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Suhayb Ar-Rumi sahaba stories biography, sahabah, sahaabah, companion of prophet muhammad saw, sahabi, sahabi's
|Suhayb Ar-Rumi R.A Sahaba
About twenty years before the start of the Prophet's mission, that is about the middle of the sixth century
CE, an Arab named Sinan ibn Malik governed the city of al-Uballah on behalf of the Persian emperor.
The city, which is now part of Basrah, lay on t he banks of the Euphrates River. Sinan lived in a
luxurious palace on the banks of the river. He had several children and was particularly fond of one of
them who was then barely five years old. His name was Suhayb. He was blond and fair-complexioned.
H e was active and alert and gave much pleasure to his father.
One day Suhayb's mother took him and some members of her household to a village called ath-Thani for
a picnic. What was to be a relaxing and enjoyable day turned out to be a terrifying experience that was
to change the course of young Suhayb's life forever.
That day, the village of ath-Thani was attacked, by a raiding party of Byzantine soldiers. The guards
accompanying the picnic party were overwhelmed and killed. Ali possessions were seized and a large
number of persons were taken prisoner. Among these w as Suhayb ibn Sinan.
Suhayb was taken to one of the slave markets of the Byzantine Empire, the capital of which was
Constantinople, there to be sold. Thereafter he passed from the hands of one slave master to another. His
fate was no different from thousands of other slaves w ho filled the houses, the palaces and castles of
Byzantine rulers and aristocrats.
Suhayb spent his boyhood and his youth as a slave. For about twenty years he stayed in Byzantine lands.
This gave him the opportunity to get a rare knowledge and understanding of Byzantine/ire and society.
In the palaces of the aristocracy, he saw with hi s own eyes the injustices and the corruption of
Byzantine life. He detested that society and later would say to himself:
"A society like this can only be purified by a deluge." Suhayb of course grew up speaking Greek, the
language of the Byzantine Empire. He practically forgot Arabic. But he never forgot that he was a son of
the desert. He longed for the day when he woul d be free again to join his people's folk. At the first
opportunity Suhayb escaped from bondage and headed straight for Makkah which was a place of refuge
or asylum. There people called him Suhayb "ar-Rumi" or "the Byzantine" because of his peculiarly hea
vy speech and his blond hair. He became the halif of one of the aristocrats of Makkah, Abdullah ibn
Judan. He engaged in trade and prospered. In fact, he became quite rich.
One day he returned to Makkah from one of his trading journeys. He was told that Muhammad the son
of Abdullah had begun calling people to believe in God alone, commanding them to be just and to do
good works and prohibiting them from shameful and reprehen sible deeds. He immediately enquired
who Muhammad was and where he stayed. He was told.
"(He stays) in the house or' al-Arqam ibn Abi al-Arqam. Be careful however that no Quraysh sees you.
If they see you they would do (the most terrible things to you). You are a stranger here and there is no
bond of asabiyyahi to protect you, neither have you any clan to help you."
Suhayb went cautiously to the house of al-Arqam. At the door he found Ammar ibn Yasir the young son
of a Yemeni father who was known to him. He hesitated for a moment then went up to Ammar and said:
"What do you want (here), Ammar?"
"Rather, what do you want here'?" countered Ammar.
"I want to go to this man and hear directly from him what he is saying."
"I also want to do that." "Then let us enter together, ala barakatillah (with the blessings of God)."
Suhayb and Ammar entered and listened to what Muhammad was saying. They were both readily
convinced of the truth of his message. The light of faith entered their hearts. At this meeting, they
pledged fealty to the Prophet. declaring that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger
of Allah. They spent the entire day in the company of the noble Prophet. At night, under cover of
darkness, they left the house of al-Arqam, their hearts aglow with the light of faith and their faces
beaming with ha ppiness.
Then the familiar pattern of events followed. The idolatrous Quraysh learnt about Suhayb's acceptance
of Islam and began harassing and persecuting him. Suhayb bore his share of the persecution in the same
way as Bilal, Ammar and his mother Sumayyah, Kha bbab and many others who professed Islam. The
punishment was inhuman and severe but Suhayb bore it all with a patient and courageous heart because
he knew that the path to Jannah is paved with thorns and difficulties. The teachings of the noble Prophet
ha d instilled in him and other companions a rare strength and courage.
When the Prophet gave permission for his followers to migrate to Madinah, Suhayb resolved to go in the
company of the Prophet and Abu Bakr. The Quraysh however found out about his intentions and foiled
his plans. They placed guards over him to prevent him from leaving and taking with him the wealth, the
gold and the silver, which he had acquired through trade.
After the departure of the Prophet and Abu Bakr, Suhayb continued to bide his time, waiting for an
opportunity to join them. He remained unsuccessful. The eyes of his guards were ever alert and
watchful. The only way out was to resort to a stratagem.
One cold night, Suhayb pretended he had some stomach problems and went out repeatedly as if
responding to calls of nature. His captors said one to another:
"Don't worry. Al-Laat and al-Uzza are keeping him busy with his stomach."
They became relaxed and sleep got the better of them. Suhayb quietly slipped out as if he was going to
the toilet. He armed himself, got ready a mount and headed in the direction of Madinah.
When his captors awoke, they realized with a start that Suhayb was gone. They got horses ready and set
out in hot pursuit and eventually caught up with him. Seeing them approach, Suhayb clambered up a
hill. Holding his bow and arrow at the ready, he shou ted:
"Men of Quraysh! You know, by God, that I am one of the best archers and my aim is unerring. By God,
if you come near me, with each arrow I have, I shall kill one of you. Then I shall strike with my sword."
A Quraysh spokesman responded: By God , we shall not let you escape from us with your life and
money. You came to Makkah weak and poor and you have acquired what you have acquired.."
"What would you say if I leave you my wealth?" interrupted Suhayb. "Would you get out of my way?"
"Yes," they agreed.
Suhayb described the place in his house in Makkah where he had left the money, and they allowed him
He set off as quickly as he could for Madinah cherishing the prospect of being with the Prophet and of
having the freedom to worship God in peace. On his way to Madinah, whenever he felt tired, the thought
of meeting the Prophet sustained him and he proce eded with increased determination. When Suhayb
reached Quba, just outside Madinah where the Prophet himself alighted after his Hijrah, the Prophet saw
him approaching. He was over-joyed and greeted Suhayb with beaming smiles.
"Your transaction has been fruitful, O Abu Yahya. Your transaction has been fruitful." He repeated this
three times. Suhayb's face beamed with happiness as he said: "By God, no one has come before me to
you, Messenger of God, and only JibriI could have t old you about this." Yes indeed! Suhayb's
transaction was fruitful. Revelation from on high affirmed the truth of this:
"And there is a type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of God. And God is full of kindness
to His servants."
(The Quran, Surah al-Baqarah, 2:2O7).
What is money and what is gold and what is the entire world so long as faith remains! The Prophet
loved Suhayb a great deal. He was commended by the Prophet and described as preceding the
Byzantines to Islam. In addition to his piety and sobriety, Suhayb was also light-hearted at times and had
a good sense of humor. One day the Prophet saw him eating dates. He noticed that Suhayb had an
infection in one eye. The Prophet said to him laughingly: "Do you eat ripe dates while you have an
infection in one eye ?"
"What's wrong?" replied Suhayb, "I am eating it with the other eye."
Suhayb was also known for his generosity. He used to give all his stipend from the public treasury fi
sabilillah, to help the poor and those in distress. He was a good example of the Quranic verse: "He gives
food for the love of God to the needy, the orph an and the captive." So generous was he that Umar once
"I have seen you giving out so much food that you appear to be too extravagant." Suhayb replied: "I
have heard the Messenger of God say: 'The best of you is the one who gives out food.'"
Suhayb's piety and his standing among MusIims was so high that he was selected by Umar ibn al-
Khattab to lead the Muslims in the period between his death and the choosing of his successor.
As he lay dying after he was stabbed by a Magian, Abu Lulu, while leading the Fajr Salat, Umar
summoned six of the companions: Uthman, Ali, Talhah, Zubayr, Abdur Rahman ibn Awl, and Sad ibn
Abi Waqqas. He did not appoint anyone of them as his successor , because if he had done so according
to one report "there would have been for a short time two Khalifahs looking at each other". He
instructed the six to consult among themselves and with the Muslims for three days and choose a
successor, and then he said:
"Wa-l yusalli bi-n nas Suhayb - Let Suhayb lead the people in Salat."
In the period when there was no Khalifah, Suhayb was given the responsibility and the honor of leading
the Salat and of being, in other words, the head of the Muslim community.
Suhayb's appointment by Umar showed how well people from a wide variety of backgrounds were
integrated and honoured in the community of Islam. Once during the time of the Prophet, a hypocrite
named Qays ibn Mutatiyah tried to pour scorn and disgrace on se ctions of the community. Qays had
come upon a study circle (halqah) in which were Salman al-Farsi, Suhayb ar-Rumi and Bilal al-Habashi,
may God be pleased with them, and remarked:
"The Aws and the Khazraj have stood up m defence of this man (Muhammad). And what are these
people doing with him'?" Muadh was furious and informed the Prophet of what Qays had said. The
Prophet was very angry. He entered the mosque and the Call to Prayer was given, for this was the
method of summoning the Muslims for an important announcement. Then he stood up, praised and
glorified God and said:
"Your Lord is One. Your ancestor is one. Your religion is one. Take heed. Arabism is not conferred on
you through your mother or father. It is through the tongue (i.e. the language of Arabic), so whoever
speaks Arabic, he is an Arab."
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