A Story for All Seekers of Truth

// November 29th, 2006 // Blog

I have to admit to having a soft-spot for stories related by Muslim converts describing their journey to Islam. I find them to be inspiring and life-affirming. When i listen to their accounts, which can sometimes span years, i imagine their lives to be a jigsaw, with each life experience providing a piece of the puzzle. Upon accepting Islam, the last piece is put in place and the whole picture finally revealed, much to their delight and satisfaction.

I have read many contemporary tales of reversion to the religion of man's fitrah, but the most awe-inspiring conversion story i have ever heard dates back fourteen hundred years. It is that of a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), named Salman al-Farsi (may Allāh be pleased with him). This was a man who readily sacrificed wealth, position, freedom and family in order to discover the true meaning of his existence. His was the life of a genuine truth-seeker.

I first heard about Salman's journey on a CD by Shaykh Anwar al-Awlaki. For the purpose of my blog however, i had to scour several Muslim websites for the written account. Although the story is still inspiring when read, it lacks the “oomph” factor of Al-Awlaki's lecture as the shaykh has a wonderful way of bringing alive such tales from the past, māshā’Allāh. Anyhow, i have pasted the narrative below as related by al-Farsi himself. I pray you find it as amazing as i did, inshā’Allāh.

***
I was a Persian boy from a village called “Jian”. My father was the grandee of the village and one of the wealthiest of its people. He loved me so much that he locked me up in the house out of his fear for me.

I took pains in the service of Magian religion until I became the guardian of the fire that we worshiped. I was in charge of kindling it, so that it might not die out.

My father had a cultivated land that produced a big crop. Once, he was busy doing something and could not take care of it. He told me to do that instead of him. On my way I saw a church and heard Christians offering their prayers there. This aroused my curiosity. I had known nothing about Christians or the followers of other religions.

I entered the church to see what they did. Their prayer appealed to me and I desired to follow their religion. I felt that it was better than ours. I stayed there until sunset and did not go to our plantation. I asked the people in the church about the fountainhead of their religion and was told that it was in ancient Syria.

When I returned home at night, my father asked me about the plantation. I told him the whole story. My father was alarmed when he heard that and tried to convince me that our religion was better than Christianity. When I told him that Christianity was better, he locked me up and shackled my legs, fearing that I might apostatize.

I sent (a message) to some Christians demanding them to inform me should a caravan came from Syria, which they did. I managed to get rid of my shackles and traveled in hiding until I reached Syria. I asked about the most well-versed man in Christianity there and was guided to a bishop. I told him of my wish to embrace Christianity and keep company with him, to serve him, learn from him and offer prayers with him. He agreed.

Soon after, I discovered that he was a bad man. He received gold and silver as charity from people and hoarded them for himself in seven containers. I hated him very much. When he died, I told the people about his misdeeds and guided them to the place were he hid the containers. They, therefore, crucified his body and flung it with stones.

When a new bishop was installed, I kept company with him. He was very ascetic and devoted to worship. I loved him very much. I spent some time with him. When he was about to die, I asked him whom I should follow after his death. He advised me to go to a man in Mosul.

I went to Mosul and stayed with him until he died. Before his death I asked him whom I should follow after his death. He advised me to go to a man in Nasibin. I stayed with him until he died.

In his deathbed I asked him whom I should follow after his death. He advised me to go to a man in Ammuriyah. I went there and met him. During my stay there I worked and possessed a sheep and a number of cows.

When the man of Ammuriyah was about to die, I asked him whom I should follow after his death. He told me that none of the followers of the true Christianity were still living. However, he informed me that the mission of the last promised prophet was imminent.

“He,” told the man, “is a follower of the religion of Abraham. He will emigrate from his home to a city between two hard grounds, in which palm-trees are cultivated. He has some clear signs: he accepts presents and does not accept charity. The seal of prophethood is between his shoulders. If you can follow him, don't hesitate.”

A group of Arab leaders from the Kalb tribe passed through Ammuriyah and I asked them to take me with them to the land of the Arabs in return for whatever money I had. They agreed and I paid them. When we reached Wadi al-Qura (a place between Madinah and Syria), they broke their agreement and sold me to a Jew. I worked as a servant for him but eventually he sold me to a nephew of his belonging to the tribe of Banu Qurayzah. This nephew took me with him to Yathrib (old name for Madinah), the city of palm groves, which is how the Christian at Ammuriyah had described it.

At that time the Prophet was inviting his people in Makkah to Islam but I did not hear anything about him then because of the harsh duties which slavery imposed upon me.

When the Prophet reached Yathrib after his migration from Makkah, I was in fact at the top of a palm tree belonging to my master doing some work. My master was sitting under the tree. A nephew of his came up and said:

“May God declare war on the Aws and the Khazraj (the two main Arab tribes of Yathrib). By God, they are now gathering at Quba (a town just outside of Yathrib) to meet a man who has today come from Makkah and who claims he is a Prophet.”

I felt hot flushes as soon as I heard these words and I began to shiver so violently that I was afraid that I might fall on my master. I quickly got down from the tree and spoke to my master's nephew.

“What did you say? Repeat the news for me.”

My master was very angry and gave me a terrible blow.

“What does this matter to you? Go back to what you were doing,” he shouted.

That evening, I took some dates that I had gathered and went to the place where the Prophet had alighted. I went up to him and said:

“I have heard that you are a righteous man and that you have companions with you who are strangers and are in need. Here is something from me as charity. I see that you are more deserving of it than others.”

The Prophet ordered his companions to eat but he himself did not eat of it.

I became sure of the first prophecy.

I gathered some more dates and when the Prophet left Quba for Madinah I went to him and said: “I noticed that you did not eat of the charity I gave. This however is a gift for you.”

Of this gift of dates, both he and his companions ate.

I became sure of the second prophecy.

I went to the Messenger in Baqi` Al-Gharqad (a cemetery) while he was sitting and wearing two mantles. After he had buried a dead man of his Companions, I offered his greeting. I then turned to his back in an attempt to see the seal of prophethood. He understood what I meant and let me see it. When I saw the seal, I burst kissing him and weeping.

The Messenger (peace be upon him) asked me, “What is the matter with you?”.

I told him my story. He was amazed of it and told me to recount it to his Companions.

***

Narrated Abu Huraira: While we were sitting with the Prophet, Surat Al-Jumu'a was revealed to him, and when the verse (62:3):

And He has sent him (Muhammad) also to others among them (Muslims) who have not yet joined them (but they will come). And He (Allāh) is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.,

was recited by the Prophet, I said: “Who are they, O Allāh's Apostle?”. The Prophet did not reply till I repeated my question thrice.

At that time, Salman Al-Farsi was with us. So Allāh's Apostle put his hand on Salman, saying:

If Faith were at (the place of) Ath-Thuraiya (Pleiades, the highest star), even then (some men) would attain it.

[Al-Bukhari]

***

From rich son, to run-away, to student, to working man, to slave – Salman Al-Farsi, “the son of Islam from the children of Adam”, traversed a long road, encountered many hardships but eventually found his freedom in Islam.

May Allāh be truly pleased with him, āmīn.

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