[Surah Al-Qalam 68:4]
Thumama ibn Uthal was a staunch disbeliever and idol worshipper. He was the chieftain of Banu Hanifah Najd. The present Riyadh and its surrounding areas were once known as Najd. Once the Prophet ﷺ sent a few men to scout around the borders of Najd, where they saw Thumama, who claimed he was on his way to do Umrah (the pagan way). They identified him and brought him for further investigation. He was tied up to a pole of Masjid e Nabwi, where the Prophet ﷺ used to pass by.
Some of you might think, How come the companions of the Prophet ﷺ let a non-Muslim be in Masjid e Nabwi?
It is ignorance on our part that Muslims of certain sects do not allow people of rival sects to enter their masjid, whereas the Prophet ﷺ and his companions allowed the Non-Muslims to enter Masjid. Imam Bukhari and other scholars of Hadith have put a title on one of their chapters, “In needful circumstances, a pagan is allowed to enter the masjid”. Had it been wrong to allow a non-Muslim to enter a Masjid, the companions of the Prophet ﷺ would not have done it. If it was forbidden, then Our Prophet ﷺ himself would have stopped them, if his companions had done it. The Prophet ﷺ passed by Thumama but he did not scold the companions for bringing a Non-Muslim in the Masjid.
How was Thumama dealt with?
“How do you want to be treated Thumama?” The Prophet ﷺ asked the tied man. He replied, “I desire goodness for myself but if you want to kill in reprisal, you can have someone of noble blood to kill ( if you kill me then my tribe is strong enough to revenge my killing). If out of your bounty, you want to forgive, I shall be grateful. If you want money in compensation, I shall give you whatever amount you ask.” He was sure that he would be dealt in a good manner. Why did Thumama think like this? It was because Thumama knew that Prophet ﷺ would not take revenge. Thumama was a popular leader of his tribe. His answer had four options for the Prophet ﷺ. Firstly, he confidently showed a desire of being treated in a good manner, then he gave a hidden threat, thirdly he proposed gratefulness if pardoned and fourthly he offered any amount of money that the Prophet ( peace be upon him) demanded. Here was a prisoner who had the courage to present four options to his captors and there was no aggressive or arrogant response from the Prophet ﷺ.
The Prophet ﷺ arranged food and camel milk from his own house in spite that he had very little food for his own family. Thumama had a huge appetite and by the time he finished his meal served from one of the houses of the family of Prophet ﷺ, he was still hungry. Then he was served food from other wife’s house and he kept on eating till he ate up the food of seven houses of the Prophet ﷺ. Later when he became Muslim, every companion wanted to serve him food from this house, but he could not eat. It was then, the Prophet ﷺ said, “A disbeliever eats seven intestines full whereas a believer suffices with one.”
The next day, Thumama was visited by the Prophet ﷺ again and he asked him the same question, “How are you now”? He replied, “I desire goodness for myself but if you want to kill in reprisal, you can have someone of noble blood to kill ( if you kill me then my tribe is strong enough to revenge my killing). If out of your bounty, you want to forgive, I shall be grateful. If you want money in compensation, I shall give you whatever amount you ask”. This conversation was repeated on the third day. The Prophet ﷺ asked the same question and Thumama replied the same and his hopes were the same, and so was his offer.
Thumana embraces Islam
Then, the Prophet ﷺ ordered to set him free. It is mentioned in another hadith, that when he was set free, the Prophet ﷺ said, “We forgive you without any punishment, nor would we take you as our captive. Thumama you are set free, you may go now.” Thumama set out towards his home. On the way, he passed by a date farm. He spotted a well and stopped his camel there. He went there, took a bath and washed his clothes. But he did not proceed towards his home, rather he returned towards Masjid e Nabwi. The onlookers were astonished to see Thumama returning, this time neat and tidy. He came to a gathering and said, “I bear witness that there is no deity deserving to be Allah and I bear witness that Mohammed is His worshipper and Messenger”. This man was a leader of his people and he was not defeated by the sword, but he was won over by the noble character of the Prophet ﷺ.
Then Thumama (MayAllah be pleased with him) addressed the Prophet ﷺ and his words are worth noting. “O Mohammed (peace be upon him), no face was disliked by me more than yours, but now, no face is dearer than yours. I never looked at any religion with such hatred as towards yours, but now after observing your character, there is no religion more beloved to me than Islam. By Allah, Madinah was the most hateful city for me but now, it is the most beloved city for me.” This was a revolutionary statement.
Scholars have deduced certain major lessons in character building from the story of Thumama (May Allah be pleased with him)
First: Excellent Akhlaq (behavior) towards any enemy can turn hatred into immense love. This is what the Qur’an encourages as well,
“Repel evil with that which is good and you will find the person who was your enemy as your best-friend”(Al-Fusilat-verse 34)
There is a very encouraging narration noted in Tirmidhi,
“Which deed speeds up the movement of a person to Jannah”? He replied, “Taqwa ( The fear of Allah) and good Akhlaq (conduct)”.