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'abdur-rahman (ra)

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He was one of the first eight persons to accept Islam. He was one of the ten persons (al-'asharatu-l mubash-shirun) who were assured of Paradise by the Noble Prophet (saw). He was one of the six persons chosen by 'Umar (ra) to form the council of shura to choose the Khalifah after his death.

 

His name in Jahiliyah days was 'Abdu 'Amr. But when he accepted Islam the Noble Prophet SAW called him 'Abdur-Rahman - the servant of the Beneficent God.

 

'Abdur-Rahman (ra) became a Muslim before the Prophet SAW entered the house of al-Arqam. In fact, it is said that he accepted Islam only two days after Abu Bakar as-Siddiq (ra) did so.

 

'Abdur-Rahman (ra) did not escape the punishment which the early Muslims suffered at the hands of the Quraysh. He bore this punishment with steadfastness as they did. He remained firm as they did. And when they were compelled to leave Makkah for Abyssinia because of the continuous and unbearable persecution, 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) also went. He returned to Makkah when it was rumored that conditions for the Muslims had improved, but when these rumors proved to be false, he left again for Abyssinia on a second hijrah. He later returned to Makkah again from where he made the hijrah to Madinah.

 

Soon after arriving in Madinah, the Prophet SAW in the unique manner began pairing off the Muhajirin and the Ansar. This established a firm bond of brotherhood and was meant to strengthen social cohesion and ease the destitution of the Muhajirin. 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) was linked by the Prophet SAW with Sa'd ibn ar-Rabi'ah (ra). Sa'd (ra) in the spirit of generosity and magnanimity with which the Ansar greeted the Muhajirin, said to 'Abdur-Rahman (ra):

 

"My brother! Among the people of Madinah I have the most wealth. I have two orchards and I have two wives. See which of the two orchards you like and I shall vacate it for you and which of my two wives is pleasing to you and I will divorce her for you."

 

'Abdur-Rahman (ra) must have been embarrassed and said in reply:

 

"May Allah SAW bless you in your family and your wealth. But just show me where the suq is."

 

'Abdur-Rahman (ra) went to the market place and began trading with whatever little resources he had. He bought and sold and his profits grew rapidly. Soon he was sufficiently well off and was able to get married. He went to the Noble Prophet with the scent of perfume lingering over him.

 

"Mahyam, O 'Abdur-Rahman!" exclaimed the Prophet SAW - "mahyam" being a word of Yemeni origin which indicates pleasant surprise.

 

"I have gotten married," replied 'Abdur-Rahman (ra).

 

"And what did you give your wife as mahr?"

 

"The weight of a nuwat in gold."

 

"You must have a walimah (wedding feast) even if it is with a single sheep. And may Allah SWT bless you in your wealth," said the Prophet SAW with obvious pleasure and encouragement.

 

Thereafter 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) grew so accustomed to business success that he said if he lifted a stone he expected to find gold or silver under it!

 

'Abdur-Rahman (ra) distinguished himself in both the battles of Badr and Uhud. At Uhud he remained firm throughout and suffered more than twenty wounds, some of them deep and severe. Even so, his physical jihad was matched by his jihad with his wealth.

 

Once the Prophet SAW was preparing to dispatch an expeditionary force. He summoned his companions and said:

 

"Contribute sadaqah for I want to dispatch an expedition."

 

'Abdur-Rahman (ra) went to his house and quickly returned.

 

"O Messenger of Allah SAW," he said, "I have four thousand (dinars). I give two thousand as a qard to my Lord and two thousand I leave for my family."

 

When the Prophet SAW decided to send an expedition to distant Tabuk - this was the last ghazwah of his life that he mounted - his need for finance and material was not greater than his need for men, for the Byzantine forces were a numerous and well-equipped foe. That year in Madinah was one of drought and hardship. The journey to Tabuk was long, more than a thousand kilometers. Provisions were in short supply. Transport was at a premium, so much so that a group of Muslims came to the Prophet SAW pleading to go with him but he had to turn them away because he could find no transport for them.

 

These men were sad and dejected and came to be known as the Bakka'in, or the Weepers, and the army itself was called the Army of Hardship ('Usrah). The Prophet SAW urged his companions to give generously for the war effort in the path of Allah SWT and assured them they would be rewarded. The Muslims' response to the Prophet's call was immediate and generous. In the forefront of those who responded was 'Abdur-Rahman ibn 'Awf. He donated two hundred awqiyah of gold whereupon 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) said to the Prophet (saw):

 

"I have (now) seen 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) committing a wrong. He has not left anything for his family."

 

"Have you left anything for your family, 'Abdur-Rahman?" asked the Prophet (saw).

 

"Yes," replied 'Abdur-Rahman (ra), "I have left for them more than what I give and better."

 

"How much?" inquired the Prophet SAW.

 

"What Allah SWT and His Messenger SAW have promised of sustenance, goodness and reward," replied 'Abdur-Rahman (ra).

 

The Muslim army eventually left for Tabuk. There, 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) was blessed with an honor which was not conferred on anyone till then. The time of Salat came and the Prophet SAW was not there. The Muslims chose 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) as their imam. The first two rak'at of the Salat were almost completed when the Prophet SAW joined the worshipers and performed the Salat behind 'Abdur-Rahman ibn 'Awf. Could there be a greater honor conferred on anyone than to have been the imam of the most honored of Allah's creation, the imam of the Prophets, the imam of Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah SAW!

 

When the Prophet SAW passed away, 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) took on the responsibility of looking after the needs of his family, the Ummahat al-Mu'minin. He would go with them wherever they wanted to and he even performed Hajj with them to ensure that all their needs were met. This is a sign of the trust and confidence that he enjoyed on the part of the Prophet's family.

 

'Abdur-Rahman's support for the Muslims and the Prophet's wives in particular was well-known. Once he sold a piece of land for forty thousand dinars and he distributed the entire amount among the Banu Zahrah (the relatives of the Prophet's mother Aminah - ra), the poor among the Muslims and the Prophet's wives. When 'A'ishah (ra) received some of this money she asked:

 

"Who has sent this money?" She was told it was 'Abdur-Rahman (ra), whereupon she said:

 

"The Messenger of Allah SAW said:

 

'No one will feel compassion towards you after I die except the sabirin (those who are patient and resolute).'"

 

The prayer of the Noble Prophet SAW that Allah SWT should bestow barakah on the wealth of 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) appeared to be with 'Abdur-Rahman all his life. He became the richest man among the companions of the Prophet SAW. His business transactions invariably met with success and his wealth continued to grow. His trading caravans to and from Madinah grew larger and larger bringing to the people of Madinah wheat, flour, butter, cloths, utensils, perfume and other commodities, and exporting whatever surplus produce they had.

 

One day, a loud rumbling sound was heard coming from beyond the boundaries of Madinah, normally a calm and peaceful city. The rumbling sound gradually increased in volume. In addition, clouds of dust and sand were stirred up and blown in the wind. The people of Madinah soon realized that a mighty caravan was entering the city. They stood in amazement as seven hundred camels laden with goods moved into the city and crowded the streets. There was much shouting and excitement as people called to one another to come out and witness the sight and see what goods and sustenance the camel caravan had brought.

 

'A'ishah (ra) heard the commotion and asked:

 

"What is this that's happening in Madinah?" and she was told:

 

"It is the caravan of 'Abdur-Rahman ibn 'Awf which has come from Syria bearing his merchandise."

 

"A caravan making all this commotion?" she asked in disbelief.

 

"Yes, O Umm al-Mu'minin. There are seven hundred camels."

 

'A'ishah (ra) shook her head and gazed in the distance as if she was trying to recall some scene or utterance of the past and then she said:

 

"I have heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) say: 'I have seen 'Abdur-Rahman ibn 'Awf entering Paradise creeping.'"

 

Why creeping? Why should he not enter Paradise leaping and at a quick pace with the early companions of the Prophet SAW?

 

Some friends of his related to 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) the hadith which 'A'ishah (ra) had mentioned. He remembered that he had heard the hadith more than once from the Prophet (saw) and he hurried to the house of 'A'ishah (ra) and said to her:

 

"Ya Ammah! Have you heard that from the Messenger of Allah SAW?"

 

"Yes," she replied.

 

"You have reminded me of a hadith which I have never forgotten," he is also reported to have said. He was so over-joyed and added:

 

"If I could, I would certainly like to enter Paradise standing. I swear to you, ya Ammah, that this entire caravan with all its merchandise, I will give fi sabilillah (in the Way of Allah)."

 

And so he did. In a great festival of charity and righteousness, he distributed all that the massive caravan had brought to the people of Madinah and surrounding areas.

 

This is just one incident that showed what type of man 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) was. He earned much wealth but be never remained attached to it for its own sake and he did not allow it to corrupt him.

 

'Abdur-Rahman's generosity did not stop there. He continued giving with both his hands, secretly and openly. Some of the figures mentioned are truly astounding: forty thousand dirhams of silver, forty thousand dinars of gold, two hundred awqiyah of gold, five hundred horses to mujahidin setting out in the path of Allah SWT and one thousand five hundred camels to another group of mujahidin, four hundred dinars of gold to the survivors of Badar and a large legacy to the Ummahat al-Mu'minin - and the catalogue goes on. On account of this fabulous generosity, 'A'ishah (ra) said:

 

"May Allah SWT give him to drink from the water of Salsabil (a spring in Paradise)."

 

All this wealth did not corrupt 'Abdur-Rahman (ra) and did not change him. When he was among his workers and assistants, people could not distinguish him from them. One day, food was brought to him with which to end a fast. He looked at the food and said:

 

"Mus'ab ibn 'Umayr (ra) has been killed. He was better than me. We did not find anything of his to shroud him with except what covered his head but left his legs uncovered Then Allah SWT endowed us with the (bounties of) the world I really fear that our reward has been bestowed on us early (in this world)." He began to cry and sob and could not eat.

 

May 'Abdur-Rahman ibn 'Awf be granted felicity among "those who spend their substance in the cause of Allah SWT and follow up not their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury. For them their reward is with their Lord, and on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve." (The Qur'an, Surah al-Baqarah, 2:262)

 

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