Abu Dharr al-Ghifari (r.a.)

Abu Dharr, whose real name was “Jundub bin Junada” was a combative and brave member of his tribe. He was famous for waylaying cavaliers. Therefore, the tribes around Madinah felt disturbed by Abu Dharr al-Ghifari.

Once, he heard some news from Makkah: “Somebody emerged and opposed the religion of Qurayshis. He introduced a new religion. Qurayshis opposed him.”

Abu Dharr, who had a strange nature, sent his brother Unays to Makkah to search this news, which piqued his interest, and to find out about this new Prophet.

Unays went to Makkah and searched it. When he returned, he told his brother that this person, who was called “Muhammad al-Amin”, claimed to be a prophet and that he advised high ethics and wanted to keep away from bad deeds. Some Makkans called him a “poet” while others called him a “soothsayer”. However, Unays himself was a poet. He said, “I know poets and soothsayers very well. I compared his words to the words of soothsayers and types of poetry; they do not resemble any of them.”

Abu Dharr’s curiosity increased. He was not satisfied with his brother’s words. He said, “You have not satisfied me with this little information.” So, he prepared some food for the journey and set off to go to Makkah. After travelling for days, he arrived in Makkah. He secretly started to look for the person who claimed to be a prophet. He walked around Makkah during the day and slept next to the Kaaba at night. He ran out of food and kept on drinking zamzam water.

Once, Hz. Ali was passing by the Kaaba and noticed Abu Dharr. He realized from his state that he was a stranger. He asked,

“Are you a stranger?”

“Yes.”

“Come with me and be my guest.” Abu Dharr agreed.

Hz. Ali was also as cautious as Abu Dharr. They did not talk about the prophet that day. For, the oppression of the polytheists was so strong that when they found out that a person was a Muslim, they would swoop down on him and beat until he fainted.

In the morning, Abu Dharr went straight to the Kaaba. He thought, “Maybe I will see the new prophet.”

Ali passed by him again just before the evening. He asked,

“Have you not found a dwelling place yet?”

“No. In fact, I do not intend to stay here.”

Hz. Ali invited him to his house again. They went together. When they arrived home, Hz. Ali asked him,

“Tell me the truth. Something has brought you here. You seem to be looking for something.”

“If you keep it a secret, I will tell you.”

“You can be sure of it.”

“'We have heard that a person appeared here, claiming to be a prophet. I sent my brother to bring me some news about him. He did not bring a satisfactory report and this increased my curiosity. So, I thought of meeting him personally and talking to him.”

“You have reached your goal; I am going to him just now. Follow me. You can reach him by following me. If I see something that may cause you trouble, I will stand near a wall pretending to mend my shoes and you should go away then.”

Abu Dharr became very happy when he heard it. He became very excited. He found what he had been searching for days. His curiosity increased. He followed Hz. Ali. They approached the house of the Messenger of Allah. Hz. Ali proceeded and Abu Dharr followed him. They entered the house.

Abu Dharr’s excitement increased. When he saw the Prophet, he looked at him admiringly and said, “Tell me about your religion immediately.” The Prophet told him about this lofty religion in brief.

He felt very excited. Abu Dharr wanted to challenge the world. He wanted to declare this truth and tell it to everybody he met. The Prophet advised him to act cautiously: “O Abu Dharr! Keep this a secret. Return to your hometown. When you hear of our emergence, return to us.”

However, Abu Dharr said, 'By Allah Who has sent you with the truth, I will announce this truth in the middle of the polytheists.”  

Abu Dharr, who was very brave, did not think of avoiding declaring that he became a Muslim.  

He went to the Kaaba, where the polytheists had gathered. He shouted, “O folk of Quraysh! Listen to me. I, Abu Dharr, testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is Allah's Slave and Messenger.”

When the ferocious polytheists heard this challenge, they attacked Abu Dharr with the stones and canes that they found. Abu Dharr struggled against them but he could not cope with them; he fainted and fell down. When Abbas, the paternal uncle of the Prophet, saw them, he said, “What are you doing? This person, whom you are beating is from the tribe of Ghifar, on the way of your trade caravans. Then, they released him.  

After that, Abu Dharr returned to Ghifar, which was near Madinah. His mother, brother and half of his tribe became Muslims thanks to him. [1]

After a while, he migrated to Madinah too. He was one of the closest Companions of the Messenger of Allah. He served the Prophet. He would stay with him until late hours and listen to his talks. One of the Companions who were with the Messenger of Allah throughout his last illness and at the time of his death was Abu Dharr. [2] He was so close to the Messenger of Allah that he sometimes mentioned him as “my friend” He was so loyal to the Messenger of Allah he said to him, “I wonder how one can be full of love to his beloved one. My heart is full of the love of God Almighty and His Messenger.” He showed this love with unconditional obedience. Once, he asked the Messenger of Allah to appoint him to a public office.

The Prophet said he was weak for an administrator: “The burden of administration is heavy. It is necessary to perform it truly. Otherwise, it will be a cause of humiliation on the Day of Judgment. Thereupon, Abu Dharr gave up his request. [3] Once, the Messenger of Allah said to him,

“Your service to Islam is not less than the administrators. You do with your mind and ideas what they do with sword.” [4]

The Prophet stated the following about him: “He will walk alone, live alone and die alone.” His life confirmed this statement.

It was a hot summer day. Abu Dharr was also getting ready for the Expedition of Tabuk.  

However, his camel was very old. He was left behind the army. No matter what he did, he could not make the camel go faster and could not catch up with the army. The distance between him and the army increased. By the way, some people did not join the expedition due to various excuses. 

The army settled in a place near Tabuk. Abu Dharr could not be seen. The Companions started to criticize those who did not join the expedition. When it was mentioned that Abu Dharr was absent, the Messenger of Allah said, “Leave him. If there is something good in him, Allah will make him catch up with you.” The Messenger of Allah knew how loyal to Islam he was and how he made sacrifices.

At noontime, a guard said, “Somebody is coming toward here alone.” The Messenger of Allah said, I wonder if he is Abu Dharr. I hope he is.”  

The Companions gathered and started to watch the person coming toward them. Some of them said, “By Allah, it is Abu Dharr.”

It was really Abu Dharr. When his camel had no strength to walk, he released the camel and loaded the provisions on his own back. He managed to catch up with the army of Islam with difficulty.  When the Messenger of Allah saw Abu Dharr, he became pleased. He said, “May Allah show mercy to Abu Dharr! He will walk alone, live alone and die alone.” [5]

Abu Dharr was very tired. The Messenger of Allah praised him by the following prayer:

“O Abu Dharr! May Allah forgive a sin of yours for every step that you took in order to reach me!”

They put the load of Abu Dharr down and gave him water to quench his thirst.

The Prophet sometimes gave advice to Abu Dharr. Sometimes Abu Dharr himself also asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to give him advice. Once, he asked the Prophet to give him advice. The Prophet said:

“I advise you the fear of Allah, for indeed it is the pinnacle of all affairs. Cling to reciting the Quran and remember Allah, for indeed it is light for you in the life of this world and it is preserved for you in the heavens. Beware of laughing excessively, for indeed it kills the heart and removes light from the face. Make jihad. Try not to speak very much because speaking a little will drive Satan away from you and help you to protect your religion. Love the poor and sit with them. Look to those who are lesser than you and do not look to those who are above you in terms of boons. If you do so, you will not look down with disdain at Allah’s blessings upon you. Speak the truth even if it is bitter. If you regard yourself as bad, it will prevent you from criticizing others. When others commit the bad deeds that you commit, do not get angry with them. There cannot a bigger mistake than not seeing your mistake and criticizing others for the same mistake, and blaming others for a sin though you commit that sin.

“O Abu Dharr! There is no intellect like caution, no taqwa like avoiding harams and no honor like high ethics.” [6]

Abu Dharr obeyed this advice of the Prophet fully in the remaining part of his life.

Abu Dharr was a benevolent person. He was ready to risk his life to do others favors.

Once, Hz. Umar was talking to some Companions. Two young men entered into his presence. They brought another young man who had clean clothes and who looked solemn and chivalrous. They told Hz. Umar why they had come as follows: 

“We are two brothers. Our father, who was loved and respected by everyone, was killed by this young man today in his orchard while he was picking fruits. We did not want to punish him ourselves and came here to surrender him to you.”

After listening to the complainants, Hz. Umar asked the young man they brought, “What do you say about their claim? Are they telling the truth?”

The young man started to narrate what happened in cold blood:

 “O leader of the believers! Yes, they told the truth. However, let me narrate the incident in detail: I am a Bedouin living in an oasis in the middle of a desert. I came here with my family to travel. On my way, I was passing through orchards. My horses and mares were with me. One of them was very beautiful. I loved it a lot. It was impossible not to admire its walking. The horse saw a branch hanging from the wall of an orchard, reached for it and snatched a piece from it. I withdrew my horse as soon as I saw it. Suddenly, an angry and furious old man came out of the orchard; he was coming toward me holding a stone. He threw the stone at the horse without saying anything. I saw my horse lying dead on the ground. When I saw my beloved horse like that, I picked the stone and threw it at the man. He screamed and died. Then, these two young men grabbed me and brought me here to your presence.”

Hz. Umar liked it when the young man confessed frankly what he had done. He decreed:

“You have confesses your crime. Retaliation is necessary.”

The young man accepted the decree without objection. However, he said he had an excuse:

“Since this is the decree of the religion, I accept it. However, I have a young brother.  My father passed away and left some money behind for my young brother. He said to me, ‘My son. This money is for your younger brother. Keep it until he grows up.’ I hid the money somewhere. Nobody knows the place except me. If you kill me now, the money will remain where it is and the right of the orphan will be lost. If you give me permission, I will go and give the money to a reliable person to keep. Then, I will return. I will surrender to you to be killed. I will find a guarantor for me.”

After listening to the young man, Hz. Umar thought for a while and said,

“Who will be a guarantor for this young man?”

The young man looked at the people sitting there. Then, he pointed to Abu Dharr al-Ghifari and said, “This man will be a guarantor for me.” 

Hz. Umar turned to Abu Dharr and asked, “O Abu Dharr! Will you be a guarantor for this young man?”

Due to the chivalrous act of the young man, he said without hesitation, “Yes. I guarantee that he will return in three days.”

The two young men found the promise of Abu Dharr, who had a high rank among the Companions, to be a guarantor enough.

The young man was released as he was given the guarantee. He went home. Three days passed. The complainants went to Hz. Umar when the deadline was about to end. Abu Dharr was there but the young man had not come yet. 

The complainants said to Abu Dharr, “O Abu Dharr! Where is the man that you guaranteed to return? Would such a person ever return? We want you to be executed. This is the result of being a guarantor.”

Abu Dharr, who never broke his promise, said,

“Do not hurry. Wait for the deadline. If he does not return by then, I agree to be executed.”

Having listened to this conversation, Hz. Umar said to the complainants and Abu Dharr, “If the young man does not come, by Allah, I will execute Abu Dharr.”

Abu Dharr had high ethics and taqwa; he was a person that the Companions liked best. The Companions were weeping in hopelessness. They offered blood money to the young people but they did not accept it. They wanted him to be executed.

Finally, the time expired. The Companions were very nervous. They did not even want to think of the execution of Abu Dharr before their eyes. Just then, the young man arrived. He was exhausted. He was in sweat. He did not have strength to speak. He started to explain why he was late by panting:

“I entrusted by brother to his maternal uncle. I showed him the place where I hid the money. I did my best to come here on time. I am a bit late because the place I live is very far away. You can execute me now. ”

The Companions who listened to the young man carefully appreciated him for keeping his promise. They asked Abu Dharr how he knew this young man, who acted chivalrously and why he became a guarantor for him. He answered them as follows:

“I had seen this young man for the first time like you. I do not know him. However, I did not regard it appropriate to reject his request in your presence. I did not want people to say, ‘There are no good men left in the world.’”

The complainants were moved by this scene and forgave the young man.

Afterwards, Abu Dharr settled in Damascus. He led a plain life. He never showed off and he did not like those who showed off. He wanted to be away from pomp. He was very contented. He was put on a salary of 4000 dinars. However, he spent a very little amount of that money for himself. He gave most of it away to the poor. For, he believed that believers had to spend their money in the way of Allah. He believed that it was not appropriate to save more money than what was necessary for the sustenance of his family. He defended his views bravely. Finally, the rich people complained to Muawiyah, the governor of Damascus, of him.  

Muawiyah, the governor, sent one thousand gold coins to Abu Dharr one night. He wanted to test his sincerity. He wondered if he acted differently from what he preached people.

As soon as Abu Dharr received the money, he gave it away to the poor. After the morning prayer the next day, the governor called his servant and ordered him to go to Abu Dharr and say to him, ‘The governor sent the money to somebody else but I misunderstood it and gave it to you. Give it back to me or I will be punished by the governor.’ When the servant told Abu Dharr about it, Abu Dharr said to him, “I gave away all of the money. Tell the governor to give you some time and I will collect the money from the people I gave.”

That was enough for Muawiyah. He understood that Abu Dharr was sincere. He informed Hz. Uthman about the issue and sent him to Madinah.

Abu Dharr never hesitated to tell the truth regarding any issue and continued telling people what was right.  

Due to some disturbances, the caliph prohibited him from issuing fatwas. When somebody reminded him of it when he was speaking, he said,

“I swear by Allah that I will definitely say what I heard from the Messenger of Allah before you cut my head off even if you place your sword on my neck.”

Finally, upon the request of the caliph and his agreement, he went to the village of Rabdha outside Madinah on the way of Makkah. He spent the last years of his life there. 

He was ready for death in 31 H. When he was told he needed a new garment, he said, “I need a shroud, not a garment.” He said he would rejoin the Messenger of Allah soon. Only his wife and his servant were with him. He said to them, “When I die, wash me and enshroud me. Then, place me in the middle of the road.”

His wife started to weep: Would they bury him without anyone knowing about it? Thereupon, Abu Dharr said, “Do not weep. We were with the Messenger of Allah one day. He said, ‘One of you will die in a desolate place. A small group of believers will be present in his janazah prayer.’ All of the people there died in the presence of a group of people. Only I was left from that people. Watch the road and do exactly as I told you.” Then, he died. 

His wife and servant did as they were told and put his dead body on the road. The servant started to wait next to the body. Meanwhile, a caravan from Iraq arrived; Abdul­lah bin Mas’ud was among them. The dead body on the road frightened them. The camels shied and almost walked over the dead body. The servant stood up and said, “This is Abu Dharr, the Companion of the Messenger of Allah. He wanted you to bury him. Please help.”

Abdullah bin Mas’ud could not help crying. He remembered the old days and said,

“The Messenger of Allah told the truth when he said, ‘You will walk alone, live alone and die alone.”

He performed Abu Dharr’s janazah prayer with his friends and buried him there. [7]

Abu Dharr narrated 281 hadiths. The reason why the number of the hadiths he narrated is not very much is the fact that he liked to live in seclusion. Some of the hadiths that he narrated are as follows:

“Your smiling in the face of your brother is sadaqah (charity). Commanding good and forbidding evil is sadaqah. Your giving directions to a man lost in the land is sadaqah for you. Your seeing for a man with bad sight is sadaqah for you, your removal of a rock, a thorn or a bone from the road is sadaqah for you. Your pouring what remains from your bucket into the bucket of your brother is sadaqah for you.” [8]

“The best deed is to love what (whom) you love for Allah and to dislike what (whom) you dislike for Allah.” [9]

“I never met the Messenger of Allah without his shaking hands with me. One day, he sent for me when I was not at home. When I came, I was informed that he had sent for me. I came to him and found him on a couch. He embraced me and that was very good for me.”[10]

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[1]Usdul-Ghaba, 5: 187; Bukhari, Manaqib: 82.
[2]Musnad, 5: 162.
[3]Muslim, Imara: 16.
[4]Asr-ı Saadet, 3: 194.
[5]Usdul-Ghaba, 5: 188.
[6]Hilyah, 1: 168.
[7]Hilyah, 1: 169-170; Isaba, 4: 65.
[8]Tirmidhi, Birr: 36.
[9]Abu Dawud, Sunnah: 2.
[10]ibid, Adab: 143; Musnad, 5: 163.

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