Hazrat Bilal al-Habashi Undergoes Torture

One of the first figures who embraced Islam during the period in which many secret conversions took place and as a result, faced cruel persecution by the polytheists was Hazrat Bilal Bin Rabah (he was also known as Bilal Habashi).

Hazrat Bilal attained the honor of becoming a Muslim by means of Abu Bakr while he was enslaved to Umayya b Khalaf, one of the most merciless enemies of Islam. (1)

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

The heart in which faith has not entered is harder than a rock and a conscience in which the fear of God cannot be found is more insensate than a boulder. It is futile to search for compassion and mercy in a person who possesses this kind of heart and conscience. A person is considered as a beast in the spiritual sense when he/she is under this condition.

Like all the other merciless enemies of Islam, Umayya bin Khalaf also possessed this kind of heart and conscience and Hazrat Bilal was enslaved to a master who was void of compassion and mercy.

In the eyes of this merciless man, it was a serious crime for Hazrat Bilal to testify to God who is One and who was his Creator and to be loyal to the Prophet of this Creator, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)!

Torture

For that reason, Hazrat Bilal was subjected to inhumane torture. Sometimes, he was starved and left thirsty for 24 hours and at other times a chain was attached to his neck and children were hired to pull him in the streets of Mecca.

Nevertheless, Umayya bin Khalaf’s efforts were all fruitless. Hazrat Bilal had testified to faith and had submitted to God. His heart became a rose garden with the love that he had for our Holy Prophet (PBUH). For that reason, even while he was groaning bitterly under all this torture and cruel persecution, he did not give up shouting his cause at the polytheists’ faces: “Ahad! Ahad! God is one!

After Umayya bin Khalaf rubbed and burnt the back of Hazrat Bilal, who did not make the slightest concession against his faith 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 portion of a boulder placed on Hazrat Bilal’s chest and would say:

“I swear that I am not going to give up torturing you until you disaffirm and reject Muhammad and his religion and worship Lat and Uzza!”

However, along with every cell in his body, Hazrat Bilal would become a monument of faith and by risking his life, he would shout:

“I do not accept Laz and Uzza. God is One! God is One!” (2)

Umayya bin Khalaf would lose his temper altogether upon hearing these words and would increase the torture until Hazrat Bilal fainted and then would walk away. Afterwards, Hazrat Bilal would regain consciousness at a much, much later time.

The only point of endurance for Hazrat Bilal in the face of all of this unbearable torture was his exalted and magnificent faith. Having faith in God, Who holds the universe under His possession, means having confidence in His endless power and a standing point that does not falter or collapse for a believer. In this brave manner, he was declaring this reality to the whole entire world: “Faith is both light and power. A person who attains true faith can challenge the universe”. 

On another day, Hazrat Abu Bakr was passing by and saw that Umayya bin Khalaf was subjecting Hazrat Bilal to continuous torture. “Are you not afraid of God? Until when are you going to continue torturing this poor man?” asked Hazrat Abu Bakr.

Umayya answered, “You are the one who has corrupted his belief. Purchase him if you want him to be saved.”

Hazrat Abu Bakr said, “Oh Umayya, I have a slave who is of your faith. He is stronger and more powerful than Bilal. Will you accept if I exchange him for Bilal?”

“I accept”, replied Umayya. Then afterwards, he laughed and said, “But I want you to give me his wife, too.”

“Alright” replied Hazrat Abu Bakr.

Once again, Umayya laughed slyly and said, “I want you  to give me both the slave’s daughter and wife.”

Hazrat Abu Bakr answered, “Alright” upon this request.

However, it seemed as if this unruly polytheist, Umayya, wanted to drive this matter to a slope. This time, amid his treacherous cackles he requested:

“In addition to them, I also want 200 dinars!”

Hazrat Abu Bakr was angered and furiously replied, “You are a shameless man. You continue to lie.”

This time, Umayya said, “No. I swear to Lat and Uzza that if you do what I have requested then I will fulfill my promise.”

Upon this, Hazrat Abu Bakr replied, “They are all yours” and saved Hazrat Bilal from that cruel man.

Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) asked Abu Bakr, who had purchased Hazrat Bilal, “Oh Abu Bakr, are you going to have any rights over him?”

Hazrat Abu Bakr then replied, “No, oh Rasullulah, I have freed him.” (3)

Some time later, Hazrat Abu Bakr, purchased and freed Hazrat Bilal’s mother, Hamama, who was also a slave. (4)

Hazrat Bilal Habashi was our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) personal muezzin. He never wanted to separate from our Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) side for even a second. When the Master of the Universe (PBUH) passed away to the afterlife, Hazrat Bilal could not bear staying in Madinah al-Munawwarah due to the immense love that he had for our Holy Prophet (PBUH) as a person and for his high moral conduct and felt obliged to move away. When Hazrat Abu Bakr, who was the caliph during this period, insisted that he stay by his side, Hazrat Bilal said, “Oh Abu Bakr, if you purchased me for yourself then keep me by your side! But if you purchased me for the sake of God then release me so that I can partake in jihad in the way of God.”

Upon this, Hazrat Abu Bakr consented to his departure. Hazrat Bilal went to Damascus and there he participated in the military campaigns on behalf of Islam during Hazrat Abu Bakr’s reign as a caliph. (5)

[1] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 3, p. 232.

[2] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 340; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 3, p. 232.

[3] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 340; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 3. p. 238; Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, V. 1, p. 299.

[4] Ibn Hisham, Sirah, V. 1, p. 340; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 3. p. 238; Halabi, Insanu’l-Uyun, V. 1, p. 299.

[5] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 3, p. 238; Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, V. 1, p. 169.

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