The calibre of the first Muslims

Developing Just Leadership

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Sha'ban 13, 1432 2011-07-15

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,

We all have some historical information about the formative years of Islam; what we do not have is a closer look or scrutiny of those formative years that we hearken back to. You may have realised that in many of the khutbahs that have come your way on this occasion every week quoting Allah’s Prophet verbally is not something that is liberally done, in other words, much caution is practised unlike the other Muslims, who on this day and this time begin to parrot what Allah’s Prophet says, we have a more disciplined and rigorous approach to Allah’s Prophet. Our approach has been to understand Allah’s Prophet through the words of the Qur’an and through his behaviour rather than quoting very often what he said as is done in most of the Masajid, most of the times outside the scope of the Qur’an or without taking into consideration his character or what he actually did. So if we approach his life, we all know, (we hope by now), that there were originally three years after he received this Wahy from Allah- after the words Iqra’ and Qum- in which he was not concerned with going public with this message of his. In many quarters, (we’re trying to be as accurate as we can), there’s a general impression that the followers of Allah’s Prophet were of the under-class of society- that impression exists. Now, (also we’re trying to word ourself here (and we’re) trying to avoid the current political terminology as much as possible), we know that when Allah’s Prophet began this life changing task of his he began with those who were closest to him- Khadijah, Ali, Zayd ibn Haarithah and Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhum). These were the first respondents to Allah’s words to Earth. Immediately following them, (and some would say via the channel of Abi Bakr), came Uthman ibn Affan. Az Zubair ibn Al Awwaam, Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, Talhah ibn Ubaidillah, and Abdur Rahman ibn Awf (radi Allahu anhum). Now these were the first nine or ten individuals who became the Prophet’s, (what you may call), inner circle. When we take a close look at how do they rank in society, the majority of these people were not poor or money-less people. This is an important observation that has to be settled in our minds. When the Prophet presented this message of Islam and the Qur’an and the Wahy he wasn’t looking at “well I’m going to give this message to this person or I’m going to give it to that person or I’m going to select a certain category of people.” He practised his better judgement concerning the people who were around him. Allah had the Prophet born in a certain society and there were people who were within his reach. He didn’t begin by going to a foreign land! He began within the environment and the human habitat that he found himself in and he followed his better judgement. He wasn’t looking at “well this person is rich and that person is poor.” That was not a consideration. He was presenting this word of guidance from Allah to whoever the Prophet of Allah thought would be responsive. These were the initial people who responded, (the names of whom I’ve just read to you). These names and these personalities were not what we call or what people refer to today as “the lower classes of society.” Then another factor in all of this is the relatives. Some of these people were related to him and he wasn’t presenting this message just because he is selecting his relatives for it. Just like he wasn’t presenting this Islam to people because he’s selecting a certain class of people, he wasn’t presenting it to them because he’s selecting certain blood relatives of his. But what happened is (that) some of these people who responded to him favourably were related to him. Of course, Khadijah was his wife; Ali was his cousin; Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas was his maternal relative; the mother of Uthman was the paternal cousin of the Prophet; Az Zubair was Safiyyah’s son and Safiyyah was the Prophet’s aunt; also, Khadijah was the maternal aunt of Az Zubayr; Abdur Rahman ibn Awf was a son-in-law or a marital relative of Uthman and the cousin of Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas. So in addition to our observation that most of these initial respondents to Allah’s Prophet were not from the lower classes at the same time the initial respondents to Allah’s Prophet were related to him and this had nothing to do with the Prophet selecting these people out as much as it had to do with the Prophet sensing that these people would respond to him with determination and with conviction.

Then we had the tribal configuration of society. We know that the Arabians of that time would identify themselves vis-à-vis their tribes or their clans. The only one that responded in those initial months to the Prophet from his own clan, (so to speak), was Ali. He was the only one from Bani Haashim. Abu Bakr and Talhah were from Bani Taim; Khadijah and Az Zubayr were from Bani Asd; Sa’ad and ibn Awf were from Bani Zuhra and Uthman was from Bani Umayah. So in as far as tribal relationships are concerned, the Prophet was not saying “I am going to favour a certain tribe in presenting this message to whoever is going to respond.” He presented it to, once again, who he sensed would be receptive and accepting and committing himself to this message and this is the way it worked itself out. They all appeared to be in those initial times, what we may call relatively comfortable in society except for Zayd ibn Haarithah who is not from those who are socially relaxed in society. He is, (in the terms of those times), what is considered al abeed and al mawaali which in our language today is something like a second class citizen or from the under class. Only that person- in those initial months and those first couple years when Islam was still in the private realm before it went public.

The first respondent to Allah’s Prophet was Khadijah, his wife; and we all know Khadijah was well off. She wasn’t a poor person. She wasn’t from the lower class of society. Also, Az Zubayr who was of the first ten respondents to Allah’s Prophet, wasn’t from the under class of society. Sa’ad was known for his affluence. He used to wear a ring of gold; he used to wear what we call today fancy clothes. All of us know Abdur Rahman ibn Awf was a prominent merchant from the beginning. Talhah was also a successful merchant who used to go on what is called rihlah ash shita’ wa as sayf. He used to go to Yemen in the winter time and he used to go to Ash Shaam in the summer time. We all know Abu Bakr was a well to do merchant. He was responsible for some of the financial affairs of Makkah that had to do with diyaat or the money that goes or is spent, (in what is called today), the legal affairs of society. Uthman obviously was one of the wealthy and rich persons of the Prophet’s time.

Now, (some of you and many Muslims have this question), our humble speaker has been asked on previous occasions “can you identify for us, during these three years when Islam was still a private effort, those individuals who responded to Allah’s Prophet during that time?” Here are the names- brothers and sisters- of those individuals who became the first line of Allah’s Prophet during those three years. We’re going to begin with those who are well off. Out of fifty-some-odd there are going to be over forty of them who are considered, relatively speaking, to be well off. As Sayidah Khadijah- the Prophet’s wife, Ali ibn Abi Talib- the Prophet’s cousin, Abu Bakr As Siddique; Uthman ibn Affan, Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, Abdur Rahman ibn Awf, Az Zubayr ibn Awwaam, Talhah ibn Ubaydillah, Al Arqam ibn Al Arqam, Abu Ubaydah ibn Al Jarrah, Saeed ibn Zayd, Fatimah bint Al Khattab, Abu Dharr ibn Al Ghifari, Suhayb Al Rumi, Uthman ibn Madh’un, Ubada ibn Haarith, Abu Salamah ibn Abd Asd, Quqayyah and Zaynab- the two daughters of the Prophet, Safiyyah ibn Abd Al Mutt’talib- the Prophet’s aunt, Qudaamah ibn Madh’un, Abdullah ibn Madh’un, Asma’ the daughter of Abi Bakr, Umayr ibn Abi Waqqas, Mas’ub ibn Al Qari, Saleet ibn Amr, Abbas ibn Abi Rabi’a and his wife Asma’ bint Salamah, Khanees ibn Hudhafah, Aamir ibn Rabi’a, Abdullah ibn Jahsh and his brother Abu Ahmad, Ja’far ibn Abi Talib and his wife Asma’ bint Anees or Unays, Haatib ibn Haarith and his wife Fatimah bint Al Mujallal, Hattab ibn Al Haarith and his wife Uqayah bint Yasaar, As Saaib ibn Uthman ibn Madh’un, Mu’ammar ibn Al Haarith, Al Mutallib ibn Azhar and his wife Ramlah bint Abi Al Awf, Naeem ibn Abdillah, Khalid ibn Saeed ibn Al Aas and his wife Aminah bint Khalaf, Haatib ibn Amr, Abu Hudhayfah ibn Utbah ibn Rabi’a, Waqid ibn Abdillah and then you have four individuals from Bani Bakeer ibn Yaleel- they are Khalid, Aamir, Aaqil and Iyaas (radi Allahu anhum). Now after you listen to these names you realise in yourself some of those names you are familiar with and some of those names you are not familiar with. Ask yourself at this point why have I heard of some of these names a lot yet some of these names I haven’t heard of? Or its as if I haven’t heard of at all! Then, you can begin to realise that history is written in a certain way- an issue that we shall not speak about at this time. So all of these names that you’ve just heard are from the portion of society that is not very poor. These were not individuals who were suffering from hunger. These were not individuals who were going around asking “could I have some financial assistance to feed my family.”

Then we had individuals who were not mainstream, they’re called Al Abeed and Al Mawaali. In today’s language, Al Abeed would be equivalent to slaves and Al Mawaali would be equivalent to sponsored individuals or client individuals. Its like in today’s world you say immigrants; they’re not full-fledged constituents of the Makkan society. These are the following names: Zayd ibn Haarithah, Ammaar ibn Yaasir and his mother and his father Umm Ammaar and Abu Ammaar, Khabbaab ibn Al Arat and Aamir ibn Fuhayrah (radi Allahu anhum). These don’t belong to the first category of names.

Then, you had three individuals who were what you would call “dirt poor”. These were really poor people. Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, ibn Umm Maktoum and Umm Ayman (radi Allahu anhum). These truly were from the under class. If you’re speaking about hunger (and) if you’re speaking about deprivation (and) if you’re speaking about want and need, these three fulfil that description.

Now that being said, we use a couple of words to refer to all of these people. One of them is mustad’afeen; some of these people had wealth and they had a considerable amount of wealth; others were doing fine in life- they were not begging or on public assistance or drawing any welfare cheque, (so to speak); but still, all of them are called mustad’afeen in the language of the Qur’an and in the language of the Prophet. They were mustad’afeen because the system was against them. The Government of that time, (if we can call it that), with all its economic power, with all its social pressures with all of its religious authority turned against all of these people around the Prophet together. The system came down on them, so obviously when that’s the case- even though some of them are middle class society, some of them are upper class society and some of them are lower class society- when they were all combined in this Islamic effort when all of the forces of money, wealth and power came down on them in the chapters of history that we know, we call them mustad’afeen. Another word that the Qur’an refers or describes them is adhilla, which means of modest means or even humiliated by the social norms. The ayah in the Qur’an speaks to this point when it says

وَلَقَدْ نَصَرَكُمُ اللَّهُ بِبَدْرٍ وَأَنتُمْ أَذِلَّة

Allah gave you victory at Badr but your social status (is that) you are adhilla… (Surah Aal Imran verse 123)

Adhilla is the plural of dhaleel and dhaleel is a person who does not have much means for life. Now, it may be that because of the persecution that set early into Islamic history of the lower classes of these Muslims… We know what happened to Ammaar; we know what happened to Bilal (radi Allahu anhu); we know what happened to SUmayah (radi Allahu anha). There’s a history of persecution (and) because of this history of persecution we have a tendency to think that this persecution was across the board. It wasn’t. Istad’aaf was across the board but persecution came down on certain individuals because others who had resources (and) finances also had their tribal connections. There was a tribal system. A tribe was responsible of one of its own. So if Ali ibn Abi Talib became a supporter of Muhammad ibn Abdillah they belonged to Bani Hashim and it was the responsibility of Bani Hashim to protect them from any threats or intimidation of others. So if people had a tribal umbrella of protection but others didn’t- those who were considered like second class citizens or immigrants or foreigners or slaves or the under class who were living in Makkah were exposed when it came to the harshness and to the fury of those who were the decision makers of Makkah. The respect for these people who were around the Prophet- remember, Bilal was a slave in the society of Makkah. In the society of jahiliyyah Bilal was a black slave but this new Islamic reality now caused the upper crust of society who became Muslims- people like Uthman, Abdur Rahman ibn Awf, Az Zubayr, Talhah, the well to do- to refer to Bilal and call him Sayyiduna Bilal. Just like we call Allah’s Prophet Sayyiduna Muhammad, these people who were up there in society used to, when they addressed themselves to Bilal say Sayyiduna Bilal. Out of these under classes, (so to speak), who withstood persecution and torture we had, (in today’s words), military Commanders and military Generals. Zayd ibn Haarithah and his son Usama (radi Allahu anhuma). These were high ranking military Officials in the Islamic Governance of Arabia. Ammaar ibn Yaasir also went up, (so to speak), in civil life and in military responsibilities. So was the case with ibn Mas’ud. Ibn Mas’ud by all accounts was a very poor man- a shepherd. The Prophet of Allah wanted to listen to him reciting the Qur’an.

And then the other person, ibn Umm Maktoum- some of you may recall that he is the person who the Prophet deputised to be in-charge of Al Madinah when the Prophet would leave on military missions even though he was blind. This poses a question “could a person who is blind assume Governmental responsibilities?” The answer should be in the Prophet’s decision. The Prophet may have not made a statement saying “give responsibilities to people who are physically handicapped such as being blind.” We don’t know of any statement or hadith from Allah’s Prophet that says such a thing but Allah’s Prophet’s practice says such a thing.

Please brothers and sisters- understand us- we’re trying as much as possible not to use certain words that are used today in the political literature and in the ideological books of today because they create a problem in people’s minds. So people who are not spoiled by wealth, people who are not broken by poverty- this is a fact of life- you have people who are born into affluence and this affluence erodes their character. They no longer have the backbone to sustain the responsibilities of a struggle. Then you have other people who are broken by need and want and deprivation and poverty. We look at the Prophet’s first three years of Al Wahy (and) we find that he presented this Islam to those that he thought were confident and were as committed as to carry through this message to it’s end or to the end of their lives. (You) see, we’re looking at sunan

قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ سُنَنٌ

Social laws have played themselves out before your time… (Surah Aal Imran verse 137)

When we look at today’s world, do you find people who assume responsibility and are successful in assuming responsibility when they decay because of wealth? You don’t find it! Even the people who have wealth in this society, (take a look- we’re living in the wealthiest society in our times), the people who assume the major responsibilities are drawn from the class of people that we are speaking about. The people who have the real money stay behind the scenes. This is the way they deal with it; (but) that doesn’t mean that this is the way we should deal with it. It is a social law at work. It is a sunnah of life what we are referring to. (Let us take this now into the thick-and-thin of our language), you don’t have a playboy who is spoiled by riches and finances who assumes the responsibility of governance, whether it is a civil responsibility of whether it is a military responsibility because the simple answer to that is he doesn’t qualify. The same thing can be said about a person who is broken by his poverty. There are people who are broken by their poverty. Their spirits are broken; they also disqualify from assuming these responsibilities. This doesn’t mean that all the people who have all the resources are disqualified (and) it doesn’t mean all the people who are in poverty are disqualified! This is an important distinction to make; but it does mean that we have a considerable amount of people at this extreme and a considerable amount of people at that extreme who are disqualified. Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course there are exceptions to the rule. There were exceptions at the time of Allah’s Prophet and there are exceptions to the rule in the mainstream of life today.

In history, Budha, this character that has a religion in the Far-East, belonged to the wealthiest class of society; (he was) a person like the billionaire of today. He gave up all the wealth, all the palaces and the mansions and became an average person; a person who would go around anywhere, sleep anywhere and he used to carry a container for people to give him something so that he can sustain his life to preach the virtues and values that he was preaching. Is this normal? Is this the mainstream? No. We don’t want to say any names in today’s world, but you have individuals, (whether they are Muslims or not Muslims), who step out of their affluent class and they begin their own struggle. This can be said about, (we hesitate to say this because people will take this in today’s political language but it is not meant to be taken in today’s political language), if a person gives up all his wealth and he parts with that life of wealth and power and he begins to do what is right, (we’re just going to avoid the person’s name), he had hundreds-of-thousands of acres of land, he had mansions and palaces- he gave all that up; (and) not to anyone. He gave it to people who don’t have so that they can improve their quality of life. Building them schools; giving them lands to farm and make a living off of. But how many are these people? If we’re generous we can say one-percent. One-percent doesn’t establish a rule or a law. All of that being said, when these Muslims were in this time period, (i.e.) those first three years when Islam wasn’t public, the Muslims had to go to Dar Al Arqam ibn Abi Al Arqam. They were not soft; they were not compromised. Inside of themselves they were as determined to do what has to be done as any human being can be determined. They had to go to Dar Al Arqam ibn Abi Al Arqam because they had a brush with their enemies. Al Mushrikin in Makkah realised that these people are not behaving like they used to behave so when they realised that they were going to be exposed they maintained their secrecy by convening themselves or their meetings in Dar Al Arqam ibn Abi Al Arqam. The first clash in Islam was during this period. The first clash in which there was a fight and Mushriks were injured in that altercation was when the Muslims were just outside Makkah together, among themselves, and Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas was one of them and the Mushriks came up defying them- what are you doing? Why are you getting together here? What’s all of this about? The response was well we are thinking about things. We are devoted to certain things. (The Mushriks asked) What are these things? One thing led to the other and there was a fight. So when the Muslims who were not negotiating away their principals- today we have Muslims say “Oh- we want to work away from the public eye.” Yeah- but what type of personalities are you? Do you carry in you the confidence and courage that comes from knowing that you are only going through a limited time phase or (do) you want to spend the rest of your life saying “we are working in secret. We are working away from the public eye.” Where did this come from? The Prophet didn’t do that. The first short Surah- who are these latter ayaat referring to? Hishaam Al Makhzumi one of these avowed enemies of Islam. The first ayaat that were revealed were exposing an avowed enemy of Islam when Muslims had to maintain their non public posture that concealed their determination to bring down the dhulm in that society and in all of the world- an ambition (and) a heightened sense of responsibility that we don’t find in today’s Muslims.

Brothers and sisters, committed Muslims…

If we can help ourselves out… In the Khutbah last week we tried our best to concentrate our attention on the fact that the younger ages of Muslims were a determining factor in the success of Allah’s Prophet. Right here, if we can concentrate our attention on the fact that the centre of society, not the extremes, (and as we said, there are exceptions everywhere), were also a contributing factor to the success of Allah’s Prophet. So if we can combine last weeks information about those who are younger and this weeks information about those who do not belong to the extremes, meaning the economic and social extremes of society- we can maintain a healthier understanding of how to move forward. What type of information do they want us to fall in? Let’s take a look at one issue, (there’s a time factor involved here). In this coming month of Ramadhan, (which is what?- a couple of months away), there is some Kuwaiti company that has put together a film, a cinematic presentation which is called Al Hassan and Al Husayn (radi Allahu anhuma) and Mu’awiyah. In this film they say “they want to show us how Islamic history developed.” In those years, in the years of Al Imam Al Hassan (and) Al Imam Al Husayn and King Mu’awiyah, (we say this deliberately so that Muslims may be begin to think), they tell us (in) this film here, (and it depends who you’re reading), the lowest figure is $3million that is spent on it. It was shot in different countries. It was filmed, (for those who don’t know the lingo), in different countries, in Lebanon, Syria, Al Emarat, Al Kuwait, Jordan among other places. They say “they consulted with Islamic Scholars- most of these Scholars living in the Arabian Peninsula. Most of them Sunnis but some of them Shi’is who agreed to the validity of the way these acts are put together.” The intriguing part, the Producers, Managers and Supervisors of this presentation tell us, (even up to a couple of weeks ago), “they still cannot figure out how to present the way Al Imam Al Husayn was killed. They still don’t know how to present that.” Whatever they are doing, rest assured brothers and sisters- is meant in the context of today’s world to fuel the fire and the flames of sectarianism so that they don’t want us to look at the issues the way we are looking at it, they want to throw us back so that we react to what they are doing. This is expected to raise sectarian tension on both sides- Sunnis and Shi’is. This is what they are doing. This is what these Masajid with their go-to-sleep Khutbahs are doing. We try to step ahead of them and shed light on their schemes and their stratagems.

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