AL-AZRAQ IBN QAYS said: “We were in Al-A ḥwâz [a district near Al-Ba ṣra, between present day ʿIrâq and Iran] fighting the Harûrîyyah [the Khawârij, who fought against ʿAlî. They were called Harûriyyah because their initial base was in Ḥarûrâ’, a now defunct village in present day Iraq.] I was at the banks of a river, and there was an [old] man praying [making ṣalâh] and holding the reins of his beast in his hand [as he prayed]. The beast began to tug on its reins. Thus [as it moved] the man followed it [moving with it, but not breaking his ṣalâh].” Shuʿbah [one of the narrators of this ḥadîth] said: ‘The man was [the Companion] Abû Barzah Al-Aslamî.’ “So one of the men of the Khawârij began saying: ‘O Allah! Punish this old man!’ So when the elderly man finished his ṣalâh, he said: ‘Truly, I have heard what you people were saying; and, truly, I went forth with the Messenger of Allah on six, or seven, or eight of his campaigns [it is the narrator who is uncertain of the number of campaigns stated by Abû Barzah]. Thus have I witnessed how he made things easy [for people, in the practice of their religion]. Hence, for me to move with my beast [during my ṣalâh] is more beloved to me than letting it wander where it desires, thereby bringing hardship upon myself [in having then to catch it].’”
At that time, in the year 65 h , Al-Muhallab ibn Abî Ṣufrah was the general leading the fight against the Khawârij [lit. “the Outsiders,” for they left the companionship of the Ummah of Islam by way of secession, and by way of their extreme ideological understandings and interpretations of religion, and subsequent aberrant practices]. The Khawârij had laid siege to Al-Ba ṣra with Nâfiʿibn Al-Azraq at their head and a number of prominent Muslims of Al-Ba ṣra were killed before Ibn Al-Azraq was eventually killed. This siege continued until ʿAbdullâh ibn Al-Zubayr Al-Makhzûmî became the governor of Al-Ba ṣra and appointed Al-Muhallab to lead the fight against the Khawârij. This history presents a problem for those who claim that the Companion Abû Barzah passed away in the year 64h because the fighting took place in the year 65h.
Some scholars hold that the Companion at the center of this ḥadîth was performing ṣalâh, not on the banks of a river, but in the dried-out riverbed of where the river used to run. Others say that he was in the shade of the citadel of Mahrân on the banks of the River Dujayl.
Other narrations indicate that the narrator told Shuʿbah that the man who was praying was Abû Barzah, which is how Shuʿbah came to know this detail. The occurrence was at the time of the ʿA ṣr ßalâh.
These narrations give added detail to what the man from the Khawârij actually said. That is to say, he cursed the Companion and said: “Look at this ass! Look how this old man left his ṣalâh for his horse!”
The doubt the narrator of this ḥadîth had about the number of campaigns that Abû Barzah participated in with the Prophet is specified in another narration as seven campaigns.
- The Companion mentioned to the man from the Khawârij: “I witnessed how he [the Prophet] made things easy [for people, in the practice of their religion].” His meaning is that the approach of the Prophet in imparting the religion of Islam to people was characterized by flexibility in all the affairs of religion. Nor is it coincidental that the disagreement between the Companion and the man from the Khawârij centered upon a matter that pertained to flexibility in religion, for the problem of the Khawârij, and their modern-day ideological descendants, is their puritanical and rigid practice and understanding of religion. This kind of extreme ideological understanding and outlook runs counter to the very nature of Islam as it was revealed.
- In another narration, the narrator adds that he (Al-Azraq ibn Qays) responded to the Khawâriji man saying: “I see nothing, save that Allah will debase you! You insulted a man who is a Companion of the Messenger of Allah!” Thus we learn that to speak ill of any Companion of the Prophet ﷺ is sinful, unacceptable, and may lead to one’s destruction in this life and in the Hereafter.
- There are benefits to be taken from this ḥadîth.
- It is permissible for a person to speak of their virtues if the situation necessitates it and if the speaker is not boasting.
- There is no room for puritanical extremism in Islam. The proof that this mentality is possible among Muslims is that no person was good enough for the Khawârij. It is a not a state of religion, but a sickness, wherein a person finds fault with everyone and everything.
- It is legally permissible in fiqh, Islamic Law, for one to take actions in their ṣalâh that are necessary for the protection of self or wealth (against damage, loss, or theft). This being lawful, then it is of even greater legal permissibility—rather, it is an obligation—for a person to protect human life, even if they are in a state of ṣalâh, such that they, for example, would call out to a person: “Watch out for the hole in front of you!”
- It is a characteristic of a Muslim, a believer, to care for wealth and property because it prevents waste—for lack of care for property equals wastefulness, and in Islam squandering is a greatly hateful act.
- Other narrations show that when Abû Barzah, the Companion, moved with his beast during ṣalâh, he never turned away from the qiblah. Had he done so, his ṣalâh would have been broken, and he would have had to restart a new make-up ṣalâh, for facing the qiblah is a condition for the validity of the ṣalâh. Yet while it may be permissible to move in situations such as this, still the normative state of affairs is that movement in prayer should be restricted to the minimum.
- In another ḥadîth in Bukhâri, the Prophet instructed his Companions that, if they felt the need to flatten the ground before them in ṣalâh to ease and perfect their bowing to the ground in prostration, in sujûd, they could pass their hands upon the ground once in their place of sujûd, and suffice themselves with that one smoothing. This means that it is not permissible to perform any actions in the ṣalâh that are not necessary, for the state of ta ḥrîm (sacredness in the ṣalâh) is an inverse of the state of ta ḥlîl (permissibility) outside of the ṣalâh. So, outside of the ṣalâh, all actions are considered permissible, unless proven to be forbidden. However, within the ṣalâh, since it is a form of worship, all actions and speech are considered forbidden, unless there is proof for the permissibility of actions and words.
- The character of the Companions was built upon the foundation of Revelation: the Quran and the Sunnah. Hence, this ṣa ḥâbî—whose station in comparison to any other Muslim who is not a Companion is greater than the station of a father to a son—did not respond to insult with insult. Nor did he retaliate for himself, even though he was an older man, and thus deserving of veneration, in addition to his status as a Companion, while the insulter who called him an ‘ass’ was younger—and was not even a Companion, to boot. Yet Abû Barzah restricted his response to the defense of the Dîn, the Religion, of Allah. How many a lesser man among us would respond with far greater outrage for much less verbal violation of their person?