Biography and martyrdom of Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah

If one were to scan through the annals of history, one would find the life stories of many great personalities. Men who influenced the lives of those around them, creating a new way of thinking and in all formed new ideologies. However, most of their lives have been tainted with stories of their greed, lust and hunger for power. As one continues to search through the books of our past, one would come to realise that the most influential people to have lived, were none other than the beloved companions of Rasulullah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam. Motivated by none other than Rasulullah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam himself, their lives tell a tale of honesty, trustworthiness and the ultimate in self-sacrifice. Thus, their noble qualities and outstanding character effectively earned them the title of being the greatest group of people to have ever walked upon the face of the earth, after the ambiya’ `alayhimus salam. This is the biography of one such companion, Sayyiduna Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah radiya Llahu `anhu.

 

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Biography and martyrdom of Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah radiya Llahu `anhu

 

Talhah’s full name was Abu Muhammad Talhah `Ubayd Allah ibn `Uthman ibn `Amr ibn Ka`b ibn Sa`d ibn Taym ibn Murrah ibn Ka`b ibn Lu`ayy ibn Ghalib al-Qurashi al-Taymi.[1]

He shares a common ancestor with Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam in Murrah ibn Ka`b and with Abu Bakr al-Siddiq in Taym ibn Murrah; the number of grandfathers they share is the same.[2]

His mother was al-Sa`bah bint al-Hadrami, a woman from Yemen; she was the sister of al-`Ala’ ibn al-Hadrami.[3] She became Muslim and was a Companion of Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam, she also had the honour of migrating.[4] Talhah radiya Llahu `anhu was one of the ten given the glad tidings of paradise, one of the first eight people to become Muslim, one of the five people who became Muslim at the hands of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq radiya Llahu `anhu and one of the six members of the consultative committee.[5]

 
 

His conversion to Islam, persecution and migration

Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah said:

 

I was at the market place in Busra when a monk in his cell said: “Ask the people of this gathering whether there is among them any of the people of the sanctuary.” Talhah said: “Yes, me.” He said: “Has Ahmad appeared yet?” I said: “Who is Ahmad?” He said: “The son of `Abd Allah ibn `Abd al-Muttalib. This is the month in which he will appear, and he is the last of the ambiya’. He will appear in the sanctuary and will migrate to (a place where there are) palm trees, lava fields and wet and salty land. Beware lest others believe in him before you.” I was moved by what he said, so I left quickly and came to Makkah. I asked: “Is there any news?” They said: “Yes, Muhammad ibn `Abd Allah al-Amin is claiming to be a Rasul, and ibn Abi Quhafah (Abu Bakr) has become his follower.” I went out and entered upon Abu Bakr and said: “Have you become a follower of this man?” He said: “Yes. Go to him, enter upon him and follow him, for he is calling to the truth and to goodness.”

 

Talhah radiya Llahu `anhu told Abu Bakr what the monk had said Abu Bakr radiya Llahu `anhu took him to the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam. Talhah became Muslim and told the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam about what the monk had said, and the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam was happy with that.

When Abu Bakr and Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah radiya Llahu `anhuma became Muslim, Nawfal ibn Khuwaylid ibn al-`Adawiyyah took them and tied them up with one rope, and Banu Taym did not protect them. Nawfal was called ‘the Lion of Quraysh’;

Hence Abu Bakr and Talhah were called ‘the pair tied together.[6]

Talhah was persecuted for the sake of Allah and was severely tortured by the polytheists and by his nearest kinsmen, but he persisted, patiently bearing the torture and persecution until Allah granted permission to migrate. When the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam set out to migrate to Madinah, he was met by Talhah, who was coming from Syria with a caravan. He gave the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam and Abu Bakr some Syrian garments, and then went on to Makkah where he finished up his trade. After that, he left with the family of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu `anhu and brought them to Madinah. Talhah radiya Llahu `anhu was one of the earliest of those who migrated.[7]

When he came to Madinah, the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam established brotherhood between him and Abu Ayyub al-Ansari[8] (or it was said Ka`b ibn Malik al-Ansari) when he established bonds of brother hood between the Muhajirin and Ansar.[9]

 
 

At the Battle of Badr

The Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam was expecting a caravan to come to Quraysh from Syria, so he sent Talhah with Sa`id ibn Zayd, instructing them to find out where the caravan of Quraysh was and to bring him the news. They set out and reached al-Hawra’, where they stayed until they saw the caravan pass by and take the coastal route then they went back to Madinah with this news.

The Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam had set out with the Muslims on the campaign of Badr, so they hastened to join the army. They did not get there in time for the battle, but the Rasul of Allah allocated to them a share of the booty and a reward like that of those who had fought.[10]

 

At the Battle of Uhud

During this battle, Talhah performed a deed that made him deserve paradise. It was narrated that Jabir said:

 

On the day of Uhud, when the people fled, the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam was on his own in some part of the battlefield with twelve men, including Talhah, and the polytheists caught up with him. Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “Who will confront these people?” Talhah said: “I will.” He told him: “Stay where you are.” One of the Ansar said: “I will.” and he fought until he was killed. Then the Rasul turned and saw the polytheists and said: “Who will confront these people?” Talhah said: “I will.” He told him: “Stay where you are.” One of the Ansar said: “I will.” and fought until he was killed. It continued like that until only Talhah was left with the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam He said: “Who will confront these people?” Talhah said: “I will.” Talhah fought like the eleven before him, until his fingers were cut off, then he said: “That is enough for me.” The Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “If you had said: ‘In the name of Allah’, the angels would have taken you up while the people were looking on.” Then Allah drove back the polytheists.[11]

 

According to Ahmad, Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam said to him:

If you had said ‘In the name of Allah’, you would have seen a house built for you in paradise while you were still alive in this world.[12]

 

It was narrated that Qays ibn Hazim said:

I saw the paralysed hand of Talhah, with which he had protected Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam on the day Uhud.[13]

 

During that battle, he received thirty-nine or thirty-five wounds, and his fingers — the index finger and the one next to it — were paralysed.[14]

Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi narrated that `A’ishah radiya Llahu `anha said:

When Abu Bakr remembered the day of Uhud, he would say: ‘That day was all for Talhah.’”[15]

 

It was narrated that `A’ishah and Umm Ishaq, the two daughters of Talhah, said:

 

Our father received twenty-four wounds on the day of Uhud, among which a square cut on his head. His sciatic nerve was damaged and his fingers paralysed, the rest of the wounds were on his body. He fell unconscious, and the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam moved him backwards. Every time one of the polytheists drew near, Talhah fought to defend Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam until his back was against the mountain.[16]

 

Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam said:

Talhah did a deed that made paradise his due, when he did for the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam what he did.[17]

 
 

A martyr walking on the face of the earth

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah radiya Llahu `anhu that the Rasul Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam was once atop the mountain of Uhud when it began shaking. The Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam said:

Be still, for there is no one on you but a Rasul, a Siddiq and a martyr.

 

On it were Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, `Ali, Talhah, Zubayr and Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas radiya Llahu `anhum.[18]

After Talhah learned that he had been named as a martyr, news of glad tidings from the beloved, he continued seeking his martyrdom where it is usually sought. Thus he was present at every battle with Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam except for Badr;[19] as we have seen, he missed that because he had been sent on a mission by the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam. Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam said concerning him:

Whoever would like to see a martyr walking on the face of the earth, let him look at Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah.[20]

 
 

Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah

It was narrated from Musa and `Isa, the sons of Talhah, from their father, that a Bedouin came and asked the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam about who those “who have fulfilled their obligations”[21] were. They did not usually ask him such questions, out of respect and awe. The Bedouin asked him, and Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam turned away from him; he asked him again, and he turned away from him again. Talhah said: “Then I came in from the door of the masjid, and I was wearing a green garment. When the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam saw me, he said: ‘Where is the one who was asking about the one who fulfills his obligation?’ The Bedouin said: ‘It was me, O Rasul of Allah.’ He said: ‘This is one of those who have fulfilled their obligation.’”[22]

 
 

Talhah’s defence of his brothers and his thinking positively of them

It was narrated that Malik ibn Abi `Amir said:

 

A man came to Talhah and said: “What do you think about this Yemeni (Abu Hurayrah)? Is he more knowledgeable of the hadith of the Rasul of Allah than you? We hear things from him that we do not hear from you.” He said: “As to whether he heard things from the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam that we did not hear, there is no doubt about that. I will explain to you: we were people with families, and we only came to the Rasul of Allah in the morning and in the evening, but Abu Hurayrah was a poor man with no wealth. He was the doorkeeper of the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam so, I do not doubt that he heard what we did not hear. Do you think that anyone who has anything good in him could fabricate things that the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam did not say?”[23]

 
 

Spending for the sake of Allah

It was narrated that Qubaysah ibn Jabir said:

I accompanied Talhah, and I have never seen anyone who could give more generously without being asked than him.[24]

 

It was narrated from Musa from his father Talhah radiya Llahu `anhu, that when he received his share of wealth from Hadramawt, seven hundred thousand, he was restless all night and said:

What punishment could a man expect from his Lord when he spent all night with this money in his house?

His wife said:

How about some of your close friends? In the morning, call for some bowls and share it out.

He said to her:

May Allah have mercy on you. You are a guided daughter of a guided one. (She was Umm Kulthum, the daughter of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq.)

The next morning, he called for some bowls and shared it out among the Muhajirin and Ansar, and he sent a bowl of it to `Ali radiya Llahu `anhu. Then Talhah’s wife said to him:

O Abu Muhammad, do we not have a share of this wealth?

He said:

Where have you been all day? You can keep what is left.

She said:

There was a bundle in which there was approximately one thousand dirhams.[25]

 

It was narrated that Talhah’s wife Su`da bint `Awf al-Murriyyah said:

 

I entered upon Talhah one day when he was looking tired I said: “What is the matter with you? Are you upset with your wife (meaning herself)?” He said: “No, by Allah, what a good wife for a Muslim you are. I have money that is making me depressed.” I said: “What is bothering you? Share it among people.” He said: “O slave, call my people for me.”, and he shared it out among them. I asked the storekeeper: “How much did he give?” He said: “Four hundred thousand.”[26]

 

It was narrated from al-Hasan al-Basri that Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah sold some land of his for seven hundred thousand; he could not sleep all night because of fear of that wealth, until he distributed it the next morning.[27]

 

It was narrated that `Ali ibn Zayd said:

A Bedouin came to Talhah to ask him for something, approaching him on the basis of his ties of kinship Talhah said: “No one asked me on the basis of his ties of kinship before you. I have some land for which `Uthman offered me three hundred thousand; go and take it, or if you wish, I can sell it to `Uthman and give you the money.” He said: “(I will take) the money.” So he gave it to him. He did not leave anyone among Banu Taym poor; he would give him what he needed to pay off his debts. He used to send ten thousand every year to `A’ishah radiya Llahu `anha, the Mother of the believers.[28]

He was Talhah the good, who gave in abundance, Talhah the generous.[29] The Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam called him ‘the generous’ because of his generous giving and spending on good causes. Abu `Abd Allah al-Hakim narrated, with his chain of narration going back to Musa ibn Talhah, that on the day of Dhu Qard,[30] Talhah slaughtered a camel and dug a well to provide them with food and water, and Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam said:

O Talhah the generous.[31]

 
 

Unique and beautiful sayings of Talhah

Among his sayings were: “The least shame for a man is his staying at home.[32] It was also narrated that he said: “Clothing shows the blessings of Allah and kind treatment of a servant suppresses enemies.”[33] Talhah radiya Llahu `anhu had deep insight into people’s natures and qualities. He never consulted a miserly man when he wanted to uphold ties of kinship with people, and he never consulted a coward with regard to matters of war.[34]

 
 

Martyrdom of Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah

On the day of the Battle of the Camel, after `Ali radiya Llahu `anhu met and talked to him, Talhah radiya Llahu `anhu withdrew and stood in one of the lines. A stray arrow hit him on the knee; it was also suggested that it hit him on his neck, but the former is better known. The arrow hit the side of his horse as well as his leg, and the horse reared and nearly threw him off. He started calling:

Come to me, slaves of Allah.

A freed slave of his caught up with him and rode behind him; he took him to Basrah, and Talhah radiya Llahu `anhu died in a house there. It was also suggested that he died in the battle and that when `Ali radiya Llahu `anhu walked among the slain, he saw him and began to wipe the dust from his face,[35] saying:

It is hard for me, O Abu Muhammad, to see you lying slain in these valleys.

 

According to this version, `Ali radiya Llahu `anhu also said:

To Allah I complain of my sorrow and sadness.

 

He prayed for mercy for him and said:

Would that I had died twenty years before this.[36]

 

Undoubtedly Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah radiya Llahu `anhu one of the people of paradise. Al-Tirmidhi narrated, with his chain of narration going back to `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf radiya Llahu `anhu, that he said:

 

The Rasul of Allah salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam said : “Abu Bakr will be in paradise, `Umar will be in paradise, `Uthman will be in paradise, `Ali will be in paradise, Talhah and Sa`d will be in paradise, Sa`id will be paradise, Abu `Ubaydah will be in paradise, Zubayr and `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf will be in paradise.

 

Then he said:

This hadith was narrated from `Abd al-Rahman ibn Humayd from his father from Sa`id ibn Zayd from Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam.[37]

This hadith clearly speaks of the virtue of Talhah radiya Llahu `anhu, as Rasul salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam testified he would be one of the people of paradise. What a sublime testimony this is, for it tells of his being blessed in this world and in the hereafter.[38]

 
 

Allah preserved his body after he died

Allah preserved the body of Talhah ibn `Ubayd Allah radiya Llahu `anhu after he died. His grave was opened more than thirty years later so that they could move him to another place, and no part of him had changed except for a few hairs on one side of his beard. It was narrated that al-Muthanna ibn Sa`id said:

 

A man came to `A’ishah bint Talhah and said: “I saw Talhah in a dream, and he said: ‘Tell `A’ishah to move me from this place, for the moisture or water is bothering me.’” So she rode with her entourage, and they erected a tent over his grave and exhumed him. No part of him had changed except for a few hairs on one side of his beard, or on his head. And that was thirty-some years (after his death).[39]

 

May Allah be pleased with Talhah and all the Sahabah radiya Llahu `anhum.

 
 

Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas prayed against those who impugned `Uthman `Ali, Talhah and Zubayr

It was narrated from Sa`id ibn al-Musayib that a man used to impugn Talhah, Zubayr, `Uthman and `Ali radiya Llahu `anhum. Sa`d told him to stop, saying: “Do not impugn my brothers.” The man refused to stop, so Sa`d stood up and prayed two raka`ah, then he said:

O Allah, if what he says displeases You, then show me a sign today and make an example of him.

 

The man went out, and there was a camel driver going through crowds of people. A camel stumbled on a stone and fell on him, and he was crushed to death between the camel’s chest and the ground. Sa`id ibn al- Musayyib said:

I saw the people following Sa`d and saying: “Congratulations to you, O Abu Ishaq, for your prayer was answered.”[40]

 

[1]al-Isabah, 2/220; Ibn `Abd al-Barr: al-Isti’ab `ala Hashiyat al-lsabah,

[2]Fath al-Bari, 7/82

[3]al-sabah, 2/220

[4]  op. cit., 4/337; Fath al-Bari, 7/82

[5]  al-Hakim: al-Mustadrak, 3/369; `Aqidat Ahl as-Sunnah fi al-Sahabah 11228

[6] al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 7/258

[7]  op. cit., 7/285; Firsan min`Asr al-Nubuwwah, p. 225

[8]al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, 7/258

[9]Firsan min `Aṣr al-Nubuwwah, p. 225; Ibn `Abd al-Barr: al-Isti’ab

[10]  al-Hakim: al-Mustadrak, 3/369; al-Isti’ab, 4188

[11]al-Silsilah alī-Sahihah, no. 2171; the hadith is reliable when all its chains of narration are taken into account.

[12]Fada’il al-Sahabah, no. 1294. Its chain of narration is sound

[13]Bukhari, no. 4063

[14]Bukhari, 7/361; Ashab al-Rasul 1/264

[15]Fath al-Bari, 7/36·

[16]Siyar A`lam al-Nubalaā’, 1132

[17]  Al-Albani: Sahih al-Jami`, no. 2540

[18]Muslim, no. 2417

[19]Ashāb al-Rasul, 1126

[20]  Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim; classed as sound by al-Albani in Sahih al-Jami`, 5962

[21]  The reference here is to the verse in which Allah says: (Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah [i.e.] they have gone out for Jihad (holy fighting), and showed not their backs to the disbelievers]; of them some have fulfilled their obligations [i.e. have been martyred]; and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed [i.e. they never proved treacherous to their covenant which they concluded with Allah] in the least) (Surah al-Ahzab: 23).

[22]  Narrated by al-Tirmidhi with a reliable chain of narration, no. 3742.

[23]Siyar A`lam al-NubaIa’, 1137. Its chain of narration is reliable.

[24]Al-Hilyah, 1188; Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’, 1/30

[25]  al-Dhahabi: Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’, 1130, 31

[26]Majma’ al-Zawā’id, 9/148. Al-Haythami said: It was narrated by al-Tabarani, and its men are trustworthy.

[27]Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’, 1132

[28]  op. cit., 1/31

[29]Tarikh al-Islām, `Ahd al-Khulafa’ al-Rashidin, p. 527

[30]  Dhu Qard: a water source two days distance from Madinah, between it and Khaybar. Al-Nihayah, 4/37

[31]Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, 7/258

[32]Al-Mustadrak, 3/347. The hadith has a sound chain of narration, although they (Bukhari and Muslim) did not narrate it. Mukhtasar Tarikh Dimashq 11/203. Meaning that isolating oneself shows a lack of interest (in Muslim affairs).

[33]Firsan min `Asr al-Nubuwwah, p. 237

[34]  ibid.

[35]Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, 7/258

[36]Tarikh al-Islam, `Ahd al-Khulafa’ al-Rashidin,pg. 528

[37]  Narrated by Abu Dawud, 4649; Tirmidhi (3757). A reliable hadith.

[38]  `Aqidah Ahl al-Sunnah, 1/293

[39]Ashab al-Rasul, 1/270

[40]Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, 7/259