This is the story of Ka'ab ibn Malik (may Allaah Almighty be pleased with him) narrated by himself and he explains why he never went to the battle, and the consequences because of that act.
According to Al-Bukhari, Abdullah Ibn Ka,b Ibn Malik, Who, from among Kab's sons, was the guide of Ka'b when he become blind, "I heard Ka'b Ibn Malik narrating the story of the Ghazwah Tabuk in which he failed to take part. Ka'b said, 'I did not remain behind Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in any Ghazwah that he fought except the Ghazwah of Tabuk, and I failed to take part in the Ghazwah Badr, but Allah did not admonish anyone who had not participated in it, for in fact, Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had gone out in search of the caravan of Quraish, but Allah made them the Muslims and their enemy meet without any appointment. I witnessed the night of Al-Aqabah (pledge) with Allah's Messenger when we pledged for Islam, and I would not exchange it for the Badr battle although the Badr battle is more popular amongst the people than it (Aqabah pledge).
As for my news in the battle of Tabuk, I had never been stronger or wealthier than I was when I remained behind the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in that Ghazwa.
By Allah, never had I two she-camels before, but I had then at them time of this Ghazwah. Whenever Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) , wanted to make a Ghazwah, he used to different Ghazwah until it was the time of that Ghazwah which Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fought in severe heat, facing, a long journey, desert, and the great number of enemy So the Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) announced to the Muslims clearly so that they might get prepared for then Ghazwah. So he informed them clearly of the destination he was going to. Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was accompanied be a large number of Muslims who could not be listed in a book namely, a register.'
Ka'b added, Any man who intended to be absent would think that the matter would remain hidden unless Allah revealed it through Divine Revelation. So Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) fought that Ghazwah at the time when the fruits and ripened and the shade looked pleasant. Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his Companions prepared for the battle and I started to go out in order to get myself ready along with them, but I returned without doing anything. I would say to myself, 'I cane do that.'
So I kept on delaying it every now and then until the people got ready and Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the Muslims along with him departed, and I had not prepared anything for my departure, and I said, I will prepare myself (for departure0 one or two days after him , and then join them.' In the morning following their departure, I went out to get myself ready but returned having done nothing. Then again in the next morning, I went out to get ready but returned without doing anything. Such was the case with me until they hurried away and I missed the battle. Even then I intended to depart to take them over. I wish I ahd done so! But It was not in my luck. So, after the departure of Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) , whenever I went out and walked amongst the people (remaining persons), it grieved me that I could see none of those weak men whom Allah and excused. Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) s did not remember me until he reached Tabuk, he said, 'what did Ka'b do?' A man from Banu Salamah said, 'O Allah's Messenger! He has been stopped by his two Burdas (garments) and his looking at his own flanks with pride.' Then Mu'adh Ibn Jabal said, 'What bad thing you have said! By Allah! O Allah Messenger! We know nothing about him but good.' Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) kept silent.'
Ka'b Ibn Malik added, 'When I heard that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was on his way back to Medina. I got dipped in my concern, and began to think of false excuse, saying to myself, 'How can I avoid his anger tomorrow?' And I took advice of wise member of my family in this matter. When it was said that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had come out of this problem by forging a false statement. Then I decided firmly to speak the truth. So Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) arrived in the morning, he used to visit the Mosque first of all and offer a two Rak'at Prayer therein and then sit for the people. So when he had done all that this time, those who had failed to join the battle Tabuk came and started offering false excuses and taking oaths before him. They were something over eighty men; accepted the excuses they had expressed, took their pledge of allegiance asked fro Allah's Forgiveness for them, and left the secrets of their hearts fro Allah to judge. Then I came to him, and when I greeted him, he smiled a smile of an angry person and then said, 'Come on.' So I came walking until I sat before him. He said to me, 'What stopped you from joining us Had you not purchased an animal for carrying you?' I answered, Yes, O Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)! But by Allah, if I were sitting before any person from among the people of the world other than you, I would have avoided his anger with an excuse. By Allah, I have been bestowed with the power of speaking fluently and eloquently, but by Allah, I know well that of today I tell you a lie to seek your favor, Allah would surely make you angry with me in the near future, but if I tell you the truth, though you will get angry because of it, I hope for Allah's Forgiveness. Really, by Allah, there was no excuse for me. By Allah, I had never been stronger or wealthier than I was when I remained behind you.'
Then Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, " As regards this man, he has surely told the truth, So get up until Allah decides your case. " I got up, and many of Banu Salamah followed me and said to me, By Allah we never witnessed you doing any sin before this. Surely, you failed to offer. excuse to Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as the others who did not join him, have offered. The Prayer of Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to Allah to forgive you would have been sufficient for you.' By Allah, they continued blaming me so much that I intended to return (to the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and accuse myself of having told a lie, but I said to them, 'Is there anybody else who has met the same fate as I have?' They replied, 'Yes, there are two men who have said the same thing as you have, and to both of them was given the same order as given to you.' I said, 'Who are they?' they replied, Murara Ibn Ar-Rabi Al-Amri and Hilal In Umayyah Al-Waqifi By that they mentioned to me two pious men who who had attended the Ghazwah of Badr, and in whom there was an example fro me. So I did not change my mind when they mentioned them to me. Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade all the Muslims to talk to us, the three aforesaid persons out of all those who had remained behind in that Ghazwah. SO we kept away from the people and they changed their attitude towards us until the very land (where I lived) Appeared strange to me as if I did not know it.
We remained in that condition for fifty nights. As regards my two fellows, they remained in their boudes and kept on weeping, but I was they youngest of them and the firmest of them, so I used to go out and witness the Prayers along with the Muslims and roam about in the markets, but none would talk to me, and I would come to Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and greet him while he was sitting in his gathering after the Prayer, and I would wonder whether the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did move his lips in return to my greetings or not. The I would offer my Prayer near to him and look at him stealthily. When I was busy with my Prayer, he would turn his face towards me, but when I turned my face to him, he would turn his face away from me. When his harsh attitude of the people lasted long, I walked until I scaled the wall of the garden of Abu Qatada who was my cousin and dearest person to me, and offered my greetings to him. By Allah, he did not return my greetings. I said, 'O Abu Qatada! I beseech you by Allah! Do you know that I love Allah and His Messenger?' He kept quiet. I asked him again, beseeching him by Allah, but he remained silent. Then I asked him again in the Name of Allah. He said, 'Allah and His Messenger know it better.' Thereupon my eyes flowed with tears and I returned and jumped over the wall.'
Whilst I was walking in the market in Madeenah I saw a Christian farmer from amongst the farmers of Shaam, who had traveled to Madeenah in order to sell their produce. He said: "Who shall direct me to towards Ka'b bin Maalik?" The people started to gesture towards me, until he approached me and presented me with a letter from the King of Ghassan, in which it was written:
'To proceed, it has come to our attention that your companion has dealt with you in a harsh manner. Allâh has not rendered this world for you as a dwelling of disgrace and degradation, nor one of loss and ruin. So join us and we shall bestow upon you comfort and consolation.' Upon reading the letter I said to myself: This too is a trial placed before me. I therefore placed the letter in the oven and created a fire by burning it therein.
When a period of forty out of fifty nights had passed, the messenger of the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam approached me and said: "The Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam commands you to distance yourself from your wife." I said: "Should I divorce her, or what must I do?" He responded: "No, distance yourself from her and do not approach her. The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam has issued a similar directive to your two companions." Hence, I said to my wife:
"Go to your parents and remain with them until Allâh passes judgment in this matter."
Ka'b said: The wife of Hilaal bin Umayyah came to the Apostle of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam and said: "O Messenger of Allâh, verily Hilaal bin Umayyah is an elderly man who is incapable of taking care of himself. Furthermore, he is not in possession of a servant, would you therefore object if I was to serve him?" He responded: "No, but he must not approach you." She said: "By Allâh, he has no desire for any matter. By Allâh, he has not ceased to weep from the day this matter started until this time now." Some of my family members questioned me: "Why don't you seek permission from the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam concerning your wife, as he has granted permission for the wife of Hilaal bin Umayyah to serve him?" I responded: "By Allâh, I shall not seek permission from the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam concerning her. I am not aware of what the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam would say if I sought his permission in relation to her whilst I am still a young man." I remained in that state for an additional ten nights, until fifty nights had been completed from the point that he had prohibited the people from speaking to us.
On the morning of the fiftieth night, I performed the Fajr prayer upon the roof of one of our houses. I was experiencing a condition which Allâh had mentioned in the Book: 'My soul had become contracted, and the earth had contracted upon me despite its vastness.'
Suddenly I heard a clear voice emanating from the direction of Mount Sala. Somebody announced with his loudest voice: "O Ka'b bin Maalik, I confer upon you glad tidings!" I prostrated myself upon the ground. I realized that relief from this tribulation had arrived and that the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam had indicated that Allâh had granted us penitence. After the Fajr prayer, the people thereupon proceeded forth to congratulate us, and bearers of glad tidings departed to my two companions. A horseman raced towards me in order to congratulate me and a messenger from the tribe of Aslam raced towards the mountain and scaled it in order to make the announcement. I heard his voice before that of the horseman. When the individual whose voice I had heard approached me to convey the glad tidings, I removed my garments and clothed him in them. By Allâh, on that day I was not in possession of any other garments, I therefore borrowed two items, clothed myself and proceeded towards the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. People started receiving me in groups, congratulating me upon the acceptance of my penitence. They said: "We congratulate you upon Allâh's acceptance of your repentance." When I entered the Mosque, the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam was sitting, surrounded by people. Talha bin 'Ubaidullah hastened towards me. He shook my hand, and congratulated me. By Allâh, no one from amongst the Muhaajireen (Emigrants) stood in order to greet me save him, and I shall never forget Talha's action in doing so Ka'b said: When I greeted the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, his face was radiant with happiness, and he said: "I give you the glad tidings of the best day you have witnessed since your mother gave birth to you." Ka'b continued:
"Is this from you or from Allâh?" He responded:
"No, it is from Allâh."
Whenever the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam became delighted, his face became illuminated until it resembled a piece of the moon. We recognized that this matter was characteristic of him. When I sat before him, I said: "O Messenger of Allâh, by virtue of the acceptance of my repentance, I shall donate the sum total of my wealth in charity for the sake of Allâh and His Messenger." The Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam responded: "Retain a portion of your wealth, for it is better for you to do so." I said: "I shall retain a portion of my wealth in Khaibar. O Messenger of Allâh, verily Allâh has delivered me from this tribulation because I spoke the truth. My penitence therefore dictates that I shall speak only the truth as long as I live."
By Allâh, I am not aware of any individual from amongst the Muslims whom Allâh has blessed for speaking the truth more than myself, from the time wherein I mentioned those words of truth to the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. In addition, I have never intended to utter a falsehood from the time wherein I mentioned those words of truth to the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam to the present day. Furthermore, I hope that Allâh will protect me from uttering falsehood during the remaining portion of my life. Allâh revealed the Verse to His Messenger:
"Allâh has forgiven the Prophet, the Muhaajireen, and the Ansaar...(to His statement)...Be with those who are truthful..."
By Allâh, after guiding me to Islam, Allâh has not bestowed upon me a favour - greater in magnitude - than my statement of truth to the Apostle of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and my action of not uttering a lie to him. For I would have destroyed myself, as those who uttered lies were destroyed. Allâh ascribed to those who had uttered falsehood, a description more evil than he had ascribed to any other individual, when He revealed His Revelation. Allâh, Blessed be He, the Most High stated:
"They will swear by Allâh to you when you return to them, that you may turn away from them. So turn away from them. Surely, they are impure, and Hell is their dwelling place - a recompense for that which they used to earn. They (the hypocrites) swear to you (Muslims) that you may be pleased with them, but if you are pleased with them, certainly Allâh is not pleased with people who are rebellious." [Qur'ân 9:95-96]
Ka'b continued: We, the three who neglected to participate, differed from those whose excuses were accepted by the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam when they swore to him to that effect. He accepted their pledge of allegiance and sought forgiveness for them. However, the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam deferred our case until Allâh passed judgment in relation to it. With reference to that, Allâh said: "He also forgave the three who remained behind..."
In this Verse Allâh did not refer to our non-participation in the military expedition. However it refers to the postponement and deferment of the Messenger sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam in the act of passing judgment. In contrast to the one who took an oath before him and excused himself: an action which was accepted by the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam
In a different narration: The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam departed for the Battle of Tabuk on Thursday, he would love to set out on a Thursday. In a further narration: He would not return from a journey save during the day time before noon. Upon arrival, he would proceed towards the Mosque and perform a two rak'ah prayer. Thereafter, he would sit." Collected: Bukhari (4418), Kitab al-Magaazi, and Muslim (2769), Kitab al-Tawbah
As for those who were needy and poor, even they came to the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam out of a yearning desire to join the blessed Jihad. However, the Messenger of Allâh sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam could find no mounts for them, and they turned away, grief stricken with their eyes full of tears that they could not accompany the expedition. Regarding them, Allâh mentioned in the Qur'ân: "Nor (is there blame) on those who came to you to be provided with mounts, and when you said: "I can find no mounts for you," they turned back, while their eyes overflowing with tears of grief that they could not find anything to spend (for Jihad)."