THE MUEZZIN PAR EXCELLENCE: HAZRAT BILAL-E-HABSHI (RA)
The life story of Hazrat Bilal (RA), one of the famous companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), is that of patience and faith. Hazrat Bilal (RA) was born in slavery as his mother was a slave in the house of Umayyah Ibn Khalaf as before the advent of Islam, slave markets were very common in the Arab society. As per the Arab customs those days, slaves were considered the property of their masters and the owners were free to treat and dispose them as they liked.
Hazrat Bilal (RA) was bought by a Quraish chief Umayyah Ibn Khalaf, a believer in idol worship. The duties he entrusted upon Bilal (RA) were to gaze his camels during the day and take care of his meals in the evening.
During that time when idol worshipping was the custom and pagan rituals the culture of Arabian Peninsula, Bilal (RA) heard the call of Islam and about Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who preached justice and equality for all mankind and advised the people to shun idolatry and cruelty.
Hazrat Bilal (RA) was deeply influenced by the message of Islam (the religion of peace). While grazing his master’s cattle under the scorching sun, he starts thinking about things he had never thought of before. He believed that idols of stones could do no harm nor bring no good to people. He then met Abu Bakr (RA) the close companion of Prophet (SAW) and accepted Islam. When Umayyah came to know about this, he was enraged as it was unusual and unheard for a slave to do something of his own free will and Umayyah Bin khalaf was determined to teach Bilal a lesson.
Hazrat Bilal (RA) was severely beaten and tortured by Umayyah but Bilal (RA) remains steadfast and showed no sign of weakening. In order to inflict pain and suffering to Bilal (RA) Umayyah took Bilal to a desert and placed a heavy boulder on his chest so that he forsake the religion of Islam but instead Hazrat Bilal (RA) kept on saying “Allah is one…. there is no God but Allah”.
When the news of torture reached Prophet (SAW) he immediately sent Abu Bakr Siddiqe (RA) to investigate the matter. Abu Bakr (RA) freed Bilal from Umayyah Ibn Kalaf by paying a handsome amount to him. After the transaction Abu Bakr declared Bilal (RA) a free man. Later Hazrat Bilal (RA) became one of the close companions of the Holy Prophet (SAW).
The hardships inflicted by the pagan Arabs on the Prophet (SAW) and upon his companions led them to migrate to the city of Medina where they built a mosque to gather and offer prayers.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) chose Hazrat Bilal (RA) to give the first call for prayers making him the first muezzin of Islam the religion of peace. This decision endorsed the beauty of Islam where a dark skinned non Arab, former slave and a man with a different accent was chosen over others for this great honor setting an example that in Islam, the measure of a person is not with his wealth, nationality or race but with his piety and devotion towards Allah and his Messenger (SAW).
During the life of the Holy Prophet (SAW) Hazrat Bilal (RA) would say the Adhan (calling the faithful towards prayers) five times a day. Some of the companions of the Holy Prophet (SAW) once expressed their concern due to his black skin and non Arab background. Allah Almighty sent down the following verses of the Holy Quran, “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things”. (surah 94:13)
The poet of east Alama Iqbal (RA) says in one of his poem in Asrar-I-Ramooz that to be proud of one’s ancestry is ignorance, Ancestry relates to body, and body is temporal.
After the Holy Prophet (SAW) departed from earthly life, Hazrat Bilal (RA) felt it difficult to continue his duties as muezzin as his heart was full of sorrow and found his life in Medina unbearable without his beloved Prophet (SAW). He visited the Prophets mosque in Medina one last time and said his last Adhan. He then went back to Syria where he fell ill and died at the age of sixty.
The writer is a PhD Research Scholar