THE NAME OF Anṣâr never fails to evoke undertones of sacrifice, submission, and love of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ and warm sentiments of appreciation in our hearts. There is much for us to learn from their lives. Is there something common between the Anṣâr of Madinah and us today? I suggest: There is something fundamental. Let us look at the story of the Anṣâr and reflect on our commonality.

The Ansar: Allah’s Gift to Islam

The Anṣâr, literally the supporters, of Madinah, were a gift of Allah to Islam. Their sacrifices were immense and their faith stunning. They believed in Islam as soon as they heard Muṣʿab ibn ʿUmayr recite the words of Allah to them, and finally invited the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to move to their township.

Poor and war-torn Yathrib, the house of grief, was an apt name for what is now Madinah. But Allah has distinguished its people with hearts that are pure and beautiful, and even today the generous manners of the people of Madinah remind us of their hospitality to the Beloved Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Inviting the Muslims to their land, and giving them protection, was tantamount to declaring war against all the Arabs, particularly the most influential of them, the Quraysh. The Prophet’s loving but so-far non-Muslim uncle, ʿAbbâs, warned the Madinans: You should know what you are getting yourself into…you better not take my nephew from my protection and then abandon him. The Anṣâr, of course, knew this well. Their faith-filled answer was: Even of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ leads us into the sea, we will follow him. We will not say what the children of Israel said to Mousa: Fight you and your Lord, O Mousa, and we are sitting right here.

Their Sacrifices for Islam

The Anṣâr knew how to keep their word. They surpassed any estimations of human sacrifice the world had known by how readily they embraced their penniless refugee brothers—the Muhâjirûn—and shared with them all their wealth and property. When the rebellious tribe of Banu Al-Naḍir was expelled from Madinah without a fight, the Prophet of Allah ﷺ distributed the spoils to the poor Muhâjirûn. The Anṣâr submitted to the decision with their characteristic faith.

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The sacrifice of the Anṣâr and their preference for their immigrant brothers at their own expense won them applause even from the Lord of seven heavens, and Allah said in Sûrat Al-Ḥashr: But those who before them, had homes (in Madinah) and had adopted the faith, show their affection to those who came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (Muhâjirûn), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their own lot. And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls are the ones that achieve (eternal) prosperity. [Sûrat Al-Ḥashr 59:9]

They Passed the Ultimate Test 

However, the strongest test of the Anṣâr was yet to come. The conquest of Makkah brought a large number of Makkans and other Arab tribes into Islam. Among them were honorable chiefs and influential leaders who likely felt they had lost the battle against Islam even though they had embraced Islam. When the battle of Ḥunayn followed and more spoils of war were secured, the Prophet ﷺ sought to attract and soften the hearts of these new-Muslims by giving them the majority of the spoils, while some went to the poor Muhâjirûn, but nothing to the Anṣâr.

The Anṣâr were hurt. Did this mean that the Prophet ﷺ was now going to forget them, now that has regained his own city, and was he going to turn his back to them? Why were they deprived of their share of the spoils? Rumors started to go around. Ḥassân ibn Thâbit, the poet of the Anṣâr, recited lines of poetry that mean: “Go to the Prophet and say you are the best among all human beings. Why should you invite Sulaim tribe to take a share of war spoils although they are mere Muhâjirûn while you deprived the Anṣâr, who gave shelter, support and help to Muhâjirûn.”

We will let Abû Saʿîd Al-Khudri, an Anṣâri, give the account, as reported by Ibn Isḥâq:

The leader of the Anṣâr, Saʿd ibn ʿUbâdah, went immediately to the Prophet ﷺ and said: “O Messenger of Allah, this group of the Anṣâr are displeased with what you did with the spoils of war. You have distributed war booty among your people, and have given generous portions to the Arab tribes, but you did not give the Anṣâr anything.” The Prophet ﷺ asked him, “What is your opinion about it?” Saʿd answered with the same bluntness, “I am but one of my people.” The Prophet ﷺ asked him to gather the Anṣâr. 

The Anṣâr were gathered, and no one else but them was allowed in the meeting. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “O Anṣâr, I heard that an incident that happened recently made you feel ill at ease. Now, did I not find you ignorant and guided you to the way of Allah? Did I not find you poor and Allah enriched you of His bounty? Did I not find you enemies and Allah joined your hearts together?”

They answered, “Indeed, Allah and His Prophet are far more generous and better.”

The Prophet ﷺ then said, “Don’t you have anything to say, O Anṣâr?” They answered, “There is nothing to be said but that Allah and His Prophet have the grace and bounty.”

The Prophet ﷺ then said, “By Allah, you could have said – and if you did, you would have been truthful and acknowledged – ‘we believed in you at a time when all called you a liar. We supported you at a time when you were frustrated. We gave you our money at a time when you were poor and we even sheltered you at a time when you were homeless.’ O Anṣâr, are you upset for a thing so trivial and worldly that I gave to some people so as to join their hearts to Islam and left you out of it, believing that your Islam sufficed you? Is it not enough for you that the rest of the people will go home with a sheep or a camel, whereas you will return with the Messenger of Allah? By Allah in whose hands is Muhammad’s soul, you return with a better thing than they went home with. If not for the migration, I would rather have been one of the Anṣâr. If the people moved in one way, and the Anṣâr moved the other way, I would choose the way of the Anṣâr. O Allah, do have mercy on the Anṣâr, their children, sand their children’s children. 

By the time the Prophet ﷺ concluded his words, their beards were wet with tears, for the words of the beloved Prophet ﷺ filled their hearts with tranquility and enriched their souls. All of them cried out, “It is enough for us to have the Messenger of Allah ﷺ as our reward!”

This is precisely what is common between the Anṣâr and us: “It is enough for us to have the Messenger of Allah ﷺ as our reward!” As Muslims, we are oppressed, suspected and harassed in the world; we have inherited none of the glorious riches or powerful empires of early Islam. We get no booty for being Muslims, no worldly glory, and no advantages. Still, we are to struggle in the path of Allah, sacrifice in His way, trusting that “He never fails His promise,” while nothing is on our side… except Allah and His Messenger ﷺ!

Dr Ovamir Anjum

Uwaymir Anjum is the Imam Khattab Chair of Islamic Studies at the Department of Philosophy, University of Toledo. He is also professor of Islamic Intellectual History at Qatar University. He studies the connections between theology, ethics, politics, and law in classical and medieval Islam, with a subfocus on its comparisons with western thought. Related fields of study include Islamic philosophy and Sufism. His dissertation, published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press, is entitled Politics, Law, and Community in Islamic Thought: The Taymiyyan Moment. His translation of Ibn al-Qayyim's Madârij Al-Sâlikîn is forthcoming.

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