Ka’b bin Malik (r.a.)
Life is full of tests, from cradle to grave. Especially believers face the hardest tests. Therefore, there is no guarantee that a believer who spent most of his life in a straightforward way serving Islam will not be deceived by the tricks of his soul one day. It will be a big mistake to think that a person completed the test of life successfully by looking at his previous life and service. For, the test does not end unless a person dies. Even if a believer spends most of his life serving Islam, he should not think that his responsibility ended until he dies with the same consciousness. Even the Companions, who are the best people after prophets, are not exceptions. However, repentance and asking for forgiveness after a mistake will eliminate such a danger. An example of this issue is seen in the life of Ka’b bin Malik, one of the Companions.
Hz. Ka’b was from Ansar. He took part in the Second Pledge of Aqaba. He took part in all battles with the Prophet except the Battle of Badr. The Prophet established brotherhood between him and Talha bin Ubaydullah. Ka’b fought heroically in the Battle of Uhud and received 11 wounds.
Hz. Ka’b was well-off. The Muslims would take part in the Expedition of Tabuk. The Prophet (pbuh), who had not told the Companions the place of expedition before, summoned the Muslims this time and told them that there would be an expedition to Tabuk. It was very hot and the fruits had ripened. Everybody was making preparations but Ka’b was busy with his own affairs thinking, “I can get ready in a wink.” When the Prophet (pbuh) set off, Ka’b left his house to make preparations but he returned without being able to do anything. He narrates the incident as follows:
“I thought of setting of and catching up with them. I wish I had done so. However, it was not possible. It made me depressed to see the people that were munafiqs and weak people who were regarded as excused by Allah around after the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) set off for this expedition.
The Prophet did not mention Ka’b’s name until he reached Tabuk. He asked people what Ka’b did. One of the Muslims said, “His looking at his garment and his height with pride prevented him from jihad. Mu’adh bin Jabal intervened at once and said that they knew nothing about him but good. Upon this reply, the Prophet kept silent.
When the expedition ended and the Muslims headed for Madinah, Ka’b became very worried and panicked. He was thinking of what to say to the Messenger of Allah when he returned. A lot of false excuses came to his mind but he did not want to lie to the Messenger of Allah. As a matter of fact, when he heard that the Messenger of Allah arrived in Madinah, he decided to enter into the presence of the Prophet and tell him the truth. He greeted the Messenger of Allah when he arrived. The Messenger of Allah asked him why he did not take part in the expedition with an expression as if he was cross with him. Ka’b gave the following answer:
“O Messenger of Allah! I swear by Allah that if I were sitting before any person from among the people of the world other than you, I would have avoided his anger with an excuse. For, I have been bestowed with the power of speaking fluently and eloquently. By Allah, I know well that if today I tell you a lie to seek your favor, Allah will surely make you angry with me in the near future. If I tell you the truth, you will get angry with me but I will tell the truth and expect a good result from Allah. I swear by Allah that there was no excuse for me not to join the expedition. I had never been stronger or wealthier than I was when I remained behind you”
However, about 80 people offered false excuses in the presence of the Prophet. He accepted their excuses, asked for Allah’s Forgiveness for them and left the secrets of their hearts to Allah to judge. However, Ka’b told the truth in the presence of Allah and His Messenger
After this answer, the Messenger of Allah told him to wait until Allah’s decree was revealed. Two more Companions were told the same thing along with him. When the news about those three people spread, the Companions started to treat them as if they were strangers. The other two Companions preferred to remain at home while Ka’b continued performing prayers in congregation. However, nobody talked to him. He tried to sit in places near the Messenger of Allah and look at his face. However, the Prophet turned his face away from him whenever he looked at him. Being tired of this state, Ka’b went to Abu Qatada, who was his paternal uncle’s son. He said, “O Abu Qatada! I am asking for Allah: Do you know how much I love Allah and His Messenger?” He did not answer. He repeated his question a few times. Abu Qatada gave a short answer: “Allah and His Messenger know it better.” Thereupon, Ka’b left in tears and sadly.
Days and weeks passed. Nobody talked to him. Ka’b did not know how it would end. Meanwhile, something that made Ka’b’s test harder occurred: He received a letter from the Coptic leader in Ghassan during this distressing period of waiting that lasted for 50 days. The following was written in the letter:
“I have been informed that your friend has treated you harshly. Allah will not let you live at a place where you feel inferior, and your right is lost. So, join us, and we will help you.”
On the one hand, a prophet who has not even looked at him for a week and his friends who did not bother to talk to him; on the other hand, an invitation offering him honor, entertainment and dignity. The enemy wanted to benefit from this weak moment of Ka’b. Who could say no to such an attractive offer coming at a hard time? However, Ka’b preferred the Messenger of Allah without any hesitation. He tore the letter of the Coptic leader and threw it away.
Meanwhile, another order that made things more difficult for Ka’b came. The Prophet sent him an envoy to tell him that he should keep away from his wife. Ka’b was not asked to divorce her but to live away from her.
The trouble deteriorated instead of ending. The same order was given to the other two Companions too. However, this order did not harm the loyalty of Ka’b and his friends to the Messenger of Allah. They begged Allah and asked for forgiveness heartily due to their regret for the mistake they made. However, they never thought of leaving the congregation of the believers and abandoning the Messenger of Allah. Their belief did not allow such a deed. Ka’b narrates what happened after that as follows:
“50 nights after the people were prohibited from talking to us, I performed the morning prayer in the morning. I was sitting in a tired and bothered way. It seemed as if I had been squeezed between the earth and the sky and I had nowhere to go. Just then, I heard a voice: ‘O Kab bin Malik! Be happy! Glad tidings!’ It was time of salvation. I prostrated at once.
The Prophet announced people after the morning prayer that the repentance of those three Companions had been accepted. Thereupon, the Companions ran to give the good news to their brothers. They sent bringers of glad tidings to Ka’b and the other two Companions.
When Ka’b heard the news, he ran to the Messenger of Allah. Meanwhile, the Companions that he met on the way congratulated him happily. They said, “May Allah’s pardoning be blessed for you!” When I went to the Prophet and greeted him, his face was bright with joy; he said
“Be happy with the best day that you have got ever since your mother delivered you!”
Then, Ka’b said that he was prevented from joining the expedition due to his wealth and that he wanted to give away all of his wealth as sadaqah to complete his repentance. Thereupon, verse 103 of the chapter of at-Tawba was sent down. The Prophet was ordered to take zakah from their wealth and it was stated that Ka’b and his two friends would be purified and that their wealth would increase. Thus, the Prophet, whose face was bright with joy like the moon, advised Ka’b to keep some of his wealth. Thereupon, Ka’b said he would keep his land in Khaybar. Then, he added:
“Allah saved me because I told the truth. My complete repentance is to tell the truth as long as I live.”
As it is seen, one of the greatest Companions faced the risk of offending Allah and His Messenger because of not taking part in an expedition in which all of the believers took part. As a matter of fact, the Messenger of Allah did not look at their faces for almost two months and the believers did not talk to them during that period. A small neglect brought Ka’b to the brink of a terrible ending like losing all of the thawabs and respect he attained in the previous battles and expeditions. But for his sincerity and honesty with the feeling of regret in the depths of his heart and his repentance, his previous service would probably have been useless and he might have been led to destruction.
Hz. Ka’b, who was one of the poets of the Prophet (pbuh), died in 50 H, during the caliphate of Muawiya when he was 77 years old. 
May Allah be pleased with him!
Sirah, 4: 175-181; Musnad, 3: 456-459; Usdul-Ghaba, 4: 247-248; Mustadrak, 3: 441.
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