Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Habib Ibn Zaid Al-Ansari

Habib Ibn Zaid Al-Ansari grew up in a home that was filled with the strong of iman, and in a family where everyone was imbued with the spirit of sacrifice. Habib's father, Zaid Ibn Asim, was one of the first persons in Yathrib to accept Islam and his mother, the celebrated Nusaibah Binti Kaab known as Umm Ammarah, was the first woman to bear arms in defense of Islam and in support of the Prophet SAW.

Habib, still at a tender age, was privileged to go with his mother, father, maternal aunt and brother to Makkah with the pioneering group of seventy five who pledged royalty to the Prophet SAW at Second Pledge of Aqabah and played a decisive role in shaping the early history o f Islam. At Aqabah, in the darkness of the night, the young Habib stretched out his small hand and pledged loyalty to the Prophet SAW. From that day, the Prophet SAW became dearer to Habib than his own mother or father and Islam became more important to him than any care for his personal safety.

Habib Ibn Zaid Al-Ansari did not participate in the Battle of Badar because he was too young. Neither did he have the opportunity to take part in the Battle of Uhud because he was still considered too young to bear arms. Thereafter, however, he took part in all the engagements which the Prophet SAW fought and in all he distinguished himself by his bravery and willingness to sacrifice.

Although each of these battles had its own importance and was demanding in its own way, they served to prepare Habib for what was to prove the most terrible encounter of his life, the violence of which is profoundly soul-shaking.

By the ninth year of Hijrah, Islam had spread widely and had become the dominant force in the Arabian Peninsula. Delegations of tribes from all over the land converged on Makkah to meet the Messenger of God SAW and announce before him, their acceptance of Islam.

Among these delegations was one from the highlands of Najad, from the Banu Hanilab. At the outskirts of Makkah, the members of the delegation tethered their mounts and appointed Musailamah Ibn Habib as their spokesman and representative. Musailamah went to the Prophet SAW and announced his people's acceptance of Islam. The Prophet SAW welcomed them and treated them most generously. Each, including Musailamah, was presented with a gift.

On his return to Najd the ambitious and self-seeking Musailamah recanted and gave up his allegiance to the Prophet. He stood among the people and proclaimed that a prophet had been sent by God to the Banu Hanifah just as God had sent Muhammad Ibn Abdullah to the Quraish. For various reasons and under a variety of pressures, the Banu Hanilab began to rally around him. Most followed him out of tribal loyalty or asabiyyah. Indeed one member of the tribe declared: "I testify that Muhammad is indeed truthful and that Musailamah is indeed an imposter. But the imposter of Rabiah (the tribal confederation to which the Banu Hanilab belonged) is dearer to me that the genuine and truthful person from Mudar (the tribal confederation to which the Quraish belonged)."

Not before long, the number of Musailamah's followers increased and he felt powerful, powerful enough to write the following letter to the Prophet SAW: "From Musailamah, the messenger of God to Muhammad, the messenger of God. Peace be on you. I am prepared to share this mission with you. I shall have (control over) half the land and you shall have the other half. But the Quraish are an aggressive people."

Musailamah dispatched two of his men with the letter to the Prophet SAW. When the letter was read to the Prophet SAW, he asked the two men: "And what do you yourselves say about this matter?" "We affirm what the letter says," they replied. "By God," said the Prophet, "were it not for the fact that emissaries are not killed I would have smitten both your necks."

He sent the letter with the two men. Musailamah’s evil and corrupting influence continued to spread and the Prophet SAW considered it necessary to send another letter to him inviting him to abandon his misguided ways.

The Prophet SAW chose Habib Ibn Zaid Al-Ansari to take this letter to Musailamah. Habib was by this time in the prime of his youth and a firm believer in the truth of Islam with every fibre of his being. Habib undertook his mission eagerly and proceeded as quickly as he could to the highlands of the Najd, the territory of the Banu Hanilab. He presented the letter to Musailamah. Musailamah was convulsed with bitter rage. His face was terrible to behold. He ordered Habib to be put in chains and to be brought back before him the following day.

On the following day, Musailamah presided over his assembly. On his right and on his left were his senior advisers, there to further his evil cause. The common people were allowed to enter. He then ordered Habib, shackled in his chains, to be brought before him. Habib stood in the midst of this crowded, hate-filled gathering. He remained upright, dignified and proud like a sturdy spear firmly implanted in the ground, unyielding. Musailamah turned to him and asked: "Do you testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God?" "Yes," Habib replied. "I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God." Musailamah was visibly angry. "And do you testify that I am the Messenger of God?" He was almost insisting, rather than questioning. "My ears have been blocked against hearing what you claim," replied Habib. Musailamah’s face changed color; his lips trembled in anger and he shouted to his executioner, "Cut off a piece of his body."

With sword in hand, the menacing executioner advanced towards Habib and severed one of his limbs. Musailamah then put the same question to him once more and Habib's answers were the same. He affirmed his belief in Muhammad as the Messenger of God and at the expense of his own life he refused to acknowledge the messengership of any other. Musailamah thereupon ordered his henchman to cut off another part of Habib's body. This fell to the ground beside the other severed limb. The people looked on in amazement at Habib's composure and steadfastness.

Faced with Musailamah’s persistent questioning and the terrible blows of his henchman, Habib kept on repeating: "I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God." Habib could not survive this torture and these inhuman atrocities much longer and he soon passed away. On his pure lips, as his life-blood ebbed away, was the name of the blessed Prophet to whom he had pledged loyalty on the night of Aqabah, the name of Muhammad, the Messenger of God. News of Habib's fate reached his mother and her reaction was simply to say: "It was for such a situation that I prepared him... He pledged allegiance to the Prophet on the night of Aqabah as a small child and today as an adult he has given his life for the Prophet. If God were to allow me to get near to Musailamah, I would certainly make his daughters smite their cheeks and lament over him."

The day that she wished for was not long in coming. After the death of the Prophet SAW Abu Bakar declared war on the imposter. With the Muslim army that went out to confront the forces of Musailamah were Habib's mother, Nusaibah, and another of her courageous sons, Abdullah Ibn Zaid.

At the Battle of Yamamah which ensued, Nusaibah was seen cutting through the ranks of fighting men like a lioness and calling out: "Where is the enemy of God? Show me the enemy of God?" When she eventually reached Musailamah, he had already perished. She looked at the body of the vain imposter and cruel tyrant and felt serene. A grave threat to the Muslims had been removed and the death of her beloved son, Habib, had been avenged.

At Habib's death, the noble Prophet SAW had commended him and his entire family and had prayed: "May God bless this household. May God have mercy on this household."

He then wrote to Musailamah: "In the name of God, the Beneficent, and the Compassionate. From Muhammad the Messenger of God, to Musailamah the imposter. Peace be upon whoever follows the guidance. God will bequeath the earth to whosoever of His servants He wishes and the final triumph will be for those who are careful of their duty to God."


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