Bilal ibn Rabah
Bilal ibn Rabah: Life from slavery to the first Mu’azzin of Islam.
Bilal ibn Rabah was born slave, but the light of faith enlightened his inward and he reached a high rank and exalted status. As everything appears to be murky in dark but the luminosity of light brightens everything. Rather it illuminates the darkness and adds a unique glow to it, which makes it even prettier. Be it a white or dark object in dark. This is the charm of just the ordinary rays of light. But the light of faith and guidance holds its own charisma and glow. It not only illuminates the appearance but also the inward of a person. The fortune of such person shines bright like a star. It was by virtue of an-Nur of faith that the inward of negro slave from Habsha (Ethiopia) was enlightened with the light of faith. Allah Almighty bestowed Bilal ibn Rabah with the light of faith and brightened his fate.
The patronymic of Bilal ibn Rabah is Abdul Kareem and Abu Abdullah. His father’s name was Rabah and mother’s name was Hamamah. His ancestors were initially resided in Ethiopia. Later they migrated to Arab and eventually settled in Makkah. Bilal ibn Rabah was a born slave and he spent twenty-eight years of his life in slavery.
Appearance of Bilal ibn Rabah
His complexion was dark brown with a tall stature, sparkling eyes, and lean physique. Bilal ibn Rabah wore a beard which was thin with sunken cheeks and his shanks were not fleshy. Allah bestowed him with a gift of deep, melodious, and resonant voice.
Before holy Prophet, racism prevailed in Arab. But after Prophethood, Prophet Mohammad alleviated racism and gave the lesson of equality. In fact, he declared that the standard of superiority is not based on the skin color or wealth. Rather, it is based upon piety. Thus, Prophet gave same privilege and rank to Bilal ibn Rabah as to his other Companions like Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman, Ali, etc. (Seerat Syedna Hazrat Bilal- Mohammad Haseeb al-Qadiri)
How Bilal ibn Rabah Converted to Islam?
Bilal had met Prophet Mohammad several times before he announced his prophethood. In fact, the virtues and morals of Prophet impressed him a lot. Therefore, on hearing the call towards Oneness of Allah from Prophet Mohammad Bilal ibn Rabah instantly renounced idol worship. Thus, becoming one of the earliest converts to Islam.
Who was the owner of Bilal ibn Rabah?
Umayyah ibn Khalaf was the master of Bilal. He was one of the leading members of Quraish and one of the worst enemies of Islam. Bilal ibn Rabah converted to Islam when Muslims were not enormously powerful. Hence, the infidels tortured the converts of Islam especially the slaves.
What inspired Bilal ibn Rabah to reveal his Conversion to Islam?
When Prophet Mohammad raised the slogan of Oneness of Allah, Amman ibn Yasir was the slave of Abu Sufyan. When he found out that Amman ibn Yasir has converted to Islam, he started tormenting him. One day Abu Sufyan took him to the gathering where Abu Jahl. Abu Lahab and Umayyah ibn Khalaf were present. At their instigation, Abu Sufyan whipped and beat Amman ibn Yasir and yelled at him to tell the teachings of Mohammad.
Amman ibn Yasir replied, Prophet Mohammad teaches us about the Oneness of Allah and human equality. On hearing this Abu Sufyan was outraged and ordered Bilal ibn Rabah to whip him and tell him the difference between a slave and the leaders of Quraish. Well! since Allah had lit his inward with the luminosity of faith, he couldn’t proceed. In fact, diligence of Ammar’s faith, both inspired and shocked him. Hence, he dropped the whip, and this is how it was disclosed on people that Bilal ibn Rabah has converted to Islam.
This infuriated Umayyah ibn Khalaf, so he shouted, if you are proud on the fact that all humans are equal then remember your god is the one whom you are slave of. I have no room for new god in my slave house. After that Umayyah ibn Khalaf began extreme torment on Bilal ibn Rabah and prisoned him.
Persecution of Bilal ibn Rabah
Every morning Umayyah dragged Bilal from the prison onto the scorching sand. He ordered infidels to whip and beat him while spread upon the Arabian sands under the desert sun and his limbs bound to stakes. When he still refused to recant, Umayyah ordered infidels to place a hot boulder on the chest of Bilal ibn Rabah. However, he remained firm in his faith. People beating and whipping him would get tired and take turns, but this solid man did not give up in the way of Allah. Umayyah would ask him several times who is your god? But the answer of Bilal ibn Rabah remained the same, “God of Prophet Mohammad is my God.” (Seerat Syedna Hazrat Bilal- Mohammad Haseeb al-Qadiri)
Umayyah continued to relentlessly torture him in an attempt to make him abandon Islam. He tied a rope around his neck and allowed the street urchins to drag him around Makkah. However, Bilal ibn Rabah refused to renounce Islam and instead kept on repeating Ahad! Ahad! (Allah is One! Allah is One!). Thereupon, Umayyah would take him out on the sun baked ground of Makkah, put large stones on his bare chest. Then at night order to whip him again after lashing him with chains. But this lover of Prophet Mohammad remained steadfast and refused to recant while this cycle of cruelty continued. (Tazkra Syedna Hazrat Bilal aur Hazrat Abdullah ibn Ume Maktoom- Molana Mohammad Ashiq llahi Buland Shehri)
Who Freed Bilal Ibn Rabah?
One day Abu Bakr came across the heart touching plight of Bilal and the torture upon him. He could not stand the brutality of infidels upon him. So, he often thought, what could he do to get him out of this agony. One day he asked Umayyah, for how long will you oppress this poor slave? On this Umayyah replied if you feel so remorseful for him then why don’t you purchase him? Abu Bakr agreed immediately and manumitted him after purchasing. Hence, the trial and pain of Bilal came to an end.
Appearance of Bilal ibn Rabah in the Court of Prophet Mohammad
The next day Abu Bakr took Bilal to the court of holy Prophet, who at the time was at the house of Ali ibn Abi Talib. The eyes of Prophet Mohammad filled with tears when he saw Bilal ibn Rabah. Ali ibn Abi Talib who was very young at the time, asked Prophet, why do you cry O prophet of Allah! On this Prophet Mohammad replied, Ali this (Bilal ibn Rabah) is the man with whom Allah is pleased. After that holy Prophet hugged Bilal and said:
“O Bilal! It will be remembered as long as this world exists that you were the first one to bear pain and torment in the way of Islam.”
What a blessing! Undoubtedly, he spent the rest of his life serving Prophet. Indeed, Allah blessed him with the best slavery. (Seerat Syedna Hazrat Bilal- Mohammad Haseeb al-Qadiri)
Education of Bilal ibn Rabah
Abu Bakr brought Bilal to his house after manumitting him. During this stay, Abu Bakr taught him to read and write.
Abu Bakr sharpened a pen made of milk hedge plant every day and handed to Bilal ibn Rabah. Then he practiced writing under the supervision of Abu Bakr. One day when Abu Bakr saw hands of Bilal ibn Rabah covered in ink he kissed them and said, Prophet Mohammad says, “The ink of student is precious than the blood of the martyr.”
Status of Bilal ibn Rabah in the Court of Allah Almighty
Abdullah bin Masood narrates that once a group of leaders of Quraish went to the court of Prophet Mohammad. At the time Khabab, Sohaib Rumi, Ammar and Bilal ibn Rabah were present with Prophet. The leaders of Quraish said: O Mohammad! You like these people? Are these the ones upon whom Allah bestowed His blessings rather than us? How can we follow you if we have to accompany them! If you distance them from yourself then we may consider following you. Then Allah Almighty sent a verse stating the rank of Bilal ibn Rabah and other Companions of Prophet:
Meaning: (O Mohammad!) and do not turn away these (run-down and broken hearted) people (from your company and close circle) who call upon their Lord persistently, seeking only His pleasure morning and evening. There is nothing (obligatory) either on you from their account (of deeds and rewards) or upon them from your account. Even then if you turn them away (from your munificence and benevolence), you would be of those who deprive others of their rights (which does not go with your glory). [6:52]
Bilal ibn Rabah in the light of Hadiths
Bilal cherished unbounded love for Prophet Mohammad. He was the first Mu’azzin (caller to prayer) of Islam and the most trusted and loyal companion of the Prophet. One can understand his rank in the eye of holy Prophet from the following hadiths:
Once Holy Prophet said: “Bilal will be the first one to enter paradise.” The companions asked: O prophet of Allah! Even before you? On this Prophet replied: Yes! Even before me. The rein of the camel, I will be riding on to enter paradise will be held by Bilal ibn Rabah. This is how Bilal will enter in paradise before me.
What an honor! This is the grand honor and rank of Bilal ibn Rabah- a devotee and lover of Prophet.
Jabir ibn Abdullah relates Prophet Mohammad said:
“When I entered paradise (on the night of accession) I heard the sound of the footsteps entering paradise before mine. So I asked Gabriel who is this? He replied, it is Bilal ibn Rabah. (Muslim Sharif) [Syedna Bilal- Professor Mohammad Tufail Chaudhary]
When Prophet Mohammad in Madina constructed Al-Nabwi mosque and needed Mu’azzin, he selected Bilal ibn Rabah. Hence, he had the honor to recite the first Adhan of Islam. After he finished reciting the Adhan, Prophet told him: “Bilal you have completed my mosque.”
Al-Suffa is first school of Islam, shelter for the Companions and hostel for the seekers of Islam. The holy Prophet himself supervised the system of al-Suffa. Bilal ibn Rabah resided in al-Suffa and was actively serving the Prophet.
Sentinel of Prophet Mohammad
Bilal ibn Rabah was in constant attendance on Prophet day and night. As he derived delight from his sight, love and kindness. In fact, he performed the duties of sentinel for him upon all circumstances, during journeys, stay in camp, in war and peace. Prophet Mohammad also never treated him like a slave, rather whoever came to meet Prophet had to first meet Bilal ibn Rabah. He expressed deep devotion for his master and beloved. His devotion was to an extent that he could not bear even the slightest discomfort of Prophet and was always ready to respond to his master’s call. Bilal ibn Rabah stayed with Prophet Mohammad wherever he went. When Prophet would go to his home, he would sit outside his house and wait for him.
Ameer Hamza and Ali ibn Abi Talib tried a lot to teach the skill of sword fighting to Bilal. However, he did not like sword fight from the beginning, so they were not successful. Prophet Mohammad knew Bilal ibn Rabah won’t be able to use sword. Thus, in battle of Badr, he ordered him to manage the army matters.
Similarly, in the battle of Uhad, Bilal ibn Rabah was in the group of the Companions responsible to guard holy Prophet.
In every expedition, be it battle of Badr or Tabuk, Bilal stayed with the Prophet.
Accession of Bilal ibn Rabah
On the occasion of conquest of Makkah, Prophet Mohammad ordered Bilal to recite Adhan atop Kaaba. When he got on top of Kaaba, he asked, O messenger of Allah! When I am on the ground, I call for prayer facing Kaaba, now that I am on the roof of Kaaba which direction should I face?
Prophet Mohammad replied, “O Bilal! Recite Adhan facing me.”
This act was honor and accession of Bilal ibn Rabah as he had endured great agony in the way of Allah.
After the holy Prophet passed away, Bilal ibn Rabah used to sit outside the house of Aisha ibn Abu Bakr and bawled all the time. He stopped reciting Adhan. When people asked him to recite Adhan, at the time of salah after the Prophet’s demise, he replied, “I don’t have the courage to recite Adhan and say the name of Prophet Mohammad but not see him in front of me.”
He stayed with the Prophet for twenty-two years. His bond with him was of love, affection, and brotherhood. This is why he stopped reciting Adhan after demise of Holy Prophet. Bilal ibn Rabah said, he can’t contain his emotions when in Adhan he testifies the prophethood of Mohammad but does not see him in front of him. He went in dismay after demise of Prophet and his eyes were always seeking his beloved. But when he could not see Prophet anywhere, he would start sobbing.
Bilal ibn Rabah Left Madina After Demise of Prophet Mohammad
In the book, ‘Haqeeqat e Mohammadi’ (the Mohammadan Reality), my spiritual guide Sultan ul Ashiqeen writes:
After the demise of Prophet Mohammad, Bilal ibn Rabah decided to leave Madina but when Abu Bakr came to know about it, he requested him to cancel his decision. He further requested him to continue the Adhan (call for prayer), similarly as he used to do during the Holy Prophet’s time. However, Bilal ibn Rabah replied, “I cannot live without Prophet Mohammad in Madina and neither do I have the courage to see the sad and vacant places which he would honor with his presence.” So saying that, “Now it is difficult for me to live in Madina”, he left for Aleppo in Syria.
Arrival of Prophet Mohammad in Dream
After about six months, he saw a dream in which Prophet asked, “O Bilal! You have left me; don’t you miss me?” on this Bilal ibn Rabah got up from the bed and mounted his camel saying, “Labaik ya Syedi ya Rasool Allah (I am present O’ the Messenger of Allah)” and left for Madina.
Return of Bilal ibn Rabah to Madina after the demise of Prophet Mohammad
While entering Madina, first of all he started to find the Prophet in the Masjid-e-Al-Nabwi. Then, he looked into the closets, then again in the mosque. When Bilal ibn Rabah could not find him anywhere, he started crying. He put his head on the sacred grave and uttered, “O Messenger of Allah! You invited me for meeting, the slave is here now from Halb (Aleppo).” Thus, he said so and fell unconscious near the grave.
After a long time, Bilal ibn Rabah regained consciousness, meanwhile it was known everywhere in Madina that he had come back. All including children, elders, men and women gathered around him and requested to recite Adhan only once that he used to call for the beloved of Allah. He begged pardon from them explaining the reason, “I used to call Adhan for Prophet and be honored to see his sacred face while uttering the words, اشھد ان محمداً رسول اللّٰہ
I used to feast my eyes on his very Divine vision, now how can I call Adhan when I cannot see him?” Some of them opined to take help of the Husnain Karemain (Imam Hussain and Hassan). As because on their order, he could agree to call Adhan.
The last Adhan of Bilal ibn Rabah
Someone brought Husnain Karemain. Imam Hussain held the hand of Bilal ibn Rabah and said: “Bilal! We want to listen the Adhan you used to call for our grandfather (the Prophet) in the Al-Nabwi mosque. Undoubtedly, he could not refuse him. Hence, he started Adhan standing at the same place where he used to call Adhan in the life of Prophet Mohammad. It is in a tradition, when Bilal ibn Rabah offered the initial words of Adhan i.e. Allahu Akbar. The people of Madina began crying and sobbing. As, he proceeded in Adhan, their emotions went out of control and when he said, اشھد ان محمداً رسول اللّٰہ all the people even the veiled women came out of their houses. All were imagining that Prophet Mohammad has come back (it was a strange scene of intense cries and sobs). After the death of the Prophet the people of Madina had never experienced such a touching state. (Haqeeqat e Mohammadiya- English translation: The Mohammadan Reality)
He died in Damascus. When his wife realized that death was approaching him, she became sorrowful. Thus, she cried and said, “What a painful affliction!” However, Bilal ibn Rabah objected his wife’s opinion. He stated, “No what a happy occasion! Tomorrow I will meet my beloved Prophet Mohammad.
When Umar got the news of the demise of Bilal ibn Rabah, he said:
“Bilal was our leader and today our leader has passed away.” (Seerat Syedna Bilal- Mohammad Haseeb al-Qadiri)
He is buried in Bab al-Saghir cemetery, Damascus.
The life of Bilal ibn Rabah is a role model for seekers of Truth and Righteousness. As by enduring all sorts of atrocities and humiliations in the path of love for Allah and His Prophet, he set an example and a beacon light till the end of this world. Despite all the torment he faced, yet so deep was the imprint of the righteous life and love of holy Prophet in his inward that no degree of savage oppression and violence blot it out.
Such love for the Holy Prophet is possible in the present era as well. One just needs to take oath of allegiance on the hands of perfect spiritual guide who can alleviate the filth of material world from the inward and fill it will the Divine light.
Tehreek Dawat e Faqr invites all to take oath of allegiance on the hands of Sultan-ul-Ashiqeen. As he is the 31st perfect spiritual guide of the Sarwari Qadri order. He purifies the inward of the seekers with his spiritual attention and grants them access to the holy Mohammadan Assembly (Majlis e Mohammadi).
This article was published in the July 2020 issue of Mahnama Sultan-ul-Faqr Lahore (monthly Urdu magazine of Tehreek Dawat-e-Faqr). It is titled as سیّدنا حضرت بلال which is originally penned by Noreen Abdul Ghafoor Sarwari Qadri and translated in English with some changes by Fatima Noor Sarwari Qadri. Please note this article has been translated in English using the American English vocabulary. If you wish to read it in Urdu, then please visit the link: