By: F Khan
They say your voice penetrated the hardest of hearts and made them weep. The Call, its words, that the Most Merciful put into the hearts of those eleven sahaba. The words, that you climbed onto a lofty place to repeat. You were the first person to call them out, they say, jumping at RasoolAllah (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم)’s instruction as always. He picked you, over the rest, ‘the leader of all muazzins’, he said and you continued to Call for him where ever he went. It soothed him and he asked you often. Your voice was deep and loud and clear they tell me. And I wonder again what it sounded like. I go through different azaans, the muezzins of my neighborhood, the best recorded azaans from Syria to Egypt, trying so hard to imagine what yours must have been like. But I can’t.
I can’t imagine the sweetness it contained from the tears you wept when you were whipped in persecution. And you cried out Ahad in pain, with the same voice. And the khushu it contained, just like your wudhu and the nawafil you prayed after it. The same nawafil that you hoped were the reason to acquire your place in jannah, one step behind the Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم). “I heard your footsteps in jannah, Bilal,” he said. And you thought with all your humility that it were your nawafil that had earned you that place. Not your jihad, not the pain or the tears and the lashing or your unflinching tawheed against it. Not your azaan everyday or being the favourite muezzin of the most beloved mosque. Neither your khidmaat of RasoolAllah (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) nor the love in his eyes for you. You didn’t think that must be it. It has to be. And it was your ikhlaas that spoke and said it could be your tahayatul wudhuperhaps? I can’t imagine the sound of that humility.
And they tell me you couldn’t call out the azaan, after your Beloved (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) left the world. The words would not form loud and clear like they used to. Not without you being overcome with grief. They tell me you left Madinah because it broke your heart to have that masjid and that city without your gentle Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم). And the city craved to hear your voice till the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) appeared in your dream, and said to you, ‘O Bilal, how is it that you do not visit us?’ You rushed to Madinah the very next day. And they insisted, the people of the city, for you to Call them to prayer again. But you just couldn’t. Till the grandsons of the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) asked it of you and Hasan and Husain (رضی اللہ عنہما) were much too dear to you to refuse. So Madinah heard your azaan again, one last time. And it brought tears to all who heard. They say you broke down in tears when you said, “Ash’hado anna Muhammadur Rasulullah”. And so did the sahabah, at Baitul-Muqaddas -the only other time and place you called out the azaan after the Prophet (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) was gone. At Umar ibn Khattab’s (رضی اللہ عنہ) insistence, they tell us. I wonder, what it must have been like both those times. And all the other times before it. I really don’t know.
So I crave, from the depths of my heart to hear the Call in your voice. For it to echo in my ears, and not just in my imagination. To be able to reply to your Azaan and say Ash’hadu alla-ilaha illAllah after you. It seems so distant and unattainable, and inappropriate because it mingles with the desires of the dunya in my heart… but I come back to it, again and again. The azaan-e-Bilal (رضی اللہ عنہ) and its shaan. One can only wonder…and crave.
May Allah (سبحانہ وتعالی) grant us all who crave, the Toufeeq, just for the sake of that fleeting naaqis talab. And a heart that continues to yearn for things it knows it deserves not.