The people who attended the school of Suffa, which the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) established, had different social status and different nationalities. One of them was Safina, who was originally an Iranian slave.
He was put up for sale as a slave in Arabia. Umm Salama, one of the wives of the Prophet (pbuh), bought him. Her aim was to free him and make him serve the Messenger of Allah. She released him. Then, Safina became a believer and served the Messenger of Allah by regarding serving him as the holiest service.
After that, Safina was no longer an Iranian slave but a servant of the Messenger of Allah. He was ready to sacrifice everything he had for the Messenger of Allah. On the one hand, he served the Messenger of Allah; on the other hand, he was one of the sincere students of the School of Suffa. He was liked by the Companions very much. The “characteristic of ithar“, which means “preferring one’s brothers over oneself” was fully manifest on him.
His real name was not Safina; the reason why he accepted that name was his altruism. There are several narrations about his real name. According to some, his real name is Umayr but according to others it is Muflih or Ahmad. The incident in which he was given the name “Safina”, which means ship, is very interesting.
When the Companions went on expeditions with the Messenger of Allah, some Companions complained about the plenitude of their loads. Hz. Safina, who displayed a great example of altruism, carried their loads too. As he himself stated, his load would be more than the load of a camel. When the Messenger of Allah saw him like that, he said, “Only a ship can carry so much load; you are a ship.” After this compliment of the Messenger of Allah, his name became “Safina”. When he was asked what his name was, he would not want to say his previous name. He would say, “The Messenger of Allah named me Safina. I do not want to say my previous name!”
An important incident that happened about Hz. Safina was his encounter with a lion on the way to Yemen. He was going to Yemen upon the order of the Messenger of Allah to see the governor of Yemen, Muadh b. Jabal. All siyar books mentioning Safina include this incident. The incident was actually a miracle of the Messenger of Allah.
The incident is narrated by Badiuzzaman Said Nursi in his book called “Mektûbât” as an example showing how animals accepted his prophethood as follows:
“Safina, the servant of the Noble Prophet (Upon whom be blessings and peace), was commanded by him to go to the Governor of Yemen, Mu‘adh b. Jabal. He set off and on the way encountered a lion. Safina said to it: “I am the servant of God’s Messenger!” Upon which the lion made a sound as if saying something, and left without molesting him. According to another narration, Safina lost his way when returning, and met with a lion. Not only did the lion not molest him, it showed him the way.”
When Safina narrated this incident, he said, “I realized that the lion was seeing me off.” Thus, he states that the lion was a guide for him and that it was an obedient being.”
Thus, it was understood that the prophethood of the Messenger of Allah was known in the kingdom of animals and that he showed the lion this duty as a miracle through Hz. Safina. The miracle of the Messenger of Allah is clearly seen in this incident; in addition, the loyalty of Safina to the Messenger of Allah and the greatness of his belief in him are observed. It is really exemplary that when he encountered a wild animal, he reminded it of the Messenger of Allah and that he told the lion he was an envoy of the Messenger of Allah.
There is very little information about the life of Safina, who served the Messenger of Allah for 20 years, in the resources. However, his serving him for so many years shows that he was one of the closest Companions of the Messenger of Allah.
May Allah be pleased with Him!
Usdul-Ghaba, 2: 324.
al-Isaba, 2: 58.
Mektûbât, ps. 140-141; Shifaush-Sharif, 1: 603-604.
Hilya, 1: 368.
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