Hadeeth about Zaahir the Bedouin
Fatwa No: 341986

Question

Assalaamu alaykum, dear Scholars. What is the authenticity of the following narration? The narration goes as follows:
Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, once hugged Bilal from behind out of love. On doing this, Bilal, may Allaah be pleased with him, said, “Who is it? Umar? Abu Bakr? Uthmaan? ‘Ali?” Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, let go and said, “O Bilal, did you not know that it was me?” Bilal replied, “I did, O Prophet of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, I just wanted you to hold me for longer.”
Is this narration authentic or weak, and can you please provide a chain of narration, if possible? Please shed some light on this narration. May Allaah reward you.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

We do not know of a hadeeth that indicates that this story happened to Bilaal, may Allaha be pleased with him. However, there is a hadeeth of a similar story with another Companion:

Anas ibn Maalik  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said:

There was a Bedouin man (desert dweller) called Zaahir, and whenever he visited the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he would bring him a gift from the products of the desert. When he intended to leave Madeenah, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, would give him provisions from the products of the city. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, ‘Zaahir is our Bedouin, and we are his city-dwellers.’ He, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, liked him a lot. Zaahir was not very good looking. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, once approached him while he was selling his merchandise. He hugged him from behind and Zaahir could not see him. Zaahir said, ‘Who is this? Let go of me!’ He turned and found out that it was the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, so he straightened his back and pressed it against the chest of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, then said, ‘Who will buy the slave?’ Zaahir said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, you will find no demand for me (i.e. no one would buy me)!’ The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, ‘But you are not so in the sight of Allah;’ or he said, ‘But in the sight of Allah you are valuable.’” [Ahmad - Al-Albaani graded it saheeh (sound)]

Shu‘ayb Al-Arna’oot  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, “The hadeeth is saheeh according to the conditions of Al-Bukhaari and Muslim.

There are many benefits deduced from this hadeeth:

- It is permissible to derive blessing from the body of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Mirqaat Al-Mafaateeh reads, “Zaahir pressed his back against the chest of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to derive blessing from him...

- It is permissible to joke; the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, joked with this Companion.

- It is permissible to give and receive gifts.

- The great merit of this Companion, as the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that he was valuable in the sight of Allah.

- What counts is the status of a person in the sight of Allah, and not in the sight of people; something may be considered worthless in the eyes of people whereas it is in a refined status in the sight of Allah. Prophet Yoosuf (Joseph)  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention was sold for a very low price, a few dirhams counted out; in such low estimation did they hold him, while he was a noble Prophet in the sight of Allah.

- It is legitimate to love someone for the sake of Allah; and such love is founded on the obedience to Allah, The Exalted, rather than looks, wealth, or social standing. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, loved this Companion who was not goodlooking.

- It is legitimate to work and earn a living as a manifestation of the reliance on Allah, The Exalted; this Companion was selling his goods at the market when the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, came to him.

- Not all desert dwellers are harsh. This Companion was a desert dweller, yet he was among the righteous slaves of Allah. There might be among the desert dwellers those who are better than many city dwellers. Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote, “Village-dwellers tend to be more tender-hearted and religious compared to desert-dwellers ... This is the basic principle; however, it is also possible that this rule does not apply for a reason, as sometimes the desert is more beneficial than villages.

Allah knows best.

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