It is only when people realise the return that they get from something that they are able to commit to it. For Rasoolullah(SAW) this was never a matter of the slightest doubt. But his major achievement was in building a generation which shared his commitment and proved it to the final extent by giving their lives for the cause. He was able to do this by setting a personal example which left no doubt in anyone’s mind about the extent of his own commitment to the message of Islam; living it and propagating it. Not only did Rasoolullah(SAW) demonstrate this commitment but so did his Sahaba who learnt this lesson very well from him. There are many instances in the Seerah which show the level of this commitment.
Say (O Muhammad): “If you (really) love Allah then follow me (follow my Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
A’al Imraa 3: 31
During the Battle of Badr, as they were proceeding to the wells of Badr where the battle was to take place, the Sahaba were very ill equipped. They were not prepared for a full battle and were only going to take over the caravan of Abu Sufyan which was returning from Ash-Shaam with goods purchased from the confiscated wealth of the Muhajiroon. There were only 2 horses and 70 camels in the group. Three people would take turns to ride one camel. Rasoolullah(SAW) had Ali ibn Abi Talib(RA) and Ulubaba(RA) with him as his partners. They offered the camel to him and he said, ‘You are not stronger than I am and I need the reward as much as you do.’ His leadership was from the front and he always demonstrated an equal if not higher level of commitment that he demanded from his people.
During the Battle of the Trench (Ghazwatul Khandaq) Rasoolullah(SAW) held a Shura to brainstorm the battle strategy. Salman Al Farisi(RA) who was from Persia said, ‘In my land if we fear cavalry we dig a trench. So why don’t we did a trench here?’ Rasoolullah(SAW) agreed and they decided to dig the trench to the North of Madina which was vulnerable. In the east and west Madina was protected by Al Harra (a volcanic tract) and in the south were the date farms which were impenetrable. Every 10 men were given 40 feet of trench to dig. The Muslims were poor and hungry and weak. Anas ibn Maalik(RA) says that on one cold night Rasoolullah(SAW) went out to them and when he saw their state he made dua and said, ‘O Allah(SWT) indeed these are for the Aakhira. O Allah(SWT) forgive the Muhajiroon and the Ansaar.’ It was not lost on the Sahaba that while they were sleeping in the open and were bitterly cold, their leader was not sleeping warmly in his tent or his home, but was walking among them, checking their situation and making dua for them. People are loyal to other people, not to titles or ranks.
Al Bara’a(RA) says, ‘On the day of Khandaq I saw Rasoolullah(SAW) carrying earth until there was so much mud on him that I could not see his skin anymore.’ This is an example of the commitment of Rasoolullah(SAW). There was no job that he considered beneath his dignity to do. There was nothing that he ordered others to do that he didn’t do himself. Leadership after all is always from the front. People follow leaders because the leader is walking ahead of them. Sometimes we forget this.
At this time Rasoolullah(SAW) himself was so hungry that he would tie two stones to his belly. Jaber ibn Abdalla(RA) saw the
condition of Rasoolullah(SAW) while they were digging the trench; people had one stone tied on their bellies while Rasoolullah(SAW) had two. He went to his wife and said, ‘I have seen Rasoolullah(SAW) in an unbearable condition. Do you have any food for him?’ She said, ‘All I have is some barley and a small goat.’ So Jaber bin Abdullah(RA) slaughtered the goat and told his wife to make some dough for bread. While the meat was cooking and his wife was baking the bread, he went to Rasoolullah(SAW) and said, ‘Ya Rasoolullah(SAW), I have some food for you so please come with one or two of your companions.’ Rasoolullah(SAW) asked him how much food he had and Jaber(RA) told him. Rasoolullah(SAW) said, ‘O that’s plenty. Tell your wife, not to move the soup from its place until I come.’
Then Rasoolullah(SAW) stood up and called out, ‘O Muhajiroon, O Ansaar; Jaber has invited you to his house for a meal.’ Jaber(RA) was shocked because he expected Rasoolullah(SAW) to come with one or two companions while Rasoolullah(SAW) had now invited the whole camp. He ran back home, very embarrassed and told his wife what had happened. She asked him, ‘Did he ask you how much food we have?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ She asked, ‘Did you tell him?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’ So she said, ‘Then don’t worry, Allah(SWT) and His Messenger(SAW) know best.’ He said, ‘Those words comforted me.’
Rasoolullah(SAW) entered the house of Jaber(RA) and took charge of distributing the food. He would crush the bread and dish out the meat and soup and told the Sahaba to come in groups of 10. Rasoolullah(SAW) would prepare the meal and dish it out and they would eat their fill and leave and another 10 would come in and eat. In total 800 Sahaba ate. When Rasoolullah(SAW) went back to the pot the pot was full and the bread was still baking. So he told the wife of Jaber(RA) to feed her neighbors. It is hardly a surprise that the morale of his people was so high. What else would you expect with a leader who shared all your hardship?
A boulder stood in the path of the trench diggers and would not break despite their best efforts. So they came to Rasoolullah(SAW). He went with them and took the pickaxe and struck the boulder once. Lighting flashed and he said, ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Then he struck it a second time and lightning flashed again and he said, ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Then he struck it a third time and the boulder disintegrated to dust. Salman Al Farisi(RA) asked him, ‘Ya Rasoolullah(SAW) what was the lightning and why did you say Allahu Akbar?’ He replied, ‘The first time I struck it I was given the good news of the conquest of the Roman Empire and I could see the red palace of Ash-Shaam from here. The second time I was given the god news of the conquest of Persia and I could see the white palace of Al Kisra. The third time I was given the good news of the conquest of Yemen and I could see the gates of Sana’a. That is why I said, ‘Allahu Akbar.’
Speaking of the commitment of the Sahaba one story which illustrates this very well is when Rasoolullah(SAW) appointed Ammar bin Yasir(RA) and Abbad bin Bishr(RA) as guards during one expedition. Between themselves they decided that one of them would sleep half the night while the other stayed awake and then when half the night was over, he would awaken his brother. It was Abbad bin Bishr(RA)’s turn to be awake and he decided to pray while guarding the camp. One of the enemy scouts sneaked up behind Abbad(RA) and shot an arrow which hit him in the side. Abbad(RA) continued to stand and pray . The enemy soldier shot another arrow which also hit Abbad(RA). But he remained standing and continued his prayer without interruption. The enemy shot a third arrow upon which Abbad(RA) woke up Ammar(RA). When the enemy soldier saw that Abbad(RA) had a companion, he ran away. When Ammar bin Yasir(RA) saw him in the state where he was dying from loss of blood he said to him, ‘Subhan’Allah why didn’t you wake me up?’ Abbad(RA) said, ‘If it wasn’t for the fact that this man kept shooting arrow after arrow and I was afraid that I may die and thereby fail my responsibility to Rasoolullah(SAW), I would not have woken you up until I finished my entire recitation.’
The Sahaba were living examples of Islam. This incident shows us the level of Imaan of the Sahaba where Abbad bin Bishr(RA) could actually continue to pray and retain his Khushoo despite taking 3 arrows in his body. This also shows the importance of our responsibility to Islam. Abbad(RA) used a phrase which means, ‘Guarding my gate’ i.e. preventing the enemy from entering from the gate that I am guarding. This is the responsibility of every Muslim. The enemy is Shaytaan or anyone who wishes ill for Islam or the Muslims. It is the duty of every Muslim to use whatever means Allah(SWT) has given to prevent any harm from happening to Islam or the Muslims and to help Islam and the Muslims in any way. We will not be asked, ‘What happened?’ We will be asked, ‘What did you do?’
Excerpt from Sheikh Mirza Yawar Baig book – “Leadership Lessons from the Life of Rasoolullah: Proven techniques of how to succeed in today’s world”