It was the end of summer and the heat was intense. The inhabitants of Madinah were overwhelmed with drought and inflation. The high cost of living made the inhabitants of Madinah restless. When the season for the date harvest arrived, people began to relax a little. On hearing the alarming news of the threat of the Romans from the north-east against the Muslims, the Holy Prophet (S) issued an order for the army to mobilize.
The people, having passed through a period of famine, were longing to enjoy the fresh dates. So, it was not easy for them to give up the fruits after the drought and give up the shade for the oppressive heat, and take the long path from Madinah to Syria. The condition was entirely favourable for conspiracy and sabotage by traitors.
However, neither the heat, nor the consequence of drought, nor the sabotage of traitors was able to hinder the mobilization of the army, composed of thirty thousand soldiers, to confront the anticipated attack by the Romans.
They made their way towards the desert, with the sun beating down on their heads. They had neither sufficient provisions nor an adequate cavalry. The dangers of the lack of food, supplies and the severity of heat was no less than that of the enemy.
Certain people of weak faith had a change of heart on the way. A man named Ka’b ibn Malik suddenly turned back and returned towards Madinah.
The Holy Prophet (S) was informed of this by his companions, “O Messenger of Allah! Ka’b ibn Malik is turning back!”
“Let him go”, said the Prophet (S). “If there is any good in him, Allah shall soon return him to you, and if not, you will be rid of his evil!”
It was not long before the companions again reported, “O Messenger of Allah! Mirrarat ibn Rabi is going back too!”
The Holy Prophet (S) said, “Let him go. If there is any good in him, Allah shall turn him back towards us, and if not, you will be rid of his evil!”
Again, it was not long before the companions said, “O Messenger of Allah! Hillal ibn Umayh is going back too!”
The Holy Prophet (S) repeated the same words about him that he (S) had done for the other two.
In the meantime, Abu Dharr’s camel that had been accompanying the caravan stopped. Despite his best efforts, he was not able to rejoin the caravan. The companions noticed that Abu Dharr was lagging behind and the Holy Prophet (S) was informed about him too, “O Messenger of Allah! Abu Dharr is also returning.”
The Holy Prophet (S) replied very calmly, “Leave him be. If there is any good in him, Allah will rejoin him with you; otherwise, you will be rid of his evil!”
Abu Dharr did his utmost to move his camel in order to rejoin the caravan, but was unable to do so. He dismounted from the camel, carried his luggage on his shoulders and trudged forward. He was harshly struck with the sun’s heat, panting from thirst, but he chose to forget about himself and had only one aim in mind, to reach the Holy Prophet (S) and rejoin the companions.
As he went forward, he saw a cloud in the sky which hinted at rain. He changed direction and swerved towards a rock which stored a little rain water. Abu Dharr tasted a little bit of water, but abstained from drinking all, for he thought it would be better to take the water with him and give it to the Holy Prophet (S).
Perhaps the Prophet (S) might be thirsty and have nothing to drink. Pouring the water in a sac he had with him, he carried it on his shoulder with his own belongings and began walking on the rough earth, with parched lips, until he saw from afar the rest of the Muslim army. His heart started beating with joy and he sped up towards the army.
On the other hand, when the Muslims saw somebody approaching, they said, “O Messenger of Allah! It seems that someone is approaching.”
The Prophet (S) said, “I hope it is Abu Dharr.” As he came nearer, a man shouted, “By Allah! It is him! It is Abu Dharr!”
The Holy Prophet (S), “May Allah bless Abu Dharr who will live alone, and will die alone and will be resurrected alone.”
Then the Holy Prophet (S) welcomed Abu Dharr, took the load off his shoulders and put them on the ground. Dying of thirst, Abu Dharr fell to the ground, exhausted.
The Holy Prophet (S) asked, “May someone bring water for Abu Dharr? He is very thirsty.”
Abu Dharr said, “I have water with me.”
“You had water with you and you did not drink it?”
“Yes, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you, I passed by a rock in which I saw fresh water. As I began to taste a little of it, I thought, “I should not drink it until my beloved, the Messenger of Allah (S), drinks it first.”1
- 1. Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari, written by Abdul Hamid 'Joudat ul-sahar' translated by Ali Shariati.