A Cold Windy Night
It was a cold windy night. The companions of the prophet ﷺ were gathered all in one location as the confederates ten thousand strong laid sieged on the city of Madinah. The children and women were locked away in a safe fortress as the battle of the trench reached its climax. The freezing winter months brought about shivers and the pitch blackness made it impossible for anyone to see their hands in front of them. The fate of Islam and the message would be decided in the coming hours as the Muslims waited for the help of Allah swt. It was late at night and the companions prayed with the prophet ﷺ. After finishing the prayer with the winds gusting outside, the prophet ﷺ asked: “Who will volunteer to go to the enemy and return and inform us of an update, and I will make dua he shall be my companion in paradise?” Not a single soul of the noble companions volunteered or stood up. Despite their high ranks, impeccable camaraderie and strong piety, the companions were also human at the end of the day and in certain instances reacted in natural ways.
The prophet ﷺ prayed another two rak’as, turned around and asked the same question. Again, due to the extreme hunger, cold and fear, not a single person from the companions volunteered. Then the prophet ﷺ got up and began to walk amid the Sahaba as they sat and laid down in the room covering themselves to stay warm and hoping to avoid eye contact with the prophet ﷺ as to not be selected for the daunting mission at hand. The prophet ﷺ then stood over Huthayfa and asked, “Who is this?” It was hard to recognize anyone due to the darkness of the night and also the fact everyone was covered and trying to stay warm. Huthayfa? The prophet ﷺ questioned as Huthayfa attached himself to the floor almost practically unable to get up. “Yes, O Messenger of Allah”, replied Huthayfa. The prophet ﷺ proceeded to instruct him to cross over the dug-up trench and infiltrate the camp of Abu Sufyaan to provide updated news on the next moves of the confederates.
Huthayfa got ready and began to embark on the mission in obedience to the command of the prophet ﷺ. The prophet ﷺ made dua for him and said, “اللهم احفظه من بين يديه ومن خلفه وعن يمينه وعن شماله ومن فوقه ومن تحته – O Lord, protect him from in front and from behind, from his right and from his left, from above and from below.” As soon as the prophet ﷺ made this dua for Huthayfa, all of the fear and shivers left his heart and body, and he made his way into the pitch-dark night.
What happened next? Welcome to the story of Huthayfa ibn Al Yamaan, the keeper of the secrets of the prophet saw, the narrator of the Ahaadith of Al-Fitan (trials to come) and the governor of the capital of the ancient Sassanid Empire, Al-Madaa’in/Ctesiphon after its famous conquest.
Husail, the Father of Huthayfa
Huthayfa was the son of Husail, more commonly known as Al-Yamaan. The nickname Al-Yamaan stems from an interesting story that occurred before the coming of Islam. Husail was born into the tribe of Ghadafaan and as a young man, he was involved in a dispute amongst his people that provoked him to commit murder. Instead of facing the consequence of his action, he fled to Makkah in hopes of being protected under its sanctity. Husail went on to marry one of the ladies of Madinah from the tribe of Aws. He established a house in Madinah but also had property in Makkah and was constantly travelling between the two abodes.
Due to his strong affiliation with the Ansar and his connection to the Aws from his mother’s side, many people assume Huthayfa was born in Madinah, but he was actually born in Makkah. The name Yamaan was given to Husail by his tribe and the people he fled from. The Aws were originally from Yemen and once Husail’s tribe heard he married into the Aws they referred to him as “Al-Yamaani” to show their dissociation from him. Husail converted to Islam before the migration of the prophet ﷺ to Madinah and participated in the treaty of Al-Aqabah. It is evident from the Seerah that Husail was not present in Makkah during the persecution years. Where exactly his whereabouts were are not known, but there is an incident that took place before the Battle of Badr which has been collected.
During the second year after the Hijrah close to the Battle of Badr, Husail and his son Huthayfa were on their way to join the Muslims in Madinah when they were stopped by a few members of the pagan Quraish. They inquired about their journey and Husail responded that he was headed back home to his house in Yathrib. Their Islam was secret so the Quraish were not aware that they were joining the Muslims. Nonetheless, the Quraish let them go without hurting them under the condition they do not join prophet Muhammed ﷺ in any upcoming offensive battles. Husail and Huthayfa who was young a boy at the time were forced to give an oath confirming they would follow the conditions in exchange for their freedom and lives.
When they arrived in Madinah the battle of Badr was about to commence in the coming days, and the 313 men who were meant to attack the targeted caravan were being gathered. Hoping to join the Muslims, Husail approached the prophet ﷺ and informed him about the oath they took when the Quraish captured them. He inquired whether or not he and his son should uphold this oath. The prophet ﷺ informed him to fulfill the oath and that the Muslims would receive aid from other avenues. This highlighted the importance of keeping one’s oath as a Muslim even in delicate situations. Moreover, due to the circumstances Huthayfa was placed in growing up, he was not sure if he was from among the Muhajiroon or Ansar, so he decided to ask the Prophet saw. The prophet ﷺ related to him that if he wished he could consider himself from among the Muhajiroon and if he preferred, he could consider himself from the Ansar hence highlighting that he was from both. This was a blessing that was granted to Huthayfa since each group carries its own specific virtues.
Two years after Badr, the Muslims prepared for the battle of Uhud which would be a defensive battle. Therefore, Husail and Huthayfa were allowed to participate since the oath they gave before only stipulated an offensive battle. However, because of his old age and frail body, Husail initially stayed behind along with another old sahaabi by the name of Thaabit ibn Waqsh. They did not join the army and rightfully stayed with the women and children as they were excused. While the battle was intensifying, Husail and Thabit began to reminisce and talk about their lives. They regretted the decision of staying back and reminded each other that they had nothing to lose. The chance of dying as a martyr instead of succumbing to old age was enough to motivate them to grab their armour and weapons and head out to join the Muslims. When they got to the battleground, the tables of the battle were turning, and Khalid ibn Walid was resurfacing with his contingent in the famous surprise attack.
Thabit was killed immediately by one of the pagans and achieved the martyrdom he yearned for. Husail joined the battle from the wrong side and Imam Dahabi mentioned that he was wearing a face covering so it was difficult to tell which army he was with. A few members of the Muslim army ambushed Husail and began to attack him. He was very frail and could not defend himself. In the wake of the clashing swords and rising dust, Huthayfa recognized his father from the distance as any son would and began to yell at the Muslims to stop their assault on his father. Unfortunately, they were not able to hear him and Husail was slain at the hands of members of the Muslim Army. One can only imagine the amount of pain this caused Huthayfa. Upon hearing the news after the battle was over, the prophet ﷺ immediately commanded the Muslim treasury to pay the Diya (Financial compensation/Blood Money) to Huthayfa. Huthayfa redistributed the 100 camels that were given to him as recompense for accidental manslaughter to the needy people of Madinah. He also forgave his Muslim brothers that killed his father by quoting the verse from Surah Yusuf:
لا تثريب عليكم اليوم يغفر الله لكم وهو أرحم الراحمين
“ .. No blame will there be upon you today. Allah will forgive you; and He is the most merciful of the merciful.” (Verse 92)
The reaction of Huthayfa to his father’s death and how he conducted himself elevated his ranks and made him more beloved to the prophet saw. Moving forward, we explained in other posts that many of the Sahaaba had something unique to them whether it was in their dealing with the prophet ﷺ or in a virtue they were blessed with. Huthayfa ibn Al Yamaan was known for being the keeper of the secrets of the prophet saw. The prophet ﷺ shared the names of the Munifiqoon (Hypocrites) with Huthayfa. In our religion, we are commanded to treat people based on their outer actions that are apparent and not what lay in their hearts as that is for Allah swt to judge. So, what was the wisdom of sharing the names of the hypocrites with Huthayfa? We need to understand that after the battle of Badr hypocrisy in Madinah became rampant. The damage a hypocrite could potentially do to sabotage the Muslims as Islam began to grow and expand after the hijrah would be far more destructive than the harm a hypocrite can carry out today in our midst. Therefore, having one extra layer of protection in Huthayfa would serve to be important as we will come to see.
Umar ibn Al Khattab and Huthayfa ibn Al-Yamaan
During his caliphate rule, Umar ibn Al-Khataab used to monitor Huthayfa when a funereal was announced in Madinah. If Huthayfa showed up to partake in the funereal prayer, then Umar would also show up and lead the Muslims in the funereal prayer. However, if Huthayfa was nowhere to be seen then Umar would abandon the funereal prayer in the assumption that Huthayfa did not show up because the deceased person was a hypocrite. Umar did this because Allah swt commanded the prophet ﷺ to not pray over the hypocrites in Surah Tawbah, and the only person who knew who they were after the prophet ﷺ passed away was none other than his keeper of secrets, Huthayfa.
ولا تصل على أحد منهم مات أبدا ولا تقم على قبره إنهم كفروا بالله ورسوله وماتوا وهم فاسقون
“And do not pray [the funeral prayer, O Muhammad], over any of them who has died – ever – or stand at his grave. Indeed, they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger and died while they were defiantly disobedient.”
Umar ibn Al-Khataab also asked Huthayfa during one instance if the prophet ﷺ mentioned his name as one of the hypocrites. The leader of the Muslims and one of the ten who was promised Jannah was still worried about his intentions, deeds and how he would stand Infront of Allah swt. How worried or cautious are we of our actions and intentions? Some may claim that this question was a theological contradiction on the part of Umar due to him already being promised paradise and still inquiring whether or not he was on the list of hypocrites. However, we firmly believe that a part of Iman is to fear Allah swt and also fear falling into disbelief or hypocrisy. Iman indicates to us that there is going to be a constant grapple between fear and hope so not only was the inquiry of Umar justified but it also showed his high level of faith. One of the characteristics of the believer is that they never feel safe from the punishment of Allah swt as indicated in the Holy Quran:
والذين هم من عذاب ربهم مشفقون
إن عذاب ربهم غير مأمون
And those who are fearful of the punishment of their Lord
Indeed, the punishment of their Lord is not that from which one is safe
Huthayfa replied to Umar’s question in the negative and said that he would not answer that question for anyone after him. Negation does not correlate with concrete information and Huthayfa did not reveal any names so therefore he did not disclose the secrets he was entrusted with. Umar came to Huthayfa a second time and this time asked, “Are there any hypocrites that I have appointed in my government?” Huthayfa replied in the affirmative but did not indicate who the person was. A few weeks later Umar dismissed one person and returned to Huthayfa asking the same question. This time Huthayfa replied in the negative. Having these encounters with the leader of the Muslims served to be of benefit and Huthayfa found a maslaha or wisdom in it that proved to be of benefit for the Muslims at large.
Huthayfa the Warrior and Leader
Huthayfa participated in most of the battles after Uhud and played a vital role in the conquest of Syria and parts of Iran. He was also very pivotal in the fight against the Sassanids (Persians) as the Muslims went on to become victorious in Qadisiya. Nu’man ibn Muqrin was leading the Muslims as they expanded up northeast into Sassanid territory engaging in various battles. Nu’man sent an urgent letter to Umar ibn Al-Khataab in Madinah asking for a swift reinforcement contingent. Huthayfa was sent with his troops and they joined the march with the Muslims. Umar also sent a letter back to Nu’man informing him that each leader is in charge of their own contingent and he was to be the overarching leader of all of them. However, if he passed away then Huthayfa would lead the Muslim army which was around 30,000 strong. Nu’man ended up falling in battle and Huthayfa took charge. He commanded the Muslims not to broadcast the death of Nu’man in an effort to protect their hearts from demoralization. The Muslims went on to defeat the Sassanid empire and Huthayfa was appointed the Governor of Ctesiphon.
There is a famous story about Huthayfa’s entrance into Al-Madaa’in (Ctesiphon). He was a tall man, so he came into the city riding his donkey while his feet were nearly dragging on the ground. When the people heard of his arrival, they gathered in crowds to greet the noble and righteous companion they heard so many stories about. His efforts in the conquest of the Sassanid Empire were the talk of the town and he was already a hero. Upon laying eyes on Huthayfa the people became staggered to see a man with such tattered garments eating a dry loaf of bread. The people knew that the governor of the city has the privilege to be paid taxes from a portion of the people’s wealth. They asked Huthayfa how much he wanted from them and he replied by saying, “All I want from you is enough food for me to eat and dried grass for my donkey”. He left the people in the crowd with valuable pieces of advice and went about his day.
Huthayfa remained the governor of the city of Ctesiphon until his death in the 36th year after Hijra. He passed away in the first few days of the caliphate rule of Ali ibn Abi Talib. While on his death bed he asked if two white garments could be purchased because he did not have anything to be coffined with. A few Muslims went and purchased the most expensive garments they could find which amounted to 3,000 dirhams. When he saw this, Huthayfa asked if they could go back and exchange it for the cheapest garments they could find. He remarked that he would be wearing them for a short period of time and after the garments vanished, he would be given the best clothes to wear or the worst. It is said that on his death bed Huthayfa cried. He said, “I am not crying because I fear death, rather, I welcome it but the reason I cry is that I do not know whether my Lord is happy with me or not. I do not know my status in the eyes of Allah swt.” He was buried in the city of Madaa’in and his grave was marked and known throughout history. May Allah swt have mercy on his soul and unite us with him in the gatherings of paradise.
Alright, so what happened on that dark, windy and cold night?
Huthayfa set out after the prophet ﷺ made dua for him. He was told to infiltrate the enemy came and bring news. The prophet ﷺ also gave him clear instructions to not act against the enemies while being in their midst. Huthayfa crossed over the trench and went deep into enemy territory so much so that he blended in with them. It was at that point that Abu Sufyaan got up as the winds gusted. Before beginning his announcement, he told everyone in the gathering to make sure they knew who was sitting next to them to avoid any spies in the camp who could potentially take the news back to the prophet ﷺ and the Muslims. Upon hearing this Huthayfa had to act quickly or else he would get exposed. He instantly clutched the guy to his right and with dominance asked, “Who are you?”. By acting in such a manner Huthayfa was able to avoid being asked who he was and asserted himself within the circle.
Abu Sufyan began to speak and broke the bad news to the Quraysh. He complained about the unbearable winds and sandstorms. He went on to proclaim that the weather was too cold, and they were not able to maintain their tents or fires outside the trench. Additionally, the impression that the Banu Quraytha betrayed them demoralized the confederates and their horses and camels began to become weak. Abu Sufyaan stated he would be leaving and instructed everyone to pack their stuff and head out as well. Huthayfa was soaking all the information in as he sat in the circle. When Abu Sufyan got up to get on his camel, Huthayfa was at point-blank range and had a clear attempt to assassinate Abu Sufyaan. However, he remembered that the prophet ﷺ told him to not act out against them and to only bring back news, so he refrained from drawing his bow and arrow. The Confederates were on their way back to their homes and the Muslims would be able to finally lay their guard down after nearly a month-long siege.
يا أيها الذين آمنوا اذكروا نعمة الله عليكم إذ جاءتكم جنود فأرسلنا عليهم ريحا وجنودا لم تروها وكان الله بما تعملون بصيرا
“O you who have believed, remember the favour of Allah upon you when armies came to [attack] you and We sent upon them a wind and armies [of angels] you did not see. And ever is Allah, of what you do, Seeing.”
Upon returning to the Muslim camp, Huthayfa walked in on the prophet ﷺ praying with a large blanket on top of him. Whenever the prophet ﷺ felt unsettled or worried, he would turn to Allah swt and pray. As soon as he recognized Huthayfa was near him he drew him close and put the blanket over him to give him warmth after accomplishing such a dangerous mission. The Muslims were victorious, and the battle of the trench had officially come to an end with the news Huthayfa brought back. There was a tabi’i who came to Huthayfa while he was in the city of Kuufa years after the prophet ﷺ passed away. The man asked, “How was your treatment of the prophet saw?” Huthayfa replied, “We tried our best to help our prophet saw.” The man then said, “Wallahi if I had been able to meet the prophet ﷺ I would not have allowed him to walk on the ground and I would have carried him on my back.” He meant that the Sahaba fell short and that he could have done much better! Huthayfa then began to narrate the story above about his mission during the battle of the trench to put the man back in place. What the Sahaba went through to ensure that the message of Islam went forward will never be matched. May Allah swt be pleased with all of them!
- Huthayfa narrated around 200 Ahadeeth. He was in the middle of the batch in terms of the number of Ahadeeth narrated. He did not narrate more than a thousand and neither did he narrate less than 50-100. He narrated a fair amount of Ahadeeth.
- Huthayfa is famous for narrating the Ahadeeth of Fitan (trails to come). The people always asked the prophet ﷺ about good, but he used to ask him about evil for fear that it would overtake him.
- Huthayfa always encouraged people to fight against evil and injustice with their hands, tongues and hearts. Enjoining good and forbidding evil is something he held in high regard!
- There is nothing that Huthayfa hated more than hypocrisy and he was very sharp and direct when dealing with this evil trait and the people who embodied it.
- Huthayfa is the one who founded the land in which the famous city of Kuufa was built.
- In 1933 the river Euphrates was working its way towards where the grave of Huthayfa was and there was a fear that his grave would be engulfed by the river. The king of Iraq at the time who was Ghazi ibn Faisal ibn Husain (The Grand Shareef of Makkah and last Shareef of the Husain’s) gave a royal decree to move the grave of Huthayfa ibn Al Yamaan so that it would avoid being eroded. The king who was a shareef along with various Mufti’s and Ulema dug up the grave and moved the coffin.
- Huthayfa was moved next to the grave of Salmaan Al-Faarisi who is also buried in Al-Madaa’in (Ctesiphon)
- Huthayfa was instrumental to the second compilation of the Quran during the time of Uthmaan ibn Affaan. I briefly mentioned the story in the post about Zayd ibn Thabit. Please refer back to it! And check out Sahih al-Bukhari 4987 (Book: Virtues of the Quran Chapter: The Collection of the Quran)
A Scary Hadith Narrated by Huthayfa ibn Al-Yamaan:
حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ مُوسَى، حَدَّثَنَا الْوَلِيدُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي ابْنُ جَابِرٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي بُسْرُ بْنُ عُبَيْدِ اللَّهِ الْحَضْرَمِيُّ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو إِدْرِيسَ الْخَوْلاَنِيُّ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ حُذَيْفَةَ بْنَ الْيَمَانِ، يَقُولُ كَانَ النَّاسُ يَسْأَلُونَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنِ الْخَيْرِ، وَكُنْتُ أَسْأَلُهُ عَنِ الشَّرِّ مَخَافَةَ أَنْ يُدْرِكَنِي. فَقُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّا كُنَّا فِي جَاهِلِيَّةٍ وَشَرٍّ، فَجَاءَنَا اللَّهُ بِهَذَا الْخَيْرِ، فَهَلْ بَعْدَ هَذَا الْخَيْرِ مِنْ شَرٍّ قَالَ ” نَعَمْ ”. قُلْتُ وَهَلْ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ الشَّرِّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ قَالَ ” نَعَمْ، وَفِيهِ دَخَنٌ ”. قُلْتُ وَمَا دَخَنُهُ قَالَ ” قَوْمٌ يَهْدُونَ بِغَيْرِ هَدْيِي تَعْرِفُ مِنْهُمْ وَتُنْكِرُ ”. قُلْتُ فَهَلْ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ الْخَيْرِ مِنْ شَرٍّ قَالَ ” نَعَمْ دُعَاةٌ إِلَى أَبْوَابِ جَهَنَّمَ، مَنْ أَجَابَهُمْ إِلَيْهَا قَذَفُوهُ فِيهَا ”. قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صِفْهُمْ لَنَا فَقَالَ ” هُمْ مِنْ جِلْدَتِنَا، وَيَتَكَلَّمُونَ بِأَلْسِنَتِنَا ” قُلْتُ فَمَا تَأْمُرُنِي إِنْ أَدْرَكَنِي ذَلِكَ قَالَ ” تَلْزَمُ جَمَاعَةَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَإِمَامَهُمْ ”. قُلْتُ فَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُمْ جَمَاعَةٌ وَلاَ إِمَامٌ قَالَ ” فَاعْتَزِلْ تِلْكَ الْفِرَقَ كُلَّهَا، وَلَوْ أَنْ تَعَضَّ بِأَصْلِ شَجَرَةٍ حَتَّى يُدْرِكَكَ الْمَوْتُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَى ذَلِكَ ”.
Narrated Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman:
The people used to ask Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) about good, but I used to ask him about evil for fear that it might overtake me. Once I said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! We were in ignorance and in evil and Allah has bestowed upon us the present good; will there be any evil after this good?” He said, “Yes.” I asked, “Will there be good after that evil?” He said, “Yes, but it would be tainted with Dakhan (i.e. Little evil).” I asked, “What will its Dakhan be?” He said, “There will be some people who will lead (people) according to principles other than my tradition. You will see their actions and disapprove of them.” I said, “Will there be any evil after that good?” He said, “Yes, there will be some people who will invite others to the doors of Hell, and whoever accepts their invitation to it will be thrown in it (by them).” I said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Describe those people to us.” He said, “They will belong to us and speak our language,” I asked, “What do you order me to do if such a thing should take place in my life?” He said, “Adhere to the group of Muslims and their Chief.” I asked, “If there is neither a group (of Muslims) nor a chief (what shall I do)?” He said, “Keep away from all those different sects, even if you had to bite (i.e. eat) the root of a tree, till you meet Allah while you are still in that state.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 3606