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ABU DHARR AL-GHIFARI (d. 652), companion of the prophet Muhammad and focus of modern ideological debate. As in the case of many other companions of the Prophet, we have a few reports about Abfi Dharr’s life and his relation to the early Islamic community. Most of these reports, however, reflect the early schisms of Islamic history. Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junadah al-Ghifari reportedly came to meet the prophet Muhammad in Mecca. He was one of the earliest converts to Islam and brave enough to announce this to the Quraysh. The Quraysh seized him and would have killed him had they not been reminded of his clan’s strategic position on their trade route. This may have been the reason that the prophet Muhammad asked him to return to his home and call his people to the new religion. Consequently, Abu Dharr did not participate in the early battles between the Muslims and the Quraysh until the conquest of Mecca. Later, after the death of the Prophet, he participated in the early Islamic conquests as an ordinary solider. He became prominent again when he advocated the sharing of the increasingly overflowing Syrian treasury with the poor. He was recalled to Medina by `Uthman and exiled sent to Rabdhah, a village nearMedina. Abu Dharr died two years before `Uthman’s assassination (Cameron, 1973, PP26-49).

Even though Abu Dharr was not involved in the first great political and religious dissension in Islam, his criticism of `Uthman’s rule was fertile ground for later Islamic interpretation. The Sunnis in particular admire his asceticism and piety but play down his criticism of `Uthman’s rule and the detail of his final exile. Furthermore, they extol his bravery both on the occasion of his conversion in a hostile Mecca and later during the battles. In contrast, the Shi`is emphasize his early liaison with ‘Ali and posit him as the ideal supporter of the `Alid cause after the death of Muhammad. For the latter, Abu Dharr becomes a symbol of an ideal Muslim loyal to the family of the Prophet (Haarman, 1978, p. 285).

In modern times, Abu Dharr has been reincarnated in the debate between Islam and contemporary sociopolitical ideologies. An Egyptian scholar, Muhammad Shargawi, has posited him as the ideal Muslim socialist on the basis of his criticism of hoarding wealth. However, both Shi’i and the Sunni `ulama’ have rejected this radical association with a companion of the Prophet. In order to deflect the radicalization of the early Islamic period, the shaykh of al-Azhar, `Abd al-Halim Mahmfid, even suggested that Abu Dharr was not a companion (Haarman, 1978, p. 286).

Among the Shi`i `ulama’, Abu Dharr’s status has not been threatened so seriously, but ideological battles also rage over his Islamic and socialist inclinations. `Ali Shariati (d. 1977) translated an Arab biography of Abu Dharr and introduced his Iranian Shi’i audience to the modern conception of Abu Dharr. Shari`ati’s Abu Dharr remained the ideal Shi’i model but now took on the radical dimensions of modern thought, including a rejection of established religion (Sachedina, 1983). Quite expectedly, Iranian `ulama’ have rejected this overly material and radical interpretation of the personality of Abu Dharr (Mutahhari, 1986, pp. I I7-118).

[See also the biography of Shariati.]


Abrahamian, Ervand. “Ali Shariati: Ideologue of the Iranian Revolution.” In Islam, Politics, and Social Movements, edited by Edmund Burke, III, and Ira Lapidus, pp. 289-297.Berkeley, 1988.

Cameron, Archibald J. Abu Dharr al-Ghifari: An Examination of His Image in the Hagiography of Islam.London, 1973. Exhaustive outline of Abu Dharr in Islamic thought.

Haarman, Ulrich. “Abu Dharr: Muhammad’s Revolutionary Companion.” Muslim World 68 (1978): 285-289. Critical review of Cameron.

Mutahhari, Murtaza. Social and Historical Change.Berkeley, 1986. Sachedina, A. A. “Ali Shariati: Ideologue of the Iranian Revolution.” In Voices of Resurgent Islam, edited by John L. Esposito, pp. 191214.New YorkandOxford, 1983.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/abu-dharr-al-ghifari/

  • writerPosted On: October 5, 2012
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