Abu Dharr Al-Ghifariy[radhiallaahu anhu]

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IN the ninth year of Hijra, the Master was leading an expedition to Tabuk. One evening as the army was encamping, people saw someone trudging on, with baggage on his back.

“Who could this fellow be, coming on foot, all by himself?” remarked some of the men. “It must be Abu Dhar,” said the Master. People looked carefully and shouted out, “O Messenger of Allah! surely this is Abu Dhar!”

“May Allah have mercy on Abu Dhar!” said the Master. “He is a loner. He is travelling alone, will die in loneliness and will be raised alone on the Day of Judgement.”

In the meantime Abu Dhar came up. He explained how his camel had refused to move, when the expedition left, so he had to come on foot. “You are one of those whom I miss very much,” said the Master. “However, for every step you have walked, Allah has forgiven a sin of yours.”

ACCEPTANCE OF ISLAM

Abu Dhar was one of the earliest converts to Islam. He belonged to the tribe of Ghifar. This tribe inhabited the country around the trade-route to Syria. Abu Dhar possessed a very sensitive, inquisitive mind. When he came to know that the Last Prophet had appeared in Makkah, he sent his brother to the city, saying, “Ride to that valley and find out the truth about the man who claims to be the Prophet. Talk to him and report back to me.”

The brother obeyed. He talked to different people in Makkah to find out the message of Islam. Then he went back and said to Abu Dhar, “I have heard the Prophet tell people to be good and kind. The Book he recites far above poetry.”

The report was too brief to satisfy AbuDhar. He himself set out to Makkah. There he went inside the Kaaba and waited for some one who could take him to the Prophet. Presently Ali entered the Kaaba. He looked at the stranger but Abu Dhar did not think it safe to speak out his mind to him. On the second day, the same thing happened again. On the third day Ali saw the stranger still sitting in the Kaaba. So he said, “Won’t you tell me the purpose of your visit ?”

“First promise to guide me, then I will speak out my mind,” said Abu Dhar. Ali readily promised and Abu Dhar explained why he had come.

“Surely he is the true Prophet of Allah,” said Ali.” “Follow me and I will take you to him.”

Soon Abu Dhar stood before the Master, completely won over to Islam. “Go back to your people,” said the Master, “and convey to them my message.”

“By Allah,” declared Abu Dhar, “first I will shout out my faith here.”

Saying this Abu Dhar went straight to the Kaaba and shouted out: “I declare that there is no god except Allah and Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger.”

This daring act made the Quraysh mad with rage. They fell upon Abu Dhar and gave him a severe beating. Abbas, the Master’s uncle, happened to come up. “Woe to you!” he said to the people, “don’t you see That the man belongs to the tribe of Ghifar. His kinsmen will make your traderoute un-safe.” On the following day the same thing happened again. Once again Abbas came to Abu Dhar’s help.

MOST FEARLESS

Abu Dhar’s love for truth was unbounded. Nothing could stop him from declaring openly what he believed to be the truth. With this courage of conviction he combined a strong dislike for the comforts of this world.

Persecution by the Quraysh forced the Muslims to flee to Medina. However, Abu Dhar clung to Makkah. No danger could drive fear into his heart and no persecution could turn him from the path of truth. The Makkans started an all-out war against the Muslims. They fought the battles of Badr and Uhud, losing the first and winning the second. Feelings at Makkah ran high against Islam and its followers. Despite this all, Abu Dhar stayed on in the stronghold of the enemy.

At last he left Makkah of his own free will and joined the Master at Medina. His dauntless faith won him the deepest love of the Master. “Allah has commanded me,” the Master once declared, “to love four men, because He Himself loves them. These men are: Ali, Miqdad, Abu Dhar and Salman, the Persian.”

On another occasion the Master declared: “The earth has not carried on its back and the sky has not looked down upon a more truthful person than Abu Dhar.”

MASTER’S DEPUTY

Such was the trust put by the Master in Abu Dhar that twice during his absence, he appointed him his deputy at Madina. Despite all this honour and rank, Abu Dhar led an extremely simple life. He belonged to the group of the penniless Companions living in the portico. They are commonly known as `Ashab-i-Suffa’ or “People of the Portico.” They made their living by collecting wood from the desert and owned nothing in the world. Almost all their time was spent in studying the details of the faith.

These qualities made Abu Dhar a unique figure among the Campanions. The Master aptly described him as “the Jesus-like ascetic among my followers.”

Closeness to the Master earned Abu Dhar the greatest respect of the people. Both Abu Bakr and Omar had the highest regard for him. Omar fixed his stipend at the same rate as allowed to the heroes of Badr, although Abu Dhar never took part in that battle.

CRITICISM OF OTHMAN

Abu Dhar led a very quiet life under the first two Caliphs. Shortly after Othman came to power, the ascetic Companion felt disturbed by the course of events. The kinsmen of the aged Caliph were gaining control of all key posts. Wealth was passing into the hands of a few families, dooming the masses to a life of property. Unequal distribution of wealth brought in its wake many more evils. The simple way of life was giving way to empty pomp and show. Idle pastime and sports were becoming popular. Leading Quraysh families spread out in the provinces in a bid to amass wealth and build up power, Othman’s hand was too weak to stop these evils. If anything, he lavished rich gifts on his relatives. His brother, Harith got three hundred thousand dirhams, Zaid bin Thabit, an Ansari, got one hundred thousand and the Caliphs cousin, Marwan, got a very huge amount.

Abu Dhar could not remain a silent witness. He lashed out at Othman’s relatives quoting these verses of the Qur’aan: ‘Those who amass gold and silver and don’t spend it in the way of Allah, warn them of a painful chastisement. The day which these will be heated in hell fire and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded with them. Lo! This is what you amassed for yourselves ! Now taste of what you amassed!”

Marwan conveyed this criticism to the Caliph. So Othman sent his servant to Abu Dhar, requesting him not to make such comments. But Abu Dhar paid no heed to the request, saying: “Does Othman forbid me to recite the Book of Allah? I would displease Othman to please Allah, rather than displease Allah to please Othman.”

ABU DHAR IN SYRIA

Othman saw that Abu Dhar was not going to discontinue his attacks. So he ordered him to go to Syria. The order was obeyed but it only changed the direction of the attack. Muawiya, the shrewd Governor of Syria was a kinsman of the Caliph. With careful thought and great tact, he had built a strong base for the Omayyad power. All wealth and power was in the hands of his own men, mostly relatives or trusted friends. The common man was made to fight for the cause of Allah, but had little share in the booty, which went mostly to the chiefs and leaders of the Quraysh.

Abu Dhar could not but protest. “How clever of Muawiya to fill the public treasury with gold and silver, calling it Allah’s money! Why, it is the people’s money and must be distributed among them forthwith.” The argument made a strong appeal to the masses. People thronged round the outspoken Companion. Hatred against the rich began to mount. Abdullah bin Saba, the arch-enemy of Othman, was quick to make capital out of the situation.

Muawiya found himself helpless. Abu Dhar was too high for him to handle. But to let him carry on his campaign was to court disaster. So he wrote to Othman, requesting him to call back Abu Dhar.

DEATH IN LONELINESS

So Abu Dhar was back at Medina. People were by now openly critical of the Caliph’s policies. Abu Dhar addressed a meeting, declaring “Forewarn the people of Madina about the wide-spread
loot and the impending disaster.”

Othman found himself in a fix. He could not stop Abu Dhar from declaring what he believed was the truth. On the other hand, this was sure to make an already bad situation still worse.

At last the Caliph decided to send Abu Dhar to Rabdha, a small village near Medina. When he left, Ali went some way to see him off- Such was the esteem in which he was held by the greatest of Companions. However, this act of Ali displeased Othman.

In the lonely village, Abu Dhar had only the company of his wife and a maidservant. But even here, he continued un abated his criticism of the policies of the Caliph. This went on till his death in 31 A.H.

When the end was in sight, Abu Dhar called his wife and the maid and said, “When I am dead, you two wash me up, wrap me in a shroud and place my dead body by the road-side. When the first body of riders passes this way, tell them: `This is the dead body of Abu Dhar, the Companion of the Messenger of Allah. Help us bury him’.”

This last wish of Abu Dhar was carried out. His dead body lay by the road-side. Presently Abdullah bin Masood, another well-known Companion, came up with a party of men. They were riding on camels and were on their way to Medina, from Iraq.

As the party came up, a voice shouted out: “This is Abu Dhar, the Companion of the Messenger of Allah, help us bury him.” The announcement brought tears in the eyes of Abdullah bin Masood.

“The Messenger of Allah was right,” he said, “when he remarked: you are walking alone, you will die in loneliness and you will be raised alone on the Day of Judgement.”

The party dismounted and laid to rest the most out-spoken Companion of the Master. Thus ended a career dedicated to the cause of Truth. Abu Dhar showed by his example how a good Muslim should discharge his duties and assert his right as a citizen. He differed with Othman, but respected his authority. All the same, he exercised to the last his right to freedom of speech.