HE WAS THE PRINCE OF MAKKAH
HE WAS THE FLOWER OF QURAISH
And he gave it all up for the pleasure of Allah
Mus’ab was only a youth when he heard of the new Prophet who had arisen among the Quraysh and his Message of monotheism; Makkah talked of very little else in those days. His curiosity piqued by all the talk, Mus’ab decided to approach the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) on his own to determine the truth of his Message.
One night, instead of joining his friends in their customary revelry, Mus’ab made his way to the house of Al-Arqaam Ibn Al-Arqaam which came to be known as Daar al Arqaam among the Muslims. It was here that the Prophet met with the growing band of Muslims, away from the eyes of the Quraysh. It was here that the Companions talked over the future of their faith, heard and recited newly revealed portions of the Qur’aan and prayed behind the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to Allaah.
That night, Mus’ab sat down among the gathering of the faithful and heard the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) recite verses of the Qur’aan. From that moment on he forgot for ever his life of luxury and indolence, in the ecstasy of discovering the key to eternal life.
Mus’ab’s path to the faith was not easy – his mother, Khunnas bint Maalik, a strong willed woman infamous for her sharp temper and sharper tongue – was his chief opponent. In order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation with his mother, Mus’ab initially avoided telling her about his new faith. However, people found him frequenting Daar Al-Arqaam more than his usual haunts and saw him coming under the influence of the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). It wasn’t long before news of his conversion reached his mother.
Reacting with the imperiousness of her nature, her pride in her lineage and her age-old allegiance to the gods, she commanded Mus’ab to return and repent to the gods he had abandoned in his “foolishness”; and when he refused, she had him shackled and imprisoned in a corner of the house.
Somehow, news of the first emigration of some Muslims to Abyssinia reached Mus’ab in his incarceration and his heart longed to join his brothers in the faith. Using his ingenuity, he managed to delude his mother and his guards and escaped to Abyssinia with other emigrants. Later, he returned to Makkah with them for a short while and emigrated a second time, this time as the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)’s chosen envoy to the new centre of faith: Yathrib.
When Mus’ab returned from Abyssinia, his mother sought to imprison him yet again. But this time he vowed that if she attempted that, he would kill all those who came to her aid to lock him up. She knew the intensity of his determination better than anyone else and so she bade him a final farewell, crying bitterly: Go away, I am no longer your mother.
At this, Mus’ab went close to her and said: O Mother, I am advising you and my heart is with you, please bear witness that there is no God but Allaah and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.
Enraged, she swore: By the stars, I will never enter your religion, to degrade my status and weaken my senses!
He forsook every semblance of satisfaction of the Self for the sake of Allaah – his dress was tattered, his food was simple, the bare earth was his bed.
One day he went out to meet some Muslims while they were sitting around the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and when they saw him they lowered their heads and shed silent tears at the sight of the pampered youth of their memory , moving about in wornout patches held together by thorns, which barely covered him. After Mus’ab moved away from the gathering, the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wassallam) recalled: I saw Mus’ab, and there was no youth in Makkah more petted by his parents than he. Then he abandoned all that for the love of Allaah and His Prophet.
The First Muslim Ambassador to Madina
Recognizing Mus’ab’s noble manners and patience, the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) commissioned him to instruct the people of Yathrib (Madina) who had pledged their allegiance to the Prophet at ‘Aqabah, to call others to Islam and to prepare the city for the eventual migration of the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wassallam).
At that time, there were among the Companions men of sterling character and nerves of steel, men who were older and more experienced in the ways of the world; yet he (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) chose Mus’ab as his representative. And Mus’ab proved worthy of the Prophet’s choice many times over, dealing with detractors with patience and sagacity.
Mus’ab entered Yathrib as a guest of Sa’ad ibn Zurarah of the Khazraj tribe. Together they went approached the citizens of Yathrib, explaining the message of Monotheism and reciting the Qur’aan. Once Musa’ab and Sa’ad were sitting near a well in an orchard of Banee Zafar, when they were approached by Usayd ibn Khudayr brandishing a spear in obvious rage. Sa’ad whispered to Mus’ab: This is a chieftain of his people. May Allaah place the truth in his heart.
Mus’ab replied calmly: If he sits down, I will speak to him.
Usayd was angry at the success of Mus’ab’s mission and shouted angrily: Why have you both come to us to corrupt the weak among us? Keep away from us if you want to stay alive. At this, Musa’ab smiled and said softly: Won’t you sit down and listen? If you are pleased and satisfied with our mission, accept it; and if you dislike it we will stop telling you what you dislike and leave. Sticking his spear into the ground, Usayd sat down to hear them out. As Musa’ab began telling him about Islam and reciting portions of the Qur’aan to Usayd’s expression changed. The first words he uttered were : How beautiful are these words and how true! What does a person do if he wants to enter this religion?
Mus’ab explained: Have a bath, purify yourself and your clothes. Then utter the testimony of Truth (shahadah), and perform prayers. Usayd testified that there is no god but Allaah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, prayed two rakaats of salaah and was followed by another influential man: Sa’ad ibn Muaadh.
By the time the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) emigrated, there was not a single household in Yathrib in which Mus’ab had not endeared himself and the Message of Islam. In the subsequent pilgrimage, he led a company of 70 people went from Yathrib to pledge allegiance to the Prophet.
“I only recognize brotherhood of the faith”
In a famous incident after the victory at Badr, the Muslims captured some Makkans and sought to ransom them. Mus’ab was passing by the ranks of prisoners and stopped when saw his brother, Abu Azeez ibn Umayr among them. However, instead of interceding on his behalf, he instructed his brother’s captor to bind him securely and to extract a large ransom for the prisoner, because “his mother is a very rich woman” When the brother sought to remind Mus’ab of his relationship, Mus’ab replied: I only recognize brotherhood of the faith, this man is my brother, not you!
The bearer of the flag in the battle of ‘Uhud
At ‘Uhud, the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) chose Mus’ab to bear the battle standard.
It was at this juncture that Mus’ab’s glorious life reached a fitting culmination:
Ibrahim ibn Muhammad related from his father, who said: Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair carried the standard on the Day of Uhud. When the Muslims were scattered, he stood fast until he met Ibn Qaami’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, when his left hand was cut off, 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.” (3:144) Then a third soldier struck Mus’ab with his spear, and the spear went through him.
Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wassallam)’s tears for Mus’ab
After the battle, the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wassallam) and his companions came to inspect the scene of the battle and bid farewell to its martyrs. Pausing at Mus’ab’s body, tears dripped from the Prophet’s eyes. Khabbaab lbn Al-Arat narrated: We emigrated with the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wassallam) 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. The Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wassallam) said to us, “Cover his head with it and put lemon grass over his feet.”
Despite the deep, sad pain which the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wassallam) suffered over the loss of his uncle Hamzah and the mutilation of his corpse by the polytheists in a manner that drew tears from the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wassallam) and broke his heart; despite the fact that the field of battle was littered with the corpses of his Companions, all of whom represented the peak of truth, piety and enlightenment; despite all this, he stood at the corpse of his first envoy, bidding him farewell and weeping bitterly. Nay, the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wassallam) stood at the remains of Mus’ab lbn ‘Umair saying, while his eyes were flowing with tears, love and loyalty, “Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah” (33:23).
Then he gave a sad look at the garment in which he was shrouded and said, “I saw you at Makkah, and there was not a more precious jewel, nor more distinguished one than you, and here you are bare-headed in a garment!” Then the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wassallam) looked at all the martyrs in the battlefield and said, “The Prophet of Allah witnesses that you are martyrs to Allah on the Day of Resurrection.”
It was this memory of Mus’ab in his martyr’s grave, that caused companions like Abdur Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf to cry in fear of having no share in the Hereafter, because they had been granted a life of plenty and ease right here in this world. Once his servant brought him a meal to break his fast and ibn ‘Awf burst into tears, remembering Mus’ab who had passed away without tasting the good of this world, to the certainty of eternal pleasure in the Hereafter.
As night falls, I think of the shadows lengthening across ‘Uhud where the martyrs lie buried, when visitors drive off leaving the plain quiet, dark and peaceful. I think of the graves of the shuhadaa, resplendent with the dazzling light of the truly fortunate: those who are pleasing to Allaah and are pleased with Him.
In the neon dazzle of malls, where countless young Muslims strive daily in the trivial pursuit of pleasure, we would do well to bear the memory of Mus’ab (radhiAllaahu ‘anhu) in mind. It may keep us from getting lost in the light.