Biography of Sayyiduna `Amr ibn al-`As

Answering the Accusation on Sayyiduna Mughirah ibn Shu`bah
September 18, 2015
Answering the Baseless Shi`i Allegations Against Sayyiduna `Umar
September 18, 2015

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Biography of Sayyidina Amr ibn al As

 

The status of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As

Amongst the senior Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu is a significant personality. He was a remarkable mujahid of Islam, and a sterling exemplar of understanding and foresight, having great deeds to his credit in the spread of Islam.

We wish to briefly discuss the biography of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his services to the ummah for the readers hereunder.

 

Some Harbour Hatred Against the Sahabah

In accordance to their insolent way, the enemies of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum overstretch their shortcomings, and attribute things to them which are contrary to reality; in an effort to generate animosity against the Sahabah. Subsequently, these critics have proliferated incorrect and baseless reports regarding Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu in their efforts to malign him. They use disparaging terms such as ‘treacherous’, ‘imposter’ and ‘deceiver’ when referring to him.

The summary of their allegation against Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu is that they accuse him of having excessive greed for wealth, on account of which he was habituated to deception and treachery. He supported Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu for the sake of financial gain and during the last days of his life, he regretted his actions and lamented over his decisions, along with a number of other grievances they raise against him.[1]

Taking this state of affairs into consideration, we feel it only appropriate to mention the biography of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu in brief. A just study of it will clarify his position and rank in Islam, and it will be the best way to dispel the accusations levelled against him, with the help of Allah.

 

Name and Lineage

He is ‘Amr ibn al ‘As ibn Wa’il al Qurashi al Sahmi radiya Llahu ‘anhu. His agnomen is Abu ‘Abdullah and Abu Muhammad according to some. His mother was al Nabighah bint Harmalah.

The family of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu would be referred to as Banu Sahm and during the era of ignorance, they were considered to be a noble and prestigious family. They would often act as arbitrators in cases of dispute between tribes.

 

Life Before Islam

‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was at the forefront of opposition and enmity towards Islam, until the day his heart was illuminated by it.

During the early days of Islam, when the persecution against the Muslims grew intense, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam instructed a small band of Muslims to migrate to Abyssinia. The leaders of this caravan were Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn Umayyah al Damari radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Sayyidina Jafar ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu. They took up temporary residence in Abyssinia. During this time, a delegation from the Quraysh — headed by ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu — came to al Najashi (the king of Abyssinia) in an attempt to have these Muslims returned to Makkah.

‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was the chief spokesman of this delegation. He presented himself in the court of al Najashi and made a concerted effort to have the Muslims expelled from Abyssinia. They presented a number of gifts, leather and other items, to the king, and then requested the king to expel the Muslims from his land and return them to Makkah. The discussion that ensued between ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu and al Najashi has been reported in Sirah ibn Hisham, with various e supporting narrations reported in other books as well. Remember that these discussions were unsuccessful, and al Najashi became angry at ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu, making his efforts in vain. Ibn Hisham rahimahu Llah reports on the authority of ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu:

 

ثم قلت (عمرو بن العاص) له ايها الملك والله لو طننت انط تكره هذا ما سالتكه قال اتسالني ان اعطيك رسول رجل ياتيه الناموس الاكبر الذي كان ياتي موسى لتقتله قال قلت ايها الملك كذالك هو؟ قال ويحك يا عمرو اطعني واتبعه فانه والله لعلى الحق وليظهرن على ما خالفه كما ظهر موسى على فرعون وجنوده قال قلت افتبا يعني له على الاسلام؟ قال نعم فبسط يده فبايعته على الاسلام ثم خرجت الى اصحابي وقد حال رائي عما كان عليه وكتمت اصحابي اسلامي

 

I (‘Amr ibn al ‘As) said to him: “O king, by Allah, if I knew that you would dislike this then I would not have made this request from you.” Al Najashi said: “Do you request me to hand over to you the messenger of the one to whom al Namus (the angel) comes, the very same angel who would come to Nabi Musa ‘alayh al Salam?” I asked: “O king is this matter as you have said?” Al Najashi replied: “Woe to you O ‘Amr, accept what I say and become a follower. By Allah, this Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is upon the truth and whoever opposes him will be overpowered, just as Nabi Musa ‘alayh al Salam overpowered Fir’own and his army.” I said to him: “Will you take my pledge upon Islam (on his behalf)?” He replied that he would, and extended his hand, which I held and pledged my allegiance to Islam. I then returned to my companions, and my opinion (regarding Islam) was now different to what it was (having been enlightened with iman), I thus concealed this from my companions.[2]

 

There is much more reported regarding this incident of the migration to Abyssinia, however we have sufficed on the portion which relates to the biography of ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

 

Acceptance of Islam

‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu returned after having met with the king of Abyssinia. During the period of the treaty between the Muslims and the Quraysh of Makkah, in Safar 8 A.H, approximately six months before the conquest of Makkah, ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu migrated to Madinah to embrace Islam. Khalid ibn Walid and ‘Uthman ibn Talhah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma also presented themselves before Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam at the same time to embrace Islam.

Khalid ibn Walid radiya Llahu ‘anhu was first followed by ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu, who first said: “Extend your hand so that I may pledge my allegiance to you.” However, when Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stretched out his hand out, ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu pulled his back, saying: “I want to place a condition before I accept Islam.” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam answered: “What condition do you wish to place?” ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: “That all my previous sins should be forgiven.” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied:

 

اما علمت يا عمرو ! ان الاسلام يهدم ما كان قبله وان الهجرة تهدم ما كان قبلها وان الحج يهدم ما كان قبله

O ‘Amr, do you not know that accepting Islam wipes out everything done before it and migrating wipes out all sin done before it and performing hajj wipes out all sin done before it?[3]

 

‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his companions embraced Islam, and along with it, honour and love for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam entered the heart of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu to such an extent that he radiya Llahu ‘anhu says:

 

وما كان احد احب الي من رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ولا اجل في عيني منه وما كنت اطيق ام املاء عيني منه اجلالا له ولو سئلت ان اصفه ما اطقت لاني لم اكن املاء عيني منه …الخ

There was none more beloved to me than Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. There was no one greater than him in my eyes, to such an extent that on account of the grandeur of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, I could not look at him directly, and if I was asked about the description of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, I would not have the ability to describe him.[4]

 

Testimony of Iman

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu embraced Islam on the hands of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and he was counted amongst the sincere Muslims. There is testimony in this regard given by Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam:

 

عن ابي هريرة رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ابنا العاص مؤمنان هشام وعمرو

Sayyidina Abu Hurairah radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

The two sons of ‘As ibn Wa’il, Hisham ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu and ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu, are believers.[5]

 

Another Testimony

Similarly, the Muhaddithin have recorded another incident which testifies to the sincere belief of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Imam Nasa’i rahimahu Llah in his famous work al Sunan al Kubra reports with his chain of narration:

 

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates:

On one occasion the people of Madinah were overcome with panic and fear causing people to disperse. At that time I saw that Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhayfah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, was sitting in al Masjid al Nabawi armed with his sword. When I saw him in this condition, I too armed myself with my sword and sat with him in the Masjid.

فخرج رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فرآني وسالما واتى الناس فقال يايها الناس الا كان مفزعكم الى الله ورسوله الا فعلتم كما فعل هذان الرجلان المؤمنان

During this time, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam came out, and saw Salim and me in this condition. Everyone then arrived and Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam addressed them saying: “In the case of fear and worry, why did you not come to Allah and His Rasul? Why did you not do as these two believers have done?”[6]

 

Testimony of His Piety and Righteousness

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was regarded as a true believer and was held in esteem by others. He was furthered honoured by Allah in that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam testified in his favour with regards to his piety and righteousness. The famous Sahabi, Sayyidina Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidullah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, said to those present around him:

 

قال طلحة لاحدثكم عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم شيئا الا اني سمعته يقول عمرو بن العاص من صالحي قريش

I shall tell you that which I heard from Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu is from among the pious men of Quraysh.”

 

وفي رواية نعم اهل البيت ابو عبد الله ام عبد الله وعبد الله

In another narration it is reported that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Abu ‘Abdullah (Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu), Umm ‘Abdullah, and ‘Abdullah (ibn ‘Amr ibn al ‘As) are an excellent household.”[7]

 

Other Characteristics

A few of the senior Tabi’in mention some of the virtues of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The comments of Qabisah ibn Jabir rahimahu Llah are quoted hereunder wherein his excellent characteristics are mentioned along with his lofty deeds. Al Sha’bi rahimahu Llah narrates:

 

عن الشعبي عن قبيصة بن جابر صحبت عمرو بن العاص فما رأيت رجلا ابين قرآنا ولا كرام خلقا ولا اشبه سريره بعلانيته منه

Qabisah ibn Jabir said: “I accompanied ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu and I have not seen anyone more articulate in his explanation of the Qur’an, nor someone with nobler character, nor one whose inner state conformed so greatly to his outer state; than him.”[8]

 

Narration of Hadith

Just as the scholars of hadith have counted the narrations and ahadith of the other Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, in the same way they have counted the number of ahadith reported by Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu. ‘Allamah al Khazraji rahimahu Llah in Tahdhib al Tahdhib al Kamal states:

 

له تسعة وثلاثون حديثا

He has thirty-nine narrations.[9]

 

The purpose of citing this fact is to illustrate that just as Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu played a major role in the Islamic conquests so too did he render considerable service in relating hadith and informing the ummah of the statements of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

 

Ability in Warfare

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was naturally gifted with expertise in warfare, and Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam appreciated this inherent quality. Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu says:

 

عن عمرو بن العاص قال : ما اعدل بي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وبخالد بن الوليد احدا من اصحابه في حربه منذ اسلمنا

When Khalid ibn al Walid and I accepted Islam, then Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not take anyone as equal to us in warfare.[10]

 

There is corroboration for the narration of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu quoted above in the texts of the historians and biographers. They have mentioned his ability in the following text:

 

وكان من رجال قريش رايا ودهاء وحزما وكفائة وبصيرا بالحروب ومن اشراف ملوك العرب ومن اعيان المهاجرين

‘Amr ibn al ‘As was of those of the Quraysh who held sound opinions, among the intelligent strategists, cautious by nature, just and fair with his contemporaries, and had deep foresight in matters of war. He was counted among the nobles of the Arabs and among the senior Muhajirin.[11]

 

The Battle of Dhat al Salasil

Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam appointed Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu as the general in the Battle of Dhat al Salasil. The family of his father, ‘As ibn Wa’il, resided there. His mission was to invite them to Islam and after embracing Islam, he called them to wage jihad in the path of Allah.

The scholars have written that the army of Islam comprised of about three hundred soldiers. When the mujahidin entered the locality, they requested reinforcements, and Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam despatched a group of the Muhajirin to assist them. Many senior Sahabah were present in this second battalion, such as Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, and the leader of this battalion was Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.[12]

 

Sincerity in Religion and Love for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam

On one occasion, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam required to send out an expedition. Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent word to him: “Instruct ‘Amr ibn al ‘As to prepare (for battle), don his armour and come to me. We are sending him on an expedition.” Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu relates: “When I arrived, in accordance to the instruction, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was performing wudu’. When I presented myself, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

 

يا عمرو! اني اريد ان ابعثك وجها فيسلمك الله ويغنمك ارغب لك من المال رغبة صالحة

“I intend to send you on an expedition. Allah will keep you safe in it and grant you its spoils. We shall award you from this wealth.”

 

قال قلت يا رسول الله ! اني لم اسلم رغبة في المال انما اسلمت رغبة في الجهاد والكينونة معك قال يا عمرو! نعما بالمال الصالح للمرا الصالح

‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu replied: “O Rasul of Allah, I did not embrace Islam out of desire for wealth, but I embraced Islam desirous of jihad and your company.” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Pure and permissible wealth is good for a pious and righteous person.”[13]

 

Destroying Idols

In 8 A.H, when Makkah was conquered, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent various Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum to different areas in order to destroy idols. There was an idol by the name Suwa’ among the tribe of Hudhayl. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu and his other Sahabah to destroy it. Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates:

When we arrived, there was an attendant present at the idol. He said: “With what intention have you come?” I replied: “Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam commanded me to destroy.” The attendant answered: “You will not have the ability to do it.” I asked him why and he responded: “This idol will defend itself.” I said: “You still have baseless thoughts, can this idol hear or can it see anything?”

 

فدنوت منه فكسرته وامرت اصحابي فهدموا بيت خزانته فلم يجدوا فيه شيئا ثم قلت للسادن كيف رأيت؟ قال اسلمت لله

I then advanced and destroyed it. I then commanded my companions to destroy the treasure room as well, but they did not find anything inside. I then said to the attendant: “What do you think now?” He said: “I accept Islam for the sake of Allah.”[14]

 

Natural Ability and Confidence in Religious Matters

The Muhaddithin have written with regards to Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu that on one occasion two people came with an argument to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. It so happened that Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was also present. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam instructed:

Pass verdict over their dispute.

 

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu said:

O Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, you are more able and worthy of this matter than me.

 

Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

Although I have more right (you still pass verdict).

 

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu asked:

How will it be beneficial for me to decide?

 

Upon this, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said by way of principle:

 

قال ان انت قضيت بينهما فاصبت القضاء فلك عشر حسنات وان انت اجتهدت فاخطات فلك حسنة

If you rule correctly between them, you will get ten rewards and if you err in your ijtihad, you will get one good reward.[15]

 

It is apparent from this incident that Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was regarded as an able, sincere and devout person by Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam relied upon his natural ability, this is why Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked him to pass verdict in this particular case.

 

Note:-

We have mentioned this incident in Sirah Amir Muawiyah (vol. 1 p. 240, 241).

 

The Letter of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and Leadership of ‘Amman

The scholars of sirah have written that in 8 A.H, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu with a letter to the two kings of ‘Amman — Jayfar and ‘Abd — inviting them to Islam. Both of were the sons of al Julandi and were from the tribe of Azd. Jayfar was the king and ruler of ‘Amman.

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was sent to invite them to Islam. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent a letter to both brothers inviting them to Islam and the letter was marked with the seal of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates:

 

I reached ‘Amman. ‘Abd was the more tolerant of the brothers and softer in nature. I headed to him and said: “I have come with the message of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to you.” He said, “My brother is elder and he is the king. I shall arrange a meeting with him for you. He will read your letter.” I stayed for a few days there, after which he called for me. I entered and presented the letter to him. The seal was still intact. He opened it and read it in entirety. He then gave the letter to his brother, who also read it. He said: “Wait until tomorrow.” I came the next day and he said: “I pondered extensively over this invitation; I shall be considered a weak person among the Arabs if a single person were to take control of all I rule.” I then said: “if that is the case then I will leave tomorrow.”

فلما ايقن بمحزجى اصبح فارسل الى فدخلت عليه فاجاب الى الاسلام هو واخوه جميعا وصدقا بالنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وخليا بيني وبين الصدقة وبين الحكم فيما بينهم وكانا لي عونا على من خالفني فاخذت الصدقة من اغنيائهم فردوتها في فقرائهم فلم ازل مقيما فيهم حتى بلغنا وفاة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم

When they were convinced that I would depart the next day, they sent for me and both brothers embraced Islam and testified to the nubuwwah of Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. They gave me permission to collect the charity from that area and they did not stop me. If anyone opposed me in this work, then they both helped me. I collected the charity from the wealthy of that area and divided it amongst the poor and needy who resided there. I remained there until news of the demise of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam reached me.[16]

 

Services During the Caliphate Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar

We have discussed in brief the services of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu to the ummah during the lifetime of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. In addition to this, there are many noble services which he rendered for Islam during the caliphate of Sayyidina Abu Bakr and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. For example, in the thirteenth year after hijrah:

 

لما قفل ابو بكر (الصديق رضي الله عنه) عن الحج (١٣ه) بعث عمرو بن العاص قبل فلسطين ويزيد بن ابي سفيان وابا عبيدة بن الجراح و شرحبيل بن حسنة وامرهم ان يسلكوا على البلقاء

After Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu returned after performing hajj, he sent Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu towards Palestine, just as he sent Sayyidina Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan, Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah, Sayyidina Shurahbil ibn Hasanah radiya Llahu ‘anhum and others towards Balqa’.[17]

 

Khalifah Ibn Khayyat has clarified further on the authority of Ibn Ishaq:

 

قال ابن اسحق ثم ساروا جميعا قبل فلسطين فالتقوا باجنادين … والامراء كل على جنده يزعم بعض الناس ان عمرو بن العاص رضي الله عنه كان عليهم جميعا وعلى الروم القيقلاء فقتل القيقلاء وهزم الله المشركين وذالك يوم السبت الثلاث يقين من جمادى الاولى سنة ثلاث عشر

In accordance with the instruction of Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, all of them departed for Syria, and they gathered at Ajnadayn. Every leader supervised his battalion. Some historians have written that Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was the overall leader. In opposition to them, the leader of the Roman army was Qayqala’. He was killed in this battle and Allah defeated the polytheists. This took place in Jumad al Ula 13 A.H.

 

Khalifah Ibn Khayyat has also reported that in this battle of Ajnadayn, the brother of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Hisham ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was martyred.[18]

 

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu participated in the Battle of Yarmuk and underwent great difficulty and trials, but Allah granted the Muslims victory over the opposition.[19]

 

وقيل بعثه ابو عبيدة (بن الجراح) فصالح اهل حلب وانطاكية وافتتح سائر قنسرين عنوة

Some historians have written that later on, Sayyidina Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah radiya Llahu ‘anhu sent him to Halab, Rayy, Antakiyyah, etc., (and he gained control over these areas, continuing his advance) and conquered the area of Qinsarin.[20]

 

Khalifah Ibn Khayyat reports:

 

وولى عمر رضي الله عنه عمرو بن العاص رضي الله عنه فلسطين والاردن

‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu appointed ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu as the governor over Palestine and Jordan.[21]

Services to the Ummah in Egypt

The historians state that Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu wrote a letter to Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu instructing him to head towards Egypt. Subsequently, he departed for Egypt. Sayyidina Zubair ibn al ‘Awwam radiya Llahu ‘anhu and other Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were sent to Egypt to assist him and through their efforts, Egypt was conquered. Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu remained the governor of Egypt until the demise of Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu.[22]

 

فتح عمرو بن العاص الاسكندرية سنة احدى وعشرين…وقال النسوى كان فتح ليون سنة عشرين واميرها عمرو وقال خليفة افتتح عمرو طرابلس الغرب سنة اربع وعشرين وقيل سنة ثلاث

In accordance to the clear texts of the historians, in 21 A.H, ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu conquered Alexandria and in 20 A.H, the year before, he conquered an area called Alyun. After this, he turned towards Tarablus and in 23 A.H, he conquered it and brought it under Islamic rule.[23]

 

Imam al Nawawi rahimahu Llah has written in Tahdhib al Asma:

 

ثم ارسله عمر رضي الله عنه في جيش الى مصر ففتحها ولم يزل واليا عليها حتى توفي عمر ثم اقره عثمان عليها اربع سنين ثم عزله فاعتزل عمرو بفلسطين وكان ياتي المدينة احيانا

Then ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu sent him with an army to Egypt, and he conquered it. He remained the governor of Egypt until the demise of ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu, then ‘Uthman left him as governor for a further four years then relieved him. ‘Amr then settled in Palestine and he would come to Madinah from time to time.[24]

 

Note:-

Previously we discussed the expertise of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu with regards to warfare, the details can be found in the works of history, describing his exploits in battle and his contribution to the conquests. It shed light on his position and rank in Islam, and his efforts in the spread of Islam are brought to the fore.

 

The Arbitration Incident

The historians write that during the caliphate of Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, after being relieved as governor of Egypt, Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu would generally stay in Palestine. In Battle of Siffin between Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu both groups proposed arbitration for the sake of expediency. Sayyidina Abu Musa al Ash’ari radiya Llahu ‘anhu was chosen as an arbiter on behalf of Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was chosen as an arbiter on behalf of Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

 

Khalifah Ibn Khayyat writes:

 

وفيها (صفر ٣٧ ه) اجتمع الحكمان ابو موسى الاشعري رضي الله عنه من قبل علي رضي الله عنه وعمرو بن العاص رضي الله عنه من قبل معاوية رضي الله عنه بدومة الجندل في شهر رمضان ويقال باذرح وهي من دومة الجندل قريب فبعث علي ابن عباس ولم يحضر وحضر معاوية فلم يتفق الحكمان على شيئ

In Safar 37 A.H, the two arbiters — Abu Musa al Ash’ari representing ‘Ali and ‘Amr ibn al ‘As representing Muawiyah — met at Adhrah (or Badharah), close to Dowmat al Jandal (on the borders of Sham). ‘Ali sent Ibn ‘Abbas in his place and did not personally attend, and Muawiyah attended. The two arbiters could not agree upon anything.

(The details of this incident have been mentioned in the works of history works and we have discussed this in detail in our works; Sirah Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Sirah Amir Muawiyah vol. 1.)

 

In short, there was no deception or trickery that took place in the incident of arbitration that led to its failure (as the historians like Tabari (d. 310 A.H) have recorded), but the two arbiters differed with regards to the course of action, and as a result they could not come to an agreement on a solution. We have discussed this as reported from the oldest historian, Khalifah Ibn Khayyat (d. 240 A.H). It deserves our attention, and when taking into consideration the piety and just nature of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, this is most correct and authentic.

 

Attack

After the Battle of Siffin, Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu remained in Egypt — during the era of Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu — and he was appointed its governor and ruler. After the Battle of Nahrawan, in Ramadan 40 A.H, some of the Khawarij (‘Abdul Rahman ibn Muljim al Muradi, ‘Amr ibn Bukayr, Bark ibn ‘Abdullah) met in the Haram of Makkah and decided that these three, Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada, Sayyidina Muawiyah and Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhum, should be killed so that people could be saved from their oppression. They decided that this assassination should be carried out on the same day. ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Muljim al Muradi said:

I take the responsibility to kill ‘Ali ibn Talib.

 

Bark ibn ‘Abdullah said:

I shall kill Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan.

and ‘Amr ibn Bukayr promised to kill Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

 

We have discussed the fatal attack on Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu before, in Sirah Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Sirah Amir Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu vol. 1.

Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu was martyred through the attack of Ibn Muljim al Muradi. Bark ibn ‘Abdullah attacked Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu but only managed to wound him. Now, we shall discuss briefly the attack on Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

‘Amr ibn Bakr or ‘Amr ibn Bukayr entered Egypt with this objective in mind, and intended to attack at the time of Fajr Salah. On that day, Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu did not come to the masjid to lead the salah because of a stomach ailment and he sent his police officer, Kharijah ibn Abi Habibah (or Kharijah ibn Hudhafah), in his place. ‘Amr ibn Bukayr hid in the masjid with the intention to attack as soon as he arrived to lead the salah:

 

فحمل عليه الخارجي فقتله وهو يعتقد عمرو بن العاص فلما اخذ الخارجي قال اردت عمروا واراد الله خارجة فارسلها مثلا وقتل قبحه الله وقد قيل ان الذي قالها عمرو بن العاص رضي الله عنه وذالك حين جيئ بالخارجي فقال ما هذا؟ قالوا قتل نائبك خارجة ثم امر به فضربت عنقه

(Kharijah arrived for the salah and) ‘Amr ibn Bukayr attacked and killed him. When he was captured, he said: “My intention was to kill ‘Amr but Allah had willed the martyrdom of Kharijah.” Some say that Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu said this particular statement on this occasion. After this, the Khariji, Bark ibn ‘Abdullah, was killed.[25]

 

Final Moments

During the era of Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu remained the governor of Egypt and established an excellent administration system, and he continued efforts to spread Islam. Looking at his excellent abilities, Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu did not see any need to remove him and he remained for a major part of his life in Egypt.

As the years passed, the time came when Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu too suffered with the frailties of old age. During this time, Ibn Shumasah al Mahdi would attend to him. Due to the severity of his illness, he was in extreme difficulty. Ibn Shumasah narrates that Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu turned his face to the fall as he wept. His son, Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, asked: “O father, did Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam not convey glad tidings to you?” Sayyidina ‘Amr radiya Llahu ‘anhu turned to his son and said:

 

The best is the glad tidings of towhid and risalat (which I have). There have been three stages in my life:

  • My condition before Islam was that I harboured extreme enmity for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and I was desirous of taking his life. If I were to have passed away at that time, I would have definitely been among the dwellers of Jahannam.
  • After this, Allah placed the truth of Islam in my heart and I presented myself to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and asked that forgiveness of my sins be a condition for accepting Islam. (The detail of this discussion was mentioned before under the discussion of his coming to Islam, as narrated in Muslim). If I were to have passed away at that time, I would have definitely been of the dwellers of Jannat.
  • After that, I was put in charge of a number of affairs. I do not know how I will fare with regards to them.[26]
 

In addition to the narration above, the scholars have mentioned that when the demise of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu drew closer, he expressed his helplessness and inability before Allah, in this state of worry he said:

 

اللهم امرت بامور ونهيت عن امور تركنا كثيرا مما امرت ورتعنا في كثير مما نهيت اللهم لا اله الا انت …فلم يزل يهلل حتى فاض رضي الله عنه

“O Allah, You have instructed us with a number of things and You have forbidden us from a number of things. We have left out many commands and we have delved into much which You have prohibited. O Allah, there is no deity but You…” He continued reciting “there is no deity but Allah,” until he passed away, may Allah be pleased with him.[27]

The following is stated in the hadith:

 

عن معاذ (بن جبل) رضي الله عنه قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم من كان آخر كلامه لا اله الا الله دخل الجنة

Sayyidina Muaz ibn Jabal radiya Llahu ‘anhu narrates that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “He whose last words are ‘there is no deity but Allah,’ will enter Jannat.”[28]

 

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was reciting the kalimah of towhid till his last breath, which is a clear proof of noble departure from this world, and is a sign of his salvation in the hereafter as well as entry into Jannat.

 

Date of Demise

Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu was approximately seventy years old at the time of his demise and passed away on the night of ‘Id al Fitr. His Salat al Janazah was performed after the ‘Id Salah by his son, Sayyidina ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, and he was buried in Muqtim.[29]

 

A Misconception

There were certain statements that Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu uttered during his final moments, in his state of worry and concern for the hereafter, such as his statements:

 

اللهم امرت بامور ونهيت عن امور تركنا كثيرا مما امرت ورتعنا في كثير مما نهيت

O Allah, You have instructed us with a number of things and You have forbidden us from a number of things. We have left out many commands and we have delved into much which You have prohibited.

 

ثم وليت اشياء ما ادري ما حالي فيها

After that, I was put in charge of a number of affairs. I do not know how I will fare with regards to them.

 

On account of these statements, criticism has been levelled against Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu, with the claim being made that he openly attested to his errors and misdeeds, becoming utterly despondent of forgiveness, indicating a horrid departure.

 

Removing the Misconception

A number of points have been mentioned in this regard, and if one were to ponder over them objectively then this misconception will be removed, and all doubts will be dispelled.

Generally concern for the hereafter overpowers the pious servants of Allah, and in turn they express their helplessness and inability before Allah; seeking forgiveness. The words that they utter in such times are a sign of their humility, which is the fruit of their fear of Allah.

A few examples of this are presented to the readers which will bear testimony to the point above, more so when statements of this nature are found to be reported from Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

1. On one occasion, Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu stood and said: “After the Rasul of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the best of this ummah are Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. He then said:

 

انا قد احدثنا بعدهم احداثا يقضي الله تعالى فيها ما شاء

After him, we did a number of new things, Allah will decide as He wishes with regards to them.[30]

 

2. Abu Nuaim al Isfahani rahimahu Llah narrates with his chain of narration that on one occasion, Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu delivered a sermon wherein he said after praising and glorifying Allah: “O people, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was the best and most virtuous of this ummah. After him, the best person in the ummah is Abu Bakr, and after him ‘Umar.” He then said:

 

ثم احدثنا امورا يقضي الله فيها ما شاء

We then did a number of new things, Allah will decide as He wishes with regards to them.[31]

 

3. Khatib al Baghdadi rahimahu Llah reports in his work the advice of Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He would say that after Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the best of the ummah is Sayyidina Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu and Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Sayyidina ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu then said:

 

واحدثنا احداثا بعدهم يفعل الله ما يشاء

After them, we did a number of things, Allah will decide regarding them as He wishes.[32]

 

The purport of the above-mentioned words of Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu will be taken to be a sign of his immense fear of Allah. He uttered these words in humility, referring to his own shortcomings. It will never be correct to suggest that this was an admission of guilt or a blemish upon Sayyidina ‘Ali al Murtada radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

Similarly, another famous Sahabi, Sayyidina al Bara’ ibn ‘Azib radiya Llahu ‘anhu, also narrates these words. It is reported in al Bukhari:

 

العلاء بن المسيب عن ابيه قال لقيت البراء بن عازب رضي الله عنه فقلت طوبى لك صحبت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وبايعته تحت الشجرة فقال يا ابن اخي انك لا تدري ما احدثناه بعده (صلى الله عليه وسلم)

Al ‘Ala ibn al Musayyib narrates from his father, he said: “I met al Bara’ ibn ‘Azib radiya Llahu ‘anhu and I said: ‘Glad tidings for you, you had the companionship of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and pledged allegiance to him under the tree.’ In reply, al Bara’ ibn ‘Azib radiya Llahu ‘anhu said: ‘O nephew, you do not know what new things we did after Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.’[33]

 

In this also, Sayyidina al Bara’ ibn ‘Azib radiya Llahu ‘anhu said these words out of humility, displaying his helplessness before Allah. We cannot take the purport of these words to be that he was disobedient to Allah and sinful.

The summary of all of the above is that the statements of uttered by Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu in his final moments was on account of his concern for the hereafter and on account of being overpowered by the fear of Allah. Thus it is quite tactless to criticise him radiya Llahu ‘anhu and to level objections against him based upon such statements. On the contrary, it is a merit in his favour, a sign of taqwa and piety. These are signs of a noble ending and a blessed demise.

 

Final Words

The readers should weigh these criticisms against the blessed life of Sayyidina ‘Amr ibn al ‘As radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the services he rendered to the ummah (as was explained in brief in the beginning of the section), and then decide whether they have any merit. A critical objective study carried out in manner will answer all these misconceptions, and there will be no need for further discussion. If the circumstances of each stage of his life is kept in mind — his early years, the era of Islam, and then his last days — then there will remain no need to defend or clarify anything. His deeds after him embracing Islam are sufficient reply to all the allegations. If all this is cast aside, and one’s objective is only to criticise and degrade, then this is a result of innate malice and enmity, for which there is no treatment. And Allah is the guide; Allah guides whomsoever He wishes to the straight path.

 

[1]Fulk al Najat fi al Imamah wa al Salah vol. 1 p. 93, 94, ‘Ali Muhammad Shi’i and Amir Din Hakim Shi’i Jangwi

[2] Al Sirah al Nabawiyyah of Ibn Hisham vol. 2 p. 277, Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 40, Usd al Ghabah vol. 4 p. 116

[3]Usd al Ghabah vol. 4 p. 116, Muslim vol. 1 p. 76, Tahdhib al Asma’ wa l-Lughat vol. 1 p. 30

[4]Muslim vol. 1 p. 76

[5]Al Mustadrak vol. 3 p. 452, Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 38

[6]Al Sunan al Kubra vol. 5 p. 81, 82, Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 43

[7]Fada’il al Sahabah of Imam Ahmed vol. 2 p. 911, narration: 1742, 1743, Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 38

[8]Al Isabah vol. 3 p. 2, Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 38

[9] Tahdhib al Tahdhib al Kamal vol. 2 p. 288

[10]Al Mustadrak vol. 3 p. 455, Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 44

[11]Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 40, Tarikh al Islam vol. 2 p. 39

[12]Tahdhib al Asma’ wa l-Lughat vol. 1 p. 30, Usd al Ghabah vol. 4 p. 116, Sirah al Nabawiyyah, Ibn Hisham vol. 2 p. 623

[13]Fada’il al Sahabah vol. 2 p. 912, Musnad Imam Ahmed vol. 4 p. 197, p. 202, Sirah al Muawiyah, Sheikh Muhammad Nafi’ vol. 1 p. 239

[14] Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d vol. 2 p. 105, 106

[15]Musnad Imam Ahmed vol. 4 p. 205

[16]Tabaqat Ibn Sa’d vol. 1 p. 18, Sirah Ibn Hisham vol. 2 p. 607

[17]Tarikh Khalifah Ibn Khayyat vol. 1 p. 86

[18]Tarikh Khalifah Ibn Khayyat vol. 1 p. 87

[19]Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 2 p. 46

[20]Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 46, Al Isabah vol. 3 p. 2

[21]Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyat vol. 1 p. 129, Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 46

[22]Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyat vol. 1 p. 130, Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 46

[23] Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 46, 47, Tarikh Khalifah ibn Khayyat vol. 1 p. 125

[24]Tahdhib al Asma’ wa l-Lughat vol. 1 p. 30, Usd al Ghabah vol. 4 p. 117

[25] Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah vol. 7 p. 329, Majma’ al Zawa’id vol. 9 p. 141, p. 294

[26]Muslim vol. 1 p. 76, Tahdhib al Asma’ wa l-Lughat vol. 1 p. 31

[27] Siyar A’lam al Nubala’ vol. 3 p. 51, Tahdhib al Asma’ wa l-Lughat vol. 1 p. 30

[28]Riyad al Salihin p. 376, from Abu Dawood, and al Hakim

[29]Tahdhib al Asma’ wa l-Lughat vol. 1 p. 30, Usd al Ghabah vol. 4 p. 117

[30]Musnad Imam Ahmed vol. 1 p. 115

[31]Akhbar Isfahan vol. 1 p. 335

[32]Mudih Awham al Jam’ wa al Tafriq vol. 2 p. 9

[33]Bukhari vol. 2 p. 599

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