As the early Muslims were preparing to march towards Badr, a young boy, not yet 13 years of age walked up to the ranks as the Prophet (saw) was inspecting the army. Holding a sword which was as long as him in height this confident youth said to the Prophet (saw):
“I dedicate myself to you, Messenger of Allah. Permit me to be with you and to fight the enemies of Allah under your banner.”
Our beloved Prophet (saw) looked at this youth with admiration and patted his shoulder with loving tenderness. He (saw) commended him for his courage but refused to enlist him because he was too young.
The young boy turned away, feeling dejected and sad. As he walked, in slow paces, he stuck his sword in the ground as a sign of his disappointment. His mother, an-Nawar bint Malik felt equally sad. They both really wanted this alert young youth to be part of the first Muslim army and be with the Prophet in this critical time.
A year passed, and as preparations were underway for the Prophet’s (saw) second encounter with the Quraish (at Uhud), a group of youth including the eager 13 year old, once again approached the Prophet (saw) in the hope to be enlisted within the Muslim ranks this time. Some of the youth, who were strong and well-built for their age were granted permission by the Prophet (saw) to join the Muslim forces. Sadly, the eager 13 year old teenager was once again rejected.
The Prophet (saw) did promise him that when the time is right, he too would fight with the others. And he did, he fought some years later, at the age of 16 at the Battle of the Trench.
But fighting against the enemies of Islam isn’t what this motivated teen is known for in Islamic history. He is known for a service that not only helped the early Muslims, but also continued to be an integral part of Islamic history and even now helps you and I. He is none other than, Zayd ibn Thabit (ra). (One of my favourite sahabas)
Zayd (ra) is famously known for is dedication to the Quran and in later years it’s compilation. But it’s the steps that him and his mother took that has stuck with me since the first time I ever read about him.
After his rejection at Badr and Uhud, he accepted that this was not what he could do to serve Islam. Being a sincere and devoted believer he wanted to concentrate on something he would do well in and this lead him to studying the Quran. He shared his thoughts with his mother, she was delighted and immediately made attempts to have his ambition realised by speaking to some of the men of the Ansar. They in turn went to the Prophet (saw) saying:
“O Messenger of Allah, our son Zayd ibn Thabit has memorized seventeen surahs of the Quran and recites them as correctly as they were revealed to you. In addition to that he is good at reading and writing. It is in this field of service that he desires to be close to you. Listen to him if you will.”
When the Prophet (saw) listened to Zayd (ra) recite, he (saw) found Zayd’s recitation was clear and beautiful and his stops and pauses indicated clearly he understood what he was reciting. The Prophet (saw) was pleased and set him a task. He (saw) said: “Zayd, learn the writing of the Jews for me.” Zayd responded with: “At your command, Messenger of Allah.”
Zayd learnt Hebrew with enthusiasm and became proficient in the language. The Prophet (saw) then instructed him to learn Syriac, which he did with enthusiasm too. This lead to Zayd performing the very important task of an interpreter for the Prophet (saw), in his dealings with non-Arabic speakers.
Zayd was later instructed by the Prophet (saw) to record the revelations. He was amongst many others who had this responsibility. Zayd experienced the Quran directly from the Prophet (saw).
The story doesn’t end here; Zayd went onto authenticate the Quran after the Prophet (saw) passed away. During the khilafah of Abu Bakr (ra) Zayd was asked to collect the Quran in one manuscript. This was a weighty task, Zayd later said: “By Allah, if Abu Bakr had ordered me to shift one of the mountains from its place, it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Quran.”
During Uthman’s (ra) khilafah, Zayd lead a team of other prominent sahabas in writing several accurate copies of the manuscript Zayd had written when Abu Bakr had asked him. These are very important events in Islamic history, the Quran, the words of Allah that came to guide the whole of mankind was preserved by this young man. He was known then and he is known now; Umar (ra) once said in a sermon: “O people, whoever wants to ask about the Quran, let him go to Zayd ibn Thabit.”
Yes, I’ve shared a lengthy story but it holds details that we can all learn from. This story and in particular this sahaba has a special place in my heart. I always go back to this when I feel a little empty with my responsibilities as a Muslimah. As citizens of an ummah that is struggling once again for a firm place in this ever-hateful world – some of us easily feel like we aren’t doing enough or anything spiritually or socially.
When we reflect on Zayd’s (ra) story we can see he was once in a similar position. He was eager to join the Muslim army, he was young and wanted to do what other boys his age were doing. The rejection from the Prophet (saw) could have easily made him turn away from his dedication, but he remained true to his conviction to serve Allah and the deen. He looked at where his skills lay and enhanced them. Alhamdhulillah, his mother played a very important role in him achieving this.
One of the lessons I take from the story of Zayd is that we may not have control over our reality, but we have control over our sincerity and dedication. We may not all be good at memorising the Quran, or specialise in fiqh, or run classes for members of the community but if we look closely, we’ll find we are good at something, and we can, if we want, use that to do our bit. This story is a reminder for both parents and the youth and that is we shouldn’t feel like things have come to an end if our original plans don’t work. Zayd (ra) and his mother, both wanted him to work for the deen, that was their ultimate goal, so therefore they didn’t let the rejection put them off.
Zayd’s (ra) story can be used at youth circles, at Quran classes and in general when talking about amazing personalities in Islamic history. But for me, right now in life, it tells me to not live with disappointment but rather move on and find a way to do something that will count on the Day it all matters. Our responsibility to our selves, our families and our ummah does not go away because we aren’t good at something. Zayd ibn Thabit’s (ra) life testifies to us that we can restrict ourselves and make excuses but we don’t need to.
Zayd ibn Thabit’s story taken from ‘Companions of the Prophet 2’ by AbdulWahid Hamid pages 70-77.