Salman Al-Farsi, originally named Ruzbeh, was born into an affluent family in Jayyan near Isfahan in Persia.
His father, the town chief and a Zoroastrian priest, loved his only son so much that he confined him to the house. Salman was a follower of the Magian religion and became custodian of the “holy fire,” which they worshipped. But Salman was not satisfied with this religion.
One day, his father sent him out to oversee the affairs of his estate. On his way, Salman passed a Christian church and heard the sound of melodious prayer. He entered the church and was impressed that a man was their guide and went home to tell his father about his feelings. His father, a staunch Magian, then chained him up inside the house.
The Christians had told Salman that the grand priest lived in Syria, so Salman asked to be informed of the next caravan leaving for Syria. When he got the news, he broke the shackles and escaped.
In Syria, he reached the big church where the bishop converted him to Christianity. Salman served him for a long time, but later discovered that he was corrupt and greedy.
The priest hoarded the charity of his followers. When the bishop died, Salman showed his followers the bishop’s large jars filled with gold and silver.
The people then selected a pious bishop devoted to worship. When the bishop was on his deathbed, Salman asked him whom he should serve. The dying bishop said he should go to Mosul where he would find another pious man.
Salman arrived in Mosul and found the bishop. When this man was close to death, he guided Salman to a fourth priest, who in turn, sent him to another bishop at Ammuriyah near Rome.
When this bishop was close to death, he told Salman he had heard that a prophet was expected to migrate to a “city full of palm trees” and that he would bear distinct features.
Salman then paid people from the Kalb, an Arab tribe in Ammuriyah, to take him to Arabia.
But the tribe broke the agreement and sold him as a slave to a Jew. The Jew sold Salman as a laborer to his nephew of the Banu Qurayzah who took him to Yathrib (later called Madinah), the city of palm trees as described by the priest in Ammuriyah.
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) arrived in Madinah, Salman was overjoyed and wanted to see him but his master hit him and refused to let him go.
When Salman eventually managed to see the Prophet (peace be upon him), he offered dates he said was meant for charity, but the Prophet (peace be upon him) refused to eat it. Salman visited him again with some dates and presented it to him as a gift. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) accepted it and ate them with his companions.
Then when Salman went to look at the Prophet’s back, the Messenger of Islam (peace be upon him) lowered his cloak so Salman could see the mark on his back. Realizing this was the Prophet (peace be upon him), Salman fell to his knees, kissed the Prophet’s feet and started to cry.
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) then listened to Salman’s story and heard that his owner would free him in exchange for 300 planted palm trees and 1,600 silver coins. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) urged his companions to contribute generously. When Salman was freed, he remained close to the Prophet (peace be upon him). When some people inquired about his ancestry, Salman boldly replied: “I am Salman, the son of Islam from the child of Adam.”
Salman proved to be an innovator during the Battle of Khandaq when he suggested that Muslims dig a defensive trench on the front-lines against the large pagan force attacking Madinah. This helped keep the Muslims safe and Allah later granted them victory.
Salman participated in all of the major campaigns of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). He was also with Saad during the conquest of Iraq and Caliph Umar chose him to select the site where the new Muslim town named Kufa was built.
Salman Al-Farsi was a good scholar. He had knowledge of the Zoroastrian religion, Christian scripture and the Holy Qur’an. He was one of the first people to translate the Qur’an into Persian for new Muslims.
Caliph Ali said he was like Hakeem Luqman. And Kab Al-Ahbar said: “Salman is bursting with knowledge and wisdom. He is like an ocean that does not dry up.”
Salman Al-Farsi led a very ascetic life and had only one cloak, which he wore and slept on.
When he was appointed governor of Madayen Kisra (Ctesiphon) near Baghdad, he received a salary of 5,000 dirhams, which he distributed to the poor as charity. “I like to eat from the work of my own hands,” he said. He died in Ctesiphon during the Caliphate of Caliph Uthman.