H. A. L. Craig
"I, Bilal, slave of Umaya, will tell you of days to be wondered at. I was present - twenty- two years present - when Mohammad, the Messenger of God, walked the earth. I heard what he said and what he did . . . "
Bilal is the story of Islam's first muezzin -- the caller to prayer. Bilal was born in Mecca, the son of an Abyssinian slave called Rabah; in a city of idol-worship, he was tortured for his belief in oneGod; he was bought and freed from slavery by Mohammad's close friend, Abu Bakr; he had the resposibility for the food supply of the first, small armies of Islam; he was so close to the Prophet that he had the duty of waking him in the morning.
From the day of Bilal's conversion, every event in Mohammad's life was an event in the life of Bilal. Mohammad (peace be unto him) called Bilal 'a man of Paradise'.
A Note on Bilal
Bilal is remembered for the love people felt for him. He inhabits the heart. But, by the same token, Bilal was so loved and so present in peopleís affections that few felt the need to write down much about his life. It was to them sufficient to say that he was there, always beside the Prophet Mohammad, and loved by him. In the few paintings of this historic moment, usually backward glances in manuscript decorations, Bilal is always easy to recognize. Bilal was black.
The new facts known about Bilal can be told quickly. He was born in Mecca, the son of an Abyssinian slave called Rabah; in a city of idol-worship, he was tortured for his belief in one God; he was brought and freed from slavery by Mohammadís close friend Abu Bakr; he was made the first muezzin, the caller to prayer in Islam; he had the responsibility for the food supply of the first, small armies of Islam; he was so close to the Prophet that he had the duty of waking him in the morning. After Mohammadís death Bilalís legs, in his grief, failed him. He could not climb up the steps to make the call to prayer again. He died in Syria, probably in 644, twelve years after Mohammadís death.
Not much to base a life upon Ė although, from the day of Bilalís conversion, every event in Mohammadís life was an event in the life of Bilal. Moreover, the two pillars of his memory, the love he had from all who knew him and his nearness to the Prophet, are enough for a writer who shares the first and is awed by the second.
The Black Muslims in America have renamed themselves the Bilali. Bilal is also a patron saint, to use a Christian description, of Moslem Africa.
Mohammad (peace be unto him) called Bilal ía man of Paradiseí.
© H. A. L Craig