Bilal, the Outrunner: Epilogue & Appendices
In the last ten issues of Young Muslim Digest, the life of Bilal bin Rawaha, the famous Companion of the Prophet, had been serialized in this column every month. Presented herein under is the epilogue and useful appendices in this series as taken from the brief, but significant, biography by SYED IQBAL ZAHEER.
Allah’s peace and blessings be on Bilal (ra), and the likes of Bilal, in all ages. And may Allah (swt) inspire us to follow in their footsteps and in the footsteps of our Prophet Muhammad, alaihi al‑salatwa al‑salam, and admit us in their company in the life to come. And surely, granting us that is not hard for Allah (swt). He is capable of everything. Aamin! Wa al‑hamdulillahirabbil `alamin.
The following are three of the forty‑four ahadith narrated by Bilal, out of which four are in Bukhari and Muslim:
1. Harith ibn al‑Harith bin Mu`awiyyah al Kindi and Abu Jandal bin Suhayl were making ablution and talking about wiping over the socks, instead of washing the feet, when Bilal passed by. They asked him and he related the hadith: “You can wipe over the khuffayn and the turban (‘Imamah).” (Jami` Saghir, Hadith No. 1644).
[Note: Khuffayn (or what are today known as Jurrab (pl. Jirab) are those thick socks that will not tear off if one walked some distance with only them on. According to the Hanafiyya, it is applicable to those socks that will not, because of their thickness, let water ooze out immediately].
2. Usamah b. Zayd says the Prophet (saws) and Bilal entered the market. The Prophet (saws) went some way to meet a call of nature. When he returned, I asked Bilal what was it that the Prophet (saws) did. He said: “He went to attend the nature’s call. Then he made ablution washing his face, hands and wiping his head and the khuffayn. And then he Prayed.” (Nasa’ee: Taharah, no.95)
[Note that with the last sentence Bilal sent home the point that the ablution in question was not for benedictions alone. It was valid for religious rites].
The Night of Qadr
3. Sunabihiyy says: “I asked Bilal if he knew of the Night of Qadr and he said it is the twenty‑seventh of Ramadan.” (Bukhari: Al‑Maghazi)
(There are various ahadith on this subject. The scholars generally believe that the night of Qadr should be sought in the last ten nights of Ramadan.)
Bilal reports the Prophet (saws) as having said: “Offer your Fajr Prayers after the dawn has lit up the sky, for it carries greater rewards.” Actually, Bilal figures as a narrator in the footnote of this hadith in Tirmidhi (Bab Isfar al‑Fajr). And the chain of narrators of this footnote version has a weak reporter in the line. But the actual hadith, with Rafi` b. Khadeej as the narrator, is trustworthy (Tuhfatu al‑Ahwazi), as are others of similar nature, (footnote of A`lam al‑Nubala’). But the exact meaning and implication is contended. (ed.)
If people imagine that the whites are the only racists on earth, then they are as much prejudiced against them as the fair-colored have ever been against the dark-colored. No doubt, the unbelieving whites notch the first place, and beat others by miles. But there isn’t an evil on earth that is not the share of those that are not closely bound to Allah (swt) in love and obedience.
Islamic literature is not without lies invented by the racists and fastened upon the Prophet (saws) as speaking derogatorily of the Black race. But hadith experts have painstakingly chased every reporter of such traditions, and have exposed him and his lies. Here are two of the several ahadith taken from Nasiruddin Albani’s collection of fake traditions in a work called Al‑ahadith al‑Da`eefa wa Athruha al‑Sa’iyy fi al‑Ummah.
Tabrani and Khateeb have recorded a narration that says that the Prophet (saws) said: “Let me alone of the blacks. The blacks are for their bellies and sex” (No. 727). But the report is fake. Imam Bukhari has judged one of the reporters as “very untrustworthy.”
The inventor of the following report seems to believe that an apology is due from him after his derogatory remark about the Blacks. It is reported that the Prophet (saws) said: “If the Negro is well‑fed, he will take to adultery; if he is starving he will steal, although, admittedly, there is good amount of tolerance and nobility in them.” (729)
This hadith is also a fabrication. Abu Da’ud, Nasa’ee and others have distrusted one or more of the chain of the infamous narrators.
There are several other fibs concerning the Blacks. But Ibn Jawzi and Ibn Qayyim have examined each of them and declared that none can withstand scholarly criticism. And, almost as if some kind‑hearted buddies have tried to offset the above, we also have some untrustworthy reports that speak of the virtues of the Africans. For instance, a hadith recorded in Ibn Hibban, Tabrani and `Asakir, reports the Prophet (saws) as having said: “Be mindful of the blacks for three of the prominent dwellers of Paradise are of the blacks – Luqman, the Wise, Najashi and Bilal, the Muedhdhin. But according to Ibn Jauzi, Dara Qutni and Albani the report is not trustworthy (even if the statement might be true: au.) – Albani
Scholars have also shown that the much publicized story of Abu Dharr calling Bilal “the son of a black woman” did not happen with Bilal ibn Rabah. It was another Bilal.
It should be of interest to note that while it is most often the subject of Prayers and cleanliness in which Bilal is the narrator, yet out of several traditions that have come to us concerning the virtues of Adhan, none is reported by the first Muedhdhin himself.
For instance, the hadith of Ibn Majah: “None of the Jinn, men, trees and stones hear the Adhan but shall bear witness in his favor,” is a narration reported by Abu Sa`eed. The hadith: “The callers shall be of the longest necks on the Day of Judgement,” is preserved in Ibn Majah and narrated by Mu`awiyyah ibn AbiSufyan. Similarly, the hadith: “When a man raises his voice in Adhan he is forgiven to the extent his voice reaches,” which has been preserved by Abu Da’ud and other compilers, is narrated by Abu Hurayrah.
Although, as the preceding pages show, Bilal was so well-tuned to the Prophet’s thoughts, that it rarely happened that he was unhappy with a thing that Bilal did. Undeniably, the Prophet (saws) was a very patient person, but it is undeniable that Bilal provided little cause for criticism. At most, two, or three, occasions can be pointed out when the Prophet (saws) had to admonish him, or, a step further, reproach him.
Once, during the campaign of Khyber, when the Muslims, having conquered Al‑Qamus, a Jewish fort at Khyber, sent two women‑prisoners to the Prophet in the custody of Bilal. He chose to take them past the Jews that were slain in the battle. When the women saw them, one of them slapped herself in the face and threw dust on her head. When the Prophet (saws) saw her he said, “Take this devil out of my sight.” And then he chided Bilal: “Had you no compassion, Bilal, that you brought those two women past their dead husbands?”
The occasion when the Prophet (saws) admonished Bilal was when he saw some dates in his safekeeping. He asked him what it was. Bilal told him that those were dates that he had saved for him (the Prophet) and his visitors.
“Spend Bilal,” said the Prophet (saws), “and fear not poverty from the Owner of the `Arsh.” (Safwatu al‑Safwah)
Perhaps it was the effect of such admonition that Bilal used to give away a little more than what the Prophet (saws) would order him to give. As, for instance, in the case of Jabir when the Prophet (saws) ordered Bilal to pay an ounce of silver, Jabir himself reports that Bilal gave him a little more than that. (Ibn Ishaq)
Admiration and love are good things, but should not be based on ignorance. It is a loving, but ignorant person behind the hadith which reports that in his Adhan, Bilal pronounced sheen as seen. Equally ignorant followers have used the hadith to escape from the rigors of Tajweed. But experts of hadith have declared the report baseless.
“Far from that,” says Ibn Kathir, “he was a gifted man of words.” What Ibn Kathir was alluding to is that a gifted man of words does not suffer from the deficiencies of the tongue.
Ibn Kathir wasn’t exaggerating. Recall Bilal’s words when someone placed Bilal (ra) higher than Abu Bakr (ra) in comparison: “How can they place me above him, when I’m one of his good deeds?” This writer is yet to come across another, more eloquent way of acknowledging a debt. Only Bilal could have put it so simply, so truthfully.