The General sat behind his desk, head in hands, listening intently to the news broadcast currently playing from his radio.
“The headlines tonight…rescuers in Gaza find four small children, too weak to stand, huddling next to their dead mothers,” said the radio presenter.
The General remembered his granddaughters. They would be around the same age as those children. The thought of the fear they must have gone through, going days without food or water, wondering why their mothers wouldn’t awake brought tears to his eyes. So many children dead. He always thought he would live to a ripe old age but death pays no attention to age. Young or old when the appointed time comes none can delay it.
He took out a key and unlocked the bottom drawer in his desk. There he found an old brown file overflowing with papers. He placed the file in front of him, opened it, took out the first paper and began to read. Tears rolled down his check as he stopped on the words that been a splinter in his mind ever since he first read them weeks ago. The words jumped out at him – “O People of Nusrah! Truly, Allah out of His infinite mercy has blessed you with a golden opportunity to secure a place in Jannah…”
The General wiped his eyes, stood up and walked over to the sink in the corner of the room. He turned on the tap and began to make wudu. It had been so long since he prayed he wasn’t sure he remembered all the steps. When he finished he dried himself and walked over to the Persian rug in the centre of the room and turned it in what he thought was the direction of Mecca. He then stood and prayed isha for the first time in years. When he finished he raised his hands in the air and made du’a. He couldn’t remember the correct words or procedure but he knew Allah was All-Merciful and would understand. He prayed for forgiveness for the first time before he could remember. He then prayed for help in what he was about to do. He got up off the rug, walked back to his desk and picked up the phone and started dialling…
For anyone who has converted to Islam; for anyone who was born Muslim and started practising Islam; for anyone who has read the story of Umar bin al-Khattab’s رضي الله عنه conversion to Islam; is this fictional story of the general really beyond the realms of possibility?
Allah سبحانه وتعالى knows what is hidden in the hearts of men and He سبحانه وتعالى can guide whomsoever He wills.
Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يُضِلُّ مَن يَشَاء وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاء
“Allah leaves whoever He will to stray and guides whoever He will.”
For those in any doubt about the power of Islam in changing even the most misguided individuals then let us look back to the best generation the sahaba رضي الله عنهم, and some of the famous personalities before and after their conversion to Islam.
Umar ibn al-Khattab
Anas رضي الله عنه said: Umar went out wearing his sword, and a man from Bani Zuhrah met him and said, “Where do you intend going Umar?” Umar said, “I want to kill Muhammad.” He said, “How will you be safe from Bani Hashim and Bani Zuhrah if you have killed Muhammad?” Umar said, “I can only believe that you have converted.” He said, “Shall I show you something astonishing; your brotherin-law and your sister have converted and abandoned your deen.”
Umar walked on and came to the two of them while Khabbab was with them. When he heard the sound of Umar he hid in the house, and then he (Umar) entered and said, “What is this murmur of lowered voices?” They had been reciting Surah Taha. They said, “Nothing but some conversation which we were holding.” He said, “Perhaps you two have converted?” His brother-in-law said to him, “Umar, what if the truth were outside of your deen?” So Umar leapt upon him and struck him severely. His sister came to push him away from her husband and he struck her a blow with his hand so that her face bled. Then she said, and she was angry, “And if the truth were outside your deen? I witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger.”
Umar said, “Give me the writing which you have and I will read it,” – and Umar used to read. His sister said to him, “You are dirty, and no-one reads it but the purified (so stand and bathe yourself or perform wudu).”
He stood and performed wudu, then he took the writing and read طهTaha until it came to:
إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي
“Truly I, I am Allah there is no god except Me, so worship Me and establish the prayer for my remembrance.”
Umar said, “Show me the way to Muhammad.” When Khabbab heard the words of Umar he came out and said, “Rejoice Umar! Because I hope that you are the (answer to the) supplication which the Messenger of Allah ﷺ made for you on the night of Thursday, ‘O Allah strengthen Islam with Umar ibn al-Khattab or with Amr ibn Hisham.'”
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was in the lower part of the house which was at the foot of Safa and Umar went off until he came to the house, at the door of which were Hamzah, Talhah and others. Hamzah said, “This is Umar. If Allah wants good for him he will become a Muslim, and if he wishes other than that, then killing him will be a little thing for us.” The Prophet ﷺ was inside receiving revelation. He came out when Umar arrived, took hold of the folds of his (Umar’s) clothes and the straps of his sword, and said, “You won’t give up Umar until Allah visits you with disgrace and punishment like he did al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah.” Umar said, “I witness that there is no god but Allah and that you are the slave of Allah and His messenger.”
The legend of Umar ibn Al-Khattab رضي الله عنه, one of the ten who were given the glad tidings of paradise in this life, is well known to all Muslims. Once Umar embraced Islam his contribution to furthering the cause of Islam is unparalleled. He gave strength to the dawah in Makkah. He assisted the Prophet ﷺ in ruling the Islamic State in Medina. He fought with the Prophet ﷺ in all the battles. After the Prophet ﷺ died he assisted Abu Bakr Siddiq in his Khilafah and then when Umar became Khaleefah he ruled over a state that became the world superpower after defeating both the Romans and the Persians.
It is enough to listen to the words of the Prophet ﷺ concerning Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه.
Uqbah ibn Amir said: The Prophet ﷺ said, “If there were to be a prophet after me it would be Umar ibn al-Khattab.”
Ibn Abbas رضي الله عنه said: The Prophet ﷺ said, “There is no angel in the heaven that does not respect Umar, and no shaytan on the earth but that he is afraid of Umar.”
Khalid bin Walid
Khalid bin Walid was a highly skilled warrior and one of the Generals of Quraish. At the Battle of Uhud when the archers disobeyed their orders and went for the booty, Khalid and his squadron took advantage and destroyed the Muslims left flank killing many of the archers. They then encircled the Muslims from the rear and nearly inflicted a devastating defeat on the Muslims.
After the Battle of Uhud Khalid sat alone in deep thought concerning the new religion that was gaining momentum every day. He wished that Allah, the All-Knower of what is hidden and unseen, would guide him to the right path. He said to himself, “By Allah, it is crystal clear now. This man is indeed a Prophet, so how long shall I procrastinate. By Allah, I will go and submit myself to Islam.”
Narrated by Khalid: I hoped to find an escort (to Madinah), and I ran into Uthman ibn Talhah and when I told him about my intention, he agreed to escort me. We travelled shortly before daybreak and as we reached the plain, we ran into Amr ibn Al-Aas.
After we had exchanged greetings, he asked us about our destination, and when we told him, it turned out that he himself was going to the same place to submit himself to Islam. The three of us arrived at Madinah on the first day of Safar in the eighth year. As soon as I laid my eyes on the Prophet, I said, “Peace by upon the Prophet,” so he greeted me with a bright face. Immediately, I submitted myself to Islam and bore witness to the truth. Finally, the Prophet ﷺ said, “I knew that you have an open mind and I prayed that it would lead you to safety.” I took my oath of allegiance to the Prophet then asked him, “Please ask Allah’s forgiveness for me for all the wrongdoings I have committed to hinder men from the path of Allah.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “Islam erases all the wrongdoings committed before it.” Yet I pleaded with him, “Please pray for me.” Finally, he ﷺ supplicated to Allah, “O Allah, forgive Khaalid for the wrongdoings he committed before he embraced Islam.” Then Amr ibn Al-Aas and Uthman ibn Talhah stepped forward and submitted themselves to Islam and gave their oath of allegiance to the Prophet.
At the Battle of Mutah, the first battle against the Romans, the Muslims were heavily outnumbered. The Muslim army was 3,000 strong and the Romans were 200,000 strong. All three of the army commanders were martyred in this battle and it was Khalid bin Walid who took command of the army. Instantly he flung himself into the vast battlefield. His eyes were as sharp as a hawk’s. His mind worked quickly, turning over all the scenarios in his mind. While fierce fighting raged, Khalid quickly split his army into groups, with each assigned a certain task. He used his incredible expertise and outstanding craftiness to open a wide space within the Roman army through which the whole Muslim army retreated intact. This narrow escape was credited to the ingenuity of a Muslim hero.
When the army returned to Madinah the Muslims were very angry. As the soldiers arrived the Muslims began to throw dust into the faces of the soldiers shouting, “O you who have fled! You have fled from the way of Allah.”
The Prophet ﷺ restrained them and said, “They have not fled. They shall return to fight, if Allah wills it.” Then the Prophet ﷺ raised his voice and shouted, “Khalid is the Sword of Allah.”
Thus General Khalid bin Walid became the Sword of Allah. A legend among the Muslims, and a historical figure whose tactics and battle plans are studied to this day by western military historians.
Umair ibn Wahb
Umair ibn Wahb was nicknamed by Quraish as the “The Satan of Quraish.” At the Battle of Badr he took up his sword to put an end to Islam. He was sharp-sighted and a perfect estimator, so his people delegated him to determine the number of Muslims who set forth with the Messenger ﷺ and to see if the Muslims had ambushers or reinforcements behind them.
On the day of Badr Umair fought fiercely and wildly, but he returned with the forces of Quraish to Makkah completely beaten. His son was taken as a prisoner of war and held in Madinah with the Muslims.
One day, Umair was sitting with his cousin Safwaan ibn Umaiyah whose father had been killed at Badr. Safwaan mentioning those who were killed at Badr said, “By Allah, there isn’t any good in life after them.” Umair said, “That’s true. By Allah, were it not for debts that I’m unable to repay and my children who I fear might be beggars after me, I would ride to Muhammad and kill him. I have a plausible reason to give him. I’ll say that I have come for the sake of my son, a prisoner of war.”
Safwaan seized the chance and said, “I’ll repay your debts and maintain your children with mine and comfort them as long as they live.” Umair agreed and said, “Keep it secret.” Then he ordered his sword to be sharpened and poisoned and set out.
When he arrived in Madinah, Umar ibn Al-Khattab was sitting among some of the Muslims talking about the Day of Badr. Umar looked saw Umair ibn Wahb, girded with his sword, making his camel kneel at the door of the mosque. Umar said, “That dog, the enemy of Allah, ‘Umair ibn Wahb! By Allah, he has come for nothing but evil. It is he who provoked us on the Day of Badr.”
Umar entered and said to the Messenger ﷺ, “O Prophet of Allah, here is the enemy of Allah, Umair ibn Wahb come girded with his sword.”
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Let him in.” Umar came and took him by the case of his sword round his neck and said to some of the men, “Enter and sit with the Prophet ﷺ and be cautious of that fellow, he is dishonest.” Then Umar entered holding the case of his sword round his neck and when the Prophet saw him, he told Umar to leave him alone and said to Umair, “Draw nearer.”
Umair approached and said, “Good morning.” That was the salutation in the period of jahiliyah.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah has honoured us with a better salutation than yours. It is As-Salaam, the salutation of the believers in Paradise.”
Umair said, “O Muhammad, by Allah I have heard it recently.”
The Prophet ﷺ said, “What made you come, Umair?” Umair said, “I have come for the sake of this captive in your hands.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “Tell me the truth, Umair, what have you come for?” Umair said, “I have come for that purpose.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “But you sat with Safwaan ibn Umaiyah at Al-Hijjr and mentioned those of Al-Qaliib from the Quraish, then you said, were it not for my debts and my children, I would ride and kill Muhammad. Safwaan promised to replay your debts and maintain your children on condition that you kill me, but Allah prevented you from doing so.”
At that moment, Umair cried, “I witness that there is no god but Allah and that you are His Prophet. That matter wasn’t attended by anyone except Safwaan and me. By Allah, Allah told it to you. Praise be to Allah who guided me to Islam.” The Prophet ﷺ said to his companions, “Teach your brother the religion and how to read the Qur’aan and set free the prisoner of war.”
Thus Umair ibn Wahb embraced Islam and the Satan of Quraish was so overwhelmed by the light of the Prophet ﷺ and the light of Islam that, in a moment, he embraced Islam and turned into the Disciple of Islam.
Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه said, “By Allah, I hated him more than I hated a pig, when he appeared. But now, I love him more than I love some of my sons.”
Within a short period of time, Umair knew that his duty towards the religion was to serve it as much as he had fought it, to support it as much as he had conspired against it and to show Allah and His Prophet what they liked of truth, struggle and obedience.
One day, he came to the Prophet ﷺ and said, “O Prophet of Allah, I had been doing my best to put out the light of Allah and was fond of hurting the Muslims, I would like you to give me permission to go to Makkah to call them to Allah, His Prophet and to Islam. Allah may guide them, otherwise, I’ll hurt them in their religion as I used to hurt your companions in their religion.”
From the time Umair left Makkah for Madinah, Safwaan ibn Umaiyah, who had persuaded Umair to go and kill the Messenger, walked proudly in the streets of Makkah, and dropped into its meetings and clubs joyfully and merrily. And whenever his people and his brothers asked him about the reason for his happiness when the bones of his father were still warm in the sands of Badr, he rubbed his hands proudly and said to the people, “Hurrah! After a few days, happy news will come and make you forget the Battle of Badr.” Every morning he went out of Makkah and asked the caravans, “Hasn’t any matter occurred in Madinah?” Their answers were in the negative, as none of them had heard or seen any important matter in Madinah.
Safwaan continued without despair asking caravan after caravan until one day he met one and said to them, “Hasn’t anything taken place in Madinah?” The traveller said, “Yes, a very import ant matter occurred.” With a radiant face and at the peak of happiness Safwaan asked the traveller anxiously, “What happened? Tell me!” The man said, “Umair ibn Wahb has embraced Islam, and he is there learning the religion and the Qur’aan.”
On the same day as the traveller arrived, Umair returned to Makkah holding his sword, ready to fight, and Safwaan was the first who met him. No sooner did Safwaan see Umair than he got ready to attack him.
Umair entered Makkah as a Muslim though he had left it a few days earlier as a mushrik. In his memory was the image of Umar ibn Al-Khattab when he embraced Islam, and cried, “By Allah! I’ll sit as a believer in every place where I sat as a mushrik.”
Taking these words as a motto and that situation as a model, Umair made up his mind to sacrifice his life for the religion that he had boldly fought against when he had the force to hurt any Muslim. He began to compensate for what he had missed and to race with time by calling to Islam day and night, secretly and openly.
Within a few weeks, those who embraced Islam by the guidance of Umair ibn Wahb were becoming innumerable.
Hind bint ‘Utbah
Hind bint ‘Utbah was the wife of Abu Sufyan one of the leaders of Quraish. She was one of the staunchest enemies of Islam whose hatred led her to commit heinous acts of vengeance against the Muslims.
Hind was the leader of the Quraishi women that participated in the Battle of Uhud. As the army of Quraish was marching to fight the Muslims, they reached Al-Abwa where Hind bint ‘Utbah suggested that they dig up the grave of the Prophet’s ﷺ mother. The army refused for fear of the consequences.
As the army moved towards Madinah, Hind rode up beside Wahshi bin Harb. Wahshi was a huge, black Abyssinian slave who always fought with a javelin from his native Africa. He was an expert with this weapon and had never been known to miss. “O Father of Blackness!” she addressed him. “Heal, and seek your reward.” She promised him that if he would kill Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet ﷺ in revenge for his killing her father, she would give him all the ornaments that she was wearing.
On the battlefield the Quraishi women led by Hind wandered among the rows of the Makkan army, tapped on tambourines, encouraged men to fight, inflamed the emotions of heroes, lancers, swordsmen and brave fighters. At one time they addressed the standard-bearers:
“O Bani ‘Abd Ad-Dar!
O home defenders,
Strike with your sharp swords …”
And at another time they would wage people’s zeal by singing:
“If you fight (bravely), we will embrace
and unfold mats to welcome you.
But if you flee from the battlefield, we leave you,
Desert you and no more love you.”
Some of these women involved themselves in mutilating the martyred Muslims. They cut off the ears, noses and genitals of the martyrs. They even cut open their bellies. Hind bin ‘Utbah ripped open the liver of Hamzah and chewed it, but finding it unpleasant, she spat it out. She even made the ears and noses of Muslims into anklets and necklaces.
After the Conquest of Makkah Hind presented herself to the Prophet ﷺ and implored him to forgive her for all her previous sins. She accepted Islam and on returning home, she broke her idol admitting her delusion regarding the stone idols.
The words of Hind bint Utbah speak for themselves concerning the change Islam made to her life.
‘Aiysha رضي الله عنهما said: Hind bint ‘Utbah came and said: “O Messenger of Allah ﷺ, there was no family on the surface of the earth, I wish to have degraded more than I did your family. But today there is no family whom I wish to have been honoured more than yours.” (Agreed upon)
Oh Army Generals!
Know that this life is very short and the next life is forever. On the Day of Judgement the people will think that the length of this life was but an hour. Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
وَيَوْمَ يَحْشُرُهُمْ كَأَن لَّمْ يَلْبَثُواْ إِلاَّ سَاعَةً مِّنَ النَّهَارِ
“On the Day He gathers them together, it will be as if they have stayed [in the world] no longer than a single hour.”
It is never too late to change despite the sins that went before. Allah سبحانه وتعالى is always open for repentance. Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
فَمَن تَابَ مِن بَعْدِ ظُلْمِهِ وَأَصْلَحَ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ يَتُوبُ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“But if anyone repents after his wrongdoing and makes amends, Allah will accept his repentance: Allah is most forgiving, most merciful.”
None of us know what our last deeds will be. Someone may commit sins all his life and then do an action that pleases Allah سبحانه وتعالى and he is granted paradise. A person may do good deeds all his life and then do an action that displeases Allah سبحانه وتعالى and he is flung into hell. May Allah protect us from such a calamity, and make the best of our deeds the last of our deeds.
The Messenger ﷺ said, “By Allah the One other than whom there is no god, one of you will do the actions of the people of the Garden until there is only a cubit between him and it, then the decree will overtake him, and he will do the actions of the people of the Fire and thus enter it. One of you will do the actions of the people of the Fire until there only remains a cubit between him and it, then the decree will overtake him, and he will do the actions of the people of the Garden and so enter it.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
During the early years of Makkah, the Prophet ﷺ made a dua. Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “O Allah, strengthen Islam with whoever is more beloved to You of these two men: Umar ibn al-Khattab or Abu Jahl ibn Hisham.”
We finish here with a similar dua. O Allah! Strengthen Islam with whoever from among the army generals and people of nusra is most beloved to you. Ameen.
Khalid Muhammed Khalid, ‘Men around the Messenger,’ Al-Manar Publishing
Lieutenant-General A.I. Akram, ‘The Sword of Allah: Khalid bin Al-Waleed, His Life and Campaigns,’ 1969
Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti, ‘History of the Khalifahs who took the right way,’ translation of ‘Tarikh al-Khulafa,’ Ta Ha Publishers
Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, ‘The Sealed Nectar,’ translation of ‘Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum’