Maytham al-Tammar

Meesum ibn Yahyā was born at Nihrawan, an area near Kufa. He was the son of Yahyā. Hence, ibn Yahyā (which means son of Yahyā).

A lady from Banu Asad bought Meesum (as a slave).Accordingly, Meesum worked for this lady until the caliphate of Imam Ali.

The first title/address was Mawali, meaning a slave of Persian origin living in Kufa.But after Meesum was freed from the shackles of slavery, he no longer was addressed as a Mawali. The second and most famous title given to Meesum was al-Tammar. Tammar stems from the Arabic word Tammer. In Arabic, Tammer means dates (a type of fruit).Therefore, al-Tammar means “the date seller”.In Hebrew, Tamar means palm tree, date palm, or dates. Meesum received the title al-Tammar because he owned a market store in Kufa where he would sell dates and other types of fruit.In addition, al-Kufi was another title given to Meesum. Al-Kufi simply means a person from Kufa.

Freedom from slavery
After the time of Muhammad and the caliphate of Uthman, Imam Ali became Caliph in the year 656 AD. As the new caliph (after Uthman ibn Affan’s death), Imam Ali moved the Islamic capital from Medina to Kufa for two reasons: to keep Mu’awiyah in check,and because Kufa had an illustrious history (many prophets of Allah lived in Kufa). Moving to Kufa, Imam Ali use to go around the city of Kufa. It is documented that if he encountered a slave he would try to free him or her.One day, Imam Ali saw a lady from the Banu Asad tribe, who had a male slave of Persian origin (Mawali).Imam Ali approached the woman and began to converse with her, in order to purchasing the slave, Salim. The two started to negotiate a price, and the lady’s initial asking price was 50 dinar. As Imam Ali gave her the 50 dinar she changed the price to 100 dinar.She kept raising the price, since she realized that Imam Ali was willing to pay her a much higher price.Seeing the price soar, a companion of Imam Ali then asked, “O Amir al-Momineen (Imam Ali), who is this man? What is he? He’s originally a Persian, he is a slave, what the point of paying this much?”Finally, she settled at 500 dinar.Imam Ali handed her the 500 dinar. She then called Salim and stated to him that Imam Ali has purchased you. After buying Salim, Imam Ali set him free from the shackles of slavery for the way of Allah. It demonstrated the Islamic view of slavery; Islam establishes that slavery is immoral and that all humans are equal in the perspective of Allah.The only thing that differentiates a human is their Taqwa. Islam called for a gradual emancipation of slaves.Meaning that masters/owners should not just set slaves free but they should help them build a foundation financially so that they (slaves) could support themselves.Thus, Imam Ali took Meesum under his wings after he freed Meesum. Moreover, a person who frees a slave is showered with blessing and would be protected from hell fire.

Mesum’s first encounter with Imam Ali
After Imam Ali set him free, he greeted Salim by the name Meesum.Meesum was the name that his mother gave to him after his birth; no one in Kufa knew that Meesum was Salim’s real name. Upon hearing a stranger calling him by Meesum, Salim was shocked, baffled, and astonished that a person other than his parents knew about his real name (Meesum). He questioned Imam Ali as to how did he knew that Meesum was his real name. Imam Ali replied, “Come with me do not worry. Allah’s Apostle (Prophet Muhammad) has told me that the Iranians call you Meesum.Still shocked, Meesum willing went with Imam Ali who would later become his best friend and teacher.

Salim (a.k.a. Meesum) himself narrates this event:

Imam Ali: “Salamu alaykum Meesum.”
Salim: “What did you say?”
Imam Ali: “Salamu alaykum Meesum.”
Salim: “Nobody knows my name except my parents. How did you know my name?”
Imam Ali: “Do not worry, there are areas of knowledge that I may know, which you do not know. Come near me. I want you to come with me.”
Salim: “How did you know my name? There is no one in Kufa that knows me by Meesum. My mother named me Meesum. Only a person of great knowledge knows that thats my original name.”
Imam Ali: “Come with me do not worry. Allah’s Apostle (Prophet Muhammad) has told me that the Iranians call you Meesum.”
Salim: “Allah and His Apostle are truthful.”
Other narrations state that Imam Ali tells Salim, “Your name is Meesum, you are Iranian, you are of Iranian origin. Be proud of your Iranian origin.”

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