Bilal ibn Rabah was born in 580 AD in Western Arabia. His parents had come to Arabia as slaves from Ethiopia, working for Ummayya bin Khalaf, a rich man from the tribe of Quraish. Bilal was born into slavery and was a housekeeper for bin Khalaf. Since he was very intelligent and trustworthy, he was made the keeper of the keys to the idols of Arabia.
When Bilal was in his late 30s, Prophet Muhammad had then begun teaching the religion of Islam. He got attracted to his teachings and later converted to Islam.
While his master and his family went to worship idols, Bilal would pray to Allah and listen to the teachings of Muhammad.
When bin Khalaf later learned of Bilal’s conversion, he tortured Bilal in a bid to make him renounce his belief. He tied him with ropes and made him lie on the burning hot desert sand at noon, but Bilal refused to give up his faith, repeating the words “Ahad Ahad’, meaning “God is one.”
After Muhammad learned of Bilal’s situation, he made a deal to purchase and free him from his master.
History says Muhammad specifically taught Bilal the “Adhan”, the Muslim call to prayer, due to his clear and sweet voice. This made Bilal the first Muezzin (caller to prayer) of Islam.
Bilal continued to be a close companion and adviser of Prophet Muhammad.
When the prophet died, he felt very sad and stopped giving “Adhan”.
He migrated to Damascus, Syria, where he died at the age of 63.
Bilal’s descendants migrated to the land of Mali and established the Mandinka clan of Keita. This clan later formed into the powerful and rich Mali Empire.
Bilal’s grave still exists in the famous Muslim graveyard in Damascus. As one of the revered men in Islam, people still go to his grave to pay respect.