Suhayb ibn Sinaan Ar-Roomi, may Allah be pleased with him, was a great Companion, whose beginnings were as a little child in Iraq, living in the palace of his father, who was appointed by Emperor Khosrau as governor of Al-Ubullah (an Iraqi city). He was a descendant of An-Namir ibn Qaasit, who was from the Arabs who had emigrated to Iraq many years prior. Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with him, had a happy childhood, enjoying the wealth of his father for several years.
However, one day, the Romans attacked Al-Ubullah, which was ruled by his father, took its people captive and enslaved him. Suhayb, the Arab slave, lived among the Romans, mastered their language and adopted their etiquettes. Later, his master sold him to a man from Makkah called ‘Abdullaah ibn Jud‘aan. From him, Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with him, learned the arts of trade until he became a skilful business man. When ‘Abdullaah ibn Jud‘aan noted his courage, smartness and sincerity, he granted him freedom.
When the sun of Islam dawned on Makkah, Suhayb was among those who hastened to answer the call of truth. He headed to the house of Al-Arqam, may Allah be pleased with them, and declared his acceptance of Islam before the Messenger of Allah, . Although he was then subjected to torment at the hands of the Makkan polytheists, he patiently endured it, seeking the Pleasure of Allah The Almighty and love of His Messenger, .
When the Prophet, , emigrated to Madeenah, after his Companions had first settled there, Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with him, wanted to join [him], as he did not leave earlier. However, the people of Makkah prevented him, because they felt that since he came there as a poor slave, he had no right to the wealth he himself made in Makkah and must not be allowed to leave with it. Now, of course, money was inconsiderable in his eyes, so, for the ultimate purpose of preserving his faith, he left it all for them in exchange for letting him catch up with his companions. Never the one to be dishonest or treacherous, he truthfully informed them of where his money was.
In this manner, Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with him, was smart in his tradeoff, by sacrificing his money and self for pleasing his Lord. His transaction was profitable and reward, great; he then held the honor of being the first Roman contributor to Islam. He also earned the appellation that the Messenger of Allah, , was reported to have attributed to him, “Suhayb, the forerunner of the Romans.” [Ibn Sa‘d]
He, may Allah be pleased with him, participated in all the battles with the Prophet, . He, himself, narrates, “It never happened that the Messenger of Allah witnessed an [important] occasion without me observing it alongside him; nor did he accept any pledge of allegiance unless I was there with him in attendance; nor did he ever dispatch an expedition without me participating in it; and, he neither set out for battle unless I was there to his right or left. Never did the people fear a path in front of them that I did not walk ahead of them on and never were they scared of what was behind them except that I guarded them from the rear. I never let the Messenger of Allah face the enemies unshielded by me, until he passed away.”
When that happened, he persisted in Jihaad (fighting for the sake of Allah The Almighty) with [Caliph Abu Bakr] As-Siddeeq, and then with Al-Faarooq ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with them all. He was a brave hero and a noble, charitable man, who would serve others food and spend on them.
One day, ‘Umar said to him, may Allah be pleased with them, “Had it not been for three characteristics in you, Suhayb, I would not have preferred anyone to you: you are of Arab origins, but your tongue is not Arabic; your alias is Abu Yahya (father of Yahya) [though you do not have a son by that name] and you squander your money.” In response, Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “As for the money, I do not spend it except in proper ways. Regarding my title ‘Abu Yahya’, it is what the Messenger of Allah called me and I will never give it up. [As for your third point], indeed, I am an Arab, who can be traced to An-Namir ibn Qaasit, but the Romans captured me when I was small, which is why I learned their language.” [Ibn Sa‘d]
This was not to say that ‘Umar did not appreciate the merits and status of Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with them both, for when the former was stabbed, he commanded the latter to lead people in prayer until one of the six men he nominated before his death would succeed him as Caliph.
Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with him, was a man of great morals and a sense of humor. He was reported to have entered the mosque one day with a sore eye. He found the Messenger of Allah, , and the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, having ripe dates, so he sat and ate with them. The Prophet, , teased him, saying, “Do you eat dates while you have a sore eye?” Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “O Messenger of Allah, I chew from the other side [of my face]”, so, he, , smiled upon hearing that. [Ibn Maajah]
Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with him, continued to fight in the Cause of Allah until the times of the great Fitnah (trial); during this civil unrest, he isolated himself and dedicated his life to worshipping Allah The Almighty. This remained the case until his death in Madeenah in 38 A.H., at the age of seventy-three. He was buried in the graveyard of Al-Baqee’.
Suhayb, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated many Hadeeth directly from the Prophet, ; and some Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, and Taabi’oon (their successors), may have mercy upon them, reported on his authority.