I have always been fascinated by the great Muslim personality Ja’far al’tayyar whose name was altered, as a medal of honor, by the Prophet of Islam after the battle of “mu’tah” in which he was martyred. His original name was Ja’far bin Abi Talib; the brother of Ali bin Abi Talib (as).
The reason for my fascination lies in the nature of his given title “al’tayyar” which literally means “the one who flies with wings” As a young boy I thought this kind of ability that is to fly with wings was a cool thing and it had truly captured my imagination. And this imagination made me look at this great personality as being the “Superman of Islam”!!
As I grew older this fascination never left me rather it has taken a different dimension within me. I thought to my self; why is it that the only Muslim martyred personality, during the Prophet time, who had been given a pair of wings in place of arms in Paradise, by Allah SW, due to his martyrdom where as there were hundreds of martyrs who had fallen, in the course of Muslim holy wars during the Prophet time, but were not honored the same way.
So I believe that there must be some other reasons, besides martyrdom, for this special title “al’tayyar” or the “the one who flies with two wings” which encouraged me to look further into this wonderful Muslim personality. After a closer look into his life I have discovered that his greatness extend way before his famous remarkable journey to Abyssinia. It had begun since his early age before Islam. After reading our Muslim history books in search for the secrets of this great Muslim personality then these secrets begun to take shape slowly which begins before Islam.
The first historical account which has reflected his greatness as follows:
“Abu Talib, Shaikh al-Bat-ha, missed his nephew our Master Muhammad [s]. So, he went to look for him. He was not alone. His son Ja’far aged twenty was with him. Shaikh al-Bat-ha and his son went to the hills near Makkah. They found him there. Our Master Muhammad [s] was praying humbly. Ali, the young man of Islam, was praying on his right. They were not afraid of anyone but Allah. They were praying for Allah, the Creator of the skies and the earth, the Creator of creatures, while they were praying, their number was a pitiful sight. Abu Talib turned to his son-Ja’far and said: Join your cousin’s wing. Namely, stand on his left hand, for Ali has stood on his right hand. The bird can’t fly but with two wings. This means that Abu Talib, the Prophet’s uncle, did not want our Master Muhammad [s] to stay with one wing. Since then, Ja’far’s name has appeared in the bright history of Islam. (1)”
Here we see Ja’far al’tayyar has been defined as the left wing for the prophet of Islam. He became an essential principle in assisting our beloved Messenger in spreading the message of Islam outside Arabia.
The second historical account, which has reflected his greatness, is found in the extraordinary tradition which I found and I believe it truly signify the true dimension of his reality as a unique human being whose descent and lineage is very pure and connected to a very remarkable chosen people of God’s message. This can be seen in the following narration:
“It is narrated that Arch Angle Gabriel AS said to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that Allah SW has commended four good attributes belong to Ja’far Al’tayar which he had enjoyed before Islam and after embracing Islam. Then Prophet Muhammad asked Ja’far Al’tayyar about such attributes. Ja’far replied and said: O messenger of God, had you not been told this news by Allah SW I would not have the fortitude to tell you; the first attribute is, I have never consumed Alcohol “khamr” because I thought it would suspend the intellect “al’aqil” where I am in dire need to maintain and enhance it . And the second attribute is I have never worshiped any Idol or any deity besides Allah SW because I thought it had no power to bestow blessings or to inflict any harm. And the third one is I have never committed an adultery because I want to maintain the dignity of my family. And the fourth one is I have never lied because I considered it to be denigration of the self ” (2)
When examining this tradition and looking into these attributes of Ja’far one of them had really caught my attention which I thought it to be unique and it may not be shared by other Muslims of his time with the exception of “the gate of knowledge of Muhammad” Ali bin Abi Talib (as)- Ja’far’s brother. This attribute is stated by him ” I have never worshiped any Idol or any deity besides Allah SW” This means he was a “unifier or a monotheist” before Islam which is really remarkable and it reflect his true inner reality in relationship to the universal values.
And the third secret of his greatness lies in his famous journey to Abyssinia under the command of the Prophet Muhammad at the early stage of Islam. This aspect is the most common reason of his fame, according to Muslim history. His importance is mainly focused during his mission in the Christan land of Abyssinia and his successful attempt in wining the heart of the King of Abyssinia in allowing the Muslim convoy, who fled the persecution of the Arabs, to live freely in Abyssinia. Ja’far and his companions had stayed there for seven years in peace. This event is truly remarkable in relationship to spreading the message of Islam outside Arabia without shedding any blood.
Furthermore, in relationship to the secret of his personality lies in the unusual way he was received by our beloved Prophet Muhammad, upon his return from Abyssinia to Arabia, during the Muslims victory of the conquest of Khaibar, as it is stated :
“The Prophet (PBUH) hugged him and said, I do not know which makes me feel happier, Khaibar’s conquest or Ja’far’s arrival.”
The fourth event which reflects Ja’far greatness is when the Prophet of Islam had shown him an extraordinary prayer designed to seek God’s forgiveness and for assisting Muslims to have their prayers answered. This event occurred soon after his arrival to Medina from Abyssinia. This act of the prophet of Islam that is teaching Ja’far such prayers, truly reflects the special station of Ja’far with Allah and His messenger, which presented Ja’far as a symbol of hope for many Muslims when they simulate Ja’far prayer at time of need and distress. (3)
The fifth and final divine station of Ja’far in which he was crowned with his famous title “alt’tayyar” and was martyred was at the battle of “Mu’tah” and here is a short historical excerpt in this regard:“When the soldiers of Islam came back to their homeland, they began telling their families about Ja’far’s heroic actions and those who were martyred. One of them said: We’ve seen 90 wounds in Ja’far’s body. Another said:I’ve seen him when his right hand had been cut off. The third said: I’ve seen him when his left hand had been cut off. He had fallen over the ground and his wounds bled. Our Master Muhammad [s] said: Jibreel has told me that Allah has granted Ja’far two wings to fly with in the Paradise. That night, Ja’far’s children lay on their beds. They were looking at the sky full of stars. In the meantime, they imagined that their father was flying with his wings like angels.”(1)
This is in short the wonderful life of of the pride of Islam “Ja’far al’tayyar”. There are a lot of lessons and precedents for all Muslims to learn from his life and attributes. The best lessons to be remembered from his life is his conducts during his stay in the Christian land of Abyssinia. We Muslims who are living in the western land should really look closely to the life and conducts of Ja’far and his Muslim convoy in the foreign land. Those Muslims were very grateful to the land of Abyssinia and its people. They have never engaged in any terrorist activities to undermine the very land which gave them sanctuary, prosperity and dignity. And they had never conspire to destabilize their host land. With their nobility and honesty they were able to profoundly influence the King of Abyssinia and its people to the extent that the Abyssinian King had jeopardized his long term relationship with the Arabs over refusing to hand them over to the Arabs for persecution.
My continuous fascination has lead me to take a special trip to his burial site in Jordan recently; 2005. I have the privilege in paying homage and respect to him and his fallen comrades; “Ziad bin Haritha and Abdullah bin Ruwaha” who are buried in “Mu’ttah” in Jordan.(above are two photo of this holy site)
I will always keep Ja’far al’tayyar’s memory be present in my mind until my last breath on this earth and I will always try to acquire such wings of peace to reach out to my fellow man. All Muslims in the west should be on the foot steps of Ja’far al’tayar in his peaceful relationship with the non Muslims and his determination in defending the universal principles of his faith.
And we must keep the memory of Ja’far “the superman of Islam!” in the mind of our children and let them remember and pay tribute to the children of “ja’far when upon hearing the martyrdom of their father, that night they remembered their father, as stated: ” that night, Ja’far’s children lay on their beds. They were looking at the sky full of stars. In the meantime, they imagined that their father was flying with his wings like angels.”(1).
Photo credit: Taken by Katib, during my visit to site; Katib is not in the in photo.
(1) Kamal al-Syyed/ Ansariyan Foundation.
(2) Quran commentator ha’qi, Year1127, in his Quran commentary “ruh albayan fi tafseer alquran”
(3) For more details of Ja’far alttayyar and his journey to Abyssinia and other great companion’s life, please visit http://www.ibber.org/jafar.htm. And for more details of Ja’faraltayyar special prayer please visit: http://www.duas.org/jafar-tayyar.htm