The Companions

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]

The Sweetest Words [Ikhlas]

It is reported that the son of Al-Fuḍayl b. ‘Ayyāḍ – Allāh have mercy on him – said to his father:

Father! How sweet (beautiful) the speech of the Companions is! [Al-Fuḍayl] said, “Son, do you know why it was so sweet?” He replied, “No father, I do not.” He said, “Because they sought Allāh the Exalted when they spoke.”

Al-Bayhaqī, Shu’ab Al-īmān 2:299

Four Distinctions of Abu Bakr

It is reported that Al-Sha’bī – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

Allāh the Exalted distinguished Abū Bakr Al-Ṣiddīq – Allāh be pleased with him – with four qualities He did not distinguish anyone else with: He called him Al-Ṣiddīq (the true believer), and He never named anyone else Al-Ṣiddīq; [Abū Bakr] was the companion of Allāh’s Messenger – praise and peace of Allāh be upon him – in the cave, and his companion during the Migration (Al-Hijrah); and Allāh’s Messenger – praise and peace of Allāh be upon him – told him to lead the prayer in the presence of the rest of the Muslims.

Abu Bakr Al-Daynūrī, Al-Mujālasah wa Jawāhir Al-‘Ilm article 2815.

The Sahabah on Leaving the Salah

‘Abdullāh b. Shaqīq Al-‘Uqaylī – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

The Companions of Allāh’s Messenger – Allah’s praise and peace be upon him – did not consider the leaving of any action to be kufr (unbelief), except the prayer (ṣalāh).

Al-Tirmidhī, Al-Sunan ḥadīth 2622. Graded ṣaḥīḥ by Al-Albānī in his edition of Sunan Al-Tirmidhī.

The Best of then and Now

It is reported that Mujāhid – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

Those who strive and exert themselves (al-mujtahid) amongst you today are like those who used to play around amongst those before you.

Wakī’ b. Al-Jarrāh, Al-Zuhd article 221.