Big city, bright lights, cars flash by in fast lanes. Young Muslims are getting ready to hit the night scene. Branded shoes and designer clothes in place, clutching the latest mobile gizmos and sporting the trendiest watches, their perfume smells -more than anything else of money.You can see them hanging out in groups, lolling in the bright lights of a mall, lingering aimlessly in the streets. You can see them sipping cappuccino at a Starbucks café watching people go by, sharing a joke, and laughing raucously; vacant eyes straying over to huge TV screens for the latest football score. You can see them racing cars dangerously late into the night, music blasting from the stereos, startling passersby while they laugh in their faces. A standard sight.
Each time I see this all-too familiar scene, I am reminded of someone. Someone who lies buried in the blood-wet earth of Uhud, his body covered only by a square woolen sheet that was not even sufficient to cover him completely. Someone who was his mothers pampered son, he wore the best clothes his rich parents money could buy, his perfume scented the streets as he walked by. The talk of Makkan matrons and maidens in their plush salons, the most flamboyant young man of the Quraysh, who left a life of pleasuring the Self to gain the pleasure of Allah: His name?
Musab bin Umair bin Hashim bin Abd Munaf who was also known as Musab al Khair.
Musab ibn Umayr (radi Allahu anhu) was born and grew up in the lap of affluence and 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 not only for his good looks and style but for his intelligence. His elegant bearing and keen mind endeared him to the Makkan nobility among whom he moved with ease. 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.
Among Makkans there was a sudden outburst of excitement and concern as Muhammad, known as al-Amin (the Trustworthy), emerged saying that Allah had sent him as a bearer of good tidings and as a warner. He warned the Quraysh of chastisement if they did not turn to the worship and obedience of Allah and he spoke of Divine rewards for the righteous. The whole of Makkah buzzed with talk of these claims. The vulnerable Quraysh leaders thought of ways of silencing Muhammad.
When ridicule and persuasion did not work, they embarked on a campaign of harassment and persecution. Musab learnt that Muhammad and those who believed in his message were gathering in a house near the hill of as-Safa to evade Quraysh harassment. This was the house of al-Arqam. To satisfy his curiosity, Musab proceeded to the house undeterred by Quraysh hostility. There he met the Prophet teaching his small band of companions, reciting the verses of the Quran to them and performing Salaah with them in submission to Allah the Most High. A deep feeling of tranquility came over him. Musab was totally overwhelmed by what he had seen and heard. The words of the Quran had made a deep and immediate impression on his heart.
In this first meeting with Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam, the young and decisive Musab declared his acceptance of Islam. It was a historic moment. The keen mind of Musab, 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 men’s destinies and of history. On accepting Islam, Musab had one major concern – his mother. Her name was Khunnas bint Malik. She was a woman of extraordinary power. She had a dominant personality and could easily arouse fear and terror.
When Musab became a Muslim, the only power on earth he might have feared was his mother. All the powerful nobles of Makkah and their attachment to pagan customs and traditions were of little consequence to him. Having his mother as an opponent, however, could not be taken lightly. Musab thought quickly. He decided that he should conceal his acceptance of Islam.
He continued to frequent the House of al-Arqam and sit in the company of the Prophet. He felt tranquility in his new faith and by keeping all indications of his acceptance of Islam away from her, he managed to stave off his mother’s wrath, but not for long. It was difficult during those days to keep anything secret in Makkah for long.
The eyes and ears of the Quraysh were on every road. Behind every footstep imprinted in the soft and burning sand was a Quraysh informer. Before long, Musab was seen as he quietly entered the House of al-Arqam, by someone called Uthman ibn Talhah. At another time, Uthman saw Musab praying in the same manner as Muhammad prayed. The conclusion was obvious. As winds in a storm, the devastating news of Musab’s acceptance of Islam spread among the Quraysh and eventually reached his mother. Musab stood before his mother, his clan, and the Quraysh nobility who had all gathered to find out what he had done and what he had to say for himself.
With calm confidence, Musab acknowledged that he had become a Muslim and no doubt he explained his reasons for so doing. He then recited some verses of the Quran – verses which had cleansed the hearts of the believers. Though only few in number, their hearts were filled with wisdom, honor, justice, and courage. As Musab’s mother listened to her son on whom she had lavished so much care and affection, she became increasingly angered. She had Musab taken to a far corner of the house. There he was firmly bound and tethered. He had become a prisoner in his own home. For a long time, Musab remained tied and confined under the watchful eyes of guards whom his mother had placed over him to prevent him from any further contact with Muhammad and his faith. Despite his ordeal, Musab did not waver. He must have had news of how other Muslims were being harassed and tortured by the Kuffar. For him, like many other Muslims, life in Makkah was becoming more and more intolerable.
Eventually he heard that a group of Muslims were preparing secretly to migrate to Abyssinia to seek refuge and relief. His immediate thoughts were how to escape from his prison and join them. At the first opportunity, when his mother and his warders were off-guard, he managed to slip away quietly. Then with utmost haste he joined the other refugees and 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 Makkah in the company of the noble Prophet. So when a report reached Abyssinia that the conditions of the Muslims in Makkah had improved, Musab was among the first to return to Makkah. The report was in fact false and Musab once again left for Abyssinia. Whether he was in Makkah or Abyssinia, Musab remained strong in his new faith and his main concern was to make his life worthy of his Creator.
When Musab returned to Makkah again, his mother made a last attempt to gain control of him and threatened to have him tied up again. Musab swore that if she were to do that, 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. When the moment came, it was sad for both mother and son but it revealed a strong persistence in kufr on the part of the mother and an even greater persistence on Iman on the part of the son. As she threw him out of her house and cut him off from all the material comforts she used to lavish on him, she said: “Go to your own business. I am not prepared to be a mother to you.” Musab went up to her and said: “Mother, I advise you sincerely. I am concerned about you. Do testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger.” she insisted she will never accept Islam. Musab thus left her home and the luxury and comforts he used to enjoy.
The elegant, well-dressed youth would henceforth be seen only in the coarsest of attire. He now had more important concerns. He was determined to use his talents and energies in serving Islam. One day, several years later, Musab came upon a gathering of Muslims sitting around Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam. They lowered their gaze when they saw Musab, and some were even moved to tears. This was because his attire was old and in tatters and they were immediately taken back to the days before his acceptance of Islam when he was a model of elegance. Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam looked at Musab, smiled gracefully and said: “I have seen Musab with his parents in Makkah. They lavished care and attention on him and gave him all comforts. There was no Quraysh youth like him. Then he left all that seeking the pleasure of Allah and devoting himself to the service of His Prophet.”
After about ten years of inviting people to Islam, most of Makkah still remained hostile. Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam then went to Taif to spread the message of Islam. He was mocked and chased out of the town. The future of Islam looked bleak. It was just after this that Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam chose Musab to be his “ambassador” to Madinah to teach a small group of believers who had come to pledge allegiance to Islam. Musab was chosen above companions who were older than he or were more closely related to Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam or who appeared to possess greater prestige. No doubt Musab was chosen for this task because of his noble character, his fine manners, and his sharp intellect. His knowledge of the Quran and his ability to recite it beautifully and movingly was also an important consideration. Musab understood his mission well. He knew that he was on a sacred mission; to invite people to Allah and the straight path of Islam and to prepare what was to be the territorial base for the young and struggling Muslim community.
Less than a year after his arrival in Madinah, Musab returned to Makkah. It was again in the season of pilgrimage. With him was a group of seventy-five Muslims from Madinah. Again 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 bayah or pledge which the Muslims of Madinah 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 Madinah where the new Muslims or Ansar (Helpers) had shown their willingness to give asylum and extend their protection to the Muslims. The first of Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam’s companions to arrive in Madinah were Musab ibn Umayr and the blind Sahabi Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum. Musab continued to play a major role in the building of the new community. The next momentous situation in which we meet him was during the great Battle of Badr. After the battle was over, the Quraysh prisoners of war were brought to Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam 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 Musab. Abu Aziz related what happened: “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 Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam instructions to them to treat us well. “My brother, Musab ibn Umayr, 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 Musab and asked: “My brother, is this your instruction concerning me?” “He is my brother, not you,” replied Musab 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, Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam called upon Musab, now well-known as Musab al-Khayr (the Good), to carry the banner of Tauheed. At the beginning of the battle, the Mujahideen seemed to be gaining the upper hand. A group of Muslims then went against the orders of Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam and deserted their positions. The mushrikin forces rallied again and launched a counterattack. Their main objective, as they cut through the Muslim forces, was to get to Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam. Musab realized the great danger facing Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam.
He raised the banner of Tauheed high and shouted Takbeer! With the flag in one hand and his sword in the other, he plunged into the Quraysh forces.The odds were against him. A Quraysh horseman moved in close and severed his right hand. Musab was heard to repeat the words: “Muhammad is only a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him,” showing that however great his attachment was to Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam himself, his struggle above all was for the sake of Allah and for raising the banner of Islam. His left hand was then severed also and as he held the flag between the stumps of his arms, he repeated: “Muhammad is only a Messenger of Allah. Messengers have passed away before him.” Musab was then hit by a spear.
He fell down Shaheed and the flag fell.
After the battle, Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam and his companions went through the battlefield, bidding farewell to the Shuhada (martyrs). When they came to Musab’s body, tears flowed from the Mubarak eyes of Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam. A Sahabi related that they could not find any cloth with which to shroud Musab’s body, except his own garment. When they covered his head with it, his legs showed and when his legs were covered, his head was exposed and Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam instructed: “Place the garment over his head and cover his feet and legs with the leaves of the idhkhir (rue) plant.” Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam felt deep pain and sorrow at the number of his companions who were killed at the Battle of Uhud. These included his uncle Hamzah whose body was horribly mutilated. But it was over the body of Musab that Rasulullah Sallallāhu Alayhi Wasallam stood, with great emotion.
He remembered Musab as he first saw him in Makkah, stylish and elegant, and then looked at the torn course cloth which was now the only garment he possessed and he recited the verse of the Quran: “Among the believers are men who have been true to what they have pledged to Allah.” The Prophet then cast his Mubarak eyes over the battle field on which lay the dead companions of Musab and said: “The Messenger of Allah testifies that you are martyrs in the sight of Allah on the day of Qiyamah.” Then turning 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, any Muslim who sends peace on them until the day of Qiyamah, they would return the salutation of peace.”Assalaamu alayka ya Musab… Assalamu alaykum, ya ma’shar ash-shuhadaa.