Friday, November 9, 2007

Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith

It was rarely one can find a closer bond between two persons such as the one between Muhammad Ibn Abdullah and Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith. This was not the same as Abu Suffian Ibn Harb, the powerful Quraish chieftain. This Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith was born about the same time as the Prophet SAW. They resembled each other a great deal.

They grew up together and for a time lived in the same household. This Abu Suffian was a cousin of the Prophet SAW. His father, Al-Harith, was the brother of Abdullah; both were sons of Abdul Muttalib. Abu Suffian was also a foster-brother of the Prophet SAW. He was for a short time nursed by the lady Halimah Al-Sa’adiah who had nursed after the young Muhammad in accordance to the Arab tradition in the tough and bracing atmosphere of the desert. In their childhood and youth, Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith and Muhammad Ibn Abdullah were very close and intimate friends.

It was so close were they that one might naturally have expected Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith to have been among the first to respond to the call of the Prophet SAW, and follow wholeheartedly the religion of truth. But this was not so, at least not for many years. From the time the Prophet SAW made public his call to Islam and first issued the warning to members of his clan about the dangers of continuing in their existing state of unbelief, injustice and immorality, the fire of envy and hatred erupted with Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith. The bonds of kinship had snapped, even once there was love and friendship, but there was revulsion and hatred. Once there was brotherhood, but later there was resistance and opposition.

At that time Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith was renowned as one of the best fighters and horsemen of the Quraish and one of their most accomplished poets. He used both sword and words in the battle against the Prophet SAW and his mission. All his energies were mobilized in denouncing Islam and persecuting the Muslims. In whatever battle the Quraish engaged against the Prophet SAW and whatever torture and persecution they meted out to the Muslims, Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith had played his part. He had composed and recited verses attacking and vilifying the Prophet SAW. For twenty years almost these rancor had consumed his soul.

His three others brothers, Nawfal Ibn Al-Harith, Rabiah Ibn Al-Harith, and Abdullah Ibn Al-Harith, had all accepted Islam but not him. In the eighth year of Hijrah, however, shortly before the Islamic liberation of Makkah, Abu Sufian's position began to shift. He explained his journey into Islam:

"When the movement of Islam became vigorous and well-established and news spread of the Prophet's advance to liberate Makkah, the world caved in on me. I felt trapped. I asked myself, 'Where shall I go? And with whom?' To my wife and children, I said: 'Get ready to leave Makkah. Muhammad's advance is imminent. I shall certainly be killed. I shall be given no place should the Muslims recognize me.'

'Now,' replied my family, 'you must realize that Arabs and non-Arabs have pledged their obedience to Muhammad and accepted his religion. You are still bent on opposing him whereas you might have been the first to support and help him.'

‘They continued to influence me to reconsider my attitude to Muhammad's religion and to reawaken in me affection towards him.’

Eventually God opened my heart to Islam. I got up and said to my servant, Madhkur, 'Get ready a camel and a horse for us.' I took my son Ja’afar Ibn Suffian with me and we galloped with great speed towards Al-Abwa between Makkah and Madinah. I had learnt that Muhammad had camped there. As I approached the place, I covered my face so that no one could recognize and kill me before I could reach the Prophet and announce my acceptance of Islam directly to him’.

Slowly, I proceeded on foot while advance groups of Muslims headed towards Makkah. I avoided their path out of fear that one of the Prophet's companions would recognize me. I continued in this manner until the Prophet SAW on his mount came into my view. Coming out into the open, I went straight up to him and uncovered my face.

He looked at me and recognized me, but he turned his face away. I moved to face him once again. He avoided looking at me and again turned away his face. This happened repeatedly. I had no doubt - as I stood there facing the Prophet SAW that he would have been pleased with my acceptance of Islam and that his companions would have rejoiced at his happiness. When, however, the Muslims saw the Prophet SAW, avoiding me, they too looked at me and shunned me. Abu Bakar As-Siddiq met me and violently turned away. I looked at Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, my eyes pleading for his compassion, but I found him even harsher than Abu Bakar. In fact, Umar went on to incite one of the Ansar against me.

The Ansaris lashed out 'O enemy of God!' you are the one who persecuted the Messenger of God SAW, and tortured his companions. You carried your hostility towards the Prophet SAW to the ends of the earth'. The Ansaris went on censuring me in a loud voice while other Muslims glared at me in anger

At that point, I saw my uncle, Al-Abbas Ibn Abdul Muttalib, and went to him seeking refuge. I said ’O uncle! I had hoped that the Prophet SAW would be happy about my acceptance of Islam because of my kinship to him and because of my position of honor among my people. You know what his reaction has been. Speak to him then on my behalf that he may be pleased with me.

My uncle replied 'No, by God! 'I shall not speak to him at all after I have seen him turning away from you except if an opportunity presents itself. I do honor the Prophet SAW, and I stand in awe of him.'

I pleaded 'O uncle, to whom then will you abandon me?’

'I do not have anything for you except what you have heard,' he said.

Anxiety and grief took hold of me; I saw Ali Ibn Talib, soon after and spoke to him about my case. His response was the same as that of my uncle. I thus went back to my uncle and said to him, 'O uncle! If you cannot soften the heart of the Prophet towards me, then at least restrains that man from denouncing me and inciting others against me.'

My uncle said, ' Describe to me what to do!’ I described the man to him and he said, 'That is Nuayman Ibn Al-Harith An-Najjari.' He sent for Nuayman and said to him, 'O Nuayman! Abu Suffian is the cousin of the Prophet SAW and my nephew. If the Prophet is angry with him today, he will be pleased with him another day. So, leave him'

My uncle continued trying to placate Nuayman until the latter relented and said: 'I shall not spurn him anymore.'

When the Prophet SAW reached Al-Jahfah, about four days journey from Makkah, I sat down at the door of his tent. My son Ja’afar Ibn Suffian stood beside me. As he was leaving his tent, the Prophet saw me and averted his face. Yet, I did not despair of seeking his pleasure. Whenever he camped at a place, I would sit at his door and my son Ja’afar Ibn Suffian would stand in front of me.

I continued in this manner for some time, but the situation became too much for me and I became depressed. I said to myself: 'By God, either the Prophet SAW shows he is pleased with me or I shall take my son and go wandering through the land until we die of hunger and thirst.' When the Prophet SAW came to hear of this, he relented and on leaving his tent, he looked more gently towards me then before. I was so much hoped that he would smile.

Eventually the Prophet SAW relented and said, "There is now no blame on you." He called Ali Ibn Abi Talib saying: "Teach your cousin how to perform wudu and about the Sunnah. Then bring him back to me." Then when Ali returned, the Prophet SAW said:

"Tell all the people that the Messenger of God is pleased with Abu Suffian and that they should be pleased with him."

The Prophet SAW then entered Makkah and I too entered in his entourage. He went to the Sacred Mosque and I also went, trying my best to remain in his presence and not separate from him on any account.

Later, at the Battle of Hunain, the Arabs put together an unprecedented force against the Prophet SAW. They were determined to deal a mortal blow to Islam and the Muslims. The Prophet SAW went out to confront them with a large number of his companions. I went out with him and when I saw the great throngs of mushrikin, I said, 'By God. Today, I shall atone for all my past hostility towards the Prophet SAW, and he shall certainly see on my part what pleases God and what pleases him.'

When the two forces met, the pressure of the mushrikin on the Muslims was severe and the Muslims began to lose heart. Some even began to desert and terrible defeat stared us in the face. However, the Prophet SAW stood firm in the thick of battle astride his mule "Ash-Shahba" like a towering mountain, wielding his sword and fighting for himself and those around him. I jumped from my horse and fought beside him. God knows that I desired martyrdom beside the Messenger of God. My uncle, Al-Abbas, took the reins of the Prophet's mule and stood at his side. I took up my position on the other side. With my right hand I fended off attacks against the Prophet SAW and with my left I held on to my mount.

When the Prophet SAW noticed my devastating blows on the enemy, he asked my uncle, 'Who's this?'

Al-Abbas said 'This is your brother and cousin, Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith. Be pleased with him. O Messenger of God.'

The Prophet SAW said, 'I have done so and God has granted forgiveness to him for all the hostility he has directed against me.' My heart soared with happiness. I kissed his feet in the stirrup and wept.

The Prophet SAW came to me and said, 'My brother! Upon my life! Advance and strike!' The words of the Prophet SAW had spurred me on and we plunged into the positions of the mushrikin until they were routed and fled in every direction."

After the Battle of Hunain, Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith continued to enjoy the good pleasure of the Prophet and the satisfaction of being in his noble company. But he never looked the Prophet SAW directly in the eye nor focused his gaze on his face out of shame and embarrassment for his past hostility towards him. Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith continued to feel intense remorse for the many and dark days he had spent trying to extinguish the light of God and refusing to follow His message.

Henceforth, his days and nights he would spend reciting the verses of the Quran. Seeking to understand and follow its laws and profit by its admonitions. He shunned the world and its adornments and turned to God with every fiber of his being. Once the Prophet, saw him entering the mosque and asked his wife, "Do you know who this, Aishah is?" "No, O Messenger of God." she replied. This is my cousin, Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith. See, he is the first to enter the masjid and the last to leave. His eyes do not leave his shoelace."When the Prophet SAW passed away, Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith felt intense grief and wept bitterly.

During the Caliphate of Umar, may God be pleased with him; Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith felt his end drawing near. One day people saw him in Al-Baqi, the cemetery not far from the Prophet's mosque where many Sahabah are buried. He was digging and fashioning a grave. They were surprised. Three days later, Abu Suffian Ibn Al-Harith was lying stretched out at home. His family stood around weeping but he said: "Do not weep for me. By God, I did not commit any wrong since I accepted Islam." With that, he passed away.


No comments: