Dr. Sadaf Sheikh
His name in the days of Jahiliyah was Abdu Amr, but after accepting Islam, the Prophet (sa) called him Abdur-Rahman (rta) – the servant of the Beneficent. Abdur-Rahman (rta) became a Muslim two days after Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq (rta). He did not escape but steadfastly bore the punishment inflicted on the early Muslims by Quraish. As a result, when they were compelled to leave Makkah for Abyssinia, Abdur-Rahman (rta) went too. He returned to Makkah, when it was rumoured that conditions had improved for Muslims, but that was contrary to the truth, and so he went to Abyssinia again on a second Hijrah. He later returned to Makkah and made the Hijrah to Madinah.
Soon after arriving in Madinah, the Prophet (sa) began pairing the Muhajirin with the Ansar. This established a firm bond of brotherhood, and eased the destitution of the Muhajirin. Abdur-Rahman (rta) was linked by the Prophet (sa) with Saad ibn ar-Rabiah (rta). Saad (rta) in the spirit of generosity offered to Abdur-Rahman (rta): “My brother! Among the people of Madinah I have the most wealth. I have two orchards and I have two wives. See, which of the two orchards you like, and I shall vacate it for you, and which of my two wives is pleasing to you, and I will divorce her for you.”
Abdur-Rahman (rta) replied: “May Allah (swt) bless you in your family and your wealth. But just show me, where the Suk (market place) is.”
Abdur-Rahman (rta) went to the marketplace and began trading whatever resources he had and made a profit. He continued and his profits grew rapidly. Soon, he was well off and was able to get married. He went to the Prophet (sa) smelling of perfume.
“Mahyam, O Abdur-Rahman!” exclaimed the Prophet (sa) – “Mahyam” being a word of Yemeni origin indication pleasant surprise. “I have got married,” replied Abdur-Rahman (rta). “And what did you give your wife as Mahr?” “The weight of a Nuwat in gold.” “You must have a feast, even if it is with a single sheep. And may Allah (swt) bless you in your wealth,” said the Prophet (sa).
Thereafter Abdur-Rahman (rta) was successful in business. It was said that if he lifted a stone, he expected to find gold or silver underneath!
Abdur-Rahman (rta) distinguished himself in both battles – Badr and Uhud. At Uhud he remained firm despite suffering over twenty wounds, some severe. Even so, his physical Jihad matched that of his wealth.
When the Prophet (sa) decided to send an expedition to distant Tabuk – the last Ghazwah during his lifetime – he was in need of finance, material, and men to go against the huge and well-equipped forces of the Byzantine. That year in Madinah was one of drought and hardship. The journey to Tabuk was long and provisions were low.
The Prophet (sa) urged his companions to give generously for the path of Allah (swt) and assured them that they would be rewarded. The Muslims’ response to the Prophet’s (sa) call was immediate and generous. In the forefront was Abdur-Rahman (rta), who donated two hundred Awqiyah of gold.
The Muslim army eventually left for Tabuk. The time of Salah came, and the Prophet (sa) was not there, so the Muslims chose Abdur-Rahman (rta) as their Imam. Just before the completion of the first Rakat the Prophet (sa) joined the worshippers and performed the Salah behind Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf (rta). Could there be a greater honour conferred on anyone than to have been the Imam of the most honoured of Allah’s (swt) creation!
When the Prophet (sa) passed away, Abdur-Rahman (rta) took on the responsibility of looking after the needs of his family. He would go with them wherever they pleased, and even performed Hajj with them to ensure all their needs were met. This is a sign of the trust and confidence, which he enjoyed on the part of the Prophet’s (sa) family.
Once he sold a piece of land and distributed the entire amount among the Banu Zahrah (relatives of the Prophet’s (sa) mother Aminah (rta)), poor Muslims, and the Prophet’s (sa) wives.
The prayer of the Prophet (sa) that Allah (swt) should bestow Barakah on the wealth of Abdur-Rahman (rta) accompanied Abdur-Rahman (rta). He became the richest man among the Companions of the Prophet (sa). His trading caravans grew bringing to the people of Madinah wheat, flour, butter, cloth, utensils, perfume, and other commodities and exporting whatever surplus produce they had.
One day, a loud rumbling sound was heard beyond the boundaries of Madinah. In addition, clouds of dust were seen. The people of Madinah realized that a mighty caravan was entering their city. They were amazed as seven hundred camels laden with goods crowded the streets. There was much excitement as people called others to witness the sight and goods that they had brought.
Aisha (rta) heard the commotion and asked: “What is this that’s happening in Madinah?”
She was told: “It is the caravan of Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf, which has come from Syria bearing merchandise.” “A caravan making all this commotion?” she asked in disbelief. “Yes, O Ummul-Mumineen. There are seven hundred camels.”
Aisha (rta) shook her head and gazed in the distance, trying to recall an utterance of the past and said: “I have heard the Messenger of Allah (sa) say: ‘I have seen Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf entering Paradise creeping.'”
Some friends related this Hadeeth to Abdur-Rahman (rta), although he had heard it more than once from the Prophet (sa). He hurried to Aisha (rta) and said: “Ya Ammah! Have you heard that from the Messenger (sa)?” “Yes,” she replied.
“If I could I would certainly like to enter Paradise standing. I swear to you, ya Ammah, that this entire caravan with all its merchandise, I will give Fi-Sabilillah.”
And so he did. This is just one incident that shows the type of man Abdur-Rahman (rta) was. He earned much wealth, but he never remained attached to it for its own sake and did not allow it to corrupt him.
All this wealth did not corrupt Abdur-Rahman (rta). When he was among his workers and assistants, people could not distinguish him from them. One day, food was brought to him with which to end a fast. He looked at the food and said: “Musab ibn ‘Umayr (rta) has been killed. He was better than me. We did not find anything of his to shroud him, with except what covered his head but left his legs uncovered… Then Allah (swt) endowed us with the (bounties of) the world… I really fear that our reward has been bestowed on us early (in this world).” He began to cry and sob and could not eat.
May Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf (rta) be granted felicity among “Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah (swt) and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Al-Baqarah 2: 262)