Prophet Muhammad was sent among Arabs at a time when the religion of Ibrahim (A) was long forgotten and people were worshiping idols and believing in superstitions.
However, history records that there were some exceptions to these, not everyone believed in idolatry and paganism. The books of Seerah mention that there were a handful of people who rejected idol worshiping. They are called ‘Hanif’ or ‘Hunafa’ in plural. Hanif means – turning away from – they were turning away from idolatry and turning to Allah.
There were four such famous people that we know about and are worth mentioning here. These people knew in their hearts that idolatry is not the way of Ibrahim (A). They met each other after the pilgrimage in Ka’bah, they realized that they are like minded. They refused to worship stones and decided to spread out to find the true religion of Ibrahim (A). This incident took place roughly before the birth of Prophet Muhammad . These four people were –
1. Waraqa Ibn Naufal – he rejected the religion of the people of the Quraish, converted to Christianity and learned Hibru and Aramaic. In the very late stage of his life, when he was about eighty years old, and had lost his eyesight – Prophet Muhammad received the first revelation and was brought to him by Khadija (R). Waraqa was the one who recognized immediately that this is what he has been looking for all his life.
Therefore, the first male convert and second convert to Islam after Khadija is Waraqa. Because he believed in Prophet Muhammad even before he started preaching. The details about this incident is discussed in the story of the first revelation.
Just a little while after this incident, he passed away. He was the first Muslim to die.
2. Ubaidillah Ibn Jash – he converted to Christianity as well, later on he accepted Islam when the Prophet started preaching. He got married to Umm Salama and migrated to Abyssinia. But afterwards he became a ‘Murtad’ – he reverted back to Christianity and died as a Christian.
3. Uthmaan ibn Al-Huwayrith – he too accepted Christianity, left Makkah and never returned back. He traveled to Rome, became an interpreter in the Caesar’s palace. Most likely he never heard the preaching of Prophet Muhammad .
4. Zayd Ibn Amar Ibn Nufayl – he did not accept either Christianity or Judaism. It is narrated that he told both the rabbis and priests – this is not the religion of Ibrahim and you know it.
Later on he came back to Makkah and told his people that none of you are following the religion of Ibrahim (A). He was strongly against the idea of killing their daughters, whenever he saw someone about to do so, he would say to him – give her over to me and I will bring her up. She will become my daughter.
It is authentically mentioned that the Prophet met Zayd when he himself was a young man, probably around 17-18 years old. The Prophet asked him what is the matter between you and your tribe? Why the animosity? Zayd explained to him that he cannot worship idols and cannot do what they were doing.
Zayd continued to live on his beliefs and died five years before the Prophet started preaching.
His son, Sa’id ibn Zayd – one of the ten who were promised Paradise, one day asked the Prophet ,
O Messenger of Allah, you know my father and you remember what was he upon. What will be his fate in the Hereafter?
The Prophet said,
He will be resurrected on the day of judgement as his own Ummah.
Zayd Ibn Amar Ibn Nufayl is a one man Ummah, without any Prophet because of his piety and his belief in the oneness of God.
The content of this page was compiled from video lectures on the Seerah of the Prophet Muhamamd (PBUH) by Yasir Qadhi. The video can be found here.