Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu
Anhu), Companion of Prophet Muhammad (Sahabi E Rasool)
Mitaaya Qaysar-o-Kisra Ke Istibdaad Ko Jis Ne,
Wo Kiya Tha? Zor-e-Hyder, Faqr-e-Bu Zar, Sidq-e-Salmani
The above two lines of poetry (Urdu language Couplets) have been taken from
Allama Iqbal's famous revolutionary long-poem Tuloo-e-Islam. In these two short
lines, Allama Iqbal has identified three major elements in the Islamic spirit
that once ruled the world and in his opinion, it was ready to repeat that once
again, should those elements be revived. Those are: (i) The spirit of martyrdom
personified in Imam Ali bin Abi Talib, (ii) the socialistic fervor of Abu Zar
Ghaffari, and (iii) the devotional persistence of Salman al-Farsi.
What is very significant in these lines is the fact that Allama Iqbal has used
the names of two great empires (the Roman and the Persian) of the past to
identify oppression and tyranny. Then he quotes the names of three individuals
who, out of the strength of their own personalities, were able to subdue that
tyranny. The message is that it takes the collective effort of groups and
countries to subdue the human spirit but it takes only one individual's personal
force to break the tyranny. It is also accurate historically in that, when Islam
rose on the horizon of the world history, it were those two empires at the two
ends of the Arabian peninsula, which were competing which each other. In that
process, they were crushing the human spirit of freedom, liberty and human
rights. Islam came and destroyed both empires by giving people freedom by
liberating them spiritually by the message of Tawheed (Oneness of God),
economically by making them self-sufficient, and socially by giving them human
compassion and a value-system.
Hazrat Abu Zar's real name was Jandab ibn Junadah ibn Sakan, better known as Abu
Dhar al-Ghaffari, or Abu Thar al-Ghaffari. Hazrat Abu Zar's Kunniya was Abu Zar,
which is because his eldest son was named Zar (this word in Arabic means
'fragrance'). By one estimate, Abu Zar was born in 568 AD, which means Abu Zar
was two years older than the Prophet Muhammad (saw).
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu / May God be pleased with him) had
belonged to an Arab tribe by the name of Ghaffar, hence his last name.
Abu Zar was most unhappy about the custom of Idol-worship that was rampant in
Arabia of the 7th century. He had already believed in a Supreme God and he would
spend most of his time reflecting on that.
As news of the Prophet's mission spread in Arabia, it also arrived in the tribe
of Ghafaar. Abu Zar heard of it. It was something that he himself had been
thinking about. He sent his brother to go to Hijaz, find out about the new
message and report back. His brother did that. Abu Zar found the news and the
report from his brother encouraging.
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu) then decided to meet with the Prophet
Muhammad (saw) personally. This was the time when Islam had only collected a
handful of converts. He was first met with Imam Ali bin Abi Talib who introduced
him to his own father Abu Talib. Abu Talib took him to Hazrat Hamza. After a
thorough security check, Abu Zar was finally introduced to the Prophet Muhammad
It is said that Abu Zar said Salam to the Prophet Muhammad (saw). That was long
before the Islamic Salam was introduced into the early Muslim culture of Arabia.
Abu Zar was taken by the charm, the majesty and the kindness of the Prophet
Muhammad (saw). He said his Shahada (I bear witness that there is no god but
Allah and Mohammad is His Servant and Messenger) and accepted Islam, so did his
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu) hung around in Makkah for few days.
During those few days he made a couple of speeches in the temple grounds. He was
immediately subdued by the infidels and actually was beaten up badly. Al-Abbas
ibn Abdul Mutalib, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) came to his rescue
both times and the incidents were reported to the Prophet Muhammad (saw).
Prophet Muhammad (saw) called him and advised him to go back to his tribe of
Ghaffar and stay there until he (Prophet Muhammad (saw)) goes to Yathrib (Madina)
and Muslims had established themselves. Hence Abu Zar went back home and under
the influence of both sons, their mother also accepted Islam.
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu) has had the reputation of being an
outspoken orator and he always spoke his mind whatever the consequences. He and
his brother began speaking about their new faith among his tribesmen.
Immediately there was resentment against Abu Zar and his brother among the young
men of the tribe. Finally the issue was reported to the chief of the tribe. Abu
Zar had a lot of respect in the tribe. However, when the chief called him and
his brother, they both had to appear before him. He questioned Abu Zar and his
brother about the trouble that both of them had started. Abu Zar pleaded his
case with strength of reason but with due respect and compassion. The chief
reflected on what Abu Zar had said and after some reflection he announced his
own Islam. A great number of the young men also accepted Islam after that turn
of events. Abu Zar continued to teach Islam to his people.
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu) is reported to be the fourth Muslim
in chronological order. He had the exclusive honour to call the Prophet Muhammad
(saw) as Ya Habibi (my dear friend), while everybody else could only address him
as Ya Rasool Allah. Abu Zar finally arrived in Madina after the Battle of Ahzab
/ Battle of the Trench (5th year of Hijra) and spent the rest of the days in the
company of the Prophet Muhammad (saw).
During those few years in Madina, Abu Zar became very friendly with Imam Ali bin
Abi Talib. The four people named Salman al-Farsi, Abu Zar Ghaffari, Miqdad bin
Aswad and Ammar Yasir were always seen in the company of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib.
They came to be known as the Shia.
In the 9th year of Hijra, the Prophet Muhammad (saw) prepared a large contingent
to confront the Romans and moved out towards Tabuk. Imam Ali bin Abi Talib was
appointed the administrator of Madina. Abu Zar also accompanied the Prophet
Muhammad (saw). However, at that time, he had a very weak and old camel. It
could not keep up with the rest of the group. Finally, when he was left behind
by a great distance, he left the camel, took a back-pack and decided to walk.
Finally, people saw Abu Zar coming and they reported to the Prophet Muhammad
(saw) that Abu Zar was coming on foot. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) looked at him
and said: "This is Abu Zar, my companion (Sahabi). He is walking alone, he will
live alone, and one day, die alone. A group of strangers from Iraq will take
care of his funeral and bury him."
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu) lived a pious life and spent his days
in prayer and worship. His daily meal used to be a handful of dates. He lived a
contented life, always spoke the truth and he was firm in his faith.
Once someone asked him that he was always seen in one pair of clothes .Abu Zar
replied: Yes, I had another pair of clothes but I saw some one who needed it
more than I did. How could I keep a second pair of clothes while there was
another person who did not have even one? That one episode speaks volumes of the
thinking of Abu Zar.
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu) seems to have kept a very low profile
after the passing of our Prophet Muhammad (saw) and during the first two
Caliphates of both Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Khattab.
During the third Caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan, things moved from good to bad
and from bad to worse. Uthman refused to take advice from his well-wishers such
as Imam Ali bin Abi Talib and Abdur-Rahman bin Awf.
When Uthman ibn Affan began misappropriating the public treasury for his own use
and began distributing it lavishly on his cousins and in-laws, Abu Zar become
active again and began reacting to it.
Uthman ibn Affan was very displeased about that. When Abu Zar's activities
became unbearable for him, Uthman ibn Affan ordered a complete boycott of Abu
Zar. No one was allowed to speak to him in the Masjid, nobody was allowed to
visit him or invite him to his place.
Abu Zar's voice, in spite of all that, was hard to silence. When Uthman ibn
Affan was not able to silence Abu Zar then, he ordered Abu Zar to be transported
to Muawiyah in Damascus, Syria.
What Abu Zar saw in Damascus was even worse. People were building palaces for
themselves and living in luxury. He realized that all that was a far cry from
the Islamic heritage that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) had given to the community.
He built a hut out of blankets on the outskirts of the city and began living in
that with his family.
One day Abu Zar passed by the location where Muawiyah was having his Green
Palace built. He went upto Muawiyah and said: "O Muawiyah, if you are spending
Allah's wealth in this project, you are being dishonest because you are
embezzling Allah's wealth; if this is being built of your personal wealth then
it is disgusting extravagance." Muawiyah could not say a word in reply.
Abu Zar then proceeded to the central mosque. He stood among the people and
delivered a speech. People began to gather round Abu Zar and listen to his
discourses. The poor and the dispossessed were attracted to him and the rich
were scared of him.
A man named Habib bin Muslim Fehri saw all this and said to himself: This is a
big Fitna. He then went up to Muawiyah and said: "If you wish to continue to
rule over Syria, do something about Abu Zar, otherwise he will bring a
Muawiyah was greatly perturbed. He considered it one of his great failures if he
could not control one old 'fool' such as Abu Zar. First Muawiyah tried to
silence Abu Zar by bribing him. He sent three hundred Dinar to Abu Zar. He
immediately returned it to him saying: "I do not need your money."
As Abu Zar was openly criticizing Muawiyah by name in the mosque, one person
bent over and whispered in his ear: "What are you saying against the ruler? Be
afraid of his wrath." Abu Zar turned to him and said:" My friend (meaning the
Prophet Muhammad (saw)) had advised me to speak the truth at all times even if
it is bitter, and not to be afraid of any critic in truth's path. I pray to
Allah: O Allah, I ask your protection against cowardice, save me from being
miserly, I do not wish for long life, I ask Allah's forgiveness from this world
and the Hellfire in the other world."
Then he said: "People are preparing various kinds of food, then they take
medicine to digest that food (so that they can eat even more). The Prophet
Muhammad (saw) passed on and he never took his fill with two meals in any one
day. When he ate dates he would not take bread that day. The people of the House
of the Prophet never ate barley bread for three contiguous days, until the
Prophet Muhammad (saw) met up with his Lord. Many times months would change and
no fire would burn in his kitchen."
Someone asked: "How did he then survive?" Abu Zar replied, 'he would eat dates
and then take a drink of water. Man needs only enough food so that he keeps his
strength. Never eat to your fill, because that creates laziness and lethargy. It
destroys your body and brings illness and disease. Live a moderate life.'
Abu Zar continued with his preaching to the wealthy. Finally, one day, Muawiyah
called him. He came. Muawiyah sat him down next to himself. Food was served. The
place was filled with all kinds of delicious dishes. Muawiyah invited him to
eat. Abu Zar refused. He said: "I only eat a handful of wheat (flour) in a week.
This is what I used to do during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and I
will continue with that practice until I will pass on and meet up with my
Addressing Muawiyah he said: 'You have changed your life style. It wasn't like
this. You eat bread made of strained flour. You have many different dishes at a
time; you eat all kinds of colourful foods. You change into a new dress
twice-a-day. You were not like that during the time of the Prophet Muhammad
(saw). During that period you lived like a beggar.'
Muawiyah tried all kinds of tricks against Abu Zar but Abu Zar defeated every
one of them. Finally, he banished Abu Zar to the area of JABAL AAMIL (this is
located in present day Lebanon, in that time the larger country of Shaam (Syria)
contained all of today's Syria, Lebanon, parts of Jordan and all of the country
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu), said: I have heard the Prophet
Muhammad (saw) saying: Do you listen, indeed amongst you the example of my Ahlul
Bayt is like that of Noah's boat; whoever boards it, he obtains Najat (safety)
and one who missed it, he stood doomed to destruction.
The people of that area were not very rich but they were nice people and very
hospitable. That time Abu Zar lived in that area, he introduced those people to
the glory of Ahlul Bayt. This too was totally against Muawiyah's policies.
Muawiyah's propaganda in that area was that actually Banu Umayya were the Ahlul
Bayt and their love had been made wajib (compulsory) on Muslims. When he saw
that Abu Zar countered his trick by glorifying the family of the Prophet, he
called him back and then wrote a letter to Caliph Uthman ibn Affan complaining
about Abu Zar's activities.
Caliph Uthman ibn Affan replied as follows: "We have received your letter about
Abu Zar. As soon as you receive this letter, arrange a fast camel, put Abu Zar
on it, arrange a very harsh camel-driver and send him to Madina post haste."
On Muawiyah's orders, Abu Zar
was dispatched quickly without even letting him take his family with him. By the
time Abu Zar arrived in Madina (riding that camel) the flesh of both his thighs
had been torn.
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu) was presented to Caliph Uthman ibn
Affan in an open assembly. Caliph Uthman ibn Affan said to him: "I have been
told that you narrate a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) that when the
number of the men of Banu Umayya (in power) would come upto thirty, they would
use Allah's Kingdom as their personal property, they would treat the worshippers
of Allah as their personal servants and would corrupt and misuse Allah's Law
(for their own advantage)."
Abu Zar replied that, yes, he
had heard the Prophet Muhammad (saw) saying all that. Caliph Uthman ibn Affan
asked the assembly whether or not they all had heard that hadith. He then called
Imam Ali bin Abi Talib and asked him the same question. Imam Ali bin Abi Talib
confirmed what Abu Zar had said. Caliph Uthman ibn Affan then asked for the
evidence to that. Imam Ali bin Abi Talib said that the clearest evidence to that
was another statement of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) in which he had said, "The
skies have not given shade to, and the earth has not carried any speaker more
truthful and honest than Abu Zar."
Only a few days had gone by after that event that Caliph Uthman ibn Affan sent
him a message that by Allah he would be banished from Madina. Abu Zar
(confronted Uthman) and said to him: "Are you going to banish me away from the
City of the Prophet?" He replied, "Yes." Abu Zar asked, "Are you going to send
me off to Makkah?" He said, "No." Abu Zar then asked, "To Basra?" He said, "No."
Abu Zar then asked, "To Kufa, then?" He said, "No, I am going to throw you out
to Rabza, where you came from and, I wish you would die there." Caliph Uthman
ibn Affan then turned to Marwan and ordered him to escort Abu Zar out of Madina
and not to let anyone else see him off or speak to him. So, Marwan put Abu Zar
and his daughter on a camel and escorted them out of Madina.
As Abu Zar was being escorted out of Madina, Imam Ali bin Abi Talib came to see
him off with his sons, his brother Aqeel, Abd Allah bin Jafar, and Ammar Yasir.
Marwan tried to stop them saying, "Let me tell you, if you do not already know,
that Amir al-Momineen Uthman ibn Affan has prohibited everyone to come and see
Abu Zar off." Imam Ali bin Abi Talib hit the camel Marwan was riding and said,
"Get out of my place, may Allah throw you in Hell fire."
Imam Ali bin Abi Talib walked with Abu Zar. He cried and wept saying, "O Ahlul
Bayt, may Allah have Mercy upon you. O Abul Hasan, when I see you and your
children, I am reminded of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)."
Prophet Muhammad (saw) said to Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu): Make
more effort in guarding the moments of your life in comparison to protecting
dirhams and dinars (money).
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu) stayed in Rabza until the time of his
death. During the last moments of his life, his daughter said to him, "I am
alone in this part of the country and I am afraid that I will not be able to
protect you from the wild beasts." Abu Zar replied: "Do not be afraid, in a few
moments some believing men would arrive here, do you see someone approaching?"
The daughter replied: "No, I do not see anyone coming." Abu Zar said: "That
means I have a few more moments to live." He repeated his question to the
daughter after a while. She said: "Yes, I see some riders approaching."
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu) said: "Allahu Akbar, Allah and his
Prophet Muhammad (saw) are really truthful. Turn my face towards the Qibla. When
these riders arrive here, say my Salam to them. When they are done with my
funeral rites, have this goat slaughtered for them and tell them that I have
asked them under oath not to leave without eating a meal."
With that statement, Abu Zar breathed his last. When the riders arrived there,
who were seven men and among them were Malik Ashtar and Huzayfa al-Yaman, Abu
Zar's daughter told them that her father, Abu Zar, the companion of Prophet
Muhammad (Sahabi E Rasool), had just died, and he is without anyone to take care
of his funeral. They all wept for Abu Zar, the companion of Prophet Muhammad (Sahabi
E Rasool). Then they gave him a funeral bath, enshrouded him, prayed his funeral
prayer and buried him. When they were all done with that, Abu Zar's daughter
told them that before dying he had left a message for them under oath that they
should not leave without having a meal. They slaughtered the goat, had a meal
and then set of towards Madina taking Abu Zar's daughter with them.
Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu), the great companion of Prophet
Muhammad (Sahabi E Rasool) died alone in exile with no one by his side as the
Prophet Muhammad (saw) had predicted, in 652 CE, at Rabza, in the desert near
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) says, "Abu Zar, the companion of Prophet Muhammad (Sahabi
E Rasool) wept from fear of Allah until he was almost blind. The people told him
to pray for his eyes to get cured but he replied, 'I am busy with more important
things'. When asked what these were, he replied, 'fear of Hell and joy of
Heaven.'" (Taken from Syed-Mohsin Naquvi's writing with some modifications)