An African slave, beaten by his masters, bullied by town ruffians and ridiculed by everyone else; this is Bilal (radhi Allahu anhu). And we all know Bilal, don’t we? But there’s a question, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t think about it till I heard it: Why did he say “Ahadun Ahad”?
I am too dim witted to have picked up on this subtlety but the sahaba were real sharp and they realised that there was something about this slogan that made Bilal repeat it over and over again. And so the question was put to him in Madinah after years had passed: Why?
(He could have chosen a hundred different words to say; perhaps a more straight forward choice would have been to simply say “la ilaha illAllah’. And yet out there in the searing hear of the desert with burning stones on his chest he cried out in the loudest voice that he could muster “AHADUN AHAD, AHADUN AHAD”.
Now I can almost imagine Bilal sitting there, a quiet (almost shy) black man, a freed slave who still humbles himself in every walk of life in front of Allah; I don’t know much about him but I kinda imagine a soft spoken guy who doesn’t want anyone taking pity on him or thinking highly of him in any way. But he answers nonetheless, it’s a conversation among brothers after all.)
Bilal said: I would respond differently to different threats and demands but I noticed that one thing angered my master, Umayya bin Khalaf, in particular and that was “Ahadun”. And how Bilal knew it angered his master the most? Umayya would beat him the hardest when he said these words; so, that was that for Bilal; he didn’t say anything other than “Ahadun Ahad” after that! That’s like saying ‘bring it on’!
There are horrible tales of torture from the Makkan era and everyone who was tortured at one point or another gave up and was forced into submission (albeit temporary) EXCEPT Bilal. This giant of a man, this weak, famished and naked black slave didn’t give up. He was tortured in the desert, was dragged through Makkah with a rope tied to his neck, was beaten by the common folk; but he kept saying just one word “AHAD, AHAD, AHAD” (One, One, One) His proclamation of tawheed (Oneness of Allah) echoed through Makkah when no one else declared it publicly. At a time when no one could even whisper ‘la ilaha illAllah’ Bilal was SHOUTING it at the top of his lungs.
There’s a saying in Arabic ‘al-jazaa’u min jinsul ‘amal’ ‘rewards are according to actions’. So, what did Bilal get? Well for starters; He got Jannah, that’s pretty huge I’d say, right? But Allah doesn’t leave those who do good even in this dunya. Who is Bilal? This is the Moaddhin of RasulAllah (sallAllahu alaihi wasallam); NEVER in his life did RasulAllah (sallAllahu alaihi wasallam) lead a prayer whose adhaan was not given by Bilal. Adhaan, which declares Allah’s oneness across the world and across every single moment that passes, reminds of Bilal.
After fateh Makkah, there was only one voice that rose from the top of the Kabah, the same voice that shouted Tawheed in the days of torture was the one that was given the charge of announcing Tawheed on the day of victory. Islam won that day, so did Bilal. He came back home; the same place where he would shout “Ahad”