One of the basic teachings of Islam is the unity of mankind and equality of people in the sight of God. It is no wonder then that one of the best-known heroes of Islam was an Abyssinian emancipated slave. The hero we are talking about is Bilal ibn Rabah.
He was the most trusted, righteous, and companions, chosen by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be the first mu’ezzin (reciter of the adhan, call to prayer) to use his own voice to call people to prayer.
Bilal was born in Mecca, Western Arabia.
His mother was abducted as a child and sold as a slave. Bilal was known for his hard work and loyalty to his master, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, a leader in Mecca and one of the archenemies of Islam. Bilal’s presence in the household of Umayyah gave him the opportunity to hear the comments made by the leaders of Quraish (tribe in Mecca) about Prophet Muhammad. These comments were a mixture of envy and hatred as well as a confession of Muhammad’s integrity and honesty.
The pagan Arabs ridiculed Muhammad (peace be upon him) for making such a public declaration and openly challenging the idols that they so vehemently worshipped. They did everything they could to keep Muhammad (peace be upon him) quiet and thwart his mission.
The pagan Arabs offered Muhammad (peace be upon him) beautiful women and riches beyond his wildest dreams if only he ceases and desist. They even offered to make him their king and vowed they would bow only to him. But honestly, how could a messenger chosen straight from Allah be bribed? He couldn’t.
From the moment Muhammad (peace be upon him) opened his lips and said that he was Allah’s messenger, some people in the community began to become interested in Islam. They wanted to know more and approached Muhammad (peace be upon him).
One by one, people began converting to Islam but not openly. It was done in secret, as the pagan Arabs were a force to be reckoned with. The conversions became so notable, however, that the pagan Arabs finally decided they had to stop people from converting for the sake of their own beliefs and the idols they worshipped.
So, they began punishing and murdering anyone who declared their belief in Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the final messenger.
One companion in particular was dealt with particularly brutality simply because he had converted to Islam. His name was Bilal Ibn Rabah. Bilal was a poor slave from Abyssinia. The pagan Arabs despised black people and thought them to be subhuman meant merely for their service or whim. When Bilal’s master found out that he converted the punishment meted out to Bilal was swift and fierce.
They tore off his shirt and dragged him across the scorching hot sands of Arabia, which had been roasting all day in the unforgiving desert Sun. Bilal’s skin tore and his blood left a trail behind him as he was dragged back and forth over the molten Earth.
Then the master and his henchmen took turns lifting hot heavy boulders and heaving them onto Bilal’s chest. This brand of torture lasted for days without end. All the while the pagans insisted that Bilal denounce Allah as the only God and Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) Prophethood. Bilal refused to do as he was told and began to chant, “Ahad, Ahad,” which is the Arabic reference to Allah as being ‘The One’.
The torture went on and Bilal himself even began preparing for his own demise for he knew he could never say what they wanted, even though in such circumstances of duress Muslims are allowed to say anything to save themselves as long as their hearts remain true to Allah.
The torture continued and more of Bilal’s blood coated the burning hot sands of Arabia. The master was beginning to grow tired of the torture and did not want to actually kill Bilal because he was profitable (a commodity to be sold).
Umayyah and his men got tired of torturing Bilal. He was asked to say something nice in favor of their gods to let him go, but to Bilal, torture in its worst form was better than even those few appeasing words.
Then one day, another companion of Muhammad (peace be upon him), named Abu Bakr Al-Siddique, went to Bilal’s master to try and put an end to the torture. He knew the master would value money more than a human soul. So, he offered to buy Bilal for a fair price.
The master was more than happy to sell Bilal and be rid of such a defiant slave. But little did the master know that the moment the cash landed in his hand, Abu Bakr would emancipate Bilal and he would take his place as a free man. The Muslims celebrated Bilal’s freedom and Bilal became one of the most beloved companions to Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Bilal had such a beautiful voice that Muhammad (peace be upon him) appointed him as a Muezzin as the very first man to perform the call to prayer, or Adhan. The exact words that Bilal spoke the very first time he performed the Adhan are still proclaimed by Muezzins in Mosques all over the world today calling the faithful to pray. Allah raised a loathed slave to a position of honour as a Muslim and made Bilal a great figure in Islamic history.
Bilal had an echoing high-pitched mesmerizing voice. The moment people heard Bilal’s call to prayer, they came running to the mosque for prayer.
Later, upon the victorious entry to Mecca, it was Bilal again who was asked to ascend and stand on top of the Kabah (a sacred structure; location used as a direction to prayer) to perform the call to prayer.
Bilal ibn Rabah is one of the most inspirational and illustrious names in Islamic history. He is honored by approximately 1.9 billion Muslims worldwide. His life story reflects the deep love, determination, and conviction he had in God and the Muhammad (peace be upon him). His story also demonstrates Islam’s respect for human equality, kindness, anti-racism, and social equity.
Indeed, God does not measure people by their skin color, nationality, social status nor race, but by the measure of their character, Taqwa (piety) and their actions.
Allah knows Best.
Almighty Allah is the highest and most knowledgeable, and the attribution of knowledge to him is the safest.
Right from Almighty Allah and wrong from me and Satan
Prepared by Mohamad Mostafa Nassar- Australia.
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Arrogance is not only a sign of insecurity, but also a sign of immaturity. Mature and fully realised persons can get their points across, even emphatically without demeaning or intimidating others.