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Bilal ibn Rabah: The Freedom Seeker

Bilal ibn Rabah
The life of Bilal remained stagnant, inauspicious and gloomy, until he heard about Messenger of Allah with which he found what he was looking for.

* By Muhammad ibn Hamad Assuyani

Bilal ibn Rabah: he was a black slave who descended from African origins. His parents were brought as slaves to Makkah, where he was born. Bilal rose up full of the sorrows, worries and chains of slavery that filled his heart with depression and restrained his humanity and freedom.

Bilal looking for freedom

Bilal’s life remained stagnant, inauspicious and gloomy, until he heard about the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). He found in Islam what he was looking for since a long time, namely freedom and justice. He has continually searched for them but he found nothing of them. Now, his dreams have come true when he heard from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Bilal chose Islam because it coincided with his pure nature and spat out the way of disbelief. However, the future was not pleasant for Bilal. He had to confront the masters of Qurash, specially his master Umayyah ibn Khalaf, who inflicted sever punishment upon Bilal. They would take Bilal out in the burning sun of Arabia, put him naked on the hot sand and place big stones on his chest until he would be about to die. They would leave him to the boys wandering about with him in the corals of Makkah and beating him. All that Bilal could do was to say, “Ahadun Ahad (‘He (God) is’ One, ‘He is’ One).

He must have not been an aimless slave but a great man carrying a goal and message for his life. He must be a symbol and role model for those who defend their due rights throughout history.

Bilal paid no attention to their whipping and lashing as if he was to say to them, “Do whatever you want, but you will not attain anything from my soul and will, because they are with God not with Quraysh or its idols.”

Bilal’s tragedy

The tragedy of Bilal with Quraysh was so bloody and painful. His appearance was so touching and pathetic. He would be pulled out in the streets and corals of Makkah kicked by the boys and foolish. He would fall time and time again from fatigue, then was forced to stand up again because of the pain of the stinging whips and sticks striking his head and body.

Muslims were going around burning of anger, but what could they do when they were not in better conditions than him. Bilal remained so until the sun of freedom rose one day for him. The compassionate Abu Bakr went to his criminal master, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, to freenBilal. The tyrant, Umayyah, finally accepted the offer since his hands and feet have become tired of slapping and kicking Bilal in no vain. Abu Bakr paid the price and went to the place where Bilal was tortured and stretched out his hand to Bilal, “Come up, you are free now.”

Qays ibn Hazim described Bilal’s tragedy saying, “Abu Bakr bought Bilal while he was buried under stones.”

This was the status of Bilal with those atheists; either to follow what they wanted for him, or to pay a heavy price for his choice; piles of stones covering his exhausted body, and a burning sun heating these stones on his chest, intensifying his torment and increasing his pains.

Bilal and the sun of freedom

Abu Bakr stretched out his hand to his brother Bilal, not to the slave Bilal. Abu Bakr bought Bilal to free him from under slavery and humiliation and release him in the space of freedom, breathing fresh air, and worshiping his Lord wherever and whenever he wants. Also, the time of fruitless and unappreciated hard work was gone.

Now, Bilal has become a free Muslim, yet a one of the masters of Islam, according to the testimony of `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) who said, “Abu Bakr is our master and he has freed our master.” It is only because he chose the way of Allah the Almighty and bravely bored the hardships for His sake.

Bilal and the Messenger of Allah

This new stage of Bilal’s life was totally different, although it was not free of many hardships and discomforts. Bilal would share hunger, pain and hardship with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). And in the battlefield, Bilal would make his body an armor in front of spears thrown at the Prophet. He feared for the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) more than he feared for himself and loved him more than anyone else. This indeed the secret behind the universal love and esteem of Bilal.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) would talk about the bravery and sufferings of Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) as narrated from Anas ibn Malik: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘I have been tortured for the sake of Allah as no one else has been tortured (like me), and I have suffered fear for the sake of Allah as no one else has suffered fear (like me). I have been with Bilal for three days without any food that a living being could eat but that which could be concealed in the armpit of Bilal.'” (At-Tirmidhi)

May Allah confer mercy upon Bilal


* The article is translated and modified by the editorial team. Find the Arabic source on Islamstory.com


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