Honoured with Islam

If you were asked to choose between:

a) a life of honour

b) a life of disgrace

Which one would you choose?

The truth is, we would all love to live an honourable life. As children, many of us listened to stories about superheroes who saved the day with their special powers and knights who protected their people from dragons and beasts, earning a great deal of respect. It seemed easy to have honour; do something amazing just once, perhaps something no one else would have the guts to do, and you’ll be honoured for the rest of your life.

There’s something we all need to realise. I asked you above which life you would choose to live. A life of honour is filled with many great sacrifices. Similarly, a life of disgrace is filled with many horrendous acts. If someone commits a disgraceful act once, they may still be able to achieve an honourable status by reforming themselves. This shows that the struggle to gain and maintain honour lasts a lifetime. Everyday is a chance to protect or destroy our honour.


I’d like you to recall the story of Bilal Ibn Rabah (may Allah be pleased with him). He wasn’t a superhero with special powers. Nor was he a knight who slayed dragons. He was the first Muslim to ever call the Athaan. Before embracing Islam, he was a slave to ‘Umayyah Bin Khalaf who was a staunch disbeliever and a cruel man. ‘Umayyah would have meetings with the leaders of Quraysh. They would discuss about Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) because they heard that he was claiming to be a prophet. Although they hated him for turning away from their idols, informing others that there was only One God, they could not deny that Muhammad was the most honest amongst them. They would admit that he was always truthful. He was known as Al-Ameen (the trustworthy) and As-Sadiq (the truthful). They knew that he was not a liar but they were too stubborn to accept the truth.However, when the message of Islam reached Bilal, his heart began to fill with faith. He knew it was the truth and he accepted Muhammad as the Messenger of Allah. When he decided to become a Muslim, he went to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) with Abu Bakr (may Allah have mercy on him) and finally declared his faith.

When ‘Umayyah discovered that Bilal became a Muslim, he mercilessly tortured Bilal. He felt humiliated that a slave of his embraced the very religion he despised. As a punishment, he forced Bilal to lie down in the scorching desert at the hottest part of the day, in an armour that would make his skin boil. ‘Umayyah would then add to his suffering by placing heavy boulders on his chest, almost crushing the life out of him. Despite the extreme difficulty Bilal endured, when ‘Umayyah would say to him “You will stay here until you die or deny Muhammad and worship al-Lat and al-‘Uzzah,” (Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzzah were two of the chief idols that the disbelievers of Makkah used to worship), Bilal would reply, “Ahad, Ahad (One, One)”. He fearlessly proclaimed the oneness of Allah. He refused to deny Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He refused to worship the idols that were carved by the hands of man.He refused to abandon the religion of Islam, even if it cost his life.

But why? Why did Bilal stay firm? Wouldn’t it have been so much easier if he just gave up on Islam? No, of course not. Once faith enters your heart and you taste its sweetness, the bitterness of pain subtracts nothing from your faith. Tests and trials only increase your trust in Allah, if He is the One you truly rely on. Bilal knew that nothing could be more humiliating than denying The Creator and rejecting the truth. Even if they made him physically suffer in every way possible, there was nothing they could do to take the belief in Allah out of his heart. He may have been a slave, but his conviction in Allah gave him freedom. Freedom from the slavery of man. Freedom from falsehood. Freedom from humiliation. He was no longer enslaved to a mortal being; he enslaved himself to the Ever-Living, the One who never dies. He acknowledged his duty as a servant of Allah. His only goal was to please Allah. His trust in Allah never wavered, even when he was in the most agonizing of situations. And for his perseverance, he was given a great honour.

There was a time when the Muslims had great honour, self-respect and confidence. They were truthful in their faith and never compromised, even if it meant they had to face persecution or death.

Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) saw the torture that Bilal went through and said to Umayyah,Have you no fear of Allah in how you are treating this man? Until when will you continue doing this?”

Umayyah replied, You are the one who corrupted him, so save him from this hardship.”

So Abu Bakr said,Then sell him to me; name your price.” (Seerah Ibn Hisham 123)

Abu Bakr paid Umayyah an amount of gold and rescued Bilal from his oppression.

There was a time when the Muslims were united. Whenever they found a brother or sister in distress, they would do anything to relieve the burden. They had compassion, sincerity and courage because they obeyed Allah and His Messenger and never failed in their duty. Abu Bakr showed us that the life and honour of another Muslim is to be protected, even if we must spend our wealth to ensure their safety. This is what Islam teaches us to do for our brothers and sisters in Islam. If you find them being humiliated, help them.The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) even taught us to help the oppressor “by restraining him or preventing him from committing injustice.”(Sahih Bukhari) This is all a part of maintaining the honour of the Muslims.

It was a great honour indeed, to be a companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). After he was set free, Bilal was chosen to be the first Mu’athin (the caller to prayer). He was appointed to fulfill this duty five times a day. To this day, there is not an hour that passes by except that the same call to prayer is made somewhere in the world. Everyday, the legacy that Bilal left behind is revived and we are called to prayer and success, just like the Muslims before us were called.

Hayya ala Salah,

Come to prayer,

Hayya alal falah.

Come to success.

He may have been a slave and a poor man in this world, but in the next life, he is one of those who are promised paradise. Through his struggle and sacrifice, he attained a status that we would give anything to have. He pleased Allah and he got Jannah, eternal bliss. What greater honour could there be?

Allah chose Islam to be our religion. He is the One who owns honour and gives it to whoever He wills.You could be rich or poor, strong or weak, an oppressor or an oppressed person. Allah can easily turn the tables. He can grant honour to the ones who are humiliated. Likewise, He can humilate the ones who once had honour. Our duty is to work righteousness and focus on pleasing Him. At the end of the day, Allah’s judgement of us matters the most.

Allah says in the Quran.

“Whoever desires honor [through power] – then to Allah belongs all honor. To Him ascends good speech, and righteous work raises it.”

{Surah Al-Fatir verse 10}

“And to Allah belongs [all] honor, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know.”

{Surah Al-Munafiqoon verse 8}

He has honoured us with this religion. If we lose our faith, we lose everything. The one without honour does as he wishes because there is nothing left for him to preserve. As a result, he lives and dies in humilation because he wandered far from the right path. But as Muslims, we have a duty to protect our honour. We must hold onto our deen with all our might. Let us live our lives in a way that qualifies us to enter Paradise. Live a life of respect, honour and dignity. We must be the men and women who hold firmly to the rope of Allah because that is the only way we will reach success.

I hope that our motivation to preserve our honour only increases as we learn more about the righteous Muslims who came before us. I pray that Allah saves us from humiliation on the Day of Judgement. May He grant us the honour of entering Paradise, where we shall live therein forever. Ameen.


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