Bilal b. Rabah
|Bilal b. Rabah|
|Kunya||Abu 'Abd Allah|
|Birth||3 'Am al-Fil|
|Place(s) of Residence||Mecca, Medina, Syria|
|Burial Place||Bab al-Saqir Cemetery, Damascus|
|Presence at Ghazwas||All ghazwas|
|Known for||The Prophet (s)'s mu'adhdhin|
Bilāl b. Rabāḥ (Arabic:بلال بن رباح) known as Bilāl al-Ḥabashī (Arabic:بلال الحبشی) was a companion of the Prophet (s) and the one who was assigned to perform Adhan (calling for prayer) in the time of the Prophet (s). Bilal was among the first persons who converted to Islam. He was in charge of the bayt al-mal in the time of the Prophet (s) and accompanied him in all battlefields. Bilal lived for a few years after the Prophet (s) taking no orders to call for prayer in the meanwhile, save for few cases. Based on the famous report, he was buried in Bab al-Saqir cemetery, Damascus.
Bilal's father was of the captives of Abyssinia and he himself was born in a slave family of Banu Jumah (or Sarah) tribe which resided in Mecca. Some believe that he was born three years after the Year of the Elephant. He was also regarded as Ibn Hamama for his mother was named Hamama. Abu 'Abd Allah was his famous kunya, and he had other kunyas as well. He was also regarded as Habashi, Qurashi, and Taymi, according to his origin.
Bilal was described as to be tall and slim, with a rather dark skin color, a bent back, long gray hair and a delicate face.
Early Conversion to Islam
Release from Slavery
After months of bearing torture and agony, Bilal was bought and released from slavery. Some know him as to be released by Abu Bakr, Although it is not historically certain; for Abu Ja'far Iskafi, the master of Ibn Abi l-Hadid, has narrated from Waqidi, Ibn Ishaq, and others that the Prophet (s) has released Bilal. Likewise, al-Shaykh al-Tusi and Ibn Shahr Ashub perceive him to be released by the Prophet (s), and what is narrated from the Prophet (s) that "I would buy and release Bilal, if I could afford it", does not correspond to historical facts, since Khadija (a) had supplied the Prophet (s) with all her wealth to be expended for the sake of Allah. Furthermore, Abu Bakr was not wealthy enough to be able to buy and release tortured slaves like Bilal.
Close Companion of the Prophet (s)
After his release, Bilal joined Muslims community and accompanying the Prophet (s) in his traveling and residency, he became the first Muslim to perform Adhan (calling for prayer). He was counted among the "Nujaba" (noble community) and close companions of the Prophet (s). Bilal was in charge of the bayt al-mal in the time of the Prophet (s) and accompanied him to all battlefields. In the Battle of Badr, Umayya b. Khalaf and his son were killed by Muslims at his request, and according to some accounts, Bilal himself, killed Umayya.
The holy Prophet (s) instituted the bond of brotherhood between Bilal and 'Abd Allah b. 'Abd al-Rahman Khath'ami, and according to Ibn Hisham's (d. 218/833-4) statement, Habasha and Khath'am tribes shared a treasury as long as he lived. On the other hand, some have claimed his bond of brotherhood with 'Ubayda b. Harith or Abu 'Ubayda b. Jarrah. However, this cannot be true, considering Bilal and these two to have been from Muhajirun, while the bond of brotherhood would be held between the Muhajirun (the Emigrants) and the Ansar (the Helpers).
Calling for Prayer
In the Time of the Prophet (s)
Bilal was the first Muslim appointed to perform Adhan (calling for prayer). It is reported that he would mispronounce "sh" as "s", accordingly which the Prophet (s) has said "his "s" is considered as "sh" by Allah". The day on which Mecca was conquered, following the order of the Prophet (s), Bilal raised the Ka'ba and called for prayer. Viewing such a glorious scene hardly upset the idolaters of Mecca.
After the Prophet (s)
After the demise of the Prophet (s), Bilal took no orders to perform Adhan, save for rare occasions, one which was when Fatima (a) asked him so. He left his call unfinished though, because it reminded Fatima (a) of all she had suffered after her father's (s) demise, and she couldn't bear the distress. Next was the time when he came to Medina to make pilgrimage to the tomb of the Prophet (s) and Hasanayn (Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a)) wanted him to call for prayer; a call which appeared very inspiring and impressed the people of Medina profoundly. The last occasion was by the time the Second Caliph had traveled from Medina to Damascus (in 17/638-9, as al-Tabari has recorded) and in a land called Jabiya, at Muslims' request, he asked Bilal to call for prayer. He accepted and people wept bitterly by his Adhan, recalling their time with the Prophet (s).
Most sources have noted realizing the honor of Jihad and accompanying the Mujahidun (soldiers) as the cause of Bilal's emigration from Medina to Damascus and not calling for prayer anymore after the demise of the Prophet (s), and they believe his emigration to had been at the time of the caliphate of Abu Bakr or 'Umar b. Khattab, while there is no reports of his participation in any war or conquest. In addition, it could be concluded from some reports that his emigration to Damascus was as an objection to some events that happened after the demise of the Prophet (s).
Narrator of the Prophet's (s) Hadiths
Bilal was also a narrator of hadith, from whom a community of the Sahaba (companions) and Tabi'un has narrated; for instance, he has narrated a long hadith from the Prophet (s) regarding the excellence of Adhan.
Many hadiths are narrated from the Prophet (s) regarding the virtues of Bilal, such as; "Bilal was among the early believers in Islam", "he is the chief of all those who call for prayer", "the garden is eager for three persons; Ali (a), 'Ammar, and Bilal", "three black persons are the chiefs of the garden; Luqman The Wise, Najashi (the king of Abyssinia in the time Prophet (s)), and Bilal", and also a prayer is narrated from the Prophet (s) for him helping Fatima (a) with the house chores.
Likewise, Imam Ali (a) has counted him among the early believers in Islam and acclaimed his purity and self-edification. Imam al-Sajjad (a) has recounted his merits and his arguments over the virtues of the Commander of the Faithful (a) with the opponents. Imam al-Sadiq (a) has marked him as "the righteous servant (of Allah), and "a lover of Ahl al-Bayt (a)".
The exegetes of the Qur'an have signed several verses to be revealed regarding the virtues of Bilal and his companions; Sura al-Nisa': 69, Sura al-An'am: 52, Sura al-Nahl: 110, Sura al-Kahf: 28, and Sura al-Hujurat: 11 and 12.
Although some historians knew him as to have had no child, in his book, Sakhavi has mentioned his son, 'Umar, among those whom narrated hadith from him.
It is widely ascribed that he is buried in Bab al-Saqir cemetery, Damascus. Some believe his tomb to be in Bab Kaysan, Daria, or Bab al-Arba'in, Halab, but Mazzi considers the possibility of the tomb in Halab to be his brother's. He was older than sixty when he died, and the ages 63, 64, and 70 are also noted in some sources.
- Ibn Sa'd, Vol.3, P. 232
- Abu Nu'aym, Vol.1, P. 147
- Ibn 'Asakir, Vol.10, P. 451
- Ibn 'Asakir, Vol.10, P. 462
- Ibn Babawayh, Vol.1, P.312
- Ibn Fahd al-Hilli, P. 27
- Imam al-'Askari (a), PP.621-3
- Kashshi, P.39
- al-Mufid, P.73
- The material for this article is mainly taken from بلال حبشی in Farsi Wikishia.
- Abu Nu'aym, Ahmad b. 'Abd Allah. Hilyat al-awliya' wa tabaqat al-asfiya' , Beirut, 1387 SH.
- Ibn 'Asakir. Tarikh madina Dimashq, Publication of 'Ali Shiri, Beirut, 1415 AH.
- Ibn Babawayh. Al-khisal, Ed. 'Ali Akbar Ghaffari, Qom, 1362 SH.
- Ibn Sa'd. Al-Tabaqat al-kubra, Vol.3, Beirut, Dar al-Kutub al-'Arabi, 1405 AH.
- Hilli Ibn Fahd al-. 'Udat al-da'i wa najah al-sa'i, Beirut, 1407 AH.
- Imam al-'Askari (a), al-Hasan b. 'Ali. Al-Tafsir, Qom, 1409 AH.
- Kashshi, Muhammad b. 'Umar al-. Ikhtiyar ma'rifat al-rijal, Publication of Hasan Mustafawi, 1348 SH.
- Mufid, Muhammad b. Muhammad al-. Al-Ikhtisas, Ed. Ali Akbar Ghaffari, Qom.