiphon was accomplished after a brilliant crossing of the Tigris River while it was in flood.

Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas has thus gone down in the annals of history as the Hero of Qadisiyyah and the Conqueror of Ctesiphon.

Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas lived until he was almost eighty years old. He was blessed with much influence and wealth but as the time of death approached in the year 54 AH, he asked his son to open a box in which he had kept a course woolen jubbah and said: "Shroud me in this, for in this (jubbah) I met the Mushrikin on the day of Badar and in it I desire to meet God Almighty."


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