Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf, one of the illustrious Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), exemplifies the transformative power of Islam on individuals. Initially named Abu Amr, he embraced Islam shortly after Abu Bakr, earning the Prophet’s renaming to “Abdul-Rahman” (“Servant of the All-Merciful”).

The Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are, by definition, all those who accompanied him, even if it was only for an hour, or even if they met him only once.

One way to assess the personality of Prophet Muhammad is to study the impact of his life and teachings on his close Companions. The transformation the Prophet wrought on those wild Arab men around him was nothing short of miraculous. On the virtues of these transformed men, God Almighty Himself says what means:

[Muhammad is God’s Apostle; and those who are (truly) with him are firm towards all deniers of the truth, (yet) full of mercy towards one another. You can see them bowing down, pros­trating themselves (in prayer), seeking grace with God and (His) goodly acceptance: their marks are on their faces, traced by prostration. This is their parable in the Torah as well as their parable in the Gospel: (they are) like a seed that brings forth its shoot, and then He strengthens it, so that it grows stout, and (in the end) stands firm upon its stem, delighting the sowers. (Thus will God cause the believers to grow in strength), so that through them He might confound the deniers of the truth. (But) unto such of them as may (yet) attain to faith and do righteous deeds, God has promised forgiveness and a reward supreme.] (Al-Fath 48:29)

[Indeed, God has turned in His mercy unto the Prophet, as well as unto those who have forsaken the domain of evil and those who have sheltered and succored the Faithful — those who followed him in the hour of distress, after the hearts of a party of them were about to deviate from faith. And once again: He has turned unto them in His mercy – surely to them He is Compassionate, Merciful.] (At-Tawbah  9:117)

Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf one of the greatest Companions

Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf was one of the greatest among the Companions of the Prophet, and his place is close to Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq and Umar ibn Al-Khattab.

He came into the fold of Islam just two days after Abu Bakr became  Muslim. His original name was Abu Amr; and it was the Prophet himself who named him “Abdul -Rahman”, meaning “the Servant of the All-Merciful”.

Thus Abdul-Rahman became one of the first and foremost among the Prophet’s Companions who had to suffer the terrible persecution and hardships inflicted upon the Prophet and his close followers. He was one of those who participated in the first immigration to Abyssinia in the group led by Jafar ibn Abi Talib.

Along with the Prophet and other Companions, Abdul-Rahman emigrated to Madinah. On reaching there, he was the guest of Saad ibn Al-Rabiah, who was one of the richest among the nobles of Madinah.

Saad, in the spirit of generosity and magnanimity with which the Ansar (Muslims of Madinah) greeted the Muhajirin (immigrants to Madinah), said to Abdul-Rahman:

“My brother, among the people of Madinah I have the most wealth. I have two orchards and I have two wives. See which of the two orchards you like and I shall vacate it for you and which of my two wives is pleasing to you and I will divorce her for you.”

Abdul-Rahman answered:

“May God bless you in your family and your wealth! But just show me where the market is.” (Al-Bukhari)

Reaching the market of Madinah, Abdul-Rahman started trading in a humble way that became the starting point of a fabulous career of business success. Indeed, he never tasted failure in his business ventures, so much so that he once said that if he lifted a stone he expected to find gold or silver under it.

Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf’s generosity

Abdul-Rahman was the wealthiest and the most generous of the Prophet’s Companions, probably with the exception of Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq. Indeed, his service to Islam with his wealth was not less significant than his service to Islam on the battlefield. He fought most valiantly in both the battles of Badr and Uhud, where he suffered several severe wounds.

When the Prophet was once organizing a military campaign, he sent for his companions to seek their financial support. Abdul-Rahman was one of the first to come forward with help. He said to the Prophet:

“O Messenger of God, I have four thousand dinars. I offer two thousand as a gift to my Lord and two thousand I leave for my family.” (Ibn Abi Hatim)

He was never attached to his wealth, and he never allowed it to corrupt him.

At the time of the expedition to Tabuk, the Prophet’s need for resources was great, because the Byzantine army was a mighty and well-equipped force. And Madinah was facing a terrible year of drought and scarcity at the time, and so provisions were in short supply.

The Prophet called his Companions to generously support the war effort, and assured them of their reward from God Almighty. Of those who came forward to help, Abdul-Rahman was in the forefront.

On the way to Tabuk, the Prophet was once absent when it was the time for prayer. Abdul-Rahman was chosen as the imam (prayer leader), and before the first unit of the prayer was over, the Prophet joined the worshippers and performed the prayer behind Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf.

This was indeed a great blessing and honor God Almighty conferred on Abdul-Rahman, because by this, he could become the imam of the imam of the prophets of Allah, Muhammad.

Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf and the Prophet’s love

The Prophet’s love for Abdul-Rahman is borne out by an incident in the story of Banu Khuzaimah. Khalid ibn Al-Waleed ordered the killing of the enemies to continue, even while they were crying aloud that they embraced Islam. Abdul-Rahman prevented him from this, and there ensued an altercation between the two of them. And then Khalid said to Abdul-Rahman: “You only disregard us because you preceded us (in entering Islam).”

Abdul-Rahman complained to the Prophet about this. And the Prophet said to Khalid:

“Do not abuse my Companions. By Him who holds my soul in His hand, had any of you spent in charity the weight of Mount Uhud in gold, he would not attain the standard of any one of them, or even half that.” (Al-Bukhari)

Abdul-Rahman became the richest man among the Companions of the Prophet, but he was never attached to his wealth, and he never allowed it to corrupt him.

Abdul-Rahman’s trading caravans continued to grow larger and larger, bringing to the people of Madinah large quantities of commodities they needed, and exporting whatever they had in surplus.

Once he brought to Madinah a huge caravan of seven hundred camels laden with plenty of goods, and they crowded the streets. There was much shouting and excitement as people came out to witness the sight and see what goods and sustenance the caravan had brought. Abdul-Rahman did not hesitate to distribute the whole wealth he brought to the people of Madinah.

Abdul-Rahman continued giving, secretly and openly. On account of this fabulous generosity, Aishah, the widow of the Prophet said:

“May God allow him to drink from the water of Salsabil (a spring in Paradise).” (Al-Tirmidhi)

Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf after the demise of the Prophet

After the demise of the Prophet, Abdul-Rahman took on the responsibility of looking after the needs of “the Mothers of the Faithful”, the Prophet’s wives. He even performed Hajj with them to ensure that all their needs were met.

When a share of Abdul-Rahman’s legacy reached Aishah, she said she was reminded of the Prophet’s saying to her: “No one will feel compassion towards you after I die except the patient and resolute ones.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

And it is no wonder that Abdul-Rahman was one of the ten Companions of the Prophet who were guaranteed Paradise according to a saying of Prophet Muhammad.

By Prof. Shahul Hameed