However, there were exceptions to the general rule that Meccans were mushrikeen (pagains). Not all the Arabs were upon shirk, very few, a very small minority rejected this shirk and refused to worship the idols. They were called the ‘haneefs’ or ‘hunafa’— meaning, ‘turned away’ and they had turned away form shirk and inclined themselves to only Allah.
Qis ibn Sa’aadah—famous poet who used to come to Meccan and warn Arabs against shirk. Once a year, all Arab tribes would get together, compete and boast and say their poetry to see who would be the best of them. Qis would come regularly and remind them of the Day of Judgment and used to warn them against their shirk. Prophet Muhammad saw him as a young child or a teenager (we don’t know the exact age). He (pbuh) remembered what Qis said very vaguely and after many many years later when the tribes of Qis came to give bay’ah (pledge) in Medina, he asked for Qis. Qis had died. So the Prophet asked his tribesmen to narrate of what Qis had said and when they narrated, Prophet (pbuh) approved of it.
Another incident narrated by Ibn Hishaam in his book of Seerah, was the incident of 4 men. One of the celebrations of Jahiliyya Arabs was when all tribesmen went out to celebrate to their gods, to do tawaf and sacrifice. During this event, 4 men stayed behind and realized that they had something in common. They agree with Arabs’ shirk. So they decided to stay close and become close friends. They realized that this was not the religion of Ibraheem but they didn’t know the truth either. So they decided to travel in search for truth and inform each other about what they found. These four men were:
Waraqa ibn Naufil
Obaidullah ibn Jahash
Uthman ibn alHowairith
Ziad ibn ‘amr ibn nufail
Obaidullah ibn Jahash: He was the direct cousin of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). His mother was the daughter of AbdulMutallib. He traveled around and accepted Christianity and then when Prophet was sent he accepted Islam. Then he immigrated to Abi Sinia, and there, iyyadhobillah (may Allah protect us) he reverted back to Christianity. This was the ONLY incident recorded in Prophet’s time where someone reverted back. His wife was Umm Habiba, who was later married to Prophet after the death of her husband.
Uthman Ibn alHowairith: He traveled as well and converted to Christianity. Realize that ‘Islam’ was not in the world at that time, and the closest religion to Islam, back then, was Christianity. And it was the closest religion to the truth. Later, when he entered into Rome and Heraculus heard of him, Heraculus took him as a minister and gave him a lot of gold etc. He died as a Christian and we don’t know if he ever heard of Islam.
Zaid Ibn Amr and Waraqa Ibn Naufil: They traveled together but eventually they had to split their ways. Waraqa accepted Christianity and started studying books of Christianity. He spoke Hebrew and Aramaic. He knew the scripture of the people of old and he was one of the few, if not the ONLY Arab who became a scholar of Christianity. He lived for a long time. Right before his death, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s mission began.
When it began, Khadeeja took Prophet (pbuh) to Waraqa, who was her uncle. Waraqa informed him of his prophethood and he started crying and said, ‘How I wish I was a young man so that I could help you when your own nation rejects you and tries to kill you!” (long story is in Bukhari) Waraqa died shortly after, and he died upon the religion of Islam.
Zaid Ibn Amr went around all over the world and traveled to Syria, Iraq and Palestine trying to search for the religion of Ibhraeem. In his search, he rejected both Judaism and Christianity because he realized that they had fallen into errors. So he came back to Mecca and announced openly in ka’bah, ‘There is not a single person left upon the religion of Ibraheem except me’
Asma bint Abu Bakr relates, “I remember seeing Ziad and he would openly criticize Arabs and he would say that this cow/goat you are sacrificing for idol, I would never eat it. Allah created it and you sacrifice it for Laat and Uzza?!”
(Side point: The narrations from pre-Islamic era are very difficult to verify because who would remember things from this era; no one was carefully recording or memorizing narrations during this era!)
Also, whenever Zaid would find an Arab wanting to bury his daughter, he would take her by the hand and say, “Don’t kill her, I would take her and feed her!” He would not only take a complete stranger to feed and raise but even marry her off when she would grow older. Amazing was his kindness and his generosity. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) met Zaid in his 20s or even early 30s. Prophet asked him, “Why Quraish don’t like you?” He explained, ‘I’ve rejected what they worship and I’m only worshipping Allah and I would not eat their meat [which they sacrifice for their gods]’ It is narrated that the Prophet (pbuh), after he heard that, never ate that meat either.
Zaid traveled again to the most knowledgeable Christian in Palestine and asked to inform him about the religion of Ibraheem. So the monk said, ‘you are searching for something/religion that no human being follows anymore. (That Monk knew the truth) But you are living in a time when the new prophet is about to come. And he would come form the very land you came from. So go back to him because you are about to catch him.” When Zaid heard this he traveled back as fast as he could but Allah (swt) Willed that Ziad died before he reached Mecca.
Was he a Muslim? Yes, he was!
When Saeed ibn Zaid (his son) came to Prophet, “Ya Rasul Allah, my father, you know his status, where is he? Seek forgiveness for him” Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Yes, I will seek forgiveness for him. Verily! I saw him in Jannah with two gardens.”
So Ziad has not only one but two gardens in paradise!
There is another narration in which Prophet informed that, on the Day of Judgment, Zaid will be resurrected by an Ummah by himself. He will not have a Prophet (because every human being will be with his Prophet). In fact, this is the only case we know of in which someone will be by himself as an Ummah and not with the Prophet he follwed. There could be others we may not know of, but this we know for sure. He will be resurrected as an ummah himself.
Another book of Seerah, mentions 25 people of haneefs but we don’t have too much information about them.
(Next is the story of Salman al-Farsi because he was one of the haneefs too)