Saeed ibn Zaid ibn Amr ibn Nufayl (Radiallahu anhu) was a very special sahabi and the son of a very special man. Zaid was the nephew of Al Khattab, the father of Umar (radiallahu anhu). He was a man who understood that something was amiss with the Quraish in Makkah and their idol worshipping. He rejected shirk at an early age and consistently argued against his people about their idol worshipping until Khattab persecuted him and beat on him. Zaid then went to other places to try to find the truth. Zaid passed away before Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) received revelation. Saeed ibn Zaid (radiallahu anhu) asked Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) one day about his father and his situation. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) told him, “I have seen on the Day of Judgement that when every nation stands behind its prophet, Zaid ibn Amr ibn Nufayl (radiallahu anhu) will be standing as a nation on his own.”
Saeed (radillahu anhu) accepted Islam right from the beginning at the age of 19. He married Fatima bin Khattab (radiallahu anha), the sister of Umar (radiallahu anhu). Saeed (radiallahu anhu) was someone who loved service. He loved to serve with Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). He loved the feeling of dust on his face and to work. He said that to witness a battle alongside Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), to have dirt covering your face and to be in the heat of the battle is more beloved than living a lifetime of good deeds, even if you lived the life of Nooh (alayhi salaam). He witnessed every battle alongside Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) except for the Battle of Badr. He and Talhah ibn Ubaidullah (radiallahu anhum) were sent to Al Shaam to scout where Quraish was attacking from. By the time they made it back to the Muslims the Battle of Badr had been completed and Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) still counted them among the veterans of Badr.
Saeed (radiallahu anahu) had a reputation, even through Abu Bakr and Umar’s (radiallahu anhum) time, for being the man who always charged first in battle. He was Qaidur Fursaan, the head of the knights in most battles. One can only imagine when the Muslims were usually outnumbered and in a very low situation, how much fearlessness and courage was needed to be the first one to charge. Saeed (radiallahu anhu) served in the Battle of Yarmuk, under Khalid ibn Walid (radiallahu anhu) and this was one of the fiercest battles the Muslims had. Khalid (radiallahu anhu) appointed Saeed as the centre of the army in Yarmuk and on that day Saeed (radiallahu anhu) called out to Abu Ubaidah ibn Jarrah (radiallahu anhu) and said, “Oh Abu Ubaidah, I have become determined to become a martyr today. What would you like me to tell Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) if I meet him?”
Abu Ubaidah (radiallahu anhu) said to Saeed, “If you see Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) give him my salaam and give the salaam of the Muslims to him and say to him, Oh Messenger of Allah, May Allah SWT reward you on our behalf and we have found what our Lord has promised us to be true.”
He was referring to the spread of Islam all over the world. Saeed (radiallahu anhu) said on that day fear was removed from his heart. Although he was determined that day for a shahadah, Allah SWT allowed him to survive Yarmuk. Saeed (radiallahu anhu) was responsible for the army that went to Damascus. Umar (radiallahu anhu) also appointed him as the governor of Damascus.
A man like Saeed ibn Zaid (radiallahu anhu), who had served his entire life, who was used to being covered in dirt, and in the battlefield, felt out of place in his new position. Damascus at that time was a very developed society. It had high buildings, beautiful gardens. It was known for its progress and affluence. Saeed (radiallahu anhu) lived in a palace and for three months he would walk to the balcony and look out and say, “I don’t want this. This is not what I love doing. I love being in the path of Allah SWT.”
He sent a letter to Umar (radiallahu anhu) and wrote, “Oh Ameerul Mu’mineen, I am not going to leave the struggle to you and the rest of the companions while I sit in this palace. Whenever you receive this letter know that I am on my way to you and send to this post someone to whom the post is more befitting.” Saeed (radiallahu anhu) did not want luxury; he wanted to be in the service of Allah SWT. Saeed (radiallahu anhu) could have chosen to serve from a palace but chose to spend the rest of his life in service to Allah SWT.
In 673 (AH) Saeed (radiallahu anhu) passed away. He prayed Salaatul Fajr at the Masjid one morning, returned home and passed away during his nap. Sa’d ibn Abu Waqqas and Abdullah ibn Umar (radiallahu anhum) were the sahabah who performed Saeed’s (radiallahu anhu) ghusl. Both of them give the account that whenever they perfumed the body of Saeed (radiallahu anhu), they found that his body already had the sweetest of smells. It was as if Allah SWT was saying to Saeed (radiallahu anhu) that his service has been accepted.