Hadhrat Ka'ab's (Radhiyallaho anho) Failure to
Join the Tabuk Expedition
Among the Munafiqin who did not join the Tabuk expedition, there
were more than eighty persons from among the Ansar and an equal
number from amongst the nomadic Arabs and a large number from the
out-stations. Not only did they stay behind themselves, but they
induced others to do so saying:
"Go not forth in the heat."
Allah's reply to this :
"Say the fire of Hell is of more intense heat."
From amongst the faithful, there were only three persons who failed
to rally to the Prophet's call. They were Mura-rah bin Rabi, Hilal
bin Umayyah and Ka'ab bin Malik (Radhiyallaho anhum). Murarah had
orchards of dates, laden with fruit. He persuaded himself to lag
behind with the plea:
"I have taken part in all the campaigns so far. What possible
harm would befall the Muslims, if I miss this one?"
He feared the loss of his entire crop in his absence, and this
prevented him from going out. But when he realised his folly, he
gave away in charity the whole crop and garden, too, that had caused
him to tarry behind the Prophet (Sal-lallaho alaihe wasallam). Hilal's
case was different. Some of his kinsfolk who had been away for a
long time had just returned to Madinah. It was for the sake of their
company that he did not join the expedition. He also had participated
in all the campaigns previously and thought (like Murarah) that
it would not matter much if he missed just that one campaign. When
he came to know of the seriousness of his default, he made up his
mind to sever all his connections with those relatives who had been
the cause of that blunder. Ka'ab himself gives his account in detail,
which is quoted in all books of Hadith. He says:
"I had never been financially so well off as I was at
the time of Tabuk. I had two dromedaries of my own. I had never
possessed this number before. It was a habit with the Prophet
(Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) that he never disclosed the destination
of his expeditions, but he would keep enquiring about the conditions
But this time in view of the distance, the hot season, and
the strength of the enemy, he had declared his destination,
so that preparations could be made thorough and complete. The
number of the participants was so large that it was difficult
to note down their names even, so much so, that absentees could
hardly be detected in the large host. The gardens of Madinah
were full of fruit. I intended every morning to make preparation
for the journey but, somehow or other, the days passed by and
I made no progress. I was satisfied that I had all the necessary
means at my disposal and that I would be ready in no time if
I once did decide to do so.
I was still in this state of indecision when I learnt that
the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) had left with his companions.
The idea still lingered in my mind that I would take a day or
two to get ready and overtake the party. This procrastination
continued till the time for the Prophet's arrival in Tabuk drew
very near. I then tried to get ready but again, somehow or other,
I did not do so. Now, when I came to look at the people left
behind, I realised that there was none in Madinah except those
who had been condemned as Munafiqin or had been specially exempted
from going for certain reasons.
The Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) on reaching Tabuk
inquired as well, 'How is it that I do not see Ka'ab?' Somebody
said, '0, Prophet of Allah: His pride in wealth and ease has
caused him to stay behind.' Ma'az interrupted and said, No,
this is wrong. As far as our knowledge goes, he is a true Muslim.'
The Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) however, kept quiet."
Ka'ab (Radhiyallaho anho) says:
"After a few days I heard the news of the Prophet's return.
I was struck with grief and remorse. Good excuses one after the
other entered my mind, and I was sure that I could escape the
Prophet's wrath with one of them for the time being, and later
on I could pray for forgiveness to Allah. I also sought advice
of the wise men of my family in the matter.
But when I knew that the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam)
had actually arrived, I was convinced that nothing but the truth
would save me; so I decided to speak out the plain truth.
It was a habit with the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam)
that whenever he returned from a journey he would repair to the
musjid, first of all, say two rakaat 'Tahiyyatui musjid' and then
stay there for a while to meet visitors. Now also, as he sat in
the musjid, the Munafiqin came and placed before him on solemn
oaths, their excuses for failing to accompany him on the campaign.
He took them at their words, leaving the rest to Allah. Just then
I came and greeted him with 'salaam'.
He turned his face with a sardonic smile. I besought him with
the words: '0, Prophet of Allah! You turn your face from me. By
Allah! I am neither a Munafiq, nor have I the least doubt in my
faith.' He asked me to draw near and I did so.
He then said to me: 'What prevented you from going out? Had you
not purchased the dromedaries? I made a reply: '0, Prophet of
Allah: If I were dealing with a worldly man, I am sure I would
escape his displeasure through (seemingly) reasonable excuses,
for Allah has endowed me with the gift of the gab. But in your
case I am sure that if I appease you with a false statement, Allah
would be displeased with me. And, on the other hand, I am sure
that if I displease you by confessing the simple truth, then Allah
would very soon blow away your displeasure. I, therefore, make
bold to speak the very truth. By Allah, I had no excuse at all.
I had never been so well to do as I was at that time.' The Prophet
(Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) remarked: 'He is speaking the truth.'
He then said to me: 'You go away, Allah will decide about you.
When I left the musjid, many a man of my clan blamed me and admonished
me thus; 'Never before you had committed any wrong; if after making
some good excuse for once, you had requested the Prophet (Sallallaho
alaihe wasallam) to pray for your goodness, surely his prayer
would have sufficed you.* I inquired of them if there were any
more people like me. They informed me that there were two other
persons viz. Hilal bin Umayyah and Murarah bin Rabi, who also
had admitted their faults like me and received the same reply
from the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam).
I knew that both of them were very good Muslims and had participated
in the campaign of Badr. The Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam]
issued instructions that none was to speak with the three of us.'
It is a common principle that displeasure is shown where some attachment
exists, and a reprimand is given
when there is hope for correction. A reprimand to an incorrigible
person would be a futile effort.
Ka'ab (Radhiyallaho anho) continues:
"Under the instructions of the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe
wasallam), the Sahabah completely boycotted us. Nobody was prepared
to mix with or even speak to us. It seemed as if I was living
in a strange land altogether. My own birth-place looked like
a foreign locality and my bosom friends behaved like strangers.
'The earth, vast as it is, was straightened' (Al-Qur’an
IX: 113] for me. The thing that worried me most was that, if
I died in this condition, the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam)
would not lead my funeral prayer, and if the Prophet (Sallallaho
alaihe wasallam) died in the meantime, I would be doomed for
ever, with none to talk to me and with none to pray at my funeral.
The other two companions of mine confined themselves to their
I was the most daring of the three; I would go to the market,
and join the Jamaat for Salaat, but nobody would talk to me. I
would approach the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) and say
'Assa-lamo alaikum' and would watch eagerly to see if his lips
moved in reply. After Fardh, I used to complete the Salaat by
standing close to him, and I would look at him from the corner
of my eye to learn if he ever cast a single glance at me. I noticed
that when I was engaged in Salaat he did glance at me, but when
I was out of it, he would avert his face from me."
Ka'ab (Radhiyallaho anho) continues:
"When this complete social boycott became too hard for me
to bear, I, one day, climbed up the wall of Qata-dah, my dear
cousin, and,greeted him with 'Assalamo-alaikum'. He did not return
my greetings. I said to him, 'For Allah's sake, do answer me one
Do not you know that I love Allah and His Prophet (Sallallaho
alaihe wasallam)?' He kept quiet. Again I repeated my request,
but again he would not speak. When I inquired for the third time,
he simply said, 'Allah and His Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam)
know best.' At this, tears welled out of my eyes and he left me
"Once, I was passing through a street of Madinah, when I
noticed a Coptic Christian, who had come from Syria to sell his
grain, inquiring about Kaab-bin-Malik. When people pointed me
out to him, he came and made over a letter to me from the Christian
King of Ghassan. Thus it read: 'We have come to know that your
master has ill-treated you. Allah may not-keep you in abasement
and in disgrace. You had better come to us. We shall extend all
help to you.' When I read this letter, I uttered
To Allah we belong and to Him is our return;
and said; 'So my state of affairs (had) reached such an ebb that
even the Kafirs were aspiring to draw me away from Islam.' I could
not imagine a calamity worse than that. I went and threw the letter
into an oven. Thereafter I presented myself to the Prophet (Sallallaho
alaihe wasallam) and exclaimed: '0, Prophet of Allah! Your indifference
towards me has lowered me to such an extent that even the Kafirs
are building up their hopes over me."
When forty days had passed in this condition, a messenger of
the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) brought me this mandate:
'Be separated from your wife' I inquired, 'Am I to divorce her?'
He replied: 'No, only be separated.
A similar message was delivered to my other two companions as
well. I consequently said to my wife: 'Go to your parents and
wait till Allah decides my case.' Hilal's wife went to the Prophet
(Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) and said; '0, Prophet of Allah! Hilal
is an old man and there is nobody else to look after him. If I
go away from him, he will perish. If it is not very serious, kindly
permit me to keep attending to him.'
The Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) replied; 'There is no
harm, provided you don't indulge in cohabitation with each other.'
She remarked! '0, Prophet of Allah: He has no urge for such a
thing; since the day his ordeal has started, he has been spending
his entire time in weeping."
Ka'ab (Radhiyallaho anho) says:
"It was suggested to me that I might also request the Prophet
(Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) for permission to keep my wife with
me for service, but I said; 'Hilal is old, while I am young. I do
not know what reply I shall get and, as such, 1 have no courage
to make the request.
Another ten days passed and now our ordeal had lasted for a full
fifty days. On the morning of the fiftieth day, when I had said
my Tajr' prayer and was sitting on the roof of my house stricken
with grief, and the earth had 'straightened' for me and the life
had become dismal for me, I heard a crier's cry from over' the top
of the mount Sula; 'Happy tidings to you, 0, Kaab.' The moment I
heard this, I fell prostrate on the ground and tears of joy rolled
down my cheeks, as I understood that the ordeal was now over. In
fact, the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam) had announced the
Divine forgiveness for all three of us after the Salaat that morning.
At this, a person ran up the top of the mountain and yelled out
the cry that had reached me. Thereafter, a rider came galloping
to deliver the same happy news to me.
I gave away as a gift the clothes, I was wearing, to the messenger
of glad tidings. I swear by Allah I had no other clothes in my possession
at that time. I dressed up by borrowing clothes from some friend
and went to the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam). As I entered
the musjid, the people in the audience of the Prophet (Sallallaho
alaihe wasallam) ran to congratulate me. Abu Talha (Radhiyallaho
anho) was the first to approach me. He shook my hand with a warmth
that I shall never forget.
Thereafter I offered my salutation to the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe
wasallam). I found his face beaming and radiant like the full moon.
This was usual with him at times of extreme joy. I said to him,
'0, Prophet of Allah! I propose to give away in charity all that
I possess as thanks for the acceptance of my Taubah.* He said: 'This
will be too much for you. Keep a portion with you.' I agreed to
keep my share of the booty that fell in our hands in the Khaiber
"It is the truth that brought me salvation, and
as such I am determined to speak nothing but the truth in future."
The above story brings out the following salient characteristics
of the Muslims of that time:—
(1) The importance of striving in the path of Allah. Even the
persons who had hitherto faithfully participated in every expedition,
had to bear the brunt of the Prophet's (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam)
anger when they failed to respond to Allah's call even though
for the first time in their lives.
(2) Their devotion and obedience to the Prophet (Sallallaho alaihe
wasallam). For full fifty days the whole Muslim community, even
their nearest and dearest, would not speak to the three persons,
in obedience to the Prophet's (Sallallaho alaihe wasallam] orders.
The three persons themselves went most steadfastly through the
ordeal imposed on them.
(3) Their strong faith. Kaab was so much perturbed when he received
the letter from the Christian King, exciting him against the Prophet
(Sallallaho alaihe wasallam). His words and his action at that
time are a testimony to the strong faith in his heart.
Let us search our hearts and see how much devotion we have in them
for the observance of the duties we owe to Islam. Leaving aside
Zakaat and Hajj, which involve the sacrifice of money, take the
case of Salaat alone, which is the most important pillar of Islam
after Imaan. How many of us are particular about it?
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