Abdullah ibn Rawahah – An Embodiment of Heavenly Justice

Abdullah ibn Rawahah was a leading companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He was from the rank of Ansar (the Helpers, or the local inhabitants of Madinah).

Moreover, he was a scribe and poet. During the battle of Mu’tah in the 8th year after Hijrah against the forces of the Byzantine Empire, he was third in command. He was killed in the same battle.

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After the battle of Khaybar in the 7th year after Hijrah against the renegade Jews, the Jews were defeated and an agreement was signed. According to the agreement, the Jews were allowed to remain on their lands and in their fortresses, while obliging them to pay half their agricultural yield to the Prophet’s state.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then appointed Abdullah ibn Rawahah to estimate the agricultural produce of the Jews and to make sure that the taxes were duly paid, as per the agreement.

However, the Jews attempted to bribe Abdullah ibn Rawahah, most probably with the jewellery of their women, so that he would estimate the amount of their harvests less, and would generally go easy on them.

When he realized what the Jews were up to, Abdullah ibn Rawahah got upset, yet insulted, and in such a state said to them:

By Allah! I have come to you from the one who is the dearest of all creation to me (Prophet Muhammad), and you are the most unpleasant and disgusting creatures of Allah in my view (especially so now after this evil attempt of yours). You are more hated by me than an equivalent number of apes and swine. What you offer me is bribery, which is illegal. We never accept it.

Then, immediately after that, he told them something unheard of:

However, (you can rest assured that) neither my excessive love for him (the Prophet), nor my excessive hatred for you will prevent me in the slightest from being just with you.

In other words, Abdullah ibn Rawahah indicated to the Jews that his judgment will in no way be affected by his emotions, or any other internal or external factors. He was taught that justice must be relationships and emotions-blind. It must transcend the levels of human intrinsic and acquired variabilities.

After all, justice, both as a concept and human way of life, is honorable and pure, and must be preserved as such. It is divine. Only by promoting and practicing authentic justice can humans and their societies be elevated to higher planes of meaning, proficiency and experience.

Thus, according to the Quranic vocabulary and spirit, justice is always associated with piety, goodness, truth and victory, while injustice is associated with falsehood, malice and spiritual, as well as moral, darkness and bankruptcy.

Through the holy prophets, justice was presented to man as one of the greatest heavenly gifts. Man is not, and cannot be, the source of justice. God and His revelations are.

Conceiving and actualizing absolute justice greatly outweigh man’s abilities. Hence, man can only be the target and conduit of divine justice. All forms of human justice are but shadows, or offshoots, of God’s justice.

When the Jews heard the words of Abdullah ibn Rawahah, they were stunned. What they just witnessed and heard was a jaw-dropping stuff. As People of the Book (ahl al-kitab), they together with the Christians knew more about faith and virtue than others from those who did not follow the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). They were closer to the secrets of the truth-related treasures than anybody else, notwithstanding their actual relationship with the same truth.

The impact was so powerful and overwhelming that the Jews could not hide their amazement. Instantaneously, they retorted, rather intuitively:

“This is the foundation upon which the heavens and earth were created (and are sustained).”

What did the Jews in reality hear and see, what was so spectacular about it, and what did they actually mean by their response?

The answer is twofold.

First, the Jews saw in Abdullah ibn Rawahah an embodiment of Almighty Allah’s final revelation to mankind through Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). They saw a phenomenon and realm. The last thing they saw was a biological being called Abdullah ibn Rawahah.

As it is known, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) aimed primarily to create or develop people (human capital). Everything else was secondary and in service of people.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) knew that it was people who would create and sustain, or undermine and destroy, civilizations. It was people furthermore from whom all good and evil could originate, and to whom all the consequences, good or bad, were to return.

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About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].