The time has now come for us to familiarise ourselves with the fifth individual from the ten promised Jannat, Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The time has come to become acquainted with his being, merits, and excellences.
We need to ask one another: Why was Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu part of the ten promised Jannat? Was it due to his financial prowess or his influential social standing, or was it something else? We will attempt to search for an answer to these questions in the forthcoming pages.
He is ‘Amir ibn ‘Abdullah ibn al Jarrah ibn Hilal ibn Uhayb ibn Dabbah ibn al Harith ibn Fihr ibn Malik ibn al Nadr ibn Kinanah al Qurashi al Fihri, Abu ‘Ubaidah. His lineage meets up with the lineage of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam at Fihr.
His mother is Umaymah bint Ghanam ibn Jabir ibn ‘Abdul ‘Uzza ibn ‘Amirah ibn ‘Umairah. Her mother is Da’d bint Hilal ibn Uhayb ibn Dabbah ibn al Harith ibn Fihr.
Sayyidina ‘Amir ibn ‘Abdullah ibn al Jarrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was given the agnomen: Abu ‘Ubaidah. This agnomen of his prevailed over him, so he is known mostly by it.
Ibn Sa’d reports in al Tabaqat with his sanad from Malik ibn Yukhamir who described Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu as follows:
كان رجلا نحيفا معروق الوجه خفيف اللحية طوالا أحنى أثرم الثنيتين
He had two sons, Yazid and ‘Umair from his wife Hind bint Jabir ibn Wahb ibn Dabab ibn Hujayr ibn ‘Abd ibn Ma’is ibn ‘Amir ibn Lu’ay. His sons passed away in infancy, hence he has no progeny.
Al Zubair ibn Bakkar said, “Abu ‘Ubaidah’s as well as all his brother’s progeny has died out.”
He is Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the honest, rightly guided, active, ascetic, and trustworthy individual of the ummah. He was loving even to the foreign believers and stern even against the close polytheists. He was steadfast in being content with a little provisions until the time came for him to depart.
The heart of Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu recognised the brilliance of Islam very early on. Hence, he accepted Islam before Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam entered the house of Sayyidina Arqam ibn Abi al Arqam radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Ibn Sa’d narrates in al Tabaqat from Yazid ibn Ruman who says:
انطلق ابن مظعون و عبيدة بن الحارث و عبد الرحمن بن عوف و أبو سلمة بن عبد الأسد و أبو عبيدة بن الجراح حتى أتوا رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فعرض عليهم الإسلام و أنبأهم بشرائعه فأسلموا في ساعة واحدة و ذلك قبل دخول رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم دار الأرقم
Ibn Maz’un, ‘Ubaidah ibn al Harith, ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Auf, Abu Salamah ibn ‘Abdul Asad, and Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah came to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam presented Islam to them and informed them of its injunctions. They all accepted Islam at the same time. This was prior to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam entering the house of al Arqam.
He was among those who made hijrah to Abyssinia as asserted by Ibn Ishaq. Al Dhahabi comments, “If he did travel there, then he did not stay for long.” Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu is counted among those who compiled the glorious Qur’an.
Ibn Sa’d says:
أسلم أبو عبيدة بن الجراح مع عثمان بن مظعون و عبد الرحمن بن عوف و أصحابهم قبل دخول رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم دار الأرقم قالوا و هاجر أبو عبيدة إلى أرض الحبشة الثانية و عن عاصم بن عمر بن قتادة قال لما هاجر أبو عبيدة بن الجراح من مكة إلى المدينة نزل على كلثوم بن الهدم
Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah embraced Islam with ‘Uthman ibn Maz’un, ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Auf, and their comrades before Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam entered the house of al Arqam. They say that he immigrated to Abyssinia in the second emigration. ‘Asim ibn ‘Umar ibn Qatadah reports, “When Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah emigrated from Makkah to Madinah, he stayed by Kulthum ibn al Hadam’s residence.”
After Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu made hijrah, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam contracted brotherhood between him and Sayyidina Salim, the freed slave of Sayyidina Abu Hudhayfah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma and it is said with Sayyidina Muhammad ibn Maslamah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
This is how the effulgence of Islam engulfed the heart of Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu and illuminated his being. An illumination which paved the way for every step he took and every adventure he undertook. Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu mobilised his entire life in the endeavour that this light becomes a piercing brilliance which will traverse and penetrate the wet and dry lands, the deserts and wastelands; whose blessings will surround the world and everything upon it.
We mentioned previously that each of the ten promised Jannat have a speciality which distinguishes him from the rest and is a theme for him, with which he is recognised and through which that distinguishing quality is understood; a key to his personality. Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu is none the different.
The key to the personality of Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu is trustworthiness. Trustworthiness in its true sense. Honesty at every juncture. Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah’s radiya Llahu ‘anhu honesty in all his responsibilities is undoubtedly the most salient of his features and characteristics.
Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu had a temperament eagerly yearning for goodness and compatible to the same. As soon as he came to learn about Islam and its call, he entered the faith hastily and pledged allegiance to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam that he will sacrifice his life in the path of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. When he did this, he understood clearly what these words meant and he had the full capability to fulfil its rights and requirements and to give whatever sacrifices it demanded. After stretching his right hand to pledge allegiance to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, only honesty is seen in his being and his entire life, the honesty that Allah entrusted in his temperament to use it in the His path and to earn His pleasure. Therefore, behind sacrificing every portion of his life and all his endeavours in the path of Allah, there was no distaste or fear.
After Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu fulfilled the covenant the rest of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum fulfilled, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam saw him in his personal conduct and life attitude worthy of this noble title which he conferred upon him and gifted him. Thus, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam declared:
أمين هذه الأمة أبو عبيدة بن الجراح
The trustworthy individual of this ummah is Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah.
Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was known as the strong trustworthy individual among the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum due to Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam announcement to the people of Najran:
لأرسلن معكم القوي الأمين
I will most certainly send with you a strong trustworthy individual.
And due to his declaration which al Bukhari quotes via his sanad from Sayyidina Anas radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
لكل أمة أمين و أمين هذه الأمة أبو عبيدة بن الجراح
Every nation has a trustworthy individual and the trustworthy individual of this ummah is Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah.
Al Bukhari also reports via his sanad from Sayyidina Hudhayfah radiya Llahu ‘anhu who recalls:
جاء العاقب و السيد صاحبا نجران إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يريدان أن يلاعناه قال فقال أحدهما لصاحبه لا تفعل فوالله لئن كان نبيا فلاعننا لا نفلح نحن و لا عقبنا من بعدنا قالا إنا نعطيك ما سألتنا و ابعث معنا رجلا أمينا و لا تبعث معنا إلا أمينا فقال لأبعثن معكم رجلا أمينا حق أمين فاستشرف له أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فقال قم يا أبا عبيدة بن الجراح فلما قام قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم هذا أمين هذه الأمة
Al ‘Aqib and al Sayyid, two ambassadors of Najran, came to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam intending to make mula’anah with him. One of them told his comrade, “Do not do so for by Allah, if he is really a prophet and he curses us, neither we nor our progeny after us will ever be successful.”
They thus submitted, “We will give you whatever you ask of us. Send with us a trustworthy man and do not send anyone with us besides someone trustworthy.”
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stated, “I will certainly send with you a trustworthy man, fulfilling its demand par excellence.”
The Companions of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam raised their glances to see who it will be. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam shouted, “Stand up, O Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah.”
After he stood up in compliance, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stated, “This is the trustworthy individual of this ummah.”
Amazing indeed is Islam! When it enters the heart and penetrates deep into its recesses, it changes the destiny of men and makes them champions of events.
The Arabs in general were known to stick firmly to their ancestry and regard it an honour. Thus a man would feel honoured due to his father and would boast about his lineage and pedigree. But when Islam came, people held firmly only onto din and honour had no connection with anything else besides it. To such an extent that it allows us to behold a man killing his father and brother, in fact his own son if the need be, so that the word of Allah reigns supreme.
Indeed, Islam changed the standard of distinction and glory. We observe this aspect vividly without any confusion or obscurity with Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He is the grand hero and benevolent trustworthy individual who favoured his love for his religion over everything else and let his religion hold the reigns of his entire life to the extent that he killed his own disbelieving father in the Battle of Badr, the father who declared war and enmity upon the Muslims and attempted to stop people from the path of Allah.
In the glorious Battle of Badr, in this decisive encounter, the ties of kinship broke; fatherhood was demolished and son-hood ceased. ‘Abdullah ibn al Jarrah, the father of Abu ‘Ubaidah, went out in hot pursuit of his son who opposed him and followed Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, to bring him to the ground and finish him off. Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, on the other hand, attempted to dodge his father over and over again but was unsuccessful. He was left no choice but to face his father and bring him to the ground. He cared not for any worldly bond. Islam and shirk cannot unite, even though the adherent of the two enjoy family links. Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu thus killed his own father on the glorious day of Badr.
Al Tabarani reports in al Kabir as well as al Bayhaqi and al Hakim from Ibn Shawdhab who reports:
جعل أبو أبي عبيدة بن الجراح يتصدى لأبي عبيدة يوم بدر فجعل أبو عبيدة يحيد عنه فلما أكثر قصده أبو عبيدة فقتله فأنزل الله عز و جل فيه هذه الآية حين قتل أباه لَّا تَجِدُ قَوْمًا يُؤْمِنُوْنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ يُوَادُّوْنَ مَنْ حَادَّ اللَّهَ وَرَسُوْلَهُ وَلَوْ كَانُوا آبَاءَهُمْ أَوْ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ إلى آخرها
The father of Abu ‘Ubaidah began antagonising Abu ‘Ubaidah on the Day of Badr but the latter kept on avoiding the former. After he persisted, Abu ‘Ubaidah went after him and killed him. Upon this, Allah―the Mighty and Majestic―revealed this verse in his regard: You will not find a people who believe in Allah and the Last Day having affection for those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even if they were their fathers or their sons to the end of the verse.
The soul in the body of Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was elated. The soul that embodied love for din and love for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. We find Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu yearning with all his heart to sacrifice his soul, with pleasure and satisfaction, for din and for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
In the Battle of Uhud, after the situation spiralled out of control and the difficulties and hardships increased, when the false rumour of the martyrdom of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam spread and a large number of Muslims fled and magnitudes of them were lost and perplexed in the thick of the battle amid the dust that had reached the sky; on that fateful day, we see that Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu remained steadfast like a towering mountain. He never resented nor relented. Instead, he continued fighting, struggling, contending, defending, attacking, and circulating and his eyes were searching for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam so that no evil befalls him. As soon as he caught sight of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, who had been struck by a rock and two links of his helmet had pierced into his cheeks, he rushed in his direction like a lightning-like arrow piercing through the air as he pierced through the enemy lines, unconcerned of what was in front of him or behind him until he reached Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. We will stop here and allow Sayyidina Abu Bakr al Siddiq radiya Llahu ‘anhu to complete the incident which he relates as quoted by al Bazzar in his al Musnad:
لما انصرف الناس عن النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم يوم أحد كنت أول من فاء إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فجعلت أنظر إلى رجل يقاتل بين يديه فقلت كن طلحة قال ثم نظرت فإذا إنسان خلفي كأنه طائر فلم أشعر أن أدركني فإذا هو أبو عبيدة بن الجراح و إذا طلحة بين يديه صريعا فقال دونكم أخوكم فقد أوجب فتركناه و أقبلنا على رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم و إذا قد أصاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم في وجهه سهمان فأردت أن أنزعهما فما زال أبو عبيدة يسألني و يطلب إلي حتى تركته فنزع أحد السهمين و أزم عليه بأسنانه فقلعه و ابتدرت إحدى ثنيتيه ثم لم يزل يسألني و يطلب إلي أن أدعه ينزع الآخر فوضع ثنيته على السهم و أزم عليه كراهة أن يؤذي رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم أن تحول فنزعه و انتدرت ثنيته أو إحدى ثنيتيه قال و كان أبو عبيدة أهتم الثنايا
When the people dispersed from around Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam on the Day of Uhud, I was the first to return to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. I began marvelling at a man fighting in front of him and said, “May you be Talhah.” Thereafter, I looked and suddenly a man was just behind me advancing like a bird (in swiftness) and before I knew it he caught up with me. It was Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah. Talhah on the other hand was found lying in front of him. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Take care of your brother who has been severely wounded.” But we left him and went to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Two links had pierced into the face of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. I intended to remove them but Abu ‘Ubaidah kept on asking me and requesting me so I allowed him. He removed one of the links by gripping it with his teeth firmly and pulling it out. As a result, one of his front teeth fell out. He kept on insisting and requesting me to allow him to take out the other. He then placed his tooth on the link and clenched it, disliking to inconvenience Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam if it moves, and pulled it out. As a result, another of his front teeth fell out. Abu ‘Ubaidah was the most handsome man without front teeth.
In the narration of Ibn Sa’d and Ibn ‘Asakir, Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha narrates that she heard Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu saying:
لما كان يوم أحد و رمي رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم في وجهه حتى دخلت في وجنتيه حلقتان من المغفر فأقبلت أسعى إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم و إنسان قد أقبل من قبل المشرق يطير طيرانا فقلت اللهم اجعله طاعة حتى توافينا إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم فإذا أبو عبيدة بن الجراح قد بدرني فقال أسألك بالله يا أبا بكر ألا تركتني فأنزعه من وجنة رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال أبو بكر فتركته فأخذ أبو عبيدة بثنيته إحدى حلقتي المغفر فنزعها و سقط على ظهره و سقطت ثنية أبي عبيدة ثم أخذ الحلقة الأخرى بثنية الأخرى فسقطت فكان أبو عبيدة في الناس أثرم
On the Day of Uhud, just after Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was struck in his face which resulted in two links of the helmet piercing his cheeks, I began rushing towards Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and another man came from the east, flying with great speed. I said, “O Allah, make it obedience.” We both got to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam at the same time. It was Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah who had come by surprise. He said, “I ask you in the name of Allah, O Abu Bakr, to allow me to take it out from Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam cheek.” So I left him. Abu ‘Ubaidah gripped one of the links of the helmet with his front teeth and pulled it out and fell on his back (due to the force), and his tooth fell out. He then grabbed the other link with his other front tooth and it also fell out. As a result, Abu ‘Ubaidah had no front teeth.
Ibn Kathir narrates that after he pulled out the two links, his two front teeth were extracted. His mouth looked beautiful despite the teeth being taken out and it was said: No one without front teeth was ever seen more handsome than Abu ‘Ubaidah.
O my brother who is reading, have a look at this deep love which filled the heart of Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. As soon as he spotted Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in a predicament, he could not control himself and rushed towards him. The first narration describes his movement “like a bird” and the second narration “flying with great speed”. Moreover, he sacrifices his front teeth to remove the links of the helmet from the cheeks of the beloved, Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and chooses to live the rest of his life without front teeth. Why would he not sacrifice his front teeth, when he was prepared to sacrifice his soul for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam?
The Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam announced it distinctly and publicly that he loves Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. This is a fantastic glad tidings from the benevolent Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Who does not want Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to love him and praise him? This is a virtue which Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu deserves to be delighted with and envied for.
Ibn Hibban narrates in his Sahih with his sanad from Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu who said:
قيل يا رسول الله أي الناس أحب إليك قال عائشة قيل من الرجال قال أبو بكر قيل ثم من قال عمر قيل ثم من قال أبو عبيدة بن الجراح
It was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who is the most beloved person to you.”
“‘A’ishah,” he replied.
“From the men,” he was asked.
“Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah.”
The narration of Sunan al Tirmidhi reads:
عن عبد الله بن شقيق قال قلت لعائشة أي أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم كان أحب إلى رسول الله قالت أبو بكر قلت ثم من قالت عمر قلت ثم من قالت ثم أبو عبيدة بن الجراح قلت ثم من قال فسكتت
‘Abdullah ibn Shaqiq relates:
I questioned ‘A’ishah, “Which of the Companions of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was most beloved to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam?”
She replied, “Abu Bakr.”
“Then who?” I asked.
“‘Umar,” she replied.
“Then Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah.”
“Then who,” I asked for a fourth time. She kept silent.
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam emphasised this love by sounding glad tidings of Jannat for him on the strength of revelation from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. This glad tiding is an attestation to the fact that the Grand Sovereign subhanahu wa ta ‘ala as well as His Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam are pleased with Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Al Tirmidhi reports in his al Sunan with his chain from ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Auf radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم أبو بكر في الجنة و عمر في الجنة و عثمان في الجنة و علي في الجنة و طلحة في الجنة و الزبير في الجنة و عبد الرحمن بن عوف في الجنة و سعد في الجنة و سعيد في الجنة و أبو عبيدة بن الجراح في الجنة
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stated, “Abu Bakr is in Jannat. ‘Umar is in Jannat. ‘Uthman is in Jannat. ‘Ali is in Jannat. Talhah is in Jannat. Zubair is in Jannat. ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Auf is in Jannat. Sa’d is in Jannat. Sa’id is in Jannat. Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah is in Jannat.”
Congratulations O Abu ‘Ubaidah, O trustworthy individual of the ummah! You are essentially a man from the inhabitants of Jannat walking on the earth!
Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu participated in all the major campaigns and expeditions and inured in a marvellous manner. He made many attacks and bouts. His life on the battlefield was not restricted to the lifetime of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Rather, he participated in many conquests, either as a warrior in the ranks or a leader of the armies. The outstanding mark on him in those days was heroism with all its meanings; valour in battle, bravery when taking stability and enduring it, and fearlessness at the time of death.
Ibn Sa’d writes about Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
ثم قدم فشهد بدرا و أحدا و الخندق و المشاهد كلها مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم و بعثه رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم في سرية في ثلاثمائة من المهاجرين و الأنصار إلى حي من جهينة بساحل البحر و هي غزوة الخبط
He then arrived (in Madinah) and participated in Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, and all the other campaigns with Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam appointed him leader over a detachment of 300 of the Muhajirin and Ansar to a tribe of Juhaynah at the sea shore, known as Ghazwat al Khabat.
One of the expeditions he participated in during the lifetime of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was an expedition sent to Dhu al Qissah in Rabi’ al Akhir in the 6th year of hijrah.
Ibn Sa’d talks about this expedition in al Tabaqat:
سرية أبي عبيدة بن الجراح إلى ذي القصة في شهر ربيع الآخر سنة ست من مهاجر رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قالوا أجدبت بلاد بني ثعلبة و أنمار و وقعت سحابة بالمراض إلى تغلمين و المراض على ستة و ثلاثين ميلا من المدينة فسارت بنو محارب و ثعلبة و أنمار إلى تلك السحابة و أجمعوا أن يغيروا على سرح المدينة و هو يرعى بها في موضع على سبعة أميال من المدينة فبعث رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم أبا عبيدة بن الجراح في أربعين رجلا من المسلمين حين صلوا المغرب فمشوا إليهم حتى وافوا ذا القصة مع عماية الصبح فأغاروا عليهم فأعجزوهم هربا في الجبال و أصاب رجلا واحدا فأسلم و تركه فأخذ نعما من نعمهم فاستاقه ورثة من متاعهم و قدم بذلك المدينة فخمسه رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم و قسم ما بقي عليهم
The expedition of Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah to Dhu al Qissah took place in the month of Rabi’ al Akhir six years after the hijrah of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The lands of Banu Tha’labah and Anmar were struck with drought. Rain fell in al Mirad to Taghlabin. Al Mirad is at a distance of 36 miles from Madinah. The Banu Muharib, Banu Tha’labah, and Anmar travelled to that rain. They agreed that they will attack the pasture of Madinah where animals were pastured at a place 7 miles out of Madinah city. Learning of this, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah as leader of 40 Muslims after they performed Salat al Maghrib. They proceeded until they reached Dhu al Qissah at the break of dawn. They attacked the enemy and constricted them to flee into the mountains. One of their men were taken captive, who embraced Islam, and was hence released. Abu ‘Ubaidah took some of their camels and drove them as owners of their possessions to Madinah. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam took a fifth of the spoils and distributed the rest among the warriors.
Another expedition he participated in is Ghazwat Dhat al Salasil. Al Bayhaqi reports in al Dala’il via his chain from Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Abdullah ibn al Hussain al Tamimi regarding the battle of Dhat al Salasil in the lands of Bali and ‘Adhrah.
بعث رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم عمرو بن العاص ليستنفر العرب إلى الإسلام و ذلك أن أم العاص بن وائل كانت امرأة من بلي فبعثه رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم إليهم يستألفهم بذلك حتى إذا كان على ماء بأرض جذام يقال لها السلاسل و بذلك سميت تلك الغزاة ذات السلاسل فلما كان عليه خاف فبعث إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يستمده و بعث إليه أبا عبيدة بن الجراح في المهاجرين الأولين فيهم أبو بكر و عمر و قال لأبي عبيدة حين وجهه لا تختلفا فخرج أبو عبيدة حتى إذا قدم عليه قال له عمرو إنما جئت مددا إلي فقال أبو عبيدة لا و لكني على ما أنا عليه و أنت على ما أنت عليه و كان أبو عبيدة رجلا لينا سهلا هينا عليه أمر الدنيا فقال له عمرو بل أنت مدد لي فقال له أبو عبيدة يا عمرو إن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم قال لا تختلفا و إنك إن عصيتني أطعتك فقال له عمرو فإني أمير عليك و إنما أنت مدد لي قال فدونك فصلى عمرو بالناس
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent ‘Amr ibn al ‘As to call the Arabs to Islam. This was due to the fact that the mother of ‘As ibn Wa’il hailed from Bali. So Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent him to them, using this as a draw card. When he reached the water of the land of Judham, called al Salasil―and that is why this expedition is called Dhat al Salasil―he feared, so he sent word to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asking for reinforcements. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam despatched Abu ‘Ubaidah towards them as leader of the early Muhajirin, the likes of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam instructed Abu ‘Ubaidah when he despatched him, “Do not dispute.” So Abu ‘Ubaidah journeyed until he reached him.
‘Amr said to him, “You only came as my reinforcement.”
Abu ‘Ubaidah responded, “No. rather, I am leader of my detachment and you are leader of those with you.”
Abu ‘Ubaidah was a lenient and soft individual, to whom matters of the world were insignificant. So ‘Amr said to him, “Instead, you are my reinforcement.”
Abu ‘Ubaidah told him, “‘Amr, indeed Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam ordered us not to dispute. And if you have to disobey me, I will still obey you.”
So ‘Amr said to him, “So I am leader over you and you are only my reinforcement.”
Abu ‘Ubaidah said, “Take it.” So ‘Amr led the people in salah.
Once Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam despatched him over a detachment to attack a tribe from Juhaynah. This expedition is known as the expedition of Sif al Bahr.
With regards his jihad during the caliphate of Sayyidina al Siddiq and Sayyidina al Faruq radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, he participated in the epic Battle of Yarmuk. He was the commander in chief of that army, although general leadership was for Sayyidina Khalid ibn al Walid radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu conquered Damascus and Bayt al Maqdis. His campaigns and conquests were successive and successful. In all these, he was either the army general playing his part or a warrior in the ranks of the Muslims playing his part to the fullest, in anticipation of meeting his Rabb.
This in essence was the life of Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu; a life of jihad, struggling, obedience, and sacrifice. Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu left admirable examples and a sterling legacy reckoned as marks of distinction on the forehead of history and symbols of pride and honour. May Allah be pleased with him and make him happy.
Allah, the Lofty and Majestic, has systems which never change or move off course until Allah will inherit the earth and everything upon it. This is the system of Allah. And you will not find any change to the system of Allah. One of the marvellous systems of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala is that when a bondsman journeys in the proximity of his creator, fulfilling His every command and avoiding His prohibitions, then Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala mobilises every atom of the universe for him. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has spoken the truth and declared:
إِنَّا لَنَنصُرُ رُسُلَنَا وَالَّذِيْنَ آمَنُوْا فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَيَوْمَ يَقُوْمُ الْأَشْهَادُ
Indeed, We will support Our messengers and those who believe during the life of this world and on the Day when the witnesses will stand.
When Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the Muslims with him were from the generation of leadership and authority, treading the path of righteousness and faith, in order to fill the world with the Qur’an and open blind eyes, deaf ears, and sealed hearts, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala made everything subservient to them.
This is a matter which we can perceive clearly in the incident in which Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was champion when Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent him as a leader over an expedition of 300 Muhajirin and Ansar to a tribe of Juhaynah at the sea shore. This is Ghazwat al Khabat. Sayyidina Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah radiya Llahu ‘anhu relates to us what happened in this expedition:
بعثنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم مع أبي عبيدة بن الجراح و نحن ثلاثمائة و بضعة عشر رجلا و زودنا جرابا من تمر فأعطانا منه قبضة قبضة فلما أنجزناه أعطانا تمرة تمرة فلما فقدناها وجدنا فقدها ثم كنا نخبط الخبط بقسينا و نسفه و نشرب عليه من الماء حتى سمينا جيش الخبط ثم أخذنا على الساحل فإذا دابة ميتة مثل الكثيب يقال لها العنبر فقال أبو عبيدة ميتة لا تأكلوا ثم قال جيش رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم و في سبيل الله و نحن مضطرون فأكلنا منه عشرين ليلة أو خمس عشرة ليلة و اصطنعنا منه وشيقة قال و لقد جلس ثلاثة عشر رجلا منا في موضع عينه و أقام أبو عبيدة ضلعا من أضلاعه فرحل أجسم بعير من أباعر القوم فأجازه تحته فلما قدمنا على رسول الله قال ما حسبكم قال كنا نبتغي عيرات قريش فذكرنا له شأن الدابة فقال إنما هو رزق رزقكموه الله أمعكم منه شيء قلنا نعم
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam despatched us with Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah―a regiment of three hundred and ten odd men. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam gave us a sack of dates as provisions. Abu ‘Ubaidah would give us each a handful from it. When it was about to be depleted, he rationed us to one date each. When that was also exhausted, we realised its worth. Thereafter, we used our staffs to knock leaves off the trees which we would soak and drink water with, until we were called the army of khabat. We finally reached the coast and saw a dead animal (fish) resembling a gigantic dune called al ‘Ambar (whale). Abu ‘Ubaidah initially said, “It is carrion. Do not eat.” He then changed his mind and said, “We are the envoys of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and we are out in the path of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and have reached the point of desperation.” So we ate from it for 20 nights or 15 nights. And we made al Washiqah from it. (It was so huge that) thirteen of us were able to sit in its eye socket. Abu ‘Ubaidah erected one of its ribs and prepared the largest camel of the people which passed under the rib.
When we returned to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he asked us, “What is your story?”
We replied, “We were searching for the caravans of Quraysh.”
We told him about the animal upon which he commented, “It is only sustenance which Allah provided for you. Do you have any?”
We replied in the affirmative.
In the narration of al Bukhari it appears that Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah radiya Llahu ‘anhu explained:
لما بعث رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم بعثا قبل الساحل و أمر عليهم أبا عبيدة بن الجراح و هم ثلاثمائة فخرجنا و كنا ببعض الطريق فني الزاد فأمر أبو عبيدة بأزواد الجيش فجمع فكان مزودي تمر فكان يقوتنا كل يوم قليلا قليلا حتى فني فلم يكن يصيبنا إلا تمرة تمرة فقلت ما تغني عنكم تمرة فقال لقد وجدنا فقدها حين فنيت ثم انتهينا إلى البحر فإذا حوت مثل الظرب فأكل منها القوم ثمان عشرة ليلة ثم أمر أبو عبيدة بضلعين من أضلاعه فنصبا ثم أمر براحلة فرحلت ثم مرت تحتها فلم تصبهما
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam despatched a detachment towards the coastal region who were 300 in number. We departed and were still travelling when the provisions were exhausted. Abu ‘Ubaidah instructed that the provisions of the army be gathered which was done. It amounted to only two satchels of dates. He would ration it to us little by little until it was almost finished. Then we received only a single date each (for the day).
I asked Jabir, “How you survived on one date?”
He replied, “When the rations were finished, we missed even that single date.”
As we arrived at the sea shore, we saw a fish resembling a gigantic dune. The army ate from it for 18 nights. Then, Abu ‘Ubaidah ordered that two ribs be erected. He then ordered that a camel be loaded with a carriage which then passed beneath it without touching it.
This event is a true indication of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala assisting the believers. They exhausted their provisions and were compelled to eat leaves out of extreme starvation, while they were on their way to wage war. War demands strength. Together with faith, sustenance is needed to gain strength. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala displayed a miracle by taking out a whale on the sea shore for them, from which they ate and put on weight.
Just as Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu lived with honesty and humility in the company of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he lived after Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam demise fulfilling his obligations with such a high level of humility and honesty, that would suffice all the dwellers of earth had they scooped from them.
Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu journeyed under the banner of Islam. He travelled as a warrior―as if through his superiority and excellence he was a leader―and as a leader―as if owing his humility and sincerity he was one of the ordinary soldiers.
While Sayyidina Khalid ibn al Walid radiya Llahu ‘anhu was leading the Muslim armies in one of the great decisive battles of the Muslims, Sayyidina Abu Bakr al Siddiq radiya Llahu ‘anhu passed away. Sayyidina ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu initiates his rule with appointing Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu army general in place of Sayyidina Khalid radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu at the time could not allow ‘Umar’s messenger to announce this message so he told him to keep it a secret. He himself also kept it a secret in his heart―an ascetic, witty, trustworthy heart. Only after Sayyidina Khalid radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the army general, completed the grand conquest, he came up to him with utmost respect and presented the letter of Amir al Mu’minin and informed him of the news.
Ibn Kathir reports in al Bidayah:
ذكر أبو حذيفة إسحاق بن بشر أن الصديق توفي قبل فتح دمشق و أن عمر كتب إلى أبي عبيدة يعزيه و المسلمين في الصديق و أنه قد استنابه على من بالشام و أمره أن يستشير خالدا في الحرب فلما وصل الكتاب إلى أبي عبيدة كتمه من خالد حتى فتحت دمشق بنحو من عشرين ليلة فقال له خالد يرحمك الله ما منعك أن تعلمني حين جاءك فقال إني كرهت أن أكسر عليك حربك و ما سلطان الدنيا أريد و لا للدنيا أعمل و ما ترى سيصير إلى زوال و انقطاع و إنما نحن إخوان و ما يضر الرجل أن يليه أخوه في دينه و دنياه
Abu Hudhayfah Ishaq ibn Bishr mentioned that al Siddiq passed away prior to the conquest of Damascus. ‘Umar wrote to Abu ‘Ubaidah informing him of the demise of al Siddiq and comforting him and the Muslims. He also informed him that he appointed him army general over the armies in Sham. He instructed him to consult Khalid in matters of war.
When the letter reached Abu ‘Ubaidah, he concealed it from Khalid, for approximately 20 nights, until Damascus was conquered. Khalid then said to him, “May Allah have mercy upon you. What stopped you from informing me as soon as it came to you?”
He replied, “I disliked breaking your war streak. It is not sovereignty of the world that I desire, nor for the world do I strive. What you see will eventually perish and expire. We are brothers. It does not harm a man for his brother to be in authority over him in religion or worldly affairs.”
Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu became the commander in chief over the leaders and warriors in Sham and majority of the Muslims armies. Their weaponry and great numbers were all under his control and authority. Despite this, you would consider him to be an ordinary soldier and general Muslim when you saw him. When he received news of the people of Sham speaking highly of him and boasting about him, he gathered them and stood up to deliver a lecture in which he mentioned:
يا أيها الناس إني امرؤ من قريش و ما منكم من أحد أحمر و لا أسود يفضلني بتقوى إلا وددت أني في مسلاخه
What humility is this! Rather, what grandeur is this!
Certainly, Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was the chief of the leaders and army general of majority of the Muslim armies who had the greatest strength and highest success rate and he was the ruler over the lands of Sham. His command was obeyed and his opinion was authorised. All of this and the like thereof did not win a casual glance from his prudence and had no worth in his sight. It did not get to his head, for he had great fear of his Rabb, despite all his achievements. He feared Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and displayed great humility before Him. He would sigh:
وددت أني كبش فذبحني أهلي فأكلوا لحمي و حسوا مرقي
I wish I was a ram who was slaughtered by my owners, who then ate my meat and drank my gravy.
We find that he was disinterested in the world and desirous of what is by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala; and what is by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala is far superior and everlasting. That is why the world, with all its pleasures, glamour, and benefits could not reach his heart or turn him away from his objective and ultimate goal, despite him being the commander in chief of armies and generals. Here is an anecdote which transpired during the lifetime of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam which will illuminate this theme. Ibn Sa’d narrates it al Tabaqat:
إن عمر بن الخطاب أرسل إلى أبي عبيدة بأربعة آلاف درهم و أربعمائة دينار و قال للرسول انظر ما يصنع قال فقسمها أبو عبيدة قال ثم أرسل إلى معاذ بمثلها و قال للرسول مثل ما قال فقسمها معاذ إلا شيئا قالت امرأته نحتاج إليه فلما أخبر الرسول عمر قال الحمد لله الذي جعل في الإسلام من يصنع هذا
‘Umar ibn al Khattab sent 4400 gold coins to Abu ‘Ubaidah and said to the messenger, “See what he does.” Abu ‘Ubaidah on receiving the wealth distributed it. ‘Umar then sent the same amount to Muaz and gave the messenger the same instruction. Muaz also distributed it except a little to purchase something his wife said they needed. When the messenger informed ‘Umar of their actions, he exclaimed, “All praise belongs to Allah who has created in Islam such individuals who would act in this manner.”
Abu Nuaim reports in Hilyat al Auliya’ via his chain from Hisham ibn ‘Urwah from his father who said:
دخل عمر بن الخطاب على أبي عبيدة بن الجراح فإذا هو مضطجع على طنفسة رحله متوسدا الحقيبة فقال له عمر ألا اتخذت ما اتخذ أصحابك فقال يا أمير المؤمنين هذا يبلغني المقيل
‘Umar ibn al Khattab entered the presence of Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah. The latter was lying down on his saddle cloth, using his traveling bag as a pillow. ‘Umar said to him, “Why do you not make what your friends make (i.e. a bed)?” He replied, “O Amir al Mu’minin, this puts me to sleep.”
لما قدم عمر الشام تلقاه الناس و عظماء أهل الأرض فقال عمر أين أخي قالوا من قال أبو عبيدة قالوا الآن يأتيك فلما أتاه نزل فاعتنقه ثم دخل عليه بيته فلم ير في بيته إلا سيفه و ترسه و رحله
When ‘Umar arrived in Sham, the people and the prominent personnel of the earth met him.
‘Umar asked, “Where is my brother?”
“Who?” they enquired.
“Abu ‘Ubaidah,” he said.
They said, “He will come to you just now.”
When he came, he descended from his mount and hugged ‘Umar. ‘Umar then entered his house. He only saw his sword, shield, and saddle.
Ibn ‘Asakir reports via his sanad from Nafi’ from Ibn ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma:
إن عمر حين قدم الشام قال لأبي عبيدة اذهب بنا إلى منزلك قال و ما تصنع عندي ما تريد إلا أن تعصر عينيك علي قال فدخل فلم ير شيئا قال أين متاعك لا أرى إلا لبدا أو صحفة و شنا و أنت أمير أعندك طعام فقام أبو عبيدة إلى جونة فأخذ منها كسيرات فبكى عمر فقال له أبو عبيدة قد قلت لك إنك ستعصر عينيك على يا أمير المؤمنين يكفيك ما يبلغك المقيل قال عمر غيرتنا الدنيا كلنا غيرك يا أبا عبيدة
When ‘Umar arrived in Sham, he said to Abu ‘Ubaidah, “Take us to your dwelling.”
“And what will you do by my place,” he said, “You only wish to cry tears over me.”
‘Umar entered his house and saw nothing. He asked, “Where are your belongings? I only see a piece of wool or a bowl and a waterskin, and you are the leader. Do you have food?”
Abu ‘Ubaidah went up to a jar and took out pieces of dry bread from it. ‘Umar wept on seeing this.
Abu ‘Ubaidah told him, “I had told you that you will cry tears over my condition, O Amir al Mu’minin. Sufficient for you is what puts you to sleep.”
‘Umar exclaimed, “The world has changed us all except you, O Abu ‘Ubaidah.
He never sufficed on avoiding wordly pleasure but encouraged others to do the same. Abu Nuaim reports in al Hilyah that Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu would move in the army and announce:
ألا رب مبيض لثيابه مدنس لدينه ألا رب مكرم نفسه و هو لها مهين أدرؤا السيئات القديمات بالحسنات الحديثات فلو أن أحدكم عمل من السيئات ما بينه و بين السماء ثم عمل حسنة لعلت فوق سيئاته حتى تقهرهن
Listen carefully! Many who whiten their clothes spoil their din. Harken! Many who honour themselves are in fact humiliating themselves. Combat old sins with new virtues. If any of you had to commit evil that reached from him to the sky and then followed it up with a good deed, the good deed would rise above his evil deeds and overwhelm them.
Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala had favoured Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu with a heart full of contentment and self-discipline. He was content with the little he received and never stretched an envious eye to what others had. A glaring example of his self-denial is that he was not desirous of leadership or assuming topmost positions in politics or management. Nonetheless, leadership would come his way, without the asking, and he would fulfil his duty par excellence. He never requested for it nor desired it. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala had bestowed him with a pleased soul.
Al Bayhaqi in al Dala’il reports via his sanad from Musa ibn ‘Uqbah who says:
غزوة عمرو بن العاص ذات السلاسل من مشارف الشام في بلي و سعد الله و من يليهم من قضاعة و في رواية عروة بعثه رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم في بلي و هم أخوال العاص بن وائل و بعثه فيمن يليهم من قضاعة و أمر عليهم قال موسى فخاف عمرو العاص من جانبه الذي هو به فبعث إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يستمده فندب رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم المهاجرين الأولين فانتدب فيهم أبو بكر و عمر بن الخطاب في سراة المهاجرين و أمر عليهم أبا عبيدة بن الجراح فأمد بهم عمرو بن العاص قال عروة و عمرو يومئذ في سعد الله و تلك الناحية من قضاعة قال موسى فلما قدموا على عمرو قال أنا أميركم و أنا أرسلت إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم أستمده بكم قال المهاجرون بلى أنت أمير أصحابك و أبو عبيدة أمير المهاجرين فقال عمرو إنما أنتم مدد أمددته فلما رأى ذلك أبو عبيدة و كان رجلا حسن الخلق لين الشيمة سعى لأمر رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم عليه و عهده قال تعلم يا عمرو أن آخر ما عهد إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم أن قال إذا قدمت على صاحبك فتطاوعا و إنك إن عصيتني لأطيعنك فسلم أبو عبيدة الإمارة لعمرو بن العاص
The expedition of ‘Amr ibn al ‘As of Dhat al Salasil in the hills of Sham in Bali and Sa’d Allah and those adjacent to them of the Quda’ah.
‘Urwah’s narrations says: Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent him to Bali who are the maternal uncles of ‘As ibn Wa’il (‘Amr’s father). He sent him among those adjacent to them of the Quda’ah and he was appointed leader over them.
Musa said: ‘Amr ibn al ‘As was apprehensive of danger from the side he was at, so he sent a message to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asking for reinforcements. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam charged the primary Muhajirin who complied readily. Among them were Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ibn al Khattab at the head of the Muhajirin. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam appointed Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah leader over them and sent them as reinforcements for ‘Amr ibn al ‘As.
‘Urwah says: ‘Amr at the time was in Sa’d Allah. This direction is from the Quda’ah.
Musa says: When they arrived by ‘Amr, he said, “I am your leader. I sent a message to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asking him for assistance through you.”
The Muhajirin said, “Yes, you are the leader of your people while Abu ‘Ubaidah is the leader of the Muhajirin.”
‘Amr responded, “You are only reinforcements which I have been assisted with.”
When Abu ‘Ubaidah saw this, and he was a man with sublime character and a soft nature, he strove to fulfil the command and covenant of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam so he said, “Do you know, O ‘Amr, that the final guidance Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam imparted to me was that he said, ‘When you reach your friend, then agree with each other.’ Even if you disobey me, I will certainly obey you.” So Abu ‘Ubaidah handed over leadership to ‘Amr ibn al ‘As.
Do you see this lofty character and this magnificent disposition which clothed the being of Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu making it obtain glory and beauty!
Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala had bestowed Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu with excellence in intelligence, a strong opinion, wisdom in planning and scheming, and power to reach the right decision. This is another speciality of his coupled with his trustworthiness. In fact, it is one of the fruits of his honesty. These aspects made him worthy of caliphate for he mastered the fundamentals of leadership and exploration.
Caliphate yearned and longed for Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. It desired him dearly and craved for him, but he on the other hand was not pleased with it nor desired it.
We see that Sayyidina al Siddiq radiya Llahu ‘anhu on the Day of al Saqifah addressing the Ansar regarding the issue of caliphate and nominating him as one of the two candidates for it. Sayyidina Abu Bakr al Siddiq radiya Llahu ‘anhu said on that day:
لقد رضيت لكم أحد الرجلين فبايعوا أيهما شئتم عمر و أبو عبيدة بن الجراح
I am pleased with one of the two men for you, so swear allegiance to whichever of them you desire, ‘Umar or Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah.
This does not mean that caliphate per se is bad. Rather, it is an embodiment of goodness when it is conducted correctly. Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu knew deep down in his heart the rank and status that Sayyidina al Siddiq radiya Llahu ‘anhu enjoyed and understood very well that he was most deserving of caliphate than everyone else.
Then Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu moments before he leaves this world, says as reported by Ibn Sa’d:
لو أدركت أبا عبيدة بن الجراح فاستخلفته فسألني عنه ربي لقلت سمعت نبيك يقول هو أمين هذه الأمة
Had Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah survived me and I appointed him my successor and Allah had to question me about it, I would have said, “I heard Your prophet saying, ‘He is the trustworthy individual of this ummah.’”
Sayyidina ‘Umar bin al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu also declared:
لو أدركت أبا عبيدة بن الجراح لاستخلفته و ما شاورت فإن سئلت عنه قلت استخلفت أمين الله و أمين رسوله
Had Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah been alive, I would have appointed him successor without consultation. If I was asked about it, I would have answered, “I appointed the trustworthy individual of Allah and His Messenger.”
Al Hakim reports in al Mustadrak via his chain from ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
إنه قال لأصحابه تمنوا فقال بعضهم أتمنى لو أن هذه الدار مملوءة ذهبا أنفقه في سبيل الله و أتصدق و قال رجل أتمنى لو أنها مملوءة زبرجدا و جوهرا فأنفقه في سبيل الله و أتصدق ثم قال عمر تمنوا فقالوا ما ندري يا أمير المؤمنين فقال عمر أتمنى لو أنها مملوءة رجالا مثل أبي عبيدة بن الجراح و معاذ بن جبل و سالم مولى أبي حذيفة و حذيفة بن اليمان
‘Umar said to his disciples, “Desire.”
Someone said, “I desire that this room be filled with gold which I will donate in the path of Allah and give as charity.”
Another said, “I desire that this room be filled with chrysolite and jewels which I will donate in the path of Allah and give as charity.”
‘Umar said, “Desire.”
They submitted, “We do not know, O Amir al Mu’minin.”
So ‘Umar said, “I wish that it was filled with men like Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah, Muaz ibn Jabal, Salim―the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah, and Hudhayfah ibn al Yaman.”
And then you have Sayyidina Khalid ibn al Walid radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the great experienced army general and smart warrior acknowledging the position of Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu and recognising his virtue and lofty status. Ahmed and Ibn Abi Shaybah report from ‘Abdul Malik ibn ‘Umair who said:
لما بعث عمر أبا عبيدة بن الجراح إلى الشام و عزل خالد بن الوليد قال خالد بعث عليكم أمين هذه الأمة فقال أبو عبيدة سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يقول خالد سيف من سيوف الله و نعم فتى العشيرة
When ‘Umar appointed Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah army general in Sham and dismissed Khalid ibn al Walid, Khalid said, “He has appointed the trustworthy individual of this ummah.”
Hearing this, Abu ‘Ubaidah responded, “I heard Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stating, ‘Khalid is one of the swords of Allah and an excellent youngster of the clan.”
Sayyidina Muaz ibn Jabal radiya Llahu ‘anhu once heard a man criticising Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu and accusing him of incompetence in a siege during one of the campaigns, and preferring Sayyidina Khalid radiya Llahu ‘anhu over him. Immediately, he comes to the defence of Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The narration is reported by al Dhahabi via his sanad from Zaid from his father:
بلغني أن معاذا سمع رجلا يقول لو كان خالد بن الوليد ما كان بالناس دوك ― الشدة و المعاناة ― و ذلك في حصر أبي عبيدة فقال معاذ فإلى أبي عبيدة تضطر المعجزة لا أبا لك والله إنه لخير من بقي على الأرض
It has reached me that Muaz heard a man saying, “Had it been Khalid ibn al Walid, people would not be suffering.” This was during the siege of Abu ‘Ubaidah. So Muaz said, “So Abu ‘Ubaidah is constrained to display a miracle? May you be bereaved of your father! By Allah, he is the best of those left on earth.”
After a life filled with obedience, iman, honesty, and sacrifice, Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu passes away. He passed away in the plague of ‘Amwas in the year 18 A.H. during the caliphate of Sayyidina ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He was 58 years old at the time of his demise. His grave is in ‘Amwas, which is part of Ramlah―four miles away from the precincts of Bayt al Maqdis.
Ibn ‘Asakir gives an account of the demise of Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
إن عمر كتب إلى أبي عبيدة في الطاعون الذي وقع بالشام إنه عرضت لي حاجة و لا غنى بي عنك فيها فإذا أتاك كتابي هذا فإني أعزم عليك إن أتاك ليلا أن لا تصبح حتى تركب و إذا أتاك نهارا أن لا تمسي حتى تركب إلي فلما قرأ الكتاب قال قد عرفت حاجة أمير المؤمنين إنه يريد أن يستبقي من ليس بباق ثم كتب إني قد عرفت حاجتك التي عرضت لك فحللني من عزمتك يا أمير المؤمنين فإني في جند من أجناد المسلمين لا أرغب بنفسي عنهم فلما قرأ عمر الكتاب بكى فقيل له مات أبو عبيدة قال لا و كأن قد كتب إليه عمر إن الأردن أرض عمقة و إن الجابية أرض نزهة فاظهر بالمسلمين إلى الجابية فلما قرأ أبو عبيدة الكتاب قال هذا يسمع فيه أمر أمير المؤمنين و نطيعه فأمرني أن أركب و أبوئ الناس منازلهم فقلت إني لا أستطيع قال لم لعل المرأة قد طعنت قلت أجل فذهب ليركب فوجد وخزة فطعن فتوفي أبو عبيدة و انكشف الطاعون
‘Umar wrote to Abu ‘Ubaidah when the plague broke out in Sham, “I have a pressing need and I need you to attend to it. So when this letter of mine reaches you, then I take a determination upon you that if it reaches you at night, you will mount before dawn and if it reaches you during the day, you will mount before dusk and come to me.”
After he read the letter, Abu ‘Ubaidah remarked, “I know the need of Amir al Mu’minin. He wishes to spare one who cannot be spared.” He then wrote, “Indeed, I know the need that you are faced with. But kindly relieve me of your oath, O Amir al Mu’minin, for I am among the Muslim troops, and my heart does not desire to leave them.”
When ‘Umar read the letter, he cried. He was asked, “Did Abu ‘Ubaidah pass away.”
‘Umar replied, “No, but it is as if he has.”
‘Umar wrote to him that Jordan is a low land and Jabiyah is a high land, pure from the plague, so take the Muslims to Jabiyah.
Abu ‘Ubaidah read this letter and remarked, “This announces the command of Amir al Mu’minin and we shall obey him. He instructed me to mount and leave the people at their places but I apologised due to my inability to do so.”
He said (to me), “Why? Probably the wife is afflicted with the plague?” I agreed.
So Abu ‘Ubaidah got ready to mount, and just then felt a prick. He was also afflicted with the plague. Abu ‘Ubaidah thereafter passed away and the plague subsided.
Giving precedence over oneself did not allow Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah radiya Llahu ‘anhu to separate from the Muslims even during the last days of his life. We see that he does not care for his life and prefers the everlasting over the temporary. He prefers to pass away with the general Muslims just as he lived among them. This is eminence, nothing else, and happiness with the decree of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.
These were few illuminating highlights from the life of the trustworthy individual of this ummah, Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. This is a fragrant biography of one of the eminent personalities of the ummah, one of their leaders, of a man who sold his soul for his religion, severed himself from all that surrounded him, and affixed his soul to His Lord. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala accepted him graciously and notified him of His pleasure and guaranteed him Jannat on the tongue of His Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Congratulations to you attaining Jannat, O Ibn al Jarrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu! May you enjoy and desire therein. This is the bounty of your Lord which He bestowed, so that you may express gratitude to the Bestower of favours.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 409.
 Al Isti’ab, vol. 2 pg. 792, 793.
 Ma’ruq al wajh: Having little facial flesh. (Al ‘Ayn, vol. 1 pg. 154)
 Al ahna: Curving of the back towards the chest, with a bend due to old age.
 Athram al thaniyyatayn: Broken front teeth.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 414.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 409.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 1 pg. 8.
 Hilyat al Auliya’, vol. 1 pg. 100 – 101.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 393; Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 1 pg. 7, 8.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 393; Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 1 pg. 8.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 409.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 410.
 Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 25 pg. 464; al Isti’ab, vol. 2 pg. 793.
 Sahih al Bukhari, book on expeditions, chapter on the incident of the people of Najran, Hadith: 4121.
 Mula’anah: the oath of condemnation (the mutual practice of beseeching Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala to curse one if one is in the wrong.)
 Sahih al Bukhari, book on expeditions, chapter on the incident of the people of Najran, Hadith: 4119.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 1 pg. 8.
 Surah al Mujadalah: 22.
 Al Mujam al Kabir, Hadith: 360; al Bayhaqi: Al Sunan al Kubra, chapter on a Muslim avoiding killing his father in war, Hadith: 17613 labelling it munqati’; al Mustadrak, book on recognition of the Sahabah, chapter on the virtues of Abu ‘Ubaidah, Hadith: 5152; Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol. 4 pg. 124; al Fath al Qadir, vol. 3 pg. 235; al Durr al Manthur, vol. 9 pg. 443.
 Musnad al Bazzar, vol. 1 pg. 38, musnad of Abu Bakr, Hadith: 63.
 Al mighfar: Iron helmet worn on the head by a warrior. (Al Nihayah, vol. 3 pg. 374.)
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 410; Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 25 pg. 448.
 Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol. 4 pg. 421.
 Sahih Ibn Hibban, Hadith: 6998, Shu’ayb al Arna’ut said, “His isnad is sahih according to the standards of Muslim.” Musnad Abi Ya’la, vol. 13 pg. 272, Hadith: 7345, Hussain Sulaim Asad categorised its isnad as sahih.
 Sunan al Tirmidhi, chapter on the virtues of Abu Bakr, Hadith: 3657. He commented, “This hadith is hasan sahih.” Al Albani labelled it sahih; Musnad Ahmed, Hadith: 25871.
 Jami’ al Tirmidhi, book on virtues, the virtues of ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Auf, Hadith: 3747, al Albani classified it sahih; Sahih Ibn Hibban, (similar narration through another chain), discussion on Sa’id ibn Zaid ibn ‘Amr ibn Nufayl, Hadith: 6993, Shu’ayb al Arna’ut classified it sahih.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 7 pg. 384. Al khabat: leaves of a tree shaken as fodder for the camels. (‘Umdat al Qari, vol. 21 pg. 108.)
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 2 pg. 86; Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 25 pg. 438.
 Dala’il al Nubuwwah, vol. 5 pg. 20, Hadith: 1739; Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 2 pg. 24; al Bidayah wa l-Nihayah, vol. 4 pg. 312.
 Tarikh al Islam, vol. 2 pg. 517.
 Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 2 pg. 158.
 Surah al Ghafir, 52.
 It was called the expedition of khabat because the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum after exhausting their provisions would shake the leaves of trees, crush them, and soak them and drink the water out of extreme hunger.
 Al washiqah: To boil meat a little, without cooking it, and take it on journeys. (Al Nihayah fi Gharib al Hadith, vol. 5 pg. 189.)
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 411.
 Al zarb: A small mountain. (Al Nihayah fi Gharib al Hadith, vol. 3 pg. 156.)
 Sahih al Bukhari, book on expeditions, chapter on the expedition of Sif al Bahr, Hadith: 4102.
 Al Bidayah wa l-Nihayah, vol. 7 pg. 28.
 Mislakh: His skin. This is metaphor of his desire to be upon his guidance and methodology. (Al Nihayah fi Gharib al Hadith, vol. 2 pg. 389.)
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 412, 413.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 2 pg. 412, 413.
 Al Tanfasah: A cloth prepared from ‘adhf of dates. It is said that everything prepared from plants is a tanfasah.
 Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, vol. 8 pg. 173; Hilyat al Auliya’, vol. 1 pg. 101.
 Hilyat al Auliya’, vol. 1 pg. 101, 102.
 Al labad: Wool. A piece of wool is meant here. (Al Sihah, vol. 2 pg. 533). Al shann: Waterskin. (Mukhtar al Sihah, pg. 184.)
 Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 25 pg. 481; Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 1 pg. 16 – 18.
 Hilyat al Auliya’, vol. 1 pg. 102; Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, vol. 7 pg. 116, Hadith: 34621.
 Dala’il al Nubuwwah, chapter on the expedition of Dhat al Salasil, Hadith: 1738; Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 2 pg. 26.
 Al Isti’ab, vol. 2 pg. 792.
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 413.
 Al Mustadrak, book on recognition of the Sahabah, chapter on the virtues of Salim the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah, Hadith: 5005. Al Dhahabi writes in the footnotes, “According to the standards of al Bukhari and Muslim.”
 Musnad Ahmed, hadith of Yazid ibn al ‘Awwam, vol. 4 pg. 90, Hadith: 16869, Shu’ayb al Arna’ut comments, “The hadith is sahih li ghayrihi besides the statement: and an excellent youngster of the clan, which is hasan li ghayrihi. This isnad is da’if due to its inqita’ (missing link or links in the chain of narrators). ‘Abdul Malik ibn ‘Umair―al Lakhmi―did not meet Abu ‘Ubaidah, nor Khalid ibn al Walid, nor ‘Umar ibn al Khattab.”; Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, book on virtues, chapter on the reports regarding Khalid ibn al Walid radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Hadith: 32264.
 Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 1 pg. 16; al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 3 pg. 414 (similar narration).
 Al Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 7 pg. 385.
 Tarikh Dimashq, vol. 25 pg. 484, 485; Fath al Bari, vol. 1 pg. 159.Back to top