How did the Prophet’s Persian Companion Convert to Islam?
“I am Salman, the son of Islam from the children of Adam.”

Salman (ra), because of the influential household in which he grew up, might easily have continued to live a life of ease and luxury in the sprawling Persian empire of this time. His search for truth however led him,…

According to rahyafte (the missionaries and converts website):   Excerpted from Abdul Wahid Hamid’s Book “The Companions of the Prophet”.

I grew up in the town of Isfahan in Persia, in the village of Jayyan. My father was the 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. Thus, he kept me at home, a veritable prisoner, in the same way that young girls were kept.

Searching for the Right Faith

I became devoted to the Zoroastrian religion so much so that I attained the position of custodian of the fire that 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 that 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 chief of 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 during the time that 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 the Levant (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, to learn from you, and to 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 offering 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.”

The Final Prophet in the Land of the Arabs

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

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

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 Medina 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 (Medinah), the city of palm groves, which is how the Christian at Ammuriyah had described it.

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 Aws and Khazraj (the two main Arab tribes of Medina). By God, they are now gathering at Quba to meet a man who has today come from Mecca 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 said 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 charity. 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 Medina, I went to him and said, ‘I noticed that you did not eat of the charity that 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.”

For the next four years, however, Salman (ra) was only able to have little contact with the Prophet (saw) and fellow Muslims, for he was kept hard at work as a slave among the Banu Qurayzah. His life of toil and restriction meant that he could not experience at first hand the encounters at Badr and Uhud and other momentous events in the life of the early Muslim community. This weighed heavily on him. He felt a burning desire to be free. He thought of purchasing his freedom. But the price his master was asking to set him free – forty ounces of gold and the planting of three hundred date palms – was beyond his means. He eventually went to the Prophet (saw) to see his help. The Noble Prophet agreed to help.

As for the planting of the three hundred date palms, the Prophet (saw) called on his companions to contribute the palm shoots, which they did, one contributing thirty, another twenty and so on. He told Salman (ra) to dig the holes and then with his own hands he planted the agreed number of date palms. As for the gold, the Prophet (saw) gave him a piece of gold that had been given to him from one of the mines. From this, Salman (ra) paid the Jewish slave-owner the full amount and became a free man.

The story of khandaq

Salman (ra) was to play an important role in the struggles of the growing Muslim State. Towards the end of the fifth year after the Hijrah, the Prophet (saw) got intelligence that a massive Quraysh army of about ten thousand strong, including a large cavalry force, had set out from Makkah in another major attempt to finish off the Muslims. They were to be joined by the Jews of Khaybar and other powerful ‘Arab tribes like the Banu Asad and the Banu Ghatafan in a mighty alliance.

The Muslims had only a week to make preparations to defend themselves. The Noble Prophet (saw) alerted the people, urged them to be steadfast and, as he had done before, summoned them to a consultation to discuss how to meet the grave threat. It is said that after several ideas were put forward, Salman (ra) eventually rose up and said:

“O Messenger of Allah, in Persia when we feared an attack of cavalry, we would surround ourselves with a trench, so let us dig a trench about us now.”

The stunning suggestion was accepted. The course of the trench or khandaq was carefully planned with Salman (ra) advising on the width and depth. The Prophet (saw) made each section of the community responsible for a part of the trench. It was a massive undertaking. The work was strenuous and everyone, including the Noble Prophet (saw), dug and shifted the earth and boulders while chanting to keep their morale and spirits high. Salman (ra) being fit and strong and used to such hard labor is said to have done the work of ten men. While each section of the Muslims sought to claim Salman (ra) as its own, the Prophet (saw) was moved to say, “Salman is one of us, the people of (my) household.”

The khandaq was completed in six days and not a moment too soon. They army of the Quraysh and their allies advanced and when they saw the Muslims camped outside the city, they were encouraged in their hope of putting an end to them as quickly as possible. When they drew nearer, however, they were amazed to see the broad trench that lay between them and the Muslim defenders on the other side. When Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Makkans, saw the trench, he said, “This stratagem has not been employed by the Arabs before.”

In the following days, the Quraysh made several attempts to breach the trench, but they all ended in failure. A long siege followed in which the Muslims’ endurance was sorely tested, while they manned the trench day and night. In the end, the Quraysh and their allies had to withdraw in disarray. The strategy of the trench, the steadfastness of the Muslims and, above all, Allah’s help saved the city and the Muslims from annihilation.

Opportunity to acquire knowledge and wisdomSalman (ra) continued in the service of the Noble Prophet (saw) and stayed close to him in the few eventful years that followed. A better opportunity to acquire knowledge and wisdom could not be found. In every event, in every meeting, in every journey – there was something to be learned. The Prophet (saw), for example, was once with Salman (ra) and another person under a tree. He took a dry branch from the tree and shook it and the leaves fell. He asked Salman:

“Salman, aren’t you going to ask me why I have done this?”

“Why have you done this?” inquired Salman (ra) and the Noble Prophet (saw) replied:

“When a Muslim make wudu’ and does it well, then performs the five (daily) prescribed Salat, his sins fall away just as these leaves fall away.”

And then he recited the verse of the Qur’an: “And establish Salat at both ends of the day and during the early watches of the night. Indeed, good deeds drive away evil deeds. This is a reminder to those who are mindful (of God).” (Surah Hud, 11:114)

Salman (ra) practiced what he learned. It is related that he was once with a group of Muslims engaged in dhikr or the remembrance of Almighty Allah. The Prophet (saw) passed by and so they stopped. He asked:

“What have you been saying?”

“We are remembering Allah, O Messenger of Allah.”

“Go on saying (your words of remembrance),” encouraged the Prophet (saw), “for indeed I saw grace and mercy descending upon you and I dearly love to share this with you.” Then he said:

“Praise be to Allah Who has made such people among my Ummah with whom I am commanded to find calmness and patience (sabr) in myself.”

Salman (ra) proved to be a keen student and was regarded as one of the foremost scholars among the Muslims after the passing of the Prophet (saw). It is related that when the well-known companion of the Prophet (saw), Mu’adh ibn Jabal (ra), was on his deathbed, a man who came to visit him began to weep.

“Why do you weep?” asked Mu’adh (ra).

“Because of the knowledge that I would have gained from you,” replied the man.

“Don’t cry,” said Mu’adh comfortingly, “for when I die, seek knowledge from four persons: ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, ‘Abdullah ibn Salam, Salman and Abu-d Darda’ (ra).”

As a scholar, Salman (ra) was noted for his vast knowledge and wisdom. ‘Ali (ra) said of him that he was like Luqman the Wise (as). And Ka’b al-Ahbar said, “Salman is stuffed with knowledge and wisdom – an ocean that does not dry up.”

Salman (ra) had a knowledge of both the Christian scriptures and the Qur’an in addition to his earlier knowledge of the Zoroastrian religion. Salman (ra) in fact translated parts of the Qur’an into Persian during the lifetime of the Prophet (saw). He was thus the first person to translate the Qur’an into a foreign language.

Salman (ra) was keen to pass on his knowledge. It is related that while he was in a mosque in Ctesiphon, about a thousand people gathered about him. He told them to sit down and started to recite from Surah Yusuf. They began to disperse until there were just about one hundred left. He became upset and said, “It is pleasant talk you want! But when I read the Book of Allah for you, you go away!”

In carrying out the instructions of the Prophet (saw), he remained faithful and thorough. As the commander of a Muslim army besieging a castle in Persia, he was urged by his forces to plunge immediately into attack.

“O Abu ‘Abdullah!” they said, “shall we not take the attack to them?”

He replied, “Let me invite them to Islam as I have heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) saying, ‘Invite them (to Islam).'”

Salman (ra) then addressed the besieged, saying:

“I am a man from among you, a Persian. Do you see the Arabs obeying me? If you accept Islam, you will have what we have and you will be up against what we are up against. If you do not accept Islam, you can come under the protection of the Muslims on payment of the jizyah (military exemption tax).”

The Persians refused both these options and said to Salman (ra), “We will fight you.” The Muslim forces called on Salman (ra) to attack them forthwith but he continued to invite them to Islam for three days. Only when they remained obstinate, did he give the command to attack and they conquered the fortress.

There are other examples of the wisdom and correct behaviour of Salman (ra). It is related that he was once with a military post. Some distance away, a person began to recite the Qur’an from Surah Maryam. A non-Muslim listening to the recitation started to defame Maryam and her son, the Prophet (saw) ‘Isa (Jesus-as). The Muslims became incensed and set upon the man, beating him so badly as to draw blood. The man went to Salman (ra) and complained, for it had become known that anyone who was wronged or unjustly treated could go to Salman. Salman (ra) went to those who had beaten the man and asked:

“Why did you beat up this man?”

“We were reading Surah Maryam and he vilified Maryam and her son,” they replied.

Salman (ra) reprimanded the Muslims and urged them to exercise restraint and treat the protected people (ahl al-dhimmah) with honor. He quoted the Qur’anic verse: “Do not revile those whom they invoke instead of Allah lest they revile Allah out of spite and in ignorance.” (Surah al-An’am, 6:108)

Salman (ra) became known as “Salman the Good”. He was a scholar who lived a rough and ascetic life. He had one cloak that he wore and on which he slept. He would not seek the shelter of a roof but often 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 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-Mada’in (Ctesiphon) near Baghdad, Salman (ra) 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 al-Mada’in and saw him working in the palm groves making baskets, they were amazed.

“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.

Once Salman (ra) was being pressed to eat a little more from the food he was served but he insisted, “This is enough for me. This is enough for me. I have heard the Messenger (saw) saying, ‘The one who fills his stomach the most in this world will be the hungriest in the Hereafter. O Salman, the world is but a prison for the believer and paradise for the disbeliever.'”

Salman (ra), however, was not extreme in his asceticism. It is related that he once visited Abu-d Darda’ (ra) with whom the Prophet (saw) had joined him in brotherhood. He found Abu-d Darda’s 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-d Darda’ came, he welcomed Salman (ra) and gave him food. Salman (ra) told him to eat but Abu-d Darda’ said:

“I am fasting.”

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

Salman (ra) spent the night there as well. During the night, Abu-d Darda’ got up but Salman (ra) got hold of him and said:

“O Abu-d Darda’, 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 (saw). The Prophet (saw) supported Salman (ra) in what he had said.

Salman and Abu-d Darda’ (ra) remained closely attached to each other. When apart, they often wrote to each other offering advice and support, with certain frankness at times. Abu-d Darda’ once wrote to Salman (ra) requesting him to make haste and return to the “holy land”. Salman (ra) wrote back to him saying, “Surely the earth does not make anyone holy. Is it only man’s deeds which make him holy.”

Salman (ra), because of the influential household in which he grew up, might easily have continued to live a life of ease and luxury in the sprawling Persian empire of this time. His search for truth however led him, even before the Prophet (saw) 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 35 AH, during the caliphate of ‘Uthman (ra), at Ctesiphon.


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