From WikiAhmadiyya, the free encyclopedia on Islam and Ahmadiyyat

Bilal bin Rabahra (580-642) also known as Bilal Habshi was an Abyssinian slave freed by the early Muslims who went on to become one of the most notable companions of Muhammadsa.

Early Life

Bilal's father was an Arab named Rabah while his mother was an Abyssinian named Hamama. He had a brother who also accepted Islam named Khalid and a sister named Aqra. He was of dark complexion and had thick hair. Bilal and his family were slaves in Mecca.

Accepting Islam

Bilal was one of the first people to accept Muhammad'ssa call to Islam. Bilal's owner Ummaya bin Khalf tortured him extensively in an effort to force him to renounce his new faith. He would be tied, dragged through the streets and whipped mercilessly. Bilal was forced to lie on burning hot sand and boys danced on his body, or a heavy rock or the remains of a cow would be placed on his chest. A rope was tied around his neck and he was dragged across stones, until his body bled. Even as his master continued to demand Bilal renounce his faith, he continued to proclaim his belief in Islam, despite being told he would be killed.

Another early Muslim and later the first Caliph, Abu Bakr passed by and saw Bilal lying tortured and on the verge of death. He offered to buy the slave at a hefty price, on the advice of Muhammadsa who also offered to pay half of the price. Ummaya gladly sold the body he assumed would soon die. Abu Bakr treated Bilal's wounds over the coming days as the slave remained mostly unconscious. Muhammadsa would visit him during this period. 

Freedom & Rise to Prominence

On Bilal's recovery, Abu Bakr freed him, employed him as his store keeper, taught him how to read and write. Muhammadsa would show great respect and kindness towards former slaves, including Bilal:

Allah's Messengersa said to Bilal: "Bilal, narrate to me which act at the time of morning prayer you did in Islam for which you hope to receive good reward, for I heard during the night the sound of your steps before me in Paradise." Bilal said: "I did not do any act in Islam for which I hope to get any benefit but this that when I perform complete ablution during the night or day I observe prayer with that purification what Allah has ordained for me to pray."

- Muslim

Following Muhammad'ssa example, the Muslims would show great reverence towards Bilal. 

At Medina, Bilal was appointed the first 'Muezzin' or caller to prayer in Islamic history. Being African, Bilal's pronunciation of the call was abnormal but Muhammadsa would rebuke any mockery from the Arabs. For certain prayers, Bilal would walk in front of Muhammadsa, holding a spear gifted to the Prophet by the King of Abyssinia. Bilal would then mark the spot at which Muhammadsa wished the prayer to begin. Muhammadsa would honour Bilal further by asking him to walk in front of the the Muslim army's standard when it marched through Mecca. Other responsibilities given to Bilal included management of the treasury and management of the Prophet'ssa household. 

Later Years

Following the death of Muhammadsa, Bilal would cry whenever reciting his name during the call to prayer. Living in the Prophet'ssa city of Medina was now too much for him so he requested the new Caliph, Abu Bakr, to post him to Syria. However, Abu Bakr requested he stay and continue to carry out state duties. Finally during the era of Umar's caliphate, Bilal was asked to recite the call to prayer once again. He had given up the practice since the passing of Muhammadsa, but honoured Umar's request. On hearing  his melodious call after so many years, the Muslims were reminded of Muhammadsa and began to weep. 

Bilal's honoured status was confirmed through society, despite his being a non-Arab African and a former slave. During the caliphate of Umar, Bilal would be granted immediate access to the Caliph while the chiefs of Arabia would be made to wait.

Finally, Bilal settled in Syria where he began to farm on a small piece of land. He passed away in Damascus around the age of 70. 

See also