Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah

Returning to Makkah in haste after a trading trip to Syria, Talhah asked his family: “Did anything happen in Makkah since we left?” “Yes,” they replied. “Muhammad ibn `Abdullah emerged alleging that he is a Prophet and Abu Quhafah (Abu Bakr) has followed him.”

“I used to know Abu Bakr,” said Talhah. “He is an easy-going, amiable, gentle man. He was an honest and upright trader. We were quite fond of him and loved sitting in his company because of his knowledge of Quraysh history and genealogy.”

Later, Talhah went to Abu Bakr and asked: “Is it true what they say, that Muhammad ibn Abdullah has appeared as a Prophet and that you follow him.” “Yes,” replied Abu Bakr and went on to tell Talhah about Muhammad and what a good thing it would be if he too followed him. Talhah in turn told Abu Bakr the story of his strange recent encounter with an ascetic in the market-place of Busra in Syria. The ascetic is said to have told Talhah that someone called “Ahmad” would appear in Makkah about that time and that he would be the last of the Prophets. He also told Talhah, so the story goes, that the Prophet would leave the sacred precincts of Makkah and migrate to a land of black soil, water and palm trees…

Abu Bakr was astonished by the story and took Talhah to Muhammad (s). The Prophet, peace be on him, explained Islam to Talhah and recited some portions of the Quran to him. Talhah was enthusiastic. He related to the Prophet his conversation with the ascetic of Busra. There and then, Talhah pronounced the Shahadah – that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. He was the fourth person who had been introduced to Islam by Abu Bakr.

The Quraysh were astounded by the young Talhah’s acceptance of Islam. The one who was most dismayed and unhappy was his mother. She had hoped that he would one day be a leader in his community because of his noble character and his outstanding virtues. Some of the Quraysh, anxious and worried, went to Talhah as soon as they could to wean him away from his new religion but found him firm and unshakable as a rock. When they despaired of using gentle persuasion to achieve their aim, they resorted to persecution and violence. The following story is related by Mas`ud ibn Kharash:

“While I was making Sa`iy between as-Safa and al-Marwa, there appeared a crowd of people pushing a young man whose hands were tied behind his back. As they rushed behind him, they rained down blows on his head. In the crowd was an old woman who lashed him repeatedly and shouted abuses at him. I asked: ‘What’s the matter with this young man?’ ‘This is Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah. He gave up his religion and now follows the Banu Hashim man.’ ‘And who is the woman behind him?’ I asked. ‘She is as-Sabah bint al-Hadrami, the young man’s mother,’ they said.

The Quraysh did not stop there. Nawfal ibn Khuwaylid, nicknamed the ‘lion of the Quraysh” bound Talhah with a rope and with the same rope he tied up Abu Bakr and then handed them over to the mindless and violent mob of Makkah to be beaten and tortured. The shared experience no doubt drew Talhah and Abu Bakr closer together!

Years passed and events of great significance took place. Talhah grew in stature as he bore the pain and suffering of being tested in the path of God and His Prophet. He gained the unique reputation among Muslims of being called the “living martyr”. The Prophet, peace be on him, also called him “Talhah the Good” and “Talhah the Generous”.

The name of the “living martyr” was earned during the Battle of Uhud. Talhah had missed the Battle of Badr. He and Said ibn Zayd had been sent outside Madinah on a mission by the Prophet and when they returned, the Prophet and his companions were already on the way back from Badr. They were both sad at having missed the opportunity of taking part in the first campaign with the Prophet but were tremendously pleased when he told them they would get the same reward as those who actually fought.

At the Battle of Uhud, when the Muslims fell into disarray at the beginning of hostilities the Prophet became dangerously exposed. There were about eleven men of the Ansar at his side and one Muhajir – Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah. The Prophet clambered up the mountain hotly pursued by some mushrikin. The Prophet, peace be on him, shouted:

“The one who repulses these people from us will be my companion in Paradise.” “I, O Messenger of God,” shouted Talhah.

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