The 27th of April in South Africa is celebrated yearly as “Freedom Day”. It was the day when South Africa was liberated from Apartheid and all South Africans would be given an equal right and a fair chance in life. It was the first time when all South Africans were allowed to vote for the political party of their choice. It was freedom from the shackles of apartheid and oppression of certain race groups.
We as Muslims however, by the grace of Allah experiencing freedom of religion for much longer period but it has been mad e easier for us to go into areas from which we were previously barred. This is indeed a very great bounty of Allah considering that in so many parts of the world – past and present – Muslims are unable to practice their religion freely.
In one Ayah of the Quraan Shareef, Allah Ta’ala addresses the believers and says: “Do you think that you will enter Jannah without such as those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Rasool and the believers who were with him cried out: ‘When is the help of Allah (coming)?’ Know well the help of Allah is (always) near.” (Suratul Baqarah V.214)
The following incident has been recorded in Mishkaat Shareef Pg. 524/5: (This is a portion of the Hadith)
Hazrat Khabbab ibnul Arat (Radiyallahu Anhu) narrates that once whilst Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) was lying down using a shawl as a pillow in the shade of the Ka’bah, we complained to him that we have experienced great difficulties, tortures and persecutions at the hands of the Quraish. We then said to Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam), “Will you not make Duaa to Allah (to grant us ease)?” Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) sat up immediately and his Mubarak face was red (with anger) and said, “In the nations of the past there was such torment that a pit would be dug and a person would be placed in it and then a saw would be brought and then placed on his head and he would be sawed into two but that would not deter them from their Deen. The heads of others were combed with combs of steel, which would penetrate their flesh and skin, reaching the skull. This also would not deter them from their Deen. (Bukhari)
In Suratul Buruj Allah Ta’ala says: “Accursed are the people of the Trenches, those of the heavily fuelled fire, when they sat by the trenches, and were witnesses to what they did to the believers.” (V.4-7).
In Muslim Shareef, Vol.2 Pg. 415, there is a lengthy incident narrated by Hazrat Suhayb (Radiyallahu Anhu) that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) once recounted the story of a king of the past. He had a sorcerer and when this sorcerer became old, he said to the king, “I have aged and become old. So send me a young boy whom I will teach my craft of sorcery.” So the king sent him sent him a young boy so that he could take lessons from the sorcerer. When the young boy would go to the sorcerer, on the way he passed by a monk. So he sat there and listened to the discourses and became impressed by these discourses. Thus whenever he would go to the sorcerer he would pass by the monk and would sit in his discourses before going to the sorcerer. When the boy would reach the sorcerer, the sorcerer would beat him for being late. He then complained about this to the monk. The monk said to him that when he feared that the sorcerer would beat him up or scold him for being late then he should say that his family had delayed him and when he feared that his family members would scold him or beat him up for being late then he should say that the sorcerer had delayed him. This plan continued for a while.
Once it so happened that a large animal blocked the path and prevented people from passing. So he thought to himself that today I will discover whether the knowledge of the sorcerer was better or the knowledge of the monk. He picked up a stone and made Duaa that: “O Allah if the way of this monk is more beloved to you than the way of the magician, then kill this animal with this stone so that people can pass.” He then threw the stone at the creature, the stone killed instantly and people were able to pass peacefully.
He then went to the monk and related the whole incident to him. The monk said to him, “O my son, today you reached a status which I can see. Now listen, soon you will be tested (put through difficulty). When this happens, don’t tell anyone about me.”
Thereafter, the boy began curing people who were born blind and those who incurred blindness later on in life i.e. Allah would cure them when he would make Duaa to Allah to cure them. He started curing people of all their illnesses.
Soon a minister of the king who was blind heard about this boy. So he came to him bringing along many gifts and he told the boy that he can have everything if he cured him. The boy said, “I cannot cure anyone. Only Allah can cure. However, if you believe in Allah I will make Duaa to Allah and He will cure you.” The minister believed in Allah and was cured.
When the minister returned to the king’s court, the king asked him who had restored his vision. The minister replied, My Rabb has restored my sight.” The king asked, “Do you have a Rabb besides me?” The minister replied, “Allaah Ta’aala is my Rabb and your Rabb.” The king had the minister arrested and he was tortured until he revealed the name of the boy.
When the boy was brought before the king, the king said to him, “Your magic has reached has reached a stage where it can cure the blind and people suffering from white liver.” The boy said, “I cannot cure anyone. Only Allaah can cure.” The king then had him tortured until he revealed the identity of the monk. When the monk was brought before the king, the king told him to renounce his religion. When the monk refused, the king had a saw brought and, placing the saw on his head, had the monk sawed in two. The king then turned to the minister who believed in Allaah and told him to renounce his faith. When the minister refused, the king also had him sawn into two.
Turning to the boy, the king put the same request to him. When the boy also refused, the king placed him in the custody of a few of his men and instructed them to take the boy to certain mountain and to climb up to the summit with him. If he renounced his religion there, he was to be set free, otherwise if he still refused to forsake his religion, they were to throw him off the mountain. As they climbed the mountain with him, the boy made du’aa thus, “O Allaah! Suffice for me against them in whichever manner You please.” Allaah then caused the mountain to tremor and all the king’s men fell to their deaths. The boy returned alone to the king.
When the king asked where his men were, the boy replied that Allaah had protected him from their evil. The king then sent him with another party of men, instructing them to take him by ship to the middle of the ocean and to let him be if he forsook his faith. Otherwise, they were to throw him overboard. When they reached the middle of the ocean, the boy again prayed, “O Allaah! Suffice for me against them in whichever manner You please.” As he made the du’aa, the ship capsized and all the king’s men were drowned. Again the boy returned alone to the king and when the king asked where his men were, the boy replied that Allaah had sufficed for him and had protected him from their evil.
The boy then told the king that he would be unable to kill him by any method except one. When the king asked him what the method was, the boy said, “Gather the people on a field and tie me to the trunk of a tree. Then, taking an arrow from this quiver of mine, place it in my bow and say, ‘In the name of the Rabb of this boy.’ The shoot the arrow.” The boy knew that he was to die so he thought of this method to make his death an invitation to his religion for the people. Unable to fathom this plan, the king did as he was told. He gathered the people, placed the arrow in the bow and shot it saying, ”In the name of the Rabb of this boy.” The arrow struck the boy’s temple and he died with his hand on the point where the arrow hit. Seeing this, the people cried out, “We believe in the Rabb of this boy!”
The king’s men came to him saying, “What you most feared has happened.” The king then instructed his soldiers to dig trenches in the first streets of the town and to fill the trenches with fire. When this was done, the king instructed his men to bring every Mu’min to the trenches and to tell them to renounce their faith in Allaah. If they refused, they were to be thrown into the fire. When this was done, many people were thrown into the fire. Eventually, when a woman carrying her infant child was brought to a trench, she hesitated. Allaah granted speech to her child who said, “O mother! Be steadfast because you are certainly upon truth.”
Tirmidhi reports the same incident with a few additions. At the beginning, the narration of Tirmidhi states that a fortune – teller of the king told him that his kingdom was soon to come to an end and it was this fortune – teller who requested the king to send an intelligent boy to him so that he could teach him his craft. This narration also states that when the masses declared, “We believe in the Rabb of this boy” someone told the king, “You were afraid of opposition from three people (the boy, the monk and the minister), now look! The entire nation is against you.” It was then that the king had the trenches dug and announced, “We will say nothing to those who renounce their faith.
However, those who do not renounce will be cast into the trenches.” It is with reference to this incident that Allaah revealed the verses, “Accursed are the people of the trenches, those of the heavily fuelled fire when they sat by the trenches and were witnesses to what they did to the believers. They found no fault in them (the believers) except that they believed in Allaah, the Mighty, Most Worthy of praise.”
The narration of Tirmidhi (Rahimahullah) also states that when the grave of the boy was dug up during the rule of Hadrat Umar (RA), his hand was found on his temple as when he had passed away. Allaama Ibn Katheer (A.R) has quoted Muqaatil (A.R) who states that he incident of the trenches took place thrice in history. It occurred in Shaam during the reign of the Roman emperor Iltanayoos, in Persia during the reign of the emperor Nebuuchadnezzar and in Narjaan in Yemen during the reign of the king Yusuf Dhutuwas. He states that the incident that the Qur’aan refers to here in Surah Burooj is the third that occurred in Narjaan
Allama Ibn Katheer (A.R) has also quoted from Ibn Abi Haatim (A.R) that the incident occurred during the period of “Fatrah” i.e after the ascension of Hadrat Isa (A.S) but before the birth of Rasulullaah sallallahu – alayhi – wa – sallam) Allaah knows best.
This was the difficulty that others underwent for the preservation of Deen and for practising Deen. We should appreciate this and the fact that we have freedom of religion and prcatise our religion to the fullest and not look for loopholes.
Darul Ihsan Centre