Abu Sufyan ibn Al-Harith was a companion and first cousin of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. His given name was Al-Mughira.
(Abu Sufyan Ibn Al Harith RA was not the same as Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, the powerful Quraish chieftain.)
Rarely can one find a closer bond between two persons such as existed between Rasulullah SAW and Abu Sufyan Ibn al-Harith. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith was born about the same time as the blessed Rasulullah. They resembled each other a great deal. They grew up together and for a time lived in the same household. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith was a cousin of Rasulullah SAW. His father, al-Harith, was the brother of Abdullah; both were sons of Abd al-Muttalib. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith was also a foster-brother of Rasulullah SAW. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith was for a short time nursed by the lady Halimah who looked after the young Muhammad in the tough and bracing atmosphere of the desert. In their childhood and youth, Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith and Rasulullah SAW were close and intimate friends.
So close were they, which one might naturally have expected Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith to have been among the first to respond to the call of Rasulullah SAW and follow wholeheartedly the religion of truth. But this was not to be, at least not for many, many years. From the time Rasulullah SAW made public his call to Islam and first issued the warning to members of his clan about the dangers of continuing in their existing state of unbelief, injustice and immorality, the fire of envy and hatred erupted in the breast of Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith. The bonds of kinship snapped. Where once there was love and friendship, there was now revulsion and hate. Where once there were brotherhood, there was now resistance and opposition.
“He showed hatred toward Rasulullah SAW for twenty years, never remaining behind when the Quraish set out to fight Rasulullah SAW. Abu Sufyan Ibn Al Harith fought at the Battle of Badr on the side of the polytheists. He was one of the first to arrive back in Makkah with the news of their defeat. As he told his uncle, Abu Lahab:
“As soon as we met the party we turned our backs and they were killing and capturing us just as they pleased; and by God I don’t blame the people for that. We met men in white on piebald horses between heaven and earth, and, by God, they spared nothing, and none could withstand them.
He also wrote satirical poems against Rasulullah SAW and the Muslim and insulted Hassan ibn Thabit RA:
“Who will deliver a message to Hassan from me?,
I think you are one of the most evil of destitute men.
Your father is the father of evil, and your uncle is the same.
You are not better than your father and your uncle.”
Hassan Ibn Thabit RA asked Rasulullah’s permission to compose counter-insults, promising to withdraw Rasulullah’s own name from the hostile sentiments, and permission was given.
In January 626 Rasulullah SAW led the final expedition to Badr, an appointment for a pitched battle between the Quraish and the Muslims. The battle did not take place because the Makkan army never arrived.
Hassan ibn Thabit RA composed a poem about the situation:
“We stayed by the shallow well eight nights
Take Abu Sufyan [ibn Harb] a message from me,
For you are the best of a bad lot.”
Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith composed an answer:
O Hassan, son of a moldy date-eating woman,
You stayed by the shallow well wanting us
And you left us in the palm-groves hard by.
Our horses and camels walked on the crops
And what they trod on they drove into the soft sand
Don’t describe your fine horses,
But speak of them as one who holds them firmly back.
You rejoice in them, but that is the right of others,
The horsemen of the sons of Fihr [Quraish].
After the slaying of the Qurayzah tribe in 627, Hassan ibn Thabit RA composed a poem to the effect that they had gone to Hell. Abu Sufyan responded with a counter-poem:
May Allah make that deed immortal?
May fire burn in its quarters!
You shall know which of us is far [from Hellfire]
And which of our lands will be harmed.
Had the palms therein been horsemen,
They would have said, “You have no place here, be off!”
In 628 an Arab merchant gave a report of Rasulullah SAW to the Emperor Heraclius. This person, who claimed to be Rasulullah’s “nearest kin” among the party, is usually identified as Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, but Abu Sufyan ibn Al-Harith also claimed to have been present. He said: “I did not see myself with [Heraclius], while I had fled from Islam, yet knowing only Rasulullah SAW. Thus Islam entered me, and I realized the error of polytheism.
Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith at this time was renowned as one of the best fighters and horsemen of the Quraish and one of their most accomplished poets. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith used both sword and tongue in the battle against Rasulullah SAW and his mission. All his energies were mobilized in denouncing Islam and persecuting the Muslims. In whatever battle the Quraish fought against Rasulullah SAW and whatever torture and persecution they meted out to the Muslims Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith had a part to play. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith composed and recited verses attacking and Rasulullah SAW. For twenty years almost this rancor consumed his soul. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith three others brothers – Naufal, Rabiah and Abdullah, had all accepted Islam but not he. In the eighth year after the Hijrah, however, shortly before the Islamic liberation of Makkah, Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith position began to shift, as he explains:
“When the movement of Islam became vigorous and well-established and news spread of Rasulullah SAW advance to liberate Makkah, the world caved in on me. I felt trapped. ‘Where shall I go?’ I asked myself. ‘And with whom’ To my wife and children, I said: ‘Get ready to leave Makkah. Muhammad’s advance is imminent. I shall certainly be killed. I shall be given no quarter should the Muslims recognize me.’ ‘Now,’ replied my family, ‘you must realize that Arabs and non-Arabs have pledged their obedience to Muhammad and accepted his religion. You are still bent on opposing him whereas you might have been the first to support and help him.’”
They continued trying to influence me to re-consider my attitude to Rasulullah SAW‘s religion and to re-awaken in me affection towards him. Eventually Allah SWT opened my heart to Islam. I got up and said to my servant, Madhkur: ‘Get ready a camel and a horse for us.’ I took my son Jaafar with me and we galloped with great speed towards al-Abwa between Makkah and Madinah. I had learnt that Rasulullah SAW had camped there. As I approached the place, I covered my face so that no one could recognize and kill me before I could reach Rasulullah SAW and announce my acceptance of Islam directly to him. Slowly, I proceeded on foot while advance groups of Muslims headed towards Makkah. I avoided their path out of fear that one of the Rasulullah SAW’s companions would recognize me. I continued in this fashion until Rasulullah SAW on his mount came into my view. Coming out into the open, I went straight up to him and uncovered my face.
Rasulullah SAW looked at me and recognized me. But, he turned his face away. I moved to face him once again. Rasulullah SAW avoided looking at me and again turned away his face. This happened repeatedly. I had no doubt – as I stood there facing Rasulullah SAW that he would have been pleased with my acceptance of Islam and that his companions would have rejoiced at his happiness. When, however, the Muslims saw Rasulullah SAW, avoiding me, they too looked at me and shunned me. Saidina Abu Bakr RA met me and violently turned away. I looked at Saidina Umar ibn al-Khattab RA, my eyes pleading for his compassion, but I found him even harsher than Saidina Abu Bakr RA. In fact, Saidina Umar Al Khattab RA went on to incite one of the Ansar against me.
‘O enemy of Allah,’ lashed out the Ansari, ‘you are the one who persecuted Rasulullah SAW, and tortured his companions. You carried your hostility towards Rasulullah SAW to the ends of the earth’. The Ansari went on censuring me in a loud voice while other Muslims glared at me in anger. At that point, I saw my uncle, al-Abbas, and went to him seeking refuge. ‘O uncle,’ I said. ‘I had hoped Rasulullah SAW would be happy about my acceptance of Islam because of my kinship to him and because of my position of honor among my people. You know what his reaction has been. Speak to him then on my behalf that he may be pleased with me.’ ‘No, by Allah,’ replied my uncle. ‘I shall not speak to him at all after I have seen him turning away from you except if an opportunity presents itself. I do honor Rasulullah SAW and I stand in awe of him.’ ‘O uncle, to whom then will you abandon me?’ I pleaded. ‘I do not have anything for you except what you have heard,’ he said. Anxiety and grief took hold of me. I saw Saidina Ali ibn Talib RA soon after and spoke to him about my case. His response was the same as that of my uncle. I went back to my uncle and said to him: ‘O uncle, if you cannot soften the heart Rasulullah SAW towards me, then at least restrain that man from denouncing me and inciting others against me.’
‘Describe him to me,’ said my uncle. I described the man to him and he said: ‘That is Nuayman ibn al-Harith an-Najjari.’ He sent for Nuayman and said to him: ‘O Nuayman! Abu Sufyan is the cousin Rasulullah SAW and my nephew. If Rasulullah SAW is angry with him today, he will be pleased with him another day. So leave him…’ My uncle continued trying to placate Nuayman until the latter relented and said: ‘I shall not spurn him anymore.’ “When Rasulullah SAW reached al-Jahfah (about four days journey from Makkah), I sat down at the door of his tent. My son Jaafar stood beside me. As he was leaving his tent, Rasulullah SAW, saw me and averted his face. Yet, I did not despair of seeking his pleasure. Whenever Rasulullah SAW camped at a place, I would sit at his door and my son Jaafar would stand in front of me… I continued in this fashion for some time. But the situation became too much for me and I became depressed.
I said to myself: ‘By God, either Rasulullah SAW shows he is pleased with me or I shall take my son and go wandering through the land until we die of hunger and thirst.’ Rasulullah SAW came to hear of this, he relented and, on leaving his tent, he looked more gently towards me than before. I so much hoped that he would smile.” Eventually Rasulullah SAW relented and told Abu Sufyan, “There is now no blame on you.”
Rasulullah SAW took a formal declaration of faith from both Abu Sufyan and Abdullah ibn Abi Umayya. Abu Sufyan ibn Al Harith RA composed a poem to explain his previous reluctance to convert;
“By thy life, when I carried a banner
To give al-Lat’s cavalry the victory over Muhammad,
I was like one going astray in the darkness of the night,
But now I am led on the right track.
I could not guide myself, and he who with Allah overcame me
Was he whom I had driven away with all my might?”
[At this point, Muhammad punched his chest and said, “You did indeed!”]
I used to do all I could to keep men from Muhammad,
“And I was called a relative of his, though I did not claim the relation.
They are what they are. He who does not hold with them
Though he be a man of sense is blamed and given the lie.
I wanted to be on good terms with them [the Muslims],
But I could not join them while I was not guided.”
Rasulullah SAW entrusted the newcomer to Islam to Saidina Ali ibn Abi Talib RA saying: “Teach your cousin how to perform wudu and about the Sunnah. Then bring him back to me.” When Saidina Ali RA returned, Rasulullah SAW said:
“Tell all the people that Rasulullah is pleased with Abu Sufyan and that they should be pleased with him.” Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith RA continued: “Rasulullah SAW then entered Makkah and I too entered in his entourage. Rasulullah SAW went to the Sacred Mosque and I also went, trying my best to remain in his presence and not separate from him on any account. At the Battle of Hunayn, the Arabs put together an unprecedented force against Rasulullah SAW. They were determined to deal a mortal blow to Islam and the Muslims. Rasulullah SAW went out to confront them with a large number of his companions. I went out with him and when I saw the great throngs of mushrikun, I said: ‘By Allah. Today, I shall atone for all my past hostility towards Rasulullah SAW and he shall certainly see on my part what pleases Allah and what pleases him.’ When the two forces met, the pressure of the mushrikun on the Muslims was severe and the Muslims began to lose heart. Some even began to desert and terrible defeat stared us in the face. However, Rasulullah SAW stood firm in the thick of battle astride his mule “Ash-Shahba” like a towering mountain, wielding his sword and fighting for himself and those around him… I jumped from my horse and fought beside him. Allah knows that I desired martyrdom beside Rasulullah SAW. My uncle, al-Abbas, took the reins of Rasulullah SAW‘s mule and stood at his side. I took up my position on the other side. With my right hand I fended off attacks against Rasulullah SAW and with my left I held on to my mount.
When Rasulullah SAW, saw my devastating blows on the enemy, he asked my uncle: ‘Who’s this?’ ‘This is your brother and cousin. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith . Be pleased with him. O Rasulullah.’ ‘I have done so and Allah has granted forgiveness to him for all the hostility he has directed against me.
Abu Sufyan ibn Al Harith RA said; “My heart soared with happiness. I kissed his feet in the stirrup and wept. Rasulullah SAW He turned towards me and said: ‘My brother! Upon my life! Advance and strike!’ The words of Rasulullah SAW spurred me on and we plunged into the positions of the mushrikun until they were routed and fled in every direction.” After Hunayn, Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith RA continued to enjoy the good pleasure of Rasulullah SAW and the satisfaction of being in his noble company. But he never looked Rasulullah SAW directly in the eye nor focused his gaze on his face out of shame and embarrassment for his past hostility towards him. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith RA continued to feel intense remorse for the many and dark days he had spent trying to extinguish the light of Allah and refusing to follow His message. Henceforth, his days and nights he would spend reciting the verses of the Quran. Seeking to understand and follow its laws and profit by its admonitions. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith RA shunned the world and its adornments and turned to Allah SWT with every fibre of his being. Once, Rasulullah SAW saw him entering the mosque and asked his wife: “Do you know who this, Aisyah is?” “No, O Rasulullah.” she replied. This is my cousin. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith RA. See, he is the first to enter the masjid and the last to leave. His eyes do not leave his shoelace.”
When Rasulullah SAW passed away, Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith RA felt intense grief and wept bitterly. During the caliphate of Saidina Umar Al Khattab RA, Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith RA felt his end drawing near. One day people saw him in al-Baqi, the cemetery not far from Rasulullah SAW’s mosque where many Sahabah are buried. Abu Sufyan ibn al-Harith RA was digging and fashioning a grave. They were surprised. Three days later, Rasulullah SAW was lying stretched out at home His family stood around weeping but he said: “Do not weep for me. By God, I did not commit any wrong since I accepted Islam.” With that, he passed away.
Abu Sufyan became “the best of Muslims” and “nothing bad was said about him”.Rasulullah SAW assigned him a pension of 100 wasqs from Khaybar.
His date of death is disputed: one source places it in February 636, another in 641.Saidina Umar Al Khattab RA presided over his funeral prayers.