Story No. 6 – Abuzar Ghaffari

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 (saw).

Shahada: I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and Mohammad is His Servant and MessengerIt 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 brother.

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.

Companion of Prophet Muhammad (Sahabi E Rasool)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.

Hazrat Abu Zar Ghaffari (Radhiallahu Anhu)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 revolution here.”

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 friend.”

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 of Israel.)

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 Medina.

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)