Slaves in the History of Islam 9

Slaves in the History of Islam 9


Qambar's name is often mentioned in the traditions. And he has been immortalised by the poetry lines of Imam 'Ali: When I saw an unlawful thing, I kindled a fire and called Qambar.

Someone asked Qambar who was his master. Qambar described the virtues of Imam 'Ali bin Abi Talib in such a lucid and impressive manner that it has been recorded by the traditionists ad verbatim. As justice cannot be done to it in translation, I am leaving that oration out. I have already said how lovingly Qambar was treated by Imam 'Ali. After the Imam's death, Qambar used to relate that very seldom did he have the occasion to serve his master because Imam 'Ali used to do his work by himself: he used to wash his own clothes, even mended them himself whenever needed; he would draw water from the well for his daily use; would give them good food and decent dress but would himself eat and dress like a poor man. His oft-used phrase with them was go easy child.

Qambar used to say, It was only once that he got annoyed with me. It was at the time when I showed him the money that I have 'hoarded.' It was from my share of the income given to me by others and gifts I had received from the members of his family. I had collected about hundred dirhams. When I showed him the amount, he looked angry, and what pained me most, he looked sad. Qambar inquired why he was so sad. He replied, Qambar, if you had no use of the money, were there no people around you who needed the money? Some of them might have been starving; others might have been ill and infirm. Could you not have helped them? I never thought you could be so heartless, and could love wealth for the sake of wealth.

Qambar, I am afraid you are not trying to acquire much from Islam; try more seriously and sincerely. Take the coins out of my house. Qambar immediately distributed the money amongst the poor and the needy. It might be added that Qambar had long been freed by Imam 'Ali, but he remained with him. Hajjaj bin Yusuf al-Thaqafi, the governor of 'Abdul Malik bin Marwan in Iraq, was a tyrant who used to boast that, The most tasteful thing to me in the world is shedding the blood. His name has become a proverb in tyranny. He killed 120,000 people whose only crime was their love for and devotion to 'Ali bin Abi Talib and the Ahlul Bayt. This number does not include those who were killed by him in the battles.

He tried very hard to eliminate the Shi'ahs of 'Ali from Iraq. Sa'id bin Jubayr and Kumayl bin Ziyad were two of his victims. Once Hajjaj asked, Is there anybody left from the followers of Abu Turab [i.e., 'Ali] so that I may please Allah by killing him? He was told that there was Qambar, his slave. So Qambar, then a very old man, was captured and brought to him. Then the following talk took place between Hajjaj and Qambar:

Hajjaj: Are you the slave of 'Ali?

Qambar: Allah is my Master and 'Ali is my benefactor.

Hajjaj: What was your duty in the service of 'Ali.

Qambar: I used to bring water for his ablution (wuzu).

Hajjaj: What was 'Ali reciting after finishing the wuzu ?

Qambar: He used to recite this verse:

'And when they forgot that which they had been admonished, He opened for them the door of all things (of enjoyment); until when they rejoiced in what they were given, We caught them suddenly, when, lo! they were in utter despair.'

Hajjaj: I suppose he meant us to be included in this verse?

Qambar: Yes.

Hajjaj: You better leave the religion of 'Ali.

Qambar: Before I leave his religion, tell me which religion is better than his.

Hajjaj: What will you do if I cut your head?

Qambar: Then it will be good luck for me and bad luck for you.

In another tradition, this last question and answer have been recorded differently:

Hajjaj: I surely intend to kill you. You better choose your own method of death.

Qambar: It is up to you. Kill me in whatever way you like, because I kill you in the same way on the day of judgement. And, as a matter of fact, my master had told me that you would behead me.

Hajjaj ordered him to be beheaded. Qambar was martyred in the cause of his faith. Today his grave in Baghdad is the place of pilgrimage for thousands of pilgrims.

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1. Majlisi, Bihar, vol. 43 (Beirut, 1983/1403) p. 86-7; Ibn Shahr Ashub, Manaqib Aal Abi Talib, vol. 4 (Bombay, 1313 AH) p. 15.

2. [The Quran 6:44]

3. Kashshi, Rijal as quoted by Qummi, op. cit., vol.1, p. 153.