In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Is man passive or active?
Dear brother, this is lesson number 35 of the biography of the companions, may Allah be pleased with them all. Today we will talk about our Master Salman Al-Farisi. It was narrated in the authenticated Hadith that the Prophet PBUH said:
((Salman is one of the members of my family.))
((I am the ancestor of every pious man and woman, even though they are Abyssinian slaves))
Some of you or the majority of the audience may know the headlines of this companion's story, but I would like to start with an introduction in order to embrace all the dimensions of his story.
Some people say that man is the outcome of his environment and surrounding circumstances, he is the son of his parents, the heritage of his bloodline and the result of his intelligence. Due to such an assumption man is passive and not active, and he is affected by his conditions, environment, heritage and the sort of education he gets. In this case he looks like a ball which rolls down a hill and stops if it reaches an ascending road, only man is not like that.
Man is not passive, but rather he is active, so if man wills to overcome all the obstacles, and if he insists on solving all his problems, he can do it. In fact, lazy people, sinners and those who have shortcomings stick to the theory that man is passive, and they tend to use pretexts such as saying, "My circumstances are hard", "The environment is bad", "I have never received decent upbringing" or "I have never got any education", so man ascribes all his shortcomings to external reasons, and he is comfortable with that. However, the fact is the opposite; man is active and not passive.
We can say that water is passive, for if you spill it on a descending road it will run down, but if you spill it on a vertical road, it will stay in its place, and if it is exposed to sunlight it will evaporate. Water is controlled by physical laws, and so it is passive. On the other hand, man may oppose his own desires, may overcome all the frustrating factors in his environment and may break down every obstacle that blocks his way, and had man been without this characteristic, he would not have been considered an honorable creature.
If man is passive as some may assume, he will be of no value at all, and he will be then like any inanimate object which is controlled by physical laws and conditions, but man has the strong will to achieve what he wants and to in this regard an author said, "The decision man makes defines his destiny, and this decision is less likely to be undone, for it is taken with a strong will and faith."
Do you believe that someone can learn reading and writing, memorizing the Quran or seeking religious knowledge in his fifties? Well, this can happen if he owns the strong will and the sound insight. An Egyptian scholar did that at the age of 55; he learnt reading and writing, he memorized the Quran by heart and he sought religious knowledge. He died when he was 96 as the Grand Shaikh of Al-Azhar, and the rank of the Grand Shaikh of Al-Azhar is the most exalted religious rank in Egypt.
When man wills something, no force on earth can stop him, because he is Divinely equipped with the capacity to do so, provided that he is honest in his quest. Let alone, Allah the Almighty promises us to give us from His Bestowal as it is mentioned in the following Qudsi Hadith:
((O My servant, ask Me what you need, and I will give you from My Bounties.))
Allah the Almighty also says:
﴾To each these as well as those We bestow from the Bounties of your Lord. And the Bounties of your Lord can never be forbidden.﴿
Bear in mind that Allah does not deal with wishful thinking, but He deals with honest hardworking people. You should be honest, so that Allah will fulfill His Promise to you and will make your ambitions come true.
Let me clarify my point about man being an active creature by giving you an example from agriculture. If we bring an amount of seeds, say 100 seeds, we distributed them among 100 farmers, we watch these seeds as they grow to become plants and we notice that 90 farmers failed to grow these seeds properly, so they grew yellow leaves and were weak, while the other 10 farmers managed to grow excellent plants, what do we conclude? Is it the seeds' fault or the farmers'? We cannot accuse the seeds, but rather we accuse the farmers, since 10 of them were able to grow perfect crops after they took good care of the planted seeds. The 10 farmers proved that it is the 90 farmers' fault, because if you say that the seed is bad, we will say, "How could 10 of the farmers manage to grow perfect crops, then?" Accordingly, we say that those 90 farmers were negligent, they did not take good care of the seeds, and they were not up to the mission they had been assigned to. Much in the same line, when you see a lot of people with shortcomings, does that mean man is passive? Of course, it does not.
Salman's village, his father's status, and his relation with him:
The companion we will talk about today is our Master Salman Al-Farisi. He was the farthest person from guidance, and I will mention the reasons in the following story. I always introduce the companions using their own words and narration, for it is more satisfying. Our Master Salman is a Persian young man from Isfahaan, and his village is called Jayi. Salman said in his own words:
((I was a Persian man from the people of Isfahaan …))
Allow me here to interrupt his narration to tell you that once I have been to Iran, and the plane's altitude was 10 kilometers until we land in a city called "Mashhad". We visited a nearby village called "Taws" the home country of Imam Al-Ghazali, but how did Al-Ghazali travel from Taws to Ash-Shaam? Taws is 1000 kilometers away from Tehran, so it was a very long way, for he had to go to Tehran, then to Arabstan, then to Baghdad and finally to Ash-Shaam, and this gives you an idea about the honest seeker, for no obstacle can block his way.
((My father was the town chief (Dahkan)…))
"Dahkan" means that he was a chief in his town. Usually sons of kings, chiefs and rich people incline from the Right Path due to their wealth, prosperous life and respectful social stand, so they are distracted by their worldly life, their picnics, their games, their money and their vehicles. Thus, the farthest people from seeking the truth are the sons of rich and powerful people, because their lavish life distracts them from Allah the Almighty. Who was Salman's father? Allah made this companion a proof against all people:
((…from a town known as Jayi. My father was the town chief…))
His father was a chief in his town and a rich man with a respectful social stand. It is familiar to see a poor person seeking the Hereafter, because he owns nothing, and the people of the worldly life use this as a proof of the claim that only those who belong to the middle or lower class people seek the Hereafter as a substitute of what they lack, but this is absolutely untrue, and our Master Salman (the son of a rich powerful chief) is the proof. Another proof is the people of the cave, for they were, just like Salman, they belonged to the upper class people. Allah the Almighty says:
﴾Then seek refuge in the Cave, your Lord will open a way for you from His Mercy and will make easy for you your affair (i.e. will give you what you will need of provision, dwelling, etc.)."﴿
Where did they live? They lived in palaces, but they left those palaces and went to the cave, because they were seeking pleasing Allah the Almighty, and this refutes the claims of those who mistakenly think that only the poor and the deprived seek the Hereafter.
I have read once an article in which the author wrote, "Religious people are those who failed in their life and missed its pleasures, and the Hereafter is all that is left for them, so they seek it." That is the consideration of those who disbelieve, while in fact the believer seeks Allah the Almighty in his peak of power, richness and youth, and he draws close to Him putting the worldly pleasures under his feet. Salman said:
((…To him, I was the most beloved creature of Allah. His love for me reached the point that he kept me home out of love just like girls are kept home...))
What was the religion of Salman? What caught his attention in the Christian's church? What was his father response when Salman praised Christianity? He said:
((… I was devoted to Magianism…))
A brother of ours visited north Pakistan, and he saw people worshipping fire. He showed me how they have buildings where fire is lit day and night, and the one who supervise the fire in Magianism is a very exalted person. He said:
((… I was devoted to Magianism until I reached the point that I was trusted me to supervise the fire of Magianism…))
The one, who supervises the fire of Magianism, is very exalted religiously speaking, and as you can notice, Salman was Magian, rich and powerful, and he was loved by his folks. All these factors incline any person from the path of guidance.
(("… I was devoted to Magianism until I reached the point that I was trusted me to supervise the fire of Magianism, would not let it die down. My father owned a large area of fertile land. One day, while busy with his construction, he told me to go to his land and fulfill some chores he desired. My father owned a large area of fertile land. One day, while busy with his construction, he told me to go to his land and fulfill some chores he desired. I heard the sound of people praying inside. I did not know how people lived outside, for my father kept me confined to his house! So when I came across those people [in the church] and I heard their voices, I went inside to watch what they were doing." When I saw them, I liked their prayers and became interested in their religion. I said [to myself], "By Allah, this religion is better than that of ours…"))
By the way, the one, who turns out a true believer, most likely sought that in his/her young age, and he/she wished to be a believer, an obedient to Allah and a truth seeker, and out of this overwhelming desire and sincerity in seeking the truth, he/she reaches it one day. Man is rational, but all he needs is one moment of truth.
The notable companion Na'eem Ibn Mas'ood, may Allah be pleased with him, declared the war against the Prophet PBUH and was among the pagans in Al-Khandaq Battle (Trench Battle), but when he was alone in his tent he had a monologue, which was a turning point in his life. He said, "Woe on you Na'eem! Why are you here? What brought you from the distant lands of Najd to fight this man (Muhammad PBUH) and his followers? What is his Da'wah? He is calling people to worship Allah The Creator of the universe, and his companions are good, fair and just people, so why am I fighting them?" Man should reflect and ask himself at a certain point, "Why am I doing this? Why am I turning away from this? Why do I not respond (to the Creator)?"
((Hudhaifah narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: "Do not let yourselves be 'yes-men', saying: 'If the people are good then we will be good, and if they are wrong then we will be wrong.' Rather, make up your own minds, if the people are good then you are good, and if they are evil, then do not behave unjustly."))
Salman reflected and thought then said:
(("By Allah, I did not leave them until sunset. I did not return to my father's Land. I asked [i.e., the people of the church]. "From where did this religion originate?" "They said, 'In Ash-Shaam.' (given Salman lived in Asbahan in Persia) I returned to my father who had become worried and sent [someone] after me. Upon my arrival, he said, 'O son! Where have you been? Did not I entrust you with an assignment?" I said, "My father, I came across some people praying in their church and I liked their religion. By Allah I stayed with them until sunset." My father said, "My Son! There is no good in that religion; the religion of you and your forefathers' is better.' "))
This is the state of all heedless fathers, and those who detach their minds from reason, for they become accustomed to what they do, and they reject any reconditioning. The prudent is not addressed by the following Ayah:
﴾"We found our fathers following a certain way and religion, and we guide ourselves by their footsteps."﴿
The prudent estimates matters, reflects, meditates and uses his reason, intellect and Fitrah. Do you know who is the ignorant? The majority of you might say, "He is the one who is not educated." Well, the one who is not educated is called illiterate, but the ignorant might own all sorts of knowledge, only the wrong ones of it. Ignorance by definition is the contradiction between words and reality. Salman's father said:
((My father said, "My Son! There is no good in that religion; the religion of you and your forefathers' is better.' "No, by Allah, it is better than our religion." He threatened me, chained me by my feet and kept me confined to his home."))
He was afraid that he would leave his religion.
Salman was among those who seek the truth:
((When I had a chance, I sent a message to the Christians requesting them to inform me of the arrival of any Christian trade caravan coming from Ash-Shaam. A trade caravan arrived and they informed me, so I then told [the Christians] to let me know once the people of the caravan finish their business and set off to return to their country. I [indeed] was informed [by them] when the people of Ash-Shaam finished their business and were about to set off to their country, so I then let loose the chains from my feet and accompanied [the caravan] until we reached Ash-Shaam.))
There are three kinds of fathers: The biological father, your father in law, and your scholar who guides you to Allah. As for your biological father, his favor upon you ends when he dies, for he is the reason of your existence as a human being, but after the angel of death comes to him, his favor upon you will be over. As for your father in law, his favor upon you will come to an end when you break up with your wife. However, the favor of your scholar, who guides you to Allah, continues forever and ever, because he is the reason behind admitting you to Paradise. Concerning Salman, he was looking for such a person (a sincere scholar) who might guide him to Allah the Almighty. He said:
((Upon my arrival I asked, "Who is the best amongst the people of this religion [of yours]?" They said, "The bishop. [He is] in the church." I went to him and said, "I like this religion, and I would love to be with you and serve you in your church, in order that I may learn from you and pray with you." He said, "You may enter and stay with me," so I joined him. After some time, Salman discovered something of the bishop. He was a bad man who ordered and motivated his people to pay charity, only to keep it for himself. He did not give it to the poor. He had heaped up seven jars of gold and silver! Salman continued: I despised him because of his deeds. He [the bishop] died. The Christians gathered to bury him. I informed them that he was a bad man who ordered and motivated people to give him their charity only to keep it for himself, and that he did not give any of it to the poor. They said, "How do you know this?" I replied, "I can show you his treasure." They said, "Show us!" I showed them the place [where he kept it] and they recovered from it seven jars heaped up with gold and silver. When they saw it they said, "By Allah, we will never bury him." So they crucified him and stoned him."))
The mother of all crimes is to reiterate slogans and mottos, and then act contrary to them or to call people to something and refrain from abiding by it. What did one of the Prophets, peace be upon them, say? Allah the Almighty says narrating his words:
﴾I wish not, in contradiction to you, to do that which I forbid you. ﴿
Man's reality might be different from his appearance, and this is something our Master Salman learnt the hard way:
(("…They replaced their bishop. I never saw anyone [from them] who prayed better than him [the new bishop]; nor a man more detached from this worldly life and attached to the Hereafter, nor a person more committed to working day and night. I loved him more than anyone else I loved before. I stayed with him for sometime before his death. When his death approached I told him, "O [so and so], I stayed with you and loved you more than anything else I loved before. Now the Decree of Allah [i.e., death] has come, so who do you recommend for me [to keep to], and with what do you order me?"))
Allah the Almighty describes people of the worldly life when they regret disbelieving:
﴾Oh! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger (Muhammad PBUH).﴿
"With the messenger" indicates that you need a company; you need someone to help you with your religion, a supporting group and an Islamic society to strengthen your faith, to keep you away from evil's traps and to endear the Hereafter to you. Do not befriend the one whose condition does not encourage you to draw close to Allah and whose words do not lead you to Him.
((The bishop said "By Allah! People are in total loss; they have altered and changed [the religion] they were upon. I do not know of anyone who is still holding to the religion I am upon except a man in al-Musil, so join him [and he gave me his name]." When the man died, Salman moved to al-Musil and met the person he recommended…I said to him, "[Such & such person] at the time of his death recommended me to join you. He told me that you are holding to the same [religion] as him." I stayed with him and found him to be the best man holding on to the matter [religion]of his companion. Soon he died. When death approached him, Salman requested of him [as he did earlier with his first companion] to recommend another person who was upon the same religion. The man said, "By Allah! I do not know of anyone on the same matter [religion] as ours except a man in Naseebeen and his name is [such and such], so go and join him.))
This means that the people of the truth are few. Allah Almighty says:
﴾And most of them follow nothing but conjecture. Certainly, conjecture can be of no avail against the truth.﴿
(("Following his death, I traveled to the man of Naseebeen." Salman found the man and stayed with him for a while. The same incidents occurred. Death approached and before he died, Salman came to the man and asked for his advice as to whom and where to go. The man recommended that Salman join another man in Amuria who was also upon the same religion. Salman moved to Amuria after his companion died. He found his new reference and joined him on his religion. Salman [at that time] worked and, "earned some cows and one sheep." Death approached the man of Amuria. Salman repeated his requests, but [this time] the answer was different. The man said, "O son! I do not know of anyone who is upon the same [religion] as we are. However, a Prophet will emerge in your lifetime, and this Prophet is on the same religion as Abraham." The man described this Prophet, saying, "He will be sent with the same religion as Abraham. He will come from the land of Arabia and will migrate to a place located in between two lands filled with black stones [as if burned by fire]. There are palm trees spread in the midst of these two lands. He can be recognized by certain signs. He [will accept] and eat [from] the [food] which has been given as a gift, but will not eat from charity. The seal of Prophethood will be between his shoulders. If you can move to that land, then do so."))
All his trips turned into truth quest.
People of the worldly life look for places to spend quality time in, like an exquisite resort, hotel, swimming pool, court or café, whereas the people of the Hereafter look for scholars, knowledgeable men, mentors and guiders to Allah, and they spend their time moving from one person to another in order to learn their religion from them before they lose the opportunity of meeting one of those scholars if the latter dies.
What are the circumstances which brought Salman to Yathrib?
((The man died, and Salman stayed in Amuria. One day, "Some merchants from the tribe of Kalb passed by me," Salman said, "I told them, 'Take me to Arabia and I will give you my cows and the only sheep I have.'" They said, "Yes." Salman gave them what he offered, and they took him with them. When they reached Waadi al-Quraa [close to Medinah], they sold him as a slave to a Jewish man…"))
Man might be put in a very delicate situation, like being bossed by a cold-hearted person, or by being appointed in a very deprived area where life is very tough and hard. However, only Allah knows what is best for man, and maybe this deprived area is an opportunity for this person to do soul searching which cannot be done in the noisy city, or may be that cold-hearted boss is the motivation for that worker to resort to Allah. Hence, man does not really know what is best for him, but Allah the Almighty does. Allah the Almighty says:
﴾Allah knows but you do not know.﴿
Our Master Salman Al-Farisi is a very notable companion, yet he was sold like slaves to a cold-hearted Jew, and though Salman suffered his master's harsh treatment, it is the results that count:
((Salman stayed with the Jew, and he saw the Palm trees [his previous companion had described]. "I hoped that this would be the same place described by my companion. One day, a man who was a first cousin to Salman's master from the Jewish tribe of Bani Quraidha in Medinah came visiting. He bought Salman from his Jewish master.))
What did Salman seek? He sought the truth.
Dear brother, the truth deserves to be sought, and it deserves that man strives and moves from one place to another in its quest, because when he reaches the truth, he will reach everything else, and when he gets the truth, he gets everything else, simply because the truth draws you close to Allah the Almighty, and in this case you will lose nothing and miss nothing, because the real loss is when you lose your soul, whereas the big gain is when you purify your soul and gets it to know its Lord. Salman was a truth seeker, and he was after pleasing Allah, and in return Allah the Almighty granted him all that due to His Wisdom.
((He took me with him to Medina. By Allah! When I saw it, I knew it was the place my companion described.))
Speaking of which, the palm trees in Madinah now are the same trees of the Prophetic era, because the palm tree is a perennial plant, and it might live more than 6000 years. Thus, the dates the Prophet PBUH ate were taken from the same trees that still exist in Madinah till now. Thus, whenever you eat dates in Madinah, be sure that you are eating from the same palm trees from which the Prophet PBUH ate. The last time I performed Hajj, I was deeply hurt, for these palm trees were neglected and most of them died due to long buildings, markets, moles and roads. These structures destroyed the palm trees gardens which should have been kept as they were, but unfortunately, all you can see is but extended fields of dead palm trees due to negligence.
((Salman stayed with the Jew, and he saw the Palm trees [his previous companion had described]. "I hoped that this would be the same place described by my companion."))
Invoke Allah the Almighty to guide you and submit to Him, and Allah will make you meet a certain person, or may transfer you to a specific city for that purpose. A man may be resided in Aleppo, but suddenly he is drafted to serve the army in Ash-Shaam. He tries his best and resorts to all sorts of people to send him back to Aleppo, but none of the attempts succeeds, and while he is in Ash-Shaam, he meets the people of the truth, he joins them and he is honored with guidance (to Allah the Almighty). Thus, what he considers as an upsetting move, is in his favor.
A man said to me, "While I was in the United States, I entered one of the Islamic centers there, and I found a man, who seemed to be very respectful in the American society, cleaning the Masjid eagerly, so when I asked about him, I was told that he is a very respectful American man, and once he was assigned to Gulf area in the army, and he shared there a room with a true Muslim believer who guided him to Allah, and then this man embraced Islam because of him. When he went back to the United States after becoming a Muslim, he devoted himself to the Masjid. Therefore, that mission he was assigned to was the best thing that happened to him, and it was within Allah's Knowledge. Allah the Almighty says:
﴾Had Allah known of any good in them, He would indeed have made them listen﴿
Allah the Almighty might bring you together with someone, or He may make you go to a place where you meet a true believer and upon chatting with one another you like what he says and your guidance will be on his hands without having any knowledge of that. Thus, ask Allah for guidance and wait. Listen to what I am saying: invoke Allah and beseech Him, and as long as you are honest in seeking the truth, Allah will bring you together with the right people who convey it to you. This is our Master Salman whom Allah decreed that he would be owned by a Jew who sold him to another Jew until they became 7 Jews who owned him. The last one sold him to his cousin who happened to be from Bani Quraidha in Medinah. Do you notice how Allah manages the affairs according to His Will?
What did Salman overheard of the conversation between his master and his cousin?
Salman went on saying:
((Then Allah sent His Messenger [i.e., Muhammad PBUH]. He stayed in Mecca as long as he did. I did not hear anything about him because I was very busy with the work of slavery, and then he migrated to Medina. [One day,] I was on a palm-tree on top of one of its date-clusters doing some work for my master. A first cousin of his came and stood in front of him [his master was sitting] and said, "Woe to Bani Qeelah [people of the tribe Qeelah], they are gathered in Qibaa" around a man who came today from Mecca claiming to be a Prophet!" I trembled so fiercely when I heard him that I feared that I would fall on my master. I descended and said, 'What are you saying!? What are you saying!?' My master became angry and punched me hard saying, "What business do you have in this [matter]? Go and mind your business. I said, "Nothing! I just wanted to be sure of what he was saying."))
When you read the Prophetic biography, your heart will be broken when you know that the Prophet PBUH, the Master of mankind, the dearest to Al-Haqq, the best of Prophets and Messengers, peace be upon them, and the infallible, was treated harshly by his people when he went to At-Ta'ef to call them to Allah. Some narrations described how they accused him of lying, how they mocked him and how they hit him with rocks until he bled. One might ask, "Why did Allah let them hurt His Prophet PBUH?" The answer is: Had he not been a human being like any other human being, he would not have been the Master of mankind.
There is another side of wisdom, for Allah the Almighty let that happened, so that the believers who are tortured due to believing in Allah will find consolation in the way the Prophet PBUH was treated. Every believer should take the Prophet PBUH as a role model, and man might fall in hardship because of his religious stand, and he may face lots of troubles or he may be tortured, beaten, besieged, boycotted and deprived of provision, but facing all that is Jihad in the Cause of Allah, and our example is the Prophet PBUH who faced all sorts of troubles, so that we may endure any hardship.
The incident after which Salman Al-Farisi embraced Islam:
((On that evening, I went to see the Messenger of Allah while he was in Qibaa. I took something with me which I had saved. I went in and said, "I was told that you are a righteous man and that your company [who] are strangers [here] are in need. I want to offer you something I saved as charity. I found that you deserve it more than anyone else." I offered it to him; he said to his companions, "Eat," but he himself kept his hand away [i.e., did not eat]. I said to myself, "This is one [i.e., one of the signs of his Prophethood]."))
It is narrated that the Revelation once was delayed, so the Prophet PBUH said (in order to teach us):
"O 'Aishah, the reason might be a date that I have eaten without knowing that it was from the ones for charity." Look how pious the Prophet PBUH was.
((Following this encounter with the Prophet PBUH Salman left to prepare for another test! This time he brought a gift to the Prophet PBUH in Medina. "I saw that you do not eat from that given as charity, so here is a gift with which I wish to honor you." The Prophet PBUH ate from it and ordered his companions to do the same, which they did. I said to myself, "Now there are two [i.e., two of the signs of Prophethood]." On the third encounter, Salman came to Baqee-ul-Gharqad [a grave yard in Medina] where the Prophet PBUH was attending the funeral of one of his companions. Salman said: "I greeted him [with the greeting of Islam: 'Peace be upon you'], and then moved towards his back attempting to see the seal [of Prophethood] which was described to me by my companion. When he saw me [doing so], he knew that I was trying to confirm something described to me. He took the garment off his back and I looked at the seal. I recognized it. I fell down upon it, kissing it and crying. The Messenger of Allah PBUH, told me to move around [i.e., to talk to him]. I told him my story as I did with you, Ibn 'Abbaas [remember that Salman is telling his story to Ibn 'Abbaas]. He [the Prophet PBUH] liked it so much he wanted me to tell my story to his companions.))
What is the moral of Salman's story?
Dear brother, the story of our Master Salman Al-Farisi has lots of events and stations, but this was how he sought the truth and strived in its cause. I am not saying to you go to Isfahaan, go to Turkey, go to Naseebeen, or go to Amuria to seek the truth, but the least you can do is to stay in your country, seek religious knowledge and offer good deeds. You do not lack the resources to help you do that, for the Quran and Sunnah are in your hands, good deeds are available and the religious sessions are in Masajid, so reflect on how much Salman strived, and how much troubles he faced for the sake of seeking the truth!
This is the story of our Master Salman Al-Farisi in his quest for the truth. All the circumstances he was surrounded with seemed at the time to prevent him from guidance, but he overcame all the obstacles, and he reached the Prophet PBUH. This story should be a beacon for us in our lives, so seek the truth and if you reach it, you will reach everything else, and you will gain happiness forever, but if you miss it, you will reach nothing and will gain nothing either, and all you will get is but loss and destruction, I seek refuge with Allah from that.