Salman Al-Farisi - The First Persian Muslim
Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…
Where a much longed for boy was born to the affluent headman of Jee, a small village in the Esfahan province of Persia. The moment the boy's father held him in his arms for the very first time, a fierce wave of love and protectiveness washed over him. The headman vowed then and there that he would love and care for his newborn son, Salman, like no other father had ever loved or cared for a son.
As the boy grew up, his father did his best to honor that vow. He lavished Salman with love and attention and made sure that he wanted for nothing. He cared for him and guarded him like a precious treasure and educated him like a prince. But as the days and years passed, the headman grew more and more protective of Salman and increasingly anxious about his safety and wellbeing. Eventually, the day came when Salman's father refused to let him leave the house for fear something terrible might befall him.
Although people wondered at the headman’s strange behavior, Salman himself was not overly troubled by his father's odd decision. Everything he ever wanted, everything he ever asked for, was immediately brought to him. What did it matter if he wasn’t allowed to leave the house? All in all, Salman was content to honor his father’s wishes so he stayed quietly at home pursuing his own interests and amusing himself with the endless gifts his father brought him.
Many children in the same circumstances would have become very spoiled indeed, but not so Salman. Instead, he embraced his father's faith and became a very devout Zoroastrian. Salman's devotion to his faith was so great that he was eventually entrusted with the honor of keeping the sacred fire burning. As the days and years slowly went by, Salman poured all of his passionate young soul into his religion.
Then one day, when Salman was a man full-grown, his father came to him and said: "My son, I am kept busy today overseeing the construction of a building and I cannot find the time to visit the farm. Go see to it, and then come and tell me if there is anything that needs to be done there."
Salman, of course, leapt at the opportunity to leave his father’s house, and he eagerly agreed to the task.
Noting his son’s glee, Salman’s father quickly added, "Do not be late returning! If you are late, know that you are more important to me than both the building and the farm and I will drop everything to find you. So do not be late!"
Salman agreed but this time he showed a little more restraint and gravely agreed to go see to the farm. Followed by his father’s anxious gaze, Salman lightheartedly set out seeking the family farm.
Along the way, Salman passed by a Christian church and he heard the people inside praying. Overcome by curiosity, he hesitated briefly then made his way into the church. After observing the people inside praying and listening intently to their prayers, Salman softly murmured to himself, "This, by god, is better than our religion," and he decided to stay a little longer to learn more about these people and their faith. Absorbed by his study of this outlandish new religion, Salman completely forgot about his errand.
After the sun disappeared over the horizon, Salman became aware of the lateness of the hour and rose hurriedly to leave. On his way out, Salman paused and asked the people of the church one last question, "Where is the origin of this religion?"
"In Al-Shaam (Syria and the region around it)," the people of the church replied.
When Salman arrived home that night, he found his father frantically searching for him and sending people out left and right to look for him. As soon as Salman's father clapped eyes on him, he exclaimed, "My boy, where have you been?! Didn’t you agree not to be late?!"
Salman abashedly replied, "Father, I passed a church with people praying inside it and I liked what I saw of their religion. So I stayed there until the sun set."
Salman's father was horrified when he heard this, "My son, there is no goodness in that religion! Your religion, the religion of your ancestors, is better!"
Salman stubbornly insisted, "No, by God, it is better than our religion!"
Salman’s father soon realized that he couldn’t change his son’s opinion of the Christian faith so he resolved to keep Salman from returning to the church by any means necessary. He started by arguing with Salman and then fell back on forbidding him from leaving the house. When that didn’t work, he resorted to more extreme measures. Salman’s father had leg irons made and placed on Salman's legs and he kept him shackled in a room of their house to prevent him from leaving.
Unable to tolerate his father’s insanely controlling behavior anymore, Salman started planning his escape. He sent word to the Christians at the church asking them to let him know when a caravan of Christians arrived from Al-Shaam. Eventually, a caravan arrived and word was sent to Salman to ready his escape from his father’s house. Upon being alerted to the imminent departure of the caravan, Salman slipped his leg irons, stealthily crept out of his father's silent house and joined the ponderously departing caravan of Christians.
As soon as he arrived in Al-Shaam, Salman asked around hoping to find a truly devout Christian who could mentor him and teach him more about the religion he had decided to embrace. Most of the people Salman asked told him that the priest of a specific church was the most devout and holy man they knew. Salman eagerly went and talked to the priest, "I want to join this religion. If you agree, I would like to stay in this church and serve you, and learn from you, and pray with you."
The priest readily agreed to the bright-eyed young man’s request but Salman soon found himself feeling sorely disappointed. The man who everyone thought was so devout was in fact stealing from his own people. He would encourage the members of his church to donate to the needy and then take the donation money and keep it for himself. Eventually, the unprincipled man built up a great treasure trove of gold and silver which he kept carefully hidden.
Not long after Salman came to stay in the church, the elderly priest died. When the church members came to bury their priest, Salman unhappily told them about the hoarded gold and silver. Angered by such a betrayal, the people refused to bury the priest. Instead, they had his body crucified and stoned.
Afterwards, a new priest was chosen to head the church and Salman doubtfully asked to stay and serve him, and perhaps learn a little more about Christianity from him. Like his predecessor, the new priest agreed to Salman’s request and, unlike his predecessor, Salman found this priest to be a truly devout and thoroughly good man. He was both kind and wise and he cared nothing for worldly wealth, which was exactly what Salman was looking for in a mentor. Salman felt a great deal of love and respect for the new priest and he served him faithfully for years, learning from him all that he could.
Then one day, the priest fell ill and as he lay dying Salman said sorrowfully, "Your time in this world is coming to an end, and I swear by God that I have never loved and respected anyone as I love and respect you. I will do anything you tell me to do. So please, tell me, what should I do? Who should I go to now?"
The dying priest replied quietly, "My son, I know of no one as devout as I, save a man in Mousel. Go there and, I promise, you will find him to be as virtuous as you have found me."
After the priest died and was decently buried, Salman traveled to Mousel and located the man the priest had told him about. The man in Mousel was indeed all that the other priest had been, so Salman told him about the dying priest’s recommendation and that he wished to stay. The man kindly replied, "Then stay, my son."
Before long, like the priest before him, the man's time in this world came to an end and he told Salman to seek out another man in Nasibeen who was also a very holy man. So Salman traveled to Nasibeen and stayed with that holy man. Later, he was directed by the dying holy man to go to Amouria, in the Roman Empire, to find yet another devout man. Accordingly Salman went and stayed with that devout man and he learned as much as he could from him. While there, Salman worked and earned a little gold with which he bought livestock to make an independent living for himself.
As Salman’s latest mentor lay dying in turn, Salman forlornly asked him who he should go to next. The man replied with sadness tingeing his weary voice, "My son, I swear I do not know of anyone to send you to who is as devout as I and my friends were. But the time is coming for a new Prophet of God to be sent. He will come out of the land of the Haram (Mecca and the area around it) and he will move to a land of many date palms. There will be irrefutable signs that he is a Prophet of God: he will have the Seal of Prophecy between his shoulders and he will eat a gift but not a donation. He will nurse the sick and pray for them and they will become well. And he will be sent with the right to raise swords in the name of God. If you can go to that land, then do so, for his time is near."
After the devout man died and was buried, Salman waited impatiently for a caravan from the Haram region to pass by Amouria. Eventually, a caravan of traders from the Arabian Kalb tribe came to town. Salman met with the men from the caravan and asked them to take him to the land of the Arabs in return for all the gold and livestock he had. The traders readily agreed and so Salman left Amouria with them.
No sooner did the caravan reach Wadi Al-Qura than the Arabian traders betrayed Salman and sold him as a slave to an Israelite man who lived there. Then one day a man from the Israelite Bani Quraiza tribe of Al-Madinah came to the valley, and while he was there he bought Salman from his master and took him back to Al-Madinah with him.
When Salman saw Al-Madinah with its vast fields of waving date palms, he felt sure that he had found the place the devout man had spoken of. Despite his new unfair status as a slave, Salman decided to stay where he was and wait as patiently as he could for news of the foretold Prophet of God.
Sometime later, Salman was working at the top of a date palm under the close supervision of his master when the man’s cousin suddenly arrived and said agitatedly, "In Quba'a (an area of Al-Madinah) the people have all gathered around a man from Mecca who they claim is a Prophet of God!"
Upon hearing this, Salman felt his body begin to tremble, and the trembling became so intense that he nearly fell and landed on his master. Cautiously, Salman half-climbed half-dropped down from the tree and said in a loud and excited voice, "What else can you tell me about this?"
His surprised and irritated master struck Salman and demanded, "What business is it of yours?! See to your work!"
Salman replied with quiet dignity, "It is nothing. I just heard what was said and I wished to know more about it."
Both men ignored Salman and walked away, discussing the news in quiet tones. Dejectedly, Salman returned to his work but could not stop thinking about the tidings his master’s cousin had brought.
That evening, Salman received his daily allotment of food, but instead of eating it, he carefully wrapped it up and carried it to Quba'a to see the man people were saying was the Prophet of God. Once there, Salman boldly walked up to the man everyone was talking about, presented the food he had brought, and said, "I have heard that you are a good man, and that you have come with some companions that are strangers here. I have this food to donate, and I thought you and your companions would be most in need of it so, please, take it."
The man accepted the donated food graciously but did not eat any of it himself. Instead, he gave all of the food to his companions. Salman was extremely happy when he saw that because it was one of the Signs of Prophecy the devout man had told him about.
The next day, Salman again took his allotment of food and gave it to the man stating, "I noticed that you did not eat the food I donated, so this food is a gift from me to you."
Again, the man accepted the food, but this time he and his companions ate it together. Salman beamed happily because this was another Sign of Prophecy.
Sometime later, Salman noticed the man walking in a funeral procession. Trying to be unobtrusive, Salman slipped in and followed behind the man hoping to get a look at the man's back. More specifically, he wanted to see the area between the man’s shoulders. Noticing that Salman was following him and craning his neck this way and that as he tried to get a glimpse of his back, the man realized Salman must be looking to confirm something he had been told. Obligingly, he loosened his robe and lowered the back of it, uncovering his shoulders.
Between the man's broad shoulders, Salman saw clear as day the Seal of Prophecy that had been described to him by his dying mentor. At long last, Salman had found the Prophet of God he had traveled so very, very far to find!! Filled with joy and a thousand other emotions, Salman threw himself at the man and clung to him, weeping and sobbing.
The Prophet held Salman comfortingly for a few moments then said softly, "Steady." Salman let go of him and tearfully told him of his long journey and his quest to find him. Impressed, the Prophet recounted Salman's tale to his companions who were gathering curiously around the two men.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
During this time, the tribes of Quraish from Mecca, were terribly determined to kill the Prophet Muhammad and all those who had become Muslims. To accomplish this, they sent army after army to invade Al-Madinah. While these battles were waged and the Muslims were fighting for their very existence, Salman had to sit idly by and watch because he was a slave, and slaves could not do as they wished. Then one day, after listening to Salman’s unhappy complaints, the Prophet Muhammad said simply, "Make a deal with your master, Salman."
Knowing he had nothing with which to buy his freedom but eager to do as the Prophet suggested, Salman went to his master and asked to be allowed to buy his freedom. After a great deal of arguing and bargaining, they came to an agreement. In return for forty measures of gold and planting three hundred date palms, which must grow and thrive, Salman could regain his freedom.
Salman excitedly returned to the Prophet and told him what the price of his freedom was. The Prophet (peace be upon him) turned to the Sahaba (his apostles and companions) and said, "Help your brother."
Anxious to help Salman buy his freedom, some men gave him thirty palm saplings, some gave him twenty and some gave him fifteen, each Sahabi did what he could. Eventually, Salman found himself in possession of three hundred date palm saplings, a veritable fortune which the Sahaba had bestowed upon him without a moment’s hesitation.
Touched and bemused, Salman stood and stared at the sight of three hundred saplings resting side by side. He was distracted from his thoughts when the Prophet Muhammad said in an encouraging voice, "Go, Salman. Dig places for them. And when you are done, come to me and I will plant the saplings."
Eager to recover his lost freedom, Salman hurried back to his master’s land and, with the help of the Sahaba, he dug three hundred evenly-spaced holes on the property. He then went and spoke to the Prophet who accompanied him back and planted every one of the three hundred date palms himself. Against the odds and much to Salman's awe, of the three hundred saplings planted that day, not a single one withered or died, every last one of them took root and grew and thrived.
Not long afterwards, when the Prophet returned from yet another battle to defend Al-Madinah, he asked the gathered people how Salman Al-Farisi (the Persian) was faring. Someone quickly left to fetch Salman back so he could talk to the Prophet When Salman arrived, the Prophet placed a gold nugget the size of an egg in his hand and told him to take from it what he needed to secure his freedom. Salman replied in confused tones, "But it is not enough to pay off my master, O’ Prophet of God.”
The Prophet promised Salman that God would make it enough. His faith firm and his trust complete, Salman took the gold nugget and went to have it divided into measures. To his delight and the bafflement of all onlookers, the small, egg-sized nugget easily yielded the required forty measures of gold.
Without delay, Salman went to his master, gave him the forty measures of gold, and left a free man!
From that day forward, whenever the Prophet went into battle, Salman Al-Farisi proudly fought by his side.
*Written by Aisha Bilal © 2011. Care to read or leave Comments?
- Names, Translations and Aliases:
- Muhammad : خاتم الأنبياء الرسول محمد صلى الله عليه و سلم
- Salman Al-Farisi: سلمان الفارسي
- Muhammad : خاتم الأنبياء الرسول محمد صلى الله عليه و سلم
- Salman Al-Farisi: سلمان الفارسي