From Persia comes our hero this time, and from Persia many came to embrace Islam in the long run, and it made some of them extraordinary, unsurpassable in faith and knowledge in religion and worldly affairs.
It is one of the wonders of Islam and its greatness that it never enters a country on Allah’s earth but that it exerts invaluable influence on all its potentialities and forces, bringing forth the latent genius of its people and followers. From there came forth Muslim philosophers, physicians, jurists, astronomers, inventors, and mathematicians.
Behold, they reached all heights, broke all frontiers, until the first era of Islam flourished with great geniuses in all fields of intellectual activity such as administration and science. Verily, they came from various nations, but their religion remained one.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) had prophesied this blessed spread of his religion. Indeed, he had been so promised by his Almighty Lord. He had pointed to the time, place, and day, and he had seen in his mind’s eye the banner of Islam fluttering in all comers of the earth and over the palaces of its earthly rulers.
Battle of the Trench
Salman Al-Farisi (the Persian) bore witness to this and was firmly connected with what happened. That was on the Day of Al-Khandaq (The Trench) in the year A.H. 5, when the leaders of the Jews approached Makkah to stir up the polytheists and form an alliance against the Prophet and the Muslims, asking the polytheists to enter upon a treaty for decisive battle to eradicate this new religion.
The ungodly war was planned: the Quraysh army and allies would attack Al Madinah from outside, while the Bani Ouraidhah would attack from within, behind the ranks of the Muslims, who would then fall prey and be crushed. One day the Prophet and the Muslims were taken unaware by a huge well-armed army marching on Al-Madinah. The Qur’an depicts the scene thus:
When they came against you from above you and from below you and your eyes turned away and your hearts reached to your throats, and you imagined vain thoughts about GOD; in that place the believers were tried and shaken most severely. (Al-Ahzab 33:10-11)
Twenty-four thousand fighters under the command of Abu Sufyan and `Uyainah ibn Hisn were advancing on Al-Madinah to storm it and to lay siege to it in order to get rid of Muhammad, his religion, and his Companions.
This army did not represent the Quraysh alone, for they were in alliance with all the tribes, and all had vested interests that were threatened by Islam. It was a last and decisive attempt embarked on by all the enemies of the Prophet, based upon individual, collective, and tribal interests.
The Muslims found themselves in a precarious situation. The Prophet assembled his Companions for consultation. Certainly they were gathered to reach a decision on defense and battle, but how could they put up a defense?
And then a long-legged man with flowing hair for whom the Prophet bore great love, Salman Al-Farisi, held up his head and took a look at Al-Madinah, which was surrounded by hills, mountains, and exposed open country which could be easily broken through by the enemy.
Salman had much experience, in warfare and its tactics in his native Persia. So he proposed to the Prophet something which the Arabs had never seen before in warfare. It was the digging of a trench in the exposed places around Al-Madinah.
And Allah knows what could have been the position of the Muslims in that battle had they not dug the trench, which was no sooner seen by the Quraysh than they were stunned by despair. The forces of the enemy still remained in their tents for a month, unable to take Al-Madinah, until Allah sent them one night a storm which devastated their tents and tore them asunder.
Then Abu Sufyan announced to his forces that they should return to where they had come from. They were despondent and frustrated.
Teamwork in Action
During the excavation of the trench, Salman took his place among the Muslims while they dug and removed the sand. The Prophet was also taking part in digging where Salman was working in a group. Their pickaxes could not smash a stubborn rock, in spite of the fact that Salman was of strong build and hard working.
A single stroke of his would break a rock to pieces, but he stood in front of this stubborn one. He let all those around him try to break it, but in vain. Salman went to the Prophet to ask him to divert the trench around that stubborn and challenging rock. The Prophet (PBUH) returned with Salman to see the rock himself. When he saw it, he called for a pickax and asked the Companions to keep back from the splinters. He said, “In the name of Allah,” and then raised his blessed, firm hands gripping the pickax and let it fall.
The rock broke, making a great light. Salman said that he himself saw that light shining upon Al-Madinah. The Prophet raised the pickax and gave a second blow and the rock broke more. At that moment the Prophet (peace be upon him) said loudly, “Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), I have been given the keys to Rome; its red palaces have been lit for me and my nation has vanquished it.”
The Prophet struck his third blow. Then the rock shattered and its glittering light was seen!
The Prophet told them that he was now looking at the palaces of Syria, San`aa’ (Sanaa) and others like them, and the cities of the world over which the banner of Islam would flutter one day. The Muslims shouted in deep faith, “This is what Allah and His Prophet have promised us!”
Salman was the originator of the project to dig the trench, and he was associated with the rock out of which poured some secrets of the unseen and of destiny.
When he called the Prophet to break it, he stood by the side of the Prophet, saw the light, and heard the glad omen, and he lived to see the prophecy fulfilled and abided in its living reality.
He saw the great capitals of Persia and Rome (Byzantium), the palaces of San`aa’, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. He saw every place trembling with the blessed ecstasy which was issuing forth from the high minarets in all parts of the world, spreading the light of guidance and goodness.
And here he is sitting there in the shade of a tree before his house in Al-Madinah telling his guests about his great adventures in the quest for truth, explaining to them how he abandoned the religion of his Persian people for Christianity and then for Islam. How he abandoned his father’s wealth and estate and threw himself into the arms of the wilderness in the quest for the release of his tension and soul. How he was sold in a slave market on his way to search for truth. How he met with the Prophet and how he came to believe in him.
In the coming part we will approach that great court and listen to his grand tale which he is recounting….
The article is excerpted from the book “Men Around the Messenger”, which is a translation based on Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s celebrated work in Arabic “Rijal Hawla Ar-Rasul” which represents the real inspirational stories of sixty-four Companions of the Prophet.