Friday, 18 May 2007

The Failure of Ka'ab bin Malik RA to Join the Tabuk Expedition

Among the Munafiqin who did not join the Tabuk expedition, there were more than eighty persons from among the Ansar and an equal number from amongst the nomadic Arabs and a large number from the out-stations. Not only did they stay behind themselves, but they induced others to not go by saying:

"Go not forth in the heat."

Allah's reply to this is:

"Say the fire of Hell is of more intense heat."

From amongst the faithful, there were only three persons who failed to rally to the Prophet Muhammad SAW's call. They were:

1. Murarah bin Rabi RA;
2. Hilal bin Umayyah RA; and
3. Ka'ab bin Malik RA.

Murarah RA had orchards of dates, laden with fruit. He persuaded himself to lag behind with the plea:

"I have taken part in all the campaigns so far. What possible harm would befall the Muslims, if I miss this one?"

He feared the loss of his entire crop in his absence, and this prevented him from going out. But when he realised his folly, he gave away in charity the whole crop and garden, too, that had caused him to tarry behind the Prophet Muhammad SAW.

Hilal RA's case was different. Some of his kinsfolk who had been away for a long time had just returned to Madinah. It was for the sake of their company that he did not join the expedition. He also had participated in all the campaigns previously and thought (like Murarah RA) that it would not matter much if he missed just that one campaign. When he came to know of the seriousness of his default, he made up his mind to sever all his connections with those relatives who had been the cause of that blunder.

Ka'ab bin Malik RA himself gives his account in detail, which is quoted in all books of Hadith.

He says:

"I had never been financially so well off as I was at the time of Tabuk. I had two dromedaries (camels) of my own. I had never possessed this number before. It was a habit with the Prophet (SAW) that he never disclosed the destination of his expeditions, but he would keep enquiring about the conditions prevailing elsewhere. But this time in view of the distance, the hot season, and the strength of the enemy, he had declared his destination, so that preparations could be made thorough and complete. The number of the participants was so large that it was difficult to note down their names even, so much so, that absentees could hardly be detected in the large host. The gardens of Madinah were full of fruit. I intended every morning to make preparation for the journey but, somehow or other, the days passed by and I made no progress. I was satisfied that I had all the necessary means at my disposal and that I would be ready in no time if I once did decide to do so.

I was still in this state of indecision when I learnt that the Prophet (SAW) had left with his companions. The idea still lingered in my mind that I would take a day or two to get ready and overtake the party. This procrastination continued till the time for the Prophet's (SAW) arrival in Tabuk drew very near. I then tried to get ready but again, somehow or other, I did not do so. Now, when I came to look at the people left behind, I realised that there was none in Madinah except those who had been condemned as Munafiqin or had been specially exempted from going for certain reasons.

The Prophet (SAW) on reaching Tabuk inquired as well:

"How is it that I do not see Ka'ab?"

Somebody said:

"O, Prophet of Allah - His pride in wealth and ease has caused him to stay behind."

Ma'az interrupted and said:

"No, this is wrong. As far as our knowledge goes, he is a true Muslim."

The Prophet (SAW) however, kept quiet."

Ka'ab bin Malik RA says:

"After a few days I heard the news of the Prophet's (SAW) return. I was struck with grief and remorse. Good excuses one after the other entered my mind, and I was sure that I could escape the Prophet's (SAW) wrath with one of them for the time being, and later on I could pray for forgiveness to Allah. I also sought advice of the wise men of my family in the matter. But when I knew that the Prophet (SAW) had actually arrived, I was convinced that nothing but the truth would save me; so I decided to speak out the plain truth.

It was a habit with the Prophet (SAW) that whenever he returned from a journey he would repair to the masjid, first of all, say two raka'ats "Tahiyyatul Masjid" and then stay there for a while to meet visitors. Now also, as he sat in the musjid, the Munafiqin came and placed before him on solemn oaths, their excuses for failing to accompany him on the campaign. He took them at their words, leaving the rest to Allah.

Just then I came and greeted him with Salaam.

He turned his face with a sardonic smile. I besought him with the words:

"O, Prophet of Allah! You turn your face from me. By Allah! I am neither a Munafiq, nor have I the least doubt in my faith."

He asked me to draw near and I did so.

He then said to me:

"What prevented you from going out? Had you not purchased the dromedaries?"

I made a reply:

"O, Prophet of Allah - If I were dealing with a worldly man, I am sure I would escape his displeasure through (seemingly) reasonable excuses, for Allah has endowed me with the gift of the gab. But in your case I am sure that if I appease you with a false statement, Allah would be displeased with me. And, on the other hand, I am sure that if I displease you by confessing the simple truth, then Allah would very soon blow away your displeasure. I, therefore, make bold to speak the very truth.

By Allah, I had no excuse at all.

I had never been so well to do as I was at that time."

The Prophet (SAW) remarked:

"He is speaking the truth."

He then said to me:

"You go away, Allah will decide about you."

"When I left the masjid, many a man of my clan blamed me and admonished me thus:

"Never before you had committed any wrong; if after making some good excuse for once, you had requested the Prophet (SAW) to pray for your goodness, surely his prayer would have sufficed you."

I inquired of them if there were any more people like me. They informed me that there were two other persons - Hilal bin Umayyah and Murarah bin Rabi, who also had admitted their faults like me and received the same reply from the Prophet (SAW).

I knew that both of them were very good Muslims and had participated in the Campaign of Badr.

The Prophet (SAW) issued instructions that none was to speak with the three of us."

It is a common principle that displeasure is shown where some attachment exists, and a reprimand is given when there is hope for correction. A reprimand to an incorrigible person would be a futile effort.

Ka'ab bin Malik RA continues:

"Under the instructions of the Prophet (SAW), the Sahabah completely boycotted us. Nobody was prepared to mix with or even speak to us. It seemed as if I was living in a strange land altogether. My own birthplace looked like a foreign locality and my bosom friends behaved like strangers.

"The earth, vast as it is, was straightened" (Surah 11: Ayat 113) for me.

The thing that worried me most was that, if I died in this condition, the Prophet (SAW) would not lead my funeral prayer, and if the Prophet (SAW) died in the meantime, I would be doomed forever, with none to talk to me and with none to pray at my funeral.

The other two companions of mine confined themselves to their houses. I was the most daring of the three; I would go to the market, and join the Jamaat for Solat, but nobody would talk to me. I would approach the Prophet (SAW) and say 'Assalaamu'alaikum' and would watch eagerly to see if his lips moved in reply. After Fardh, I used to complete the (sunnat) Solat by standing close to him, and I would look at him from the corner of my eye to learn if he ever cast a single glance at me. I noticed that when I was engaged in Solat he did glance at me, but when I was out of it, he would avert his face from me."

Ka'ab bin Malik RA continues:

"When this complete social boycott became too hard for me to bear, I, one day, climbed up the wall of Qatadah, my dear cousin, and,greeted him with 'Assalaamu'alaikum'. He did not return my greetings.

I said to him:

"For Allah's sake, do answer me one question. Do you not know that I love Allah and His Prophet (SAW)?"

He kept quiet.

Again I repeated my request, but again he would not speak.

When I inquired for the third time, he simply said:

"Allah and His Prophet (SAW) know best."

At this, tears welled out of my eyes and he left me alone."

Ka'ab bin Malik RA says:

"Once, I was passing through a street of Madinah, when I noticed a Coptic Christian, who had come from Syria to sell his grain, inquiring about Kaab bin Malik. When people pointed me out to him, he came and made over a letter to me from the Christian King of Ghassan.

Thus it read:

"We have come to know that your master has ill-treated you. Allah may not keep you in abasement and in disgrace. You had better come to us. We shall extend all help to you."

When I read this letter, I uttered:

"Innalillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Raaji'uun"
("To Allah we belong and to Him is our return"); and said:

"So my state of affairs (had) reached such an ebb that even the Kafirs were aspiring to draw me away from Islam."

I could not imagine a calamity worse than that. I went and threw the letter into an oven.

Thereafter I presented myself to the Prophet (SAW) and exclaimed:

"O, Prophet of Allah! Your indifference towards me has lowered me to such an extent that even the Kafirs are building up their hopes over me."

When forty days had passed in this condition, a messenger of the Prophet (SAW) brought me this mandate:

"Be separated from your wife."

I inquired:

"Am I to divorce her?"

He replied:

"No, only be separated."

A similar message was delivered to my other two companions as well.

I consequently said to my wife:

"Go to your parents and wait till Allah decides my case."

Hilal's wife went to the Prophet (SAW) and said:

"O, Prophet of Allah! Hilal is an old man and there is nobody else to look after him. If I go away from him, he will perish. If it is not very serious, kindly permit me to keep attending to him."

The Prophet (SAW) replied:

"There is no harm, provided you don't indulge in cohabitation with each other."

She remarked:

"O, Prophet of Allah - He has no urge for such a thing; since the day his ordeal has started, he has been spending his entire time in weeping."

Ka'ab bin Malik RA says:

"It was suggested to me that I might also request the Prophet (SAW) for permission to keep my wife with me for service, but I said (to myself)- Hilal is old, while I am young. I do not know what reply I shall get and, as such, I have no courage to make the request."

Ka'ab bin Malik RA continues:

"Another ten days passed and now our ordeal had lasted for a full fifty days. On the morning of the fiftieth day, when I had said my Fajr prayer and was sitting on the roof of my house stricken with grief, and the earth had "straightened" for me and the life had become dismal for me, I heard a crier's cry from over the top of the Mount Sula:

"Happy tidings to you, O, Ka'ab !."

The moment I heard this, I fell prostrate on the ground and tears of joy rolled down my cheeks, as I understood that the ordeal was now over. In fact, the Prophet (SAW) had announced the Divine forgiveness for all three of us after the Solat that morning. At this, a person ran up the top of the mountain and yelled out the cry that had reached me. Thereafter, a rider came galloping to deliver the same happy news to me.

I gave away as a gift the clothes, I was wearing, to the messenger of gladtidings. I swear by Allah I had no other clothes in my possession at that time. I dressed up by borrowing clothes from some friend and went to the Prophet (SAW). As I entered the musjid, the people in the audience of the Prophet (SAW) ran to congratulate me. Abu Talha (RA) was the first to approach me. He shook my hand with a warmth that I shall never forget.

Thereafter I offered my salutation to the Prophet (SAW). I found his face beaming and radiant like the full moon. This was usual with him at times of extreme joy.

I said to him:

"O, Prophet of Allah! I propose to give away in charity all that I possess as thanks for the acceptance of my Taubah."

He said:

"This will be too much for you. Keep a portion with you."

I agreed to keep my share of the booty that fell in our hands in the Khaibar campaign."

Ka'ab bin Malik RA says:

"It is the truth that brought me salvation, and as such I am determined to speak nothing but the truth in future."

The above story brings out the following salient characteristics of the Muslims of that time:

1. The importance of striving in the Path of Allah. Even the persons who had hitherto faithfully participated in every expedition, had to bear the Prophet's (SAW) anger when they failed to respond to Allah's call even though for the first time in their lives.

2. Their devotion and obedience to the Prophet (SAW). For full fifty days the whole Muslim community, even their nearest and dearest, would not speak to the three persons, in obedience to the Prophet's (SAW) orders. The three persons themselves went most steadfastly through the ordeal imposed on them.

3. Their strong faith. Ka'ab was so much perturbed when he received the letter from the Christian King, exciting him against the Prophet (SAW). His words and his action at that time are a testimony to the strong faith in his heart.

Let us search our hearts and see how much devotion we have in them for the observance of the duties we owe to Islam. Leaving aside Zakat and Hajj, which involve the sacrifice of money, take the case of Solat alone, which is the most important pillar of Islam after Imaan. How many of us are particular about it?

This long story from Hadith always moves me to tears. Even when writing it too. May Allah SWT make this beneficial for our salvation away from Jahannam. Ameen.

1 comment:

spirit of the dark said...

Jazakallah khair....such a beautiful story.

Would that we have faith as stout as theirs, insyaAllah.