Suhayb ar-Rumi

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Suhayb ar-Rumi (Arabic: صهيب الرومي‎) (born c. 587), also known as Suhayb ibn Sinan, was a former slave in the Byzantine Empire who went on to become an esteemed companion of Muhammad and revered member of the early Muslim community.

Early life[edit]

Around the year 591, about twenty years before the commencement of Muhammad's mission, an Arab named Sinan ibn Malik governed the city of al-Uballah on behalf of the Persian[clarification needed] emperor. The city, which is now part of Basra, lay on the banks of the Euphrates. He had several children and was particularly fond of one of them who was then barely five years old with blond hair and a fair-complexion named Suhayb. One day Suhayb's mother took him to a village called ath-Thani for a picnic. That day ath-Thani was attacked by Byzantine soldiers who took a large number of prisoners, including Suhayb ibn Sinan.

Suhayb was taken to one of the slave markets of the Byzantine Empire, thereafter he passed from one master to another, remaining for about twenty years in Byzantine lands as a slave. He grew up speaking Greek, the language of the Byzantine Empire and practically forgot Arabic. At the first opportunity Suhayb escaped from bondage and headed for Mecca which was considered a place of asylum. There people called him Suhayb ar-Rumi or "the Roman" because of his peculiarly heavy speech and blond hair. He became the representative of an aristocrat in Mecca, Abdullah ibn Judan, engaging in trade and becoming quite wealthy.[citation needed]

Acceptance of Islam and Escape to Medina[edit]

One day he was told that Muhammad was calling people to a new religion in the house or' al-Arqam ibn Abi al-Arqam. After meeting with him, he was convinced of the truth of his message and pledged fealty to Muhammad. The ruling tribe of Quraish soon learned of Sohaib's acceptance of Islam and began harassing him. When Muhammad gave permission for his followers to migrate to Medina in 622, Sohaib resolved to accompany Muhammad and Abu Bakr, but the Quraish discovered his intentions and placed guards over him to prevent him from leaving Mecca and taking the wealth he had acquired through trade. After the departure of Muhammad and Abu Bakr, Suhayb continued to bide his time, unsuccessfully attempting to escape several times.

One night, Suhayb feigned stomach problems and went out repeatedly as if responding to calls of nature. His captors became relaxed and Suhayb quietly armed himself, readied a mount and headed for Medina. When his captors realized Suhayb was gone they left in pursuit and eventually caught up with him. Seeing them approach, Suhayb clambered up a hill and holding his bow and arrow, he shouted:

"Men of Quraish! You know, by God, that I am one of the best archers and my aim is unerring. By God, if you come near me, with each arrow I have, I shall kill one of you. Then I shall strike with my sword."

The men responded "By God, we shall not let you escape from us with your life and money. You came to Mecca weak and poor and you have acquired what you have acquired.."

"What would you say if I leave you my wealth?" interrupted Suhayb. "Would you get out of my way?" "Yes," they answered.

Suhayb described the place in his house in Mecca where he had left the money, and they allowed him to go. When Suhayb reached Quba, just outside Medina, Muhammad saw him approaching and said, "Your transaction has been fruitful, O Abu Yahya. Your transaction has been fruitful." He repeated this three times. Sohaib's face beamed with happiness as he said: "By God, no one has come before me to you, Messenger of God, and only Jibril could have told you about this."

Following the death of Omar[edit]

Suhayb's standing in the Muslim community was so high that he was nominated by the caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab to lead the Muslims in the period between his death and the choosing of his successor.

As Umar lay dying after being stabbed by Abu-Lu'lu'ah on November 1, 644, he summoned Uthman ibn Affan, Ali, Talhah, Zubayr ibn al-Awam, Abdur Rahman bin Awf, and Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas and instructed them to consult among themselves and with the Muslims for three days and choose a successor.

In this brief intermediate period before Uthman’s appointment, Suhayb was responsible for leading prayers and of being the head of the Muslim community.

Sources[edit]

See also[edit]