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Dedication to Knowledge, Worship and Jihaad
The People of As-Suffah would stay at the Masjid (mosque) all the time for worship, and they led a poor and ascetic life. In their seclusion, they would perform prayers, recite the Quran, study its verses, and remember and mention Allaah The Exalted. Some of them would also learn how to write. It was narrated that one of them gifted his bow to ‘Ubaadah bin As-Saamit for teaching them the Quran and writing. [Abu Daawood and Ibn Maajah]
Some of them were known for their knowledge and memorization of the Hadeeth of the Prophet such as Abu Hurayrah who was known for narrating a large number of Hadeeths and Huthayfah bin Al-Yamaan who was particularly interested in the Hadeeths concerning tribulations.
The People of As-Suffah participated in Jihaad and some of them died as martyrs during the battle of Badr, such as Safwaan bin Baydhaa’, Khuraym bin Faatik Al-’Asadi, Khubayb bin Yasaaf, Saalim bin ‘Umayr and Haarithah bin An-Nu‘maan Al-Ansaari . Some of them died as martyrs during the battle of Uhud, such as Hanthalah who was washed by the angels; others witnessed Al-Hudaybiyah, such as Jarhad bin Khuwaylid and Abu Surayhah Al-Ghifaari ; others died as martyrs during the battle of Khaybar, such Taqif bin ‘Amr; others during the battle of Tabook, such as ‘Abdullah Thul-Bijaadayn ; others during the battle of Al-Yamaamah, such as Saalim (the freed slave of Abu Huthayfah) and Zayd bin Al-Khattaab .
They were worshippers at night and fighters during the daytime. Some of the Companions voluntarily, not forcibly, chose to stay at As-Suffah, such as Abu Hurayrah . He desired to accompany the Messenger of Allaah and make up for the knowledge and goodness he had missed. He came to Madeenah after the conquest of Khaybar during the 7th year after Hijrah (emigration). He cared to hear as much as he could of the Hadeeths of the Messenger of Allaah to know how he was doing and to receive the blessing of serving him. This was not possible unless he stayed near the house of the Prophet . Therefore, As-Suffah was the only place that enabled him to do so.
Let us read what he himself said about this,
You say that Abu Hurayrah narrates very many of the Hadeeths of the Messenger of Allaah and wonder why the Muhaajiroon and the Ansaar do not narrate as many as he does? My brothers of the Muhaajiroon were busy with trading in the markets. I was a poor man keeping the company of the Messenger of Allaah and was satisfied with what filled my stomach. So, I would be present while they [the Muhaajiroon] were absent, and I would remember while they forgot [the Hadeeth]. My brothers of the Ansaar were busy with their property and I was one of the poor People of As-Suffah, and I would remember when they would forget [the Hadeeth]. [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
As such, Abu Hurayrah indicated that he desired to accompany the Messenger of Allaah . He had a house in Madeenah where his mother, for whom he asked the Prophet to supplicate to Allaah The Almighty to guide, resided. Moreover, Abu Hurayrah was not a very poor man, as the Prophet gave him a share of the booties of Khaybar on his first day in Madeenah. Also, as it is reported in authentic narrations, he had a servant to serve him at the time of his arrival at Madeenah. What made him poor, however, was his preference to accompany the Prophet and hear his Hadeeths. Had he wanted to, he would have been capable of dispensing with As-Suffah.
The number of the People of As-Suffah was increasing and decreasing according to variations in the surrounding circumstances; some of them were reunited with their families or spouses, some of them prospered after they had once been poor, and some of them were martyred for the sake of Allaah The Almighty.
They were not poor due to their being too lazy to work and gain their sustenance. Az-Zamakhshari mentioned that they crushed date stones during the daytime as fodder for cattle. As they did not have cattle, this means that they were working to gain their sustenance.
Their Number and Names
The number of the People of As-Suffah varied from time to time. Their number increased and decreased according to the number of delegations that came to Madeenah. However, their average number was around seventy men or more. Sa‘d bin ‘Ubaadah alone was hosting eighty of them, let alone others who were distributed among the other Companions . Their names are mentioned in the books of prophetic biography.
Some researches have committed a grave error when they quoted the state of the People of As-Suffah to support as legitimate the methodology of some deviant Sufis who abandon work, lead a life of comfort and laziness, and permanently stay in nooks and hospices under the pretext of relying on Allaah The Almighty. Abu Hurayrah who was attached to As-Suffah more than others were, did not continue in it and went out of it to live life. He became the ruler of Bahrain during the Caliphate of ‘Umar bin Al-Khattaab and he did not lead a rough life. Even the People of As-Suffah were among the Mujaahids for the sake of Allaah The Almighty in battlefields. As mentioned previously, some of them died as martyrs for the sake of Allaah The Almighty.
As-Suffah that was Annexed to the Masjid of the Prophet - I