Thursday, November 15, 2007

An-Nuaiman Ibn Amir

An-Nuaiman Ibn Amir

In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.

In spite of the fact that he fought in the Battles of Badar, Uhud, Khandaq and other major encounters, An-Nuaiman remained a light-hearted person who was quick at repartee and who loved to play practical jokes on others. He was an alcoholic but repented. He belonged to the Banu An-Najjar of Madinah and he was among the early Muslims of the city. He was one of those who pledged allegiance to the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) at the Second Pledge of Aqabah.

His links with the Quraish were established when he married the sister of Abdul Rahman Ibn Awf and later Umm Kalthum the daughter of Uqbah Ibn Muait. She had obtained a divorce from her husband Zubair Ibn Al-Awwam on account of his harshness and severity.

Unfortunately for a time An-Nuaiman became addicted to alcohol. He was caught drinking and the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam)  had him flogged. He was caught a second time and then he had him flogged again. It was because he still did not give up the habit, the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) ordered that he be flogged with shoes. When all this did not persuade him to stop drinking, the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) finally said: "If he goes back (to drinking) then kill him."

This was a severe pronouncement and Musab Ibn Umair, one of the companions of the Prophet, understood from it that should he return to the drinking of alcohol, An-Nuaiman would go outside the pale of Islam and deserve death. Umair gave vent to his anger and disgust by saying: "La'nat-Allah-alaihi - May God's curse be on him."

The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) heard Musab Ibn Umair's imprecation and said: "No, no, don't do (such a thing). Indeed he loves God and His Apostle. The major sin (as this) does not put one outside the community and the mercy of God is close to the believers."

While being firm, the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) still held out hope for An-Nuaiman's reform especially on account of his past sacrifices as a veteran of Badar. Because he was not someone who went out of his way to conceal his actions, it was easier for him to acknowledge his crimes and repent and seek forgiveness from God. This he did and he won the favor of the Prophet
(Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) and his companions who enjoyed his pleasantries and his infectious laughter.

Once An-Nuaiman went to the suoq and saw some food being sold which appeared to be tasty and delightful. He ordered some and sent it to the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam)  as a gift from him. The Prophet was delighted with the food and he and his family ate of it. The vendor of the food then came to An-Nuaiman to collect the price of it and An-Nuaiman said to him: "Go to the Messenger of God it was for him. He and his family ate it." The vendor went to the Prophet SAW who in turn asked An-Nuaiman: "Didn't you give it to me?" "Yes," said An-Nuayman. "I thought you would like it and I wanted you to eat some of it so I had it presented to you. But I don't have any dirhams to pay the vendor for it. So, pay, O Messenger of God!" The Prophet SAW had a good laugh and so did his companions. The laugh was at his expense, literally, for he had to pay the price of the unsolicited gift. An-Nuayman felt that two benefits came out of the incident: the Prophet SAW and his family ate food that they enjoyed and the Muslims had a good laugh.

Once Abu Bakar As-Siddiq and some companions went on a trading mission to Basrah. Various people on the trip were given fixed duties. Suwaibit Ibn Harmalah was made responsible for food and provisions. An-Nuaiman was one of the groups and on the way he became hungry and asked Suwaibit for some food. Suwaibit refused and An-Nuaiman said to him:

"Do you know what I would yet do with you?" and went on to warn and threaten him but still Suwaibit refused. An-Nuaiman then went to a group of Arabs in the suoq and said to them: "Would you like to have a strong and sturdy slave whom I can sell to you." They said yes and An-Nuaiman went on: "He has got a ready tongue and is very articulate. He would resist you and say: 'I am free.' But don't listen to him"

The men paid the price of the slave - Ten Qala'is (pieces of gold) and An-Nuaiman accepted it and appeared to complete the transaction with business-like efficiency. The buyers accompanied him to fetch the purchase. Pointing to Suwaibit, he said: "This is the slave whom I sold to you." The men took hold of Suwaibit and he shouted for dear life and freedom. "I Am Free. I Am Suwaibit Ibn Harmalah..." But they paid no attention to him and dragged him off by the neck as they would have done with any slave. All the while, An-Nuaiman did not laugh or batter an eyelid. He remained completely calm and serious while Suwaibit continued to protest bitterly. Suwaibit's fellow travelers, realizing what was happening, rushed to get Abu Bakar, the leader of the caravan, who came running as fast as he could. He explained to the purchasers what had happened and so they released Suwaibit and had their money returned. Abu Bakar then laughed heartily and so did Suwaibit and an-Nuaiman. Back in Madinah, when the episode was recounted to the Prophet SAW and his companions, they all laughed even more.

A man once came to the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) on a delegation and tethered his camel at the door of the Masjid. The Sahabah noticed that the camel had a large fat hump and their appetite for succulent tasty meat was stimulated. They turned to Nuayman and asked: "Would you deal with this camel?" An-Nuayman understood what they meant. He got up and slaughtered the camel. The nomad Arab came out and realized what had happened when he saw people grilling, sharing out and eating meat. He shouted in distress: "Waa 'aqraah! Waa Naqataah! (O my camel!)" The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) heard the commotion and came out. He learnt from the Sahabah what had happened and began searching for An-Nuaiman but did not find him. Afraid of being blamed and punished, An-Nuaiman had fled.

The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) then followed his footprints. These led to a garden belonging to Danbaah the daughter of Az-Zubair, a cousin of the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam). He asked the companions where An-Nuaiman was. Pointing to a nearby ditch, they said quietly so as not to alert An-Nuaiman: "We haven't found him, O Messenger of God." An-Nuaiman was found in the ditch covered with palm branches and leaves and emerged with dirt on his head, beard and face. He stood in the presence of the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) who took him by the head and dusted the dirt from his face while he chuckled with laughter. The companions joined in the mirth. The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) paid the price of the camel to its owner and they all joined in the feast.

The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) obviously regarded An-Nuaiman's pranks for what they were light-hearted sallies that were meant to create some relief and laughter. The religion of Islam does not require people to disdain seemly laughter and levity and remain perpetually gloomy. An appropriate sense of humor is often a saving grace.

An-Nuaiman lived on after the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) and continued to enjoy the affection of Muslims. But did he put an end to his laughter? During the caliphate of Uthman, a group of Sahabah was sitting in the Masjid. They saw Makhramah Ibn Nawfal, an old man who was about one hundred and fifteen years old and obviously rather senile. He was related to the sister of Abdul Rahman Ibn Awf, who was a wife of An-Nuaiman.

Makhramah was blind. He was so weak that he could hardly move from his place in the Masjid. He got up to urinate and might have done so in the Masjid. But the companions shouted at him to prevent him from doing so. An-Nuayman got up and went to take him to another place, as he was instructed. What is this other place that an-Nuayman took him to? In fact he took him only a short distance away from where he was sitting at first and sat him down. The place was still in the Masjid! People shouted at Makhramah and made him get up again all in frenzy. The poor old man was distressed and said: "Who has done this?" "An-Nuaiman Ibn Amr," he was told.

The old man swore and announced that he would bash An-Nuaiman on the head with his stick if he should meet him. An-Nuayman left and returned. He was up to some prank of his again. He saw Uthman Ibn Affan, the Amirul Mu’minin, performing Solat in the Masjid. Uthman was never distracted when he stood for Prayer.

An-Nuaiman also saw Makhramah. He went up to him and in a prank and changed voice said: "Do you want to get at An-Nuaiman?" The old man remembered what An-Nuaiman had done. He remembered his vow and shouted: "Yes, where is he?" An-Nuaiman took him by the hand and led him to the place where the Khalifah Uthman stood and said to him: "Here he is!" The old man raised his staff and bashed the head of Uthman. The blood flowed and the people shouted: "It's the Amirul Mu’minin!"

They dragged Makhramah away and some people set out to get An-Nuaiman but Uthman restrained them and asked them to leave him alone. In spite of the blows he had suffered, he was still able to laugh at the deeds of An-Nuaiman.

An-Nuaiman lived up to the time of Muawiyah when fitnah saddened him and discord filled him with anguish. He lost his levity and laughed no more.


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