Abdullah Ibn Salaam (r.a.)
His original name was al-Husain ibn Salam. He was a learned rabbi, and one respected by all, for his righteousness and knowledge. He properly divided his time between taking care of his palm trees, worshipping and teaching in the synagogue, and studying the Torah. He used to stop at certain passages in the Torah and ponder a long time upon the news therein of the prophet who was to appear to complete the Message of all the prophets before him. The more he read the more he became convinced that the foretold prophet was Muhammad ibn Abdullah who appeared among his people in Makkah.
The story of his encounter with the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, is a fascinating one. He related it himself, saying, “When I heard about the appearance of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, I inquired about his name, his description, and the time at which he appeared, and compared this to what was written in our book, until I became certain that he was the one we were waiting for, and that the Message he carried was the true one. I, however, kept silent about the whole matter until the day he left Makkah to make hijrah to Madinah. Before reaching it, he stayed in Qubaa for some time, and a man came to Madinah to spread the news of his arrival. I was then working at the top of a palm tree, while my aunt Khalidah bint al-Harith was sitting under the tree. When I heard the news I cried, “Allahu Akbar!” My aunt heard my cry and so she exclaimed, “You disappoint me! By Allah, had you heard that Musa ibn Imran was coming this way you would not be more enthusiastic!” I said, “Indeed my aunt he is the brother of Musa and follows his deen, for he is sent with the same Message.” She was silent for a moment then said, “Is he really the prophet whom you have told us will be sent at this very time, to complete the Message of those prophets before him?” I assured her that he was. I went straight to the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, and there I saw a large crowd in front of his door. I pushed my way until I came near to him. The first words I heard from him as he was addressing people were, “O People spread greetings (i.e., salam), feed the hungry, and offer salah at night while others are sleeping, and you will surely enter Paradise in peace.” I looked intently into his face while he was talking, and said to myself, “This could not be the face of a liar.” I got closer to him and I pronounced the shahadah thus becoming a Muslim. He asked me, “What is your name?” I said, “al-Husain ibn Salam.” “No, your name will be Abdullah ibn Salam.” he said. “Yes Abdullah,” I concurred, “From now on I do not wish to be called by other than this name.”
I returned to my house and called my family to Islam and they all became Muslims including my aunt Khalidah who was by then an old woman. I asked them to conceal the matter from the Jews until I gave them permission to reveal it. Then I went back to the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, and said, “The Jews are a nation of liars and slanderers, and I wish you would summon their leaders and then take me into one of your houses and hide me from them. Then ask them about me so that they may tell you the position I hold among them, before you call them to Islam. For if they knew my Islam before hand they will utter slanderous lies against me.” The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sal lam, hid me in one of his rooms, and he invited the Jews and called them to Islam, reminding them of what was written about his coming in their books. But they kept arguing with him and denying the truth, while I was listening to their lies. When he gave up all hopes about their becoming Muslims, he asked them, ‘What is the position of al-Husain ibn Salam among you?’ He is our chief and the son of our chief; our rabbi and our learned man,’ they answered. “If he became Muslim, would you become Muslims?” asked the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, “God forbid!” they said, “He will never be Muslim, may God protect him from that!” At that time, I emerged from the room and said to them, “O Jews, fear Allah and accept what He has sent you. For by Allah you well know that he is the Messenger of Allah, and you will find him described in the Torah, and even his name is mentioned in it. And I bear witness that he is the Messenger of Allah, I believe in him, I testify that his Message is the truth, and I acknowledge him.” They said, “You are lying, and by Allah you are truly the most evil of us, son of the most evil, ignorant, son of an ignorant.” They did not leave any defect they could think of but they accused me of it. I turned to the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, and said, “I told you that the Jews are a nation of liars and slanderers!”
Abdullah completely disavowed the Jews and proved more than once their treacherous nature. The Jewish rabbis gathered one day in their synagogue to look into the matter of a married Jewish man who had committed adultery with a married Jewish woman. They said, “Let us send them to Muhammad, if he prescribes scourging with a rope and blackening of the face then we would know that he is a king, and if he prescribes stoning to death, then we would know that he is a prophet.” When they came to the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, he ordered that they be stoned to death. He also asked for a Torah, and a rabbi sat reading from it concerning the punishment for adultery. While reading, the rabbi put his hand over the verse of stoning. Abdullah struck the rabbi’s hand saying, “This, O Messenger of Allah, is the verse of stoning which he refuses to read to you!” The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, said, “Woe to you Jews! What has induced you to abandon the Judgment of Allah which you hold in your hands?”
Abdullah ibn Salam dedicated himself to Islam with an eagerness that surpassed his zeal when he was a Jew. He adored reciting the Qur’an, letting its meaning and feeling seep into his mind, his heart and the marrow of his bones. He was passionately attached to the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, and sought always to be close to him learning from him his sayings and actions. He eagerly worked to attain Paradise, until the Prophet himself gave him the glad tidings that he would attain it! Behind this good news is a story that was related by Qays ibn Ubadah. He said, “I was sitting in a study circle at the Masjid of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, in Madinah, where a gentle old man was speaking while people were greatly enjoying his speech. After he finished and went away, people said, “Whoever wishes to look at a man from the people of Paradise let him look at this man.” So I asked who the man was, and I was told he was Abdullah ibn Salam. I decided to follow the man to find out why he was promised Paradise. When he arrived at his house and was about to enter it, I asked permission to enter and he allowed me, then he asked, “What is bringing you O my son?” I related to him the story of the people and asked him what was the reason behind it. He said, “Allah knows who are the dwellers of Paradise. But I will tell you the story behind it. A long time ago, during the days of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, I had a dream that a man came to me, held me by my hand and asked me to get up. While I was walking I saw a path on my left, and I was about to take it, when he said, “leave it this is not your way,” so I looked and found a clear path on my right, he asked me to take it and I did, until I came to a vast, beautiful, verdant garden, and in the middle of it was a pole of steel, rooted in the ground and reaching to the sky, and at its top was a golden ring. The man said, “climb,” “I can not” I replied. A servant came to me and held me so I was able to climb it until I reached the golden ring. I held the ring with both my hands and remained hung in this way until I woke up. The next day I related my dream to the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, and he interpreted it to me, saying, “As for the left path, it is the path of the Companions of the Left among the dwellers of Hellfire, and as for the right path it is the path of the Companions of the Right, the dwellers of Paradise. The verdant garden is Islam, and the pole in its middle is the deen, the golden ring is the steadfast faith, and you will hold on to it until you die.”