Al-Rabathah is a desert between Makkah and Madina. It is a barren land. No one inhabits it. But in the year 30 A.H., there was only one tent. In the tent there were an old man, an old woman, and their daughter.
Why did the old man inhabit that distant area in the middle of the desert?
He did not inhabit it of his on accord - the Caliph banished him to die there.
The old man was ill. And his wife was always in tears. So, he said to her:
Dhar's mother; why do you weep?
The old woman said:
Why shouldn't I weep and you're dying in this desert?
The old man said:
One day, my friends and I were sitting with Allah's Apostle [s]. And he said to us:
"One of you will die in the desert. And a group of believers will attend his death."
All my friends passed away in their houses. And no one has remained but I. A person will come to your aid.
The old woman said:
The time of Hajj (Pilgrimage) is over. And no one has passed through this desert.
The old man said:
Don't worry! Go up the hill and look at the road of caravans.
The old woman went up the hill and looked.
A long time passed, in the distance, the old woman saw a caravan coming towards her.
The old woman waved a piece of cloth. The riders wondered and asked each other about that lonely old woman in the desert.
They approached and asked about her condition. She said:
My husband is dying. And no one is beside him.
And who's your husband?
While the old woman was weeping, she said:
Abu Dhar, the companion of Allah's Apostle!
The owners of the caravan were surprised. So, they said:
Abu Dhar! The Prophet's companion! Come on! Let's see him!
The men went to the tent. When they came into it, they saw Abu Dhar sleeping in his bed. They said:
Assalamu Alaik, companion of Allah's Apostle!
Wa Alaikum al-Salam, who are you?
One of them said:
Malik bin al-Haarth al-Ashtar. And there are some men with me from Iraq. We're going to Madina to tell the Caliph about the persecution we suffer from.
Abu Dhar said:
My brothers, be cheerfull! Allah's Apostle [s] has told me that I'll die in the desert and that some believers will attend my death.
Malik and his friends rejoiced at that Prophetic good news. They sat down in Abu Dhar's tent. Malik al-Ashtar felt sorry for him. And he was sad to hear that the Umayyads mistreated the great companion, Abu Dhar.
Malik bin al-Haarth al-Nakhay belonged to an old Yemeni tribe. He became a Muslim in the time of the Prophet [s]. He was loyal to his Islam.
He took part and fought bravely in the Battle of Yarmook. He had brave attitudes in stopping the Romans' attacks against the Muslim Army. So, his eye was split by a sword, namely, its lower lid was split. Thus, he was called al-Ashtar.
In 30 A.H., the Muslims in Kufa and other Muslim cities were angry with their rulers' behaviour. For example, al-Waleed bin Akabah, the Caliph Uthman's brother, the ruler of Kufa, behaved contrary to Islam - he drank alcohol and spent his time in amusements.
One day, al-Waleed entered mosque drunk. He prayed four Raka'as during the morning prayers. Then he turned to the worshipers and said sarcastically:
Shall I increase my prayers?
People were displeased with his behaviour. They criticized him in markets, houses and mosques.
People asked each other:
Has not the Caliph found a good ruler to replace this bad one?
He drank alcohol openly. He violated the teachings of the religion and the Muslims' rights.
So, people thought about a way to solve the problem. Finally, they decided to ask the advice of the good people. So, they went to Malik al-Ashtar. Malik al-Ashtar said to them:
First we'd better advise him. Then we'll tell the Caliph about his bad behaviour.
Malik and some good people went to the ruler's palace. When they got into the palace, they saw him drinking as usual. They advised him to behave well. But he scolded and dismissed them.
So, they decided to go to al-Madina al-Munawwara to meet the Caliph and to tell him about the problem.
The delegation met the Caliph and told him about his ruler's bad behaviour. It was unfortunate that he scolded and dismissed them. Besides, he refused to hear their complaints. So, they became disappointed.
They thought about going to Ali bin Abu-Talib, our Master Muhammad's cousin, because he was the only hope to reform the situation.