Unselfish Use of Personal Talent
As noted above, Bilal did not lose a single moment after being freed to turn his entire focus to the worship of Allah the Almighty and the Companionship of Prophet Muhammad.Indeed, even in slavery, Bilal had been known as a leader, one who was honest, trustworthy, insightful, and blessed by Almighty Allah with a most beautiful voice.
We often forget that each of us is unique, with special talents and skills as given to us by Almighty Allah, and we focus too much on our faults, on our weaknesses. With this defeated state of mind, we end up neither being of benefit to ourselves or to anyone else in society.
In the life of Bilal we have the powerful story of a man who was once owned by another man, but when set free, instead of blaming his former owner for enslaving him or punishing him, or somehow depriving him of his skills and talents, he set his sights on total commitment to a better life through complete and total submission to Almighty Allah.
By being patient, keeping himself occupied with the sincere worship and remembrance of Allah the Almighty, Bilal would not have known it then, but he was about to enter into the pages of Islamic history for his unselfish use of his talent.
The First Mu’dhin (Prayer Caller)
A critical decision for the Muslims became the medium through which they would announce the times of the five obligatory prayers. Ibn `Umar reported: “When the Muslims came to Madinah, they gathered, and sought to know the time of prayer, but no one summoned them.”
One day they discussed the matter, and some of them said to use something like the bell of the Christians, and some of them said to use a horn like that of the Jews.
`Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “May not a man be appointed who should call (people) to prayer?”
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “O Bilal, get up and summon (the people) to prayer.” (Muslim, Book #4, Hadith #735).
Known for his beautiful voice with which he used to recite poetry and the Qur’an, Bilal would from that moment onwards be known throughout history for having been the first man in the history of Islam to call the adhan and gather the believers to prayer.
He could have declined by saying it is more worthy of someone from the Quraysh to have this honor. Instead, as a lesson to all of us, he obeyed Prophet Muhammad without question, and then made unselfish use of his talent in the service of his community.
There is so much more that could be said about Bilal, but what stands out clearly is that once the shackles of slavery had been broken, he rose to the height of being a most intimate Companion of Prophet Muhammad, and played an integral part in the development of the early Muslim community.Indeed, Jabir ibn `Abdullah narrated that `Umar ibn Al-Khattab used to say that Abu Bakr As-Siddiq is our chief, and he manumitted our chief, meaning Bilal. (Al-Bukhari, Book #57, Hadith #98).
How wonderful is the life story of Bilal, a blessed Companion indeed, and one who was fortunate enough to know that because of his devotion to Almighty Allah and His Messenger, he had secured a place in Paradise.
Abu Hurairah narrated that at the time of the Fajr prayer, Prophet Muhammad asked Bilal:
“Tell me of the best deed you did after embracing Islam, for I heard your footsteps in front of me in Paradise.” Bilal replied, “I did not do anything worth mentioning except that whenever I perform ablution during the day or night, I pray after that ablution as much as was written for me.” (Al-Bukhari, Book #21, Hadith #250).
Reflect on your own life and strive to be in servitude to Almighty Allah, to use your personal talents unselfishly to serve your community, and most importantly, to love to stand in prayer – worshipping none but Allah alone!
This article was published in 2009.
- Tafsir Ibn KathirSahih Bukhari
- Sahih MuslimHaykal
- M. H. (2004). The life of Muhammad. Indianapolis, IN: American Trust Publications.