The Life of Sayyidina Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair
InshaAllah, Muzlimbuzz will be featuring different Companions of the Prophet (S) regularly. We had our first feature on a disabled Companion who still fought in battles alongside the Prophet (S), Sayyidina Amr bin Jamuh RA. Today’s feature is on a youth named Sayyidina Mus’ab ibn Umair RA, whose story will make you weep.
Khabbaab ibn Al-Arat narrated: “We emigrated with the Prophet (saw) for Allah’s cause, so our reward became due with Allah. Some of us passed away without enjoying anything in this life of his reward, and one of them was Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair, who was martyred on the Day of Uhud. He did not leave behind anything except a sheet of shredded woolen cloth. If we covered his head with it, his feet were uncovered, and if we covered his feet with it, his head was uncovered…”
As Muslims celebrating a new Hijrah year in Muharram, we seem to be familiar with our Prophet’s (saw) journey from Mecca to Medina. We know of Ali bin Abi Talib’s selflessness in taking the place of our Prophet at night as the Quraysh were waiting to ambush him. Similarly, we may have heard of the story of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq being bitten by a snake as the two of them were hiding in the cave of Tsur – where he did not want to move for fear of waking the Prophet (saw). However, there is one other companion who played an equally vital role in the Prophet’s (saw) hijrah from Mecca to Medina. His name was Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair.
Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair was a young man when the Prophet (saw) started his da’wah to Islam. As we might be aware, the first few years of the Prophet’s mission was carried out in secrecy. This was before Allah swt commanded the Prophet (saw) to bring forth the call to Islam to the masses. During this time, the early Muslims would meet at the house of al-Arqam ibn Abi al-Arqam (Daar-al Arqam), near the mount of as-Safa. Here, the Prophet (saw) taught them patiently the religion which had been revealed upon him.
As a young man, Mus’ab came from a wealthy family and grew up in the lap of luxury. He was described as being charming and handsome. He was well-groomed, elegant and thoroughly admired by the young ladies of Mecca. Yet, it is Allah swt who guides hearts. And in this case, Allah swt guided the young Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair to the congregation of early converts at Daar-al-Arqam.
Like most of the early Muslims who professed their belief in Allah and His messenger, Muhammad (saw), Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair’s life was not without hardship and tribulation. The news of his conversion soon reached the ears of his mother – Khunaas binti Maalik – a strong-willed woman with a stronger sense of pride in her lineage and her age-old allegiance to polytheistic idols of the Quraysh. Enraged that her son had betrayed her and their polytheistic idols, Khunaas binti Maalik had Mus’ab shackled and imprisoned in a rough corner of her house. However, when Mus’ab heard of the emigration of Muslims to Abyssinia, he broke free from the shackles, escaped and eventually joined them in Abyssinia.
Upon his return to Mecca, his mother attempted to imprison him yet again. However, a resolute Mus’ab vowed to fight against anyone who came to his mother’s aid to lock him up. Sensing her son’s determination, Khunaas bitterly let him go. Mus’ab then approached his mother saying, “Oh mother, I am advising you and my heart is with you, please bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.”
She replied to him, raging, “Go away, I am no longer your mother! By the stars! I will never enter your religion, to degrade my status and weaken my senses!”
For a young man with a heart as tender as Mus’ab, you can imagine how much of a crushing disappointment that must have been for him. For one’s mother to disown her child is one thing, but the pain of Mus’ab knowing that his mother will never embrace Islam is quite another.
Leaving his mother also signaled the end of Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair’s life of luxury. Accustomed to being well-adorned, Mus’ab now became contented with a life of simplicity and hardship.
The Prophet (saw) did not neglect Mus’ab and he must have held this young Companion of his in the highest regard, for the Prophet (saw) appointed Mus’ab as his envoy in the city of Yathrib.
Prior to the Prophet’s migration to Yathrib (which was later renamed al-Madinah), a delegate of twelve men met the Prophet at al-‘Aqabah (an area just outside of Mecca) to embrace Islam and pledge allegiance to him. This event was also known as the first Pledge of ‘Aqabah. No doubt there were other Companions older than Mus’ab and closer to the Prophet in terms of kinship ties. Yet, the Prophet (saw) appointed the young Mus’ab to be his representative in Yathrib. He was tasked to teach the people the Qur’an and the doctrines of Islam as well as propagate Islam to the wider community.
Two years later, the Prophet (saw) would migrate to Yathrib with his closest Companion Abu Bakr (ra). When they learnt of his impending arrival, crowds came flocking out of the city, some climbing trees, each one awaiting eagerly to catch a glimpse of him. And on that Friday morning, when the Prophet (saw) finally rode through the city amidst the affectionate greetings of the people who sang Tala al-Badru ‘alaina, members of different households from amongst his growing number of followers vied to invite him as an honoured guest in their homes.
As we reflect upon the hijrah of the Prophet (saw) and his subsequent success in building a Muslim ummah, we think back at the Prophet (saw) in successfully appointing Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair as his envoy. The latter successfully planted the seeds of faith within the community, calling to Islam the leaders from the tribes of ‘Aus and Khajraz, including Sa’ad ibn Mu’aadh, Sa’ad ibn ‘Ubaadah and Usaid ibn Hudhair. From the initial twelve who pledged their allegiance to the Prophet (saw) during the first Pledge of ‘Aqabah, the number rose to seventy by the following year – where those from Yathrib who had embraced Islam through Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair pledged their allegiance to the Prophet (saw) in what was known as the second Pledge of ‘Aqabah. This event took place during the pilgrimage season in Zulhijjah, a few months before the Prophet (saw) made his emotional and historic hijrah.
Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair did not live long enough to witness the victorious Muslims recapture Mecca. He was martyred in the battle of Uhud, two years after the Prophet’ (saw) hijrah. One can only imagine the deep sense of sorrow felt by the Prophet losing two of his closest Sahabah – his uncle and close friend Hamzah ibn Abdul Muttalib as well as Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair. Yet, what grieved the Prophet (saw) more was witnessing the state in which Mus’ab had readily given up the luxuries of this life for the cause of Allah swt and His messenger. Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair lived a life, characterized by piety and simplicity. As mentioned in the narration at the beginning, when he passed away, he left behind a mere sheet of shredded woolen cloth that was insufficient to even cover him completely.
Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair was carrying the battle-standard (flag) of the Muslims during the battle of Uhud. Ibrahim ibn Muhammad related from his father (a witness at Uhud), who said:[box_light]Mus’ab Ibn ‘Umair carried the standard on the Day of Uhud. When the Muslims were scattered, he stood fast until he met Ibn Quma’ah who was a knight. He struck him on his right hand and cut it off, but Mus’ab said, “And Muhammad is but a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him” He carried the standard with his left hand and leaned on it. He struck his left hand and cut it off, and so he leaned on the standard and held it with his upper arms to his chest, all the while saying, “And Muhammad is but a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him”. Then a third one struck him with his spear, and the spear went through him.[/box_light]
As we plan for our new year resolutions – whether Hijri or otherwise, no doubt the character of Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair – his piety, simplicity and his unwavering love and dedication to our Prophet Muhammad (saw) is something we will want to consider emulating.[divider]
Adapted from Men Around the Messenger by Khalid Muhammed Khalid (English edition published in 1999 by Al Manara)
Abbas Khan is a secondary school teacher of English Language and Literature. He enjoys reading the Prophet’s sirah (history) as well as the history of the spread of Islam. On his own, he is conducting a research on the early Pakistani community in Singapore. He can be contacted at email@example.com