Shallum ben Hushiel (Salmaan Farsi) finds the Prophet
Shallum was the son of the Exilarch Hushiel, who had turned to mysticism during some of the worst persecutions of Persian King Kovad. Shallum was the second son, after Nehemiah. While Nehemiah was groomed to be the next Exilarch, Shallum was kept hidden in the Exilarch's palace, a virtual prisoner, to protect him from the Mazdokite riots. Shallum's learning and position increased over the years, until he obtained the position of custodian of the academy, where his duty was to see that the learning was continuous and did not stop for a single hour, day or night. One day the Exilarch was very busy with his duties and he said to Shallum: "My son, as you see, I am too busy to go out to the estate now. Go and look after matters there for me today."
On the way he crossed the Euphrates river and saw the camps of Arabian Bedouin which attracted his attention. They spoke about the wars in Ash-Sham, Syria-Palestine, and Shallum felt drawn to their cause. He was stirred by the feelings of nationalism then current, and felt no great loyalty to the Persian ruler. Several times the Persians had betrayed the Jews, and even tried twice to wipe out the Exilarch. They had even crucified his great-grand father Mar Zutra III and Mar Haninai on the bridge of Mahoza on charges of misuse of funds.
After his father found out about his nationalistic intentions, he reprimanded Shallum. He became upset and afraid that Shallum would leave. So he kept Shallum locked up in the palace and put a chain on his feet. After the passing of Hushiel in 608 CE, Nehemiah was appointed by Khosrau as the symbolic leader of the Persian troops. Shallum accompanied his brother's caravan to Israel. He admired his brother, who was an ascetic who longed for the Hereafter and engaged in worship day and night. After Nehemiah's violent and tragic death and the decree for all Jews to leave Jerusalem, Shallum attached himself to a band of soldiers who revolted from Persian command. The Persians cruely suppressed the revolt and Shallum was sold into slaverly. He was taken to Wadi al-Qura (between Madinah and Syria) and sold as a servant to a Jewish resident there. Eventually Shallum was sold to the Jew's nephew belonging to the tribe of Banu Quraizah. This nephew took Shallum with him to Yathrib.
At that time the Prophet was inviting his people in Mecca to Islam but Shallum did not hear anything about him then because of the harsh duties which slavery imposed upon him. When the Prophet reached Yathrib after his hijrah from Mecca (in 622), Shallum was in fact at the top of a palm tree belonging to his master doing some work. He took dates to the Prophet as a gift, and was impressed by the Prophet's scrupulous honesty, especially compared to the house of the Exilarch which was mired in dubious fiscal policies. Shallum declared his submission to the Prophet.
Although Shallum tried to keep his background a secret, it turned out that Prophet's foster brother, Ali ibn abu Talib, was related through his mother Fatima to the Exilarch line. Learning of the royal descent of Shallum, in 624 CE, Ali encouraged the Prophet to release Shallum from slavery by paying his Jewish master. When word began to spread about Shallum, it led to rumors among the Jews that Nehemiah ben Hushiel had been resurrected from the dead, and in the presence of the Prophet Elijah.
Shallum began to play an important role in the struggles of the growing Muslim state. He was known as Salman al-Farsi, Shallum the Persian. At the battle of Khandaq, he proved to be an innovator in military strategy. He suggested digging a trench or khandaq around Madinah to keep the Quraish army at bay. When Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Makkans, saw the ditch, he said, "This stratagem has not been employed by the Arabs before." Shallum became known as "Salman the Good". He was a scholar who lived a rough and ascetic life.
In 625CE, the Persians were defeated by Romans in attack on Constantinople. The Byzantine forces continued to press the Iranians hard and in the decisive battle at Nineveh (627 CE) they dealt them the hardest blow. They captured the royal residence of Dastagerd, and then pressing forward reached right opposite to Ctesiphon, capital of Iran in those days. In 628 CE. in an internal revolt, Khosrau Parvez was imprisoned and eighteen of his sons were executed in front of him and a few days later he himself died in the prison. This was the year when the peace treaty of Hudaibiya was concluded, which the Quran has termed as "the supreme victory", and in this very year Khosrau's son, Kovad II, gave up all the occupied Roman territories, restored the True Cross and made peace with Byzantium. In 628 CE, the Emperor himself went to Jerusalem to install the "Holy Cross" in its place, and in the same year the Holy Prophet entered Makkah for the first time after the Hijrah to perform the `Umra-tul-Qada'. Meanwhile wholesale persecution of the Jews continued, in 629CE, Dagobert orders the Jews of the Frankish empire to accept baptism or to emigrate.
In 629 CE, there was the battle of Khaibar. The Cohanim of Khaibar had not shown any hostility toward the Muslims until the leaders of Banu al Nadir settled among them. The most prominent leaders of Banu al Nadir who settled in Khaibar were Salam ibn Abu al Haqiq, Kinanah ibn Abu al Haqiq, and Huyayy ibn Akhtab. When they came to Khaibar, the people accepted their leadership. The leadership of these three men was enough to drag the Cohanim of Khaibar into conflict aimed at retaliation against the Muslims. During the Battle of Khandaq, the Cohanim of Khaibar, led by the leaders of Banu al Nadir, hoped to regain control of the Ka'aba. They played a significant role in the incitement of Quraysh and the desert Arabs against the Muslims. The Prophet sent a letter to them, via Ali and Shallum (Salmaan Farsi), calling them to submit to the Prophet and reminding them of what their own Scriptures said about his coming.. Ali managed to convince the guards to open the fortress gate. Ali took a lead role in the siege. Shallum also was awarded lands in Khaibar for his role in the battle.
In spite of the Muslims' desperate need before Khaibar, the Prophet would have preferred the Cohen's submission to receiving their booty, as is made clear by his command to Ali. Nor did he want to destroy or expel the Cohanim; for this reason he accepted the peace agreement which the Cohanim of al Qamus, al Watih and Salalim offered. After the agreement – according to which the Cohanim accepted expulsion from Khaibar – had been made, he agreed to let them stay in Khaibar according to their request, an indication of tolerance and justice. Prophet allowed the Cohanim to stay in Khaibar on the condition that they work in agriculture and spend their own money on it, and that the Muslims would receive one half of their crops. Unlike the Banu Quraiza, the men of Khyabar were not executed and their women and children were not made slaves. This was directly due to the mediation of Ali and Shallum (Salmaan Farsi). There were many followers of the Prophet who were not happy at this state of affairs, particularly the Christian followers of the Prophet, and the tension between the groups threatened to come to a boil.
- Traditional Islamic literature says that Salmaan Farsi "grew up in the town of Isfahan in Persia in the village of Jayyan. My father was the Dihqan or chief of the village. He was the richest person there and had the biggest house". It is the authors assumption that the Chief of the Village means the Chief of the Exile.
- Ibid. "So he kept me at home, a veritable prisoner, in the same way that young girls were kept"
- Ibid. "I became devoted to the Magian (a.v. Jewish) religion so much so that I attained the position of custodian of the fire which we worshipped (a.v. head of Yeshivot). My duty was to see that the flames of the fire remained burning (a.v. learning did not stop) and that it did not go out for a single hour, day or night."
- Ibid. "On my way to the estate, I passed a Christian church (a.v. Bedouin camp) and the voices at prayer attracted my attention… [I] felt drawn to their religion."
- Ibid. Shallum said "[I would] like to attach myself to your service, learn from you … I soon found out, however, that the man was corrupt. He would order his followers to give money in charity … he would hoard it for himself and not give anything to the poor or needy. In this way he amassed a vast quantity of gold. When the bishop died .. [because] of his corrupt practices …they nailed him on a cross and threw stones at him."
- Sefer Zerubavel