Lessons in Staying Behind – Part 2: ‘What did Ka’b do?’

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.

Allah’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 Allah’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 Allah! O Allah’s Apostle! We know nothing about him but good.’ Allah’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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) particularly mentioned Ka’b raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) out of care and seeking goodness for him as a true believer. This concern of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) who stayed away from the company of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) noticed his absence, sent a messenger to seek him, and then sent him glad tidings that he was actually from the inhabitants of Paradise (Bukhari).

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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 raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) 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 Allah 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 raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 Allah. He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would not remain silent in response to a statement of falsehood.

Meanwhile, back in Madinah, Ka’b was engulfed in worry, as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was on his way back to Madinah. 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 Madinah. 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 Allah’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 Allah’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; Allah’s Apostle accepted the excuses they had expressed, took their pledge of allegiance asked for Allah’s forgiveness for them, and left the secrets of their hearts for Allah to judge.

The true certainty (yaqeen) and faith of Ka’b raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) illuminates this portion of his hadeeth. His faith in Allah led him to know and firmly believe that if he could escape the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that day with a lie, he could not escape the punishment of Allah, the All-Knowing. Even if the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) believed his false excuse, Allah would be angry with him, and perhaps even revelation would descend from the heavens regarding his case, recited in the Quran until the Day of Judgment. He knew that it was Allah who heard the story of the woman who complained to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 Allah, even in the most dire of circumstances.

The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 Allah 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us to only judge by what is visible to us on the outside. As for what is in the hearts, Allah 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) seeking forgiveness for them, this forgiveness will be of no benefit to them as Allah says,

اسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ أَوْ لَا تَسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ إِن تَسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ سَبْعِينَ مَرَّةً فَلَن يَغْفِرَ اللَّهُ لَهُمْ ۚ ذَ‌ٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَفَرُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ

Ask forgiveness for them, [O Muhammad], or do not ask forgiveness for them. If you should ask forgiveness for them seventy times – never will Allah forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger, and Allah 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 Allah hears and sees all, in an effort to please this person? Or would our love for Allah 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, inshaAllah.

22 / View Comments

22 responses to “Lessons in Staying Behind – Part 2: ‘What did Ka’b do?’”

  1. MR says:

    There are three stories in the books of ahadeeth and seerah that always bring tears to my eyes. They are long, yet so touching: story of ifk, story of salman bin farsee and this story of ka’ab. So beautiful and so many lessons to learn from them! JazakiAllahu khayran.

  2. abu Abdullah says:

    Salamualaikum. jazak Allaah khayr. very beneficial article.

    PS either with chrome something is wrong or arabic font display here is messed up.

  3. Amatullah says:

    jazaaki Allahu khayran for this series Mariam, very beneficial.

  4. ali says:

    Jzakallah for this article, looking forward to the next parts

  5. sister says:

    jazakumallahu khairaa. Mashaallah.Our beloved prophet sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam always inquired about the missing shahabas..Subahanallah what an excellent leader!! Ka’b (radhiAllahu anhu) choose to face this in this duniya and not in aakhiraa.How much pain he would have felt all those time.May Allah cover and forgive our sins on the day of qiyamah.

  6. Sayf says:

    I love this series, remarkable work mash’Allah!

  7. Wonderful analysis. This series makes me introspective: how truthful am I? Would I have also told the truth before everyone, when liars and hypocrites were apparently getting away with their false excuses?

    May Allah be pleased with Ka’b Bin Malik. Ameen. I envy anyone who was loved by Allah’s Messenger [صَلى اللهُ عَليهِ وَسَلم]. Such fortunate people to have Prophet Muhammad miss their presence and ask about them!

    Jazakillahu khairan for the beautiful article, Mariam.

  8. Mariam E. says:

    Asalamu Alikum warahmatu Allah

    Jazakum Allah khayr for your comments. May Allah grant that we are among the truthful.

  9. […] Lessons in Staying Behind – Part 2: ‘What did Ka’b do? […]

  10. AsimG says:

    Asalaamu Alaykum,

    Sometimes we find ourselves in a desperate (not life or death) situation where lying would make everything easier and make all the problems go away. Without even thinking we let the lies roll off our tongue and sigh in relief when we’ve escaped.
    But what a great reminder that while we may escape the disappointment, punishment and/or anger from people in this world, we most surely have not escaped from Allah (swt) nor can we ever deceive Him.

    SubhanAllah, I’m just thinking of all that pressure that was on Ka’b’s (ra) shoulders and having to answer to greatest man ever to live while hearing person after person lie and then be forgiven. How easy would it have been to follow the crowd!

    Can’t wait for part 2 :)

  11. Hasan Yasir says:

    So what was spoken between Ka’b (RA) and the Prophet (SAW)? Is that the end of the hadeeth?

  12. Fatima says:

    Asalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullaah wa barakatahu ,
    There is no fleeing from Allah swt) but fleeing to Him , to His forgiveness and mercy
    Our Quran has the answers for every problem in life for every down fall and only throught the word of Allah swt) are we able to be uplifted ….. Alhumduillah Rabil Alaimeen , Jazakillah khayr Mariam masha’Allah great work your doing here reminding us of the reality of life in this duniah and the mercy of Allah Azza wa Jall through His beloved Prophet sallaAllahu Alayhe wa sallam

  13. […] Lessons in Staying Behind – Part 2: ‘What did Ka’b do?’ […]

  14. Annie Ahmad says:

    As Salamu Alaikum Wa Rehmatulahi Wa Barakatuhu

    JazakAllah for this part of your article, such a thoughtful reflection.

    One should speak the truth, whatever be the consequences of it in this life, as we all believe that Allah SWT is All-Hearing and All-Seeing and we will be held accountable for our deeds in front of Allah SWT, and this life is temporary.

    We all need reminders of Allah’s mercy during these days, to keep our hopes high and faith strong. Very beautifully described the steadfastness and faith in Allah during difficult times.

    We need to learn lessons from the lives of the Noble Companions of Prophet Muhammad (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam), may Allah SWT give us patience and strong faith in all our trials of this life. Ameen.

    I also liked, a very good and simple dua you have mentioned.

    “O Controller of the hearts, make my heart adhere firmly to Your religion.”

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