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Ammar bin Yasir

عمان بن ياسر

Ammar ibn Yasir (may Allah be pleased with him) was a sahabi. That means he was a companion, or disciple, of Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was one of the earliest converts to Islam and a close follower of Muhammad and later on he swore allegiance to Muhammad's cousin Ali. Muhammad was once quoted to have said "Ammar is that who Allah put the faith in each drop of his blood and each one of his bones."

Ammar's family was of Yemenese origin. His full name and lineage was Ammar ibn("son of") Yasir ibn Amir al-Ansi al-Makhzumi (from the Banu Makhzum tribe). His father Yassir bin Malik had made his way to Mecca in the hope of finding his missing brother. He never found him but decided to make Mecca his home. His wife Samiya, a black slave woman, bore him two children; Abdullah and Ammar.

Ammar was born in Mecca. While he was lucky to be free from childhood onwards, his parents had to endure the hardship of slavery. Their first owner was a man named Abu Huzaifah, but upon his death they were later handed over to Abu Jahl, who was a leader of Mecca, but known to be cruel and a pagan idol-worshipper. He is notable in Islamic history for being a real enemy to the nascent Muslim group.

Although Ammar and his parents were brought up in the time of pagan idolatry, Ammar was one of the first people of Mecca to accept Muhammad's message of monotheism, known as Islam. He became extremely devoted to Muhammad and was steadfast in trying to spread the message, at great cost to himself.

The day Ammar accepted Islam, his father Yasir had a dream. He later told Ammar's mother that he saw himself in a valley. On one side of the mountain it was split and fire ran accross the divide. On the other side of the fire was a garden where he saw Ammar and Samiya. They were calling to him, and in his dream, he crossed it. Samiya interpreted it as extremely signifigant because Ammar had returned home that very day telling them the words of Muhammad and quoting parts of the Qur'an. Yassir and his wife decided to accept Muhammad's message of Islam, saying it was a fulfillment of that dream. Ammar's brother Abdullah also accepted Islam, which made them the first family of Mecca to do so.

When the Meccans heard that they all accepted Islam, they were furious. Especially the tribe of Banu Makhzoum, the tribe that helped Yassir move into Mecca. The reason was because Islam was a threat to the entire way of life in Mecca. The Ka'aba was a place of over 300 idols, one for every day of the year. People from all over the Arab world came to worship there, turning Mecca into a major trading center, and the money flowing through it made the families there rich. Abandoning all these idols and worshipping just One God in a class-less religion would shake their economy and whole way of life.

Abu Jahl was a cousin of the tribe, and he gathered the young people together to do something about this outrage. In spite of the refusal of the tribe's elder, they plundered Yasir's house, set fire to all their goods, and chained the whole family up. They were taken outside of Mecca to where slaves were punished and were beaten. They were stretched accross the burning sun of the desert, and heavy blocks of stone were put on top of them. Their howls of pain could be heard in Mecca, to discourage anyone else from becoming Muslim or following Muhammad.

Muhammad's heart went out to Ammar and his family when he saw the pain that the idolatorous Meccans were inflicting on them. To ease this pain the Prophet would continuously say to them, "Patience oh family of Yassir, for you are destined for Paradise." (Sahih al-Tirmidhi, v5, p233)

To be a slave and a Muslim at the same time was the most difficult thing in the world. A master such as Abu Jahl would torture the slaves over their beliefs. Yassir and his wife Samiya were Muslims who had given up the idolatry of their people, and for that reason alone Abu Jahl tortured them. Ammar grew up into a man watching his parents in misery. This naturally caused him a great deal of sorrow.

There were times when Ammar would weep at the suffering of his parents. The Prophet (pbuh) would console him and pray for the family. One fateful day, Abu Jahl struck Samiya a cruel blow and killed her, in front of her husband Yasir and her son Ammar. It was in this fashion that she became the first martyr of Islam, known as a "shaheed." Ammar himself did not escape punishment; he witnessed her die while he himself was being tortured and was once branded on the back.

Yasir declared to Muhammad that he could no longer support this situation more any more. Muhammad and his companions buried Samiya. Abu Jahl returned and killed Yassir and Abdullah. Then Abu Jahl turned to Ammar, with his family dead, and tortured him until he forced Ammar under pain and duress to say horrible curses upon Muhammad and deny his faith in Islam.

Full of regret, he ran to Muhammad crying, telling him of what had happened and what he had said. Muhammad asked him if in his heart he meant anything they made him say. He said never, that in his heart he still believed in Allah even though they forced him to say otherwise.

Muhammad comforted Ammar, and not only told him that God forgave him, but he told Ammar that if the disbelievers were to torture him again, he should again deny his faith in public. It is said that another verse from the Qur'an was immediately revealed in response to this:

Any one who, after accepting faith in God, utters Unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith - but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from God, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.(16:106)
When other Muslims criticized Ammar, calling him a disbeliever, Muhammad replied "No, indeed Ammar is full of faith from head to toe." 1 Other sayings include "Ammar is with the truth and truth is with Ammar. He turns wherever the truth turns", and "Ammar is all faith". 2

Ammar was among those who immigrated to Abyssinia as well as one of the first immigrants(muhajirun) to flee from Mecca to Medina. He was also the first Muslim to build a mosque within his own house.3 He used to accompany Muhammad to all his places of assembly and was present at all the battles to defend the Muslims, including the Battle of Badr. When Abu Jahl was killed in that battle, Muhammad turned to Ammar and said "The Murderer of your mother was killed."

Numerous hadith have been attributed to him, most notably his quotations of Muhammad concerning a practice called "Tayammum" which is a way to make ablution when water isn't present. He also used to always keep his beard at least one fist-length, along with many other sahabas. All Muslims consider him to be one of the most pious Sahabas and very near to Muhammad (pbuh) himself. Sunnis and Shias both have great respect for him, and follow his example because of his proximity to the Prophet (pbuh).

There are multiple hadith where Muhammad predicted Ammar's death. "Ammar is as near to me as an eye is near to the nose. Alas! a rebellious group will kill him."2 The Prophet (s) also told him "Ammar be cheerful, the aggressor party shall kill you."4 "His killer will be in hell." Several authentic hadith sources quote Muhammad also saying: "Alas! a rebellious group which swerves from the truth will murder Ammar. Ammar will be calling them towards Paradise and they will be calling him towards Hell. His killer and those who strip him of arms and clothing will be in Hell." 5

Two prominent hadith scholars, Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani and as-Suyuti certify the above quotation: "The narration of this (above mentioned) tradition is mutawatir (i.e. narrated successively by so many people that no doubt can be entertained about its authenticity)." The fact that Muhammad correctly foretold of Ammar's death is considered by some to be an additional sign of Muhammad being a prophet and having knowledge given to him by God and the angel Gabriel, due to the fact that many credible witnesses had narrated this hadith.

Ammar ibn Yasir was also depicted in The Message, a 1970's film that tells the story of Islam. Personally, I'd strongly recommend seeing it, as when you see the struggle he had to endure for his faith, you cant help but feel empathy for him.

(Note: Following from here on, the rest of this information was taken from a Shia source. Trust of it what you will.)

After Muhammad's death, Shia sources say that he became a close adherent and supporter of Ali. Shia sources claim that Ammar fought with the caliphs that preceded Ali, with one source saying Caliph Uthman and his suppporters beat Ammar unconscious. Naturally, Sunni sources dispute this.

When Ali ibn Abu Talib became Caliph, Ammar was one of his most sincere supporters. He participated fully in all social, political and military activities during this period, especially in the battle of the Camel and the battle of Siffin. Ammar was martyred on 9th Safar 37 A.H. in the battle of Siffin when he was over ninety years of age. On the day Ammar ibn Yasir became a shaheed, he turned his face to the sky and said:

O' Allah! surely Thou art aware that if I know that Thy wish is that I should plunge myself into this River (the Euphrates) and be drowned, I will do it.

O' Allah! surely Thou knowest that if I knew that Thou would be pleased if I put my scimitar on my chest (to hit my heart) and pressed it so hard that it came out of my back, I would do it.

O' Allah! I do not think there is anything more pleasant to Thee than fighting with this sinful group, and if knew that any action were more pleasant to Thee I would do it.

Abu Abd ar-Rahman as-Sulami narrates: "We were present with The Commander of the Faithful (Ali) at Siffin where I saw Ammar ibn Yasir was not turning his face towards any side, nor valleys of Siffin but the companions of the Holy Prophet (s) were following him as if he was a sign for them. Then I heard Ammar say to Hashim ibn 'Utbah (al-Mirqal): "O' Hashim! rush into enemy's ranks, paradise is under sword!. Today I meet beloved one, Muhammad and his party."

Then he said: "By Allah, if they put us to flight (and pursue us) to the date-palms of Hajar (a town in Bahrain) we know surely that we are right and they are wrong."

Then Ammar continued (addressing the enemies): "We struck you to (believe in) its (Quran) revelation; And today we strike you to (believe in) its interpretation; Such strike as to remove heads from their resting places; And to make the friend forget his sincere friend; Until the truth returns to its (right) path." The narrator says: I did not see the Holy Prophet's companions killed at any time as many as they were killed on this day.

Then Ammar spurred his horse, entered the battlefield and began fighting. He persistently chased the enemy, made attack after attack, and raised challenging slogans till at last a group of mean-spirited Syrians surrounded him on all sides, and a man named Abu al-Ghadiyah al-Juhari (al-Fazari) inflicted such a wound upon him that he could not bear it, and returned to his camp. He asked for water. A tumbler of milk was brought to him. When Ammar looked at the tumbler he said: "The Messenger of Allah had said the right thing." People asked him what he meant by these words. He said "The Messenger of Allah informed me that my last provision in this world would be milk." Then he took that tumbler of milk in his hands, drank the milk and soon died. When Ali came to know of his death, he came to Ammar's side, put his (Ammar's) head on his own lap, and recited the following eulogy to mourn his death:

"We belong to God and to Him shall be our return. Whoever does not feel grief over the death of Ammar is not a Muslim. Oh Allah be merciful to Ammar during that time when the Angels will question him in the grave. I did not witness with the Prophet a group of three, without Ammar being the fourth, or a group of four, without Ammar being the fifth. Ammar was not deserving of paradise only once; he deserved it on many occasions. The everlasting gardens that await him are countless because he was with the truth and the truth was with him and as the Messenger of Allah said, "It (the truth) accompanies him every which way he turns."
Ali recited funeral prayers for him, and buried him with his clothes as a shaheed. He was ninety-one years old. Among the companions of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh) Ammar was held in high esteem, respected for his knowledge of Islam and praised for his undoubted sacrifice to the cause. He, along with everyone who fought at the Battle of Badr, was promised entry into heaven.

Ammar (may Allah be pleased with him) died a martyr, with all the benefits of a Shaheed, a fitting end to a glorious life of sacrifice and patience against all odds.

References: 1. (Ibn Majah, as-Sunan, vol. 1, p. 65; Abu NuAym, Hilyah al-Awliya, vol. 1, p. 139; al-Haytami, Majma az-zawaid, vol. 9, p. 295; al-Isti`ab, vol. 3, p. 1137; al-Isabah, vol. 2, p. 512)
2. (at-Tabaqat, vol. 3, part 1, p. 187; al-Mustadrak, vol. 3, p. 392; Ibn Hisham, as-Sirah, vol. 2, p. 143; Ibn Kathir, at-Tarikh, vol. 7, pp. 268-270)
3. (at-Tabaqat, vol. 3, Part 1, p. 178; Usd al-ghabah, vol. 4, p. 46; Ibn Kathir, at-Tarikh, vol. 7, p. 311).
4. (al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, v3, p383, and Sahih Muslim, English version, v4, chapter MCCV, Traditions #6968& #6970)
5. (al-Bukhari, Sahih, vol. 8, pp. 185-186; at-Tirmidhi, al-Jami` as-Sahih, vol. 5, p. 669; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 2, pp. 161,164,206; vol. 3, pp.5, 22, 28, 91; vol. 4, pp.197, 199, vol. 5 pp.215, 306, 307; vol. 6, pp.289, 300, 311, 315, and all the narrators of Islamic traditions and historians transmitted through twenty-five Companions)
http://www.islamicvoice.com/october.98/child.htm
http://www.al-shia.org/html/fre/librari/histoire/
http://www.aljaafaria.com/md1art05.htm

Last two paragraphs shamelessly stolen from http://www.geocities.com/islamroots/a/per/ammar.htm (which does an excellent overview that I've tried to enhance)

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