To Live one’s faith with a passion

Faith is the light of the intellect, the polish of the consciousness and the harmony of the emotions in the heart. Passing happily from this temporary world to the eternal realm will be possible only under the guidance of faith.

The guides of faith are the Prophets, the divine books and the friends of Allah who have ordered their lives according to the first two. It is only through the fervour of faith that the prophets, the saints and the righteous throughout history have been able to become living examples of the manifestation of achievable virtues.

Faith is a divine favour; trials in this life are a standard by which to measure the degree of soundness of one’s faith. The preservation of one’s faith with the patience and submission which are to be expected from a believer is the price to pay for the attainment of divine rewards. That is, Allah Most High desires that a price be paid by his servants in order for them to perceive the loftiness and value of the bounty of faith that he has bestowed upon them.

‘Allah has bought from the believers their selves [lives] and their wealth in return for the Garden’.(Tawba, 9:111).

This verse is an evident expression of this truth.

Consequently the means to perfecting one’s faith is the willing sacrifice in His path of the price desired by Allah (one’s life, property, belongings etc) in order to gain His pleasure.

Overcoming all of the difficulties and struggles that the trials of life have to offer with contentedness and submission and following in the path of Allah and His Messenger is the most important sign of the believers.

Each believer is obliged to pay a price to Allah Most High for the bounty of faith. To assume ownership or to expect recompense for something which one has not paid the price for is to pass one’s time in triviality.

The rise towards the peak of faith is dependent on performing good deeds, living with good intention, worship and beautiful behaviour that aims to please Allah. This is why in the Holy Qur’an and in the ahadith[1], faith and good deeds have generally been mentioned together. Faith can be lived not with dry facts and theory but rather with truths that are felt and perceived, embroidered onto the heart and then reflected in one’s behavior. Pondering and reflecting on the flow of divine power throughout the universe results in a heart that is suitable for worship and renders the believers able to taste true faith and become subject to endless manifestations of virtue throughout their lives.

Faith is the greatest of all forms of worship because worship is possible only through faith. Worship is carried out at specific times. The prayer too, the most virtuous of all deeds, is obligatory five times a day. Faith, however, is required constantly and thus it is necessary to keep it alive in our hearts at every instant. This is why we must avoid the trap of all manner of sins that lead the heart into heedlessness, and keep our faith protected by good deeds (which are like spiritual armour).

The jewel of faith is the most precious of assets for the believer. Satan, who in the Qur’an is proclaimed to be our open enemy, together with his accomplices, tries at every opportunity to steal that jewel of faith from the hearts of the believers with various tricks and whisperings. From this perspective then, it is a most crucial duty to be constantly vigilant of our hearts and embrace our faith with great love and zeal. We must strive to protect it and render it unshakeable with good deeds.

In order for our jewel of faith to reflect the manifestations of Allah like a pure and bright mirror we need ‘zikrullah’ (remembrance of Allah). Zikrullah is like embroidering the word ‘Allah’ on our hearts with love and yearning. In this way, the rust of sins and heedlessness will be erased from the heart and it will taste the true pleasure of faith due to it having attained to complete peace and contentedness.

The joy that arises out of the faith of those blessed and special servants who have attained to such a spiritual maturity is above all other fleeting pleasures and enjoyment. Moreover, all of the burning pain and suffering of this world is virtually non-existent in their eyes.

Let us now peruse some of the innumerable examples of patience, forbearance, fortitude, insight, sacrifice and aspiration displayed by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) who taught us our faith, and those righteous believers whose service has made it possible for this bounty to reach our day:

 

Scenes of virtue

When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was a child of a mere 12 years, Bahira the Monk said to him:

“Dear child, I am asking you in the name of Lat and Uzza[2] to answer me”.

He replied: “Do not ask me anything in the name of Lat and Uzza. By Allah! I abhor nothing as much as I abhor those two idols”.

Even at such a young age the Prophet distanced himself from idols and unbelief with the sound nature that he carried within him. The exceptional resolution and effort that he showed in living his faith with a passion, and spreading and teaching it, after becoming a prophet is a fact every believer is aware of.

***

The sorcerers at the time of the Pharaoh rejected his claim to divinity and as a result were subject to unbearable torture. However they were able to challenge him due to the courage that came from their faith:

“Your oppression is in this world only. You are free to judge and do as you wish. In any case we will be returned to our Lord”.

At the command of the Pharaoh their hands and legs were cut off diagonally. Before they were hung onto the branches of palm trees, they raised their hands to the heavens in a display of human weakness. Anxious that they would be weak in faith they prayed:

“…O our Sustainer! Shower us with patience in adversity, and make us die as men who have surrendered themselves unto Thee”.(A’raf 7:126)

Thus they sought refuge in Almighty Allah and were reunited with their Lord in the boundless pleasure to be found in martyrdom.

***

The first Christians who were sincere Muslims preserved their faith amongst the jaws of circus lions and they too tasted martyrdom with a passion.

***

Another group at the head of the list of heroes who lived their faith with a passion, were believers who were burned alive by the ‘People of Ukhdud’. The Jew, Dhu Nawas, who was the King of Yemen in the 4th century AD, forced the people of Najran, Christians devoted to the faith of monotheism (the Oneness of Allah), to change their beliefs. When they resisted, many of them were burned alive, having been thrown into pits of fire. It is reported that the number of people who died in this way reached 20 thousand.

These oppressors were named the ‘People of the Pits’ after the pits (called ‘ukhdud’) that they dug in order to burn the believers. But those who tried to destroy the faith that had become unyielding and which was engraved upon the hearts, failed and instead became subject to the vengeance and punishment of Allah. They were thus overcome and ruined, damned for eternity. Almighty Allah states:

‘They destroy (but) themselves, they who would ready a pit of fire fiercely burning (for all who have attained to faith(al-Buruj, 85:4-5)

***

Sumayya , a female Companion, who lived her faith with a passion in the Era of Bliss, was fortunate in attaining to the title of ‘the first female martyr of Islam’.  Sumayya  (ra)[3] used to be very afraid of the mere prick of a needle. However, after she had tasted the sublime pleasure to be found in faith, she displayed great tolerance in the face of the red hot rods of iron that the polytheists[4] branded her with, not once compromising her faith. After being subjected to such savage torture, one of her legs was tied to a camel, and the other leg tied to another and she was torn apart brutishly, thus becoming a martyr in a terribly painful way. Her husband, Yasir, also showed unbearable patience even though he was very old and weak. He too eventually tasted martyrdom. In fact the family of Yasir (may Allah be pleased with them) became the first martyrs of Islam. They paid the price of their faith by living it with a passion.

***

Even as the blood poured forth from the body of Bilal , which had become like jelly from the heavy torture of the wild and angry polytheists, he continued in his call to monotheism: “Ahad, Ahad, Ahad: Allah is one, Allah is one, Allah is one”. Beyond the pain and torture, he was experiencing the pleasure of meeting Allah, having tasted the sublime delight of faith.

***

During his caliphate Omar  asked one of the first Muslims, Habbab bin Arat :

“Can you tell us a little of the torture that you experienced in the way of Allah”.

Habbab replied:

“O Commander of the Believers! Take a look at my back”.

Having looked at his back Omar was  horrified. He said:

“Never in my life have I seen a human back so disfigured”.

Habbab continued:

“The unbelievers would light a fire and then put me into it with no clothes on. The fire was eventually extinguished when the melted fat from my body dripped onto it”.

The polytheists would put rocks that they had heated in fire onto Habbab’s back and the skin of this blessed Companion would peel off due to the intensity of this torture. Despite this he still refused to speak the words desired by the unbelievers. This is because the excitement of wuslat (meeting with Allah)that is vouchsafed by faith wipes away all worldly suffering.

Habbab bin Arat narrates:

One day when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was in the shade of the Ka’bah, we went to him and complained to him about the torture we had suffered at the hands of the polytheists. After that we asked him to ask for Allah’s help in saving us from this torture. He (pbuh) said in reply:

“Amongst the generations before you were believers who were burned and thrown into pits, and then sawed into two from head to toe and whose flesh was raked with iron combs but who yet did not turn back from their faith. I swear by Allah, that He will complete this religion and make it reign supreme to such a degree that a person will be able to travel in safety from San’a to Hadramat fearing nothing but Allah and the attack of his sheep by wolves. But yet you are impatient…” (Bukhari, Manakibu’l Ansar 29, Manakib 25, Ikrah 1; Abu Dawud, Jihad 97/2649)

***

The enemies of Islam would beat Suhayb  until he fainted. This torture continued until the migration to Madina. Eventually Suhayb was able to embark on his journey in the aim of emigrating to Madina after the Prophet. Some of the Meccans followed him and reaching him they said:

“You came here as a poor and weak person. You attained to great wealth amongst us. And now you want to go and take your wealth with you? By Allah we will never allow it!

Suhayb immediately got down from his animal. Taking out some arrows from his quiver he said to them:

“O people of Quraysh! You know that I am the best archer amongst you. And by Allah I will use up all of the arrows I have with me and when they are finished I will draw my sword. Whilst I am in possession of both of these none of you will be able to come close to me. Only after they have left me can you do as you wish to me. Now, if I tell you where I have left my treasure will you let me go?

The polytheists accepted his offer. After that Suhayb told them where his treasure was and continued on his journey. It was the middle of the month of Rabiul awwal when he reached Quba (a village near Madina), and was reunited with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).

When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saw him he smiled and, implying that he had sacrificed all of his wealth in the cause of his faith he said:

“Suhayb has triumphed! Suhayb has triumphed! O Father of Yahya. Your trade has proven profitable. Your trade has proven profitable”.

According to the narrations, the following verse was revealed after this event:

‘But there is (also) a kind of man who would willingly sell his own self in order to please Allah; and Allah is most compassionate towards His servants’ (Baqara, 2: 207)

***

Zinnura Hatun  was another female companion who suffered a thousand torments and cruelty at the hands of the polytheists. She was left blind due to the torture carried out by Abu Jahl.

Abu Jahl said to her:

“Do you see? Lat and Uzza have blinded you”.

Zinnura Hatun replied:

“No! By Allah! They are not the ones who have made me blind. Neither Lat nor Uzza can benefit or harm me. My Lord is capable of restoring my eyesight!”

When the morning came the polytheists, whose souls were enveloped in eternal darkness, were amazed to see Zinnura Hatun’s eyesight restored by the grace of Allah.

***

Many more of the first Muslims suffered such pain and torment. Such eminent Companions of the Prophet such as Amir bin Fuhayra, Abu Fukayha, Mikdad bin Amr, Ummu Ubeys, Lubeyna Hatun, Nahdiye Hatun and her daughter, were subject to extreme unimaginable torture. The polytheists would tie their feet with chains and drag them out naked, laying them down in the desert at the time of the most intense heat, and placing large rocks upon them. They would implement all forms of torture until they lost consciousness and did not know what they were saying. They would strangle them and not stop until they believed them to be dead.

These blessed Companions managed to preserve their faith in the face of unbearable torture and oppression. They struggled with their property and their lives so that this divine favour could reach us. This is because they were in a state of true perception of the greatness of the bounty of Islam. Thus they knew how to open the door of divine dignity in both worlds. Their mortal lives came to an end and they entered into eternal happiness having embodied the following divine command:

‘O you who have attained to faith! Be conscious of Allah with all the consciousness that is due to Him and do not allow death to overtake you ere you have surrendered yourselves unto Him’(Al’i Imran, 3:102)

***

Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas  was a son who was completely obedient towards his mother. On entering Islam his mother said to him:

“O Sa’d! What have you done? If you do not renounce this new religion, I swear I will neither eat nor drink and eventually die. And because of me, you will be known as the son who killed his mother.

Sa’d  replied: “Mother please, I will not leave this religion for anything”. Hearing this, his mother did not eat for two days and two nights and lost a lot of strength. In order to make his mother, whom he loved very much, give up her obstinacy, Sa’d said to her with firm resolution:

“Dearest mother! Know this: Even if you had 100 lives and you lost them all one by one, I would never abandon this religion…”

On seeing the resolution of her son, his mother gave up her obstinacy and started to eat once more. After this event, the following verses were revealed:

‘And (Allah says): We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain and his utter dependence on her lasted two years: (hence O man), be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents, (and remember that) with Me is all journeys’ end. (Revere thy parents) yet should they endeavour to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something which their mind cannot accept (as divine), obey them not; but (even then) bear them company in this world’s life with kindness, and follow the path of those who turn towards Me. In the end, unto Me you all must return; and thereupon I shall make you (truly) understand all that you were doing (in life)’  (Loqman, 31:14-15)

***

At the time when the Prophet was about to emigrate to Madina he called Ali and told him of the divine command to emigrate. After that he informed him that he was leaving him as his trustee so that he could return all of the property that was left in trust to him. This was because there hardly remained a person in Mecca who, having something valuable, did not entrust it to the Messenger of Allah, knowing his truth and honesty.

As a precaution against the plans of the polytheists, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said to Ali:

“O Ali! Sleep in my bed tonight. And cover yourself with this cloak of mine. Fear not! Nothing you dislike will happen to you”.

With great courage of faith, Ali  slept in the Prophet’s bed under the shadow of the fierce spears that were ready to rain down on his body. The fiercely angry polytheists who had come to the Prophet’s house were determined to murder the Messenger of Allah. On seeing Ali under the covers they became enraged:

“O Ali! Where is your uncle’s son”? they shouted.

Ali  said:

“I know not. I have not an idea. And I am not a watcher over him. You told him to leave Mecca. And so he did”.

Upon this they berated and harassed Ali; in fact they took him to the Masjid al Haram and imprisoned him for a while before they let him go.

***

On one occasion the people of Najd came to the Prophet (pbuh) and informing him of their desire to learn Islam, requested a teacher. Upon this, Allah’s Messenger sent them about 70 hafiz[5] who were from the Ahl as-Suffah[6]. They all knew Islam extremely well. When the Muslims came to Bi’r-i Mauna in order to take a rest in a cave they were ambushed. A spear thrown by a polytheist called Jabbar bin Sulma, entered the back of Amir bin Fuheyra and came out through his breast. On realizing that he was about to become a martyr, Ibn-i Fuheyra, a mere 40 years old at the time, shouted out in extreme delight:

“By Allah, I have triumphed!”

Ibn-i Tufayl, who was the chief of those who had prepared this treacherous trap, took one of the Muslims who had escaped the massacre, and brought him to one of the martyrs, asking him:

“Who is this?”

The Muslim replied:

“It is Amir bin Fuheyra”.

“I saw his body being raised to the sky. I can still see him hovering there between the heavens and the earth. Then he was laid back down”.

Despite being witness to such an event, Ibn Tufayl, a famous poet, failed to become Muslim. However Jabbar, who had made a martyr out of Amir bin Fuheyra, eventually became a Muslim. The shouts of the person he had made a martyr of, “I have triumphed” rang in his ears for days. These words became an enigma for him. “I just killed him and he is saying that he has triumphed. How can this be so?” he thought to himself for weeks on end. One day he asked Dahhak bin Sufyan, famous for his bravery and fellow citizen of the Prophet who thought him worthy of 100 hundred people. What did this Companion mean when he said: “By Allah I have triumphed”? When he replied that it meant “I have reached Paradise”, Jabbar woke up from the deep sleep of heedlessness he had been in and became Muslim.

***

At the end of the Battle of Uhud, Safiyya  wished to see her brother Hamza  whose body was in pieces. With this intention in mind, she turned towards where the martyrs were located. Her son, Zubayr met her and said:

“The Messenger of Allah commands you to turn back”.

“Why? So that I do not see my brother? I know in what terrible way he was torn apart and dismembered. He was afflicted with this misfortune for the sake of Allah. And anyway, nothing other than this can give us consolation. Allah willing I will bear it and await the reward from Allah” she said.

Zubayr went to the Messenger and informed him of what his mother had said. The Prophet said:

“In that case let her go see her brother”.

Safiyya then went to the corpse of her brother, honoured with being the master of martyrs, and prayed wholeheartedly for him.

***

The courageous faith of the blessed Companions who took the letters written by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to various rulers of the time has become very famous. They delivered the Prophet’s message, having fear of no one but Allah in the face of oppressors who were famous throughout the world and executioners ready to cut off heads. They did not refrain from speaking bravely in the shadow of spears and lances. Some examples are as follows:

One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked:

“O people. Who will take this letter to the Muqawqis of Alexandria in anticipation of Allah’s reward and recompense?

Hatib bin Abi Beltaa  scrambled up and approached the presence of the Prophet:

“O Messenger of Allah! I will take it” he said

Allah’s Messenger said:

“O Hatib! May Allah bless you in this duty”.

When Hatib bin Abi Beltaa arrived in Alexandria he read the Prophet’s letter to the King. Muqawqis called Hatib to his side and also gathered together his men of religion. Let us listen to the rest of the story from the words of Hatib:

“The Muqawqis said to me:

“I am going to speak to you about some things that I wish to understand”.

“Please let us talk” I said to him

The Muqawqis asked:

“Isn’t your master a prophet?”

“Yes. He is the Messenger of Allah” I replied.

“If he is truly a prophet then why did not he pray to Allah against his people who forced him to seek refuge in another land having exiled him from his own land?”

I replied:

“You would bear witness that Jesus, the son of Mary was a prophet, correct? If he was truly a prophet then should he not have prayed to Allah to destroy his people who caught him and wanted to crucify him, instead of being raised to the heavens?”

The Muqawqis could find no answer. After he was silent in thought for a while he asked me to repeat my words. After I repeated what I had said the Muqawqis thought again for a period. After that he said:

“You have spoken well. You are a sage, you speak appropriately and you have come from one who must also be a sage”.

Following that I said to the Muqawqis:

“Before you there was a man who claimed that he was the most supreme god. Allah Most High caught that Pharaoh and punished him in both this world and the next. You should take heed from those before you and not be a lesson for those who come after you”.

The Muqawqis said:

“We have our religion and we cannot leave it until we see something better than it”.

To this I said:

“Islam is most certainly above the religion that you practise. We invite you to Islam, the religion that Allah Most High chose for his people. Muhammad Mustafa (pbuh) invites not only you, but all of mankind. The people that were the harshest and crudest to him were the people of Quraysh. And the people that were the most hostile to him were the Jews. However those who are the closest to him are the Christians. Just as Moses heralded Jesus, so too Jesus gave good news of the coming of Muhammad (pbuh). Our calling you to the Qur’an is like you calling to the Gospels those who follow the Torah. Everybody should follow the prophet who was sent in his own time. You too are one who is living at the time of Muhammed (pbuh). Consequently by calling you to Islam we do not want to separate you from the religion of Jesus. On the contrary, we are proposing that you do what is appropriate to the message that he brought”.

The Muqawqis said:

“I have studied the religion of this prophet. I have seen that he neither commands to withdraw from the world nor does he forbid what is liked and accepted. He is neither a sorcerer who has lost his way, nor is he a liar who claims to have knowledge of the unseen. On the contrary there are signs that he is a prophet, as he has uncovered news from the unseen. However I still wish to reflect for a little while longer” he said.

Later he wrote a reply to the letter of the Prophet…However, the Muqawqis did not do more than this, neither did he become Muslim. And to me he issued this warning:

“Be careful! Do not let the Coptics hear a single word from you, lest they cause you harm”.

What a beautiful example are these words of Hatib. What an example of the foresight and bravery of a believer who lived his faith with a passion and who spoke with the courage of faith in front of a King.

***

The letter written to the Chosroes of Iran was taken by Abdullah bin Huzafa . On seeing the name of the Prophet being written before his own name, the Chosroes got angry and tore that blessed letter into pieces. He also insulted the envoy with harsh words.

With the courage and dignity that came from his faith, Abdullah addressed Chosroes and his men as follows:

“O people of Persia! You are passing your numbered days without prophet or book. You control a mere portion of the land that is in your hands. You are living life as a dream. Whereas the portion of earth that you are not in control of, is much greater.

“O Chosroes! Many a ruler came before you who reigned and desired either this world or the hereafter. Those who wanted the hereafter received their share in this world as well. Those who desired this world lost their hereafter too. You belittle this religion that we are proposing for you but by Allah wherever you may be, when that thing which you belittle befalls you, you will be terrified and you will not be able to protect yourself.

In response Chosroes said that property and kingdom were particular to him only and that he wasn’t afraid of being defeated nor that anyone would claim partnership with him. Following that he ordered his men to throw Abdullah bin Huzafe  outside.

As soon as he had left the presence of Chosroes, Abdullah mounted his horse and headed for Madina, with the following thoughts passing through his mind:

“By Allah I am not worried about either outcome for me (whether to be killed or to remain alive). I have carried out my duty of delivering the Messenger of Allah’s letter and that is all that matters”.

This is the peaceful state of the conscience of one of the heroes of Islam who risked his life in order to fulfill a wish of Allah’s Messenger.

***

Here is another story full of lessons to be taken, and displaying the peerless virtue and the courage of faith of Abdullah bin Huzafe:

During the caliphate of Omar, a Muslim army was sent against the Romans in the Qaysariyye district of Damascus. Abdullah bin Huzafe was in that army. The Romans had taken him hostage. They took him to their king and said:

“This is a companion of Muhammed”.

After having Abdullah locked up in confinement with no food or drink, he then sent to him a portion of wine and some pork. They watched him for three days. Abdullah neither placed a hand on the wine nor the pork. They said to the King:

“He has lost much strength now. If you do not take him out of there, he will die”.

The King had him brought to him and asked him:

“What prevented you from eating and drinking?

Abdullah answered:

“Actually necessity had made the eating of those things lawful for me, yet I did not want to make neither myself nor Islam a laughing stock in front of you”.

In response to this dignifiedattitude, the King said:

“What if you become a Christian and I give you half of my wealth, and if I make you a partner in all my kingdom and then I give my daughter to you in marriage?”

Abdullah replied:

“Even if you give me all of your wealth and in fact all of the wealth of Arabia, I would never turn away from the religion of Muhammad (pbuh) for the blinking of an eye”.

The King said:

 “In that case I will have you killed”.

To which Abdullah replied:

“That is for you to decide”.

Abdullah was then hung up on a crucifix. First of all the archers flung arrows at him but purposefully missed him in order to scare him. Then he was offered the chance to become Christian once more. That blessed Companion did not show even the slightest of tendencies. Upon this the King said:

“Either you become Christian or I will place you in a cauldron of boiling water”.

When he refused again, a boiling cauldron made of copper was brought forth. The King had one of the Muslim slaves brought to him. He offered that he become Christian. When the slave rejected this offer he was thrown into the cauldron. Abdullah was watching. His skin instantly peeled away from his bones and came off.

The King again suggested to Abdullah that he become Christian. When he refused once more, he ordered that he be thrown into the cauldron. Just as Abdullah was about to be thrown into the cauldron, he began to cry. Thinking that he had changed his mind, the King had Abdullah brought to him and offered that he become Christian once more. When he saw how violently Abdullah refused, he asked in shock:

“Then why did you cry”?

Abdullah gave this superb reply:

“Do not think that I cried out of fear of what you wished to do to me. No. I cried because I only have one life to give in the path of Allah. I said to myself: “You have only one life and it is about to be thrown into that cauldron. In just an instant you are going to die in Allah’s cause. Whereas how I wish I had had lives to the number of hairs on my body, so that all of these lives could be sacrificed in order to gain Allah’s pleasure”.

This awesome act displayed by Abdullah due to his courage of faith and dignity impressed the King and he wished to let him go free.

“Kiss my head so that I may let you go”, he said

To this offer that could have no objection, Abdullah replied with an offer of his own:

“Will you let all of the other Muslim slaves go free together with me?”

When the King replied that he would, Abdullah said:

“In that case I will”.

Abdullah says later:

“I said to myself: “What objection could there be to my kissing the head of one of Allah’s enemies in order to free my own life and the lives of the Muslim slaves? Kiss it and be free”.

That day 80 Muslim slaves were set free. When they returned to Omar they told him what had happened. Omar said:

“To kiss the head of Abdullah bin Huzafe is a duty incumbent upon every Muslim! I will be the first to carry out this duty”. He thus got up and went to Abdullah and kissed his head.

Muslims who possess insight and discernment, observe events through the window of the afterlife. They can do this because their faith offers them a broad perspective. In this way they constantly take account of the positives and negatives, that is the benefit and harm. This is why all the worldly pain and suffering, and fleeting ordeals and distress are not worthy of mention against their love of faith.

***

Another hero who lived his faith with passion is Wahb bin Kabshah . The tomb of this blessed companion is in China. The Prophet sent him to China with the duty of propagating Islam. But at that time it used to take one year to reach China from Madina. After reaching China and staying there for a long time spreading Islam, he set out on the road back to Madina in order to satisfy, albeit slightly, the longing he had to see the Messenger of Allah. After an arduous journey that took one year he arrived in Madina. But alas he was unable to see the blessed Prophet as he had passed away. He returned to China, his longing having increased even more. This he did in order to complete the sacred duty he was commanded to do by Allah’s Messenger. He passed away while carrying out this duty. In this way, Wahb bin Kabshah was honoured with being the first representative of Allah’s Messenger in China. His mortal body remained in China however his eternal spirit went to the enlightened Madina to be together with the spirit of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).

***

The events that took place between Sultan Bayazid II and his brother Jem Sultan openly reflect the courage of faith of our forefathers and the beauty and virtue that Islam bestowed upon them:

Becoming a sultan in the year 1481, Bayazid II  (who was even known as Bayazid the Saint due to his piety) spent the first 14 years of his sultanate dealing with the problems that arose as a result of his brother Jem Sultan’s claims to the Ottoman throne. This situation hindered Bayazid II from active participation in the Christian world. Jem Sultan proposed the following to Bayazid II:

“Let us divide our country into two. You rule over half and I will rule over the other half”.

Bayazid II replied, rejecting his offer:

“My brother, this country is the property of the people. If we divide it, the government will lose power. We will become a series of weak principalities. This will have grave consequences. I would divide my body but the land of my people cannot be divided”.

A short time after that Jem Sultan was invited to Rhodes by the Knights of Rhodes. He was impressed by their polite words and heedlessly accepted their invitation. However the Knights broke the promises they had made and sold him to the Papacy like a slave. The Papacy were planning to use the prince in the next crusade against the Ottomans. However, realising that he was not going to be successful in this, Pope Innocent suggested that Jem Sultan become Christian. This offer greatly offended Jem Sultan. Deeply saddened he said to the Pope:

“Even if you give me the whole world, and not just the Ottoman Sultanate, I would never change my religion”.

The supplication that Jem Sultan made to Almighty Allah when he realised that the Crusaders wanted to use him against Islam is sufficient to show the aspiration of his efforts for his religion:

“O my Sustainer! If it is the case that the unbelievers wish to use me as a tool to bring harm to the Muslim world, then do not let this slave of yours live any longer. Take my soul to your honourable abode as soon as possible…”

His prayers must have been answered for at the age of 36 he passed away in Naples. In his last days, his last testament he made to those near him was as follows:

“Make sure to announce the news of my death all over the land. Do this for certain so that the games that the unbelievers wish to play with the Muslims, using me as a tool, can be over. After that, go to my brother Sultan Bayazid. Request that, however difficult it may be, he transports my body back to our country. I do not wish to be buried in the land of the unbelievers. Whatever has happened until now has happened. Make sure that he does not refuse this request of mine. Ask him to pay all of my debts. I do not want to go the Divine Presence in debt.  Let him forgive my family, my children and those who served me. Let him make them content according to their states”.

His brother Bayazid II carried out his final testament.

These are the qualities that Islam bestows upon the human being. The reciprocal relationship between these two brothers displays their devotion to their faith and their love of their country. It is also a demonstration of sacrifice for the sake of the peace of their people, and an example of tolerance, the accounting of the conscience that results after realising one’s mistake, refraining from violating another’s rights, forgiveness and compassion amongst many other virtues.

***

The brothers Ilyas, Oruc and Hizir had an important place in the Ottoman navy. They were busy with sea trade before they opened up the banner of jihad in the Mediterranean. However, this business presented a great danger for the Mediterranean. When Oruc Reis was enslaved by Rhodesian pirates, his brother Hizir Reis began to search for a solution. Despite having sent large ransoms for his brother’s freedom, due to the tricks of the deceitful pirates who did not keep their word, his brother’s enslavement took a long time. Not content with this, the unbelievers sent to Oruc Reis a priest who had the audacity to suggest that he become Christian. However the reply of Oruc Reis was like a slap across their faces:

“O ignorant fools! How could I leave a true religion in order to become a member of a false one?

The pirates became angry at this and said:

“In that case let your Muhammad come and save you” and chaining him to a skiff they made him a gallery slave.

Seeking refuge in Allah, Oruc Reis prayed:

“Just wait and see how my Sustainer will help me”.

A little while later with the help of a group of individuals wearing white kaftans and green turbans also visible to the unbelievers, his hands and feet were unchained and he was left free in the deep ocean and freed from slavery. In this way he attained to the bounty of the submission and reliance that comes from the strength of faith. After this event Oruc Reis, together with his brother Hizir Reis began a merciless battle against the pirates of the Mediterranean.

***

The Battle of the Dardanels is another superb example which illustrates the manifestations of living one’s faith with a passion.

A retired colonel who was a commander in the Dardanels battle and who was wounded in the process, explains in his memoirs as follows:

It was one of the days in which the Battle of the Dardanels was being fought.  That day the battle, which lasted until the evening, was to result in our victory, despite the disproportionate superiority of the enemy in material terms. I was following excitedly the last stage of the battle from my observing point. The cries of “Allah, Allah” of the Muslim soldiers vibrated on the horizon and these awesome shouts were even able to drown out the sound of the cannon balls that represented the entire grandeur of a frightening civilisation.

At one point I heard the sound of footsteps next to me. When I looked back I came face to face with Sergeant Ali. There was terrible pain written all over his pale, yellow face. Before I had the chance to ask him what was wrong, he showed me his arm which was enough to explain everything. I shivered with terror. His left arm was about to fall off four finger lengths from his wrist from where he was hit. It was only a thin piece of skin that stopped his hand from falling to the floor. Sergeant Ali was grinding his teeth, trying to overcome the pain. He handed me the pocket-knife he carried in his right hand:

“Cut it off Commander!” he said

This statement of just three words expressed such a terrible wish and such necessity that I grabbed the knife almost unwillingly, without even thinking and separated the hand that was hanging by its skin from his arm. While carrying out this blood curdling task I tried to lift his morale:

“Do not be distressed Sergeant Ali. May Allah restore health to your body”.

Not long after that, Sergeant Ali sacrificed not only his hand for his people but also his blessed body. As he closed his eyes, repeating the following sentences, he was surrounded by a pool of blood as he took his last breath:

“May my Muslim nation live long! May Allah keep it from straying from faith… May my life be sacrificed for my religion!”

And so it was that with faith in their breast the Ottoman soldiers in the Dardanels, viewed the defence of their nation as a debt and requirement of their religion and did not refrain from paying this debt with their lives. This is why these soldiers embraced their religion as they did their guns, and they embraced their guns as they did their faith.

***

During the Battle for the Dardanelles, the Roman Mecidiye Bastionwas almost completely wiped out as a result of a terrifying assault by the enemy. Much of their arsenal had been blown up into the air and sixteen artillery men were martyred. Only the captain and two soldiers remained of the entire battalion along with a cannon whose crane had been broken and which was not able to take in any cannonballs.

The captain had gone to inform the surrounding troops of their situation. Koca Sayyid, one of the soldiers, looked out at the enemy ships that were advancing over the sea spewing out fire and death and sighed deeply. His eyes filled with tears. His sorrowful heart quivered with the pain of helplessness in not being able to do anything in the face of the enemy and he raised his hands up to Allah and prayed:

“O my Sustainer! O Allah who is the Possessor of Might! Give me such strength at this moment that none of your servants be as strong as I”.

Suddenly it was as if Koca Sayyid had departed from this world… It was as if he were in the presence of his Lord and none other. The tears fell from his eyes over his cheeks. For a while he chanted: “There is no power nor might except by Allah”.

Then, all of a sudden he shouted “Allah!” and to the surprise and amazed look of his friend he reached for the 215 okka (approximately 276kg) canon ball and lifted it up. He climbed and then descended the iron steps three times.  The crackling of his breast and shoulder bones could be heard. Pouring out sweat on the one hand, he was praying to Allah with cracked lips:

“O Allah! Please don’t take away my strength”.

Eventually the fate of that battle changed with the 3rd famous cannon ball that he placed in the mouth of the cannon. The Ocean, the name of the English armoured battle ship, had been hit and had been enveloped in fiery flames.

Learning of this event Cevat Pasha praised Almighty Allah, then congratulated Koca Sayyid and requested that he lift another cannon ball of the same weight. Koca Sayyid gave the following reply:

“My Pasha! When I lifted that cannon ball my heart was filled with the success of Allah and my body was subjected to divine help. I was a different person. Almighty Allah’s help and providence became manifest in response to the supplication I made to Him. This was an event particular to that moment. I cannot lift it now, Captain; you must excuse me please…”

At these words of Sayyid, Cevat Pasha said:

“My son! You have performed a very successful task. Ask me for some reward”.

This devoted hero who had erased all but servanthood to Allah from his heart, displayed even more heroism with the following words:

“My Captain! I have no request; however due to my build which is like a wrestler, one loaf of bread a day is not enough for me. Could you give orders that they give me two loaves so that I can be stronger against the enemy?”

Cevat Pasha, smiling at this request, granted him his wish. When evening fell and everyone received one loaf of bread and Colonel Sayyid received two, the heart of this great hero of faith could not accept this. In times of scarcity of food he did not want to be different from his friends. He returned one of the loaves given to him and never again took two loaves.

What a pure and brilliant heart!…Undoubtedly this state of Koca Sayyid was an embodied expression of his sincerity and devotedness that came from the courage of his faith.

***

To sum up, faith is not merely a dry declaration. Faith is a witness to the degree and perfection of a believer’s heart. And its sign is self-sacrifice and devotion. Because faith is eternal capital, many lives have been sacrificed and unbearable torture and difficulties undergone throughout history in order to preserve and strengthen it. Unparalleled examples of virtue and heroism have been displayed for the sake of Allah. And today what we need more than anything else is this excitement of living faith with passion and fervour. As a debt of gratitude for the bounty of faith that has been bestowed upon us, we need to mobilise ourselves in order to invite all of humanity to Dar-us Salaam or the Abode of Peace. A believer who lives his faith with passion will feel responsible for the state of the community. Allah willing, we will attain to the divine reunion in the hereafter to the degree of our sacrifice for the perfection of our faith in this fleeting world.

May Almighty Allah make us all of those who attain to the perfection of our faith and make us servants who spend their lives to this end… Amen!

[1].     Ahadith is the plural form of hadith which are the collection of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad e (Translators note)

[2].     Lat and Uzza were two of the main idols in Mecca. (Translators note)

[3].     rshort for radiyallahu anhu (for males) and anha (for females). It means ‘may Allah be pleased with him or her’ and is used as a term of respect for the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (translator’s note).

[4].     In arabic ‘mushrik’, a person who commits the greatest sin, namely that of ‘shirk’, which means to associate partners with Allah. Many of the Quraysh, the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad were polytheists (Translator’s note).

[5].     A hafiz is a Muslim who has memorised the entire Qur’an (Translator’s note)

[6].     Literally “the people of the bench”. The ahl as-Suffa were a group of early Muslims who had nowhere to live and no means of sustenance. Thus they used to live on a bench outside the Prophet’s mosque (Translator’s note)