BİLAL AL-HABASHI UNDERGOING TORTURE

One of the people who embraced Islam during the period of secret call to Islam and who were tortured by the polytheists (mushriks) severely was Bilal bin Rabah, who was known as Bilal al-Habashi.

Bilal became a Muslim by means of Hz. Abu Bakr when he was a slave of Umayya b. Khalaf.1

The light of belief that surrounded Bilal’s heart at once became an unlimited source of courage for him so much that as a slave, he did not shy away from openly declaring his belief in defiance of all sorts of torture, coercion, and persecution inflicted by his master and the other polytheists.

The heart in which belief has not entered is harder than a rock and a conscience in which the fear of Allah does not exist is more insensate than a rock. It is futile to search for compassion and mercy in a person who possesses this kind of heart and conscience. Such a person is considered as a beast in the spiritual sense when he is under this condition. He is even worse than beasts in terms of the destructions he causes.

Like all the other ferocious enemies of Islam, Umayya bin Khalaf also had this kind of heart and conscience and Bilal was enslaved to this master, who was void of compassion and mercy. In the eyes of this merciless man, it was a serious crime for Bilal to believe in Allah, who is One and who is his Creator, and to be loyal to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), whom He sent. Therefore, Bilal was subjected to severe torture. Sometimes, he was left hungry and thirsty for twenty-four hours and at other times a chain was attached to his neck and children were hired to pull him in the streets of Makkah.

Umayya bin Khalaf’s efforts were all fruitless. Bilal had believed and submitted to Allah. His heart became a rose garden with the love that he had for the Messenger of Allah. Therefore, even while he was groaning bitterly under all this persecution and torture, he did not give up shouting his cause at the faces of polytheists’:

"Ahad! Ahad! Allah is one! "

After Umayya bin Khalaf rubbed and burnt the back of Bilal, who did not make the slightest concession against his cause of Islam despite facing all kinds of torture, against the sands and stones that burned fiercely under the scorching heat and put a morsel of meat that had dried under the sun into his mouth, he would have a big piece of rock placed on Bilal’s chest and say:

" I swear that I am not going to give up torturing you until you die or deny and reject Muhammad and his religion and worship Lat and Uzza!"

However, Bilal, who became a monument of belief with all particles in his body, would shout as follows by risking his life:

"I do not accept Laz and Uzza. Allah is One! Allah is One!" 2

Umayya bin Khalaf would lose his temper completely upon hearing these words and would increase the torture until Bilal fainted. Then, he would walk away. Bilal would regain consciousness after quite a long time.

The only point of endurance for Bilal in the face of all of this unbearable torture was his exalted and magnificent belief. Believing in God Almighty, who holds the universe under His possession, and trusting in His endless power is a point of support that does not falter or collapse for man. In this brave manner, he virtually declared this reality to the entire world: “Belief is both light and power. A person who attains true belief can challenge the universe.

Once Hz. Abu Bakr was passing by and saw that Umayya bin Khalaf was subjecting Bilal to torture. He said to Umayya,

Are you not afraid of Allah? Until when are you going to continue torturing this poor man?

Umayya answered, “You are the one who corrupted his creed. Buy him if you want him to be saved.

Hz. Abu Bakr said,
" Oh Umayya! I have a black slave who is a member of your religion. He is stronger and more powerful than Bilal. Will you accept if I exchange him for Bilal?" 
Umayya said,
"I accept." Then he laughed and said, "By Allah, I do not accept unless you give me his wife, too." 
Hz. Abu Bakr said,
" Alright!" 
Umayya laughed slyly again and said,
"By Allah, I do not accept unless you give me his daughter along with his wife." 
Hz. Abu Bakr said,
" Alright!"

However, it seemed as if this ferocious polytheist, Umayya, wanted to make things difficult. This time, amid his treacherous cackles, he wanted something else:

" By Allah, I do not accept unless you give me 200 dinars extra."
Hz. Abu Bakr got angry and said furiously,
" What a shameless man you are. You keep telling lies." 
This time, Umayya said,
" No. I swear by Lat and Uzza that if you give them to me, I will keep my promise." 
Thereupon, Abu Bakr said,
" They are all yours." Then, he saved Bilal from that cruel man.

The Prophet asked Abu Bakr, who had bought Bilal,

"Oh Abu Bakr! Are you going to have any rights over him?"

Hz. Abu Bakr said,

"O Messenger of Allah! No. I have freed him."3

Hz. Abu Bakr, who saved Bilal from the ferocious polytheist Umayya bin Khalaf and freed him, bought Bilal’s mother, Hamama, who was also a slave like Bilal some time later and freed her too. 4

Bilal Habashi was the personal muezzin of the Messenger of Allah. He never wanted to separate from him for even a second. When the Prophet passed away, Bilal could not bear staying in Madinah al-Munawwarah any longer due to the immense love that he had for the Prophet as a person and for his high ethics; he had to leave Madinah. When Hz. Abu Bakr, who was the caliph then, insisted that he stay there, Bilal said,

"Oh Abu Bakr! If you bought me for yourself, keep me with you. If you bought me for the sake of Allah, release me so that I can take part in jihad in the way of Allah."

Thereupon, Hz. Abu Bakr allowed him to leave. Bilal went to Damascus. He participated in the military expeditions that took place during the caliphate of Hz. Abu Bakr.

Footnotes:

1. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/332.
2. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, 1/340; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/232.
3. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, 1/340; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 3/328; Insanul-Uyun, 1/299.
4. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, 1/340; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 3/328; Insanul-Uyun, 1/299.
5. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 3/238; Ibn Hajar, Isaba, 1/169.

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