THE PERIOD OF TORTURE

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Unable to get what they wanted from Abu Talib and failing to receive a compromise from the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-, this time the idolaters turned to terror as their solution.

At first they could not harm those who hailed from large families or clans; the oppression of the Muslims had not yet become widespread. The Muslims subjected to the torture of the idolaters then were mainly poor, without many relatives, and slaves, male and female alike. There was virtually no form of torture which they had not been subjected to.

Khabbab –Allah be well-pleased with him-[1] was made to lie on fiery coal which was seared into his chest until the flame was put out by the melting fat of his own skin.

He was a blacksmith who had money owed to him by some idolaters. Each time he asked for it, they would say, “First reject Muhammad then we will repay our debts!”

But putting passing worldy riches aside, Khabbab –Allah be well-pleased with him- would reply, “I will never reject him! I am by his side!” and choose eternal happiness.

He gives an account of one these painful episodes below:

“One day I went to As ibn Wail to ask for my money. He said ‘I will not pay until you deny Muhammad.’

‘I will never deny Muhammad until you die…No, not even after you’re resurrected!’ I replied.

‘What? I am to die and be resurrected?’ he remarked.

‘Yes’, I responded.

‘Then considering I will still be rich when I am resurrected, I will pay you then!’ he said.

This was when the following Revelation came:

اَفَرَاَيْتَ الَّذِى كَفَرَ بِاَيَاتِنَا وَقَالَ لاُوتَيَنَّ مَالاً وَوَلَدًا . اَطَّلَعَ الْغَيْبَ اَمِ اتَّخَذَ عِنْدَ الرَّحْمنِ عَهْدًا . كَلاَّ سَنَكْتُبُ مَا يَقُولُ وَنَمُدُّ لَهُ مِنَ الْعَذَابِ مَدًّا . وَنَرِثُهُ مَا يَقُولُ وَيَأْتِينَا فَرْدًا .

“Have you, then, seen him who disbelieves in Our communications and says: I shall certainly be given wealth and children? Has he gained knowledge of the unseen, or made a covenant with the All-Beneficent? By no means! We write down what he says, and We will lengthen to him the length of the chastisement. And We will inherit of him what he says, and he shall come to Us alone.” (Maryam, 77-80) (Bukhari, Tafsir, 19/3; Muslim, Munafiqeen, 35-36; Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 19/3162)

Neither did his female master Umm Ammar lag behind others when it came to torturing Khabbab –Allah be well-pleased with him-. With a heated iron, she would brand Khabbab’s –Allah be well-pleased with him- forehead. Khabbab –Allah be well-pleased with him- complained of Ummu Anmar to the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, who prayed:

“Help Khabbab, o Allah!” Soon afterwards, Umm Anmar caught a disease on her head, making her howl like a dog. They advised her to brand her head to soothe the pain. So upon her request, with a heated iron, Khabbab –Allah be well-pleased with him- in turn began branding her head on a regular basis.[2]

Bilal –Allah be well-pleased with him-[3] was subjected to the most ruthless forms of torture. His master Umayya ibn Khalef would inflict him with the severest of sufferings. He would make Bilal lie down on scorching sand and place huge rocks on his chest, sometimes dragging him through the streets of Mecca. After leaving Bilal –Allah be well-pleased with him- without food and water for a day and night, Umayya would make him wear an iron armor, placing him on scorching sand under the sun, where Bilal –Allah be well-pleased with him- would remain until his body fat would begin to melt.

Despite torturing him in unthinkable ways, the idolaters still could not get Bilal –Allah be well-pleased with him- to say what they wanted, and he would constantly utter:

“Allah is One, Allah is One, Allah is One!”[4]

At times the idolaters took this even a step further. Yasir –Allah be well-pleased with him-[5], the father of Ammar –Allah be well-pleased with him-, did not say what the idolaters wanted to hear and so was martyred under heavy torture. After being subjected to a similarly brutal torture, Ammar’s mother Sumayyah -Allah be well-pleased with her- was savagely martyred by having both her feet tied to different camels steered to opposite directions. Hence Yasir’s family –Allah be well-pleased with him- became the first martyrs of Islam.[6]

One day the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- came across this noble family as they were being tortured, and he said:

“Be patient! Be glad! For undoubtedly what awaits you is paradise!” (Hakim, III, 432, 438)

Undergoing tortures of horrendous kinds was also Ammar –Allah be well-pleased with him-.[7]

The idolaters one day got hold of Ammar –Allah be well-pleased with him-, and forcefully holding his head under water, screamed, “We will not let you go until you insult Muhammad and praise Lat and Uzza!” And they did force him to say it.

The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- was told:

“Ammar has renounced Islam!”

But the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- replied:

“No! Ammar is filled with faith from head to toe. Faith has mixed into his flesh and blood!”

In the meantime, a weeping Ammar –Allah be well-pleased with him- came next to the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. Wiping the tears from of his eyes, the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- asked him what had happened.

“They would not let me go, Messenger of Allah” said the tearful Ammar, “until I insulted you and said that the idols are better than your Religion…”

“How was your heart when you said these?” the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- inquired.

“Content with belief in Allah and His Messenger…and my loyalty to the religion was stronger than iron!” Ammar replied determinedly.

Then still wiping the tears of Ammar’s eyes with his own hands, the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- advised him, “If they again force you to say what you said, then do it again!”

Upon this incident, the following ayah was revealed:

مَنْ كَفَرَ بِاللهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ اِيمَانِهِ اِلاَّ مَنْ اُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِاْلاِيمَانِ وَلَكِنْ مَنْ شَرَحَ بِالْكُفْرِ صَدْرًا فَعَلَيْهِمْ غَضَبٌ مِنَ اللهِ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

“Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in faith – but such as open their breast to unbelief, on them is wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful penalty.” (an-Nahl, 106) (Ibn Saad, III, 249; Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, II, 67; Haythami, IX, 295; Wahidi, p. 288-289)

This incident provides legal proof that an expression contrary to Islamic creed can only be said in a life and death situation and is otherwise not permissible.

The enemies of Islam used to beat Suhayb –Allah be well-pleased with him-[8] until he would fall unconscious.

Zinnira -Allah be well-pleased with her- was a female slave who suffered all kinds of torment at the hands of idolaters. She temporarily lost her vision from the effects of the torture exacted by Abu Jahl, on top of which he even mocked her, “See? Lat and Uzza have blinded you!”

“No! By Allah, they are not the ones who have blinded me. Lat and Uzza can neither harm nor benefit. Surely my Lord can give me my sight back!” she replied.

Come morning, they all saw that Allah had given Zinnira’s sight back. (Ibn Hisham, I, 340-341; Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, II, 69; Usdu’l-Ghabah, VII, 123)

Many more Muslims had fallen victim to such pain and suffering. Among the exceptional companions of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- Amir ibn Fuhayra, Abu Fuqayha, Miqdad ibn Amr, Ummu Ubays, Lubaynah, Nahdiyah and her daughter –Allah be well-pleased with them-, are just to name a few. Tying chains around their feet, the idolaters would drag them out to the desert in the hottest hours of the day and placing rocks above them so they could not move, would ruthlessly torture them until they would faint and loose awareness of what they said. The idolaters would choke them and would not let go until they thought they were dead.[9]

All Muslims and most of all the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- were deeply saddened by this, but unfortunately they could do little.[10] But the pillar of faith Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him-, who was well-to-do, bought seven slaves including Bilal –Allah be well-pleased with him- from their idolater masters and freed them, saving them from the claws of brutal torture.

Still, the torment was increasing by the day. After the weak and poor Muslims, even the more powerful and wealthier ones got their share of suffering, like the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- himself, Abu Bakr, Othman, Zubayr ibn Awwam and Musab ibn Umayr –Allah be well-pleased with them-.

By provoking the louts of Mecca, the idolaters would set them against the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. It had become common to verbally abuse him, calling him a poet, a sorcerer, a magician, a madman and so forth, without even believing their lies themselves.[11]

Abdullah ibn Amr says he once saw the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- perform salat by the site of Hijr near the Kaabah, when Uqba ibn Abi Muayt came, and wrapping his shawl around the Noble Messenger’s neck, began tugging it to strangle the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-. Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- made it in enough time to push Uqbah away, as he yelled:

“Will you murder a man who has come with clear proofs from your Lord, only because he says ‘my Lord is Allah?” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 40)

Ibn Masud –Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts a similar incident.

“One day the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- was performing salat by the Kaabah. Already waiting there was Abu Jahl and his crew. Referring to a camel that had been slaughtered a day before, Abu Jahl said to the others:

‘Who dares to bring the entrails of the slaughtered camel and place them on Muhammad’s shoulder just as he goes down to prostrate?’

The most wretched among them quickly went and grabbed the entrails and placed them on the shoulder of the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- as he was prostrating. They all laughed. I was looking on from a distance. If I had anyone to protect me, I would have quickly removed them from his shoulders. The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- meanwhile was still prostrating. He had not lifted his head. Then someone went and told Fatima –Allah be well-pleased with him-, who back then was still a young child. She came and threw the entrails off from her father’s shoulders. Then she turned around and shouted imprecations at the idolaters. They could not respond to Fatima -Allah be well-pleased with her- in the least. After completing his salat, the Light of Being -upon him blessings and peace- raised his voice and said:

‘O Allah! I resign Quraysh to You!’ He repeated this three times.

The laughter of the idolaters was cut short when they heard the Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- imprecation. Fear seized their hearts, as they had actually witnessed the acceptance of his prayers on previous occasions before. The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- then mentioned their names one by one:

‘O Allah! I resign Abu Jahl, Utbah, Shaybah, Walid, Umayya ibn Khalef and Uqba ibn Abi Muayt to You’ he prayed.

I swear by the One who has sent His Messenger with the Truth that I later saw each person mentioned by the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- that day, sprawled out dead on the battlefield of Badr. They were later dragged and thrown into Badr’s pit.” (Bukhari, Salat 109, Jihad 98, Jizya 21; Muslim, Jihad 107)

Despite all the cruelties the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- had to face, he still did not give in to the idolaters in any way, compromising not an inch of Islam. He once asked the Companions:

“Who will go to the Kaabah and recite the Quran to the idolaters?”

Wholeheartedly agreeing, Abdullah ibn Masud –Allah be well-pleased with him- ended up going and reciting the Quran to them only to be viciously beaten up. Abdullah’s friends said to him:

“This is what we had feared for you!”

“Right now, there is nobody weaker than them in my sight. If you like I can go again tomorrow and make them listen to the Quran!” Abdullah replied.

But his friends talked him out of it.

“You have already made them listen to something they dislike. That is enough for you!” (Ibn Hisham, I, 336-337)

Whenever Abu Jahl heard a rich and powerful person accept Islam, he would go and taunt him.

“So you left the religion of your father even though he was wiser than you?  But look at you…all you can do is to dishonor his name! Just know that we will no longer have you among us. Your honor shall no longer be!” he would say in a threatening tone.

If the person was a trader, he would intimidate them:

“We will ruin your business and bleed you dry!”

If the new Muslim was poor and weak, he would have them beaten and would try to trick them with false hopes in hope of turning them away.

Ibn Abbas –Allah be well-pleased with him- was later asked whether the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and his companions were tortured to give up Islam.

“Indeed! By Allah, once the idolaters got their hands on a Muslim, they would beat him and leave him without food and water to the point where they could no longer sit straight, at which point he or she would say whatever they wanted him to. They would ask:

‘Are Lat and Uzza gods along with Allah?’ The reply would be ‘Yes’.

They would even show a bug crawling nearby and ask whether even that was a god. Just to get away from the unbearable torture the person would go along with them. But after regaining conscience, he or she would return to the belief.” (Ibn Hisham, I, 339-343; Ibn Saad, III, 233; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, III, 108)

What we must do is to think about the scenes of cruelty we have touched upon, as well as those we have not, and appreciate that the blessing of Islam has reached us only through the suffering of numerous people, without any compromise.

If the Almighty had willed, the development and spread of Islam could have been much easier, without the suffering of any Muslims. But then the sincerity of Believers would never have been known, and their determination and sacrifice would never have come out, meaning that the difference between a Believer and a hypocrite, the truthful and the liar would have been blurred.

In the Quran, the Almighty states:

الم اَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ اَنْ يُتْرَكُوا اَنْ يَقُولُوا اَمَنَّا وَهُمْ لاَ يُفْتَنُونَ وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ

“Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, ‘we believe’, and not be tried? Most certainly We tried those before them, so Allah will certainly know those who are true and He will certainly know the liars. Or do they who work evil think that they will escape Us? Evil is what they judge!” (al-Ankabut, 1-3)

أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُواْ الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَعْلَمِ اللّهُ الَّذِينَ جَاهَدُواْ مِنكُمْ وَيَعْلَمَ الصَّابِرِينَ

“Do you think that you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet known those who strive hard among you, and (He has not) known the patient?” (Al-i Imran, 142)

اَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ اَنْ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُمْ مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ مَسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَاءُ وَالضَّرَّاءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا حَتَّى يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ اَمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَى نَصْرُ اللهِ اَلاَ اِنَّ نَصْرَ اللهِ قَرِيبٌ

“Or do you think that you would enter Paradise while yet the state of those who have passed away before you has not come upon you; distress and affliction befell them and they were shaken violently, so that the Messenger and those who believed with him said: When will the help of Allah come? Now surely the help of Allah is nigh!” (al-Baqara, 214)

The path of Truth is paved with tough trials. Such is how the Almighty has willed it. All prophets and persons of virtue have suffered and some have even been martyred for the cause. It is therefore not right for a Muslim to fall into despair when faced with difficulties. On the contrary, Muslims ought to know that the more trouble they endure in the way of realizing the command of the Compassionate, the more quickly they will attain His mercy.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, The Prophet Muhammed Mustafa the Elect, Erkam Publications

[1] Khabbab ibn Arat –Allah be well-pleased with him- was the sixth Muslim, and among the victims of the vicious torment exacted by the idolaters. He carried the scars of his torture on his back until the day he died. Following his migration to Medina, he took active part in all battles from Badr onwards. He narrated a total of 32 ahadith from the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace-. He was well past seventy years of age at the time of his demise in Kufa, in 657. (37 AH)

[2] See Ibn Asîr, Usdu’l-Ghaba, II, 115.

[3] Bilal ibn Rabah –radiayallahu anh- was more commonly known as Bilal Habashi in reference to his Habash, i.e. Abyssinian descent. He was among the first seven in Mecca to openly declare their faith. His mother Hamama was also a Muslim, owing to which both suffered much torment from the idolaters during the initial years of Islam. Celebrated for calling out the first ever adhan in Medina in the first year of Hegira, Bilal constantly served as the muaddhin of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, in both war and peace. He participated in all the battles by the side of the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-. On the day of the Conquest of Mecca, he ascended the roof of the Kaabah to call out the adhan of victory. Bilal used to prepare water for the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- to make wudu, see to his personal needs, keep an eye over him at night during battles and provide assistance in matters of the state. He no longer could recite the adhan following the passing away of the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace-. When Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- was Caliph, Bilal left Medina to take part in battles across Syria. People there asked the Caliph to personally mediate so that he would again call out the adhan. Compliant with the request of Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him-, Bilal called out the adhan one more time. (Dhahabi, Siyar, I, 357) Reminiscing the times of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, all listeners were reduced to tears. Bilal Habashi –Allah be well-pleased with him- narrated 44 hadiths from the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-. The great devotee of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- eventually breathed his last in Damascus, having lived over sixty years. Right before his death, it is reported that he was jovially exclaiming, “Tomorrow, Allah willing, I shall reunite with my dear friends…the Messenger of Allah and his companions.” His wife mourning the looming death of her husband in the background, Bilal, in the meantime, was expressing joy, murmuring, “How wonderful…” (Dhahabi, Siyar, I, 359)

[4] See Ahmed, I, 404; Ibn  Saad, III, 233; Balâzurî, I, 186.

[5] Originally from Yemen, Yasir ibn Amir –Allah be well-pleased with him- had taken residence in Mecca where he married Sumaya, the slave of Abu Hudayfa. Together they had two sons, Ammar and Abdullah –Allah be well-pleased with them- (Ibn  Saad, IV,136, VIII, 264). Yasir’s family collectively accepted Islam, for which they were forced to undergo torture.

[6] See Ibn Hajar, al-Isâba, III, 648; Zamakhsharî, III, 164.

[7] Ammar’s precious worth is verified by the following words of the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-: “Paradise itches to unite with three people: Ali, Ammar and Salman”; “Ammar always makes the best choice of what is offered to him”. (Tirmidhi, Menâkıb, 32, 34; Ibn  Mâce, Mukaddime, 11)

[8] Suhayb ibn Sinan –Allah be well-pleased with him-, or more famously known as Suhayb ar-Rumi, while still a child, was taken prisoner first by the Greeks and then by the Arabs. Staying in Mecca at the time as an ally of Ibn Jadan, Suhayb immediately accepted Islam upon hearing about it from Ammar. Relinquishing all his wealth to the idolaters, he made an illustrious migration to Medina. The following ayah was revealed in reference to him:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَشْر۪ي نَفْسَهُ ابْتِغَاۤءَ مَرْضَاتِ اللّٰهِ وَاللّٰهُ رَؤُۧفٌ بِالْعِبَادِ

“…And there are those who give away their belongings in order to seek the pleasure of Allah; and Allah is Compassionate to His servants.” (al-Baqara, 207)

Upon seeing him following the Revelation, the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- exclaimed:

“You have made a profitable, a rewarding deal indeed Abu Yahya!” (Hâkim, III, 450-452) A skillful archer, Suhayb –Allah be well-pleased with him- played a part in all the battles by the side of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. Of medium height, he had fair skin. A man of enormous generosity who sacrificed his entire life in the service of Islam, Suhayb ar-Rumi –Allah be well-pleased with him- passed away on the 38th year of Hegira and was buried in the Baqi Cemetary in Medina. He was 73 at the time.

[9] See Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 11; Ahmed, I, 404.

[10] Mehmed Akif gives poetic voice to the grief felt by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- over the sufferings Muslims were being afflicted with:

From the Prophet, do not you feel any shame?

That, if a thorn was to spike a Muslim, far away,

His innocent heart would be speared with its pain,

So against you, surely, will His Spirit stake a claim…

Hence, one must always act with the awareness that making a Muslim suffer is tantamount to placing the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- under the same ordeal; and that requires one to refrain from infringing with others’ rights, backbiting, breaking hearts and misconducts of similar malicious nature.

[11] See Ibn Hisham, I, 309-310.

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