`ABD AR-RAHMAN IBN `AWF
What Makes You Cry, Abu Muhammad?
One day while Al-Madiinah was calm, heavy dust was accumulating near it till it covered the horizon. The wind pushed these quantities of yellow dust coming from the soft sand of the desert so that they came near the gatesof Al-Madiinah, blowing strongly over the streets.
People thought it was a raging storm, but soon they heard beyond the dust the noise of a great caravan. After a while, 700 heavily laden camels were crowding the streets. People were calling each other to see the festive scene and rejoicing at the provisions the caravan might be carrying.
The Mother of the Faithful Aa'ishah, (May Allah be pleased with her) heard about the coming caravan and asked, "What's going on in Al-Madiinah?" She was answered, "It's a caravan of `Abd Ar Rahman Ibn `Awf coming from Syria carrying his goods." The Mother of the Faithful said, "But can one caravan make all this tremor?" "Yes, Mother of the Faithful. There are 700 camels."
The Mother of the Faithful nodded and looked away as if searching for the memory of a scene she had witnessed or a conversation she had heard, then she said, "I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying,: "I saw `Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn `Awf crawling into Paradise."
`Abd Ar-Rahman lbn `Awf crawling into Paradise! Why does he not jump or hurry into it with the first ones to embrace Islam among the Companions of the Messenger? When some of his friends informed him of what `Aa'ishah said, he remembered that he heard the Prophet (PBUH) say this hadith more than oncein various forms.
Before unloading the camels, he hastened to `Aa'isha's house and told her, "I call you to witness that this caravan with all its loads is in the cause of Allah Almighty." And the loads of 700 camels were distributed among the people of Al-Madiinah and the places around it in a great charity festival.
This incident alone represents the complete image of the life of `Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn `Awf, Companion of the Messenger of Allah. He was very much a successful merchant and rich man. He was the wise believer who refused that his portion of this life would sweep away his portion of religion, or that his fortune would make him lag behind the caravan of belief or the reward of Paradise; He (May Allah be pleased with him) would generously sacrifice his fortune and feel satisfied.
When and how did this great man embrace Islam? He did so very early inthe first hours of the mission. He had done so even before the Messengerof Allah (PBUH) entered Daar Al-Arqam's house and took it as a seat to meethis faithful Companions. He was one of the eight who were the first to embraceIslam. When Abu Bakr preached Islam to him together with `Uthmaan lbn Affaan,Az Zubair lbn Al-'Awaam, Talhah Ibn `Ubaid Allah, and Sa'd lbn Abi Waqqaaithey did not grudge or doubt the matter. On the contrary, they hastened withAs-Siddiiq to the Messenger of Allah, acknowledging him as Allah's Messengerand carrying his standard. From the time he embraced Islam till he died at75, he was a splendid model of a great believer, which made the Prophet (PBUH)count him among the ten to whom he gave glad tidings of inheriting Paradise.This also made `Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) count him among thesix advisers whom he assigned for succession after himself. He said, "TheMessenger of Allah (PBUH) died while pleased with them."
After `Abd Ar-Rahman embraced Islam, he faced his own portion of the persecution and challenges of the Quraish. When the Prophet (PBUH) ordered his Companions to emigrate to Abyssinia, Ibn `Awf emigrated but returned to Makkah. Then he emigrated to Abyssinia in the second migration, and from there to Al-Madiinah, where he witnessed Badr, Uhud, and all the battles.
He was very lucky in his trade to an extent that aroused his amazement.He said, "If I lift up a stone, I find silver and gold under it." Trade for`Abd Ar-Rahman lbn `Awf (May Allah be pleased with him) was not greed ormonopoly. It was not even a desire to gather money or riches. It was workand duty whose success made him enjoy them and urged him to exert more effort.He used to have an enthusiastic nature so that he found comfort in any honorable work, wherever it was. If he was not praying in the mosque or fighting abattle, he was working in his trade that was thriving so much that his caravanswere arriving at Al-Madiinah from Egypt and Syria, laden with everythingthat the Arabian Peninsula might need in garments and food.
Evidence of his ebullient nature is his course ever since the dawn of the Muslims' Hijrah to Al- Madiinah. In those days the Messenger (PBUH) associated every two of his Companions as brothers, a Muhaajir (Emigrant) from Makkah with an Ansaar (Helper) from Al-Madiinah. This association took place inan astounding way. Each Ansaar in Al-Madiinah shared with his brother Muhaajir everything that he owned, even his bed. If he was married to two women,he would divorce one for his brother to marry!
The noble Messenger (PBUH) associated `Abd Ar-Rahman lbn `Awf and Sa'dIbn Ar-Rabii'a as brothers one day. Let us listen to the noble CompanionAnas Ibn Maalik (May Allah be pleased with him) narrating to us what happened:
Sa'd said to Abd Ar-Rahman, "O brother, I'm the richest in Al Madiinah. Take half of my fortune.
And I have two wives. Choose the one you like better and I'll divorce her for you to marry." So `Abd Ar- Rahman Ibn Awf said, "Allah bless your family and money. Show me the way to the market." He went to the market, bought, sold, and gained profit.
That is how he led his life in Al-Madiinah, whether during the Messenger's lifetime (PBUH) or after his death, doing his duty towards religion or the worlds work and succeeding in his trade, so much so that, as he said, ifhe lifted up a stone, he would find gold and silver under it!
What made his trade blessed and successful was his pursuing the halaal,and his strictly moving away from the haraam, or even the doubtful. Whatmade it even more blessed and successful was that it was not for `Abd Ar-Rahman alone. Allah had a bigger share in it, by which he used to strengthen the ties of his family and brothers and prepare the armies of Islam. If commerce and fortune are usually evaluated on the basis of stocks on hand and profits, Abd Ar Rahman Ibn `Awf`s fortune was evaluated on the basis of what wasexpended from it in the cause of Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds.
One day he heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying to him, "O lbn `Awf, you are a rich man, and you are going to crawl into Paradise. So lend to Allahin order to set your feet free." Ever since he heard this advice from theMessenger of Allah, he started lending to Allah a goodly loan. Then Allah increased it manifold to His credit in repaying.
One day, he sold some land for 40,000 dinars and distributed it all tothe people of Zuhrah tribe, the Mothers of the Faithful, and the poor Muslims. Next day, he provided the Islamic armies with 500 horses, on the third day with 1,500 camels.
When he was about to die, he bequeathed 5,000 dinars in the cause of Allah and 400 dinars for each one who was still living of those who had witnessed ! Even `Uthmaan Ibn `Affaan (May Allah be pleased with him) took his share of the bequeathal in spite of his riches and said, "Abd Ar-Rahman`s money is halaal and pure. Its food gives health and blessing".
lbn `Awf was master of his money, not its slave. The proof of this wasthat he did not have trouble gathering it. He used to gather halaal moneywith much ease. Besides, he did not enjoy it alone, but together with hisfamily, relatives, brethren, and all his community.
He was so generous and hospitable that he used to say, `The people of Al-Madiinah are partners of Ibn `Awf in his money. He lends to a third of them, pays thedebts of a third, and strengthens his ties of kinship and gives away a third."
These riches would not have made him comfortable or happy if they did not make him capable of adhering to his religion and supporting his brethren. Nevertheless, he was always apprehensive of these riches.
One day when he was fasting, he was served iftaar (the meal at sunset which breaks the fast). He had hardly seen it when he lost his appetite and cried saying, "when Mus'ab lbn `Umair was martyred- and he was better than me - he was wrapped in his garment so that if it covered his head, his feet showed, and if it covered his feet, his head showed. When Hamzah was martyred - and he was better than me - they found nothing to wrap him with except his garment. Now the world has been expanded for us, and we have been given much I'm afraid our blessings are hastened."
One day some of his friends gathered around food in his house. Just asit was put in front of them, he wept. They asked him, `What makes you weep, O Abu Muhammad?" He answered, "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) died when he and his family had not even satisfied their appetites with barley bread.I can't see that our latter days have shown something better."
In addition, his large fortune never brought pride on him, so much so that they said of him, "If a stranger sees him sitting among his servants, he wouldn'tbe able to distinguish him from the others." If only this stranger wouldknow a part of lbn `Awf's fortitude and good deeds - that, for example, hewas wounded on the Day of Uhud with twenty wounds, one of which left a permanentlameness in one leg, and that some of his teeth fell out on the same day,leaving a clear defect in his articulation - then the stranger would knowthat this tall man who had a bright face but had lost his front teeth asa result of his injury at Uhud was Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn `Awf (May Allah be pleasedwith him).
Mankind's nature makes it a habit that riches court power; that is, the rich always like to have influence that protects their fortune, multiplies it, and satisfies the lust of pride and selfishness usually caused by riches. If we had seen Abd Ar-Rahman lbn `Awf with his large riches, however, wewould have seen a marvelous man conquering human nature in this field andsurpassing it preeminently. This showed itself when Umar lbn Al-Khattaab(May Allah be pleased with him) was dying. He chose six Companions of theMessenger of Allah (PBUH) for them to select from among themselves the newsuccessor. The fingers were pointing at lbn `Awf. Some Companions even conversedwith him about his right to win succession, but he said, "By Allah, it isbetter for me to put a knife in my throat and penetrate it to the other side."
Thus, the six chosen Companions had hardly held a meeting to select one of them to succeed `Umar Al-Faaruuq (The One Who Distinguishes Truth from Falsehood), when Ibn `Awf informed his five other brothers that he was renouncing the right given to him by `Umar when he made him one of the six from whom the successor would be selected, and that one of them would be selected from the other five. Soon, this ascetic attitude made him the judge of the noble five. They agreed that he would select the successor among them. lmam `Aliy said," I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) describing you as honest among the people of heaven and earth." Finally, lbn `Awf selected `Uthmaan Ibn `Affaansuccessor, and all the rest agreed with him.
This is a real rich man in Islam. Did you see what Islam did to him, putting him above riches with all its temptations, and how it molded him in the best way? In A.H. 32 his Soul ascended to its Creator.
`Aa'ishah, the Mother of the Faithful, wanted then to bestow on him a special honor, proposing as he was dying to bury him in her room near the Messenger (PBUH), Abu Bakr, and `Umar. But as a Muslim he was so refined that he was too modest to put himself in this rank. Besides, he had made a previous promise. One day, he and `Uthmaan lbn Madh`uuun 1 had promised each other that whoever died after the other would be buried near his friend.
While his soul was preparing for its new journey, his eyes were dripping tears and his tongue was stammering, "I'm afraid of being held up by myfriends because of what I had of abundant money. But soon, Allah's calmnessoverwhelmed him, and tender happiness covered his peaceful face. His earslistened closely, as if there were a sweet voice coming near them. Perhapshe was listening then to the truth of the Messenger's words (PBUH) to him,"`Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn `Awf will enter Paradise." Maybe he was listening alsoto Allah's promise in His book: "Those who spend their wealth in Cause ofAllah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosityor with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear,nor shall they grieve" (2: 262).