Sahih Muslim Book 37, Hadith Number 6670.
Ibn Shihab reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) made an expedition to Tabuk and he (the Holy Prophet) had in his mind (the idea of threatening the) Christians of Arabia in Syria and those of Rome. Ibn Shihab (further) reported that ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Abdullah b. Ka’b informed him that Abdullah b. Ka’b who served as the guide of Ka’b b. ‘Malik as he became blind that he heard Ka’b b. Malik narrate the story of his remaining behind Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) from the Battle of Tabuk. Ka’b b. Malik said: I never remained behind Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) from any expedition which he undertook except the Battle of Tabuk and that of the Battle of Badr. So far as the Battle of Badr is concerned, nobody was blamed for remaining behind as Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and the Muslims (did not set out for attack but for waylaying) the caravan of the Quraish, but it was Allah Who made them confront their enemies without their intention (to do so). I had the honour to be with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the night of ‘Aqaba when we pledged our allegiance to Islam and it was more dear to me than my participation in the Battle of Badr, although Badr was more popular amongst people as compared with that (Tabuk). And this is my story of remaining back from Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the occasion of the Battle of Tabuk. Never did I possess means enough and (my circumstances) more favourable than at the occasion of this expedition. And, by Allah, I had never before this expedition simultaneously in my possession two rides. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) set out for this expedition in extremely hot season; the journey was long and the land (which he and his army had to cover) was waterless and he had to confront a large army, so he informed the Muslims about the actual situation (they had to face), so that they should adequately equip themselves for this expedition, and he also told them the destination where he intended to go. And the Muslims who accompanied Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) at that time were large in numbers but there was no proper record of them. Ka’b (further) said: Few were the persons who wanted to absent themselves, and were under the impression that they could easily conceal themselves (and thus remain undetected) until revelations from Allah, the Exalted and Glorious (descended in connection with them). And Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) set out on an expedition when the fruits were ripe and their shadows had been lengthened. I had weakness for them and it was during this season that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) made preparations and the Muslims too along with them. I also set out in the morning so that I should make preparations along with them but I came back and did nothing and said to myself: I have means enough (to make preparations) as soon as I like. And I went on doing this (postponing my preparations) until people were about to depart and it was in the morning that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) set out and the Muslims too along with him, but I made no preparations. I went early in the morning and came back, but I made no decision. I continued to do so until they (the Muslims) hastened and covered a good deal of distance. I also made up my mind to march on and to meet them. Would that I had done that but perhaps it was not destined for me. After the departure of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as I went out amongst people, I was shocked to find that I did not find anyone like me but people who were labelled as hypocrites or the people whom Allah granted exemption because of their incapacity and Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) took no notice of me until he had reached Tabuk. (One day as he was sitting amongst the people in Tabuk) he said: What has happened to Ka’b b. Malik? A person from Banu’ Salama said: Allah’s Messenger, the (beauty) of his cloak and his appreciation of his sides have allured him and he was thus detained. Mua’dh b. Jabal said: Woe be upon that what you contend. Allah’s Messenger, by Allah, we know nothing about him but good. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), however, kept quiet. It was during that time that he (the Holy Prophet) saw a person (dressed in all white (garment) shattering the illusion of eye (mirage). Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: May he be Abu Khaithama and, lo, it was Abu Khaithama al-Ansari and he was that person who contributed a sa’ of dates and was scoffed at by the hypocrites. Ka’b b. Malik farther said: When this news reached me that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) was on his way back from Tabuk I was greatly perturbed. I thought of fabricating false stories and asked myself how I would save myself from his anger on the following day. In this connection, I sought the help of every prudent man from amongst the members of my family and when it was said to me that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) was about to arrive, all the false ideas banished (from my mind) and I came to the conclusion that nothing could save me but the telling of truth, so I decided to speak the truth and it was in the morning that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) arrived (in Medina). And it was his habit that as he came back from a journey he first went to the mosque and observed two Rak’ahs of nafl prayer (as a mark of gratitude) and then sat amongst people. And as he did that, those who had remained behind him began to put forward their excuses and take an oath before him and they were more than eighty persons. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) accepted their excuses on the very face of them and accepted their allegiance and sought forgiveness for them and left their secret (intentions) to Allah, until I presented myself to him. I greeted him and he smiled and there was a tinge of anger in that. He (the Holy Prophet) then said to me: Come forward. I went forward until I sat in front of him. He said to me: What kept you back? Could you not afford to go in for a ride? I said: Allah’s Messenger, by Allah, if I were to sit in the presence of anybody else from amongst the worldly people I would have definitely saved myself from his anger on one pretext (or the other) and I have also the knack to fall into argumentation, but, by Allah, I am fully aware of the fact that if I were to put forward before you a false excuse to please you Allah would definitely provoke your wrath upon me, and if I speak the truth you may be annoyed with me, but I hope that Allah would make its end well and, by Allah, there is no valid excuse for me. By Allah, I never possessed so good means, and I never had such favourable conditions for me as I had when I stayed behind you (failed to join the expedition). Thereupon, Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: This man told the truth, so get up until Allah gives a decision in your case. I stood up and some people of Banu’ Salama followed me in hot haste, and they said to me: By Allah, we do not know about you that you committed a sin prior to this. You, however, showed inability to put forward an excuse before Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as those who stayed behind him have put forward excuses. It would have been enough for the forgiveness of your sin that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) would have sought forgiveness for you. By Allah, they continued to incite me until I thought of going back to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and contradict myself. Then I said to them: Has anyone else also met the same fate? They said: Yes, two persons have met the same fate as has fallen to you and they have made the sane statement as you have made, and the same verdict has been delivered in their case as it has been delivered in your case. I said: Who are they? They said: Murara b. ar-Rabi’a ‘Amiri and Hilal b. Umayya al-Waqafi. They made a mention of these two pious persons to me who had participated in the Battle of Badr and there was an example for me in them. I went away when they named these two persons. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) forbade the Muslims to talk with three of us from amongst those (persons) who had stayed behind him. The people began to avoid us and their attitude towards us underwent a change and it seemed as if the whole atmosphere had turned (hostile) against us and it was in fact the same atmosphere of which I was fully aware and in which I had lived (for a fairly long time). We spent fifty nights in this very state and my two friends confined themselves within their houses and spent (most of the) time in weeping, but as I was young and strong amongst them I got (out of my house), participated in congregational prayers, moved about in the bazar; but none spoke to me. I came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as he sat amongst (people) after the prayer, greeted him and asked myself whether his lips stirred in response to my greetings (or not). Then I observed prayer beside him and looked at him with stealing glances and when I attended to my prayer, he looked at me and when I cast a glance at him he turned away his eyes from me. And when the harsh treatment of the Muslims towards me extended to a (considerable) length of time, I walked until I climbed upon the wall of the garden of Abu Qatada, and he was my cousin, and I had the greatest love for him. I greeted him but, by Allah, he did not respond to my greetings. I said to him: Abu Qatada, I adjure you by Allah, aren’t you well aware of the fact that I love Allah and His Messenger (may peace be upon him) the most. He kept quiet. I again repeated saying: I adjure you by Allah; aren’t you well aware of the fact that I love Allah and His Messenger (may peace be upon him) the most. He kept quiet. I again adjured him, whereupon he said: Allah and the Messenger (may peace be upon him) are best aware of it. My eyes began to shed tears and I came back climbing down from the wall and as I was walking in the bazar of Medina a Nabatean from amongst the Nabateans of Syria, who had come to sell food-grains in Medina, asked people to direct him to Ka’b b. Malik. People gave him the indication by pointing towards me. He came to me and delivered to me a letter of the King of Ghassan and as I was a scribe I read that letter and it was written like this: “Coming to my point, it has been conveyed to us that your friend (the Holy Prophet) is subjecting you to cruelty and Allah has not created you for a place where you are to be degraded and where you cannot find your right place, so you come to us that we should accord you honour. As I read that letter I said: This is also a calamity, so I burnt it in the oven. When out of the fifty days, forty days had passed and A11ah’ Messenger (may peace be upon him) received no revelation, there came the messenger of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) to me and said: Verily, Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) has commanded you to remain separate from your wife. I said: Should I divorce her or what (else) should I do? He said: No, but only remain separate from her and don’t have sexual contact with her. The same message was sent to my companions. So I said to my wife: You better go to your parents and stay there with them until Allah gives the decision in my case. The wife of Hilal b. Umayya came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Allah’s Messenger, Hilal b. Umayya is a senile person, he has no servant. Do you disapprove of my serving him? He said: No, but don’t go near him. She said: By Allah, he has no such instinct in him. By Allah, he spends his time in weeping from that day to this day. Some of the members of my family said to me: Were you to seek permission from Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) in regard to your wife as he has granted permission to the wife of Hilal b. Umayya to serve him. I said: I would not seek permission from Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), for I cannot say what Allah’s Apostle may say in response to seeking my permission. Moreover, I am a young man. It was in this state that I spent ten more nights and thus fifty nights had passed that (people) had observed boycott with us. It was on the morning of the fiftieth night that I observed my dawn prayer and was sitting on one of the roofs of our houses. And I was in fact sitting in that very state which Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, has described about us in these words: “Life had become hard for myself and the earth had compressed despite its vastness,” that I heard the noise of an announcer from the peak of the hill of Sal’ saying at the top of his voice: Ka’b b. Malik, there is glad tidings for you. I fell down in prostration and came to realise that there was (a message of) relief for me. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) had informed the people of the acceptance of our repentance by Allah as he offered the dawn prayer. So the people went on to give us glad tidings and some of them went to my friends in order to give them the glad tidings and a person galloped his horse and came from the tribe of Aslam and his horse reached me more quickly than his voice. And when he came to me whose sound I heard, he gave me the glad tidings. I took off my clothes and clothed him with them because of his bringing good news to me and, by Allah, I possessed nothing else (in the form of clothes) than these two on that occasion, and I asked one to lend me two clothes and dressed myself in them. I came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and on my way I met groups of people who greeted me because of (the acceptance of) repentance and they said: Here is a greeting for you for your repentance being accepted by Allah. (I moved on) until I came to the mosque and Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) had been sitting there amongst persons. So Talha b. ‘Ubaidullah got up and rushed towards me and he shook hands with me and greeted me and, by Allah, no person stood up (to greet me) from amongst the emigrants except he. Ka’b said that he never forgot (this good gesture of) Talha. Ka’b further said: I greeted Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) with Assalam-o-‘Alaikam and his face was glistening because of delight, and he said: Let there be glad tidings and blessings for you, the like of which (you have neither found nor you will find, as you find today) since your mother gave your birth. I said: Allah’s Messenger, is this acceptance of repentance from you or from Allah? He said: No, (it is not from ma), it is from Allah, and it was common with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) that as he was happy his face brightened up and it looked like a part of the moon and it was from this that we recognised it (his delight). As I sat before him, I said: Allah’s Messenger, am I allowed to give in charity my wealth for Allah’s sake and for the sake of His Messenger (may peace be upon him)? Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Keep some property with you as it is better for you. I said: I shall keep with me that part (of my property) which fell to my lot (on the occasion of the expedition of) Khaibar. I said: Allah’s Messenger, verily, Allah has granted me salvation because of truth and, therefore, (I think) that repentance implies that I should not speak anything but truth as long as I live. He said: By Allah, I do not know whether anyone amongst the Muslims was put to more severe trial than I by Allah because of telling the truth. And since I made a mention of this to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) up to this day I have not told any lie and, by Allah, I have decided not to tell a lie and I hope that Allah would save me (from trials) for the rest of my life and Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, revealed these verses: “Certainly, Allah has turned in Mercy to the Prophet and the emigrants and the helpers who followed him in the hour of hardship after the hearts of a part of them were about to deviate; then He turned to them in mercy. Surely, to them He is Compassionate, Merciful and (He turned in Mercy) to the three who were left behind until the earth despite its vastness became strait for them and their souls were also straitened to them.” And this revelation reached up to the (words): “O you who believe, develop God consciousness, and be with the truthful” (ix. 117-118). Ka’b said: By Allah, since Allah directed me to Islam there has been no blessing more significant for me than this truth of mine which I spoke to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and if I were to tell a lie I would have been ruined as were ruined those who told lies, for in regard to those who told lies Allah used harshest words used for anyone as He descended revelation (and the words of Allah are): “They will swear by Allah to you when you return to them so that you may leave them alone. So leave them alone. Surely, they are unclean and their resort is Hell, recompense for what they earned. They will swear to you that you may be pleased with them but if you are pleased with them, yet surely Allah is not pleased with the transgressing people” (ix. 95-96). K’ab said that the matter of us three persons was deferred as compared with those who took an oath in the presence of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and he accepted their allegiance and sought forgiveness for them and Allah did not give any decision in regard to us. It was Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, Who gave decisions in our case, three who remained behind. (The words of the Qur’an) “the three who were left behind” do not mean that we remained back from Jihad but these imply that He kept our matter behind them who took oath and presented excuse before Him. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Zuhri with the same chain of transmitters.