al-Hussain bin Salam, later known as Abdullah bin Salam رضي الله عنه, was a considered a Rabbi by the Jews of his time due to his immense knowledge of the Torah. This companion of the Messenger ﷺ accepted Islam upon the Messenger’s arrival into Madinah from Makkah, after witnessing his sublime character and physical features and noting its correspondence to that which he had learnt from previously revealed scripture.
Whilst previously revered by his people unconditionally, he too went through a similar test with them, as did the Messenger ﷺ with the Quraysh upon conveying Islam to them, for the Jews immediately cancelled their respect and praise for him after learning of his new status as a Muslim.
Whilst there are so many talking points surrounding this noble companion, which includes his knowledge, principled character, bravery and financial standing, he is famously known for his narration depicting his first encounter with the Messenger ﷺ, and the very first lesson he heard from him upon His arrival into Madinah.
The impact of this narration across the dimensions of human existence since Abdullah’s first encounter with the Messenger ﷺ caused scholars over time to ponder diligently over the timing of this prophetic lesson and its deeper meanings, and as a result of this academic attention invested over time, along with intelligent cross referencing of deduced thoughts with the timeless lessons found in the Final Testament, the Quran, this narration of the companion Abdullah bin Salam evolved into being a taxonomy, or even a hierarchy, if you like, for the creation of transformative, pro-active and paradise centric societies across both time and geographical locations, with the blessed city of Madinah being an active case study for us to refer back to until Judgement day.
Regarding this paradigm shifting narration, Abdullah bin Salam narrates that he heard the Messenger ﷺ say:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَفْشُوا السَّلاَمَ وَأَطْعِمُوا الطَّعَامَ وَصِلُوا
الأَرْحَامَ وَصَلُّوا بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّاسُ نِيَامٌ تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ بِسَلاَمٍ
“O people! Spread the Salam, feed the people, maintain family relations, pray at night when others are asleep – and you will enter into Paradise safely.” This narration was recorded Imams at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and others in their hadith compilations.
Upon living this surreal experience and allowing the truth to resonate with him, Abdullah bin Salam approached the Messenger ﷺ and recited the Shahada, thereby declaring his Islam. The Messenger ﷺ then turned to him and asked him: “What is your name?” He replied, “al-Husayn bin Salam.” He ﷺ replied by saying, “From now on, you are Abdullah bin Salam.”
Upon closer inspection of this narration, our scholars have highlighted for us core tenets, which if implemented by individuals of a society, across the scope of that society, societal excellence will be achieved in this life, and paradise in the after-life, God-Willing.
These core tenets are as follows:
1. Holistic Education:
This is understood from the context of the Messenger ﷺ addressing the people in the very first part of the narration, given that he was sent as a teacher and guide to all of mankind.
2. National Security:
This is benefitted from the guidance of the Messenger ﷺ regarding the Islamic greeting. It is universally known that every whole is a form of its key components, and from an Islamic perspective, the Islamic greeting is much more than a mere greeting, but rather a form of dua for safety for the person being greeted, and a declaration of safety by the one offering the greeting to the person being greeted from the harm of the greeter’s hand and tongue. Living communally by the values of the Salam brings about greater unity, and thus increased security.
3. Social Welfare:
We learn this from the directive of the Messenger ﷺ towards taking care of the requirements of the poor and needy of society. If we ponder over the processes taught by the Messenger ﷺ in order to achieve this noble goal, namely: Zakah, Sadaqah and Awqaaf (endowments), we discover a holistic system of societal empowerment and sustainability.
This is captured from the guidance of the Messenger ﷺ towards maintaining the bonds of kinship, which includes relatives stepping up for one another in taking care of their relationships and familial well-being. Consequently, if this is the case with regards to the bonds of blood, it would apply to bonds of faith as a default, which ultimately would lead to a united and synergised Muslim society.
5. Spiritual Well-being:
This is benefitted from the Messenger ﷺ guidance towards dedicating a portion of the night in prayer, which has countless benefits to the state of our faith, relationship with Allah Almighty, life’s outlook and spirituality.
6. Keeping ‘WHY’ the focus of our endeavours:
We learn this from the Messenger ﷺ final portion to the lesson in which he sets the results of his earlier advices as:
a) Achieving not just success, but ultimate success, as per Surah Aal-Imraan, Aayah: 185, in which Allah Almighty says:
“So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted into Paradise has truly (succeeded)”.
b) Receiving unquantifiable Mercy from the All-Merciful, since no one can purchase paradise with their deeds, but rather will enter paradise due to the mercy of Allah Almighty uppon them.
c) Entry into paradise.
d) Safe entry into paradise, which entails safety from the punishment of the grave, ease when being questioned by Allah Almighty, and protection from experiencing the evil effects of the hell-fire before tasting the sweetness of paradise.
‘WHY’ is a very powerful tool to help us not only maintain focus, but also our motivation, and is an especially important value to live life by as Muslims given that everything about life is nothing but a means to an end, and that the Qur’an and Sunnah in their entirety nurture us off living life by accident, but rather upon purpose, where true fullfillment lies within.
In addition, these six core principles are further consolidated as a reality through observing the first three directives of the Messenger ﷺ upon settling in the first Muslim Capital, Madinah, which although maybe different in approach, finds its themes orbiting within the sphere of objectives of the same listed tenets above.
Upon arrival into Madinah, the Messenger ﷺ first took care of the matters pertaining to the location of Masjid Nabawi and its construction. By doing this, the implementation of tenets one, three, four, five and six were executed accordingly. It is worth noting that achieving the stated objectives were so important, that the Messenger ﷺ never looked into the construction of his own residence, despite being the leader of the state, until the construction of his Masjid was completed.
Along with ‘Project Masjid Nabawi’ the Messenger ﷺ joined between the Muhajiroon and the Ansar in true brotherhood, and signed peace and security treaties with the Jewish tribes surrounding Madinah. Through this, the implementation of the second tenet was executed, whilst tenets three, four and six experienced further movement and progress.
Finally- in terms of the Quranic outlook, and regarding the importance of Social Welfare and Security, which manifestly represents mankind’s intent and sincere desire to be fed and safe, it is worth noting its mention in the 106th chapter of the Qur’an in which Allah Almighty commands the Quraysh to worship the Lord of the Ka’bah, highlighting to them that it is He alone who has protected them from hunger and fear despite the absence of an able social welfare system, and adequate security protocols.
Whilst it is only natural that the vast majority of us will only operate within territories far smaller than the territory of the greater society, it is important that we never forget that society is only a collective make up of the individuals of that society, and their net output. I pen these thoughts, not as conclusions, but as seeds of change, in the hope that every reader will ponder over them, and accordingly draft up an implementation worthy of their status in society and the unique needs and offerings of their very own spheres of influence.
O Allah! benefit us through what you teach us, and teach us what is beneficial for us, and increase us in knowledge. Ameen.
Dr. Sajid Umar