If there were people born in Paradise, reared and brought to maturity there, and then brought to earth to adorn and enlighten it, then `Ammar, his mother Sumayyah and his father Yasir would be of them!
But why do we say “if” and why do we make that condition when Yasir’s family were really of Paradise?
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was not merely pacifying them when he said, “Patience, O Yasir’s family. Verily, your meeting place will be in Paradise.” He was declaring a fact which he knew and reiterating an actuality perceived by him.
Under Quraish’s Torture
`Ammar’s father, Yasir lbn `Aamir, left his native place in Yemen seeking a brother of his. In Makkah he found an appealing place, so he settled there and was in alliance with Abu Hudhaifah ibn Al-Mughirah, who married him to one of his slave women, Sumayiyah Bint Khayyat.
Out of this blessed marriage Allah granted the parents a son, Ammar. Their embracing of Islam was early, like that of the righteous ones guided by Allah. And like the early righteous Muslims as well, they had their good share of the Quraish’s persecution and terror.
The Quraish used to waylay the believers to attack them. If the believers were among the honorable and noble people in their community, the Quraish would pursue them with threats and menace. Abu Jahl would meet one of the believers and tell him, “You abandoned your forefathers’ religion and they were better than you. We will spoil your character, degrade your honor, reduce your trade, and exhaust your money.”
They would then launch a heated war of nerves upon him.
If the believers were among the weak, poor, or slaves of Makkah, then the Quraish would burn them with the fire of persecution.
Yasir’s family belonged to that class. The order for their persecution was handed to Bani Makhzum. They used to take them all – Yasir, SumayyahSumayyah and `Ammar – to the burning desert of Makkah, where they would pour upon them different kinds of the hell of torture.
Sumayyah’s share of that torment was colossal and terrible. We shall not elaborate about her now, since we shall have – Allah willing – another encounter with her and her likes during those immortal days to talk about the grace of sacrifice and the glory of her firmness.
Suffice it to mention now, without any exaggeration, that Sumayyah, the martyred one, maintained a firm stance that day which gives the whole of humanity an everlasting honor and an ever glorious dignity. Her stance made of her a great mother to believers in all ages, and to the honorable people of all times.
Real Test of Belief
It was a way of life for the whole humanity of believers who had to inherit along with the religion all its history of heroism, sacrifices, and risks. These abundant noble sacrifices are the cement and the foundation that grant an everlasting firmness and immortality to the faith and the creed. It is the fragrance that fills the hearts of believers with loyalty, joy, and happiness. It is the lighthouse that guides the coming generations to the reality of religion, to its truth and greatness.
Therefore, Islam had to make its sacrifices and have its victims, the meaning of which is illustrated and illuminated in more than one verse of the Qur’an for the Muslims. Allah says:
Do the people think that they will be left to say: “We believe”, and they shall not be tried? (Al-`Ankabut 29:2)
Do you think that you will enter Paradise before Allah tests those of you who fought (in His Cause) and (also) tests those who remained patient? (Aal `Imran 3:142)
And we indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test). (Al-`Ankabut 29:3)
Do you think you shall be left alone while Allah has not yet tested those among you who have striven hard… (At-Tawbah 9:16)
Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which you are now, until He distinguishes the wicked from the good. (Aal `Imran 3: 179)
And what you suffered (of the disaster) on the day (of the Battle of Uhud when) the two armies met, was by the leave of Allah, in order that He might test the believers. (Aal `Imran 3:166)
Models of Islam
That is true. This was the way the Qur’an taught its bearers and descendants that sacrifice is the essence of faith and that resistance of unjust, oppressive challenges is through firmness, patience, and persistence, which form the best and the most superb virtues of faith.
Therefore, this religion of Allah, when it was laying down its foundation, establishing its principles, and giving its models and examples, had to support and purify itself with sacrifice. In carrying out this great mission, a number of its disciples, supporters, and righteous people were chosen to be lofty models and elevated examples for the coming believers.
Sumayyah, Yasir and `Ammar were of this great and blessed group, chosen by Islam’s destiny to make of their sacrifices, firmness, and persistence a document of Islam’s greatness and immortality.
Allah’s Messenger used to go out every day to Yasir’s family, commending their fortitude and heroism. His big heart was melting out of mercy and kindness to see them so severely tortured. One day while he was looking for them, `Ammar called to him, “O Messenger of Allah, we are suffering from extreme torment.” The Messenger called to him saying, “Patience, Abu Yaqdhan, patience O Yasir’s family. Verily, your meeting place will be in Paradise.”
`Ammar’s companions described the torture that was inflicted upon him in many of their reports. `Amr lbn Al-jiakam, for instance, said, “`Ammar used to be tortured so much that he would not be aware of what he was saying.” `Amr lbn Maimun said, “The polytheists scorched `Ammar lbn Yasir with fire, and Allah’s Messenger used to pass by him, pass his hand over Yaasir’s head and say,. “O fire, be cool and peaceful on `Ammar, as you were cool and peaceful on Ibrahim.”
Despite that overwhelming terror, it did not vanquish `Ammar’s spirit, though it overburdened his back and strained his strength.
`Ammar did not feel utterly ruined except on that day when his executioners employed all their devilry in crime and injustice. They burned his skin with fire, laid him on the heated sands of the desert under the burning stones, ducked him in water until he could hardly breathe and until his wounds and gashes were skinned.
`Ammar .. Pure Steadfastness
On that day, when he fell unconscious under the effect of that horror, they said to him, “Say something good about our gods.” They kept saying things which he repeated without being conscious of what he was saying.
When he became slightly conscious after he had fainted due to their torture, he remembered what he had said and was mad about it. This slip became so concrete to him that he saw it as an unforgivable sin which could not be atoned for. In a few moments his feeling of guilt made him suffer so much that the torture of the polytheists seemed to him a blessing and a balm.
If he had been left to such feelings for a few hours, they would have destroyed him. He was enduring the dreadful anguish of the body because his spirit was lofty, but now when he thought defeat had reached his spirit, he was overburdened with worries and fear of death and destruction. But Allah willed that the final, exciting scene would come to its dignified end. An angel stretched out its blessed right hand, shook the hand of `Ammar and called to him, “Get up, O hero! There is no blame or embarrassment for you.”
When Allah’s Messenger met him, he found him crying. He kept wiping his tears and telling Ammar, “The polytheists took you, ducked your head in water, and you said such and such a thing?”
`Ammar answered him, still crying, “Ye, O Messenger of Allah.” Allah’s Messenger said then while smiling, “If they repeat it, say the same thing.” Then he recited: “. . . except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with Faith.” (An-Nahl 16:106)
Ammar’s tranquility was restored, he no longer felt pain when they punished him, and he no longer cared about it. His spirit conquered and his faith conquered. The Qur’an had included this blessed transaction, so whatever happened, happened.
`Ammar remained steadfast until his tormenters were exhausted and they retreated, yielding to his determination.
The article is excerpted from the book Men Around the Messenger, which is a translation based on Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s celebrated work in Arabic “Rijal Hawla Ar-Rasul” which represents the real inspirational stories of sixty-four Companions of the Prophet.
Khalid Muhammad Khalid (1920-1996) is a modern Egyptian Muslim thinker. He is most known for his book Rijal Hawla al-Rasul (Men Around the Messenger). He wrote many books about the life and the companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him.