Suhayb the Roman

Suhayb clambered up a hill and turned to face his pursuers, bow and arrow ready to fire—

First let me tell you who Suhayb is. Suhayb ar-Rumi, or Suhayb the Roman, lived about 1400 years ago in the region of Arabia. He lived in the city of Basra where his father, Sinan ibn Malik, was the governor. He was an Arab who ruled this Persian city and had much wealth to his name. His son Suhayb, had blond hair and a fair complexion. One day when Suhayb and his mother went out to a small town outside the city for a picnic, the city was ambushed and sacked by the rival Byzantine empire and they took Suhayb and his family as slaves back to Byzantium. For many years he lived as a slave and learned the language of Byzantium, he spoke mostly Greek, and he had forgotten almost all of his Arabic. He knew in his heart he was of the desert.

For twenty years he slaved in the empire, and the first chance he got, he escaped his captors and began straight for the Arabian city of Makkah. When he reached Makkah, he began his life as a freeman and was known as Suhayb the Roman, because of his looks and his heavy Greek accent. He worked as a skilled merchant and he was also very skilled at archery. He amassed a great wealth. Although he was wealthy, he could not protect himself as most Makkans. Makkah was a tribal society with many different clans and with many people of each clan. If one person wronged another, his whole clan went to war, but since Suhayb was a Byzantine, he had no bonds to anyone and no one to back him up. One day he found out about Prophet Muhammad (S) and his teachings, he asked around about his whereabouts. He found out that he resides in the House of Arqam, and he was warned not to be seen or else the tribe of Quraysh would kill him. Since most other Arabs had clans, they were protected from being attacked, but Suhayb was lonely and had to look out for himself. Suhayb became Muslim and a great companion of the Prophet. When the persecutions of Muslims in Makkah became extremely unbearable, the Muslims were forced to leave the city in secrecy. The Muslims had sent delegations outside of Makkah to the neighboring city of Madinah, where Islam began to flourish into a safe haven for the Muslims of Makkah. Suhayb had planned to leave the city at night with the Prophet (S), but his plans were ruined by the spying Quraysh.

The Quraysh kept Suhayb captive for a long time. Suhayb knew to be patient. He waited for the right moment, and he escaped, but his captors began hot on his trail and soon Suhayb’s cause was looking bleak. Suhayb clambered up a hill and turned to face his pursuers, bow and arrow ready to fire, he shouted,” You know, by God, that I am one of the best archers and my aim is unerring, and that by God if you come near me, with each one of my arrows, I will kill one of you, and then strike with my sword!” The men replied, “ By God we will not let you escape with your life and money. You came to Makkah weak and poor, and you acquired what you acquired.” Hearing this, Suhayb remembered all the wealth he had made, and he said, “What would you say if I leave you my wealth? Would you get out of my way?” They agreed and he gave them the location of his wealth and he went on his way. He made it to Madinah. He was greeted with beaming smiles.

What we can learn from this inspiring story of Suhayb ar-Rumi is that no matter how small or weak you may be, do what you know is right. Unless what you think is right is actually wrong, then stop. Suhayb had no one to protect him, no one to trust, but he knew that what he was doing was right and he joined the brotherhood of Islam and gained a new family. We can also learn that money is just material. He gave up all his wealth to be with his family, the Muslims in Madinah. He didn’t care about his money or give it a second guess, he gave it to be with his people. He could’ve easily killed his captors and made off with his wealth. He understood that money is not something to kill for or something that is needed to be successful or happy in life. He was happy being poor with his brothers and sisters.

He gave up everything he earned, but in actuality, he gained everything he ever wanted.


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