The Sahabah Series: Abû Dharr al-Ghifâri
In the name of Allah Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Abû Dharr was so well known by his nickname that there is considerable difference of opinion about his actual name and the name of his father. The strongest opinion is that his real name was Jundub ibn Junâdah. There is a hadith related by Ibn Mâjah which says that the Messenger, upon him be peace, referred to him as ‘Junaydib’. However, this does not contradict the above mentioned opinion as this diminutive form is often used as a term of affection. And Allah knows best.
A ‘dharr’ is a small particle or thing of little or no significance. His nickname means ‘father of a dharr’. He was once weighing a loaf of bread and a small flying ant landed on it. He noticed that the scales did not move as the insect’s weight was too small to register. He said to those present, ‘look at this! This does not register on the worldly scales but the Scales of the Hereafter will be swayed by one of these.’ It was then said to him, ‘you are the father of a dharr.’
The Ghifâr tribe lived in the Waddan valley north of Makkah. They traditionally lived from the passing trade caravans moving between Makkah and Syria. When Islam began to emerge in Makkah, Abû Dharr was inquisitive to find out more about the one who had declared himself a prophet. He sent his brother Anîs to find out about him and his teaching. His brother returned saying:
‘I saw the one who says he has received revelation. He calls towards good character.’
‘What do the people say of him?’ asked Abû Dharr.
‘They call him a poet, a sorcerer, a liar,’ replied Anîs. ‘But I swear by God that he is truthful and they are liars.’
On hearing this, Abû Dharr set off for Makkah. When he entered the town, he asked about the Prophet, upon him be peace, but was immediately set upon and beaten to the ground. When he gained consciousness, he went to the well of Zamzam and drank and washed himself. He stayed in the Sacred Precinct for thirty days drinking nothing but Zamzam. He had no food or money.
Strangely, during this period he gained weight from the blessed water. One night, he decided to stay near the house and circumambulate the House, pray and hope that he would meet the Messenger, upon him be peace. As he greeted the Black Stone of the House, his prayer was answered and the Prophet, upon him be peace, approached. He greeted him with the words ‘al-salâmu alaykum, Peace be upon you, O Messenger of Allah.’ It is believed that this was the first time the phrase was used. It became the standard greeting among the Muslims. After greeting the Messenger, upon him be peace, he declared his faith. On hearing this, a group of Quraysh attacked him and beat him to the ground and continued beating him until the Prophet’s uncle, Abbâs, intervened and diplomatically said, ‘do you not know that this man is from the tribe of Ghifâr and your trade with Syria passes through his territory.’ This situation repeated itself for several nights with him being beaten and Abbâs intervening.
On his return to his tribe, a few of them embraced Islam. When the Messenger, upon him be peace, migrated to Madina, the remainder followed suit and the Prophet supplicated for the whole tribe saying ‘Ghifâr, Ghafarallahu laha, May Allah forgive the tribe of Ghifâr.’
Abû Dharr was known for his asceticism and detachment from the world to the extent that he never kept more than a day’s provision in his house. The ruler, Mu’awiyya, wanted to test his piety by sending him a thousand gold dinâr. Abû Dharr immediately distributed it to the poor, keeping nothing for himself. Then the messenger who had brought the money came and explained that he had made a mistake and that he was supposed to have given it to someone else and was likely to be punished severely for his mistake. Abû Dharr told him not to worry as he would not sleep until he had gathered all the money back and returned it to him.
He was known for his deep knowledge and righteousness. The Messenger, upon him be peace, said, ‘there is no one more truthful in speech than Abû Dharr.’
In his later life, he went into recluse in an area known as al-Rabadha. As he approached death, his wife began to cry and he asked her why. She said, ‘you are going to die in this barren distant land and I do not even have sufficient cloth to bury you with.’
‘Don’t worry and take glad tidings,’ he said. ‘I once heard the Messenger, upon him be peace, say to a group of people and I was amongst them that one of you will die in a barren valley and a group of the believers will witness the death and bury you.’ Every single one of that group has passed away and died in a village accept me and so I am the one who will die in the valley. I swear by Allah that I was not lied to, so go that hill and look out for them.’ The prophecy was realised as ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud and a group of pilgrims from Iraq were passing by. They buried him in al-Rabadha and announced his death when they arrived in Madina. May Allah be pleased with them all.
Abû Dharr died in the year 31H or 32H. He related 181 hadith.
(Sources: Ibn Hajr, al-Isâba fi Tamyîz al-Sahâba and Muhammad al-Jardâni al-Dimyâti, al-Jawâhir al-Lu’luwiyya)
 Al-Hâkim (3/342), Al-Tirmidhi (3801) and Ibn Majah (156).