Abu Darda’ (real name `Uwaymar) was relatively late of the Ansar to have entered into Islam. He was a firm believer in the pagan deities. Failing with logic, his friends `Abdullah Ibn Rawaha and Muhammad b. Maslamah, adopted the crude method to drive home the truth. They broke his idols in his absence. While trying to piece them together, he could not help asking the chunks why the deity could not defend itself. His wife Umm Darda’ further pushed the truth down by remarking,“If they could defend another, they could defend themselves.” He told her, “Get ready a bath for me.”
When he arrived at the Prophet's place, Ibn Rawaha expressed hope that he was coming to embrace Islam. The Prophet told him, “He is.I have been given the glad tiding by my Lord of his Islam.” That establishes the importance of Abu Darda’: someone who was taken note of by the Divine.
He was a merchant. But,although reconcilable, he was unable to reconcile and synthesize the two: devotion and trade. So he gave up the latter. After all, there was some reason for Divine attention. He was declared a brother of Salman al-Farsi, and was there at Uhud in the third year after Hijrah, receiving the Prophet's praise for his valor when, after the defeat, he, along with a few others, stood before the onslaught, preventing the pagans from reaching the Prophet. The Prophet remarked, “Abu Darda’ is a good fighter.”
Apart from his devotions, he was a close follower of the Prophetic ways. He always smiled when speaking to the people. His wife told him, “People will think a fool of you for your smiles.” He answered, “I have seen the Prophet smiling every time he spoke to a person.”
His ascetic ways went to extremes. Once Salman al-Farsi happened to visit his house. He found his wife in a shabby state and asked her the reason. She informed him that lately Abu Darda’ seems to have lost all interest in her: what with his fasts during the day and prayers and supplication the whole night. Salman spoke to Abu Darda’ to adopt a balanced course. In fact, when Salman al-Farsi was spending a day with him, Abu Darda’ refused to share the meal because he himself was fasting. But Salman forced him to break the voluntary fast. At night when Abu Darda’ got up to offer Prayers, he prevented him saying that that was an affair of the last third of the night. He admonished him, “Abu Darda’! Your wife has her rights upon you. Your body has its right upon you. So, give everyone his or her rights. Fast, but also go without fasts, stand up for Prayers at night, but also sleep; then, when its last part is left, get up and offer some Prayers.” The next day, Abu Darda’ went up and spoke to the Prophet about what Salman had said. He confirmed that Salman was right and admonished him in exactly the same words.
What kind of relationship existed between Abu Darda’ and Salman al-Farsi can be guessed from the following incident. When two men arrived at Salman al-Farsi informing him that they had met Abu Darda’, he asked them, “And where is the gift he sent me through you?” They stoutly refused that Abu Darda’ had sent any gift. But Salman insisted but they only added that Abu Darda’ had sent his Salam to him and said that you would be going to a man besides whom the Prophet did not seek any other’s company so long as he was with him. Salman said, “That’s the gift I had meant.”
When together, the two were a spiritual powerhouse. They used to mention the time when the two were eating out of a pot, while the pot and its contents could be heard singing Allah's praise.
But he had similar spiritual relationships with others. He himself reports, “Whenever `Abdullah Ibn Rawaha met me he would say: ‘Come `Uwaymar, let us renew our faith.’ We would sit down and remember Allah for as long as we could.
Abu Darda’ does not appear in events during the life of the Prophet. But we find him among the volunteers that Abu Bakr raised for the Syrian battles. He was placed under the command of `Amr b. al-`Aas who was reminded by Abu Bakr during his final talk and words of admonition that if he was placing some of the Muhajiroon and Ansar under his command, it was not because he was the best of them. Then he sent them to attack on Palestine. When they encountered the Romans, clad in steel head to foot, and, like a wall of steel in the battlefield, `Amr b. al-`Aas called for a volunteer force to attack. Abu Darda’ was one of those who responded, along with such men as Mu`adh ibn Jabal, `Ikrimah b. Abu Jahal, `Abdullah ibn `Umar, in all seventy. A hard fight followed with Muslims unable to inflict defeat, but “no one was striking at a Roman but had others at the back chanting, “O Allah, help the Ummah of Muhammad.” Late in the day Ibn `Umar sighted an opening in the sky from which began to emerge figures carrying green flags, and the victory was for the Muslims. They killed around 15,000 of the fleeing Romans. They themselves lost some 130 men of whom Sa`id b. al-`Aas, the brother of `Amr b. al-`Aas was one; and none collected the booty until `Amr allowed them the next day.
Subsequently, when `Umar became the Caliph, he appointed Abu Darda’ a judge for Dimashq, acting also as a Governor in the absence of the Governor. But `Umar was not such a one not to be unaware of what men appointed by him were doing. When he came to know that Abu Darda’ was building a house in Hims, he wrote to him to desist and return to Dimashq. Abu Darda’ returned and remained in Dimashq until death. Apart from `Umar, there was another person who did not like houses being built. It was Abu Dharr. He told Abu Darda’, “I see people carrying stones on their backs to build your house. By God, if I were to find you playing with filth, I would consider that state better than this state of building a house.”
Abu Darda’ spent the rest of his life spreading knowledge. He took classes and men like Kulayd b. Sa`d, Rashid b. Sa`d, Khalid b. Ma`dan and Ibn `Aamir learnt the Qur’an from him. He himself was counted as one of the six who were mountains of knowledge. The other five were `Umar, `Ali, Ibn Mas`ud, Mu`adh b. Jabal, and Zayd b. Thabit. But his biographers do not count him merely as a mountain of knowledge, but also as a mountain of practice, a mountain of piety, and a mountain of devotion, who spent most of his time, as his wife said, in deep thought. Why not, when he is the narrator of the Prophetic statement that an hour’s reflection is better than devotion of a night? His piety led him to say, “I fear that I will be asked on Judgment day whether I knew, and when I say yes, I am asked, ‘So, how did you live by what you knew?’”
Obviously, to be counted among figures of this class was no minor honor. No surprise then that people flocked to him for learning. Once he asked one of his students to count how many were there in his circle. He found one thousand, six hundred and odd students squatted there. Abu Darda’ was not a prolific narrator of Hadith as such, yet a little less than two hundred ahadith were passed on by him.
Someone who lived up to the time of Haroon al-Rasheed described Abu Darda’ as an old man with bluish-black eyes, hawk-nosed, who dyed his hair yellow.
He used to supplicate for his friends-in-Allah by name, no less than 36 of them; explaining when asked by Umm Darda’ that he heard the Prophet say that when someone supplicates for his brother, two angels are appointed who say, “May you have the same.” So, should I not wish that angels should supplicate for me? He used to also supplicate that may Allah save him from a divided heart. When asked what a divided heart was, he replied that Allah should bestow on a man wealth in every valley. That divides a heart.
Habeeb b. Maslamah visited him in his sickness and asked him how he felt. Abu Darda’ answered that he felt heavy. Habeeb told him, with assurance that he could take a frank line, “This is a sign of death.” Abu Darda’ replied, “May Allah reward you.”
The Prophet had once said that while at his Pond, some of his Companions will be driven away. Abu Darda’ immediately requested that he Pray for him lest he should be one of them. “You are not one of them” he was told. Accordingly, biographers write, Abu Darda’ died two or three years before `Uthman's caliphate could end i.e. in the 32nd or 33rd Hijrah year.
Except for a daughter called Darda’ and a son called Bilal, we do not know of any other children of Abu Darda. Darda’ must have been beautiful, noting that her mother was quite beautiful. That could be the reason Yezid, son of Mu`awiyyah, sent a messenger seeking her hand. The proposal was promptly rejected. Someone in the gathering declared his wish to marry her. Abu Darda’ married her off to him. The surprise decision went around that he had preferred a plebian while a prince had sought her hand. He said, “She would have had two slaves on her sides, and glittering objects all around in the house. How do you think that would have affected her religion?”
But there could have been other children. `Abd al-Wahid Dimashqi reported that he saw Abu Darda’ delivering lessons to the people and offering the inquirers his juridical opinions. While that was going on, the people of his house remained chatting among themselves in another corner of the mosque. He said to Abu Darda’, “What’s the matter that the people are eager to receive knowledge from you, but your own kith and kin are right here, engaged in pleasantries?” He replied, “That is because I have heard the Prophet say, ‘The most ascetic with reference to this world are the Prophets, and the most difficult on them are their kindred.’”
Umm Darda’ and Abu Darda’ were an example of a pair made for each other. She supplicated that while Abu Darda’ had sought her hand for marriage, she seeks his hand in Paradise. Abu Darda’ heard her wish and remarked, “If such is your wish, then do not marry after me.” The piety-based love was soon tested. She was a beautiful woman, with the charm of youth still on her. Mu`awiyyah sought her in marriage after Abu Darda’s death. She rejected on grounds that she had heard Abu Darda’ reporting the Prophet that a woman will be given to her last husband in Paradise, and she did not wish for anyone there other than Abu Darda.’ “By Allah's will,” she added, “I shall be meeting him in Paradise.”
You get, what you ask.
Of the memorable words of Abu Darda, one is that a man has not fully appreciated the truth if he does not despise the people for the sake of God and then turns to his own inner self and finds that he despises it even more.
A longer quote goes as follows: You fight with the help of your deeds (as much as you fight with the arms). The Prophet said, ‘Are you not fed and helped but because of your weaker sections?’ But our deeds are corrupt, the weaker sections disdained, patience is little, trust is gone, and fear of Allah is lacking; while Allah said, ‘Verily Allah is with those who fear Him and those who do things well.’... These then are the factors that decide whether Allah's help will descend or not. And these are lacking in us. To Allah we belong and to Him do we return. Indeed nothing remains of Islam but its name, nor of the religion but appearances, because of the corruptions that have dug deep, the increase in sins and rebellion, the deterioration in conduct, until our enemy has overpowered us everywhere: east and west, over land and sea. No wonder, trials have multiplied, tribulations have become severe and there is no one who has escaped but he on whom Allah has been merciful.
Another statement is worth presenting: “He who does not see Allah's bounties except in his food and drinks, will be poor in the obedience of his Lord. And his chastisement is quite close.”