The story of Salman Al Farsi

This is a story of a seeker of Truth, the story of Salman the Persian, gleaned, to begin with, from  his own words:

I grew up in the town of Isfahan in Persia in the village of Jayyan. My father was the Dihqan or  chief of the village. He was the richest person there and had the biggest house. Since I was a child my father loved me, more than he loved any other. As time went by his love for  me became so strong and overpowering that he feared to lose me or have anything happen to  me. So he kept me at home, a veritable prisoner, in the same way that young girls were kept. The story Of Salman Al Farsi

I became devoted to the Magian religion so much so that I attained the position of custodian of  the fire which we worshipped. My duty was to see that the flames of the fire remained burning and  that it did not go out for a single hour, day or night.

My father had a vast estate which yielded an abundant supply of crops. He himself looked after  the estate and the harvest. One day he was very busy with his duties as dihqan in the village and  he said to me:

“My son, as you see, I am too busy to go out to the estate now. Go and look after matters there  for me today.” 

On my way to the estate, I passed a Christian church and the voices at prayer attracted my  attention. I did not know anything about Christianity or about the followers of any other religion  throughout the time my father kept me in the house away from people. When I heard the voices of  the Christians I entered the church to see what they were doing. I was impressed by their manner  of praying and felt drawn to their religion. “By God,” I said, “this is better than ours. I shall not  leave them until the sun sets.”

I asked and was told that the Christian religion originated in Ash-Sham (Greater Syria). I did not  go to my father’s estate that day and at night, I returned home. My father met me and asked what  I had done. I told him about my meeting with the Christians and how I was impressed by their  religion. He was dismayed and said:

“My son, there is nothing good in that religion. Your religion and the religion of your forefathers is  better.”

“No, their religion is better than ours,” I insisted.

My father became upset and afraid that I would leave our religion. So he kept me locked up in the  house and put a chain on my feet. I managed however to send a message to the Christians  asking them to inform me of any caravan going to Syria. Before long they got in touch with me and  told me that a caravan was headed for Syria. I managed to unfetter myself and in disguise  accompanied the caravan to Syria. There, I asked who was the leading person in the Christian  religion and was directed to the bishop of the church. I went up to him and said:

“I want to become a Christian and would like to attach myself to your service, learn from you and  pray with you.”

The bishop agreed and I entered the church in his service. I soon found out, however, that the  man was corrupt. He would order his followers to give money in charity while holding out the  promise of blessings to them. When they gave anything to spend in the way of God, however, he  would hoard it for himself and not give anything to the poor or needy. In this way he amassed a  vast quantity of gold. When the bishop died and the Christians gathered to bury him, I told them  of his corrupt practices and, at their request, showed them where he kept their donations. When  they saw the large jars filled with gold and silver they said.

“By God, we shall not bury him.” They nailed him on a cross and threw stones at him. I continued  in the service of the person who replaced him. The new bishop was an ascetic who longed for the  Hereafter and engaged in worship day and night. I was greatly devoted to him and spent a long  time in his company.

(After his death, Salman attached himself to various Christian religious figures, in Mosul, Nisibis  and elsewhere. The last one had told him about the appearance of a Prophet in the land of the  Arabs who would have a reputation for strict honesty, one who would accept a gift but would  never consume charity (sadaqah) for himself. Salman continues his story.)

A group of Arab leaders from the Kalb tribe passed through Ammuriyah and I asked them to take  me with them to the land of the Arabs in return for whatever money I had. They agreed and I paid  them. When we reached Wadi al-Qura (a place between Madinah and Syria), they broke their  agreement and sold me to a Jew. I worked as a servant for him but eventually he sold me to a  nephew of his belonging to the tribe of Banu Qurayzah. This nephew took me with him to Yathrib,  the city of palm groves, which is how the Christian at Ammuriyah had described it.

At that time the Prophet was inviting his people in Makkah to Islam but I did not hear anything  about him then because of the harsh duties which slavery imposed upon me.

When the Prophet reached Yathrib after his hijrah from Makkah, I was in fact at the top of a palm  tree belonging to my master doing some work. My master was sitting under the tree. A nephew of  his came up and said:

“May God declare war on the Aws and the Khazraj (the two main Arab tribes of Yathrib). By God,  they are now gathering at Quba to meet a man who has today come from Makkah and who claims  he is a Prophet.”

I felt hot flushes as soon as I heard these words and I began to shiver so violently that I was  afraid that I might fall on my master. I quickly got down from the tree and spoke to my master’s  nephew.

“What did you say? Repeat the news for me.”

My master was very angry and gave me a terrible blow. “What does this matter to you’? Go back  to what you were doing,” he shouted.

That evening, I took some dates that I had gathered and went to the place where the Prophet  had alighted. I went up to him and said:

“I have heard that you are a righteous man and that you have companions with you who are  strangers and are in need. Here is something from me as sadaqah. I see that you are more  deserving of it than others.”

The Prophet ordered his companions to eat but he himself did not eat of it. I gathered some more  dates and when the Prophet left Quba for Madinah I went to him and said: “I noticed that you did  not eat of the sadaqah I gave. This however is a gift for you.” Of this gift of dates, both he and his  companions ate.

The strict honesty of the Prophet was one of the characteristics that led Salman to believe in him  and accept Islam .

Salman was released from slavery by the Prophet who paid his Jewish slave-owner a stipulated  price and who himself planted an agreed number of date palms to secure his manumission. After  accepting Islam, Salman would say when asked whose son he was:

“I am Salman, the son of Islam from the children of Adam.”

Salman was to play an important role in the struggles of the growing Muslim state. At the battle of  Khandaq, he proved to be an innovator in military strategy. He suggested digging a ditch or  khandaq around Madinah to keep the Quraysh army at bay. When Abu Sufyan, the leader of the  Makkans, saw the ditch, he said, “This stratagem has not been employed by the Arabs before.”

Salman became known as “Salman the Good”. He was a scholar who lived a rough and ascetic life.  He had one cloak which he wore and on which he slept. He would not seek the shelter of a roof  but stayed under a tree or against a wall. A man once said to him:

“Shall I not build you a house in which to live?” “I have no need of a house,” he replied. The man  persisted and said, “I know the type of house that would suit you.” “Describe it to me,” said  Salman. “I shall build you a house which if you stand up in it, its roof will hurt your head and if you  stretch your legs the wall will hurt them.”

Later, as a governor of al-Madain (Ctesiphon) near Baghdad, Salman received a stipend of five  thousand dirhams. This he would distribute as sadaqah. He lived from the work of his own hands.  When some people came to Madain and saw him working in the palm groves, they said, “You are  the amir here and your sustenance is guaranteed and you do this work!”

“I like to eat from the work of my own hands,” he replied. Salman however was not extreme in his  asceticism. It is related that he once visited Abu ad-Dardaa with whom the Prophet had joined him  in brotherhood. He found Abu ad-Dardaas wife in a miserable state and he asked, “What is the  matter with you.”

“Your brother has no need of anything in this world,” she replied.

When Abu ad-Dardaa came, he welcomed Salman and gave him food. Salman told him to eat but  Abu ad-Dardaa said, “I am fasting.”

“I swear to you that I shall not eat until you eat also.”

Salman spent the night there as well. During the night, Abu ad-Dardaa got up but Salman got hold  of him and said:

“O Abu ad-Dardaa, your Lord has a right over you. Your family has a right over you and your body  has a right over you. Give to each its due.”

In the morning, they prayed together and then went out to meet the Prophet, peace be upon him.  The Prophet supported Salman in what he had said.

As a scholar, Salman was noted for his vast knowledge and wisdom. Ali said of him that he was  like Luqman the Wise. And Kab al-Ahbar said: “Salman is stuffed with knowledge and wisdom–an  ocean that does not dry up.” Salman had a knowledge of both the Christian scriptures and the  Quran in addition to his earlier knowledge of the Zoroastrian religion. Salman in fact translated  parts of the Quran into Persian during the life-time of the Prophet. He was thus the first person to  translate the Quran into a foreign language.

Salman, because of the influential household in which he grew up, might easily have been a major  figure in the sprawling Persian Empire of his time. His search for truth however led him, even  before the Prophet had appeared, to renounce a comfortable and affluent life and even to suffer  the indignities of slavery. According to the most reliable account, he died in the year thirty five  after the hijrah, during the caliphate of Uthman, at Ctesiphon.

By Abdul Wahid Hamid. From: “Companions of The Prophet”, Vol.1

 

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