21.11 The Three Martyrs
One day a delegation from two smaller tribes went to Medina, saying that they wanted to enter into Islam, and needed teachers to instruct them in religion.
The Messenger often sent some of his Companions to instruct people in religion, for his aim were to spread the words of Allah as far as possible and eradicate the evil of idolatry. So he sent with them six men learned in the teaching of Islam.
The small party of travelers passed near to the lands of Hudhayl, who learning of their presence, took the opportunity to avenge the assassination of the Chief of Banu Lihyan. The six men found themselves being attacked by thousands of armed men. They raised their swords to defend themselves, but Hudhayl said to them that they had no wish to kill them, but only to deliver them to Quraysh for money. To the Muslims this was worse than death so they fought a desperate battle against the whole tribe. Three of them died fighting and three were overpowered and taken captive.
One of these three who died of their wounds used to do a most remarkable and noble service. He used to go under cover of night, slip into Mecca and free the weak and helpless Muslims from Quraysh's captivity.
On the way to Mecca one of the captives was able to free his hands and tried to escape. The tribesmen could not catch him, but they kept throwing rocks at him until he was stoned to death.
They traveled on with the other two. Quraysh wanted to buy them to kill in revenge for their relatives who had fallen at the Battle of Badr.
The first, called Zayd, was a devout soldier of Allah. Like most of these early Muslims he would use a sword when necessary, otherwise he spent the nights in prayer and many days in fasting. He was delivered to Quraysh and as he was about to be killed, Abu Sufyan said to him,
"Zayd, would you not have preferred to have Mohamed in your place being crucified and you safe with your family?"
"No, by Allah,"
"I would not like a thorn to prick Mohamed's finger in exchange for my being safe with my family."
From such incidents, Abu Sufyan used to say in exasperation,
“I have never seen a man whose followers love him as the followers of Mohamed love him.”
The other captive was Khubayb. He was imprisoned for some time before he was killed at a certain woman's house. In prison he asked for a knife or blade to shave with. The woman at whose house he was imprisoned almost forgot that he was the enemy because of his devotion and goodness.
She sent her little son to him with the blade. He held the blade in one hand and the boy in the other and said, "Does your mother not fear treachery?"
Then he let him go.
When they brought him out to be executed, he asked permission to pray first. After praying two rakats (prostrations in prayer), he said,
"I would have liked to pray more, but I feared lest you said I prayed in fear of death."
As they tied him to the stake, he suddenly looked down upon them in anger and said,
"My Lord, records their numbers, devastate them completely, and leave not a single one of them on earth."
Somehow they felt that his cry was like a curse on them. They shied away for a moment, and then they returned and killed him.
The two men died martyrs. They could have saved themselves by a single word, by rejecting Islam and returning to the worship of idols. But they were true to the end, to the last moment and the last breath.
Of such men the Koran says:
Of those who believe are men true to what they have promised Allah.
Some have fulfilled their vows by death and some await.
They have altered nothing. (33:23)
Mohamed and the Muslims grieved for these men who died martyrs while on the call of duty, and continued to pray for them every evening for a whole year. Others also went on the same errand and were taken and killed by treacherous tribes. This did not prevent Islam from spreading further and further, nor Muslims from risking their lives to teach people the words of Allah.