Bilal was a black slave, who bore the scourge of tyrant aristocrats. He was the son of Robah and Hamameh, who experienced horrendous torture at the hands of Umayehti ibn Khalaf, for the sake of his belief in monotheism and his love of freedom.1 All through his ordeal, the thought and rememberance of the Merciful God (Ahad), urged him to bepatience and tolerant. Upon receiving the Divine exhilaration of belief in the oneness of God through the regaining of his freedom by the Prophet of God (SAW), he, deeply moved turned to the Holy Prophet (SAW) and recited this poem:
"In our land, upon our search for the most admirable qualities, we will declare you as the living witness to our claim." 2
The dignity and magnificence of his speech was so impressive that it gained him the honorable position of the "Caller to Prayer" (Moazin) for him which is an Islamic slogan (motto) and symbol of religious values. It is noteworthy to mention, that at that time,the ‘Caller of Prayer' was the official representative of the Prophet of God (SAW), in summoning people to the place of worship.3
Despite his impediment in pronouncing "SH", he continued to perform his responsibility.4 His individuality of character was such that, after the conquest of Mecca, on request of the Prophet (SAW), he recited the ‘Call to Prayer', the “Call to Oneness of God” and “the seal of Prophethood” from the top of the Ka'ba. Many of the people who were still under the influence of the period of Jahiliyah (ignorance) questioned Bilal's status and praised their own.
Angel Gibril came down to the Prophet (SAW) with a divine and illuminating verse to confirm the prevalence of faith, chastity and devotion to the "Qibla"against consolation of "tribe".5
Then Angel Gibril, who had descended from heaven, first of all repudiated selfish aristocrats, who saw their honor in the inferiority of others and desired distancing slaves and under privileged in order to gain an exalted position by the Prophet (SAW). Which pleased Bilal greatly.6 Then God called His Prophet (SAW) to patience and greater assistance with faithful (under privileged) monotheist and enamored of divinity and said:
"(You, our Prophet), be patient with those who look to God day and night and seek His satisfaction. Don't let your attention stray away from them, let it not be (negligence of them), for want of the world."7
Bilal's perception of divine teachings were so illuminating that the Prophet (SAW) declared heaven eager for Ali, Salman, Ammar and Bilal.8
When the people of the Quraish opposed Islam, the holy Prophet (SAW) asked Bilal to seek God's help and mercy against Quraish 9 after the Call to Prayer (Adhan).10 Furthermore, one day when there was talk of heaven and paradise, he said: "Bilal will ride a camel in heaven and announce the Call to Prayer and upon reciting ‘ash-hadu an la-ilaha' and ‘ash-hadu ana Muhammadun rasulu-lah' - he will be dressed in heavenly clothing."11
History has been witness to the adamant defense of the Prophet (SAW) of Bilal in such a way that on one occasion he demanded Abubakr to apologize Bilal and his friends.12 In another incident when Abuzar remarked about Bilal's skin color , the Prophet (SAW) reproached him by saying, "there is still some insolent pride and ignorance left in you."13 Upon which Abuzar in a gesture of humbleness knelt face down on the ground and told Bilal that he would remain in that position until he laid his foot on his face, eventually Bilal relented and did so."14
Bilal like Salman was a distinguished and pious companion, who had the privilege of association with the ‘House of Fatima (SA)'. On many occasions they would run errands for the Prophet (SAW). One day he gave some money to Bilal and said: "You Bilal, with this money buy some perfume and fragrance for my daughter Fatima (for her dowry).15
The Prophet (SAW) in the last remaining days of his life cautioned his followers and asked those who have a claim on him to take their revenge in this world. Following remarks of one of those present, he asked for the whip of the battlefield, then he singled out Bilal and made a request that: "Bilal, raise and go to the House of Fatima and...."16
Whenever he longed to see Fatima's (SA) children of he would say to Bilal: "Bilal, bring my children, Hassan and Hussain to me."17 No doubt these interactions based on abundant trust and significant confidence. Once Imam Ali (AS) with clear perception of Bilal's background considered him one of his own and said:
"The vanguards of Islam are five, I as the vanguard of the Arabs, Salman as the herald of the Iranians, Suhayb as the first believer from Rome, Bilal as the vanguard of Abyssinia (Eithopia) and Zabbab as the herald of Niyt."18
As it has been mentioned by either Imam Baqir (AS) or Imam Sadiq (AS) on various dimensions of Bilal's merits: "May God bless Bilal who loved our family. He was a worthy servant who pledged not to announce the Call to Prayer after the demise of the Holy Prophet (SAW), and since that day refrained from saying, ‘Hayya ala Khayri Amal' in the Call to Prayer (Adhan)."19
Fatimat-uz-Zahra (SA) considered Bilal as vigilant, conscious of the time and aware of apparent or hidden phenomena of the society. Therefore, she never made any negative remark or complaint regarding his support of the guardianship (Vilayat). She always praised his subtle maneuvers in defiance of usurpers.
Bilal was quite capable of distinguishing, and predicting the every step of the enemy. He was well-aware and knew for certain that any distortion of the sayings of the Prophets (SAW) and heresy, were steps which could lead to discord of the guardianship (Vilayat) and would ultimately lead to the misguidance of the simple minded people of the society. Therefore, he remained aware and ever alert and looked deeply into political events and their implications, not only to distance himself from indifference and negligence but also not to stray from the pious Imams (AS), who are the sole true leaders of the Muslims.
Some considered alienating people from true Islam by distorting perfect examples of Islamic teachings and virtues as a Satanic endeavor of the enemy which ultimately would result in the reversion to the state of paganism, tribalism, secularism, greed for rank and high position, and futile and void entertainment which in turn would result in the foregoing of Islamic virtues.
Bilal's awareness and sharp thinking urged him not to show the least leniency or compromise to usurpers, and he started a struggle based on deep understanding and sound analysis when he heard the news of Saqifehand the endorsement of the Khalifate (Caliph). He was at the Prophet's Mosque, deeply grieved and was pondering this great misfortune, believing it as an act of God. The caliph entered at the time for the Adhan (Call to Prayer). All persons present were waiting for Bilal to announce the call as he had done during the lifetime of the Prophet (SAW). But they found him quiet and bewildered in a corner of the Mosque. So assuming that he was unaware of the time, reminded him of his duty. He, with great courage replied that from then on he would not make the call to prayer and that they should look for a replacement for the position. The first caliph himself repeated the request for the Adhan, but Bilal quite discerningly shook his head in refusal, then Abubakr said: "If you by freeing me from the hands of the Omayyid have taken me as a slave, I am at your service, but if you have freed me for the love of God, let me be, and let me to do as I wish." Abubakr confirmed that he had freed him for the love of God. Then Bilal said: "After the demise of the Prophet (SAW), I won't call anyone to prayer."20
Bilal's lucid and indicative perception was promising for Allah's disciples and pleased Fatimat-uz-Zahra (SA). His vigilant presence and courageous defense in the political arena placed him among the few trusted companions of Amir al-Muminin (AS) and Fatimat-uz-Zahra (SA) who never swerved from the course of salvation of Vilayat. It is noteworthy that Bilal who was deprived of being a member of a distinguish clan and ancestry in Medina and lacked any apparent backing in a strange and alien town, stood undeterred in defiance of wealth, and deception, and with utter frankness declared that: "After the Prophet (SAW) for no other soul would I announce the Call to Prayer." But then, the daughter of the Messenger of God (SAW) said: "I would like very much to hear my father's Moazin (Caller to Prayer), i.e. Bilal's voice."21
Following her speech, Bilal obeyed without further ado, so the echo of his voice was once again heard in Medina. But when he recited: ‘ash-hadu ana Muhammad Rasullah', Fatimat-uz-Zahra (SA) trembled and couldn't contain her streaming tears, it is even said that she fainted and Bilal was told to stop the call. He b alarmed and anxious, hurried to her side. Upon recovering, she asked Bilal to finish the call to prayer. But Bilal being aware of the extent of her love for her father, said: "You, daughter of the Prophet excuse me from this errand, because I fear for your life."22
Bilal relentlessly defended Imam Ali (AS) and Hazrat Fatimat-uz-Zahra (SA) and their ideals and paid great respect to Imam Ali (AS) in public, which arose some criticism. When asked the reason for his conduct reminding him that it was Abubakr who bought his freedom, Bilal replied: "Ali has more right on me than Abubakr because, Abubakr saved me from slavery and the tortures (of this world,) although with patience and submissive demeanor, I would have been on the right path to heaven, But Imam Ali (AS) spared me from everlasting torment and eternal fire of Hell. This is because by loving and supporting Vilayat and recognizing his superiority over others, I would become worthy of heaven and its eternal blessings."
His defiance of Abubakr led to his exile to Syria. At the last moments of his life in Medina, in the company of the daughter of the Prophet (SAW) and Amirul-Muminin (AS), he recited the following poem:
I was saved by God and not by Abubakr,
If it wasn't for God, I would have been savagely killed by hyenas.
God honoured me,
Hence goodness is found only from Him.
Your will find heretical and I'm not heretical like them."
Bilal went to Damascus (Syria) and lived there for a while, between 18 to 21Hejira. During the reign of Caliph Umar, Bilal died of a plague. His blessed body was buried in Damascus at a graveyard in Syria, which is a place of pilgrimage of faithful Muslims till today." 23
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