His skin’s color was pale and his hair was knotted. But it was his skinny frame that made those who did not know him turn away from him in disapproval. Yet it was he who had defeated one hundred of the knights in duels, to say nothing of those whom he had slain in battle.
He was the courageous, ferocious champion at arms of whom the second Caliph ‘Umar Ibnul-Khattab رضي الله عنه had written to his deputies in the provinces: “Do not put Al-Baraa’ in charge of any army. He is so courageous and fierce in the battle field, he may jeopardize the safety of his men without knowing.” Such was Al-Baraa’ Ibn Malik Al-Ansari brother of Anas Ibn Malik the servant of Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم . If we were to tell every story of his heroic deeds, it would take much time. One event, which we shall describe, will give an idea of similar actions of his.
This story begins in the hours after the death of the Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم. The Arab tribes of the desert, when they heard the news, abandoned their faith in droves, until none remained within the fold of Islam, save the people of Makkah, Madeenah, Ta’if, and scattered bands of those whose hearts Allah had made steadfast.
Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه, the first caliph, stood firm in the face of this destructive upheaval. With the Muhajiroon (emigrants) and Ansar (Supporters of the prophet ) he prepared eleven armed forces, and had each of them march behind a leader carrying the banner of Islam. They were sent to the distant corners of Arabia to turn the renegades back to the path of truth, and to use the threat of force with those who insisted upon corruption.
The fiercest of the apostates, and the greatest in number, were the tribe of Banu Haneefah. A false prophet named Musaylimah had arisen to lead them. He had gathered a force of forty thousand of his own tribe and their allies. Many of them were tough, seasoned warriors, most of them followed him not because they believed in him, but because of the old tradition of tribal affiliations followed by the pagan Arabs. Some of them said: “I bear witness that Musaylimah is a liar, and Muhammad is truthful. But a liar from Rabee’ah is more beloved to me than a truthful one from Mudhar (the Prophet’s صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم tribe).”
The first Muslim force which set out to deal with Musaylimah was led by Ikrimah رضي الله عنه . It was defeated and routed by the forces, of the renegades. Later, Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه sent another army, this time led by the hero, Khalid Ibnul-Waleed رضي الله عنه. In the vanguard of this army were the most prominent companions of the Muhajiroon and the Ansar, and among them were Al-Baraa’ رضي الله عنه and other notable Muslim champions-at-arms.
The two armies clashed on the field of Al-Yamamah in Najd, and, it was not long before the forces of Musaylimah gained the upper hand, and the Muslim forces were shaken badly. They began to retreat from their positions, until the forces of Musaylimah entered the encampment of Khaalid Ibnul-Waleed رضي الله عنه . They would have killed Khalid’s رضي الله عنه wife, if one of them had not granted her his protection. At the point the Muslims realized the danger inherited in losing this crucial battle. They knew that if they were defeated by Musaylimah, Islam would lose its strength, and Allah would no longer be worshiped in the Arabian Peninsula. People would turn back to idolatry and be lost. Khalid rallied the Muslim forces and placed each group under a separate banner so that he could keep track of the gains or losses made in battle.
This battle was the bloodiest and most ferocious yet experienced by the Muslims. It dragged on and the forces of Musaylimah stood firm, unshaken by the amount of their losses. The heroic deeds of the Muslims in this battle were of the type about which epic poetry is written.
Thabit Ibn Qays رضي الله عنه standard-bearer of the Ansar, rubbed himself with embalming spices girded himself with a shroud, and dug a shallow trench. He stood there, defending the standard of his people until he fell as a martyr.
Zayd Ibnul-Khattab رضي الله عنه, the brother of ‘Umar رضي الله عنه charged forth, calling to the Muslims: “Grit your teeth, strike the enemy and move forward. I am taking a vow of silence and will not speak until Musaylimah is defeated or I meet my creator and tell Him that I died while doing my best.” Then he charged forward, engaging in combat until he was slain.
These heroic acts were insignificant before the action of Al-Baraa’ رضي الله عنه. As the battle reached the height of its furry, Khalid Ibnul-Waleed رضي الله عنه turned to Al-Baraa’ رضي الله عنه and said: “Lead the assault on them, knight of the Ansar.”
Al-Baraa’ رضي الله عنه turned to his people and cried: “Onward, Ansar! Let not any of you think that you may return to Al-Madeenah. You have no place to go home. There is only Allah, and Paradise!”
In one body they charged the ranks of the renegades, with Al-Baraa’ رضي الله عنه cutting through the enemy of Allah that the tide of battle turned against Musaylimah and his forces. They took refuge in an orchard which became known to history as the Orchard of Death, because of the great number of fighters who were slain there on that day.
The orchard was vast, with high walls and Musaylimah and his thousands of forces locked the entrance. They were able to take shelter behind the walls as if they were in a fortress, and rained their arrows down upon the Muslims. Al-Baraa’ came forth, and told his people: “Put me on a shield, raise it on your lances, and toss me over the wall near to the gate. I will open the gates to you, or die as a martyr.”
Within moments he was sitting on a shield, with his slight body which weighed little, and dozens of lances lifted him, then tossed him into the Orchard of death. Like a thunderbolt from on high, he descended on the enemy, and killed ten of them before he was able to open the gate. The Muslims poured in through the gates and over the wall, felling with their sword the renegade forces by the thousands, until they reached Musaylimah and killed him.
As for Al-Baraa’ رضي الله عنه he was carried off the field with more than eighty sword and arrow wounds. Khalid Ibnul-Waleed رضي الله عنه stayed with him for a month, nursing him until Allah restored his health, just as He had granted the Muslims victory because of him.
Al-Baraa’ رضي الله عنه continued to long for death as a martyr, a fate, which had eluded him at the battle of Al-Yamamah. In his longing for his fate, and for reunion with his beloved Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَم he committed himself to one battle after another. At the battle of Tustar in Persia, the Muslims who had besieged the Persians became more desperate, they lowered over the wall chains with huge grappling hooks which had been heated until they were red hot. On them, they would impale the Muslims, and would raise the victims up. One of the hooks caught Anas رضي الله عنه, the brother or Al-Baraa’, may Allah be pleased with them. When Al-Baraa’, may Allah be pleased with him, realized what was happening to his brother, he scaled the wall of the fortress until he was able to seize the chain and remove the hook form his brother’s body. His hand started to burn and give off smoke, but he did not give up until he had saved his brother. Then he fell to the ground, with nothing left of his hand but bare bones.
During this battle, Al-Baraa’ رضي الله عنه prayed to Allah to grant him death as a martyr. Allah granted him his request, and he finally fell, overjoyed that he was to meet his Lord.