The Prophet Muhammad (saw)

Abdullah ibn Rawaha: A Poet Yearning for Heaven


Those who were silent with reverence when poets spoke were faced for the first time with words more powerful than poetry with the verses being revealed to the Last Prophet, and they did not know what to do. While they were grasping and submitting to the fact that they were facing divine speech that could open their hearts to the Truth, those who resisted the truth now used a word to deride the Prophet which they had previously used as an attribute of praise: POET. Almighty Allah did not suffice to reject this claim with the verse, "We did not teach him poetry. That was not necessary for him." He also revealed the "Poets' Surah" and defined poets as: "And the Poets, It is those straying in Evil, who follow them. Seest thou not that they wander distracted in every valley? And that they say what they practice not?" (Al-Shura 26/224-226) When these verses which carry general and sharp judgment regarding poets were revealed, there was a weeping poet there: Abdullah ibn Rawaha. Trembling, this Muslim poet said, "Allah knows that I am a poet, too. This means I am one of them!" He might have died from sorrow had the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) not read the verse, "Except for those who believe and do good works, who remember Allah a lot, and those who make retribution after they oppress themselves..."

Throughout his life Abdullah ibn Rawaha tried to be one of those "exceptional" poets. He gave his words to the command of Truth. He did not suffice with words, but applied his words to life. He became both a spokesman and a revelation scribe to the Prophet. In the Badr war he was both a fighter and a giver of good tidings. When victory was gained, he ran together with Zayd bin Harise to Medina to give the glad tidings of the victory of Truth. In the second Badr campaign he was the Prophet's deputy in that blessed city. He was always on the frontlines of the Uhud war and the Battle of the Ditch. What a tremendous day that was. The Prophet was helping the Sahaba who were carrying the dirt dug up from the ditch, and in the midst of this work they were reciting Abdullah ibn Rawaha's poem in unison. "If Allah had not saved us, we would not have attained salvation / We would neither give the poor tax nor make salat / The Unbelievers attacked us / We stood back when they wanted to make a dispute / One would give one's life to you, O Messenger, forgive us / At the moment we meet the enemy, keep our feet steady, O Lord!"

Almighty God gave strength to both Abdullah ibn Rawaha's feet and to his tongue. In the seventh year of the Migration before Mecca was conquered, there was such an umra (secondary pilgrimage to Mecca) that it would have been worth seeing the Muslims. Having been prevented from entering Mecca a year earlier, Muslims were joyfully going to umra according to their agreement with the idolaters. They were just entering Mecca. The Last Prophet was riding his camel named Quswa. A poet was pulling the camel's bridle on foot. This poet loudly reciting poetry was no other than Abdullah ibn Rawaha. Hearing his poems, Umar felt it was disrespectful to the Prophet and he wanted to make Abdullah ibn Rawaha quiet. However, the Prophet did not want this. "Umar, leave him alone," he said. "Abdullah's words are more effective against the enemy than arrows!"

Abdullah grabbed the reins whenever "Recite!" was spoken. He grabbed them and started making his words run. Sometimes Allah's Messenger said, "Hurry and recite a poem appropriate to this moment!" See what lines followed one another: "I expect the good I sense from Him / Allah knows my eyes do not deceive me / You are the Prophet, whoever remains without your intercession / Destiny will not give him importance on the Day of Reckoning / Like the other messengers who have been sent / May Allah make you steadfast in goodness / And make your victory permanent, the way He helped them." Listening to the poem, the Prophet prayed for the poet: "May Allah also make you steadfast!"

Constancy was bestowed upon Rawaha at every stage. Steadfastness at Haybar, constancy at Hudaybiya... But there was also Muta - that great war where there was an abyss between the powers. When the ambassador the Prophet had sent to the Busra commander, who was tied to the Byzantine Empire, was martyred and the letter calling him to Islam was torn up, war became legitimate. The Last Prophet was himself seeing off the 3000 member volunteer Islamic army after the noon prayer. As he turned over the flag to Zayd bin Harise, he was implying the secret of war: If Zayd becomes a martyr, let Jafar get the flag. If he also becomes martyred, the flag is Abdullah ibn Rawaha's. If Abdullah becomes a martyr, chose one from among you as commander!"

When the army started off, Abdullah ibn Rawaha was seen to cry. They asked him, "Why are you crying?" "I swear that I have no love for this world. I know you do not either. But I heard this verse from the Prophet: ‘Not one of you but will pass over it (hell): This is with thy Lord, a decree which must be accomplished' (Al-Maryam 71). For this reason I was thinking that I will definitely go to hell. To tell the truth, it is not clear whether or not I will come out after I have entered there." After speaking these words, Rawaha began to recite poetry: "Whereas, I want forgiveness from the All-Merciful / And a terrible wound all the way to the heart..."

When some Muslims became worried when they heard that the Byzantine army had set out with 100,000 soldiers and they wanted a new decision to be made according to the situation, Abdullah ibn Rawaha combined his warrior identity with his poet identity. His determination to fight became stronger when he said, "This news which did not please you is the reason you came here with a yearning for martyrdom. We can fight the enemy not with out numbers, but with the faith Allah bestows upon us. There are two beautiful possibilities before us: Martyrdom and victory."

Everything happened as the last Prophet said. First Zayd and then Jafar became martyred. Seeing his turn had come, Abdullah was reciting a poem as he rode his horse: "Hey my soul! I see you do not want Heaven / These desires are empty / My heart is happy / You are a drop of water in the water pouch / Hey soul! Even if you do not fight, you will die one day / Now the dove of death is near / Whatever you want, he will give you, my soul!"

He gave what Abdullah ibn Rawaha wanted, because he did whatever the Prophet pointed to. One day while Abdullah was hurrying to make it to the Friday prayer, he heard the Prophet say "Sit down" before he made it to the mosque, and he sat down in the road. How the Last Prophet smiled when he heard of this innocent state. He was pleased and made a prayer for him saying, "May his obedience to Allah increase!" Allah increased his obedience and took him to His side. The flag passed to Halid bin Valid. When he heard the news, tears filled the Prophet's eyes. Sobbing, he said the angels were happy to see him.

Poet and writer Ali Ural continues to write about the Companions of the Prophet that reflect his light and radiance


Amber Riaz
Amber Riaz09.02.2020

Beautifully written. Please keep writing such aesthetic and poetic writing.




very helpful and inspiring