Dawah was called in the first year of the Hijrah, for the first time in history. Since then, it has been heard all over the world without interruption. These words have become a special symbol, meaning the call of Muslims to prayer. We hear the Azan pouring from the minarets of the masjids five times a day. The great honor of voicing it first fell to an outstanding Companion of the Prophet, Bilal ibn Rabah (RA). He converted to Islam in Mecca, suffered many tortures in the way of Allah (SWT), and then made the Hijrah.
When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) wanted to choose the best way to call for prayer, many Companions of the Prophet, including Umar ibn Khattab (RA), heard the formula of the Azan in a dream and informed him about it. In the masjid, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) addressed Bilal ibn Rabah (RA), who had a beautiful voice, saying to get up and to recite the Azan. Bilal did so, gathering all the residents of Medina for prayer and becoming the first Muezzin of Prophet (PBUH).
Acceptance of Islam
Bilal (RA) was originally a black slave from Ethiopia and belonged to the his master’s tribe. He was a tall, slender man, slightly hunchbacked. He was quiet and never started a conversation first.
Bilal ibn Rabah (RA) was restricted by the class system, being an Abyssinian slave in the hands of the toughest tribe of the Bani Jumuh, under the scourge of one of the most terrible pagans of the times of ignorance – the pagan master of Bilal.
However, what distinguishes his personality, presents him as a worthy role model for all times and peoples, and elevates his degree, is his true, fervent and unwavering faith. It is a miracle that a man who was an illiterate slave in his early twenties, having been brought up and nurtured in the most deplorable system of values, has completely changed in the shortest possible time. He has shown the wonderful effect of this transformation despite the moral and physical torture.
Bilal first heard about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the conversations of his owner with his guests. He soon felt ready to become a Muslim. He knew that his only correct decision was to adopt the religion of justice and dignity – Islam, which he subsequently did.
Bilal loved to listen to Abu Bakr’s Dawah, another companion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Gradually he found his heart strongly attached to this religion. He went with Abu Bakr to Prophet (PBUH) and announced his conversion to Islam. He was the seventh person who converted to Islam. Abu Bakr and others belonging to this tribe were safe from harm from the Quraysh tribe. This tribe was very strongly opposed to Islam and was a great enemy of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Fortitude and Humility of Bilal ibn Rabah (RA)
At that time, the wrath of the infidels fell on the Muslims, who did not belong to any tribe that could protect them. The pagan master of Bilal used to force Bilal to leave the house on a very hot day in the morning, dressed in armor. He would throw it face down on the sand and leave it in the sun. He returned only to turn it on its back.
From time to time, Bilal, as a result of terrible torture, lost consciousness. When he came to, he was confronted by the angry cries of his master, who wanted him to leave Islam. The pagan master of Bilal, whose heart was hard and evil, said: “You must either die or deny the Allah”. But the steadfast and brave Bilal, who was filled with love for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and for Islam, had no doubt and repeated the eloquent and effective phrase: “Allah is one, Allah is one.”
Despite all the difficulties that Bilal endured one after another, he remained firm and steady as a mountain. He was full of optimism and confidence that Allah (SWT) would soon save him. These difficulties did not weaken his faith in Allah (SWT), but on the contrary, increased his steadfastness and devotion. His body was wounded, his stomach wanted food, and he was crying because of fatigue, but at the same time, his spirit was strong and filled with the light of Iman.
Life after Liberation from Slavery
After his liberation, Bilal stayed with Prophet (PBUH). Then made the Hijrah to Medina, where he later began to recite the Azan. Bilal ibn Rabah (RA) rose up under the Prophet (PBUH) only because of his faith.
Bilal ibn Rabah’s position in Islam was rising; he fought alongside Prophet (PBUH), defending his Dawah. His master, who had tortured him for his conversion to Islam, was destined to fall at the hands of Bilal ibn Rabah (RA) at the Battle of Badr. The pagan master of Bilal, tortured him on the hot sand with a huge stone on his chest just for the words of monotheism “One, one”.
On the day of the capture of Mecca, Bilal was with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) when he entered the Kaaba. His voice, which first announced the call to Dawah in the masjid of Prophet (PBUH) in Medina, was the first to announce the Azan from Kaaba, thus announcing its liberation.
Prophet (PBUH) chose Bilal to proclaim the Azan, and this was a kind of sign. It was as if he was speaking to people all over the world: “See how faith and fear of Allah exalted this Ethiopian, who was once brought to Mecca as a slave. In our faith, in Islam, there is no place for inequality”.
When Prophet (PBUH) died, his grief was too great, that he asked permission to move to Sham. In Sham (present day Syria) he participated in the Battle of the Yarmuk, and then in the capture of Damascus. And wherever he went in Sham, he would proclaim the Azan.
His Love and Respect to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH)
When Prophet (PBUH) passed away, Bilal read the Azan for the last time. When he came to the words “As-hadu anna Muhammadan rassulullah…”, he began to cry. Everyone in the masjid and all the residents of Medina wept with him. Bilal interrupted the Azan and asked Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA) for permission to leave Medina and become a mujahid. After leaving the city, he fought in the way of Allah (SWT).
Bilal ibn Rabah (RA) rests near Damascus, in the land of modern Syria.