The First Jew in Islam
Amir ibn Sa’ d reported that he heard his father Sa’d ibn AbI Waqqas say, “I never heard Allah’s Messenger, Rasulullah SAW say to any other person that he or she was in Paradise except for ‘Abdullah ibn Salam RA.”
In Madinah, before the time of Rasulullah SAW, there were several Jewish tribes living alongside the Arab tribe of Aus and Khazraj. These Jewish tribes were quite wealthy in land and possessions. Like people everywhere, some of them were sincere believers and some of them were not. Among the sincere was a very learned man by the name of al-Husain ibn Salam. He was one of the Jewish rabbis and was honored and respected by all the people, no matter what their religious belief. He was known to be pious and righteous, straight and honest. Al-Husain lived a serene, serious, and productive life. He divided his time into three parts: in the temple to preach and worship; in his garden taking care of his palm-trees; and with the Torah to deepen his knowledge of religion.
Each time he read the Torah, he pondered the news in it about the appearance of a new prophet in Makkah who was going to complete and seal the messages of the previous prophets. He followed the descriptions and the signs of the expected one and found from the Torah that this prophet would make hijrah from his land. He would begin teaching in Madinah, where his residence would be. Each time he read or recalled this news, al-Husain prayed to Allah SWT that his life would be prolonged so that he might witness the appearance of the expected prophet, obtain the pleasure of meeting him, and be among the first to believe in him.
Allah SWT responded to al-Husain ibn Salam’s du’a’, He let him live to meet the prophet of guidance and mercy. Ibn Salam RA left behind his story of the events: When I heard about the appearance of Rasulullah SAW in Makkah, I kept inquiring about his name, his rank,his characteristics, and his place to see if it all applied to what is written in our books, until I made sure of his prophecy and of the honesty of his call. I hid the whole matter from the Jews and held my tongue so as not to whisper one word until the day Rasulullah SAW left Makkah heading for al-Madinah. When Rasulullah SAW reached Madinah and stayed in Quba’, a man came to us and announced his arrival. I was, at that moment, on top of one of my palm trees doing my work and my aunt, Khalidah bint al-Harith, was sitting under the tree.
When I heard the news, I couldn’t keep from shouting, “Allah-u-Akbar … Allah-u-Akbar!” When she heard my Takbir, my aunt said to me: “May Allah disappoint you! By Allah, if you had heard that Misa ibn ‘Imran (the prophet Musa ~) is coming you wouldn’t have done more.”
“0 Aunt,” I said, “by Allah, he surely is Musa ibn ‘Imran’s brother, following the same religion! He is sent with what he was sent with!” She fell silent for a while, then said: “Is he the prophet you used to tell us about that will be sent to affirm what was sent before him and to complete the messages of his Lord?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Then, he is the one,” she said. I went on the spot to see Rasulullah SAW. People were crowding at his door. I pressed until I got close to him. The first thing I heard from him was this: “0 people, spread greetings. Feed people. Pray in the night, when people sleep; then you will enter al
I kept staring at him, and I realized that this surely wasn’t the face of a liar. I came close to him and testified that there is no deity but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. He turned to
me and asked, “What is your name?”
“Al-Husain Ibn Salam,” I replied. “Rather, ‘Abdullah ibn Salam,” he said.
“Yes,” I said, “‘Abdullah ibn Salam. By the One Who sent you with truth, I wouldn’t like to have any other name from now on.”
I left Rasulullah SAW and went back home. I called my wife, children and family to Islam and they all entered Islam including my aunt, Khalidah, who was very old. I said to them, “Keep the news of our entering Islam from the Jews until I give you permission!” They agreed to do this.
I then returned to Rasulullah SAW and said to him: “0 Rasulullah, I would like you to call notable people among the Jews. Hide me in one of your rooms, then ask them about my position among them before they know about my adherence to Islam. Then, call them to Islam. You will see that they will accuse me falsely of all defects.”
Rasulullah SAW agreed to do this. He put me in a room next to his, then called them and invited them to Islam and Iman, reminding them of what they knew about him from their books. They kept arguing and disputing with him until he gave up and asked them about the position of al-Husain ibn Salam among them.
“He is our master,” they replied, “and son of our master, our man of knowledge and son of our man of knowledge.”
“If he follows Islam,” asked Rasulullah SAW, “would you follow it too?”
“He would never follow Islam,” they replied,”may Allah prevent him from entering into Islam!” At that point, I came out and said, “0 Jews, my people, fear Allah SWT and accept what Muhammad SAW has brought. You surely know that he is the messenger of Allah. You know about him written about in your Torah, by name and description. I testify that he is the messenger of Allah. I have faith in him. I believe him. I know him.”
They then shouted, “Liar, by Allah, you are the worst man of us and son of the worst man, you are ignorant and son of an ignorant man!” They didn’t leave a defect that they didn’t accuse me of. After that, ‘Abdullah ibn Salam RA separated himself from the Jews and became a devoted Muslim. He loved the Quran, and spent many hours reciting its verses. He was also very attached to Rasulullah SAW and did all he could to listen to him, help him, and be with him.
He devoted himself to working for the Jannah until Rasulullah SAW brought him the news of being one of the dwellers in the Garden. Among the noble Sahabah there were a few who were blessed with such good news (bashirah). Qais ibn ‘Ubadah and others told the story of how this news came to ‘Abdullah ibn Salam RA ,I was sitting in one of the circles of knowledge in the masjid of Rasulullah SAW in Madinah. There was, in the circle, an old man who looked familiar to the soul and made the heart feel comfortable.
He kept speaking to people, a sweet, impressive speech. When he left, people said, “Whoever wants to look at a man who is from the people of the Jannah, let him look at that man.”
“Who is that man?” I asked. ‘” Abdullah ibn Salam,” I was told. I said to myself, “By Allah, I will follow him,” and I did. He walked until he was almost out of Madinah, Then, he entered his house. I asked his permission to come in, and he welcomed me into his home.
He said: “What is your need, my brother?”
I told him that I had heard people in the masjid saying that whoever wants to look at a man who is from the people of the Jannah, let him look at him. I told him that this was why I had followed him, to find
out how people knew that he is from the people of the Jannah. He said, “Only Allah knows the people of the Jannah.”
“Yes,” I replied, “but there must be some reason for what they said.” “I’ll tell you the reason,” he said. “One night, during the time of Rasulullah SAW as I was sleeping, a man came to me and told me to stand up. He took my hand. There was a way on my left which I was about to follow, but he said, ‘Leave it, it is not yours.’ Then looked and saw an obvious way on my right, whereupon he said, ‘Take it.’ I took it until I reached a large, .beautiful garden, green and flourishing. In the middle of this garden was an iron pillar fixed in the ground and ending in the sky. On top of this iron pillar, there was a golden ring. ‘Go up,’ said the man. ‘I can’t,’ I replied.
Then, a servant came and lifted me up to the top, and I took the ring with both hands. I remained attached to it until I woke up. The next morning, I went to Rasulullah SAW and told him about my dream and he said, ‘The way you saw at your left is the way of the sahabah of the left, the dwellers of hell. The way you saw at your right is the way of the sahabah of the right, the dwellers of the Jannah. The garden that attracted you, with its greenness and bloom, is Islam. The pillar, in the midst of it, is the pillar of religion. The ring is the most trustworthy hand-hold (al-‘urwaht al-wuthqii). You will keep holding it until you die. ‘” And thus he ended his story.
May Allah SWT bless ‘Abdullah ibn Salam RA and indeed make true Rasulullah’ s SAW promise to him.