In this chapter, we present vignettes of several of our Prophet’s early followers. The early followers have the distinction of believing in the truth from our Prophet, before embracing Islam became popular in the Arabian Peninsula. Additionally, many of them suffered severe torture from the blasphemers, simply because they believed our Prophet loved God and worshipped their Creator correctly.
After receiving Revelation and becoming the Messenger of God, our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, immediately started to call people to Islam. Wisely, he called people, following the guidance of the Revelations he was receiving. The first person to believe in Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was his wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid. Then ^Aliyy ibn Abi Talib believed, and later his two older brothers, Ja^far and ^Aqil. Some said that ^Aliyy was ten (10) years old at the time he embraced Islam.
Zayd ibn Harithah embraced Islam and was the first freed slave to accept the Prophet’s call. The first free man to accept the Prophet’s call was Abu Bakr, who was ^Abdullah ibn Abi Quhafah. He was a very close friend to the Prophet. The Messenger of God said, ”Everyone l called to Islam had hesitation (at first) except Abu Bakr.”
Due to the invitation of Abu Bakr, ^Uthman ibn ^Affan, az-Zubayr ibnul-^Awwam, ^Abdur-Rahman ibn ^Awf, Sa^d ibn Abi Waqqas, and Talhah ibn ^Ubaydillah, all went to the Messenger of God, and embraced Islam. Then others embraced Islam. Some were: Abu ^Ubaydah ibnul-Jarrah, Sa^id ibn Zayd, Abu Salamah, ^Uthman ibn Madh^un, ^Abdullah ibn Mas^ud, ^Ammar ibn Yasir, Suhayb ibn Sinan, Abu Dharr, and Bilal.
^Abdullah ibn Mas^ud was a young shepherd when he first met the Prophet ﷺ. This was at an early time during the Prophethood. He told of his meeting our Prophet and his embracing Islam.
^Abdullah ibn Mas^ud said: ”I used to tend some sheep for the family of ^Uqbah ibn Abi Mu^ayt, a terrible blasphemer. The Messenger of God ﷺ came with Abu Bakr. He asked, ”Do you have any milk?’
^Abdullah ibn Mas^ud said that he did not and that these were not his sheep.
So, the Prophet asked for a sheep that did not give milk.
^Abdullah said: ”I brought to him a sheep that did not give milk. The Prophet passed his hand on the place where the udders were and an udder full of milk appeared. (The animal was milked and) the milk was put in a rock container. The Prophet ﷺ gave it to Abu Bakr to drink, then to me then he drank. Then he told the udder to shrink, and it shrank as it was before. When I saw that I said, ‘O Messenger of God teach me’. He passed his hand on my head and said, ‘May God bless you. You will be a knowledgeable person.’ One day when we were with the Prophet on Mount Hira‘, the chapter of al-Mursalat was revealed to the Prophet ﷺ took it fresh from the mouth of the Prophet ﷺ. The Prophet taught me seventy (70) surahs (chapters), man to man, without any third person with us.”
^Abdullah ibn Mas^ud was a great Companion. He narrated many sayings of the Prophet ﷺ, and was highly respected among the Companions for his knowledge of the Qur’an. He lived about twenty (20) years after the death of the Prophet ﷺ and did not tire from spreading Islam, even in faraway areas.
A slave from Abyssinia, named Bilal, believed in our Prophet ﷺ. His owner hated Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. He tortured Bilal, in order to break his belief in God. Bilal was taken out at noon, bare-chested, and was forced to lie on the burning pebbles. Then a large stone was put on his chest, so he could not move. Bilal never said the blasphemy that they wanted to hear. Instead, he said, ”Ahadun Ahad” (Allah is the only God; Allah is the only God).
Our Master Abu Bakr, full of compassion, bought Bilal from his owner for a high price then he freed him. Henceforth, Bilal accompanied our Prophet ﷺ, immigrated to Madinah, and had the honour of calling the believers to prayer (calling out adhan), along with his many other good deeds.
A married couple and their son were early converts to Islam. Their names were Yasir and Sumayyah, and their son was called ^Ammar. The three of them were slaves of a Makkan blasphemer. Upon seeing long, merciless torture inflicted upon them by their owner, our Prophet ﷺ told them, ”Be patient. You will meet again in Paradise.”
The blasphemers threatened to kill Sumayyah if she did not leave Islam, but she refused to renounce her faith. They killed her. She was the first female martyr in our nation. When Yasir received the same threat, he also refused to blaspheme and was killed. After seeing that the threat was real, ^Ammar said blasphemous words, when he was likewise threatened with death if he did not utter the blasphemy. All the while ^Ammar had rejected these words in his heart.
Our Prophet ﷺ, reassured ^Ammar that he had remained a believer, for he did not accept the blasphemy. He had only uttered it due to the real threat of death.
^Ammar was a noble Companion, who went on to live a life full of good deeds, knowing that he would be reunited in the Hereafter with his brave parents.
Another early follower of our Prophet was a man known as ”Abu Dharr”. His name was Jundub ibn Junadah, from the tribe of Ghifar. Our Prophet ﷺ said about Abu Dharr, ”There is no man under the sky or on Earth who is more truthful than Abu Dharr”.
When the news of the appearance of the Prophet ﷺ in Makkah spread and reached Abu Dharr, he said to his brother, ”Ride to Makkah from our valley, and find out about this man who claims to receive news from the heaven and tell me.’‘
His brother went to Makkah, listened, then he went back to Abu Dharr and said, ”l saw him enjoining righteous behaviour and uttering words that are not poetry.”
When Abu Dharr heard these words, he said, ”You did not get to the depth that l want. I want to know more”. Abu Dharr set out to Makkah carrying an old canteen. He went to the holy Mosque. He did not want to ask others about our Prophet ﷺ, in case they were the enemy. He stayed there until night came, and he lay down in that area.
Our Master ^Aliyy, then still a young person of about twelve (12) years, passed by and saw Abu Dharr. He knew Abu Dharr was a stranger. ^Aliyy followed him wherever he went. They did not talk until morning. Abu Dharr took his canteen and went back to the Masjid and slept in the same area. Then ^Aliyy said, ”Isn’t it time for the man to know where to sleep?” Then ^Aliyy took Abu Dharr to his house as his guest. The third day, Abu Dharr went to the Masjid and ^Aliyy took him home at night.
^Aliyy asked after the third day, ”What brings you to this city?”
Abu Dharr replied, ”If you promise you will fulfil my request without trouble, I will tell you.” ^Aliyy gave his word.
Then, Abu Dharr said that his goal was to meet Muhammad ﷺ.
^Aliyy said, ”Yes, it is true. He is the Messenger of God”.
In the morning, Abu Dharr was instructed by young ^Aliyy to follow him. If ^Aliyy sensed danger, he would make a sign of pouring water, and Abu Dharr should not approach him. ^Aliyy said, that if he went into a house, Abu Dharr should follow him into the house. They proceeded as planned and entered a house. Abu Dharr’s eyes fell upon the best of creation. He listened, and immediately embraced Islam.
Our Prophet instructed Abu Dharr to go to his tribe and tell them about Islam. He was told to wait there until the Prophet ﷺ gave him further instructions. Abu Dharr said, ”I swear by the One Who controls my soul, l will shout out my acceptance of Islam among the people of Makkah! I will not just tell my own people”.
Hence, Abu Dharr went to the Holy Mosque and shouted the Shahadah loudly.
The blasphemers were upset and beat Abu Dharr, until he lay on the ground. Al-^abbas, one of the Prophet’s paternal uncles, came and checked on Abu Dharr. Then he said to his people, ”Woe to you! Don’t you know that he is from the tribe of Ghifar? When you travel to trade in ash-Sham, you have to pass through his tribe’s valley. If you hurt one of them, you will not be able to pass through safely!”.
(Before Islam, the Ghifar tribe was known to cause trouble for travellers.)
Although al-^Abbas saved Abu Dharr, by God’s Will, the next day Abu Dharr made the same announcement and the blasphemers gave him a similar beating. Again, by God’s Will, al-^Abbas saved Abu Dharr by making the same appeal.
Then, Abu Dharr followed the Prophet’s instruction, and his tribe became Muslim even before they met our blessed Messenger. Abu Dharr went on to live an outstanding life full of amazing events. He dutifully narrated many precious words from our Prophet ﷺ. He stood firm with the truth, as our Prophet ﷺ said, including after our Prophet’s death. He lived until the time during the Caliphate of our Master ^Uthman. At the end of his life, he lived away from the people, for he saw the love of this life creeping into some hearts, and when he bade with purity, many did not bear it.