As-Saat’ul-Usrah: The Time of Difficulty

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What is as saatul usrah? What is the time of difficulty?

Finally, in spite of the difficult conditions and hardships, the Muslim army was able to make its move, in great splendor. Still, the Believers had to continue to endure ensuing troubles and keep their patience. The difficulty of the conditions had not yet subsided. Among the aggravating circumstances were:

1) An uncompromising drought.

2) The great distance to be travelled, a path stretching across a desert unsuited for walking.

3) Season of harvest, with which the Campaign coincided; fruits waiting to be reaped.

4) Scorching heat.

5) The longstanding belief in the might of the Byzantines based on the sheer numbers they could field on the day.

Owing to the troubles involved, the Campaign has in fact been dubbed al-Ghazwat’ul-Usrah, literally the Battle of Trouble, and the days corresponding to the Campaign as-Saat’u-Usrah, the Time of Trouble.

Briefly after the Muslim army made its move, Ali -Allah be well-pleased with him- came bolting and caught upto to them to ask the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- permission to join the cause. “The hypocrites”, he said, “are spreading rumors that you left me behind because you are not fond of me, Messenger of Allah! Please allow me to join!”

“They speak lies, Ali!” responded the Prophet of Allah. ‘I have assigned you as deputy over those whom I have left behind. Return immediately! Be an eye and ear for both your family and mine; be my deputy over them! Will not you settle for being like Harun to Musa (on his way to Mount Sina)? With one difference, that after me shall come no prophet!” (Ibn Hisham, IV, 174; Bukhari, Maghazi, 78; Muslim, Fadail’us-Sahabah, 31) After being on the receiving end of these wonderful praises, Ali -Allah be well-pleased with him- returned contentedly to once again assume his duty.

The Army had now traveled a considerable distance. Abu Dharr -Allah be well-pleased with him- caught up with the Army after some time. His weak and frail mount was unable to endure the strain of the journey, for which reason he had fallen behind from the main group. He finally had to abandon his mount, and despite of the gruesome difficulty, caught up with the army on foot. Seeing him, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- smiled as he stated, “May Allah have mercy on Abu Dharr! He lives alone, shall die alone and shall be resurrected alone!”

The miraculous words of the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- came true in the life of Abu Dharr -Allah be well-pleased with him-, as he ended living and breathing his last all on his own. (Waqidi, III, 1000)

The journey was proving to be excruciatingly difficult. The heat was stifling. Another difficulty lied in the fact that three Companions had to take turns riding one camel between them. Two people were splitting a single date into two, to share. Finding water was almost impossible. When taking wudu, each part of the body was therefore washed only once. Travelers (safari) were ordered to wipe their mas’h with their palms for three days, compared to residents (muqim)[1]. At one stage, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- prayed, which resulted in a downpour only where the Muslim army was stationed.[2]

As the Army was passing through the ancient town of Hijr, where the Thamud people, incurring the wrath of Allah, glory unto Him, were destroyed, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- said to the Companions, “This is a valley wherefrom one ought to flee!” (Waqidi, III, 1008) After that he added, “Enter the land of those who have wronged themselves with tears in your eyes, lest what struck them should strike you, too!” Then covering his head, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- quickly passed through the area. Bottles filled with water obtained from there, he had them emptied; and despite his sensitivity with regard to not wasting anything, he had the doughs prepared with the very same water, thrown away. (Bukhari, Anbiya, 17; Tafsir, 15/2; Muslim, Zuhd, 39)

Places struck with the wrath of Allah, glory unto Him, carry its doom until the Final Hour. To avoid being subject to the negative spiritual reflection mirrored from such areas that have come under Divine wrath, places immersed in rebellion and sin, it is imperative to move through these areas quickly, as has been stated by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.[3]

One night as they were in the vicinity of Hijr, the Blessed Prophet said, “There will break out a fierce storm tonight! Tie your camels fast, remain seated where you are and do not get up!” A gale indeed ravaged through that night. One who got up to take wudu was struck to the ground, while another, gone out to search for his camel, was blown towards the nearby Mount Tay. (Bukhari, Zakat, 54; Muslim, Fadail, 11)

Within a days distance away from Tabuk, the Muslim army was again clutched by the grip of an intense thirst. Muadh ibn Jabal -Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts:

“The Messenger of Allah said to us, ‘Allah willing, you will reach the spring of Tabuk tomorrow!’ A day later, we reached the spring. We collected the little water there was with the palm of our hands into a leather bottle. The Messenger of Allah washed his hands and face with it, then sprinkled the remainder back onto the spring. He then thrusted into the spring three sticks, each with an iron spike. Three springs of water then immediately begun jetting forth. All the warriors quenched their thirsts. The Messenger of Allah then said to me, ‘If you live long enough, Muadh, you will have seen this area filled with gardens and vineyards, before long!’” (Muslim, Fadail, 10; Ahmad, V, 238)

Experiencing enormous hunger during the Campaign, the Companions asked the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- to give them permission to slaughter their camels, so they could obtain their tallow. They were given a go-ahead. Then Omar -Allah be well-pleased with him- commented, “If you give them permission to slaughter their camels, Messenger of Allah, then there will be a shortage of mounts. If you wish, you could instead ask them to bring what they have of provisions and then pray Allah to grant abundance upon them. We shall certainly hope Allah will grant it.”

“Very well, we shall do that”, said the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- . Shortly thereafter, he had a leather cloth brought and had it spread out on the ground. After, he ordered the soldiers to bring whatever provisions they had. Some brought a handful of corn, others the same amount of dates while others came with pieces of bread. There was very little food piled on the cloth. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- then prayed to Allah, glory unto Him, for the food to be granted abundance, after which he told the Companions to “…bring your containers and take your food!” The soldiers brought their containers and filled them copiously. There was not a single container left unfilled. They then ate to their hearts content, even seeing plenty of food left over afterwards. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- then said, ‘I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that I am His Messenger. One who is not united with Allah with unwavering belief in His Unity and the prophethood of Muhammad will certainly be held back from entering Paradise!” (Muslim, Iman, 45)

The Muslim army had now encamped at Tabuk; yet there was not the least sign of the enemy. Met, this time around, by an enormous Muslim Army, the confidence of Christian Arabs was completely shaken; and remembering the heroics of the three-thousand warriors of iman at Mutah, they decided to withdraw from fighting altogether. Besides, the Byzantines had long changed their minds about invading Arabia and the Emperor was too busy trying to suppress internal turmoil at Humus. More was exposed not long after. It turned out that the news of the imminent Byzantine invasion of Arabia was an exaggerated rumor spun by the Ghassanid Arabs.

The Muslims and of course Islam gained an enormous prestige by virtue of having courageously marched to Tabuk. The northern borders of Arabia were secured. The King of Ayla, the people of Jarba and Azruh and the Jews of Makna came under Muslim protection by agreeing to pay jizyah to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. With four-hundred and twenty cavalrymen, Khalid ibn Walid -Allah be well-pleased with him- conducted a raid on Dumat’ul-Jandal, took the Christian King Uqaydir ibn Abdulmalik prisoner and brought him to the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace-. He, too, was released on the condition of paying jizyah. (Ibn Hisham, IV, 180-182; Ibn Saad , I, 276-277; Ahmad, V, 425)

The Muslim army remained in Tabuk for twenty days. The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- did not wish to advance any further, as he had no desire to deliver Islam to people with the force of the sword. Besides, the Byzantines were intimidated enough as it was and no enemy had dared to confront them. A deadly and highly contagious plague was moreover devastating Syria at the time, for which the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- stated, “When you hear about a plague in a certain place, do not enter there! If you are there, do not leave!” (Bukhari, Tibb, 30)

After consulting the Companions, the Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- decided on leading the Believers back to Medina.

Another Companion, Abu Haythamah -Allah be well-pleased with him-, had caught up with the Muslim army at Tabuk. The difficulty of the Campaign had at first forced him to remain back in Medina. One day, his wife called him to a delightful feast she prepared under a pergola in his garden. When Abu Haythamah saw the exquisite feast, he instantly felt a chill down his spine. Picturing the hardships the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and the Companions were almost certainly going through at that very moment, he murmured to himself, “How could I be doing this when they are enduring all this torment in the way of Allah?” Sunk in remorse, without laying a hand on the feast prepared for him, Abu Haythamah immediately left Medina and eventually made it next to the Muslim army at Tabuk. Happy to see him, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- said, “Abu Haythamah… You were nearly destroyed!” He then prayed for his forgiveness. (Ibn Hisham, IV, 174; Waqidi, III, 998)

Allah, glory unto Him, does not compel His servants to duties beyond their capacities; only those things within their power does He hold them responsible with. What Abu Haythamah -Allah be well-pleased with him- did was, in this respect, paying the price of for the capacity of endurance he had been endowed with.

Such incidents are like living advices for us, means to reflect on and measure just how much we are able to put our spiritual and physical capacities to the service the Almighty and contemplate the responsibilities that come with being a Muslim.

One morning at Tabuk, leaning against a date tree, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- gave the following talk:

“The best of people is he who on horseback, camelback or on foot, sets out on jihad in the way of Allah until death. The worst of people is the evil-doer and the impudent who reads the Book of Allah but does not benefit from it.

Know that the truest of words is the Book of Allah. The strongest handle to seize is taqwa. The best of religions is that of Ibrahim -upon him peace- (Islam). The best of laws is the Sunnah of Muhammad. The most honorable of words is the remembrance of Allah. The most beautiful of narratives are those of the Quran.[4] The best of deeds are the obligatories demanded by Allah. The worst deeds are innovations. The best way is the way of the Prophet. The most honorable of deaths is martyrdom.

The worst kind of blindness is to stray off the right path after having found it. That which is less but enough is better than that which is more and keeps one engaged, holding him back from worshipping Allah. The worst apology is that made once death shows its face. The worst remorse is that felt in the Hereafter. The worst of people is he who arrives the last at Friday Salat and speaks of Allah in a bad way. The person with the most faults is he whose tongue spins the most lies.

The best richness is the richness of the heart. The best provisions are the provisions of taqwa. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Allah. Poems without wisdom are of the deeds of Iblis. Alcohol is the uniter of sins of all kinds. Sinful women are the traps of the devil. Youth is a division of madness. Usury is the worst of earnings. The worst thing to feed on is the property of an orphan. A happy person is he who takes a lesson from the condition of others.

Each of you shall go four arshin (nine feet) under; and the accounts of your deeds will be deferred to the Hereafter. What matters with deeds, are their consequences. The worst of thoughts are those that are deceitful. Swearing at a Believer is a sin, killing him is disbelief. To backbite a Believer is to rebel against the commands of Allah.

He who commits perjury shall be denied. He who seeks forgiveness shall be forgiven by Allah. Whoever suppresses his anger, Allah shall reward him. He who endures his loss shall be compensated by Allah. Allah will increase many times more the reward of he who endures hardship. He who rebels against Allah shall be beset with torment.

O my Lord! Forgive me and my ummah!

O my Lord! Forgive me and my ummah!

O my Lord! Forgive me and my ummah!

I seek forgiveness from Allah on your behalf and mine!” (Waqidi, III, 1016-1017; Ahmad, III, 37; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah, V, 13-14)

[1] Ibn Majah, Taharat, 45; Ahmad, VI, 27.

[2] Ibn Hisham, IV, 177.

[3] An example of how circumstances reflect onto and affect matter goes as follows:

In a research conducted on frozen water crystals, Masaru Emoto, a Japanese scientist, discovered that the crystals developed in natural ponds remote from human intervention, were made up of perfectly elegant hexagons with spellbindingly flawless shapes. Taking some of this water into two separate bowls, he carried out an experiment. The crystals of the first bowl, to which positive expressions of love, mercy, gratitude and prayer were whispered, maintained their natural, graceful shape, whereas the crystals of the second bowl, to which negative expressions like insults and the word ‘devil’ were whispered soon disintegrated entirely and lost all their aesthetic traits. During the same experiment, it was found that both bowls of water reacted differently to pleasant and revolting music. To reinforce the result he reached, Emoto conducted another experiment; this time on two separate jars of boiled rice. Inside the first jar, he placed a small piece of paper inscribed with the words ‘thank you’, and in the second, another piece of paper with the word ‘stupid’ on it. Repeating, moreover, each word to their respective jar, Emoto found that after a month, the rice inside the first jar retained its freshness and color, while those of the second turned black and began to emit a foul smell. (Safvet Senih, “Su Kristallerinin Sırrı”, Sızıntı, Aralık 2002, number 287; M. Akif Deniz, İlk Adım, Şubat, 2003)

[4] More than a third of the Quran consists of narratives. In emphasizing their importance, Allah, glory unto Him, commands to contemplate the truths they communicate, derive the proper lesson and assess these lessons with out own conditions. The Quran states:

“We narrate to you the best of narratives, by Our revealing to you this Quran, though before this you were certainly one of those who did not know.” (Yusuf, 3)

“…therefore relate the narrative that they may reflect.” (al-Araf, 176)

“And certainly We have set forth to men in this Quran similitudes of every sort that they may mind. ” (az-Zumar, 27)

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

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