It is the 9th year after Hijrah. Madinah, the place that witnessed the occurrence of this story, sits under the glaring sun. The season is an extremely hot one, when the palms are about to bear their fruits, and the shade is in abundance.
But the leader of this city has plans far more meritorious than reclining beneath the shade. He is setting out on a military expedition headed for Tabuk, a city north of Madinah, over 600 km away. The journey was one of extreme heat, thirst and lengthy distances over hot sands. The true believers prepare themselves to go out with their leader , except for around 80 men, who remain engulfed by the darkness of hypocrisy. They preferred to stay beneath the shade and care for their ripening dates over responding to the call of Allah and His Messenger.
Besides them, there were three who stayed behind, but were among the sincere and true believers: Hilal ibn Umayyah, Mirarah ibn Alrabee’ and the narrator of the story behind the subject of our discussion; Ka’b ibn Malik . Through his eloquent narration, one can almost feel his emotions of regret, truthfulness, pain, sorrow and at last, extreme joy. He says as narrated by his son, Abdullah:
I did not remain behind Allah’s Apostle in any Ghazwa (battle) that he fought except the Battle of Tabuk, and I failed to take part in the Battle of Badr, but Allah did not admonish anyone who had not participated in it, for in fact, Allah’s Apostle had gone out in search of the caravan of Quraish till Allah made them (i.e. the Muslims) and their enemy meet without any appointment. I witnessed the night of Al-‘Aqaba (pledge) with Allah’s Apostle when we pledged for Islam, and I would not exchange it for the battle of Badr although the battle of Badr is more popular amongst the people than it (i.e. Al-‘Aqaba pledge). As for my news (in this battle of Tabuk), I had never been stronger or wealthier than I was when I remained behind the Prophet in that battle.
By Allah, never had I two she-camels before, but I had then at the time of this battle. Whenever Allah’s Apostle wanted to make a Ghazwa, he used to hide his intention by apparently referring to different battle till it was the time of that Ghazwa (of Tabuk) which Allah’s Apostle fought in severe heat, facing, a long journey, desert, and the great number of enemy. So the Prophet announced to the Muslims clearly (their destination) so that they might get prepared for their battle. So he informed them clearly of the destination he was going to. Allah’s Apostle was accompanied by a large number of Muslims who could not be listed in a book namely, a register.” Ka’b added, “Any man who intended to be absent would think that the matter would remain hidden unless Allah revealed it through Divine Revelation.
He then describes that his situation at the time was not one that permitted excuses to stay behind and not be with the Muslims for this battle, for he even had 2 camels, instead of one. In addition, he emphasizes his point by stating that the Prophet was very clear on his mission, and was not vague, contrary to the case of other expeditions where being unclear was used as a military tactic.
It is clear that Ka’b tells his story only to pass on the great lessons he acquired from this incident that profoundly affected his life forever. Likewise, if a mistake in our life led to a lesson-filled experience, we may share it with others with intentions of desiring good for them and hope that they will not fall victims to the same error.
So if Ka’b faced no obstacles in terms of health and provisions, what then held him back for proceeding with the army?
Let’s reflect for a moment on our own lives and consider our situation when we have the necessary means to do something and a will to do it, yet we are not doing it. There is usually one reason; we have put it ‘on-hold’. When there is no other excuse in our path, procrastination becomes a leading factor that pulls us away from superior goals and hinders productivity. Nothing held Ka’b from joining the Muslims at the time but this deceptive force. He continues, saying:
So Allah’s Apostle fought that battle at the time when the fruits had ripened and the shade looked pleasant. Allah’s Apostle and his companions prepared for the battle and I started to go out in order to get myself ready along with them, but I returned without doing anything. I would say to myself, ‘I can do that.’ So I kept on delaying it every now and then till the people got ready and Allah’s Apostle and the Muslims along with him departed, and I had not prepared anything for my departure, and I said, I will prepare myself (for departure) one or two days after him, and then join them.’ In the morning following their departure, I went out to get myself ready but returned having done nothing. Then again in the next morning, I went out to get ready but returned without doing anything.
Such was the case with me till they hurried away and the battle was missed (by me). Even then I intended to depart to take them over. I wish I had done so! But it was not in my luck (qadar). So, after the departure of Allah’s Apostle, whenever I went out and walked amongst the people (i.e, the remaining persons), it grieved me that I could see none around me, but one accused of hypocrisy or one of those weak men whom Allah had excused.
Indeed, ‘I wish I had done so!‘; a line of regret, familiar to our ears, our tongues and sometimes hidden away in our hearts. Its bitterness is more tasted so when it is related to the matters of the Hereafter.
And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous. (Aal-‘Imran 3:133).
The best example in hastening to do good is that of our Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam).
Uqbah bin Al-Harith [rabhu] narrates: “Once I performed the ‘Asr prayer in Al-Madinah behind the Prophet . He got up quickly after finishing the prayer with taslim, and stepping over the people, went to one of the rooms of his wives. The people were startled at his haste, and when he came out and saw their astonishment at his urgency he said, “I recalled that there was left with me some gold which was meant for charity; I did not like to keep it any longer, so I gave orders that it should be distributed” (Bukhari). In another narration, the Messenger of Allah said, “I had left some gold for Sadaqah in the house, and did not wish to keep it overnight.”
Regardless of the fact that stepping over the people in the mosque is disliked according the majority opinion, the Prophet deemed it very important that he should not delay giving the charity that remained in his house.
Redirecting our attention to the story of Ka’b, we notice evidence therein pointing to the fact that the Muslim society at the time was accustomed to being quick in responding to do good. A walk through the streets of the city would lead Ka’b to find none left except “one accused of hypocrisy or one of those weak men whom Allah had excused.” It is clear that they understood that striving and working for this Religion was a duty upon them all; not the duty of the youth or a specific group of society alone. From the same segment, it is derived that if we do not hasten to befriend the righteous and be in their company, it is likely that we may find ourselves surrounded by their opposites.
The Prophet taught us in the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah:
“Hasten to do good deeds before you are overtaken by one of the seven afflictions.” Then (giving a warning) he said, “Are you waiting for such poverty which will make you unmindful of devotion; or prosperity which will make you corrupt, or disease as will disable you, or such senility as will make you mentally unstable, or sudden death, or Ad-Dajjal who is the worst expected absent, or the Hour, and the Hour will be most grievous and most bitter.” (Tirmidhi).
Abiding by such a principle in our lives would surely lead to a significant leap in terms of good deeds, as well as faith.
Hastening to do Good when Called to it
When Allah opens for us a door of mercy and virtue, our immediate reaction should be to enter it. Otherwise, it is very possible that the when such opportunities are ignored, we may find that the door has been shut on us, while we thought it would remain open forever. Whether it is adhering to proper hijab, seeking knowledge or attending congregational prayer, the short 3 letter word sawfa (سَوفَ meaning, ‘I shall’ or ‘I will’) should be viewed as barrier, preventing us from the good we desire.
The greatest challenge in doing good is to have firm resolution in the face of chances and not fall prey to incapability. The determined one of us is he who when he hears an inspiring talk or reads an informative article, seeks to apply at once. Not the next morning, because perhaps the door may have been closed by then.
Ka’b ibn Malik was a companion of the Prophet; meaning, a member of the best generation of this nation, yet he was still tested greatly and lost in the reward of fighting in the way of Allah with the army of the Prophet because of this one mistake: delaying his preparations. Our state should then be a more fearful one.
Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri narrated that the Prophet saw some of his companions falling back (in the rows for prayer) and said to them: “Come forward and follow me (in prayer), and let those who come after you follow you. People will persist in falling back until Allah puts them back.” (Muslim). If we continuously allow ourselves to fall back or be late for worship, then Allah may punish us by causing us to be late.
Hastening to Accept the Truth after Knowing it
Inclusive in the discussion of hastening towards good, is accepting the Truth after knowing it. Failing to accept the Truth when it is clear to us may result in one being afflicted with lack of understanding and deviation of the heart from the Straight Path. Allah says,
And We shall turn their hearts and their eyes away (from guidance), as they refused to believe therein for the first time, and We shall leave them in their trespass to wander blindly. (al-An’aam 6:110)
In another ayah:
So when they turned away (from the Path of Allah), Allah turned their hearts away (from the Right Path). And Allah guides not the people who are Fasiqoon (rebellious, disobedient to Allah). (al-Saff 61:5)
These verses clearly show us that the heart may return to falsehood, before it sees the light because of refusing to accept the Truth from the beginning. They also portray our weakness and that it is Allah who will guide us to do good or prevent us from it.
Allah commands the believers:
O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered. (al-Anfaal 8:24).
Al-Suddi commented on this verse saying, “Prevents oneself from his own heart, so he will neither believe nor disbelieve except by His leave.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir 4:287).
Thus, it is upon us to realize that being late in doing good, even if our hearts desired it, may eventually lead to being prevented from it altogether.
Hastening to Patience in the Face of a Calamity
Anas ibn Malik narrated , “The Prophet passed by a woman who was weeping beside a grave. He told her to fear Allah and be patient. She said to him, “Go away, for you have not been afflicted with a calamity like mine.” And she did not recognize him. Then she was informed that he was the Prophet. So she went to the house of the Prophet and there she did not find any guard. Then she said to him, “I did not recognize you.” He said, “Verily, the patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.” (Bukhari)
Even in patience, we are taught that the reward is for those hasten to it in the face of trials.
From only this short portion of the hadeeth of Ka’b we have learned the decisive factor that ultimately lead to the occurrence of this lesson laden story. We previously read that he said, “I wish I had done so!” But, he also added, “But it was not in my luck (qadar).”
Perhaps Allah willed for him to go through this experience so that generations after him would take heed and respond to the words of Allah;
“So hasten towards all that is good.” (al-Baqarah 2:148).
Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba- Video
Every Muslim knows the Kaaba, but did you know the Kaaba has been reconstructed several times? The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same structure that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon them. From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.
Watch to learn ten things that most people may not know about the Ka’aba, based on the full article Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Ka’aba.
Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change
Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.
When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.
We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.
Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.
One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.
“اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”
“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? ”
The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.
Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.
A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.
Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.
My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”
Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.
*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind
Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.
 Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.
The Languages of the Sahaba
Arabs – during the time of the revelation- were known as an illiterate nation for whom the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was sent from among themselves. Yet, there are instances in the prophetic hadiths that draw attention to some literate companions who were even able to speak and write in more than one tongue. In this article, we shed light at samples of the companions who were multilingual.
The Prophetic stand towards foreign languages:
One hadith is well known among current Muslims in which the Prophet ﷺ says: “Whoever learns a language of a people (other than Arabic), he becomes safe from their wickedness”. Although this saying is well known among Muslims, the fact is that it is not a hadith of the Prophet ﷺ. Hadith scholars say it is root-less, fabricated, but its meaning is sound. Another fabricated hadith is the one that goes “Seek knowledge even in China”. Some people deduce that one cannot seek knowledge in China without being able to communicate with the Chinse in their own language.
Although these two fabricated hadiths are well known, there is no real need for them to establish the importance of learning a foreign language as perceived by the Prophet ﷺ and the companions in their dealings. After all, the Prophet’s tradition (Sunnah) is not just verbal hadiths; it includes his dealings and actions. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is known to have used messengers to carry his messages to kings and emperors after the 6th year of Hijra. He sent Hatib ibn Abi Baltaa to Egypt because he was knowledgeable about Greek that was spoken by the rulers in Egypt at that time. He also sent Jaafar Ibn Abi Talib to the king of Abyssinia, because Jaafaar learned their tongue while he was there in the first Hijra, where he spent more than 10 years there. The Prophet ﷺ even ordered some of his companions to learn the tongue of the Jews so as to translate for him the messages they used to send to him.
In addition, he ﷺ used very few non-Arabic words in his hadiths that were known to his interlocutors. In Al Bukhari, Um Khalid (the daughter of Khalid bin Sa`id) who was a very young child narrated “I went to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ with my father and I was wearing a yellow shirt. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “Sanah, Sanah!” (`Abdullah, the narrator, said that ‘Sanah’ meant ‘good’ in the Ethiopian language). I then started playing with the seal of Prophethood (in between the Prophet’s shoulders) and my father rebuked me harshly for that. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said. “Leave her,” and then Allah’s Messenger ﷺ (invoked Allah to grant me a long life) by saying (thrice), “Wear this dress till it is worn out and then wear it till it is worn out, and then wear it till it is worn out.” (The narrator adds, “It is said that she lived for a long period, wearing that (yellow) dress till its color became dark because of long wear.”)
In another hadith, The Prophet ﷺ said, “Near the establishment of the Hour, there will be the days of Al-Harj, and the religious knowledge will be taken away (vanish i.e. by the death of Religious scholars) and general ignorance will spread.” Abu Musa said, “Al-Harj, in the Ethiopian language, means killing.”
These rare instances of using non-Arabic words in the Prophet’s speech do not mean that he knew foreign languages. Rather, it means that he knew a few words that were known to most people to whom he spoke. He used them for recreation purposes (the case of Um Khalid), or for drawing attention to the importance of the idea (the case of Abu Musa).
- Abu Huraira:
There different instances where Abu Huraira spoke Faris (Persian). In Al Bukhari, Hilal ibn Usamah quoted Abu Maimunah Salma, a client of the people of Madinah, as saying:
While I was sitting with Abu Huraira, a Persian woman came to him along with a son of hers. She had been divorced by her husband and they both wanted custody. She said: Abu Huraira, speaking to him in Persian, my husband wishes to take my son away. Abu Huraira said: Cast lots for him, saying it to her in a foreign language. Her husband came and asked: Who is disputing with me about my son?
Abu Huraira said: O Allah, I do not say this, except that I heard a woman who came to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ while I was sitting with him, and she said: My husband wishes to take away my son, Messenger of Allah, and he draws water for me from the well of Abu Anabah, and he has been good to me. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: Cast lots for him. Her husband said: Who is disputing with me about my son?
The Prophet ﷺ said to the boy: This is your father and this your mother, so take whichever of them you wish by the hand. So he took his mother’s hand and she went away with him.
In addition to Persian, Abu Huraira is reported to have spoken in Abyssinian. In Al Bukhari, Abu Salama narrated that ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Auf reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying:
There is no transitive disease, but he is also reported to have said: A sick person should not be taken to one who is healthy. Abu Salama said that Abu Huraira used to narrate these two (different hadiths) from Allah’s Messenger ﷺ, but afterwards Abu Huraira became silent on these words:” There is no transitive disease,” but he stuck to this that the sick person should not be taken to one who is healthy. Harith b. Abu Dhubab (and he was the first cousin of Abu Huraira) said: Abu Huraira, I used to hear from you that you narrated to us along with this hadith and the other one also (there is no transitive disease), but now you observe silence about it. You used to say that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: There is no transitive disease. Abu Huraira denied having any knowledge of that, but he said that the sick camel should not be taken to the healthy one. Harith, however, did not agree with him, which irritated Abu Huraira and he said to him some words in the Abyssinian language. He said to Harith: Do you know what I said to you? He said: No. Abu Huraira said: I simply denied having said it. Abu Salama said: By my life, Abu Huraira in fact used to report Allah’s Messenger ﷺ having said: There is no transitive disease. I do not know whether Abu Huraira has forgotten it or he deemed it an abrogated statement in the light of the other one.
So, while Abu Huraira used Persian in the first Hadith for communication purposes, he used Abyssinian in the second for expressing his anger. Did he try to conceal his anger by holding his tongue in Arabic, and releasing it in a foreign language? This may be the case.
- Zaid ibn Thabit:
Zaid is known as on the geniuses of the companions. He was the one entitled with the responsibility of collecting the Quran during the time of Abi Bakr and the time of Othman Ibn Affan. He tells us about how the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered him to learn a foreign language.
Narrated Zayd ibn Thabit: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) ordered me (to learn the writing of the Jews), so I learned for him the writing of the Jews. He said: I swear by Allah, I do not trust Jews in respect of writing for me. So I learned it, and only a fortnight passed before I mastered it. I would write for him when he wrote (to them), and read to him when something was written to him.
The hadith indicates that Zaid learnt Syriac/ Aramaic which the Jews used in their writings. Zaid states that only 15 days were enough for him to master the language. It seems that Zaid focused more on the orthographic system rather than the phonic system because he does not tell us about instances where he used Syriac/ Aramaic in speaking.
- Salman The Persian:
As Salman was a native speaker of Persian, he was the first choice for the companions when they wanted to communicate with Persians. Narrated Abu Al-Bakhtari: “An Army from the armies of the Muslims, whose commander was Salman Al-Farisi, besieged one of the Persian castles. They said: ‘O Abu ‘Abdullah! Should we charge them?’ He said: ‘Leave me to call them (to Islam) as I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ call them.’
So Salman went to them and said: ‘I am only a man from among you, a Persian, and you see that the Arabs obey me. If you become Muslims then you will have the likes of what we have, and from you will be required that which is required from us. If you refuse and keep your religion, then we will leave you to it, and you will give us the Jizyah from your hands while you are submissive.’ He said to them in Persian: ‘And you are other than praiseworthy and if you refuse then we will equally resist you.’ They said: ‘We will not give you the Jizyah, we will fight you instead.’ So they said: ‘O Abu ‘Abdullah! Should we charge them?’ He said: ‘No.'” He said: “So for three days he called them to the same (things), and then he said: ‘Charge them.'” He said: “So we charged them, and we conquered the castle.”
We can deduce from the story of Salman that in seeking the last prophet, he knew some other languages, especially Syriac/ Aramaic as he used to serve Jewish and Christian monks and read their books. It is also narrated that a group of Persians asked Salman to translate the opening chapter of the Quran (Al Fatiha) for them to be able to understand its meaning. It is reported that he translated it or part of it. If this is true, then Salman would be the first translator of the meanings of the Quran –or part of it- in history.
- ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Hatib
Although we know very little about ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Hatib , he is reported in Al Bukhari to have saved a non-Arab woman from the punishment for adultery. It was during the reign of Uman Ibn Al Khattab that a Persian woman was forced to commit adultery. She came to Umar, and ‘Umar said in the presence of ‘Ali, ‘Abdur-Rahman, and ‘Uthman, “What is this woman saying?” (the woman was non-Arab) ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Hatib said: “She is informing you about her companion who has committed illegal sexual intercourse with her.” Umar realized that she didn’t know that adultery was prohibited in Islam and that she was complaining from her companion who forced her to commit it. So Umar released her.
- Abu Jamra Al Basri
Abu Jamra is not one of the companions. He is one of the Tabieen (followers). He used to keep the company of Ibn Abbas, and while Ibn Abbas is known as the turjuman (interpreter) of the Quran, Abu Jamra was the inter-lingual interpreter of Ibn Abbas. Abu Jamar said – as narrated in Al Bukhari, “I was an interpreter between Ibn ‘Abbas and the people.” Based on four instances of using translators (The Roman translator at the palace of Heraclius in Abu Sufian’s account, the hadith by Zaid ibn Thabit, the account of Abdur-Rahman ibn Hatib and the account of Abu Jamara), Al-Bukhari commented that “a ruler should have two interpreters.”
These are just some instances of companions and followers who are narrated to have spoken or written in foreign languages. It is strongly believed that there were numerous cases of other bilingual transactions in the early Muslim community, but they were not recorded as they were not relevant to religious matters. Learning foreign languages then is deeply rooted in the Islamic tradition, and we do not need to go to China to prove this.