Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqqas
(radhi allahu anhu)
The Story of a man who accepted Islam
in its early days
Taken from al-Hudaa (Guidance) [vol. 1, no.12 (1414H)]
a city without vegetation livestock or rivers. Desert after desert separated
the town from the rest of the world. During the day the heat of the sun is
unbearable and the nights are still and lonely. There was no religion to guide
people except one which promoted the worship of stone idols. There was no
knowledge except a love for elegant poetry. This was Makkah and those were the
In this town was a young man who had not yet seen twenty summers. He is short
and well-built and has a very heavy crop of hair. People compare him to a
young lion. He comes from a rich and noble family. He is very attached to his
parents and is particularly fond of his mother. He spends much of his time
making and repairing bows and arrows and practicing archery as if preparing
himself for some great encounter. People recognized him as a serious and
intelligent young man. He finds no satisfaction in the religion and way of
life of his people, their corrupt beliefs and disagreeable practices. His name
is Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas.
One morning Abu Bakr came up to him and spoke softly to him. He explained that
Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) had been given Revelation
and has been sent with the religion of guidance and truth. Abu Bakr then took
him to Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) in one of the valleys of Makkah.
It was late afternoon by this
time and the Prophet had just completed his prayers. Sa'ad was excited and
overwhelmed and responded readily to the invitation to truth and the religion
of One God. The fact that he was one of the first persons to accept Islam was
something that pleased him greatly. The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam)
was also greatly pleased when Sa'ad became a Muslim. He saw in him signs of
excellence. The fact that he was still in his youth promised great things to
come. Perhaps other young people of Makkah would follow his example, including
some of his relations. For Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas was in fact a maternal uncle
of the Prophet since he belonged to the Bani Zuhrah, the clan of Aminah bint
Wahb, the mother of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam).
For this reason he is
sometimes referred to as 'Sa'ad of Zuhrah,' to distinguish him from several
others whose first name was Sa'ad. The Prophet is reported to have been
pleased with his family relationship to Sa'ad. Once as he was sitting with his
companions, he saw Sa'ad approaching and he said to them: "This is my maternal
uncle. Let a man see his maternal uncle!"
While the Prophet was delighted with Sa'ad's acceptance of Islam, others
including and especially his mother were not. Sa'ad relates: "When my mother
heard the news of my Islam, she flew into a rage. She came up to me and said:
"O Sa'ad! What is this religion that you have embraced which has taken you
away from the religion of your mother and father...? By God, either you
forsake your new religion or I would not eat or drink until I die. Your heart
would be broken with grief for me and remorse would consume you on account of
the deed, you have done and people would censure you forever more.' 'Don't do
(such a thing), my mother,' I said, 'for I would not give up my religion for
anything.' However, she went on with her threat... For days she neither ate
nor drank. She became emaciated and weak."
"Hour after hour, I went to her asking whether I should bring her some food or
something to drink but she persistently refused, insisting that she would
neither eat nor drink until she died or I abandoned my religion. I said to
her, 'Yaa Ummaah! In spite of my strong love for you, my love for Allah and
His Messenger is indeed stronger. By Allah, if you had a thousand souls and
each one depart one after another, I would not abandon this religion for
When she saw that I was determined she relented unwillingly and ate and drank.
It was concerning Sa'ad's relationship with his mother and her attempt to
force him to recant his faith that the words of the Qur'aan were revealed:
"And we enjoined on man to be good to his parents. In
pain upon pain did his mother bear him and his weaning took two years. So show
gratitude to Me and to your parents. To Me is the final destiny. But if they
strive to make you join in worship with Me things of which you have no
knowledge, obey them not. But behave with them in the world kindly, and follow
the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and obedience. Then to Me will
be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do." [Soorah
Luqman (31): 14-15]
In these early days of Islam, the Muslims were careful not to arouse the
sensibilities of the Quraysh. They would often go out together in groups to
the valley outside Makkah where they could pray together without being seen.
One day a number of idolaters came upon them while they were praying and
rudely interrupted them with ridicule. The Muslims felt they could not suffer
these indignities passively and they came to blows with the idolaters. Sa'ad
ibn Abi Waqqas struck one of the disbelievers with the jawbone of a camel and
wounded him. This was the first blood shed in the conflict between Islam and
kufr - a conflict that was later to escalate and test the patience and courage
of the Muslims.
After the incident, however, the Prophet enjoined his companions to be patient
and forbearing for this was the command of Allah: "And
bear with patience what they say and avoid them with noble dignity. And leave
Me alone to deal with those who give the lie to the Truth, those who enjoy the
blessings of life (without any thought of Allah) and bear with them for a
little while. " [Soorah al-Muzzammil (71): 10]
More than a decade later when permission was given for the Muslims to fight.
Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas was to play a distinguished role in many of the
engagements that took place both during the time of the Prophet and after. He
fought at Badr together with his young brother Umayr who had cried to be
allowed to accompany the Muslim army for he was only in his early teens.
Sa'ad returned to al-Medina
alone for Umayr was one of the fourteen Muslim martyrs who fell in the battle.
At the Battle of Uhud, Sa'ad was specially chosen as one of the best archers
together with Zayd, Saib the son of Uthman ibn Mazun and others. Sa'ad was one
of those who fought vigorously in defense of the Prophet after some Muslims
had deserted their positions. To urge him on, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi
"Shoot, Sa'ad ...may my
mother and father be your ransom."
Of this occasion, Ali ibn Abi Talib said that he
had not yet heard the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) promising such a
ransom to anyone except Sa'ad. Sa'ad is also known as the first companion to
have shot an arrow in defense of Islam.
And the Prophet once prayed
for him: "O Lord, direct his shooting and respond to his prayer." Sa'ad was
one of the companions of the Prophet who were blessed with great wealth. Just
as he was known for his bravery, so he was known for his generosity.
During the farewell
pilgrimage with the Prophet, he fell ill. The Prophet came to visit him and
Sa'ad said: "O Messenger of Allah. I have wealth and I only have one daughter
to inherit from me. Shall I give two thirds of my wealth as Sadaqah?" "No,"
replied the Prophet. "Then, (shall I give) a half?." asked Sa'ad and the
Prophet again said 'no.' "Then, (shall I give) a third?' asked Sa'ad. "Yes,"
said the Prophet. "The third is much. Indeed to leave
your heirs well-off is better than that you should leave them dependent on and
to beg from people. If you spend anything seeking to gain thereby the pleasure
of Allah, you will be rewarded for it even if it is a morsel which you place
in your wife's mouth."
Sa'ad did not remain the father of just one child but was blessed thereafter
with many children. Sa'ad is mainly renowned as the commander-in-chief of the
strong Muslim army which Umar dispatched to confront the Persians at
Qadisisyah. Umar wanted nothing less than an end to Sasanian power which for
centuries had dominated the region.
To confront the numerous and
well-equipped Persians was a most daunting task. The most powerful force had
to be mustered. Umar sent dispatches to Muslim governors throughout the state
to mobilize all able-bodied persons who had weapons or mounts, or who had
talents of oratory and other skills to place at the service of the battle.
Bands of Mujahidin then converged on al-Medina from every part of the Muslim
domain. When they had all gathered. Umar consulted the leading Muslims about
the appointment of a commander-in-chief over the mighty army. Umar himself
thought of leading the army but Ali suggested that the Muslims were in great
need of him and he should not endanger his life. Sa'ad was then chosen as
commander and Abdur-Rahman Ibn Awf, one of the veterans among the Sahabah
said: "You have chosen well! Who is there like Sa'ad?"
Umar stood before the great
army and bade farewell to them. To the commander-in-chief, he said: "O Sa'ad!
Let not any statement that you are the uncle of the Messenger of Allah or that
you are the companion of the Messenger of Allah distract you from Allah. Allah
Almighty does not obliterate evil with evil but he wipes out evil with good."
"O Sa'ad! There is no connection between Allah and anyone except obedience to
Him. In the sight of Allah all people whether nobleman or commoner are the
same. Allah is their Lord and they are His servants seeking elevation through
taqwa and seeking to obtain what is with Allah through obedience. Consider how
the Messenger of Allah used to act with the Muslims and act accordingly..."
Umar thus made it clear that the army was not to seek conquest for the sake of
it and that the expedition was not for seeking personal glory and fame. The
three thousand strong army set off. Among them were ninety nine veterans of
Badr, more than three hundred of those who took the Pledge of Ridwan at
Hudaybiyyah and three hundred of those who had participated in the liberation
of Makkah with the noble Prophet.
There were seven hundred sons
of the companions. Thousands of women also went on the battle as auxiliaries
and nurses and to urge the men on to battle. The army camped at Qadisiyyh near
Hira. Against them the Persians had mobilized a force of 120,000 men under the
leadership of their most brilliant commander, Rustum.
Umar had instructed Sa'ad to send him regular dispatches about the condition
and movements of the Muslim forces, and of the deployment of the enemy's
forces. Sa'ad wrote to Umar about the unprecedented force that the Persians
were mobilizing and Umar wrote to him: "Do not be troubled by what you hear
about them nor about the (forces, equipment and methods) they would deploy
against you. Seek help with Allah and put your trust in Him and send men of
insight, knowledge and toughness to him (the Chosroes) to invite him to
Allah... And write to me daily."
Sa'ad understood well the gravity of the impending battle and kept in close
contact with the military high command in al-Medinah.
Sa'ad did as Umar instructed and sent delegations of Muslims first to
Yazdagird and then to Rustum, inviting them to accept Islam or to pay the
jizyah to guarantee their protection and peaceful existence or to choose war
if they so desired.
The first Muslim delegation which included Numan ibn Muqarrin was ridiculed by
the Persian Emperor, Yazdagird. Sa'ad sent a delegation to Rustum, the
commander of the Persian forces. This was led by Rubiy ibn Aamir who, with a
spear in hand, went directly to Rustam's encampment. Rustam said to him: "Rubiy!
What do you want from us'? If you want wealth we would give you. We would
provide you with provisions until you are satisfied. We would clothe you. We
would make you rich and happy. Look, Rubiy! What do you see in this assembly
of mine? No doubt you see signs of richness and luxury, these carpets, fine
curtains, gold embroidered walls, carpets of silk...Do you have any desire
that we should bestow some of these riches which we have on you?"
Rustum thus wanted to impress and allure him from his purpose by this show of
opulence and grandeur. Rubiy looked and listened unmoved and then said:
"Listen, O commander! Certainly Allah has chosen us that through us those of
His creation whom He so desires could be drawn away from the worship of idols
to Tawheed (the affirmation of the unity of Allah), from the narrow confines
of preoccupation with this world to its boundless expanse and from the tyranny
of rulers to justice of Islam. Whoever accepts that from us we are prepared to
welcome him. And whoever tights us, we would light him until the promise of
Allah comes to pass."
"And what is the promise
of Allah to you?" asked Rustum.
"Paradise for our
martyrs and victory for those who live."
Rustum, of course, was not inclined to
listen to such talk from a seemingly wretched person the likes of whom the
Persians regarded as barbaric and uncivilized and whom they had conquered and
subjugated for centuries.
The Muslim delegation returned to their commander in-chief. It was clear that
war was now inevitable. Sa'ad's eyes filled with tears. He wished that the
battle could be delayed a little or indeed that it might have been somewhat
earlier. For on this particular day he was seriously ill and could hardly
move. He was suffering from sciatica and he could not even sit upright from
the pain. Sa'ad knew that this was going to be a bitter, harsh and bloody
battle. And for a brief moment he thought, if only... but no!
The Messenger of Allah had
taught the Muslims that none of them should say, "If.. ." To say "If..."
implied a tack of wilt and determination, and wishing that a situation might
have been different was not the characteristic of a firm believer. So, despite
his illness, Sa'ad got up and stood before his army and addressed them. He
began his speech "And indeed after having exhorted (man), We have laid it down
in all the Divine wisdom that our righteous servants shall inherit the land."
[Soorah al-Ambiya (21): 105]
After he completed his address, Sa'ad performed the Zuhr Salaat with the army.
Facing them once again, he shouted, 'Allahu Akbar' four times and directed the
fighters to attack with the word, "Hayya ala barakatillah" Charge with the
blessings of Allah."
Standing in front of his
tent, Sa'ad directed his soldiers and spurred them on with shouts of Allahu
Akbar (Allah is Most Great) and La hawla wa la quvvata illa billah (there is
no power or might save with Allah). For four days the battle raged. The
Muslims displayed valor and skill. But a Persian elephant corps wrought havoc
in the ranks of the Muslims.
The ferocious battle was only
resolved when several renowned Muslim warriors made a rush in the direction of
the Persian commander. A storm arose and the canopy of Rustam was blown into
the river. As he tried to flee he was detected and slain. Complete confusion
reigned among the Persians and they fled in disarray.
Just how ferocious the battle was can be imagined when it is known that in one
day alone, some two thousand Muslims and about ten thousand Persians lost
The Battle of Qadisiyyab is one of the major decisive battles of world
history. It sealed the fate of the Sasanian Empire just as the Battle of
Yarmuk had seated the fate of the Byzantine Empire in the east.
Two years after Qadisiyyah,
Sa'ad went on to take the Sasanian capital. By then he had recovered his
health. He lived until he was almost eighty years old. He was blessed with
much wealth but as the time of death approached in the year 54 AH, he asked
his son to open a box in which he had kept a course woolen jubbah and said:
"Shroud me in this, for in this (jubbah) I met the Mushrikin on the day of
Badr and in it I desire to meet Allah Almighty."