Salim Mawla Abi Hudhayfah

Usamah ibn Zaid
May 20, 2019
May 20, 2019

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Salim Mawla Abi Hudhayfah


Experience proves that the company a person keeps has a direct impact on his qualities and values. The company of the pious develops devoutness, the company of the scholars increases one’s knowledge, and the company of seniors enhances wisdom. Each of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum became guiding stars owing to their companionship with the guide for both human and Jinn; Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Direction, righteousness, and prudence develop in those who attach themselves to the Qur’an, coupled with sublimeness and prominence.

The perfect example of this is Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Born a slave, Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu rose to the station of leading senior Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum in salah, only owing to his knowledge and devotion to the Speech of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. “By this Book, Allah will exalt people,” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam proclaimed.[1]

His journey of faith began early on. He is among the early forerunners to Islam. You might notice that the humble were the first to accept the invitation of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for pride and arrogance did not hinder their thinking and blind their sight from understanding and witnessing the light of Islam. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala praises the forerunners to the faith, pronouncing:


وَالسَّابِقُوْنَ الْأَوَّلُوْنَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِيْنَ وَالْأَنْصَارِ وَالَّذِيْنَ اتَّبَعُوْهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللّٰهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوْا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِيْ تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِيْنَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ذٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيْمُ

And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajirin and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.[2]


Not only does Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala guarantee them Jannat in this verse and announce His pleasure with them, He promises the same to every individual who will follow them. So let us take this opportunity to study the outstanding characteristics of this forerunner to the faith, so we might emulate him and join him in the Gardens of Bliss.

After entering the faith, Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu dedicated his time to becoming proficient in the glorious Qur’an. Arabic not being his mother tongue was not an impediment in his endeavour to rise to one of the four most knowledgeable reciters of this ummah.

“Learn the recitation of Qur’an from four persons,” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam commanded. You might think that they would be all of Arab origin because Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did instruct in another hadith, “Recite the Qur’an in the tongue and voice of the Arabs.”[3] But Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam lists their names: “From Ibn Mas’ud, Salim—the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah, Ubay ibn Ka’b, and Muaz ibn Jabal.”[4] One of the four stands out distinctly, for he was not of Arab descent, Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu was of African origin.

His attachment to the Qur’an earned him a position of honour and dignity in this world, and will award him a lofty rank in the Hereafter. The devotee of the Qur’an will be directed to recite the Qur’an and continue ascending the stages of Jannat. The last verse of his recitation will be his abode in Jannat.[5]

When the early Muslims made hijrah to Madinah Munawwarah and camped at Quba, it was none other than Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu who would lead them in prayer. Among them were senior Sahabah, the likes of Sayyidina Abu Bakr, Sayyidina ‘Umar, Sayyidina Abu Salamah, and Sayyidina ‘Amir ibn Rabi’ah radiya Llahu ‘anhum.[6] His surplus knowledge and attachment to the Qur’an earned him this station.

Allah is indeed Great! A former slave, whose greatest aspiration might have been to earn freedom and live a comfortable life, the thought of assuming a position of honour probably never crossed his mind and never featured in his wildest dreams. Yet here you have him leading the greatest men of this ummah in salah. All of this owing to him being well-versed in the glorious Qur’an.

One night, Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha came home late after performing Salat al ‘Isha. Upon Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam enquiry, she explained that she was listening to the recitation of one of his Companions, making special mention of his melodious voice. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam got up and she got up with him to discover who it was. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was pleased to find Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu reciting the Qur’an in his melodious voice. Turning to Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha, he commented, “Praise is to Allah Who has created such men among my Ummah.”[7]

Not only were Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha captivated with his pleasant rendition. It attracted divine attention too. Fadalah ibn ‘Ubaid radiya Llahu ‘anhu relates that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Allah listens more attentively to a man with a beautiful voice who recites Qur’an out loud than how a master listens to the renditions of his singing slave.”[8]

He lived the first years of his life as a slave and was later emancipated by his master. Abu Nuaim mentions that Thubaytah bint Ya’ar, the wife of Abu Hudhayfah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, was his master who freed him.[9]

Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu is referred to as Salim Mawla (freed slave of) Abi Hudhayfah. Sayyidina Abu Hudhayfah ibn ‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah radiya Llahu ‘anhu is one of the fortunate ones to participate in Badr. He adopted Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Initially, Salim would be called the son of Abu Hudhayfah but then Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala revealed verses of the Qur’an instructing that adopted children be attributed to their fathers. If their fathers could not be traced, they would be attributed to their masters who freed them and regarded as brothers in faith.[10]


ادْعُوْهُمْ لِأٰبَائِهِمْ هُوَ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللّٰهِ  فَإِنْ لَّمْ تَعْلَمُوْا أٰبَاءَهُمْ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ فِيْ الدِّيْنِ وَمَوَالِيْكُمْ

Call them by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers – then they are [still] your brothers in religion and those entrusted to you.[11]


Subsequent to the revelation of this verse, Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu was referred to as Mawla Abi Hudhayfah, as will be found commonly in hadith and history compilations.

The situation became awkward in the house of Abu Hudhayfah radiya Llahu ‘anhu after Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu reached puberty. Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu lived in his home and would come into the presence of his wife, Sayyidah Sahlah bint Suhayl radiya Llahu ‘anha, which caused rankling in the heart of the man of the house. His wife sensed his disturbance so she sought advice from Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in the matter. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam advised that she breastfeed him, making her unlawful for him, and through this the protective jealousy of her husband will be dispelled. Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam plan worked out perfectly. This was a concession given exclusively to Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Despite him being a man at the time, foster relations between him and Sahlah radiya Llahu ‘anha were formed.[12]

Sayyidina Abu Hudhayfah radiya Llahu ‘anhu later got Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu married to his brother’s daughter, Fatimah bint al Walid ibn ‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah, who was one of the best unmarried women of the Quraysh. Above that, she was among the first emigrants at that time.[13]

Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu lived his life in the shade of the Speech of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. The Qur’an declares that the believers are deep in their love for Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.

وَالَّذِيْنَ أٰمَنُوْا أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلّٰهِ

Those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.[14]


And this was exactly the state of Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu. As Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu lay on his deathbed, he expressed his desire to appoint Salim Mawla Abi Hudhayfah radiya Llahu ‘anhu as khalifah had the latter been alive. The reason behind this was his extreme love for Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.[15]

‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu said, “Had I appointed Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah, as khalifah, and Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, had to question me, ‘What made you do this?’ I would have replied, ‘O my Rabb, I heard Your Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam declaring, ‘He loves Allah truly from his heart.’”[16]

The Qur’an compliments courage and boldness. Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu displayed his courage when panic was sensed by the inhabitants of Madinah. Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu grabbed their swords and waited to attack. After the terror disappeared, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam admonished the people saying, “Why did you not resort to Allah and His Messenger in the terror? Why did you not act like these two believing men?”[17]

Have a look at the Qur’an and observe how it describes the victory of Badr, the setback at Uhud, the terror of Ahzab, the treaty of Hudaybiyyah which served as a launch pad to the Conquest of Makkah, the experience at Hunayn, and the perilous march to Tabuk. Realise that Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu physically participated in these events and is deserving of the rewards promised by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

After Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam demise, in the storms of disbelief that raged in Arabia, Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu stood up to face the tide of apostasy. He participated in the most fearsome war of apostasy, the epic Battle of Yamamah. In the course of the battle, the Muslims were overpowered, so Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu commented, “This is not how we would fight alongside Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.” He then dug for himself a pit and stood firmly in it and fought bravely to the end.[18]

He was tasked with carrying the flag of the Muhajirin in that fierce battle.[19] Some were concerned over this, thinking that he might waiver. But Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu put their fears to rest declaring that the Muslims will not face defeat from his side. “An evil bearer of Qur’an I would be indeed if that happens,” he said. The Qur’an commands steadfastness in battle and that is exactly what he displayed. He continued fighting fiercely reciting the verse:


وَكَأَيِّنْ مِّنْ نَّبِيٍّ قَاتَلَ مَعَهُ رِبِّيُّوْنَ كَثِيْرٌ فَمَا وَهَنُوْا لِمَا أَصَابَهُمْ فِيْ سَبِيْلِ اللّٰهِ وَمَا ضَعُفُوْا وَمَا اسْتَكَانُوْا وَاللّٰهُ يُحِبُّ الصَّابِرِيْنَ

And how many a prophet [fought and] with him fought many religious scholars. But they never lost assurance due to what afflicted them in the cause of Allah, nor did they weaken or submit. And Allah loves the steadfast.[20]


Swords glittered in the sun and the fighting intensified. Sayyidina Salim radiya Llahu ‘anhu held the flag high and stood as firm as a pillar. During the battle, his right hand was severed. Immediately, he caught the flag with his left hand and did not allow it to fall. But the time had come for this devotee of the Qur’an to meet his coveted end. He continued reciting Qur’an until he was martyred. Next to him lay his bosom friend, Sayyidina Abu Hudhayfah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, who also tasted martyrdom in that battle. This happened in the year 12 A.H.[21]

The following report, one of two related by him, leaves us with a deep lesson which we should carry with us throughout our lives. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Such people will be brought on the Day of Qiyamah who will have good deeds like the mountains of Tihamah. However, Allah will destroy their deeds. They would pray and fast but if any haram came their way, they would hurry to obtain it without reservations.”[22]

May Allah be pleased with this devout Companion, and allow us too to hear his melodious recitation in the best of abodes; in Paradise.


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[1]Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 1780.

[2]  Surah al Tawbah: 100.

[3]Tafsir al Qurtubi, vol. 1 pg. 17; Nawadir al Usul.

[4]Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 150; Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 6027.

[5]Sunan al Tirmidhi, Hadith: 3162; Sunan Abi Dawood, Hadith: 1459.

[6]Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 287; Sunan Abi Dawood, Hadith: 588.

[7]Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith: 1338; Musnad Ahmed, Hadith: 25320.

[8]Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith: 1340.

[9]Siyar A’lam al Nubala’.

[10]Muwatta’ Imam Malik, Book 30, Hadith: 12; Sunan al Nasa’i, Hadith: 3225.

[11]  Surah al Ahzab: 5.

[12]Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 3425; Sunan al Nasa’i, Hadith: 3323.

[13]Muwatta’ Imam Malik, Book 30, Hadith: 12; Sunan al Nasa’i, Hadith: 3225. The narration of al Nasa’i names her Hind bint al Walid ibn ‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah.

[14]  Surah al Baqarah: 165.

[15]  ‘Abdul Wahhab al Najjar: al Khulafa’ al Rashidun, pg. 252; Kashf al Khifa’ wa Muzil al Albas, vol. 1 pg. 323; Hamalat al Qur’an min al Sahabah al Kiram, pg. 140.

[16]Al Khulafa’ al Rashidun, pg. 252.

[17]Musnad Ahmed, Hadith: 17463.

[18]Al Mujam al Kabir, Hadith: 1320; al Isti’ab, vol. 1 pg. 194; al Isabah, vol. 1 pg. 196, Hayat al Sahabah, vol. 2 pg. 147.

[19]Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 88; Hayat al Sahabah, vol. 2 pg. 147.

[20]  Surah Al ‘Imran: 146.

[21]Hamalat al Qur’an min al Sahabah al Kiram, pg. 142.

[22]Hilyat al Auliya’, vol. 1 pg. 178; al Durr al Manthur, vol. 5 pg. 67; Ithaf al Sadah al Muttaqin, vol. 8 pg. 86.

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