Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As-Sahmi

Prologue: History would have circumvented Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As-Sahmi as it had done to thousands of the Muslim before him. Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As-Sahmi was like them, would have had no claim to attention or fame. The Prophet’s initiative to introduce Islam outside Arabia gave to Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah the opportunity to meet two world potentates of his time Khusraw Parvez, the King of Persia and Heraclius, and the Byzantine emperor.

The steadfast of an Envoy of the Prophet’s

The encounter with Khusraw Parvez took place in the sixth year of the Hijrah when the Prophet SAW decided to send some of his Companions as envoys with letters to rulers outside the Arabian Peninsula inviting them to Islam. The Prophet SAW attached great importance to this initiative.

These envoys were going to distant frontiers with which there was no agreement or treaty. They did not know the languages of this region nor anything about the ways and disposition of their rulers. They were to invite these rulers to give up their religion and forsake their power and glory and enter the religion of a people who shortly before were almost their subjects. The mission was undoubtedly hazardous.

To make known his plan, the Prophet SAW called his companions together and addressed them. He started by praising God and thanking Him. He then recited the Shahadah and went on:

"I want to send some of you to the rulers of foreign lands but don't dispute with me as the Israelites disputed with Jesus, the son of Mary.”O Prophet of God, we shall carry out whatever you wish," they responded. "Send us wherever you desire."

The Prophet SAW commissioned six of his Sahabah Envoys to carry his letters to Arab and foreign rulers. One of them was Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah. He was chosen to take the Prophet's letter to Khusraw Parvez, the Persian king. Abdullah got his camel ready and bade farewell to his wife and son. He set out, alone, and traversed mountains and valleys until he reached the land of the Persians.

He sought permission to enter into the king's presence informing the guards of the letter he was carrying. Khusraw Parvez thereupon ordered his audience chamber to be made ready and summoned his prominent aides. When they had assembled he gave permission for Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As-Sahmi to enter.

Abdullah entered and saw the Persian ruler dressed in delicate, flowing robes and wearing a great, neatly arranged turban. On Abdullah were the plain, coarse clothes of the Bedouin. His head though was held high and his feet were firm. The honour of Islam burned fiercely in his breast and the power of faith pulsated in his heart.

As soon as Khusraw Parvez saw him approaching he signaled to one of his men to take the letter from his hand. Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As-Sahmi said, "No," "The Prophet commanded me to hand over this letter to you directly and I shall not go against a command of the Messenger of God." "Let him come near to me," Khusraw said to his guards and Abdullah went forward and handed over the letter. Khusraw then called an Arab clerk who originally came from Hira and ordered him to open the letter in his presence and read its contents. He began reading the Prophet’s letter:

"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Khusraw the ruler of Persia. Peace on whoever follows the truth . . ."

Khusraw Parvez only heard this much of the letter when the fire of anger burst within him. His face became red and he began to perspire around the neck. He snatched the letter from the clerk's hand and began tearing it to pieces without knowing what else it contained and shouted:

"Does he dare to write to me like this, he, who is my slave"?

He was angry that the Prophet SAW had not given him precedence in his letter. He then commanded Abdullah to be expelled from his assembly. Abdullah was taken away, not knowing what would happen to him. Would he be killed or would he be set free? But he did not want to wait to find out. He said, "By God, I don't care what happens to me after the letter of the Prophet SAW has been so badly treated." He managed to get to his camel and rode off. When Khusraw's anger had subsided he commanded that Abdullah be brought before him. But Abdullah was nowhere to be found. They searched for him all the way to the Arabian Peninsula but found that he had gone ahead.

Back in Madinah, Abdullah told the Prophet SAW how Khusraw Parvez had torn his letter to pieces and the Prophet's only reply was, "May God tear up his kingdom".

Meanwhile, Khusraw wrote to Badhan, his deputy in the Yemen, to send two strong men to "that man [the Prophet SAW] who has appeared in the Hejaz" with an order to bring him to Persia.

Badhan despatched two of his strongest men to the Prophet SAW and gave them a letter to him in which the Prophet SAW was ordered to go with the two men to meet Khusraw Parvez without delay. Badhan also asked the two men to get whatever information they could on the Prophet SAW and to study his message closely.

The men set out, moving very quickly. At Ta'if they met some Quraish traders and asked them about Muhammad. They told the two men, "He is in Yathrib," They also said and Muhammad and his followers had moved to Makkah and were extremely happy there. This was good news for them and they went around telling other Quraish, "You will be pleased. Khusraw is out to get Muhammad and you will be rid of his evil."

The two men meanwhile made the journey straight to Madinah where they met the Prophet SAW, handed him the letter of Badhan and said to the Prophet SAW:

"The king of kings, Khusraw, has written to our ruler Badhan to send his men to get you. We have come to take you with us. If you come willingly, Khusraw has said that it will be good for you and he will spare you any punishment. If you refuse, you will know the power of his punishment. He has power to destroy you and your people."

The Prophet SAW smiled and said to them, "Go back to your mounts today and return tomorrow."

On the following day, they came to the Prophet SAW and said to him, "Are you prepared to go with us to meet Khusraw?"

The Prophet SAW replied, "You shall not meet Khusraw after today, God has killed him and his son Shirwaih has taken his place on such a night and on such a month."

The two men stared in the face of the Prophet SAW. They were extremely dumbfounded and they asked the Prophet, "Do you know what you are saying? Shall we write about this to Badhan?"

The Prophet SAW replied, "Yes,", "and say to him that my religion has informed me about what has happened to the kingdom of Khusraw and that if he should become Muslim, I would appoint him ruler over what he now controls".

The two men returned to the Yemen and told Badhan what had happened. Badhan said:
"If what Muhammad has said is true, then he is a Prophet SAW. If not then we shall see what happens to him."

Not long afterwards, Badhan received a letter from Shirwaih in which he said, "I killed Khusraw because of his tyranny against our people. He regarded as lawful the killing of leaders, the capturing of their women and the expropriating of their wealth. When this letter reaches you, take the allegiance of whoever is with you on my behalf."

As soon as Badhan had read Shirwaih's letter, he threw it aside and announced his entry into Islam. The Persians with him in the Yemen also became Muslim.

Thus was the story of Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah's meeting with the Persian king. His meeting with the Byzantine emperor took place during the caliphate of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab. It was an astonishing story too.

In the nineteenth year of Hijrah, Umar despatched an army to fight against the Byzantines. In it was Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah. News about the Muslim force had reached the Byzantine emperor. He had heard also of their sincerity of faith, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives in the way of God and His Prophet. He then gave orders to his men to bring to him any Muslim captive they might take alive.

As God willed Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah fell captive to the Byzantines and he was brought before the Emperor. The Emperor looked at Abdullah for a long time. Suddenly he said, "I shall make a proposal to you." "What is it?" asked Abdullah.

"I suggest that you become a Christian. If you do this, you will be set free and I shall grant you a safe refuge." said the emperor.

Abdullah was furious and said, "Death is preferable to me a thousand times to what you ask me to do."

The emperor retorted, "I see that you are a bold man. However, if you respond positively to what I propose to you, I will give you a share in my authority and swear you in as my aide."

Abdullah shackled in his chains, smiled and said, "By God, if you give me all that you possess and all that the Arabs have in exchange for giving up the religion of Muhammad, I shall not do so."

"Then I shall kill you." The emperor threatened Abdullah.

Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As-Sahmi answered, "Do what as you like,"

The emperor then had him put on a cross and ordered his soldiers to throw spears at him, first near his hands and then near his feet, all the while telling him to accept Christianity or at least give up his religion. This he refused over and over again to do.

The emperor then had him taken down from the wooden cross. He called for a great pot to be brought. This was filled with oil which was then heated under a fierce fire. He then had two other Muslim prisoners brought and had one of them thrown into the boiling oil. The prisoner's flesh sizzled and soon his bones could be seen. The emperor turned to Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As-Sahmi and invited him to Christianity.

This was the most terrible test that Abdullah had had to face up till now. But he remained firm and the emperor gave up trying. He then ordered that Abdullah too be thrown into the pot. As he was being taken away he began to shed tears. The emperor thought that he had at last been broken and had him brought back to him. He once more suggested that Abdullah become a Christian but to his astonishment, Abdullah refused.

"Damn you! Why did you weep then?" shouted the emperor.

Abdullah said, "I cried, because you will now be thrown into this pot and your soul will depart’.

I then said to myself, What I really desired then was to have as many souls as the number of hairs on my body and to have all of them thrown into this pot for the sake of God."

The tyrant then said me, "Will you kiss my head? I will then set you free?" "And that include all the Muslim prisoners too?" asked Abdullah. The emperor agreed to do as requested by Abdullah.

Abdullah said to himself, "One of the enemies of God! I shall kiss his head and he shall set me and all other Muslim prisoners free. There can be no blame on me for doing this."

He then went up to the emperor and kissed his forehead. All the Muslim prisoners were released and handed over to Abdullah.

Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah eventually came to Umar Ibn Al-Khattab and told him what had happened. Umar was greatly pleased and when he looked at the prisoners he said, "Every Muslim has a duty to kiss the head of Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah and I shall start."

Umar then got up and kissed the head of Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah.


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