Salman Farsi (RA)
Salman (RA) the Persian. He grew up in the town of Isfahan in Persia, in the village of Jay an. His father was the chief of the village. He was the richest person there and had the biggest house. His father loved him, more than he loved any other. As time went by, his love for Salman (RA) became so strong and overpowering that he feared to lose him or have anything happen to him. So he kept him at home, a virtual prisoner, in the same way that young girls were kept. Salman became devoted to the Magian religion, so much so that he attained the position of custodian of the fire, which they worshipped. His duty was to see that the flames of the fire was to remain burning and that it did not go out for a single hour, day or night. Salman’s father had a vast estate, which yielded an abundant supply of crops. He himself looked after the estate and gathered harvest. One day as he went about his duties as chief of the village, he said to Salman, “My son, as you see, I am too busy to go out to the estate now. Go and look after matters there for me today.” On the way to the estate, Salman passed a Christian church and heard voices raised in prayer, which attracted his attention. He did not know anything about Christianity or, for that matter, about the followers of any other religion. His father had kept him in the house away from people. When he heard the voices of the Christians, he entered the church to see what they were doing. He was impressed by their manner of praying and felt drawn to their religion. He said, “This religion is better than ours. I shall not leave them until the sunsets.” Salman asked and was told that the Christian religion originated in Syria. He did not go to his father’s estate that day and at night, he returned home. His father met him and asked where he had been. Salman told him about his meeting with the Christians and how he was impressed by their religion. His father was dismayed and said: “My son, there is nothing good in that religion. Your religion and the religion of your forefathers is better.” “No, their religion is better than ours.” Salman insisted. His father became upset and afraid that Salman would leave their religion. So he kept Salman locked up in the house and shackled his feet. Salman managed to send a message to the Christians, asking them to inform him of any caravans going to Syria. Before long they contacted him with the information he wanted. He broke the fetters and escaped his father’s estate to join the caravan to Syria. When he reached Syria, he asked regarding the leading person in the Christian religion and was directed to the bishop of the church. He went up to him and said: “I want to become a Christian and would like to attach myself to your service, learn from you and pray with you.” The bishop agreed and Salman entered the church in his service. Salman soon found out, however, that the bishop was corrupt. He would order his followers to give money in charity while holding out the promise of blessings to them. When they gave the bishop anything to spend in the way of Allah, he would hoard it for himself and not give anything to the poor or needy. In this way, he amassed a vast quantity of gold. When the bishop died and the Christians gathered to bury him, Salman told them of his corrupt practices and, at their request, showed them where the bishop had kept their donations. When they saw the large jars filled with gold and silver they said, “By Allah, we shall not bury him.” They nailed him on a cross and threw stones at him. Salman stayed on, in the service of the person who replaced him. The new bishop was an ascetic who longed for the Hereafter and engaged in worship day and night. Salman was devoted to him and spent much of the time in his company. After the new bishop died, Salman attached himself to various Christian religious figures, in Mosul, Nisibis and elsewhere. The last one told him that there was none left on the earth that were following the correct path. He also told him that the time had arrived for the advent of a Prophet in the land of the Arabs, who would have a reputation for strict honesty, one who would accept a gift but would never consume charity (sadaqah) for himself. A group of Arab leaders from the Kalb tribe passed through Ammuriyah. Salman(RA) asked them to take him with them to the land of the Arabs, in return for whatever money he had. They agreed to take him along. When they reached Wadi al-Qura (a place between Syria and Medina), the Arabs broke their agreement and made him a slave, then sold Salman to a Jew. Salman (RA) worked as a servant for him but he eventually sold him to a nephew of his, belonging to the tribe of Banu Qurayzah. This nephew took Salman with him to Yathrib, the city of palm groves, which is how the Christian at Ammuriyah had described it. At that time Rasulullah (SAW) was inviting his people in Makkah to Islam but Salman did not know of this because of the harsh duties slavery imposed upon him. When Rasulullah (SAW) reached Yathrib after his Hijrah from Makkah, Salman (RA) was on top of a palm tree doing some work. Salman’s master was sitting under the tree. A nephew of Salman’s (RA) master came up and said, “May Allah declare war on the Aws and the Khazraj (the two main Arab tribes of Yathrib). By Allah, they are now gathering at Quba to meet a man, who has just today, arrived from Makkah and who claims to be Prophet.” Salman (RA) felt light-headed upon hearing these words and began to shiver so violently that he had to climb down, in fear that he may fall. He quickly swung down from the tree and spoke to his master’s nephew: “What did you say? Repeat the news for me.” Salman’s master grew angry at this breach of protocol and struck him a terrible blow. “What does this matter to you’? Go back to what you were doing.” he shouted. That evening, Salman (RA) took some dates that he had gathered and went to the place where Rasulullah (SAW) had alighted. He went 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 are.” Rasulullah (SAW) ordered his companions to eat but he himself refrained. Salman (RA) gathered some more dates and when Rasulullah (SAW) left Quba for Medina, Salman (RA) 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 Rasulullah (SAW) was one of the characteristics that led Salman (RA) to believe in him and accept Islam. Salman (RA) was released from slavery by Rasulullah (SAW), who paid his Jewish master a stipulated price, and who himself planted an agreed number of date palms to secure Salman’s (RA) manumission. After accepting Islam, Salman (RA) would say when asked whose son he was, “I am Salman, the son of Islam from the children of Adam.” At the battle of Khandaq, he proved to be an innovator in military strategy. It was he who suggested digging a ditch or Khandaq around Medina to keep the Quraish army at bay. When Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Makkans, saw the ditch, he said, “This stratagem has not been employed by the Arabs before.” Salman (RA) participated in all of the other campaigns of Rasulullah (SAW) thereafter. He was also with Saad in the conquest of Iraq. After the grand victory, the Caliph Umar chose him because of his knowledge of the terrain, to select the land upon which Kufa was to be built. Salman (RA) became known as ‘Salman the Good’. Salman (RA) was a scholar who lived a rough and ascetic life. He had one cloak, which he wore and slept on. 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 you may live?” “I have no need of a house,” he (RA) replied. The man persisted and said; “I know the type of house that would suit you.” “Describe it to me,” said Salman (RA). “I shall build you a house which if you stood up in, the roof would hurt your head and if you were to stretch your legs, the wall would hurt them.” As a governor of Al-Median (Ctesiphon) near Baghdad, Salman(RA) received a stipend of five thousand dirham’s. This he would distribute as sadaqah. He lived from the work of his own hands. When some people came to Medina and saw him working the palm groves, they said, “You are the leader here and your sustenance is guaranteed and yet you do this work?” “I like to eat from the work of my own hands,” he (RA) replied. Salman (RA) however was not extreme in his asterism. It is related that he visited Abu Dardaa (RA) with who Rasulullah (SAW)) had joined him in brotherhood. He found Abu Darda’s wife in a miserable state and he (RA) asked, “What is the matter with you?” “Your brother has no need of anything in this world,” she replied. When Abu Dardaa (RA) came, he welcomed Salman (RA) and gave him food. Salman (RA) told him to eat but Abu Dardaa (RA) said, “I am fasting.” “I swear to you that I shall not eat until you eat also.” Salman (RA) spent the night there as well. During the night, Abu ad-Dardaa (RA) got up but Salman (RA) got hold of him and said, “O Abu ad-Dardaa, your Lord has a right over you. Your family has a right over you and your body has a right over you. Give to each there due.” Then in the morning, they prayed together and then went out to meet Rasulullah (SAW). Rasulullah (SAW) supported Salman (RA) in what he had said. (Bukhari) Salman (RA) was noted for his vast knowledge and wisdom. Ali (RA) said of him that he was like Luqmaan the Wise. And Ka’b al-Ahbar said: “Salman is bursting with knowledge and wisdom. He is an ocean that does not dry up.” Salman (RA) had knowledge of both the Christian scripture and the Quraan in addition to his earlier knowledge of the Zoroastrian religion. Salman (RA) in fact translated parts of the Quraan into Persian during the lifetime of Rasulullah (SAW). He was thus the first person to translate the Quraan into a foreign language. Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates, that Rasulullah (SAW) prayed the following verse:
هَا أَنْتُمْ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ تُدْعَوْنَ لِتُنْفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَمِنْكُمْ مَنْ يَبْخَلُ ۖ وَمَنْ يَبْخَلْ فَإِنَّمَا يَبْخَلُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ الْغَنِيُّ وَأَنْتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ ۚ وَإِنْ تَتَوَلَّوْا يَسْتَبْدِلْ قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَكُونُوا أَمْثَالَكُمْ
“Behold, ye are those invited to spend (of your substance) in the Way of Allah. But among you are some that are niggardly. But any who are niggardly are so at the expense of their own souls. But Allah is free of all wants, and it is ye that are needy. If ye turn back (from the Path), He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you!.” (Surah Muhammed 47:38) The Sahabah asked Rasulullah (SAW): “Rasulullah (SAW), who are these people that Allah has mentioned, that he would chose them instead of us? That they will not do as we did?” Rasulullah (SAW) placed his hand on Salman’s (RA) thigh and said, “It will be his people. And even if faith is near the Surya, someone from the Persians would attain it.” Who were the people of Kufa and Iraq? Who was Imaam Abu Hanifa? They were all Persians. The divinely chosen denizens of Kufa were Persians. Their spiritual teachers were Persians and so were the three about who Rasulullah (SAW) said, ‘Paradise longs for three people. Ali, Ammar and Salman.’ (Tirmidhi) Abu Hurairah (RA) narrates in another Hadith, that Rasulullah (SAW) once prayed the following verse:
وَآخَرِينَ مِنْهُمْ لَمَّا يَلْحَقُوا بِهِمْ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
“As well as others of them, who have not already joined them.” (Surah Jumuah 62:3) The Sahabah asked,”‘O Prophet of Allah (SAW), who are these people?” Rasulullah (SAW) placed his hand on Salman (RA) and said, ‘If faith was near the Pleiades, then someone from them would attain it.’ (Bukhari and Muslim) Time bore witness to the realisation of Rasulullah (SAW) words. The progeny of the Persians spread their knowledge and populated the world. Once Abu Sufyan came to Medina and passed by Salman (RA), Bilal (RA) and Suhaib (RA). The three companions said,” “Have not the swords of Allah beheaded this accursed man yet?” Abu Bakr (RA) upon hearing this said, “Do not say such things of the leader of Quraish.” After that, Abu Bakr (RA) went to Rasulullah (SAW) and told him of this conversation. Rasulullah (SAW) said, “Have you annoyed these three? If you have, then you have annoyed Allah.” Abu Bakr (RA) made haste to the three companions and asked them whether they took offence on his words. They told him that they had not and further said, “O brother, may Allah forgive you.” The annoyance of Salman (RA) is the annoyance of Allah. Even the likes of Abu Bakr (RA) fear to offend him. In another Hadith Rasulullah (SAW) said, ‘Allah has commanded me to love four men, for He too loves them. They are Ali, Abu Dhār, Miqdad and Salman.” It has also come in a Hadith that, “Each Prophet had seven helpers and protectors, I was given fourteen. Ali, Hasan and Hussain, Hamza, Abu Bakr, Umar, Masaab Ibn Ameer, Bilal, Salman, Ammar, Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood, Abu Dhār and Miqdad. According to the most reliable account, he died in either 31 or 34 A.H, at the age of 250 years, during the caliphate of Uthman, at Ctesiphon. This was Salman Farsi (RA), the Persian whose quest for the true faith lasted. As Muslims and as students, it should be our point of aspiration to achieve at least some of the dedication of Salman Farsi (RA) to faith and the gaining of knowledge.