Khabbab ibn al-Aratt

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Khabbab ibn al-Aratt (Arabic: خبّاب بن الأرت‎) was a boy from Najd, from the tribe of Banu Tamim. He was among the first ten persons to convert to Islam and was a sahabi (companion of Muhammad).

Early life[edit]

Khabbab was from the Banu Tamim clan in Najd.

Before Muhammad started his mission and Khabbab was "obviously not yet in his teens", one of the Arab tribes raided their territory and took their cattle and captured women and children. Khabbab was among the youths captured. He was passed from one hand to another until he ended up in Makkah, in the slave market of that city.

A woman named Umm Anmaar who belonged to the Banu Khuza'a clan of the Quraish tribe in Mecca went there. She wanted to buy herself a youth for her domestic chores and to exploit his labour for economic gains.

As she scrutinized the faces of those who were displayed for sale, her eyes fell on Khabbab. She saw that he was strong and healthy and that there were clear signs of intelligence on his face. She needed no further incentive to purchase him. She paid and walked away with her new slave.

On the way home, Umm Anmaar and Khabbab had a conversation where Khabbab explained his background.

Umm Anmaar placed the young Khabbab as an apprentice to one of the blacksmiths in Makkah to learn the art of making swords. Khabbab learnt quickly and was soon an expert at the craft. When he was strong enough, Umm Anmaar set up a workshop for him with all the necessary tools and equipment for making swords. Soon he was quite famous in Makkah for his excellent craftsmanship. People also liked dealing with him because of his honesty and integrity. Umm Anmaar gained much profit through him and exploited his talents to the full.

In spite of his youthfulness, Khabbab displayed unique intelligence and wisdom. Often, when he had finished work and was left to himself, he would reflect deeply on the state of Arabian society which was so steeped in corruption. He was appalled at the aimless wandering, the ignorance and the tyranny which he saw. Since he was one of the victims of this tyranny, he would often think to himself;

"After this night of darkness, there must be a dawn."

And he hoped for a brighter future.

Islam[edit]

Soon Muhammad announced Islam, saying that none deserves to be worshipped or adored except the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

Muhammad called for an end to injustice and oppression and sharply criticised the practices of the rich in accumulating wealth at the expense of the poor and the outcast. Muhammad denounced aristocratic privileges and attitudes and called for a new order based on respect for human dignity and compassion for the underprivileged including orphans, wayfarers and the needy.

To Khabbab, this was like a powerful light dispelling the darkness of ignorance. He went and listened to these teachings directly from Muhammad. Without any hesitation he stretched out his hand to Muhammad in allegiance and testified that "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His servant and His messenger."

Khabbab did not hide his acceptance of Islam from anyone and when the news of his becoming a Muslim reached Umm Anmaar, she became incensed with anger. She went to her brother Siba'a ibn Abd al-Uzza who gathered a gang of youths from the Banu Khuza'a and together they made their way to Khabbab. They found him completely engrossed in his work. Siba'a went up to him and said:

"We have heard some news from you which we don't believe."
"What is it?" asked Khabbab.
"We have been told that you have given up your religion and that you now follow that man from the Banu Hashim ."
I have not given up my religion," replied Khabbab calmly. "I only believe in One God Who has no partner. I reject your idols and I believe that Muhammad is the servant of God and His messenger."
As soon as he spoke these words did Siba'a and his gang set upon him. They beat him with their fists and with iron bars and they kicked him until he fell unconscious to the ground, with blood streaming from the wounds he received.

The news of what happened between Khabbab and his slave mistress spread throughout Makkah instantly, astonishing people about Khabbab's daring. They had not yet heard of anyone who followed Muhammad and who had had the audacity to announce the fact with such frankness and defiant confidence.

This affair shook the leaders of Quraish. They did not expect that a blacksmith, such as the one who belonged to Umm Anmaar and who had no clan in Makkah to protect and prevent him from injury, would be bold enough to go outside her authority, denounce her gods and reject the religion of her forefathers. They feared this would set a precedent, and they were right. Khabbab's courage impressed many of his friends and encouraged them to announce their acceptance of Islam. One after another, they began to proclaim publicly their Islam.

In the precincts of the Haram, near the Ka'bah, the Quraish leaders gathered to discuss the problem of Muhammad. Among them were Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, Walid ibn al-Mughira and Abu Jahl.

They noted that Muhammad was getting stronger and that his following where increasing very fast. To them this was like a terrible disease and they made up their minds to stop it before it got out of control. They decided that each tribe should get hold of any follower of Muhammad among them and punish him until he either recanted his faith or died.

Umm Anmaar brother, Siba'a ibn Abd al-Uzza and his people were given the task of further punishing Khabbab. Regularly they began taking him to an open area in the city when the sun was in zenith and the ground was scorching hot. They would take off his clothes and dress him in iron armor and lay him on the ground. In the intense heat his skin would be seared and his body would become inert.

When it appeared that all strength had left him, they would come up and challenge him:

"What do you say about Muhammad?"
"He is the servant of God and His messenger. He has come with the religion of guidance and truth, to lead us from darkness into light."
They became more furious and intensify their beating. They would ask about al-Lat and al-Uzza and he would reply firmly:

"Two idols, deaf and dumb, that cannot cause harm or bring any benefit..."

Further enraged, they would take a big hot stone and place it on his back. Khabbab's pain and anguish would be excruciating but he did not recant.

He was also forced by the Quraish to lie on live cinders.

The inhumanity of Umm Anmaar towards Khabbab was not less than that of her brother.

Once when Khabbab was at his workshop, Umm Anmaar saw Muhammad speaking to Khabbab. She flew into a blind rage and every day after that, for several days, she went to Khabbab's workshop and punished him by placing a red hot iron from the furnace on his head. The agony was unbearable and he often fainted.

Khabbab was eventually bought from Umm Anmaar by Abu Bakr and given his freedom.

Khabbab often came to recite the Qur'an to Fatimah bint al-Khattab (the sister of Umar ibn al-Khattab) and her husband.

One day Khabbab was in Fatimah's house, teaching her and her husband from a written text from the Qur'an, When Umar came enraged and started beating Fatimah and her husband. Khabbab hid away during the event. The event is reported here.

In Sahi Bukhari we read:

Qays ibn Abi Hazim related that Khabbab ibn al-Aratt said, "We complained to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace while he was using his cloak as a cushion in the shade of the Kabaa. We said to him, 'Will you not ask for help for us? Will you not pray to Allah for us?
He said, 'There was a man among those before you for whom a ditch was dug in the earth and he was placed in it. Then a saw was brought and places on his head and he would be cut in two. He would be raked with iron combs which would remove his flesh from his bones or sinews, and that would not deter him from his deen. By Allah, this business will be complete so that a traveller can go from San'a to Hadramawt fearing only Allah, or the wolf for his sheep, but you are trying to hasten things

Khabbab suffered long and his only recourse was to prayer. He prayed for the punishment of Umm Anmaar and her brother Siba'a ibn Abd al-Uzza. Finally he felt that his pain and suffering where coming to an end when Muhammad gave permission to his companions to emigrate to Medina.

Since Umm Anmaar was afflicted with a terrible illness which no one had heard of before, she could not prevent Khabbab from going. She had headaches and was especially nerve-racking, behaved as if she had suffered a rabid attack.

Her children sought everywhere for medical help until finally they were told that the only cure was to cauterize her head. This was done. The treatment, with a red hot iron, was more terrible than all the headaches she suffered.

Medina, Battle of Badr[edit]

In Medina he was met with generosity and hospitality among the Ansar and Khabbab experienced a state of ease and restfulness for the first time in a long time. He was delighted to be near Muhammad, freed from his tormentors.

Khabbab fought alongside Muhammad at the Battle of Badr. He participated in the Battle of Uhud where he had the satisfaction of seeing Siba'a ibn Abd al-Uzza meet his end at the hands of Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib, the uncle of Muhammad.

After Muhammad[edit]

Khabbab once visited Umar ibn al-Khattab during his caliphate. Umar stood up and greeted Khabbab with the words:

"No one is more deserving than you to be in this assembly other than Bilal."

Umar asked Khabbab about the torture and the persecution he had received at the hands of the polytheists. All of that was still very vivid in his mind and Khabbab described. He then exposed his back and even Umar was aghast at what he saw.

Last part of his life[edit]

Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, one of the major authorities on matters related to the Qur'an, would sometimes seek Khabbab's advice and opinion.

In the last phase of his life, Khabbab was blessed with wealth such as he had never before dreamed of. He was well known for his generosity.

When he received a reasonable pension from the Khalifah (Caliph), he placed the money in a part of his house that was known to the poor and the needy and did not secure it in any way. Those in need would come and take what they needed without seeking any permission or asking any questions. He did so since he felt great fear for God and accountability to God for what he did with his wealth.

A group of Sahaba related that they visited Khabbab when he was sick. In Sahi Bukhari, one of the is reported to say:

Qays ibn Abi Hazim said, "We visited Khabbab ibn al-Aratt when he was ill and he had been cupped seven times. He said, 'Our companions who went before us have gone and this world did not cause them any decrease. We have acquired so much that the only way to spend it is in constructing buildings. If it were not that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had forbidden us to pray for death, I would have prayed for it.' Then we came to him again when he was repairing one of his walls and he said, 'A Muslim is rewarded for everything he spends except for what he invests in buildings.'"

In another version is he reported to say:

"In this place there are eighty thousand dirhams. By God, I have never secured it any way and I have not barred anyone in need from it." He started weeping and they asked why he was weeping.

He said "I weep because my companions have died and they did not obtain any such reward in this world. I have lived on and have acquired this wealth and I fear that this will be the only reward for my deeds."

He died in Ali ibn Abu Talib's Khilafat (Caliphate) and soon after Ali stood at his grave and said:

"May God have mercy on Khabbab. He accepted Islam wholeheartedly. He performed Hijra willingly. He lived as a Mujahid and God shall not withhold the reward of one who has done good."

See also[edit]

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