A workshop conducted by Sheikh Abdul Jabbar Bilal and organized by LiveDeen (Karachi) shared the beautiful story of the repentance of Kab bin Malik who stayed behind from the Battle of Tabuk. Umm Amal has transcribed this for Hiba.
There are signs of men of understanding in the Quran. They listen, obey and take heed from the past events. These stories serve as the army of Allah that strengthens a Momin’s heart in present times, when he is afflicted with similar challenges.
“Who listen to speech and follow the best of it. Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding.” (Az-Zumar 39:18)
“And each [story] We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We make firm your heart. And there has come to you, in this, the truth and an instruction and a reminder for the believers.” (Hud 11:120)
“There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding…” (Yusuf 12:111)
Kab bin Malik (rta) narrates his tale
Abdullah bin Kab was Kab bin Malik’s (rta) son and also served as his guide when Kab (rta) became blind. Kab (rta) was sightless but his heart was guided. Kab (rta) had a special story to narrate of his when he remained behind instead of joining Allah’s Messenger (sa) when he proceeded for the battle of Tabuk.
Ghazwa-e-Mutah was the first battle against the Romans, where 3000 Muslims faced 2 lakh enemies. After 3 Muslim generals were martyred, Khalid bin Waleed led the army for the first time. Battle of Tabuk was the next one against the Romans. Hence it had much significance.
Kab (rta) said: “I accompanied Allah’s Messenger (sa) in every expedition which he undertook except in the battle of Tabuk and the battle of Badr. As for the battle of Badr, nobody was blamed for remaining behind as Allah’s Messenger (sa) and the Muslims, when they set out, had in mind only to intercept the caravan of the Quraish. Allah made them confront their enemies unexpectedly.
I had the honour of being with Allah’s Messenger (sa) on the night of Aqabah when we pledged our allegiance to Islam and it was dearer to me than participating in the battle of Badr, although Badr was more well known among the people than that.
Settings in Madinah before the battle of Tabuk
And this is the account of my staying behind from the battle of Tabuk. I never had better means and more favourable circumstances than at the time of this expedition. And by Allah, I had never before possessed two riding camels as I did during the time of this expedition. Whenever Allah’s Messenger (sa) decided to go on a campaign, he would not disclose his real destination till the last moment (of departure). But on this expedition, he set out in extremely hot weather; the journey was long and the terrain was waterless desert; and he had to face a strong army, so he informed the Muslims about the actual position so that they should make full preparation for the campaign.
And the Muslims who accompanied Allah’s Messenger (sa) at that time were in large number but no proper record of them was maintained.”
Kab (further) said: “Few were the persons who chose to remain absent believing that they could easily hide themselves (and thus remain undetected) unless Revelation from Allah, the Exalted, and Glorious, revealed (relating to them). And Allah’s Messenger (sa) set out on this expedition when the fruit were ripe and their shade was sought. I had a weakness for the harvest and it was during this season that Allah’s Messenger (sa) and the Muslims made preparations.
Preparations for the battle
I also would set out in the morning to make preparations along with them but would come back having done nothing and said to myself: ‘I have means enough (to make preparations) as soon as I like.’ And I went on doing this (postponing my preparations) till the time of departure came and it was in the morning that Allah’s Messenger (sa) set out along with the Muslims, but I had made no preparations. I would go early in the morning and come back, but with no decision. I went on doing so until they (the Muslims) hastened and covered a good deal of distance. Then I wished to march on and join them. Would that I had done that! But perhaps it was not destined for me.
The Prophet (sa) inquires about Kab’s (rta) absence
After the departure of Allah’s Messenger (sa) whenever I went out, I was grieved to find no good example to follow but confirmed hypocrites or weak people whom Allah had exempted (from marching forth for Jihad). The Allah’s Messenger (sa) made no mention of me until he reached Tabuk. While he was sitting with the people in Tabuk, he asked: ‘What happened to Kab bin Malik?’ A person from Banu Salimah said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger, the (beauty) of his cloak and an appreciation of his finery have detained him.’
Upon this, Muadh bin Jabal (rta) admonished him and said to Allah’s Messenger (sa): ‘By Allah, we know nothing about him but good.’ The Allah’s Messenger (sa), however, kept quiet. At that time, the Prophet (sa) saw a person dressed in white and said: ‘Be Abu Khaithamah.’ Abu Khaithamah Al-Ansari was the person who had contributed a sa of dates and had been ridiculed by the hypocrites.”
The Prophet (sa) returns to Madinah
Kab bin Malik (rta) further said: “When the news reached me that Allah’s Messenger (sa) was on his way back from Tabuk, I was greatly distressed. I thought of fabricating an excuse and asked myself how I would save myself from his anger the next day. In this connection, I sought the counsels of every prudent member of my family. When I was told that Allah’s Messenger (sa) was about to arrive, all the wicked ideas vanished (from my mind) and I came to the conclusion that nothing but the truth could save me. So I decided to tell him the truth. It was in the morning that Allah’s Messenger (sa) arrived in Madinah. It was his habit that whenever he came back from a journey, he would first go to the Masjid and perform two Rakah (of optional prayer) and would then sit with the people.
When he sat, those who had remained behind him began to put forward their excuses and take an oath before him. They were more than eighty in number. The Allah’s Messenger (sa) accepted their excuses on the very face of them and accepted their allegiance and sought forgiveness for them and left their insights to Allah, until I appeared before him.
Kab (rta) presents himself before the Prophet (sa)
I greeted him and he smiled and there was a tinge of anger in that. He then said to me: ‘Come forward.’ I went forward and I sat in front of him. He said to me: ‘What kept you back? Could you not afford to go in for a ride?’ I said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger, by Allah, if I were to sit before anybody else, a man of the world, I would have definitely saved myself from his anger on one pretext or the other and I have a gifted skill in argumentation, but, by Allah, I am fully aware that if I were to put forward before you a lame excuse to please you, Allah would definitely provoke your wrath upon me. In case, I speak the truth; you may be angry with me, but I hope that Allah would be pleased with me (and accept my repentance).
By Allah, there is no valid excuse for me. By Allah, I never possessed so many good means, and I never had such favourable conditions for me as I had when I stayed behind.’ Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘This man spoke the truth, so get up (and wait) until Allah gives a decision about you.’
I left and some people of Banu Salimah followed me. They said to me: ‘By Allah, we do not know that you committed a sin before. You, however, showed inability to put forward an excuse before Allah’s Messenger (sa) like those who stayed behind him. It would have been enough for the forgiveness of your sin that Allah’s Messenger (sa) would have sought forgiveness for you.’ By Allah, they kept on reproaching me until I thought of going back to Allah’s Messenger (sa) and retracting my confession.
Then I asked them: ‘Has anyone else met the same fate?’ They said: ‘Yes, two persons have met the same fate. They made the same statement as you did and the same verdict was delivered in their case.’ I asked: ‘Who are they?’ They said: ‘Murarah bin Ar-Rabi Al-Amri and Hilal bin Umaiyyah Al-Waqifi.’ They mentioned these two pious men who had taken part in the battle of Badr and there was an example for me in them. I was confirmed in my original resolve. Allah’s Messenger (sa) prohibited the Muslims to talk to the three of us from amongst those who had stayed behind.
The world around suddenly changes
The people began to avoid us and their attitude towards us changed and it seemed as if the whole atmosphere had turned against us, and it was in fact the same atmosphere of which I was fully aware and in which I had lived (for a fairly long time). We spent fifty nights in this very state and my two friends confined themselves within their houses and spent (most of their) time weeping. As I was the youngest and the strongest, I would leave my house, attend the congregational Salat, move about in the bazaars, but none would speak to me. I would come to Allah’s Messenger (sa) as he sat amongst (people) after the Salat, greet him and would ask myself whether his lips moved in response to my greetings. Then I would perform Salat near him and look at him stealthily. When I finish my Salat, he would look at me and when I would cast a glance at him he would turn away his eyes from me.
When the harsh treatment of the Muslims to me continued for a (considerable) length of time, I walked and I climbed upon the wall of the garden of Abu Qatadah, who was my cousin, and I had a great love for him. I greeted him but, by Allah, he did not answer to my greeting. I said to him: ‘O Abu Qatadah, I adjure you in the Name of Allah, are you not aware that I love Allah and His Messenger (sa)?’ I asked him the same question again but he remained silent. I again adjured him, whereupon he said: ‘Allah and His Messenger (sa) know better.’ My eyes were filled with tears, and I came back climbing down the wall.
Another trial of faith
As I was walking in the bazaars of Madinah, a man from the Syrian peasants, who had come to sell food grains in Madinah, asked people to direct him to Kab bin Malik. People pointed towards me. He came to me and delivered a letter from the King of Ghassan, and as I was a scribe, I read that letter whose purport was: ‘It has been conveyed to us that your friend (the Prophet [sa]) was treating you harshly. Allah has not created you for a place where you are to be degraded and where you cannot find your right place; so come to us and we shall receive you graciously.’ As I read that letter I said: ‘This is too a trial’, so I put it to fire in an oven.
When forty days had elapsed and Allah’s Messenger (sa) received no Revelation, there came to me a messenger of the Allah’s Messenger and said: ‘Verily, Allah’s Messenger (sa) has commanded you to keep away from your wife.’ I asked: ‘Should I divorce her or what else should I do?’ He said: ‘No, but only keep away from her and don’t be intimate with her.’
The same message was sent to my companions. So I said to my wife: ‘You better go to your parents and stay there with them until Allah gives the decision in my case.’ The wife of Hilal bin Umaiyyah came to Allah’s Messenger (sa) and said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger, Hilal bin Umaiyyah is a senile person and has no servant. Do you disapprove if I serve him?’ He said: ‘No, but don’t let him be intimate with you.’ She said: ‘By Allah, he has no such desire left in him. By Allah, he has been in tears since (this calamity) struck him.’
Members of my family said to me: ‘You should have sought permission from Allah’s Messenger (sa) with regard to your wife. He has allowed the wife of Hilal bin Umaiyyah to serve him.’ I said: ‘I would not seek permission from Allah’s Messenger (sa), for I do not know what Allah’s Messenger might say in response to that, as I am a young man.’
The news arrives
It was in this state that I spent ten more nights and thus fifty days had passed since people boycotted us and gave up talking to us. After I had offered my Fajr prayer on the early morning of the fiftieth day of this boycott on the roof of one of our houses and had sat in the very state which Allah described as: ‘The earth seemed constrained for me despite its vastness’, I heard the voice of a proclaimer from the peak of the hill Sal shouting at the top of his voice: ‘O Kab bin Malik, rejoice.’
I fell down in prostration and came to know that there was (a message of) relief for me. Allah’s Messenger (sa) had informed the people about the acceptance of our repentance by Allah after he had offered the Fajr prayer. So the people went on to give us glad tidings and some of them went to my companions in order to give them the glad tidings.
A man spurred his horse towards me (to give the good news), and another one from the tribe of Aslam came running for the same purpose and, as he approached the mount, I received the good news which reached me before the rider did. When the one whose voice I had heard came to me to congratulate me, I took off my garments and gave them to him for the good news he brought to me. By Allah, I possessed nothing else (in the form of clothes) except these garments, at that time.”
The Prophet’s (sa) response
Kab (rta) states: “Then I borrowed two garments, dressed myself and came to Allah’s Messenger (sa). On my way, I met groups of people who greeted me: ‘Congratulations for acceptance of your repentance.’
I reached the Masjid where Allah’s Messenger (sa) was sitting amidst people. Talhah bin `Ubaidullah got up and rushed towards me, shook hands with me and greeted me. By Allah, no person stood up (to greet me) from amongst the Muhajirun besides him.” Kab said that he never forgot (this good gesture of) Talhah.
Kab further said: “I greeted Allah’s Messenger (sa) with Assalamu alaikum, and his face was beaming with pleasure. He (sa) said: ‘Rejoice with the best day you have ever seen since your mother gave you birth.’ I said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Is this (good news) from you or from Allah?’ He said: ‘No, it is from Allah.’ And it was common with Allah’s Messenger (sa) that whenever he was happy, his face would glow as if it were a part of the moon and it was from this that we recognized it (his delight).
Kab’s (rta) charity upon acceptance of his repentance
As I sat before him, I said: ‘I have placed a condition upon myself that if Allah accepts my Taubah, I would give up all of my property in charity for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (sa)!’
Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Keep some property with you, as it is better for you.’ I said: ‘I shall keep with me that portion which is in Khaibar.’ I added: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Verily, Allah has granted me salvation because of my truthfulness, and therefore, repentance obliges me to speak nothing but the truth as long as I am alive.’”
Kab added: “By Allah, I do not know anyone among the Muslims who has been granted truthfulness better than me since I said this to the Prophet (sa). By Allah! Since the time I made a pledge of this to Allah’s Messenger (sa), I have never intended to tell a lie, and I hope that Allah would protect me (against telling lies) for the rest of my life.”
Allah (swt) revealed the following verses:
“Allah has already forgiven the Prophet and the Muhajireen and the Ansar who followed him in the hour of difficulty after the hearts of a party of them had almost inclined [to doubt], and then He forgave them. Indeed, He was to them Kind and Merciful. And [He also forgave] the three who were left behind [and regretted their error] to the point that the earth closed in on them in spite of its vastness and their souls confined them and they were certain that there is no refuge from Allah except in Him. Then He turned to them so they could repent. Indeed, Allah is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.” (At-Taubah 9:117-118)