The Conversion of Salman: The City of Basra (Part 1)
by Haji Riaz-ud-Din Ahmad of Berielly [Bareilly, India]
The Light (Pakistan), 1st June 1922 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 12, pp. 2–3)
We are indebted to Haji Riaz-ud-Din Ahmad of Berielly [Bareilly, India] for the interesting account of the conversion of Salman [rta], a well-known companion of the Holy Prophet [pbuh].
Salman [rta] was a Persian by birth. He became a Christian and devoted a long time to the study of religion. But the doctrines of Christianity could not satisfy his soul. After many difficulties he succeeded in reaching Medina [Madina], where he embraced Islam.
Our correspondent gives in this instalment of his article a description of Basra and its past greatness.
The ancient city of the Northern desert of Arabia, called Basra, which lies desolate to the south-eastern side of Palestine, was not so in the year 600 A.D. It was, at the time of our narrating the story, thickly populated and was full of pomp and grandeur. It was located in the southern outskirt of the valley of Tofail, which, for the most part of the year, remains dry, and is about 30 miles away from the southern shore of the Dead Sea between Edome and the land of Beni Swab.
The city at that time resounded with the noise of hundreds of travellers coming to and going from Basra, not to be found in any other city of the Arabian Desert. Although the town was not the seat of any Government, yet trade had created a kingly pomp and grandeur. Whenever a foreigner came, he found lofty palaces of the wealthy grandies and big houses of the merchants of the city. Innumerable camels passed between the churches and lofty monasteries, and a babel of tongues of people of different climes mixed with the bellowing of camels and the noises of the camel drivers.
The caravanserais were filled with caravans and with goods of different countries. On every side there were signs of opulence and enterprise, and the town seemed to be very proud on account of its prosperity and fortune. The chief reason for its greatness was that up to that time ships and steamers did not replace camels in the transaction of trade, and large caravans carried goods as well as travellers from east to west and from south to north. Nearly all the caravans passed through this populated town. Merchants stopped here for months to sell their goods. On account of these merchants, the market of Basra always remained brisk and business continued throughout the whole year.
Besides, the Province of Armenia and Diarbeker had been battlefields of the Romans and the Persians, and there was hard conflict between Christians and the followers of Zoroaster under the banners of the rival emperors.
There were numerous changes of sovereignty in those parts. One day the Persians became the possessors, while the other day the Romans held sway. Thus, the followers of both religions were afraid of extermination. The result was that hundreds of Christian and Persian families left their homes and settled themselves in the city of Basra. Thus, it had within its walls the members of various religions and various communities.