Quest for the Seal
(Abu Tufail Amir bin Wailah narrated that Salman al-Farsi (ra) said) -
I come from the city of Jai (in Isfahan, Persia). One day, Almighty Allah inspired my heart to ponder the question, `Who created the heavens and the earth?'
Hence, prompted by such concerns and inner quest, I sought an old man I knew, who spoke very little and who, out of self-restraint, had kept a distance from the city people. When I reached him, I asked, `What is the best of religions?' He replied, `Why would you want to talk about this subject? Are you seeking a religion other than that of your fathers?' I cautiously answered: `No, I am not, but I would like to know who created the heavens and the earth, and what is the best religion to follow?' The old man said to me, `To my knowledge, only one monk follows the true religion today, and he lives in the city of Mosul, in Iraq.'
Hence, I traveled to Mosul, and I found the monk I was told to meet. Thereat, I stayed with him, and I worshipped what he worshipped. He was an old man, and he lived on little provisions. He fasted all his days, and he prayed all his nights. Approximately three years later, at his deathbed, I asked him, `You must advise me what to do now, and where to go?' The man replied, `I know of no one in the East who believes and worships what I worship. Go West. Find a monk I once knew and who lives at the edge of the Arabian Peninsula, and give him my regards of peace.'
After the monk died, I traveled to where he told me, and I found the man he described. I conveyed to him the greetings of his brother, and I told him of his death. Thereat, I remained in his company for another three years, and again, at his deathbed, I requested him to guide me where to go after he dies. He replied, `I am not acquainted with any one on this earth today who worships what I worship except for a very old monk who lives in the region of Amoriya, in Philistine, and I am not sure whether he is still alive.'
After the monk died, again I traveled to where I was told, and luckily, I found the man he described to me. Thereat, I stayed with him, and this time, the man was financially comfortable. Sometimes later, when he neared his death, I sought his advice, and he replied, `I am not acquainted with any living person who worships what I worship. However, if you happen to live in a time where a man from the descendants of the House of Abraham (upon whom be peace) will appear, -- and I am not sure whether you will live to meet him or not – I myself have had a strong desire to live to meet him. However, if you should meet him, then follow him, for that is the true way and that is the religion of Allah Almighty. Among his signs is that some of his people will label him a magician, and an insane person, and a prognosticator. He accepts and eats from what is given to him as a gift, and he does not eat from charity; and you will also see the seal of prophethood in-between his shoulder blades.'
Salman continued, `I resided in my place for a while, and one day, a caravan of merchants from Medina crossed out path. I inquired from them, `Who are you?' They replied, `We are merchants. We make a living from trading. However, there appeared a man from among the descendants of Abraham in Mecca, and he migrated to Medina, and the entire city is now under his control. As a result, his people from Mecca have declared war on him and on his followers, so we feared for our livelihood, and therefore, we decided to seek shelter and safety somewhere else.'
I asked, `What are they saying about him?' The merchants replied, `They say he is a magician, a prognosticator, or maybe he is an insane person.' Hearing that I said to myself, `These are his signs.' I further inquired, `Who is the leader of this caravan? Would you please guide me to him?' When I came before the leader of the caravan, I requested him, `Would you please take me to Medina?' He replied, `What would you pay me?' I said, `I have nothing to give you, but if you agree to carry me there, I will be indebted to you, and I will be your slave.' The man accepted the barter and he carried me to Medina. Thereat, he placed me to work for him at a date plantation he owned, and I worked there very hard. I seldom had any food, and I mostly lived on water, just like cattle, until the bones of my back protruded, and I could see my pectoral bones. I did not know Arabic then, and not many people in that city spoke my Persian tongue.
One day an old woman of Persian origin came by the date plantation to get some water. When I spoke to her in my mother tongue, she understood me, and as we chatted a little I asked her, `Do you know that man that appeared lately, and would you please point him out to me?' She replied, `He usually passes by here after the dawn prayers, or sometime in mid-morning.'
Salman continued: The next day, I kept some dates aside and I waited for him. As he passed, I followed him to the mosque, and as he sat amidst his companions, I went there, and I presented him with the dates. Allah's messenger (saw) looked at them and then said to me, `What is this? Is it a charity or a gift?' I understood what he meant, and I made a gesture pointing out that it is a charity. He immediately said, `Give it to these people sitting here.' As I did, I said to myself, `This is one of his signs.' The next morning I brought another measure of dates and placed them before him. Allah's messenger (saw) again inquired, `What is this?' I hastened to say, `A gift!' He (sws) then ate one, and he called his companions to share them with him. He then saw me stealthily attempting to look over his shoulders. He recognized my intention and allowed his cloak to slowly drop below his shoulders, and when I saw what I saw, I became bewildered, and I jumped out of my place, I kissed him all over, and I held tight to him. After I sat there for a moment, Allah's messenger (saw) asked me to relate my story. When I told him what happened, he said to me, `Go and buy back your freedom.'
Salman continued: `When I reached my master, I said to him, `I have come to buy back my freedom.' He replied, `Yes indeed! I will give you back your freedom for the price of planting one hundred seedlings of date palm trees, and when I verify that they all took roots, and that they are free from disease, you also must bring me the weight of a date pit in gold, and only then you may go free.'
Salman said: I went back to Allah's messenger (saw) and I related to him what the man said. He replied, `Give him what he asks of you, and also bring me a bucket of water from the well you will use to irrigate the plants.'
I immediately went to the man, and I made the deal with him following the conditions he stipulated. With his permission, I then filled a bucket of water from the central well in the plantation field, and I took it back to Allah's messenger (saw) who in turn prayed over it. Allah's messenger (saw) also asked the companions to collect and to give me the needed one hundred seedlings, and when they did, I went back, and I planted the seedlings.
Salman continued: I swear by Allah that not a single seedling failed us, and as soon as the man verified that, I went back to Allah's messenger (saw) and told him the same. Allah's messenger (saw)then called upon the companions to bring him a piece of gold of the weight we agreed upon with the man, and again, I immediately went back to the man and placed the piece of gold before him. When the man placed his specified measure on the other scale of the balance, my piece of gold seemed to weigh more, for nothing moved, and the man accepted the barter.
I brought back to Allah's messenger (saw) the date pit that determined the conclusion of the deal, and he looked at it and commented, `I swear by Allah, that even if you had agreed with him to give him the weight of such and such measure of date pits, the piece you gave him would weigh more.'
Salman continued: From that day on, I went to Allah's messenger (saw) and I stayed in his company until the end.