An imam of knowledge and man of justice in early Islamic history was Imam Musa bin Ja’far (SA).
Imam Musa Al-Kathim bin Ja’far As-Sadiq bin Muhammad Al-Baqir bin Ali As-Sajjad bin Al-Husayn As-Sibt bin Ali Al-Murtada bin Abi Talib (SA) was born in Al-Madinah during the government of Bani Umayyah. His mother was named of Hamidah, who was of Berber ethnicity. He was described as being dark brown (asmar ‘amiq) in complexion.
Imam Musa mastered all of the religious sciences under the instruction of his father Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (SA). According to Adh-Dhahabi in Siffah As-Safwah, he would stand in prayer during the night while others were asleep, and his character was of perseverance and generosity.
Imam Musa is considered to be an imam of knowledge for madhhab Zaydi and is regarded as a transmitter in the unbroken chain (silsilah) of spiritual knowledge for the Qadiri and Naqshanbandi orders. He is also revered as the 7th imam of madhhab Ja’fari.
In Al-Madinah, Imam Musa witnessed his cousin Imam Al-Husayn bin Ali Al-Fakhi (SA) call the people towards revolution against the tyranny of Bani Abbas. After the thwarted revolution and massacre at Fakh, Imam Musa was eventually imprisoned in Iraq by the Abbasi oppressor Harun bin Musa otherwise known as Harun “Ar-Rashid.”
Imam Musa achieved martyrdom by being poisoned while in prison. By the order of Harun Al-Abbasi, his corpse was then displayed on a bridge in Baghdad for people to witness.
Prior to his martyrdom, he passed down the spiritual teachings of Ahl al-Bayt to his son Imam Ali Ar-Rida (SA). From the wisdom passed down was the saying of Imam Musa that “the best generosity is to help the oppressed.”
One of the black companions of the Prophet (SAWS) was Sa’ad Al-Aswad As-Sulami (RA).
Sa’ad was from the Ansar and suffered discrimination in Al-Madinah.
Due to an inferiority complex, Sa’ad asked the Prophet (SAWS) if he too could enter into Jannah because of his low position among the Muslims. The Prophet (SAWS) replied to him that he was entitled to the same reward as other believers. Sa’ad then inquired that if he was an equal believer then why would none of the Arabs allow him to marry one of their daughters.
The Prophet (SAWS) then told Sa’ad to go to the home of ‘Amr bin Wahb to ask him for his daughter for marriage. When Sa’ad told ibn Wahb that the Prophet (SAWS) sent him to request for his daughter for marriage, ibn Wahb became angry at the proposal. Ibn Wahb also stated to him that didn’t he know that his daughter is known for her beauty! When ibn Wahb’s daughter heard this, she told her father that she could not turn down a proposal that came at the suggestion of the Messenger of Allah (SAWS)!
Sa’ad was later martyred in a battle in which it is narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) wept over him while holding him in his lap.
One of the pious teachers of the Qur’an among the companions was Salim bin Ma’qil (RA).
Salim roots were from Istakhr, which is in the southern portion of modern day Iran. He was the first black companion of the Prophet (SAWS) mentioned in Tanwir Al-Ghabash written by Hanbali scholar ibn Al-Jawzi, a book that chronicles Arab relations between Africans and early Muslims who were black.
Salim embraced Islam in Makkah and was freed from slavery, becoming a client of Abu Hudhayfah. He was one who migrated to Al-Madinah for the sake of Allah (SWT). Abdullah bin ‘Umar said that he was the most knowledgeable in the Qur’an of those who first migrated to Al-Madinah. Later on in Al-Madinah, the Prophet (SAWS) told the people that they should learn the Qur’an from four companions, those being Abdullah bin Mas’ud, Salim Mawla Abi Hudhayfah, Ubay bin Ka’ab and Mu’adh bin Jabal.
Salim accompanied Khalid bin Al-Walid, who was the general sent by the Prophet (SAWS), to get allegiance from the Tribe of Jadhimah through Islam or have them pay taxes. Even though the men of Jadhimah declared Islam upon their visitation, Khalid began to kill them anyway. Salim reprimanded Khalid and listed off to him the crimes that he committed according to the sacred law. When word got back to the Prophet (SAWS) regarding Khalid’s unlawful killings, the Prophet (SAWS) proclaimed loudly, “Oh Allah! Surely I am free of what Khalid has done!” The Prophet (SAWS) said of Salim that “Allah loves the truth from his heart.”
In Ghazwah Al-Yamamah, Salim urged the Muslims on by chanting, “Oh People of the Qur’an! Beautify the Qur’an with your deeds!” When the standard bearer Zayd bin al-Khattab was martyred, Salim lifted the standard. When his right hand was severed in the battle, he then continued by lifting it with his left hand. In this battle, Salim achieved martyrdom next to Abu Hudhayfah, his client.
One of the first Muslims to accept Islam among the People of Al-Madinah was ‘Ubadah bin As-Samit (RA).
‘Ubadah was born in Al-Madinah and was from the Tribe of Khazraj. He was described as being tall, dark (asmar) and handsome.
‘Ubadah was one of those who took the pledge with the Prophet (SAWS) on the 2nd night of ‘Aqabah before the Prophet (SAWS) and the Muslims in Makkah had migrated to Al-Madinah. He was one of the first 12 people of Al-Madinah to accept Islam. He later participated with the Prophet (SAWS) in all of the major campaigns including Badr, Uhud and Khandaq. He was also one of the scribes who wrote down the Qur’an.
During the government of ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab when Egypt was conquered, ‘Ubadah led a delegation to visit the Coptic leader Al-Muqawqis. Seeing that ‘Ubadah was black, Al-Muqawqis said, “Take this black man (aswad) away from me and have someone else come speak to me!” The Muslims replied, ““This black man is the best of us in knowledge and wisdom. He is our leader, the best of us, and has been appointed over us. We all refer to his opinions, and our leader has appointed him over us and ordered us not to go against him.” He replied to the delegation, “How can you accept this black man as the best among you? Rather he should be the least among you!”
‘Ubadah then spoke to Al-Muqawqis in which he was troubled by being addressed by a black man and even more of his words, which emanated from the Prophetic Sunnah.
During the government of ‘Uthman bin Affan, ‘Ubadah spoke about problematic issues, which he witnessed in Syria. His speech upset the Governor of Syria Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan. Mu’awiyah wrote to ‘Uthman, “Surely ‘Ubadah is the most troublesome in Syria to me and its people.” ‘Ubadah was then sent to ‘Uthman in which ‘Ubadah responded to Mu’awiyah’s accusations by saying, “The Prophet (SAWS) said, ‘Torrential will be your affairs after me when men recognize what is wrong, but it will not be disliked for themselves what they recognize. So do not obey whoever disobeys nor send astray people from your Lord.’”
‘Ubadah later moved to Jerusalem where he was buried at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa during the government of Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan.
A man of knowledge and character among the early generations of Muslims was Imam Muhammad bin Idris (RA).
Imam Muhammad was from Ahl al-Bayt, the Household of the Prophet (SAWS), being a descendant of Imam Al-Hasan bin Ali (SA). He was born in Fas, which resides in modern day Morocco. He was described as having brown (asmar) skin and very kinky (aj’ad) hair.
Imam Muhammad was the third ruler of the Adarisah government in North Africa, which was established by his grandfather Mawla Idris (SA) after he escaped the massacre of the Alawis, meaning the offspring of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (KW), in Fakh by the government of Bani Abbas.
Imam Muhammad was known to be a man of piety and justice to the point that people envied his character.
Imam Muhammad’s rule lasted for a short period, beginning at 213 AH and ending upon his demise in 221 AH. He was succeeded by his son Imam Ali bin Muhammad (RA) also known as Haydarah. After Imam Ali ruled for 12 years, he was succeeded by his brother Imam Yahya bin Muhammad (RA). Imam Yahya founded Al-Qarawiyyin masjid in Fas in which the religious sciences passed down through his father Imam Muhammad’s chain of knowledge were taught. Al-Qarawiyyin is considered to be one prestigious centers of Islamic learning to this day.
One of the faithful companions of the Prophet (SAWS) was Ayman bin ‘Ubayd (RA).
Ayman’s roots were Abyssinian through his mother. He was born through the union of his mother Barakah, a woman who was eventually freed from slavery by the Prophet (SAWS) and his father ‘Ubayd bin Zayd who was from the tribe of Harith bin Khazraj; their marriage took place in Makkah in the Era of Al-Jahiliyyah. Ayman was also born in Makkah.
Ayman embraced Islam in Makkah and made migration for the sake of Allah (SWT) to Al-Madinah. He was a shepherd and was entrusted by the Prophet (SAWS) to look after his goats.
Ayman was a participant in the campaigns to defend Islam. At Ghazwah Hunayn when some of the Muslims became panicked, Ayman was one of eight Muslims who stood by the Prophet (SAWS) and defended him. The Muslims ended up winning the battle. In the process, Ayman achieved martyrdom.
After his martyrdom, Al-Abbas (RA), one of the Prophet’s (SAWS) uncles who was one of those eight that stood firmly with Ayman to defend the Prophet (SAWS), composed a poem praising the steadfastness and bravery of Ayman.
One of the honorable companions, who is known for his faithfulness and concern for the poor was Abu Dharr (RA).
Abu Dharr’s full name was Jundab bin Junadah from the Tribe of Ghifar. He was described by ibn Sa’ad in At-Tabaqat Al-Kubra and others as being tall with brown (asmar) skin.
In the Era of Ignorance, the Ghifari tribe was known for banditry and alcohol consumption besides worshiping idols. Abu Dharr, however, turned away from these tribal norms even before embracing Islam.
When a man from his tribe informed his people that he saw a man in Makkah, meaning the Prophet (SAWS), who he saw enjoining good and forbidding evil, Abu Dharr set off for Makkah. After meeting the Prophet (SAWS), Abu Dharr swiftly accepted Islam. He went to the Ka’bah to publicly declare his faith in which Quraysh proceeded to beat him. He went the following day to proclaim his faith again in which he was beaten again. After days of doing this and facing beatings, the Prophet (SAWS) told him to go back to his tribe, so he could declare his message to them.
He later migrated to Al-Madinah and participated in Ghazwah Badr and other expeditions with the companions.
During the government of ‘Uthman, Abu Dharr was one of the outspoken companions against the lavish lifestyle and large amounts of money which particular Muslims were receiving from the treasury. After conflict between Abu Dharr and Marwan in Al-Hakam, a cousin of ‘Uthman, over a payment that he received of 500,000 dirhams, Abu Dharr was sent away from Al-Madinah to Damascus. While in Damascus, Abu Dharr continued to speak out against luxuries and neglect of the poor which brought him into conflict with the Governor of Damascus, Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan, who was also a cousin of ‘Uthman.
The Prophet (SAWS) predicted to Abu Dharr, “You will live alone, die alone, rise from the dead alone, and enter Jannah alone.” This prediction of his living and dying manifested itself. Due to the circumstances of the time, Abu Dharr left Damascus for Ar-Rabathah desert with virtual no possessions in which he eventually died alone.