“You don’t lose if you get knocked down. You lose if you stay down.”

So said the late boxer Muhammad Ali who died last year, may Allah have mercy on his soul.

History bears witness that there was something deep inside champions that made them stand out above the rest.

A champion is not someone who wins when they are ahead. A champion is someone who wins when they are behind. Someone who wins even though they are behind.

Every day we see people getting knocked down by life. By poverty, by domestic violence, by unemployment, by bankruptcy, by debt, by war, by torture, by prison…

Many of these people, once they are knocked down, they never get back up.

I say, “they never get back up” not “they can’t get back up” because they have a choice and they exercise that choice by choosing not to get back up.

And since they choose not to get back up after being knocked down, they often tell everyone else around them not to get back up either.

Yet I regularly read about people who lost both legs in an accident but then went on to run marathons with artificial legs.

And abused single mothers who go on to turn their children into champions.

And those who bounce back from poverty to turn into millionaires, or even billionaires.

Today, I will share the true story of one such remarkable man.

His name was Abdur-Rahman bin Awf, a Companion of the Prophet (pbuh) and one of the first eight people to accept Islam.

When the small Muslim community suffered persecution in Makkah they decided to migrate to Madinah.

The Makkans allowed the Muslims to leave Makkah, but on condition that they leave behind every bit of wealth that they owned.

Abdur-Rahman bin Awf was one of those who migrated to Madinah. He left behind everything he owned so he arrived in Madinah with nothing.

No home. No money. No source of income. No family. A single man.

He was given shelter in the homes of the Ansar, the Muslims of Madinah. The Prophet (pbuh) paired off one Emigrant from Makkah with one of the Ansar from Madinah.

Abdur-Rahman bin Awf was paired off with Sa’d bin Rabiah, who was one of the wealthiest men of Madinah. Feeling pity for Abdur-Rahman, Sa’d made him an offer:

“My brother! Among the people of Madinah I have the most wealth. I have two orchards and I have two wives. See which of the two orchards you like and I shall vacate it for you and which of my two wives is pleasing to you and I will divorce her for you.”

But the dignified Abdur-Rahman bin Awf, despite having nothing, declined Sa’d’s offer with the noble words:

“May Allah bless you in your family and your wealth! Just show me where the marketplace is.”

So Abdur-Rahman bin Awf went to the Qainuqa Market in Madinah where he began to sell dried buttermilk and yoghurt.

He did so well in this that he progressed onto selling horses. Then the saddles of horses.

Eventually he began to travel outside of Madinah and import goods that he would sell at a profit.

He became so successful that it was said if he even overturned a stone he would find gold underneath it.

Yet whenever the time for prayer would come, he would close his stall to go and pray. In relation to this habit of his, a verse of the Quran was revealed, which is still recited today:

“Men whom neither trade nor selling diverts them from the remembrance of Allah, the establishment of Salah and the paying of Zakah. They fear a Day in which the hearts and eyes will fearfully turn about.” [Quran 24:37]

With the money he earned from his business, Abdur-Rahman bin Awf got married and he soon became one of the richest men, if not the richest man, in the region.

In equivalent terms, it is not an exaggeration to say that he became a billionaire of his time.

Once he sold one of his lands for 40,000 dinars (gold pieces) and donated the entire amount to the poor and needy of Madinah.

Assuming a dinar contained five grams of gold, that comes to a total of 200kg of gold. At today’s prices (February 2017), 200kg of gold is worth a total of some US$8million.

And he gave donations of this magnitude not once, not twice, but on a regular basis.

A man who can regularly give away $8million in a single donation is a rich man, in all senses of the word.

Yet all this wealth did not corrupt Abdur-Rahman bin Awf. In fact, it made him even more humble.

Aisha (ra) said about him:

“All this wealth did not corrupt Abdur-Rahman and did not change him. When he was among his workers and assistants, people could not distinguish him from them.”

By the time of Abdur-Rahman bin Awf died, he had earned the ultimate honour of being one of the “Ten Promised Paradise” by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself.

I decided to share this particular story this week for a personal reason.

During the months leading up to my release I often wondered how I would earn a living after being in prison for 11 years.

I often thought about this story and one of the lessons that I learned from it was that sustenance is in the Hands of Allah, not people.

If you ask Him and as long as you also try your best, then He will bless your efforts and shower you with sustenance.

So in light of this story inshallah I will be announcing very soon a business that I have been working on for the past year. Watch this space for more details… 🙂

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You can read my story, why I went to prison and how I came home, here.