| Part 1 |
After a long, tiresome journey, this great army has finally reached their destination. They are prepared to meet their enemy. But their leader, the leader of a nation, sits and recalls that one Companion dear to his heart is not among them.
Allāh's Apostle did not remember me till he reached Tabuk. So while he was sitting amongst the people in Tabuk, he said, 'What did Ka'b do?' A man from Banu Salama said, 'O Allāh's Apostle! He has been stopped by his two Burdas (i.e. garments) and his looking at his own flanks with pride.' Then Mu'adh bin Jabal said, 'What a bad thing you have said! By Allāh! O Allāh's Apostle! We know nothing about him but good.' Allāh's Apostle kept silent.”
When a leader knows his followers well, and knows from among them one of good and diligence, he will also notice his absence. Although there were others who stayed behind, the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) particularly mentioned Ka'b (radhiAllahu anhu) out of care and seeking goodness for him as a true believer. This concern of the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) for Ka'b in such a tense time, is in fact testimony to the virtue of Ka'b and his usual presence with the Muslims.
We know that our Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) was a role model in every way, and leadership was no exception. It was from his custom to remember his followers, the Companions, ask about them in their absence, seeking to ensure their well-being in the affairs of this world, as well as in their faith. To carry the worries of an entire nation, as well as being in a place far away from home, in anticipation of an enemy, he remembered one man; he was truly a man of humanity.
Similar is the example of his companion, Thabit ibn Qays (radhiAllahu anhu) who stayed away from the company of the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam), fearing that because of his loud voice, his deeds were nullified after the revelation of the second verse of Surat al-Hujurat (49:2). The Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) noticed his absence, sent a messenger to seek him, and then sent him glad tidings that he was actually from the inhabitants of Paradise (Bukhāri).
Scholars, community leaders, educators, and family leaders can easily have a great effect on the hearts of those under their care by simply asking about them consistently, advising them if they notice them straying and seek their well-being, particularly in the case of notable absence.
In the responses of the Companions around him, there are lessons. And in his silence to their replies, there are lessons.
The words of the first Companion who spoke were not a result of a personal grudge he had with Ka'b (radhiAllahu anhu) that would have led him to find the situation an opportunity to get back at him. Neither were they words stemming from desire or pride. They were words spoken only out of ghayrah (praiseworthy protective jealousy) for this religion, in an effort to elevate the way of Allāh and His Messenger, and advice to the Muslim nation as a whole.
His words are similar to those trustworthy scholars of Islam throughout the centuries, who spoke to point out a major mistake, error, or misguidance in the methodology of one of their counterparts in order to defend the religion and protect it. The truthful ones of such scholars are those who speak only in sincere advice to the Muslims, not wishing thereby to gain any personal benefit or avert from themselves personal harm.
It is a hideous mistake for us laymen to let our tongues loose in speaking about the inheritors of the prophets in ignorance, lies, mockery and for personal purposes, seeking attention, fame or attempting to lower their status and knowledge in the eyes of the Muslims.
As for the reply of Mu'adh ibn Jabal (radhiAllahu anhu), it was defense for his brother in his absence based on what he knew of him of previous good. Likewise, should be our reply in defense of our scholars and du'aat, from whom we have seen only virtue and knowledge when we see others jumping to attack them. We should not be quick to repeat every rumor spread about them, without first verifying and seeking the truth of the matter. This is particularly applicable in our time when information, be it false of truthful, may reach thousands in a few seconds.
The Prophet's (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) silence in this incident is evidence that he did not place blame on any of them, and that they both spoke for the sake of Allāh. He (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) would not remain silent in response to a statement of falsehood.
Meanwhile, back in Madīnah, Ka'b was engulfed in worry, as the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) was on his way back to Madīnah. How would he meet him? What would he tell him?
Kab bin Malik added, “When I heard that he (i.e. the Prophet ) was on his way back to Madīnah. I became preoccupied in my concern, and began to think of false excuses, saying to myself, 'How can I avoid his anger tomorrow?' And I took the advice of wise member of my family in this matter. When it was said that Allāh's Apostle had come near, all the evil false excuses left my mind and I knew well that I could never come out of this problem by forging a false statement. It was then, that I decided firmly to speak the truth.
So Allāh's Apostle arrived in the morning, and whenever he returned from a journey., he used to visit the masjid first of all and offer a two-rak'at prayer therein and then sit for the people. So when he had done all that (this time), those who had failed to join the battle (of Tabuk) came and started offering (false) excuses and taking oaths before him. They were something over eighty men; Allāh's Apostle accepted the excuses they had expressed, took their pledge of allegiance asked for Allāh's forgiveness for them, and left the secrets of their hearts for Allāh to judge.
The true certainty (yaqeen) and faith of Ka'b (radhiAllahu anhu) illuminates this portion of his hadeeth. His faith in Allāh led him to know and firmly believe that if he could escape the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) that day with a lie, he could not escape the punishment of Allāh, the All-Knowing. Even if the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) believed his false excuse, Allāh would be angry with him, and perhaps even revelation would descend from the heavens regarding his case, recited in the Qurʾān until the Day of Judgment. He knew that it was Allāh who heard the story of the woman who complained to the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) and revealed verses about her complaint (Al-Mujadila 58:1).
Such thoughts of absolute certainty and faith, if established in our hearts, would ultimately lead us to give up everything that leads to the displeasure of Allāh, even in the most dire of circumstances.
The Messenger of Allāh (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) established the sunnah of starting with the masjid upon arrival from travel, praying therein 2 rak'ahs through his action as narrated in hadeeth. He would start with the House of Allāh before his own, check on the affairs of the believers, then finally attend to his family.
In accepting the excuses of the hypocrites, although they were nothing but lies, our Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) taught us to only judge by what is visible to us on the outside. As for what is in the hearts, Allāh is the only Judge. The rulings of this life are based on what appears to us, as for the reward or punishment of the hereafter, it is the result of what lies in the hearts.
As for the assumption of the hypocrites that they were saved by the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) seeking forgiveness for them, this forgiveness will be of no benefit to them as Allāh says,
Ask forgiveness for them, [O Muḥammad], or do not ask forgiveness for them. If you should ask forgiveness for them seventy times – never will Allāh forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allāh and His Messenger, and Allāh does not guide the defiantly disobedient people. (al-Tawbah 9:80).
Taking into account the fact that the hypocrites seemed to get away with their excuses, would Ka'b go with the flow and take the 'easy' way out or would he really adhere to the truth once he faced the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam)?
How is our situation when we are about to speak in the presence of someone we respect, love and follow in almost their every word and deed? Would we suddenly forget that Allāh hears and sees all, in an effort to please this person? Or would our love for Allāh lead us to please Him alone, even if that meant the anger and annoyance of this highly esteemed person?
As for this truthful Companion, he said, “Then I decided firmly to speak the truth.”
Reflect, we shall, on our own answers until the next part, inshā'Allāh.