STORY OF A SEEKER OF TRUTH – The Companion Salman the persian
When the Prophet reached Yathrib after his hijrah from Makkah, I was in fact at the top of a palm tree belonging to my master doing some work. My master was sitting under the tree. A nephew of his came up and said:
“May God declare war on the Aws and the Khazraj (the two main Arab tribes of Yathrib). By God, they are now gathering at Quba to meet a man who has today come from Makkah and who claims he is a Prophet.” I felt hot flushes as soon as I heard these words and I began to shiver so violently that I was afraid that I might fall on my master. I quickly got down from the tree and spoke to my master’s nephew. “What did you say? Repeat the news for me.”
My master was very angry and gave me a terrible blow. “What does this matter to you? Go back to what you were doing,” he shouted.
That evening, I took some dates that I had gathered and went to the place where the Prophet had alighted. I went up to him and said:
“I have heard that you are a righteous man and that you have companions with you who are strangers and are in need. Here is something from me as sadaqah. I see that you are more deserving of it than others.”
The Prophet ordered his companions to eat but he himself did not eat of it.
I gathered some more dates and when the Prophet left Quba for Madinah I went to him and said: “I noticed that you did not eat of the sadaqah I gave. This however is a gift for you.” Of this gift of dates, both he and his companions ate.
The strict honesty of the Prophet was one of the characteristics that led Salman to believe in him and accept Islam.
Salman was released from slavery by the Prophet who paid his Jewish slave-owner a stipulated price and who himself planted an agreed number of date palms to secure his manumission. After accepting Islam, Salman would say when asked whose son he was:
“I am Salman, the son of Islam from the children of Adam.”
Salman was to play an important role in the struggles of the growing Muslim state. At the battle of Khandaq, he proved to be an innovator in military strategy. He suggested digging a ditch or khandaq around Madinah to keep the Quraysh army at bay. When Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Makkans, saw the ditch, he said, “This strategy has not been employed by the Arabs before.”
Salman became known as “Salman the Good”. He was a scholar who lived a rough and ascetic life. He had one cloak which he wore and on which he slept. He would not seek the shelter of a roof but stayed under a tree or against a wall. A man once said to him: “Shall I not build you a house in which to live?” “I have no need of a house,” he replied.
The man persisted and said, “I know the type of house that would suit you.” “Describe it to me,” said Salman.
“I shall build you a house which if you stand up in it, its roof will hurt your head and if you stretch your legs the wall will hurt them.”
Later, as a governor of al-Mada’in (Ctesiphon) near Baghdad, Salman received a stipend of five thousand dirhams. This he would distribute as sadaqah. He lived from the work of his own hands. When some people came to Mada’in and saw him working in the palm groves, they said, “You are the amir here and your sustenance is guaranteed and you do this work!”
“I like to eat from the work of my own hands,” he replied. Salman however was not extreme in his asceticism. It is related that he once visited Abu ad-Dardaa with whom the Prophet had joined him in brotherhood. He found Abu adDardaa’s wife in a miserable state and he asked, “What is the matter with you.”
“Your brother has no need of anything in this world*” she replied.
When Abu ad-Dardaa came, he welcomed Salman and gave him food. Salman told him to eat but Abu adDardaa said, “I am fasting.”
“I swear to you that I shall not eat until you eat also.”
Salman spent the night there as well. During the night, Abu ad-Dardaa got up but Salman got hold of him and said:
“O Abu ad-Dardaa, your Lord has a right over you. Your family have a right over you and your body has a right over you. Give to each its due.”
In the morning, they prayed together and then went out to meet the Prophet, peace be upon him. The Prophet supported Salman in what he had said.
As a scholar, Salman was noted for his vast knowledge and wisdom. Ali said of him that he was like Luqman the Wise. And Ka’b al-Ahbar said: “Salman is stuffed with knowledge and wisdom, an ocean that does not dry up.” Salman had a knowledge of both the Christian scriptures and the Qur’an in addition to his earlier knowledge of the Zoroastrian religion. Salman in fact translated parts of the Qur’an into Persian during the life-time of the Prophet. He was thus the first person to translate the Qur’an into a foreign language.
Salman, because of the influential household in which he grew up, might easily have been a major figure in the sprawling Persian Empire of his time. His search for truth however led him, even before the Prophet had appeared, to renounce a comfortable and affluent life and even to suffer the indignities of slavery. According to the most reliable account, he died in the year thirty five after the hijrah, during the caliphate of Uthman, at Ctesiphon.
Written by Shaykha Sabrah Abbass
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