This story takes place in a small town in a narrow valley. There is no vegetation, no livestock, no gardens, no rivers. Desert after desert separates the town from the rest of the world.
During the day, the heat of the sun is unbearable and the nights are still and lonely. Tribes flock to it like animals in the open country flocking to a water-hole. No government rules.
There is no religion to guide people except one which promotes the worship of stone idols. There is no knowledge except priestcraft and a love for elegant poetry. This is Mecca and these are the Arabs.
In this town lies a young man who has not yet seen twenty summers. He is short and well-built and has a very heavy crop of hair. People compare him to a young lion. He comes from a rich and noble family. He is very attached to his parents and is particularly fond of his mother.
He also spends much of his time making and repairing bows and arrows and practising archery as if preparing himself for some great encounter. People recognize him as a serious and intelligent young man. He finds no satisfaction in the religion and way of life of his people, their corrupt beliefs and disagreeable practices. His name is Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas.
One morning at about this time in his life the genial Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu)came up and spoke softly to him. He explained that Muhammad ibn Abdullah the son of his late cousin Aminah bint Wahb, had been given Revelations and sent with the religion of guidance and truth.
Abu Bakr then took him to Muhammad in one of the valleys of Mecca. It was late afternoon by this time and the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) had just prayed Salat al-Asr.
Saad was excited and overwhelmed and responded readily to the invitation to truth and the religion of One God. The fact that he was one of the first persons to accept Islam was something that pleased him greatly.
The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was also greatly pleased when Saad became a Muslim. He saw in him signs of excellence. The fact that he was still in his youth promised great things to come. It was as if this glowing crescent would become a shining full moon before long. Perhaps other young people of Mecca would follow his example, including some of his relations.
When permission was given for the Muslims to fight, Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas played a distinguished role in many of the engagements that took place both during the time of the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) and after. He fought at Badr together with his young brother Omayr who had cried to be allowed to accompany the Muslim army, for he was only in his early teens. Saa’d returned to Madinah alone for Umair was one of the 14 Muslim martyrs fell in the battle.
During the reign of Caliph Umar (radiAllahu anhu), three thousand strong army were set off to fight the Persian. Among them were 99 veterans of Badr, more than 300 of those who took the Pledge of Riffwan (Satisfaction) at Hudaybiyyah and participated in the liberation of Makkah with the noble Prophet. There were 700 sons of the companions. Thousands of women also went on to battle as auxiliaries and nurses and to urge the men on to battle.
Sa’ad understood well the gravity of the impending battle and kept in close contact with the military high command in Madinah. Although the commander-in-chief, he understood the importance of shura.
Sa’ad did as Umar (radiAllahu anhu) instructed and sent delegations of Muslims first to Yazdagird and then to Rustum, inviting them to accept Islam or to pay the jizyah to guarantee their protection and peaceful existence or to choose war if they so desired.
Unfortunately, Rustum made it clear that war was inevitable. Saad’s eyes filled with tears. He wished that the battle could be delayed a little or indeed that it might have been somewhat earlier. For on this particular day, he was seriously ill and could hardly move. He was suffering from sciatica and he could not even sit upright for the pain.
The Battle of Qadisiyyah is one of the major decisive battles of world history. It sealed the fate of the Sasanian Empire just as the Battle of Yarmuk had sealed the fate of the Byzantine Empire in the east. Two years after Qadisiyyah, Sa’ad went on to take the Sasanian capital. By then he had recovered his health. The taking of Ctesiphon was accomplished after a brilliant crossing of the Tigris river while it was in flood. Sa’ad has thus gone down in the annals of history as the Hero of Qadisiyyah and the Conqueror of Ctesiphon.
He lived until he was almost 80 years old. He was blessed with much influence and wealth but as the time of death approached in the year 54 AH, he asked his son to open a box in which he had kept a coarse woolen jubbah and said:
“Shroud me in this, for in this (jubbah) I met the Mushrikeen on the day of Badr and in it I desire to meet God Almighty.”