History

  • Issue 8 / October - December 1994



    A Companion Of The Prophet Mus'ab Ibn Umayr

    A. Hamid

    Mus'ab ibn Umayr was born and grew up in the lap of luxury. His rich parents lavished a great deal of care and attention on him. He wore the most expensive clothes and the most stylish shoes of his time. Yemeni shoes were then considered to be very elegant and it was his privilege to have the very best of these.

    As a youth, he was admired by the Quraysh nobility not only for his good looks and elegance but also for his keen mind and eloquent speech. Although still young, he had the privilege of attending Quraysh meetings and gatherings. He was thus in a position to know the issues which concerned the Makkans and what their attitudes and strategies were.

    There was a burst of excitement and concern among the Makkans when Muhammad, known to them as al-Amin (the Trustworthy), upon him he peace, declared publicity that God had sent him as a bearer of good tidings and a warner. He warned the Quraysh of terrible chastisement if they did not turn to the worship and obedience of the One God, and he spoke of Divine rewards for the righteous. The whole of Makka buzzed with talk of these claims. The vulnerable Quraysh leaders thought of ways of silencing the Messenger. When ridicule and persuasion did not work, they embarked on a campaign of harassment and persecution.

    Mus'ab learnt the Messenger and those who believed in his message were gathering in a house near the hill of al-Safa to evade Quraysh harassment. This was the house of al-Arqam. To satisfy his curiosity, Mus'ab proceeded to the house undeterred by the possibility of Quraysh reprisals. There he watched the Prophet teaching his small band of Companions, reciting the verses of the Qur'an to them, and doing salat with them in submission to God, the Great, the Most High.

    The Prophet welcomed him, and with his noble hand tenderly touched Mus'ab's excited heart. A deep feeling of tranquillity came over him.

    Mus'ab was overwhelmed by what he saw and heard: the words of the Qur'an had made a deep and immediate impression on him. The decisive young man there and then declared his acceptance of Islam. It was a turning-point: the keen mind of Mus'ab, his tenacious will and determination, his eloquence and his beautiful character were now in the service of Islam and would help change the course of human history.

    Mus'ab had one major concern - his mother. Her name was Khunnas bint Malik. She was a woman of extraordinarily dominant personality and could easily arouse fear and terror. When Mus'ab became a Muslim, the power of the Makkan nobles and their attachment to pagan traditions were of little consequence to him. However, the opposition of his mother could not be taken lightly.

    Mus'ab decided that he should conceal his conversion to Islam until such time as God sent a way. He continued to frequent the house of al-Arqam, to sit in the company of the Prophet, and improve in his new faith.

    It was not long before his acceptance of Islam became widely known. He was seen as he quietly entered the house of al-Arqam, by a man called 'Uthman ibn Talhah. On another occasion, 'Uthman saw Mus'ab praying in the manner of the Prophet, upon Him be peace: the conclusion was obvious. The news of Mus'ab 's acceptance of Islam was devastating for the Quraysh and it quickly reached his mother.
    Mus'ab stood before his mother, his clan and the Quraysh nobility who had gathered to find out what he had to say for himself. Speaking calmly and humbly, he acknowledged his conversion. He recited verses from the Qur'an and tried to explain how the Revelation cleansed the hearts of the believers drawing them back to original purity of faith in the One God, and inspiring them with wisdom, honour, justice and courage.

    As Mus'ab s mother listened to the son on whom she had lavished so much care and affection, she became increasingly incensed. She raised a hand to strike and silence him, hut the hand faltered before the serenity in her son's face or her maternal love restrained her. Nevertheless, she felt she had to do something to avenge the gods Mus'ab had forsaken: she had him taken to a far corner of the house and firmly hound and tethered there. Mus'ab became a prisoner in his own home, guarded and prevented from any further contact with the Messenger and his faith.

    Despite his ordeal, Mus'ab did not waver. He must have had news of how the harassment and persecutions of the idolators made life in Makka increasingly intolerable for the believers. When he heard that a group of Muslims were preparing to migrate secretly to Abyssinia for asylum, he determined to join them. At the first opportunity, when his mother and warders were off-guard, he managed to slip away and join the other refugees. Before long they sailed together across the Red Sea to Africa.

    Although the Muslims enjoyed peace and security in the land of the Negus, they longed to be in Makka in the company of the noble Prophet. So, when a report reached Abyssinia that the conditions for the Muslims in Makka had improved, Mus'ab was among the first to return. The report proved false and he again left for Abyssinia.

    Whether he was in Makka or Abyssinia, Mus'ab remained strong in his new faith and his main concern was to make his life worthy of his Creator.

    When Mus'ab returned to Makka again, his mother made a last attempt to gain control of him. She threatened to have him tied up again and confined. Mus'ab swore that if she tried to do so, he would kill everyone who helped her. She knew very well that he would carry out this threat for she saw the iron determination he now had.

    Separation was inevitable, and sad for both mother and son. It revealed a strong persistence in kufr on the part of the mother and an even greater perseverance in iman on the part of the son. She banished him from her house and all the material comforts she had used to lavish on him, and said:

    'Go to your own business. I am no longer willing to be a mother to you.'

    Mus'ab approached near to her and said:

    'Mother, I advise you sincerely. I am concerned for you. Testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger.'

    I swear by the shooting stars, I shall not enter your religion even if my opinion is ridiculed and my mind becomes impotent,' she insisted.

    Mus'ab thus left home and all its luxury and comforts. The once elegant youth was henceforth seen only in the coarsest of attire. He now had more important concerns, being committed to the acquisition of knowledge and the service of God and His Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace.

    When several years later, Mus'ab came upon a gathering of Muslims sitting around the Prophet, they lowered their gaze on seeing him - some were even moved to tears. The sight of his old, fattened robe immediately recalled to them the days, before his acceptance of Islam, when he was a model of sartorial elegance. The Prophet looked at Mus'ab, smiled graciously, and said:

    'I have seen this Mus'ab with his parents in Makka.

    They lavished care and attention on him and gave him every comfort. There was no Quraysh youth like him. Then he left all that seeking the pleasure of God and devoting himself to the service of His Prophet.'

    He went on to say:

    'There will come a time when God will grant you victory over Persia and Byzantium. You will have one robe in the morning and another in the evening, and you will eat out of one dish in the morning and another in the evening.'

    The Prophet thus predicted that the Muslims would become rich and powerful and enjoy material abundance. The Companions asked:

    'O Messenger of God, is our present situation helter or shall we be better off then?'

    He replied:

    'You are rather better off now than you will be then. If you knew of the world what I know, you would certainly not he so concerned with it.'

    Most Makkans remained hostile even ten years after Islam began to be preached to them. The noble Prophet then went to Ta'if seeking new adherents: he was repulsed and chased out of the city. Soon after this the Prophet appointed Mus'ab as his 'ambassador' to Yathrib (Madina) to teach a small group of believers who had come to Makka to pledge allegiance to Islam, and to prepare Madina for the day of the great Hijrah.

    Mus'ab was chosen above older and more senior Companions, because of his nobility, excellent manners and sharp intellect. His knowledge of the Qur'an and his ability to recite it beautifully and movingly were also an important consideration.

    Mus'ab understood the importance of his mission- to invite people to God and the straight path of Islam, and to prepare what was to be the territorial base of the nascent Muslim community.

    He entered Yathrib as a guest of Sa'd ibn Zurarah of the Khazraj tribe. Together they went to people, to their homes and their gatherings, telling them about the Prophet, explaining Islam to them and reciting the Qur'an. Through the grace of God, many converted. This was pleasing to Mus'ab hot profoundly alarming to many leaders of Yathribi society.

    Once Mus'ab and Sa'd were sitting near a well in an orchard of the Zafar clan. With them were a number of new Muslims and others who were interested in Islam. A powerful notable of the city, Usayd ibn Khudayr, approached in rage, brandishing a spear. Sa'd ibn Zararah said to Mus'ab:

    'This is a chieftain of his people. May God put truth in his heart.'

    'If he sits down, I will speak to him.' replied Mus'ab, displaying all the calm and tact of a great da 'iy.

    Usayd was abusive and threatened Mus'ab and his host.

    'Why have you come to us to corrupt the weak among us? Keep away from us if you want to stay alive.'

    Musab smiled in response a warm and said to Usayd:

    'Won't you sit down and listen? If you are pleased and satisfied with our mission, accept it. If you dislike it, we will stop telling you what you dislike and leave.'

    'That's reasonable,' said Usayd and, sticking his spear in the ground, sat down. Mus'ab did not compel him to anything, nor denounced him, he only invited him to listen. He then expounded the truths of Islam and recited the Qur'an. Even before Usayd spoke, it was clear from his now radiant and expectant face that faith had entered his heart. He said:

    'How beautiful these words are and true! What does a person do if he wants to enter this religion?'

    'Have a bath, purify yourself and your clothes. Then utter the testimony of truth (al-shahadah), and perform salat.'

    Usayd left the gathering, returned after a brief absence, and testified that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His Messenger He then prayed two rak'ats and said:

    After me, there is one man such that if he follows you, all his people will do so. I shall send him to you now. He is Sad ibn Mu'adh.'

    Sad ibn Mu'adh was also convinced and satisfied and declared his submission to God. He was followed by another important Yathribite, Sa'd ibn Ubadah. Very soon, the people of Yathrib were saying to one another:

    'If Usayd ibn Khudayr, Sa'd ibn Mu'adh and Sa'd ibn Ubadah have accepted the new religion, how can we not follow? Let's go to Mus'ab and believe with him. They say that truth emanates from his lips.'

    The first ambassador of the Prophet, peace be on him, was thus supremely successful. Men and women, the young and the old, the powerful and the weak, accepted Islam at his hands. The course of Yathrib's history had been changed forever; the moment for the eat Hijrah had arrived.

    Less than a year after his arrival in Yathrib, Mus'ab returned to Makka, during the season of pilgrimage, with a group of seventy-five Muslims. At Aqabah, near Mina, they met the Prophet. There they solemnly undertook to defend the Prophet at all cost. Should they remain firm in their faith, their reward, said the Prophet, would be nothing less than Paradise. This second pledge which the Muslims of Yathrib made came to be called the Pledge of War.

    From then on events moved swiftly. Shortly after the Pledge, the Prophet directed his persecuted followers to migrate to Yathrib where the new Muslims or Ansar (Helpers) had shown their willingness to give asylum to the afflicted Muslims of Makka. The first of the Companions to arrive in Madinah were Mus'ab ibn Umayr and the blind 'Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum. 'Abdullah also recited the Qur'an beautifully and, according to one of the Ansar, both Mus'ab and Abdullah recited the Qur'an for the people of Yathrib.

    Mus'ab continued to play a major role in the building of the new community. The next momentous occasion for the Muslims was during the great Battle of Badr. After it, the Quraysh prisoners of war were brought to the Prophet who assigned them to the custody of individual Muslims.

    'Treat them well,' he instructed.

    Among the prisoners was Abu Aziz ibn Umayr, the brother of Mus'ab. Abu Aziz himself related:

    'I was among a group of Ansar. Whenever they had lunch or dinner they would give me bread and dates to eat in obedience to the Prophet's instructions to them to treat us well.'

    "My brother, Mus'ab, passed by me and said to the man from the Ansar who was holding me prisoner: 'Tie him firmly...His mother is a woman of great wealth and maybe she would ransom him for you.'

    Abu Aziz could not believe his ears. Astonished, he turned to Mus'ab and asked:

    'My brother, is this your instruction concerning me'?'

    'He is my brother, not you,' replied Mus'ab thus affirming that in the battle between iman and kufr, the bonds of faith were stronger than the ties of kinship.

    At the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet appointed Mus'ab, now well-known as Mus'ab al-Khayr (the Good), to carry the Muslim standard. The Muslims' early success in the battle was reversed when a group of Muslims, against the Prophet's orders, deserted their positions. The mushrikin forces rallied and counterattacked. Their main target, as they cut through the Muslim forces, was the noble Prophet.

    Mus'ab realized this danger. He raised the standard high and shouted the takbir (Allahu akbar). With the standard in one hand and his sword in the other, he plunged into the Quraysh forces. A Quraysh horseman moved in close and severed his right hand. Mus'ab was heard to say the words: 'Muhammad is only a Messenger Messengers have passed away before him.' in this way he affirmed that, great as his attachment was to the Prophet himself, his struggle was above all for the sake of God and to make His Word supreme. When his left hand was also severed, he held the standard between the stumps of his arms, and repeated: 'Muhammad is only a Messenger of God. Messengers have passed away before him.' Mus'ab was then hit by a spear. He fell and the standard fell. The words he had repeated, each time he was struck, were later revealed to the Prophet and completed, and became part of the Qur'an.

    After the battle, the Prophet and his Companions went over the battlefield, saying farewell to the martyrs. When they came to Mus'ab's body, tears flowed. Khabbah related that they could not find any cloth with which to shroud the body, except Mus'ab's own garment. When they covered his head with it, his legs showed and when his legs were covered, his head was exposed. The Prophet instructed: 'Place the garment over his head and cover his feet and legs with the leaves of idhkhir (rue).'

    The Prophet felt deep pain and sorrow at the number of his Companions killed at the Battle of Uhud, among them his uncle Hamza whose body was horribly mutilated. The Prophet stood over the body of Mus'ab with great emotion. He remembered Mus'ab as he first saw him in Makka, stylish and elegant, and then looked at the short burdah covering him, the only garment he possessed. Then the Prophet recited the verse: Among the believers are men who have been true to that they have pledged to God.

    Then, casting his compassionate eyes over the battlefield once more, where lay the dead companions of Mus'ab, he said: 'The Messenger of God testifies that you are martyrs in the sight of God on the day of Qiyamah. He turned to the living companions around him he said:

    'O people! Visit them, send peace on them for, by Him in whose hand is my soul, to any Muslim who sends peace on them until the day of Qiyamah, they will return the salutation of peace.'

    Peace be on you, O Mus'ab...
    Peace be on you all, O martyrs.
    Peace be on you and the mercy and blessings of God.

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