He was one of the first eight persons to accept Islam. He was one of the ten persons (al-asharatu-l
mubashshirin) who were assured of entering Paradise. He was one of the six persons chosen by Umar to
form the council of shura to choose the Khalifah after his death.
His name in Jahiliyyah days was Abu Amr. But when he accepted Islam the noble Prophet called him
Abdur-Rahman – the servant of the Beneficent God.
Abdur-Rahman became a Muslim before the Prophet entered the house of al-Arqam. In fact, it is said
that he accepted Islam only two days after Abu Bakr as-Siddiq did so.
Abdur-Rahman did not escape the punishment which the early Muslims suffered at the hands of the
Quraysh. He bore this punishment with steadfastness as they did. He remained firm as they did. And
when they were compelled to leave Makkah for Abyssinia because of the continuous and unbearable
persecution, Abdur-Rahman also went. He returned to Makkah when it was rumored that conditions for
the Muslims had improved but, when these rumors proved to be false, he left again for Abyssinia on a
second Hijrah. From Makkah once again he made the Hijrah to Madinah.
Soon after arriving in Madinah, the Prophet in his unique manner began pairing off the Muhajirin and
the Ansar. This established a firm bond of brotherhood and was meant to strengthen social cohesion and
ease the destitution of the Muhajirin. Abdur-Rahman was linked by the Prophet with Sad ibn ar-Rabi’ah.
Sad in the spirit of generosity and magnanimity with which the Ansar greeted the Muhajirin, said to
“My brother! Among the people of Madinah I have the most wealth. I have two orchards and I have two
wives. See which of the two orchards you like and I shall vacate it for you and which of my two wives is
pleasing to you and I will divorce her for you.”
Abdur-Rahman must have been embarrassed and said in reply: “May God bless you in your family and
your wealth. But just show me where the suq is..”
Abdur-Rahman went to the market-place and began trading with whatever little resources he had. He
bought and sold and his profits grew rapidly. Soon he was sufficiently well off and was able to get
married. He went to the noble Prophet with the scent of perfume lingering over him.
“Mahyarn, O Abdur-Rahman!” exclaimed the Prophet – “mahyam” being a word of Yemeni origin
which indicates pleasant surprise.
“I have got married,” replied Abdur-Rahman. “And what did you give your wife as mahr?” “The weight
of a nuwat in gold.”
“You must have a walimah (wedding feast) even if it is with a single sheep. And may Allah bless you in
your wealth,” said the Prophet with obvious pleasure and encouragement.
Thereafter Abdur-Rahman grew so accustomed to business success that he said if he lifted a stone he
expected to find gold or silver under it!
Abdur-Rahman distinguished himself in both the battles of Badr and Uhud. At Uhud he remained firm
throughout and suffered more than twenty wounds some of them deep and severe. Even so, his physical
jihad was matched by his jihad with his wealth.
Once the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, was preparing to despatch an expeditionary
force. He summoned his companions and said:
“Contribute sadaqah for I want to despatch an expedition.” Abdur-Rahman went to his house and
quickly returned. “O Messenger of God,” he said, “I have four thousand (dinars). I give two thousand as
a qard to my Lord and two thousand I leave for my family. “
When the Prophet decided to send an expedition to distant Tabuk – this was the last ghazwah of his life
that he mounted – his need for finance and material was not greater than his need for men for the
Byzantine forces were a numerous and well-equipped foe. That year in Madinah was one of drought
and hardship. The journey to Tabuk was long, more than a thousand kilometers. Provisions were in short
supply. Transport was at a premium so much so that a group of Muslims came to the Prophet pleading to
go with him but he had to turn them away because he could find no transport for them.
These men were sad and dejected and came to be known as the Bakka’in or the Weepers and the army
itself was called the Army of Hardship (‘Usrah). Thereupon the Prophet called upon his companions to
give generously for the war effort in the path of God and assured them they would be rewarded. The
Muslims’ response to the Prophet’s call was immediate and generous. In the forefront of those who
responded was Abdur-Rahman ibn Awl. He donated two hundred awqiyyah of gold whereupon Umar
ibn al-Khattab said to the Prophet:
“I have (now) seen Abdur-Rahman committing a wrong. He has not left anything for his family.”
“Have you left anything for your family, Abdur-Rahman?” asked the Prophet.
“Yes,” replied Abdur-Rahman. “I have left for them more than what I give and better.” “How much?”
enquired the Prophet.
“What God and His Messenger have promised of sustenance, goodness, and reward,” replied AbdurRahman.
The Muslim army eventually left for Tabuk. There Abdur-Rahman was blessed with an honor which
was not conferred on anyone till then. The time of Salat came and the Prophet, peace be on him, was not
there at the time. The Muslims chose Abdur-Rahman as their imam. The first rakat of the Salat was
almost completed when the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, joined the worshippers
and performed the Salat behind Abdur-Rahman ibn Awl. Could there be a greater honor conferred on
anyone than to have been the imam of the most honored of God’s creation, the imam of the Prophets, the
imam of Muhammad, the Messenger of God!
When the Prophet, peace be on him, passed away, Abdur-Rahman took on the responsibility of looking
after the needs of his family, the Ummahaat al-Muminin. He would go with them wherever they wanted
to and he even performed Hajj with them to ensure that all their needs were met. This is a sign of the
trust and confidence which he enjoyed on the part of the Prophet’s family.
Abdur-Rahman’s support for the Muslims and the Prophet’s wives, in particular, was well-known. Once
he sold a piece of land for forty thousand dinars and he distributed the entire amount among the Banu
Zahrah (the relatives of the Prophet’s mother Aminah), the poor among the Muslims and the Prophet’s
wives. When Aishah, may God be pleased with her, received some of this money she asked:
“Who has sent this money?” and was told it was Abdur-Rahman, whereupon she said:
“The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said: No one will feel compassion
towards you, after I die except the sabirin (those who are patient and resolute).”
The prayer of the noble Prophet that Allah should bestow barakah on the wealth of Abdur-Rahman
appeared to be with Abdur-Rahman throughout his life. He became the richest man among the
companions of the Prophet. His business transactions invariably met with success and his wealth
continued to grow. His trading caravans to and from Madinah grew larger and larger bringing to the
people of Madinah wheat, flour, butter, cloths, utensils, perfume and whatever else was needed and
exporting whatever surplus produce they had.
One day, a loud rumbling sound was heard coming from beyond the boundaries of Madinah normally a
calm and peaceful city. The rumbling sound gradually increased in volume. In addition, clouds of dust
and sand were stirred up and blown in the wind. The people of Madinah soon realized that a mighty
caravan was entering the city. They stood in amazement as seven hundred camels laden with goods
moved into the city and crowded the streets. There were much shouting and excitement as people called
to one another to come out and witness the sight and see what goods and sustenance the camel caravan
Aishah, may God be pleased with her, heard the commotion and asked: “What is this that’s happening in
Madinah?” and she was told: “It is the caravan of Abdur-Rahman ibn Awl which has come from Syria
bearing his merchandise.”
“A caravan making all this commotion?” she asked in disbelief.”
“Yes, O Umm al-Muminin. There are seven hundred camels.”
Aishah shook her head and gazed in the distance as if she was trying to recall some scene or utterance of
the past and then she said:
“I have heard the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, say: I have seen AbdurRahman ibn Awl entering Paradise creeping.”
Why creeping? Why should he not enter Paradise leaping and at a quick pace with the early companions
of the Prophet?
Some friends of his related to Abdur-Rahman the hadith which Aishah had mentioned. He remembered
that he had heard the hadith more than once from the Prophet and he hurried to the house of Aishah and
said to her: “Yaa Ammah! Have you heard that from the Messenger of God, may God bless him and
grant him peace?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“You have reminded me of a hadith which I have never forgotten,” he is also reported to have said. He
was so over-joyed and added:
“If I could I would certainly like to enter Paradise standing. I swear to you, yaa Ammah, that this entire
caravan with all its merchandise, I will giver sabilillah.”
And so he did. In a great festival of charity and righteousness, he distributed all that the massive caravan
had brought to the people of Madinah and surrounding areas.
This is just one incident which showed what type of man Abdur-Rahman was. He earned much wealth
but he never remained attached to it for its own sake and he did not allow it to corrupt him.
Abdur-Rahman’s generosity did not stop there. He continued giving with both his hands, secretly and
openly. Some of the figures mentioned are truly astounding: forty thousand dirhams of silver, forty
thousand dinars of gold, two hundred awqiyyah of gold, five hundred horses to mujahidin setting out in
the path of God and one thousand five hundred camels to another group of mujahidin, four hundred
dinars of gold to the survivors of Badr and a large legacy to the Ummahaat al Muminin and the
catalogue goes on. On account of this fabulous generosity, Aishah said:
“May God give him to drink from the water of Salsabil (a spring in Paradise).” All this wealth did not
corrupt Abdur-Rahman and did not change him. When he was among his workers and assistants, people
could not distinguish him from them. One day food was brought to him with which to end a fast. He
looked at the food and said:
“Musab ibn Umayr has been killed. He was better than me. We did not find anything of his to shroud
him with except what covered his head but left his legs uncovered. Then God endowed us with the
(bounties of) the world… I really fear that our reward has been bestowed on us early (in this world).” He
began to cry and sob and could not eat.
May Abdur-Rahman ibn Awl be granted felicity among “those who spend their substance in the cause of
God and follow up not their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury. For them their
reward is with their Lord, on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve”. (The Quran, Surah al-Baqarah,