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The Craftiest of Arabs but for Islam

Although he was young, the Ansaar treated him as a leader. They used to say, "If only we could buy him a beard!" He was not lacking in any of the characteristics that a leader should have except the traditional beard.

But who was this lad for whom his people were willing to spend their money to buy a beard that would make his appearance faultless and becoming of his genuine greatness and astonishing leadership?

This young man was Qais Ibn Sa'd lbn `Ubaadah. He belonged to one of the most distinguished and generous Arab houses, on which the Prophet (PBUH) commented, "Generosity is the prevailing trait of this family."

He was a crafty man, and there was no end to his tricks, skillfulness, and cleverness. He spoke the truth when he said, "If it were not for Islam, I would have used my craftiness to outwit all the Arabs."

He was sharp-witted, tricky, and resourceful. In the As-Siffiin Battle, he sided with `Aliy against Mu'aawiyah. He sat there turning over in his mind the plot that would make Mu'aawiyah and his men the worst losers, but the more he thought about his plot, the more he realized that it came under the heading of dangerous evil plotting. He then repeated Allah's verse " But the evil plot encompasses only him who makes it" (35:43). Consequently, he rejected the plot altogether and asked Allah's forgiveness, saying, "By Allah, if Mu'aawiyah is destined to have the upper hand over us, he will not have it because he has out-witted us, but because our piety and fear of Allah have run short."

This man was one of the Ansaar from the Khazraj tribe. He belonged to a great family and inherited all the excellent qualities of his ancestors. He was the son of Sa'd Ibn `Ubaadah, the Khazraj leader with whom we will be acquainted.
When Sa'd submitted himself to Islam, he held his son Qais's hand and introduced him to the Prophet (PBUH) saying, "This is your servant from now on." The Prophet (PBUH) saw in Qais all the qualities of excellence and righteousness, so he asked him to sit next to him and said, "This place will always be filled by him for the rest of his life." Anas, the Companion of Allah's Prophet (PBUH) said, "Qais Ibn Sa'd Ibn `Ubaadah was to the Prophet like a chief officer to a commander."

Before his Islam, he was full of craftiness to the extent that no one was able to get the better of him. The people of Al-Madiinah and its surroundings fell short of his cunning. When he embraced Islam, it turned his life and even disposition upside-down as it taught him how to treat people with sincerity rather than with deceit. He was a truly faithful and loyal Muslim. Therefore, he threw aside his cunning and fatal maneuvers. Yet, whenever he faced a difficult situation, his restrained and thwarted craftiness tried to rebel and gain control over him and his actions, and the only thing that made him come to grips with it were these words: "If it were not for Islam I would have used my craftiness to outwit all the Arabs."

* * *

His cleverness was surpassed only by his generosity. Generosity was not an accidental behavior on Qais's part, for he belonged to a family renowned for its generosity. It was the custom in those times for all the wealthy and generous people to bid a crier to stand on a high place in the daytime to call guests and passers by to come for food and rest; then, at night, he would light a fire to guide strangers to where food was. People at that time used to say, "He who likes fat and meat must go to Duliim Ibn Haarithah's house for food." Now, Duliim lbn Haarithah was Qais's great-grandfather. Thus, Qais was suckled amidst generosity and charity in this high-born family.

One day, both Abu Bakr and `Umar commented on his generosity saying, "If we let this lad give free rein to his generosity, he would exhaust his father's wealth." When Sa'd Ibn `Ubaadah heard about what they had said, he cried out, "Abu Quhaafah and Ion Al khattaab should not have tried to encourage my son to become a miser!"

One day, he lent a debtor who was experiencing hard times a large sum of money. At the appointed time for repayment, this man went to repay his debt to Qais yet he refused saying, "I never take back anything that I have given.'

* * *

Human nature is unchangeable. Both generosity and courage are inseparable. Indeed, genuine generosity and courage are like twins: neither is found on its own. If you meet a generous man who is not courageous, then be certain that what you have seen is not real generosity but a mere superficial pretence. On the other hand, if you find someone who is courageous but not generous, then be certain that what you have seen is not courage but a mere impetuous and reckless whim. Qais Ibn Sa'd held the reins of generosity with his right hand along with courage and valor. It seems as if he was meant by these lines of poetry:

If a flag was hoisted in celebration of glory

Then it must have been held by the right hand of an Arab.
His valor was outstanding in all the battles in which be fought when the Prophet (PBUH) was alive and even after his death.
When courage depends on honesty rather than craftiness, and on straight forwardness and confrontation rather than prevarication and maneuvering, then there must be difficult and endless trouble and intolerable hardships for its possessor. Ever since Qais threw aside his incredible skill of cunning and maneuvering and held onto his straightforward and conspicuous courage, he felt relieved and content, notwithstanding the problems he had to confront and the obligations he had to fulfill

Genuine courage stems solely out of its possessor's conviction. This conviction is not affected by desire or whim, but rather by truthfulness and honesty with himself.

Hence, when the conflict between `Aliy and Mu'aawiyah started, Qais sat alone trying to side with the one whom he believed to be in the right. Then as soon as he decided that `Aby was right, he did not hesitate to stand by his side with admirable pride, valor, and fearlessness.

Qais was one of the fearless heroes of As-sifiin, Al-jamal and An-Nahrawaan. He carried the Ansaar's standard and cried out, "The standard that I'm carrying now is the same one that I used to carry when we marched for war with the Prophet (PBUH) and had jibriil as our reinforcement. Any man who has no one but the Ansaar on his side is a lucky man."

Imam `Aliy assigned him to govern Egypt. Now, Mu'aawiyah's eyes were always set on Egypt, as he considered it the most precious stone in his prospective crown. Therefore, no Sooner had Mu'aawiyah heard that Qais was to govern Egypt than he lost his self-control and was gripped by apprehensions lest Qais should stand forever in his way to rule Egypt, even if he achieved a decisive victory over imam `Aliy. Hence, he used all his cunning methods and unscrupulous tricks to defame Qais before `Aliy.

Finally, Imam `Aliy ordered him to leave Egypt. Qais had a legitimate chance to use his cleverness, for he realized that Mu'aawiyah must have incited `Aliy against him through his sly and crafty tricks after he had failed to win him over to his side. He aimed at inciting Imam `Aliy against Qais by casting doubts on his loyalty to him. Therefore, the best answer to Mu'aawiyah's evil plots was to show more loyalty to `Aliy and what he represented. This loyalty was not a mere pretence or a means to an end on Qais's part, but rather his firm conviction and belief. Therefore, he did not feel for a moment that he was dismissed from his position, for Qais considered the governorship and all other positions as a means to the ultimate end, namely, to serve his faith and religion. He dedicated himself to the service of the truth. Whether he maintained his governorship of Egypt or stood by Imam `Aliy in the battlefield, it was one and the same thing for him, as long as they were a means to attain truth.

* * *

When Mu'aawiyah left the Muslims no other way out but to unsheathe their swords against one another, Qais took the command of 5,000 Muslims who shared in mourning for Imam `Aliy's death.

Al-Hasan thought that it would be best to put an end to the prolonged suffering of Muslims and that deadly horrible conflict.

Therefore he agreed to negotiate with Mu'aawiyah and finally gave him his oath of allegiance. When this happened, Qais pondered the matter in his mind and decided that no matter how right Al Hasan was in his decision, his soldiers had every right to be consulted. Thus, he called them together and addressed them saying, "If you wish, we will keep on fighting to the last breath, or if you wish, I will ask Mu'aawiyah to guarantee your safety and security."

Naturally, Mu'aawiyah was relieved and overjoyed to be rid of one of his most dreaded and dangerous foes!

This man whose craftiness was tamed and subdued by Islam died in A.H. 59 in Al-Madiinah This was the man who used to say, "If I did not hear the Prophet say, `Craftiness and deceit reside in hell,' I would have been the craftiest man of the nation!" In the end he died, yet the fragrance of this trustworthy and disciplined Muslim still lingers on.

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