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Ammar bin Yaser

'Ammar bin Yasir was one of the most respected companions of the Prophet and the faithful follower of Imam 'Ali. He was from those who were brutally tortured in the cause of Islam. He did two hijrahs - to Ethiopia30 and Medina; he prayed towards two qiblahs - Baytul Maqdis and Ka'bah. He participated in all the battles of Islam right from the beginning,31 and was martyred in the battle of Siffin on 9th Safar, 37 AH. 'Ammar and his parents were amongst the first converts to Islam. His father Yasir was from the tribe of Qahtan in Yemen. He, together with his two brothers, came to Mecca in search of a lost brother. His brothers returned to their homeland; but Yasir stayed in Mecca where he entered into a covenant with Abu Hudhayfah (from the tribe of Bani Makhzum), and married his slave-girl, Sumayyah bint Khayyat. Yasir and Sumayyah begot two sons, 'Abdullah and 'Ammar, who according to the custom of Arabia, were considered the slaves of Abu Hudhayfah.32 After their conversion to Islam, Abu Jahl, with the help of other pagans, started torturing the whole family mercilessly. Ironnails were put upon their naked bodies and they were made to lie down on the burning sand of the desert. The heat of the sun and the desert sand made the iron mails hot like fire; their skins got burned. This torture used to continue till they became unconscious. Then the iron mails were removed and water was poured on them.33 The Prophet felt very sorry for the suffering family; but was unable to protect them. Still he used to go near them and give them courage to forbear the tyrannies of their tormentors. He gave them good tidings of Heaven and said, "Be patient, O family of Yasir, because your promised place is Heaven".34 Yasir and Sumayyah were brutally murdered by the pagans of the Quraysh, under the leadership of Abu Jahl. It is a great distinction of this distinguished family that all of them were martyred in the cause of Islam. Sumayyah was very pious and God-fearing lady; and she was the first woman martyr of Islam. When his parents were killed, 'Ammar pretended to denounce Islam, and thus saved his life. Then he came to the Prophet bitterly weeping that he had to utter the words of kufr so that he could slip away from the hands of the infidels. The Prophet told him not to worry, as he had not uttered those words with his heart. In this connection, the following verse was revealed:-

He who disbelieves in God after his belief in Him - except he who is compelled (to do so] while his heart remains steadfast with the faith - and he who opened (his) heart for disbelief on them shall be the wrath of Allah and they, shall have a grievous chastisement. (The Qur'an 16:106)35.

When 'Ammar described the atrocities meted out to the blessed Sumayyah, the Prophet said, "Patience, O Abu Yaqzan; O Allah, do not punish anyone from the family of Yasir with hell-fire."

When the Prophet came to Medina, and the mosque of the Prophet was being built, 'Ammar enthusiastically carried double load of the stones. At that time he started reciting some lines of poetry, which reached to the ears of 'Uthman (who later became the third caliph), who thought that 'Ammar was taunting him. Overcome by this misunderstanding, 'Uthman hit 'Ammar on the forehead; blood came gushing out and covered his face. He complained to the Prophet, who himself cleansed and dressed the wound and said, "'Ammar is the skin between my eyes and nose." Then he said, "Well, O 'Ammar, you will be killed by a rebellious group; you will be calling them to Heaven, and they will be calling you to Hell.'36 'Ammar's importance and honour can also be understood from the following sayings of the Prophet: "'Ammar is with the truth, and the truth is with 'Ammar wherever he may be. 'Ammar is the skin between my eyes and nose; and he will be killed by a rebellious group.'37 The Prophet also said, "Ammar is filled with faith (iman) from head to feet".38 There are numerous other traditions of the Prophet and the Imams concerning 'Ammar.

'Ammar was one of those faithful companions who always followed Imam 'Ali. In 35th AH when 'Ammar, along with many others, protested against 'Uthman bin 'Affan's (the third caliph) policy on the distribution of the public treasury, the latter got him beaten so mercilessly that the lining of his abdomen was burst and he got hernia.39 As his father, Yasir had been an ally of Banu Makhzum, so they took 'Ammar (still unconscious) to their home and said that if 'Ammar died they would avenge him with 'Uthman. As mentioned above, the Prophet had said that he would be killed by a rebellious group; and so it happened. 'Ammar was killed in the 37th year AH by the army of Mu'awiyah bin Abi Sufyan. He was then 90 or 91 years old. On the day when he was martyred, he was fighting valiantly against the army of Mu'awiyah, when one Syrian, Abul Ghadiyah al-Muzani, fatally wounded him in the waist; his companions carried him to safety. He asked for water; someone gave him a cup of milk. He said, "True was the saying of the Prophet". People asked him to explain. He replied, "The Prophet had informed me that my last sustenance from this world would be milk." Then he drank some milk and after that he died.40

Amirul mu'minin 'Ali was informed of this tragedy. He came immediately and put 'Ammar's head on his lap and recited the following elegy for his faithful companion:

O death, which is to come to me anyhow,
Better give me rest at once;
Because thou host finished off all my friends,
I see that thou doth recognise all my beloned ones,
as though someone is guiding thee to them specially.

Then reciting "verily we are of God and to God will we return," he said, "Anybody who is not extremely grieved on the death of 'Ammar has no share in Islam. May Allah have mercy on 'Ammar." Amirul mu'minin himself said prayer on him, and buried him by his own hands.41 'Ammar's martyrdom created a problem for Mu'awiyah because many people in his army did remember the aforesaid saying of the Prophet, and they realised that 'Ammar, by his death, had shown that Mu'awiyah and his army were rebellious and not on the right path. To pacify the army, Mu'awiyah said that it was 'Ali who had caused the death of 'Ammar by bringing him to the battlefield. When Amirul mu'minin 'Ali was informed of this ruse of Mu'awiyah, he said, "Then it was the Prophet himself who killed Hamzah by bringing him to the battlefield of Uhud!"42

30. Ibn Sa'd, op. cit., vol. III:1, p. 179; Ibn Athir, Usdu '1-Ghabah fi Ma'rifati's-Sahabah, vol. 4 (Egypt, n.d.), p. 461; Ibn Kathir, al-Tar'ikh, vol. 7 (Egypt, n.d.), p. 311.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid, vol, III:1, p. 176.

33. Ibid, vol. III:1, p. 177; Abu Na'im, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 140.

34. Ibn Sa'd, op. cit., vol. III:1, p. 178; Abu Na'im, op. cit., vol.1, p. 140; Ibn Hajar, op. cit., vol.3, p. 1219.

35. Ibn Sa'd, op. cit., vol. III:1, p. 178; Ibn Hajar, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 1220.

36. Ibn Sa'd, op. cit., vol. III:1, pp. 177, 180; Ibn Hajar, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 1220; al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, vol. 8 (Egypt ed.) pp. 185-186; al-Tirmidhi, al-Jami' al-Sahih, vol. 5 (Egypt ed.) p. 669; Ahmad bin Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 2 (Egypt ed.) pp. 161, 164, 206, vol. 3, pp. 5, 22, 28, 91, vol. 4, pp. 197, 199, vol. 5, pp. 215, 306, 307, vol. 6, pp. 289, 300, 311, 315; Ibn 'Abdi '1-Barr, al-Isti'ab fi Ma'rifat'l-Ashab, vol. 3, p. 1140.

37. Ibn Sa'd, op. cit., vol. III:1, p. 187; Hakim, al-Mustadrak 'ala 's-Sahihayn, vol. 3 (Hyderabad ed.) p. 392; Ibn Hisham, al-Sirah, vol.2 (Egypt ed., n.d.) p. 143; Ibn Kathir, al-Ta'rikh, vol. 7, pp. 268, 270.

38. Abu Na'im, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 139; Ibn Hajar, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 1219; Ibn Majah, al-Sunan, vol. 1 (Egypt ed. n.d.) p. 65; al-Haythami, Majma' al-Zawa'id, vol. 9 (Egypt ed. n.d.) p. 295; Ibn 'Abdu'1-Barr, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 1137.

39. al-Baladhuri, Ansabu'l Ashraf, vol. 5, pp. 48, 54, 88; Ibn Abi '1-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, vol. 3, p. 47; Ibn Qutaybah, al-Imamah wa 's-Siyasah, vol. 1, pp. 35-6; Ibn 'Abd Rabbih, al-'Iqdu 'l-Farid, vol. 4 (Egypt ed.) p. 307; Ibn Sa'd, op. cit., vol. III:1, p. 185; al-Diyarbakri; Tarikhu'l-Khamis, vol. 2, p. 271.

40. Ibn Sa'd, op. cit., vol. III:1, pp. 184-5; Abu Na'im, op. cit., vol.1, p.141.

41. Qummi, 'Abbas, Muntaha'l-Amal, vol. 1 (Tehran: 1381 AH) p. 92.

42. al-Tabari, al-Ta'rikh, vol. 1, pp. 3316-3322; vol. 3, pp. 2314-2319; Ibn Athir, al-Kamil, vol. 3, pp. 308-312; Ibn Kathir, al-Ta'rikh, vol. 7, pp. 267-272.

Adapted from the book: "Slavery; From Islamic and Christian Perspectives" by: "Sayyid Sa'eed Akhtar Rizvi"

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