Historians and narrators describe Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair (son of ‘Umair) as the most charming of the Makkans, the most handsome and youthful, the flower of the Quraish! He was born and brought up in wealth, grew up with its luxuries, pampered by his parents, the talk of the ladies of Makkah, the jewel of its clubs and assemblies.
The youth heard one day about Muhammad the Truthful sent by Allah as bearer of glad tidings and a warner to call them to the worship of One God. When Makkah slept and awoke, there were no other talk but the Prophet and his religion and this spoiled boy was one of the most attentive listeners. That was because, although he was young, the outward appearance of wisdom and common sense were among the traits of Mus’ab.
He went one night to the house of Al-Arqam Ibn Al-Arqam, yearning and anxious. There, the Prophet was meeting his Companions, reciting the Quran to them and praying with them to Allah the Most Exalted.Mus’ab had hardly taken his seat and contemplated the verses of the Quran recited by the Prophet when his heart became the promised heart that night. The pleasure almost flung him from his seat as he was filled with a wild ecstasy. But the Prophet patted his throbbing heart with his blessed right hand, and the silence of the ocean’s depth filled his heart. In the twinkling of an eye, the youth who had just become Muslim appeared to have more wisdom than his age and a determination that would change the course of time.
Mus’ab’s mother was Khunaas Bint Maalik and people feared her almost to the point of terror because she possessed a strong personality. Mus’ab was satisfied with his faith and avoided the anger of his mother who had knowledge of his embracing Islam. He continued to frequent Daar Al-Arqam and take lessons from the Prophet. The news eventually reached his mother who was astonished by it. His mother aimed a heavy blow on him. However, his mother, under the pressure of her motherliness, spared him the beating and the pain, although it was within her power to avenge her gods whom he had abandoned. Instead, she took him to a rough corner of her house and shut him in it. She put shackles on him and imprisoned him there.
Mus’ab heard the news of the emigration of some of the believers to Abyssinia and managed to delude his mother and his guards, and so escaped to Abyssinia with his fellow emigrants. Later, he returned to Makkah and emigrated again for the second time under the advice of the Prophet. Mus’ab became confident that his life had been good enough to be offered as a sacrifice to the Supreme Originator and great Creator. He went out one day to some Muslims while they were sitting around the Prophet, and no sooner did they see him than they lowered their heads and shed some tears because they saw him wearing wornout garments. They were accustomed to his former appearance before he had become a Muslim, when his clothes had been like garden flowers, elegant and fragrant.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, saw him with the eyes of wisdom, thankful and loving, and his lips smiled gracefully as he said, “I saw Mus’ab here, and there was no youth in Makkah more petted by his parents than he. Then he abandoned all that for the love of Allah and His Prophet!”
His mother had withheld from him all the luxury he had been overwhelmed by, when she could not return him to her religion. Her last connection with him was when she tried to imprison him for a second time after his return from Abyssinia, and he swore that if she did that, he would kill all those who came to her aid to lock him up. She knew the truth of his determination when he was intent and decided to do something, and so she bade him goodbye weeping. When she said to him, “Go away, I am no longer your mother,” 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 Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.” She replied to him, angrily raging, “By the stars, I will never enter your religion, to degrade my status and weaken my senses!”
So Mus’ab left the great luxury in which he had been living. He became satisfied with a hard life he had never seen before, wearing the roughest clothes, eating one day and going hungry another. This spirit, which was grounded in the strongest faith, adorned with the light of Allah, made him another man, one who appeals to the eyes of other great souls. While he was in this state, the Prophet commissioned him with the greatest mission of his life, which was to be his envoy to Al-Madinah. His mission was to instruct the Ansar who believed in the Prophet and had pledged their allegiance to him at ‘Aqabah, to call others to Islam, and to prepare Al-Madinah for the day of the great Hijrah.
There were among the Companions of the Prophet at that time who older than Mus’ab and more prominent and nearer to the Prophet by family relations but the Prophet chose Mus’ab the Good. Mus’ab was equal to the task and trust which Allah had given him and he was equipped with an excellent mind and noble character. He won the hearts of the Madinites with his piety, uprightness and sincerity. And so they embraced the religion of Allah in flocks. At the time the Prophet sent him there, only 12 Muslims had pledged allegiance to the Prophet. During the next pilgrimage season, a few months after that, the Madinite Muslims sent a delegation of 70 believing men and women to Makkah to meet the Prophet. They came with their teacher and their Prophet’s envoy, Mus’ab Ibn ‘Umair. Mus’ab had proven, by his good sense and excellence, that the Prophet knew well how to choose his envoys and teachers.
The days and years passed by. The Prophet and his Companions emigrated to Al-Madinah, and the Quraish were raging with envy and the Battle of Badr took place, in which they were taught a lesson and lost their strong hold. After that, they prepared themselves for revenge and thus came the Battle of Uhud. The Prophet chose Mus’ab to bear the standard and he advanced and carried it. The terrible battle was raging, the fighting furious. The archers disregarded the orders of the Prophet by leaving their positions on the mountain when they saw the polytheists withdrawing as if defeated. But this act of theirs soon turned the victory of the Muslims to defeat. The Muslims were taken at unawares by the cavalry of the Quraish at the mountain top, and many Muslims were killed by the swords of the polytheists as a consequence.
When they saw the confusion and horror splitting the ranks of the Muslims, the polytheists concentrated on the Prophet of Allah to finish him off. Mus’ab saw the impending threat, so he raised the standard high, shouting, “Allahu Akbar! Allah is the Greatest!” like the roar of a lion. He turned and jumped left and right, fighting and killing the foe.
All he wanted was to draw the attention of the enemy to himself in order to turn their attention away from the Prophet. He thus became as a whole army in himself. Nay, Mus’ab went alone to fight as if he were an army of giants raising the standard in sanctity with one hand, striking with his sword with the other. But the enemies were multiplying on him. They wanted to step on his corpse so that they could find the Prophet.
Let us allow a living witness to describe for us the last scene of Mus’ab the Great. Ibn Sa’d said:
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 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.
Mus’ab fell and then the standard. Nay, the cream of martyrdom had fallen! He fell after he had struggled for the sake of Allah in the great battle of sacrifice and faith. He had thought that if he fell, he would be a stepping stone to the death of the Prophet because he would be without defence and protection. But he put himself in harm’s way for the sake of the Prophet. Overpowered by his fear for and love of him, he continued to say with every sword stroke that fell on him from the foe, “And Muhammad is but a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him” This verse was revealed later, after he had spoken it.
After the bitter battle, they found the corpse of the upright martyr lying with his face in the dust, as if he feared to look while harm fell to the Prophet. So he hid his face so that he would avoid the scene. Or perhaps, he was shy when he fell as a martyr, before making sure of the safety of the Prophet of Allah, and before serving to the very end, guarding and protecting him. The Prophet and his Companions came to inspect the scene of the battle and bid farewell to the martyrs. Pausing at Mus’ab’s body, many tears dripped from the Prophet’s eyes.
Khabbaab ibn Al-Arat narrated: We emigrated with the Prophet 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 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 feet with it, his head was uncovered, and if we covered his feet with it, his head was uncovered. The Prophet said to us, “Cover his head with it and put lemon grass over his feet.”
The Prophet stood at the remains of Mus’ab ibn ‘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 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.”
Then he gathered his living Companions around him and said, “O people, visit them, come to them, and salute them. By Allah, no Muslim will salute them but that they will salute him in return.”
Peace be on you, O Mus’ab. Peace be on you, O Martyrs. Peace and blessings of Allah be upon you!
(Adapted from “Men around the Messenger” by Khalid Muhammed Khalid)