Abdullah bin Huthafa - Trials and Tribulations
Muslim Knights - Volume 1

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Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…

Where a Roman Emperor decided to test the faith of one of his Muslim prisoners. He briskly ordered his men to retrieve the most senior Muslim officer from the cells where the captives were held. When his men returned, they had with them a man named Abdullah bin Huthafa. Looking at him much like a cat looks at a mouse it intends to torment, the Emperor smiled.

"Become a Christian," the Emperor began abruptly, "and I will give you half my domain."

Abdullah gave the Emperor an incredulous look, "If you gave me half your domain, plus the other half, plus the domains of all the Arabs, I would not abandon the religion of Muhammad PBUH for the space of a single blink."

Stung by his prisoner’s scornful response, the Emperor ordered that Abdullah bin Huthafa be cast into a solitary cell and not fed or given water for three days. The Emperor's men hurried to obey his orders and the prisoner was taken away.

Three days later, the Emperor ordered his men to take a plate of pork and a jug of wine down to the starving prisoner, leave it before him and then observe his reaction. The pork and wine, both forbidden to Muslims, were left on the floor in front of the silent prisoner. The guards watched expectantly for him to fall upon the pork and wine as only a starving man could, but Abdullah simply glanced at it and then he ignored it.

Without delay, the surprised guards sent word to their Emperor telling him of the man's disinterest in the fare he had been given. Vexed, the Emperor again sent for his prisoner and waited impatiently to confront him.

As soon as Abdullah bin Huthafa arrived, the Emperor demanded, "What prevented you from eating the food and wine I sent to you?"

"In my religion, my need for food and drink would have superseded the stricture to not eat pork or drink wine. I could have done both with a clear conscience and without violating my faith. However, I would not give you the chance to sneer at Islam, so I declined your hospitality," Abdullah replied with a growling belly and steady, unblinking eyes.

Embarrassed by the starving prisoner's defiance, the Emperor ordered his men to tie Abdullah to a cross then he had his archers shoot arrows as close as they could to the prisoner’s body. The archers took careful aim and shot arrow after arrow at the bound man while the Emperor promised him that if he forsook his religion, he would be freed from his bonds and fed and taken care of. Abdullah steadfastly refused the Emperor’s offers and declared that he did not want to be anything except a Muslim.

Eventually, the Emperor conceded to the ineffectiveness of his methods and decided to try a new approach. He had Abdullah taken down off the cross and he ordered his men to bring a large copper vat, fill it with water and place it over a fire. He also ordered that two additional Muslim prisoners be fetched from the cells and brought before him.

The Emperor's orders were swiftly carried out and before long the water in the vat began to boil merrily. Without a word of warning, the Emperor had his men cast one of the two prisoners into the seething vat of boiling water. The other Muslim prisoner felt his stomach twist and roll as he stood there, knowing that soon he would be cast into that terrible vat. Abdullah watched in horror and disgust as the man's flesh was quickly boiled right off his bones, then he cast a pitying glance at the remaining prisoner.

"Well," said the Emperor, satisfied that he had at last found a chink in Abdullah’s seemingly impenetrable armor. "Will you become a Christian now? Or will you be boiled like your fellow Muslim?"

Abdullah looked disgustedly at the Emperor and again refused his offer. In retaliation, the Emperor had Abdullah suspended over the vat and he told his men to lower him slowly into the eerily humming liquid with its agitated contents.

As he was lowered ever closer to the deadly water, tears began to leak from Abdullah's eyes. A great sense of triumph washed over the Emperor when he saw Abdullah’s reaction because he was sure he had finally won. The Emperor had his men unbind Abdullah and bring him to stand before him again.

"What makes you cry?" the Emperor said, mock solicitously.

"I cry," replied Abdullah, "because I have but one soul to be cast into the fire and then I am done. I would that I had as many souls as I have hairs on my head and that they all be cast into the fire for the sake of God."

Defeated and moved by Abdullah's unshakable faith, the Emperor sat lost in thought for a time. Despite the Emperor’s direst threats and most tempting offers, Abdullah had refused to yield in any way. Such a thing had never happened before, and the Emperor desperately wanted to wrest some form of concession from this most stubborn of prisoners. As he contemplated his options, a sudden thought struck the Emperor. With a cool smile, he again addressed himself to his prisoner, "Would you kiss the crown of my head, if I promised to let you go?"

Reluctant to show the man such an honor, especially since it conveyed respect to one's superior, Abdullah hesitated then glanced at the other Muslim prisoner who stood white-faced before the vat and its grisly contents. His mind made up, Abdullah calmly addressed his tormenter, “Will you let all the other prisoners go too?"

"Yes," replied the foiled Emperor with ill grace.

In accordance with the agreed upon terms, Abdullah was escorted forward by the Emperor’s guards and he kissed the crown of the Emperor's head.

Months later, Abdullah bin Huthafa marched into Al-Madinah at the head of a veritable army of prisoners, who had all been freed by the Roman Emperor as per the bargain he struck with Abdullah. When the Calipha, Umar bin Al-Khattab, saw them and heard their story, so moved was he by Abdullah's actions and the outcome of his bargain that he declared, "It is the duty of every Muslim to kiss the crown of Abdullah bin Huthafa's head, and I will be the first!!"

Accordingly, Umar bin Al-Khattab placed his hands gently on either side of Abdullah's face and reverently tilted his head down, then he kissed the crown of Abdullah bin Huthafa's head in respect and gratitude for the many lives he had saved with his quick thinking and his unshakable faith.

*Written by © 2011. Care to read or leave Comments?

Notes:
  1. Names, Translations and Aliases:
    • Abullah bin Huthafa: عبدالله بن حُذافة بن قيس السهمي.
    • Muhammad : خاتم الأنبياء الرسول محمد صلى الله عليه و سلم
    • Umar bin Al-Khattab: عُمر بن الخطّاب.
  2. Kissing the crown of someone's head: It is considered a method with which to honor someone and show them respect. It is akin to kissing someone's hand to show them honor, respect and loyalty.
  3. There are different versions of how the Emperor "tested" Abdullah bin Huthafa but the conclusion of the stories are all the same. Since all versions mentioned that there were other ways Abdullah bin Huthafa was "tested" it is not unreasonable to combine the methods mentioned in each version into a single story.

Sources:
  1. Al-Basha, Abd-Al-Rahman. (1974 AD, 1394 H). صور من حياة الصحابة [Brief Stories of the (Prophet's) Companions' Lives] (10th Ed). Cairo: Islamic Literature House (For Pub. & Dist.). Volume I. Page 37-44.
  2. Al-Dhahabi, A. (2004 AD). سير أعلام النبلاء [Biographies of Notable Nobles]. Beirut: International Ideas Home. Volume 2. Page 2365-2366.
  3. Ibn Katheer Al-Dimishqui, Emad Al-Deen (1399 H). مختصر تفسير ابن كثير [Summarized Tafseer Ibn Katheer]. Beirut: Dar Al-Quran Al-Kareem. Volume II. Page 348-349.

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