His name in Jahiliyyah days was Abu Amr, but when he accepted Islam the noble Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) called him Abdur Rahmaan – the servant of the Beneficent Allah.
Abdur Rahmaan, the son of Awf, son of Abd alharith, son of Zahra, son of Kilab, was one of the first eight persons to accept Islam. He did so even before the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) entered Daar al Arqam (Arqam’s) house to meet his faithful Companions(Sahaabah). When Abu Bakr (radhiyallahu anhu) preached Islam to him together with Uthmaan ibn Affaan (radhiyallahu anhu), Zubair ibn al Awaam (radhiyallahu anhu), Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah (radhiyallahu anhu) and Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas (radhiyallahu anhu), he declared the shahaadah to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam), only two days after the Abu Bakr’s (radhiyallahu anhu) embracing Islam. He is known for his generosity in Islam.
From the time he embraced Islam till he passed away, he was a splendid model of a great believer, which made the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) count him among the ten to whom he gave glad tidings of inheriting Paradise (al Asharah al Mubassharah). This also made ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) elect him among the six advisers whom he assigned for succession (khilaafah).
After Abdur-Rahmaan (radhiyallahu anhu) embraced Islam, he faced his own portion of the persecution and challenges of the Quraish. When the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) ordered his Companions to emigrate to Abyssinia, ibn ‘Awf (radhiyallahu anhu) emigrated but returned to Makkah when the rumour was spread that persecutions against the Muslims in Makkah had stopped. Then he emigrated to Abyssinia in the second migration, and from there to Madeenah, where he witnessed Badr, Uhud, and other battles.
Abdur-Rahmaan (radhiyallahu anhu) 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. The prayer (du’a) of the Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam)that Allah should bestow barakah on the wealth of Abdur-Rahmaan appeared to be with Abdur-Rahmaan throughout his life. He became the richest man among the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum). He was master of his money, not its slave.
Soon after arriving in Madeenah, the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) began pairing off the Muhajireen and the Ansaar (Muaakhaat- Islamic bond of brotherhood and love). Abdur-Rahmaan was linked with Sa’d ibn ar-Rabi’ah (radhiyallahu anhu). Sa’d (radhiyallahu anhu) in the spirit of generosity said to Abdur-Rahmaan: “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-Rahmaan somewhat embarrassed replied: “May Allah bless you in your family and your wealth. But just show me where the sooq is”.
Abdur-Rahmaan (radhiyallahu anhu) went to the market place and began trading with whatever little he had. His profits grew rapidly. Soon he was well off and got married.
Once Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) was preparing to dispatch an army. He summoned his companions and said: “Contribute sadaqah for I want to dispatch an expedition.” Abdur-Rahmaan went to his house and quickly returned. “O Messenger of Allah,” he said, “I have four thousand (dinaars). I give two thousand as a qard to my Lord and two thousand I leave for my family.”
When the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) decided to send an expedition to distant Tabuk – this was the last ghazwah that he participated in- his need for finance and material was not greater than his need for men, for the Byzantine forces were a well-equipped foe. That year in Madeenah was one of drought and hardship. The journey to Tabuk was a thousand kilometers or more. Provisions were in short supply. There was not sufficient conveyance for each man. A group of Muslims came to the Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) pleading to go with him but he had to turn them away because he could find no transport for them.
These men were so heartbroken that they became known as the Bakka’in or the Weepers and the army itself was called the Army of Hardship (‘Usrah). Thereupon the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam)called upon his Sahaabah to give generously for the war effort in the path of Allah and assured their reward with Allah. The Muslims’ response was immediate and generous. In the fore front of those who responded was Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf (radhiyallahu anhu). He donated two hundred awqiyyah of gold whereupon ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radhiyallahu anhu) said to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam): “I have (now) seen Abdur-Rahmaan committing a wrong. He has not left anything for his family.”
“Have you left anything for your family, Abdur-Rahmaan?” asked the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam). “Yes,” replied Abdur-Rahmaan (radhiyallahu anhu). “I have left for them more than what I give and better.” “How much?” enquired The Nabi of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam). “What Allah and His Messenger have promised of sustenance, goodness and reward,” replied Abdur-Rahmaan (radhiyallahu anhu).
The Muslim army eventually left for Tabuk. There Abdur-Rahmaan (radhiyallahu anhu) was blessed with an honour which was not conferred on anyone till then. Rasoolullah (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) was not there to lead salaah. The Muslims chose Abdur-Rahmaan as their imam. The first raka’at of the salaah was almost completed when the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) joined the worshippers and performed the salaah behind Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Awf (radhiyallahu anhu). Could there be a greater honour conferred on anyone than to have been the imam of the most honoured Messenger of Allah!
When the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) passed away, Abdur-Rahmaan (radhiyallahu anhu) took on the responsibility of looking after the needs of his family, the Ummahaat al-Mumineen. 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 (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam)’s family.
Abdur-Rahmaan’s (radhiyallahu anhu) business met with success and his wealth continued to grow. His trading caravans to and from Madeenah grew larger and larger bringing to the people of Madeenah 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 Madeenah 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 Madeenah 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 was 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 had brought.
Aaishah (radhyallahu anha) heard the commotion and asked: “What is this that’s happening in Madeenah?” and she was told: “It is the caravan of Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Awf which has come from Syria bearing his merchandise.” “A caravan making all this commotion?” she asked in disbelief.” “Yes, O Umm al-Mumineen. There are seven hundred camels.”
Aishah (radhiyallahu anhu), 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 Allah, , say: I have seen Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Awf entering Paradise creeping.”
Why creeping? Why should he not enter Paradise leaping and at a quick pace with the early companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him)? Some friends of his related to Abdur-Rahmaan (radhiyallahu anhu) the hadith which Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) had mentioned. He remembered that he had heard the hadith more than once from the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) and he hurried to the house of Aaishah (radhiyallahu anha) and said to her: “Yaa Ammah! Have you heard that from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah 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 overjoyed 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 give in sabeelillah (Allah’s way).”
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-Rahmaan (radhiyallahu anhu) 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-Rahmaan’s (radhiyallahu anhu) 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 Allah and one thousand five hundred camels to another group of mujahideen, four hundred dinars of gold to the survivors of Badr and a large legacy to the Ummahaat al Mumineen (Mothers of the believers) and the catalogue goes on. On account of this fabulous generosity, Aaishah (radhiyallahu anha)said: “May Allah give him to drink from the water of Salsabeel (a spring in Paradise).” All this wealth did not corrupt Abdur-Rahmaan and did not change him. When he was among his workers and assistants, people could not distinguish him from them”.
Sayyidunaa Abdur-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf passed away in 32 Ah at the age of 75. Ummul Mu’mineen, Aaishah (radhiyallahu anha) wanted then to bestow on him a special honour, proposing as he was dying to bury him in her room near the Messenger (PBUH), Abu Bakr, and Umar. But as a Muslim he was so refined that he was too modest to put himself in this rank. Besides, he had made a previous promise to his friend Uthmaan ibn Math’oon (radhiyallahu anhu), that whoever died after the other would be buried near his friend.
While his soul was departing, he wept and said, “I’m afraid of being held up by my friends because of (the abundant wealth) what I had. But soon, Allah’s calmness overwhelmed him and his soul left this world to a better one.
May Allah grant Sayyidunaa Abdur-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf (radhiyallahu anhu) high stages in Jannah along with “those who spend their substance in the cause of Allah 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, 2: 262)