Bilal Ibn Rabah
Beloved Companions Series:
Bilal Ibn Rabah
(part 1 of 2)
- Bilal becomes a Muslim
Bilal (Radeeya Allah Anho) embraced Islam in the first year of Muhammad prophecy at the age of 30. There was an age difference of ten years between him and the Prophet (P.B.U.H) , as the Prophet received the message of Islam at the age of forty. Bilal was one of the first people in Makkah to embrace Islam.
Bilal had something valuable; he was the third person who became a Muslim in Makkah. This is a very important point, because he was a slave to a very cruel, disbelieving man from Quraish; Umaya Ibn Khalaf. This man lived and died a disbeliever, and Bilal wished to declare his religion openly although he was forbidden to do so. Even though he had to hide his beliefs from his cruel master, his declaration of faith was accepted. Bear in mind, that during the period of severe suffering in Makkah, no one openly declared their faith in Islam except seven people. Firstly the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), secondly Abu Bakr (R.A.) and the third person was Bilal Ibn Rabah (R.A.). Because he loved his religion so much, he couldnt hide it, and so forsook his life for the sake of Allah.
Bilal stood in the middle of Makkah and testified,"There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah". He was among the Companions who were greatly harmed by the disbelievers because of his faith in Islam.
Umaya Ibn Khalaf used to take him to the desert and wait until the temperature reached forty or fifty degrees. He ordered his servants to undress Bilal, then cover him in an iron material, and place a heavy stone on his chest, which was so heavy that ten men couldn’t lift. They would leave him like that for hours.
They would then return to him, and by then Bilal would literally be melting. They would demand Bilal to reject his faith in Allah and Muhammad (P.B.U.H.); but Bilal endless response would be: "Only one, only one" (meaning only One God). He stayed in this situation for endless days and months.
However, Bilal remained patient until Abu Bakr went to Umaya Ibn Khalaf and told him, "Why dont you have mercy on this poor man?"
Umaya replied, "You give mercy to him".
Abu Bakr said, "Yes, I will buy him. How much will you sell him for?"
A slave at that time was worth Deenars of silver. Since Bilal was in poor health and was beaten excessively, he was worth only one silver Deenar. The spiteful Umaya Ibn Khalaf said, "I will sell him for nine silver Deenars." Abu Bakr replied, "And I will buy him for that price."
Umaya laughed and said, "You know Abu Bakr, if you had argued the price with me, I would have sold Bilal to you for one Deenar”.
So Abu Bakr replied, "Umaya, if you had demanded one hundred Deenars, I would still have bought him!"
Brothers and sisters, spend wealth on people around you who are in need, be devoted and ready to sacrifice yourself. When you live solely for yourself and your children, you will live small and die small. But when you live for others, Allah will extend your life with each person you have helped.
If I asked women here, what is the state of your wardrobes? Filled with clothes? Do you wear them all? You'll find that you don’t wear half of them. Why? Because fashion changes, and because you’re going to lose weight next year, etc. This is a selfish and greedy act. Give to those who need; those who can benefit from your unwanted goods.
The Migration to Madinah
Bilal stayed with the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) until the migration to Madinah (Al Hijrah), where they left Makkah to Madinah.
Something strange occurred in Madinah. The Prophet’s Mosque had been built, but people found it difficult to know the prayer times. How would they know when it is the time for prayer? One of the Muslims suggested ringing a bell, to signal that it is time for prayer. This idea was rejected, since the Christians use a bell to call members to church. Another Muslim suggested that they could raise a flag and walk with it to signal it was time to pray. But this idea was also rejected.
A companion called Abdullah Ibn Zayd (R.A.) came and said, "O Allah’s Prophet! This night I dreamt I saw a man selling bells, so I asked him if I could buy one. He replied, why do you need it? I said, so that people would know it was time to pray. The man replied, I can tell you something better than that. I asked him what it was. He said: to call for the prayer.”
O brothers and sisters! His dream was about the religion! Some of the youths’ dreams are to get a particular car, and that’s all they dream of!
While Abdullah Ibn Zayd told them of his dream, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab said, "I swear Allah’s messenger I saw exactly what he saw too!" Upon this, the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) said, "Thanks be to Allah for this blessed vision. Tell Bilal to call for the prayer. He has a more beautiful voice than yours.”
Does Islam care about beauty, and how to make things look and sound beautiful? Is that our religion? Yes that's our religion! This is Islam.
So the call for the prayer heared, and Bilal became the first caller for the prayers in Islam, and the first caller for the prayer for the Prophet (P.B.U.H.).
Battles and the Return to Makkah
Bilal stayed with the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) and never missed a single battle with him. When he was going to the battle of Badr to face the disbelievers, imagine who was among them? Umaya Ibn Khalaf! Bilal had come face to face with him! What would you do to the one who had tortured you? When Bilal saw him he said, "Umaya Ibn Khalaf, the head of the disbelievers, I wont survive if he survives." During the battle, Umaya Ibn Khalaf was killed.
When the Muslims returned to Makkah, the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) returned the favour to Bilal. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) said, "Bilal, climb on the Kabah back and call out for the prayer". It doesnt end there. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) asked, "Where is the Kabah key?” There were 10,000 people standing in front of the Kabah and the space inside the Ka‘bah would not allow more than one person to pray next to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.). Who will enter with Allah's Prophet?! Surely Abu Bakr or Omar or Othman? No, its a pious and loyal day, "Where's Bilal, come Bilal, pray with me inside the Kabah”. No one had prayed in the Kabah with the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), except one person, Bilal Ibn Rabah. From then on, when Omar met Bilal he used to say, "Bilal, Abu Bakr is your master, and you are our master." ‘Omar used to say this to Bilal! Look at what he learnt from the Prophet (P.B.U.H.).
Once the Prophet asked Bilal, "Bilal, tell me the best deed you have done, as I heard your footsteps in Paradise."
"I swear the most I’ve done is that whenever my ablution was nullified, I would perform ablution immediately, and I would always pray two Raka‘s after ablution.” Bilal replied.
“That's it Bilal!” The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) exclaimed.
Brothers and sisters, do you want to hear your feet walking in Paradise? Don’t move except when you are pure and on ablution. How can you leave your house in the morning while you are not?
The Prophet’s (P.B.U.H.) Death
Clearly, the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) final moments in this world revealed Bilals finest characteristics as he was so emotional and seemed to be the person who suffered the most.
The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) died on a Monday, Madinah has never witnessed such tears and unhappiness as that day. He died on Aisha chest; see the tenderness of his wife? She left her home, not knowing what to say to the people. She opened the doors to the mosque and said, "Allah messenger has died, Allah messenger has died.”
The people in the mosque burst out in tears. Anas Ibn Malak said, "The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) first came to Madinah on a Monday, and everything on that day was filled with light. Now he died in Madinah on a Monday, and everything on this day was filed with darkness."
One of the Companions that were away from Madinah said, "When I returned I found all the doors closed, and heard weeping from inside the houses."
The first prayer after his death came, and Bilal ascended to call for the prayer saying, “Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest”, "there is no God but Allah, there is no God but Allah". When he reached to, “I witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah", the people in the mosque burst into tears and Bilal’s voice broke down, tears overcoming him. He couldnt continue the call for prayer and descended the pulpit. When the next prayer came, Bilal ascended to call for the prayer and the same thing happened again.
O people, how can you latch onto other things and forget the Prophet (P.B.U.H.)?
Bilal stayed in this state for three days, wanting to call for the prayer but could not bring himself to do so. He went to Abu Bakr and said, "Abu Bakr, discharge me from being the caller for prayer." He requested this after ten years of calling for prayers. Abu Bakr wondered, “Why?” Bilal replied, "I can’t call anyone for the prayer after Allah's messenger. Every time I tried I failed". Abu Bakr again wondered, “Why?” Bilal said, “I can’t stay in Madinah after the Prophet’s death.”
Brothers and sisters, visit Madinah, visit the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), and send your salutations to him! Perform an Umrah* !
Abu Bakr said, “No I want you to stay with me”. Bilal said, "If you released me from slavery under Umaya for yourself then lock me up, and if you released me for Allah, then leave me to whom you released me for."
Imagine how lovely and kind this former slave was. Abu Bakr said, "I swear I didnt buy you except for Allah’s sake, or spent my wealth except for Allah, or released you except for Allah, go Bilal, do what you wish."
Where do you think he went? He’s a soldier of Islam. Does it mean that as a result of the Prophet’s (P.B.U.H.) death, Bilal will stop everything and stay at home? No! He just cant stand to stay in Madinah, because of the memories and the emotional ties.
Life After the Prophet (P.B.U.H.)
Bilal went to Palestine, where he joined the army which struggled to take back Palestine and Al Quds. Omar Ibn Al-Khattab sent out the armies, and they defeated the enemies and won. Bilal prayed with the Companions in Al-Aqsa Mosque.
O Allah! Reward us with a prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque!
The Muslims sent for Omar Ibn Al-Khattab to receive Palestine keys. He didn’t go in person to receive Egypt's keys, or Iraq's keys but he went to Palestine; see the significance of the country!
Omar met the armies and told them to gather in a wide open space, so they met on Golan Heights. Omar asked, "Where's Bilal?" It had been years since they had last met, and the happiness of meeting each other was immense. "Bilal, call for the prayer" Bilal said, "Ruler of the Believers, I don’t call anyone for the prayers after the Prophet (P.B.U.H.)." Omar said, "Bilal, this is a victorious day, this is a day of dignity, a day which would make the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) pleased." So Bilal ascended Golan Heights and called: “Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest”, "there is no God but Allah, there is no God but Allah" until “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah" was stated and the whole army burst into tears. They even heard Omar weeping voice!
The rest of Bilal story can be narrated in few lines. Bilal settled in Damascus in Syria. A few months before he died, he saw a vision; he saw the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) telling him, "O Bilal! What’s this unfriendliness, didn’t you miss visiting me Bilal?” As soon as he woke up, he hurried to Madinah. He stood in front of the Prophet’s grave (P.B.U.H.) and greeted him: "Peace be upon you Allah's messenger, peace be upon you Allah's beloved."
Let me tell you a real pleasant thing, no one salutes the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), without an Angel going to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) and informing him of this greeting, and so the Prophet would reply to your greeting! The Prophet (P.B.U.H,) said, "Allah has angels walking on earth, if they find someone who is praying and greeting me, they carry the greeting to me, so I reply to your greeting."
Hassan and Hussain, the Prophet’s (P.B.U.H.) grand-children, came to Bilal and he hugged them and cried. They said, “We have missed your call for the prayer, Bilal” so he ascended to call for the prayer. Seven years had passed since he last did this. The whole of Madinah was captivated as they remembered this precious sound as they listened to the call for prayer.
The call to the prayer has such sweetness.
People came out of their homes when they heard the call to prayer, moving towards the voice. Madinah cried like it hadnt since the death of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.).
Bilal died in Damascus in Syria, where his grave lies. He died at the age of sixty. While dying, his wife felt sad and cried out, “O disaster, O disaster”. Bilal replied, "Don’t say O! Disaster, say O! Joy, O! Joy, for tomorrow I meet the beloved Muhammad and his Companions."
Let's remember the details of Bilal life:
He is the first caller of the prayers for the Prophet (P.B.U.H.).
He embraced Islam at the age of 30.
He was among the first Muslims.
Abu Bakr released him from slavery.
He remained calling the prayers for the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) for ten years.
He was the only one who prayed in the Ka‘bah with the Prophet (P.B.U.H.).
He died in Damascus 17 A.H *. at the age of 60.
He said the well known quote on his death bed, "O! Joy, tomorrow I meet the beloved Muhammad and his Companions."
* Radeeya Allah ‘Anho’, R.A. is the abbreviation, literally means ‘May Allah be pleased with him’.
* P.B.U.H. is the abbreviation of ‘Peace be upon him’, referring to the Prophet.
* Umrah is the lesser pilgrimage which is optional and can be performed at any time.
* A.H. is the abbreviation of ‘After Hijrah’.