A historic figure with magnificent singing voice emerged during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, whose place in history would forever be endeared among Muslims.
Bilal Ibn Rabah. The first caller (mu-athen) to prayer in Islam. He was born in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and he was also a former slave. But Omar Ibn Al-khattib, the second Caliph in Islam, also responsible for “completely destroying the throne of Persia and reducing to shambles the foundation of Byzantium Empire” described Bilal as our “master.”
To the Muslims his name personifies endurance, sacrifice and determination. According to Wayne Chandler, “Bilal was the Prophet’s closest friend, who was chosen by the Prophet to protect him. It was the voice of Bilal that was used to call the faithful to prayer. Bilal had been a slave to Umayyah Ibn Khalaf, having been born in Mecca to a slave mother, he probably would have remain a slave forever.
However, as soon as Bilal heard about Muhammad and the new religion (Islam), he openly professes his desire to hear more about Muhammad and the revolutionary qualities of this new religion (Justice and Equality). When his master (of the Quraish leadership) heard that he had embrace Islam, he was savagely beaten in an effort to force him to abandon it. Bilal was then taken to the desert, laid naked on burning stones, and large rocks were placed all on top of his body, having been carried by several men.
He was told to renounce the one God (Allah) and praise the idol Al-Laath and Al-Uzzaa. Repeatedly tortured, he was asked to deny his newly found religion and God, over and over again. Bilal repeatedly uttered one word Ahad-Ahad (God is one).
In the evening Bilal was led by children with a rope round his neck through the street of Mecca and then led back to the desert at daybreak for more torture and bargaining.
This went on for days, but Bilal only kept uttering the same word, Ahad-Ahad-Ahad. When Prophet Muhammad closest companion at that time Abu Bakr, (first Caliph of Islam) heard about Bilal’s plight, he went to Umayyah and paid him large sum to secure Bilal’s release.
Muhammad was very happy to see Bilal free for the first time in his life, having play crucial part in ensuring Bilal’s release from his predicament. After the migration of Mohammad and his follower to Al-Medina, he asked Bilal to be the first mu-athen in Islam whose duty was to call the faithful to prayer five times a day. When war broke out between the Muslim and Quraish, Bilal took part in the first battle in Islam, called the battle of Badr.
To honour Bilal the Prophet Muhammad chose Ahad-Ahad as the battle slogan. Bilal together with Prophet Muhammad took part in all the battle in defence of Islam. When the Prophet Muhammad, Bilal and 10,000 Muslim marched into Mecca 8 years later as victors, joined by other dedicated companions, they went to Al-Ka'abah, the Holy Temple built by Abraham and destroyed all the idols.
Bilal climbed the wall of Al-Ka'abah, the most sacred shrine in Islam, and with a beautiful and solemn voice he called the faithful to prayer.
Thousands of Muslim repeated after Bilal "God is Greatest."
After the death of Muhammad, Bilal requested that the Caliph (Abu Bakr), allow him to continue to "struggle in the path of Allah."
But Abu Bakr wanted Bilal to remain in Medina and continue to call prayer.
Bilal replied: if you freed me just to become your own slave let it be so, but if you freed me for the sake of Allah let me go to him.
His wishes were soon granted, and he joined the Soldiers of Allah whose mission at that time was to liberate Syria from Byzantine oppression and domination.
Bilal made his final call to prayer when he visited Omar (the second Caliph of Islam) in Syria. He later died in Damascus.
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