Ahl Al Suffah أهل الصفة
The men of the platform: refers to those in the early days of Islam, who after migration to Madinah, was not hosted by anyone, being complete strangers, and so took residence on a Platform (suffah) in Masjid Al Nabawi. It was originally in the north of the Mosque by the right side of the Qiblah. When the direction changed towards Makkah in South, the Suffah was left at the rear of the Mosque, in place where it is now.
From a few up to eighty Companions could be found on the Platform any day during the Prophet's life. They had no means of income, and, given the trade boycott by the Makkan Quraysh and military threats that throttled the Madinan economy, jobs were hard to find. Some are said to have collected woods from the nearby forests that did not yield much. The majority spent their time hungry during the day and a few at night too. Occsionally, someone would hang up a bunch of dates, from which only the most hungry picked a few. By evening the Prophet would divide them among the Ansar. Sometimes, when he could afford, he would host a few himself, and distribute the rest among those who could provide them dinner. When found, he would send a basket or two of dates to them, and, perhaps this was oftener than dinner in sombody’s house because once while the Prophet was leading in the Prayers, one of them shouted, “Messenger of Allah, dates have burned our stomachs.” The equivalent of the hair of Hasan and Hussayn in gold or silver was divided among them by the Prophet's instruction after their `Aqiqah.
Abu Hurayrah reports that once he saw thrity of them Pray behind the Prophet. None of them had a cloak on (besides the basics that covered their coverable parts). At one time, 70 of them had not but a single cloak one end of which he tied to his neck and another on his knees and sat in awkward position not to reveal himself.
Their time was generally spent in memorizing the Qur’an, remembrance of Allah, listening to the Prophet's sermons or attending his assemblies. When ordered, they would go out in a campaign. But the standards to belonging to them were high. Once one of them died and two Dinar were found on him. The Prophet said, “(Those are) two pieces of Fire-brands”, and asked others to do his funeral Prayer.
Of the hundreds or so that had at one time or another occupied the Platform, Abu Hurayrah, Wathilah ibn Asqa`, Abu Dharr, Ibn Mas`ud, Salim ibn `Ubayd, and Ibn al-Qurt were the notable ones. Of these, at least two became Governors after the Prophet's death. Abu Hurayrah was appointed Governor of Bahrayn by `Umar ibn al-Khattab, and, after him, the Governor of Madinah by Mu`awiyyah; while Ibn al-Qurt was appointed Governor of Hims by `Umar ibn al-Khattaib Ibn Mas`ud was chosen by `Umar b al-Khattab to teach the Qur’an at Kufa.
It is not clear since when the Suffah has been disallowed for the homeless Muslims seeking knowledge, but it was there until 194 H when Haroon al-Rasheed visited the Masjid Al Nabawi and met Abu Nasr, one of the As-habal-Suffah of that time. The story, as in Al-Muntazam and Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah goes like this. Isma`il ibn abi Fudayk said: There was a man with us called Abu Nasr. He was from Juhaynah (tribe). In matters in which people use their heads, he had lost his head. He never spoke until spoken to. He was one of the Ahl al-Suffah. When asked, he gave answers that pleased. One day I went to him while he was on the Suffah at the end of the Mosque, head bowed down, his forehead between his knees. I sat down by him and touched him to a startle. I gave him something that I had with me. He took it saying, “It arrives at the right time.” I asked him, “How do you measure sharaf (Islamic gentlemanliness)?” He answered, “To treat well the kinsfolk, the first and the last of them, forgiving their wrong-doings.” I asked, “What is generosity?” He answered, “The slender offering from the destitute.” I asked him, “What is miserliness?” He said, “Oof” and turned his head. I said, “Will you not answer?” He said, “I have answered.”
Those days Haroon al-Rasheed visited the town (in 194H). The Mosque was emptied for him. He visited the grave, went up to the Bab Jibril, embraced the Ustuwana al-Nabiyy and then said, “Take me to the Ahl al-Suffah.” When he arrived, Abu Nasr was prodded and told, “This is Ameer al-Mu`mineen.” He raised his head and said, “Man! There is none between Allah and His slaves and His Messenger’s Ummah, who are your subjects, but you. Allah will question you about them, so better be prepared with an answer. `Umar had said, ‘If a goat is lost on the banks of Euphrates, `Umar is afraid he will be questioned about it.’” Haroon was in tears. He said, “O Abu Nasr. My subjects are different from the subjects of `Umar and my times are different from the times of `Umar.” He replied, “I do not think this will be of any avail to you. Take care of yourself, for you and `Umar each will be questioned about what you two were given power over.” Haroon asked for a jar that had 300 Dinar and ordered that it be delivered to Abu Nasr. Abu Nasr said, “I am no more than one of the Suffah people. Hand it over to so and so, he will distribute among the Ahl al-Suffah, with me as one among them.”
Every Friday Abu Nasr would enter the market by the morning and standing by every group of people would say, “People! Fear the day when no soul would be of any avail to any other, when no compensation will be accepted nor any intercession will be of any profit. When a man dies his people, wealth and deeds accompany him. When he is placed in the grave, his people and wealth come back with his deeds remaining with him. So choose for yourselves what will give you company in the graves. May Allah show you mercy.” He would keep saying this to group after group until he returned to the Mosque, do his Jumu`ah there, and not come out until he had Prayed the `Isha.
See related articles
- Abu Hurayrah
- As-hab Al-Suffah
- Ameer al-Mu`mineen
- Abu Dhar
- Masjid Al-Nabawi