As-salaamu alaiikum - I am a big fan of this story, so I always love hearing it and also, the mosque back in Oregon, that is nearby the only Muslim graveyard in our state (where my father and maternal grandfather are buried [Corvallis, Oregon]) carries Salman's name). Enjoy.
The Seeker of Truth
By Altaf Husain
Social Worker — USA
Taking time out to reflect on one’s state of being is often presented as an activity reserved for adults, and not for young people. However, as we will soon discover, contemplating about one’s life, one’s relationship to one’s family, one’s relationship to society, and most importantly one’s relationship to Allah the Almighty, does happen with even the youngest members of our society.
Salman, a nativeof Isfahan, Persia, who was a contemporary of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is a good example. Amazingly enough, most of what we know about Salman before he entered Islam is based on a sort of autobiography. There is much to be said about his life, but here the focus is on Salman’s search for the truth and how he came to be a Muslim.
Coming to Islam
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to actually go on a journey to discover your faith? If you were blessed to be born into a Muslim household, it is highly likely that you learned Islam on the go, in bits and pieces, seeking explanations as needed, and doing your best to practice the religion.
If you were further blessed, then you would have had an opportunity to study Islam formally. What we know about Salman, from his own recollections, is that his people in Persia were on the most part Magians, or fire worshippers, and he said:
At a very early age I became devoted to the Magian religion so much so that I attained the position of custodian of the fire which we worshipped. My duty was to see that the flames of the fire kept burning, and that it did not go out for a single hour, day or night.
That is a profound level of commitment and dedication to serve at a very young age. Reflect upon the level of your own faith, and think about what you do or could do in terms of service on the path of Almighty Allah.
Over time, Salman was introduced to the Christian religion, but his father was adamant about his remaining a Magian. A similar pattern of parent-child, and in some cases husband-wife tension, arose when Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) began to share the teachings of Islam with his own people in Makkah.
In fact, based on Salman’s own report, it appears that the same argument has been used throughout the ages; our religion is the best religion, and it is our ancestral religion, meaning the religion of our forefathers, and we should never leave it.
Upon hearing of Salman’s interest in Christianity, his father told him:
My son, there is nothing good in that religion. Your religion and the religion of your forefathers are better.
In the Qur’an, Allah the Almighty preserves, for all time, the responses of the Quraysh, who used to resist the teachings of Islam on the basis that they could never leave the religion of their forefathers.
(When it is said to them: "Follow what Allah hath revealed:" They say: "Nay! We shall follow the ways of our fathers." What! even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance? ) (Al-Baqarah, 2:170).
Salman insisted that the Christian religion was better, and fled to Syria, where he became a devoted servant of the bishop of a church there. Salman's heart had inclined away from worshipping the fire.
However, his experience with Christianity was tainted because the bishop he was serving hoarded the wealth his congregation donated to the church. As a constant seeker of the truth, Salman could not bear to witness such treachery on the part of the bishop, and when the bishop passed away, the young Salman led the congregation to the chambers where the bishop had been hoarding their contributions for his own personal gain.
Although Salman continued to be passionate about Christianity, his heart was never at rest in seeking the truth, and he needed very little encouragement to set out once again when he heard from a learned Christian man that a new prophet had emerged in Arabia who, according to Salman’s recollection, had:
a reputation for strict honesty, one who would accept a gift, but would never consume charity (sadaqah) for himself.
Using all resources available to him, Salman got himself onto a caravan traveling from Syria towards Arabia. Almighty Allah had willed that Salman would not immediately get to see the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and as he recalls, the caravan owners “broke their agreement and sold me to a Jew”.
Salman worked as a servant for the Jew, but eventually he was sold to a nephew of his master belonging to the tribe of Banu Qurayzah in Yathrib, or present day Madinah. We can ascertain that Salman arrived in Yathrib just prior to the commandment of Almighty Allah to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to migrate there from Makkah because he recalls, being in Yathrib sometime before hearing from his Jewish owner, the following:
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 to meet a man who has today come from Makkah and who claims he is a Prophet.
Having been raised in a household of nobility, experienced first-hand the Magian religion, converted to Christianity voluntarily, and was then sold into slavery to a Jewish owner, Salman was among a few of the Companions with a rich history of knowledge, experience and interaction with other faiths.
According to the plan of Almighty Allah, his heart would not find tranquility until he entered Islam, for we know with certainty that after becoming a Muslim, he never returned to any other faith. Upon Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings be upon him) arrival into Madinah, Salman took with him some dates as a welcoming gesture, and to help feed the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), whom Salman had heard had abandoned their possessions in Makkah, and fled due to the religious persecution they were facing there.
What he noticed was that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) preferred that his Companions ate from the dates, while he himself did not partake of them, Salman returned later with some more dates, which he told Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) were only for his consumption. And this time, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ate the dates.
Having experienced corruption first-hand from other religious leaders, Salman’s journey towards Islam had begun with an inner desire to meet this person who called himself the Prophet, and when he met him, he was thoroughly impressed with his demeanor and his level of honesty. Salman became Muslim at the hands of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who himself arranged for his release from enslavement.
Reflecting upon the life of Salman, and how he came into Islam teaches us the lifelong importance of seeking the truth. If we listen to our inner voice, when our soul is at rest and not overcome with worldly passions, we will find that we are inclined towards the worship of Almighty Allah.
Salman overcame much spiritual adversity in order to finally reach the destination that Almighty Allah had already planned for him. Indeed, he was a dear Companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and memorized and transmitted his teachings to others.
He earned the love and trust of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to the degree that he even served as the Prophet’s military adviser during the Battle of Khandaq, or The Trench. Set aside some time to reflect upon your own life, in the light of Salman’s spiritual journey, and discover for yourself the plan that Allah the Almighty has for you.