SA'D IBN ABI WAQQAAS
The Lion's Claws!
A continuous stream of incoming news worried the Commander of the Faithful `Umar lbn Alkhattab. This news was about the deceitful attacks launched by the Persian forces against the Muslims at the Battle of Al-Jisr which cost the Muslims 4,000 lives in a single day and, moreover, about the Iraqis' renouncement of allegiance and their violation of agreed-upon convenants. Therefore, he decided to personally lead the Muslim troops in a decisive fightagainst Persia. In fact, he set out accompanied by some of his companions, leaving `Aliy lbn Abi Taalib (May Allah be pleased with him) behind to act as his deputy over Al-Madiinah.
However, he had hardly left Al-Madiinah when some of his companions found it wiser to ask him to return and appoint someone else for this task.
This view was adopted by `Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn `Awf, who saw it unwise to risk the caliph's life in such a way while Islam was going through its most decisive days.
`Umar ordered the Muslims to gather for public consultation. Congregational prayer was then announced and `Aliy Ibn Abi Taalib was sent for. He went with some Madinites to where `Umar and his companions were waiting. At last, they accepted `Abd Ar-Rahman lbn `Awfs opinion. The assembly decided that `Umar was to go back to Al-Madiinah and another Muslim leader be chosen to combat the Persians.
`Umar agreed to their decision, then asked his companions, "Whom do you see fit to be sent to Iraq?" They thought silently for a while. Then `Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn `Awf shouted, "I've found him!" `Umar said, "Who is it?" `Abd Ar-Rahman said, "The Lion's Claws: Sa'd Ibn Maalik Az-Zuhariy."
The Muslims supported his choice. `Umar then sent for Sa'd Ibn MaalikAz-Zuhariy, also known as Sa'd Ibn Abi Waqqaas and appointed him governorof Iraq and Commander of the Army.
Who is that "Lion's Claws"? It is he who, whenever he turned to the Prophet while sitting among his Companions, was greeted cheerfully by the Prophet saying, "He's my maternal uncle."
Can anyone tell me who his uncle was? He was Sa'd Ibn Abi Waqqaas Hisgrandfather was Uhaib Ibn Manaaf, the paternal uncle of Aaminah, the motherof the Prophet (PBUH). He accepted Islam when he was 17 years old. He embracedIslam very early. When he talked about himself, he said, "I witnessed aday in which I was third in Islam," which means that he was the third toembrace Islam.
When the Prophet (PBUH) spoke about the One God and about the new religion whose teachings he was to spread all around, and before using Daar Al-Arqam as a refuge for himself and the Companions in those early days, Sa'd Ibn Abi Waqqaas had already sworn the oath of allegiance to the Prophet (PBUH).
Historical and biographical sources inform us that the conversion of Abu Bakr was the reason for Sa'd's embracing Islam. He may have been one ofthose who announced their belief in Islam after Abu Bakr convinced them.This group included Uthmaan lbn `Afaan, Az-Zubair Ibn Al-'Awaam, Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn `Awf and Allah Ibn Ubaid Allah. However, that does not omit thepossibility that his conversion had taken place secretly and he had believedeven earlier.
Sa'd lbn Abi Waqqaas had many noble qualities which he could be proudof. However, he never arrogantly mentioned any of these merits, except fortwo great privileges. First, he was the first to throw a spear in the causeof Allah and the first to be struck by one. Second, he was the only onefor whom the Prophet (PBUH) hoped his parents might be his ransom. That happened when the Prophet (PBUH) said to him on the day of Uhud, `Throw, Sa'd. May my father and mother be your ransom." Yes, indeed, he always mentioned proudly these two noble blessings. Thanking Allah, he always said, "By Allah, I am the first Arab to throw a spear in the cause of Allah."
Aliy lbn Abi Taalib said, "I have never heard the Prophet (PBUH) hoping that his parents may be made someone's ranson except Sa'd. On the day of UhudI heard the Prophet (PBUH) say, "Throw Sa'd. May my father and mother beyour ransom."
Sa'd was considered to be one of the most courageous Arab and Muslim horsemen. He possessed two weapons, his lance and his prayer. Whenever he piercedan enemy with his lance he hurt him; whenever he invoked Allah He answered.He and the Companions always saw that this was due to the Prophet's prayerin favor of him. One day, when the Prophet saw him doing something whichmade him glad and delighted, he made the following plea: "O Allah, make hisspear hit unerringly and answer his prayer."
It was in this way that he became famous among his companions for hisprayer, which was like a sharp sword. He knew that about himself; therefore,he never cursed a person. Sa'd would just trust Allah to do with him asHe liked.
An example of that is what `Aamir Ibn Sa'd once narrated: Sa'd once saw a man insulting `Aliy, Talhah and Az-Zubair. He forbade him, but he didn't stop. Sa'd then said, " Then I will invoke Allah against you." The man said, "You're threatening me as if you were a Prophet."
Sa'd went away, performed his ablution and prayed two rak'ahs. Then he lifted his hands up and said, "O Allah, if You know that that man has insulted people who have already been granted by You that which is the best and his cursing of them has annoyed You, then make an example out of him." Only a short while had passed, when a stray camel went out of a house. Nothing could stay it till it entered a crowd as if searching for something. Then it attacked the man, and he fell between its legs. It continued to kick the man down tillhe died.
If this phenomenon was to prove something, then it proved primarily the purity of his soul, the honesty of his faith, and the depth of his sincerity. He always sought to support his piety by halaal food; with great insistence he always refused to take doubtful money.
Sa'd lived until he became one of the wealthiest Muslims. When he died, heleft a great fortune behind. Although the abundance of money and its legitimacyare rarely to be found together, they certainly were combined in the handsof Sa'd. Thus Allah granted him a great amount of halaal money.
He (may Allah be pleased with him) was a great figure in the act of charity,as much as he was a great figure in the act of righteously choosing the sourcesof his money. His ability to collect purely halaal money was equal to, ifnot second to, his ability to donate it in the cause of Allah.
He became ill during the Farewell Pilgrimage, when he was accompanying theProphet (PBUH), who visited him. Sa`d asked him (PBUH), "O Messenger of Allah,I own a lot of money and there is nobody to inherit from me except one daughter.May I contribute two thirds of my money as alms?" The Prophet (PBUH) said,"No." Then he said, "Then half of it?" The Prophet (PBUH) said, "No." Thenhe said, "Then a third?" The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Yes, and the third istoo much. To leave your heirs wealthy is better than to leave them havingto be dependent on someone. If you spend any money in the cause of Allahyou'll be rewarded for it, even the bite you put in your wife's mouth."
Sa'd did not remain the father of one daughter because he was later on blessed with other children.
Sa'd used to cry a lot out of piety. Whenever he listened to the Prophet(PBUH) preaching or advising, his tears rolled down abundantly, so that histears nearly filled his lap.
He was blessed with success and accomplishment. Once the Prophet (PBUH) was sitting with the Companions when his eyes gazed on the horizon while listeningto what was being revealed secretly and whisperingly. Then he looked at hisCompanions' faces and said, "A man who belongs to Paradise will soon appear."The Companions turned in all directions trying to learn, who this successfulperson may be. After a while, Sa'd arrived.
Later on, Abd Allah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-'Aas asked him persistently to tell him the worship or deed which made him eligible for such a reward. Sa'd told him, "Nothing more than what we all do or worship, except that I don't carry any spite or hatred towards any Muslim."
This is the "Lion's Claws" as `Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn Awf had described him. This is the man whom `Umar chose for the great day of the Battle of Al- Qaadisiyah.
The Commander of the Faithful had insight into all his glittering merits when he chose him for the most difficult task confronting Islam and the Muslims:
- His prayers were heard and answered; if he asked Allah forvictory, he would be granted it.
- His food was pure, his tongue was pure, his conscience was pure.
- He was a man who belonged to Paradise, as the Messenger (PBUH) prophesied.
- He was the horseman on the Day of Badr, the horseman on the Day of Uhud and in every battle he experienced with the Prophet (PBUH).
- And another thing, which `Umar would not forget nor underestimate the value and importance among the characteristics which should be present in anyone facing major tasks, was the strength and firmness of his faith.
-`Umar did not forget what happened between Sa'd and his mother when he converted to Islam and followed the Prophet (PBUH). At that time, all attempts to hinder and obstruct him from the cause of Allah had failed. His mother used a device which none doubted would conquer Sa'd's soul and drive himback to his people's idols. She announced her abstention from food and drinkuntil Sa'd returned to his ancestors' and kin's religion. She actually carriedon her hunger strike with death defying determination and had almost approached death.
Despite all that, Sa'd did not care. He would not sell his faith and religion for anything, even if it were his mother's life. Hoping that his heart would yield upon seeing her, some relatives took Sa'd to his mother, who was almost dying.
Sa'd went to her. The scene was so impressive, even mountain rocks would yield and melt. However, his belief in Allah and His Messenger proved to be stronger than rocks and iron. He came with his face nearer and shouted so that she could hear him. "You know, by Allah, mother, if you had 100 souls coming out one after the other I wouldn't abandon my faith in return for anything. Then eat if you like or don't eat!"
His mother changed her mind. A divine revelation greeted Sa`d's position and supported it. "But if they (both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not..." (31 : 15).
Is he not, indeed, the Lion in his claws? Therefore the Commander of the Faithful should hand him the standard of Al Qaadisiyah and throw him against the Persians, who recruited more than 100,000 trained warriors equippedwith the most dangerous weapons the earth had ever witnessed, led on thatday by the most intelligent and cunning warlords.
Indeed, all those horrible legions, will Sa'd meet with his mere 30,000 warriors, equipped only with spears, nothing more. However, their hearts werefilled with the will of the new faith with all it represents: belief, vigor,and a rare, dazzling, longing aspiration for death and martyrdom.
The two armies met in combat. No, they did not meet yet. Sa'd is still there waiting for the advice and instructions of the Commander of the Faithful. Finally `Umar's message arrives, ordering him to move towards Al-Qaadisiyah, the gate to Persia. `Umar's words represented light and guidance: O Sa'd lbn Wahiib, do not be deluded if it is said, You are the Prophet's uncle andhis Companion. Know that there is no relationship between Allah and anyone except through obedience to Him. All people, the noble ones as well as the lowly, all are equal in front of Allah. Allah is their God and they are His servants. The relationship between them is one of rivalry for preference by means of their well being, whereas they can only get what is in Allah's hands by means of obedience to Him. Remember the Prophet's (PBUH) positions which he stuck to from the time he was sent to us until he left our world.
Hold to them; it is an order.
Then he said to him, Send me information about all your circumstances. Where have you reached and how? What is your enemy's position in respect toyours? Let your messages make me as if I am actually seeing you.
Sa'd wrote to the Commander of the Faithful describing everything. Healmost showed him each soldier's position and state. Sa'd reached Al-Qaadissiyah. The Persians gathered their army as they never had before and appointed as their leader one of the most famous and dangerous commanders, Rustum.
Sa'd writes to Umar the Commander of the Faithful, who replies: Don'tbe upset by what you hear from them, nor what they show you. Seek Allah'shelp and put your trust in Him. Send them people of insight, good judgment,and patience to call him to follow Allah's path, and write me every day.
Sa'd writes again to the Commander of the Faithful saying, Rustum camped with his troops at Saabaat. He has brought his horses and elephants and marched towards us. Umar replies to calm him.
Sa'd is a smart, brave horseman, the Prophet's uncle, one of the first converts, and hero of different wars and raids. No sword or lance of his everfailed to reach its target. He stands at the head of his army in one of thegreatest historical battles as if he were an ordinary soldier, not deludedby power nor acting arrogantly because of leadership. His self-esteem couldtempt him to rely completely on his own capacities; but despite that he alwaysturns to the Commander of the Faithful in Al-Madiinah. Although miles andmiles separate them, he sends him a message each day, exchanging viewpoints,advice, and opinions while the great battle is still to come.
That was because Sa'd knew that `Umar in Al-Madiinah never decided alone, but consulted the Muslims and the Prophet's Companions around him. Despite the war circumstances, Sa'd did not want to deprive himself or his army of the blessings and benefits of public consultation, especially if `Umar, a man with great inspiration, was among the consultants.
Sa'd carried out `Umar's will and sent Rustum, the Persian leader, a number of his companions to call him to follow Islam and Allah's path.
The conversation between them and the Persian leader lasted long. Finally they ended their talk by telling him, "Allah has chosen us to turn whom He chooses of His creatures from paganism to monotheism, from the narrowness of life to its freedom, from ruler's injustice to Islam's fairness.
Whoever accepts our offer, we will leave him alone and will refrain from hurting him. Whoever fights us, we will fight him until we fulfil Allan's promise."
Then Rustum asked, "What is Allah's promise which He made toyou?"
The Companion answered, "Paradise for our martyrs and victory for the living ones."
The delegation returned to Sa'd, leader of the Muslims, to tell him that it was war. Sa'd's eyes were hereby filled with tears. He had wished somuch that the war would be delayed for some time. On that day his illnessbecame more severe, and he had to suffer its heavy burden. The abscessesspread all over his body, to the extent that he could not sit, let aloneride his horse to take part in an extremely fierce and violent battle.
If the war had just been waged before his illness or had it been delayed till he was cured and healthy again, then he would have proved himself brave. But now. . . No, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) had taught them never to say "If" because "If' means weakness. A strong believer is neither helpless nor weak. Thereupon The Lion's Claws stood up to preach to his soldiers. Hebegan his speech citing the following glorious verse: "And We have written in the Zaboor (given to David) after the Torahe (given to Moses): "My righteous servants shall inherit the earth" (21: 105).
Having finished his speech Sa'd led his troops in the Dhuhr Prayer, then turned towards his soldiers and proclaimed four times, "Allahu akbar (Allah is the Greatest)! Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!"
The echo was to be heard all over the universe. Then he stretched outhis arm like an unerring arrow pointing to the enemy and shouted to hissoldiers, "Let's start this battle accompanied by Allah's blessings."
With pains hard to bear, he ascended to the balcony of his residence,which he used as a dwelling and a headquarters.
On the balcony he sat on a pillow and leaned upon his chest. His doorwas left open, which meant that by the least Persian attack against hisresidence he would be captured, alive or dead, but he was far from beingafraid or terrified.
His abscesses were bleeding and hurting him severely, but he had something else to think about. Sitting on his balcony, he was shouting, calling, and commanding. First to those in one flank to step forward towards the right, and then to those in another flank to fill out the empty spot on the left. . .
Mughiirah, look forward! Jurair follow them! Nu'maan, hit! Ash`ath attack and you also, Qa'qaa'. Forward, forward, Prophet's Companions!
His determined and hopeful sound turned each individual soldier into an army of its own. The Persian soldiers fell like flies and with them fell the worship of fire and paganism. After seeing the death of their commander and their best soldiers, the defeated, scattered remnants rapidly escaped.
The Muslim army pursued them until they reached Nahawind then Al-Madaa'in. There they fought to carry with them at the end the emperor's throne and crown as war booty.
At the Battle of Al-Madaa'in, Sa'd could stand the test and prove himself brave. The Battle of Al- Madaa'in took place two years after the Battle of Al-Qaadissiyah, a period during which a lot of continuous armed dashes took place between the Muslims and the Persians. Finally, the scattered remnants of the Persian army gathered at Al-Madaa'in itself, ready for a decisiveand final scene.
Sa'd realized that time was on his enemy's side; therefore, he decided to deprive them of this advantage, but how could he do that? The Tigris River in its flood season stood in the middle between him and Al-Madaa'in.
Thereby, an event took place by which Sa'd succeeded to prove that heindeed deserved `Abd Ar- Rahman lbn `Awfs description of him as the Lion'sClaws. Sa'd's faith and determination stood glittering in the face of danger,mocking and making fun of the impossible with admirable bravery.
Sa`d ordered his army to cross the Tigris River. He ordered them to search for a safe, secure ford in the river which would enable their crossing.Finally they found a place, but the fording was not free of extreme risks.
Before the army started to cross, the leader Sa'd wisely realized thenecessity to safeguard their arrival spot on the opposite bank, where theenemy was camping. Therefore he prepared two detachments, the first of whichwas called The Detachment of Terror. Its leader was `Aasim Ibn `Amr.
The second was called The Detachment of the Dumb, led by Al Qa'qaa' lbn `Amr.
The soldiers of these two detachments had to encounter many horrible situations to clear a safe place on the opposite bank for the army which would subsequently cross. They fulfilled their task with amazing skill. Sa'd's success on that day will always be a cause for the perplexity of historians.
Sa'd himself was amazed by his own success. It also amazed his companion and escort Salmaan Al- Faarisiy, who shook his head in astonishment and said, " Islam is indeed new. By Allah, seas have been subdued by them and theland has been subdued by them. In the name of the One in Whose hands Salmaan's soul lies, they will leave it in a group, as they entered it in a group."
Indeed, that is exactly what happened. As they penetrated the Tigris River in a group, so they left it in a group without losing one single soldier, nor annoying a single horse.
It happened that a wooden cup fell from one of the warriors, who feltsorry to be the only one to lose something. He called his companions tohelp to get it out and a high wave pushed it to where someone could pickit up!
Some historical sources described the magnificence of such a scene asthe fording of the river: Sa'd ordered the Muslims to say, "Allah is enoughfor us and He is the best to trust in." Then he penetrated the Tigris withhis horse, and the people penetrated behind him. No one stayed behind. Theywalked as if they were walking on a land surface until they filled the wholearea between the two banks. The water surface could not seen due to thenumerous troops of cavalry and infantry. People went on talking while walkingin the water as if they were on land, as a result of their feeling of security and tranquility, their trust in Allah's judgment and His victory, His promise and His support.
When Umar appointed him to be Iraq's governor, he set out to build Kufa and established the foundations of Islam in wide broad lands.
One day the inhabitants of Kufa complained to the Commander of the Faithful about Sa'd. They lost control over their flimsy, restless temper and made a funny claim saying, "Sa'd can't pray well." Sa`d laughed loudly and said, "By Allah, I prayed with them exactly as the Prophet's prayer was. I prolonged the first two rak`ahs and shortened the last two."
When `Umar ordered him back to Al-Madiinah, he did not get annoyed. On the contrary, he responded to `Umar's call immediately. After some time, `Umardetermined to return him to Kufa, but Sa'd responded laughing, "Do You orderme to return to people who claim that I don't perform my prayers well?" Hepreferred to stay in Al-Madiinah.
When the Commander of the Faithful `Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) was attacked, he chose six of the Prophet's Companions to be responsible for choosing the next caliph. `Umar said that he chose six of those with whomthe Prophet was pleased before he died. Sa'd lbn Abi Waqqaas was one of them.
But it seems from `Umar's last words that if he would have chosen oneof the Companions for the caliphate, it would have been Sa'd. He said tohis companions, advising and commending, "If Sa'd is to become caliph, that's good; but if someone else is to be caliph, then he has to seek Sa'd's help."
Sa'd lived long. He secluded himself during the period of civil strife following the death of the third Caliph, `Uthmaan. Furthermore, he ordered his whole family and children not to tell him any news about what was happening.
Once, everyone was anxious to know his position, when his nephew Haashim Ibn `Utbah lbn Abi Waqqaas said to him, "O uncle, here are 100,000 swords which consider you the more entitled to that matter (i.e. the caliphate)." Sa'd responded, "I want out of the 100,000 swords, just one sword that if it hits a believer it won't do anything, but if it hits a disbeliever it cuts through."
His nephew realized what he meant and left him in his isolation and security.
When the dispute ended in favor of Mu'aawiyah, who took over the reins of government, he asked Sa'd, `Why didn't you fight with us?" He answered, "A dark cloud passed over me. I told it, Shoo! Shoo! I stopped my riding cameluntil it passed away." Mu'aawiyah said, "Shoo! Shoo can not be found in theglorious Book of Allah, but Allah said "And if two parties or groups amongthe believers fall into fighting, then make peace between them both, butif one of them rebels against the other, then fight you (all) against theone that which rebels till it complies with the Command of Allah" (49 : 9).And you did not take anyone's side. You weren't with the unjust against thejust, nor were you with the just against the unjust." Hereupon Sa'd responded, "I wouldn't have fought a man (he meant `Aliy Ibn Abi Taalib) to whom the Prophet (PBUH) said, "You have towards me the same position Haaruun (Aaron) had towards Muusaa (Moses), except that there isn't any Prophet coming after me."
One day in A.H. 54, having exceeded the age of 80, he was at his house in Al-`Aqiiq preparing to meet Allah.
His son spoke of his final moments: His head was upon my lap, he was passing away. I cried, but he said, "What makes You cry, my son? Allah will never torture me. I belong to Paradise!"
The firmness of his faith could not be weakened even by the quaking fear of death. The Prophet (PBUH) had passed him the good news and he believed firmly in the Prophet's honesty; therefore what was there to be afraid of? "Allah will never torture me. I belong to Paradise!"
However, he wanted to meet Allah carrying the most magnificent and most wonderful memory, a memory which joined him with his religion and his Prophet (PBUH). Therefore, he pointed to his coffer.
They opened it and got out an old, torn, threadbare gown. He ordered his kin to shroud him in that gown saying, "I met the disbelievers at the Battle of Badr wearing it. I've saved it for this day."
Indeed, this threadbare gown was not just a gown. It was the banner waving over a long great life. Our hero lived it honestly, bravely, and faithfully.
The body of the last Muhaajiruun was buried in Al- Madiinah, safely laid beside a group of great Companions who preceded him to Allah. Their exhausted bodies had finally found a secure shelter in the ground of Al-Baqii`.
Farewell, Sa'd. Farewell Sa'd, the hero of Al-Qaadissiyah, conquerer of Al-Madaa'in, extinguisher forever of the worshipped fire of Persia!