historical

Graffiti of the Salaf

Here is a picture of what is considered (to date) the oldest dated Islamic inscription, from 24H, when the Rightly Guided Caliph ‘Umar b. Al-Khattāb – Allāh be pleased with him – was assassinated. It is located at Al-‘Ulā in present day Saudi Arabia. It is one of a number of ‘graffiti’ inscriptions made by travelers and pilgrims from the first few centuries of Islām.

The Zuhayr Inscription - Earliest known Islamic inscription from 24H

UNESCO included this amazing archaeological find in its Memory of the World Register of Documentary Collections. An update entry states:

Saudi Arabia – Earliest Islamic (Kufic) Inscription. This very well preserved inscription is located on a red sandstone block of rock south of Qa’a al Muatadil, north of Sharma in al-Ula, northwest of Saudi Arabia on the ancient trade and pilgrimage route connecting the early Islamic city of al-Mabiyat with Madain Saleh. It is the oldest Islamic inscription found so far. It mentions the date of the death of the second Caliph of Islam, Omar bin al-Khattab and reads as follows: “In the name of God, I Zuhair wrote the date of the death of Omar the year four and twenty (Hegrah)”. Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab died on the last night of the month of Dul-Hajj of the year 23 Hegrah, and was buried next day on the first day of Muharram of the new year 24 Hegrah (corresponding to 644 AD).

Note: The discoverers and local experts say the script is Hijāzī, not Kufic.

Here’s a trace of the text:

Outline trace of the Zuhayr Inscription

What it says

The inscription can be translated as follows:

In the Name of Allah

I, Zuhayr, wrote [this] at the time ‘Umar died, in the year four

and twenty [24H]

Next to this inscription, it reads:

I am Zuhayr, Mawlā of the Bani Salamah [tribe]

Ignorance and the Sword

It is reported that Al-Ḥasan Al-Baṣrī – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

One who acts without knowledge is like one who travels off the path; and the one who acts without knowledge corrupts more than he rectifies. So seek knowledge in a way that does not harm your worship, and seek to worship [Allāh] in a way that does not harm [your seeking of] knowledge. For verily, there were people (the Khawārij extremists) who sought to worship [Allāh] but abandoned knowledge until they attacked the Ummah of Muḥammad – Allāh’s praise and peace be upon him – with their swords. But if they had sought knowledge, it would not have directed them to do what they did.

Quoted by Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr, Jāmi’ Bayān Al-‘Ilm wa Falihi article 905.

Weapons of Mass Distinction

Abū Isḥāq [Al-Fazārī] states:

The enemy was never able to stand up to the Companions of Allāh’s Messenger – Allāh’s praise and peace be upon him, so when the news of the defeat of the Romans came to Heraclius at Antioch he asked [his people], “Woe to you, tell me about these people who fight you, are they not humans like you?” They replied, “Indeed, they are.” He asked, “So are you more in number or them?” They replied, “We outnumber them greatly in all places.” He said, “So how is it that you are defeated whenever you meet them [in battle].” A senior and esteemed elder amongst them replied, “Because they stand in prayer at night, fast during the day, fulfill their agreements and promises, enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, they are fair and just amongst themselves; and because we drink wine, fornicate, commit sin, break our agreements, steal, oppress and do injustice, enjoin the committing of what angers Allāh and forbid what pleases Allāh the Mighty and Majestic, and we cause evil and corruption in the land.” Heraclius said, “You are the one who has told me the truth.”

Abū Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-‘Ilm 4:91.

We believed, they rejected [How the Salaf came to Islam]

‘Āṣim b. ʿUmar b. Qatādah [Al-Anṣārī] reports from some men amongst his people, “One of the things that called us to accept Islam – with the mercy of Allāh and His guidance – is what we used to hear from some Jewish men. We were polytheists who worshipped idols. They (the Jews) were people of scripture and had knowledge that we did not possess. There was always some badness between us; if we did to them something they hated, they would say to us, ‘The time is nigh when a Prophet will be sent, with whom we will fight and kill you like ‘Ād and Iram.’ We would often hear this from them. When Allāh sent His Messenger- Allāh’s peace and blessings be upon him – we answered him when he called us to Allāh the Exalted, and we recognized what they used to warn us about. So we preceded them to him; we believed in him and they disbelieved. And it is about us and them that these verses of Al-Baqarah were revealed:

And when there came to them (the Jews), a Book (this Qur’ān) from Allāh confirming what is with them (Torah) and the Gospel, although aforetime they had invoked Allāh (for coming of the Prophet), in order to gain victory over those who disbelieved. Then when there came to them that which they recognized, they disbelieved in it. So let the curse of Allāh be on the disbelievers.” [Al-Baqarah: 89]

Ibn Hishām, Al-Sīrah Vol.1 p211, and others. Shaykh Muqbil Al-Wādi’ī graded this narrations chain of transmission ḥasan. See Al-Ṣaḥīḥ Al-Musnad min Dalā`il Al-Nubūwah p93.

The Assassination of ʿUmar – Part 2

Part one can be viewed here.

As soon as he said Takbīr, I heard him say, “The dog has killed or eaten me,” when the murderer stabbed him. A non-Arab infidel came carrying a double-edged knife and stabbed everyone he passed by on the right and left, stabbing thirteen people out of whom seven died. When one of the Muslims saw that, he threw a cloak on him. Realizing that he had been captured, the non-Arab infidel killed himself. ‘Umar took the hand of ‘Abdur-Raḥmān b. ‘Auf and let him lead the prayer.

Those who were standing by the side of ‘Umar saw what I saw, but the people who were in the other parts of the Mosque did not see anything, but they lost the voice of ‘Umar and they were saying, “Subḥān Allāh! Subḥān Allāh!” ‘Abdur-Raḥmān b. ‘Auf led the people a short prayer. When they finished the prayer, ‘Umar said, “O Ibn ‘Abbās! Find out who attacked me.” Ibn ‘Abbās kept on looking here and there for a short time and then came back and said, “The slave of Al-Mughīrah.” At that, ‘Umar said, “The craftsman?” Ibn ‘Abbās replied, “Yes.” ‘Umar said, “May Allah destroy him. I only treated him well. All praises are for Allāh who has not caused me to die at the hand of a man who claims to be a Muslim. No doubt, you and your father (Al-Abbās) used to love to have more non-Arab infidels in Al-Madīnah.” Al-Abbas had the greatest number of slaves. Ibn ‘Abbās said to ‘Umar. “If you wish, we will do it.” He meant, “If you wish we will kill them.” ‘Umar said, “You are mistaken (for you cannot kill them) after they have spoken your language, prayed towards your Qiblah, and performed Hajj like yours.”

Points to note

  • Some narrations mention that the one who threw the cloak over the assassin was a person named Hattān Al-Tamīmī Al-Yarbū’ī from the Muhājirūn.
  • A narration from Ibn Shihāb describes how ʿUmar bled heavily and fainted. He was carried to his house, where he remained unconscious for a while. When he awoke and saw the people around him, the first thing he said was, “Have the people prayed?” When he was told that they had, he said, “There is no place in Islām for those who leave the prayer.” He then performed ablution and prayed, with his wound bleeding heavily. This, coupled with the fact the first thing ʿUmar did was appoint an imām in his place, all goes to show the importance and status of the ṣalāh, as well as the nobleness of ʿUmar.
  • This narration also mentions that ʿUmar feared he had done some wrong to someone in the community, but when Ibn ‘Abbās informed him it was the unbeliever who had stabbed him, and when Ibn ‘Abbās saw everyone crying as if they had lost their own children, ʿUmar became relieved that this situation was not because of any injustice on his part. This shows the piety and taqwā of ʿUmar.

Continued inshā Allāh.