Islamic Date28 Jumada al-ula
English Date23 January
Abu Ubaidah Bin Al-Jarrah
Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah
His appearance was striking. He was slim and tall. His face was bright and he had a sparse beard. It was pleasing to look at him and refreshing to meet him. He was extremely courteous, humble and quite shy. Yet in a tough situation, he would become strikingly serious and alert, resembling the flashing blade of a sword in his severity and sharpness. His name was Amir bin Abdullah al-Jarrah, and he was commonly known as Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhu). [The Nation's Trustworthy; Abdul Basit Ahmad]
If a person is dying from an illness and a cure is offered to him, he will take it at any cost. For Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu), the world was a depressing place. But once he came to know his Lord and Creator through Islam, and the purpose of his existence, he took Islam as a dying person takes medicine. For the same reason even today, despite the miserable condition of Muslims, people are embracing Islam in huge numbers. Because no matter how bad one's circumstances in this world, the promise of the everlasting Akhirah makes existence meaningful again.
Abu Bakr, who was the first man to accept Islam, was a close friend of Abu Ubaidah's (radi Allahu anhuma). As soon as Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) explained to him the values and faith that the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) was preaching, he asked Abu Bakr to arrange a meeting with the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), to hear from him directly. Upon meeting the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) and hearing the Quran, Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) realized that the propaganda against the Prophet by the Quraish was not true. Thus, he also became one of the first people to embrace Islam. He became a Muslim one day after Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu). [The Nation's Trustworthy]
Of him Amr bin Al-Aas (radi Allahu anhu) said: "Three persons in the tribe of Quraish were most prominent, had the best character, and were the most modest. If they spoke to you, they would not deceive you and if you spoke to them, they would not accuse you of lying: Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Uthman bin Affan and Abu Ubaidah bin al-Jarrah." [The Nation's Trustworthy]
Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) was active in preaching Islam secretly in the days when the Quraish were violent in their opposition to Islam and Muslims. As Islam grew in Makkah, the new Muslims faced greater and greater persecution. Some of them were even killed. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) had his share of suffering, but seeing how the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) was patient, made him steadfast.
Sanctions were imposed by the Quraish on all the Muslims as well as on the Prophet's clan, the Bani Hashim, since they supported him (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam). Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) suffered this boycott with the other Muslims. They were besieged in a valley, all commercial and familial ties were cut, and they were deprived of any source of food. Conditions became so bad that people were forced to eat the leaves off trees and the screams of suffering children could be heard from the valley.
In the last 15-20 years we have come to know again what sanctions are all about and what they can do to a people. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) along with the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) spent three tough years under these conditions. What enabled the Muslims to remain firmly on the obedience to Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) was their knowledge that the life of this world compared to the life of the Akhirah is like a drop compared to an ocean. Therefore, no matter what happened to them in this world, the final success would be theirs. The ocean of happiness beckoned.
The sanctions eventually failed and had to be ended, but the Muslims continued to face extreme hardships. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) migrated to Abyssinia in the second migration that took place to Abyssinia. He remained there till the Muslims migrated to Medina.
Upon receiving news of the migration to Medina, Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) left Abyssinia to join his fellow Muslims in the new Islamic State. He, therefore, got the reward of two migrations for the sake of Islam. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) got to participate in building the first masjid in Medina.
A Tough Test at Badr
Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) had experienced with the early Muslims the insults, violence, pain and sorrow of life as a Muslim in Makkah. Although safe from all this in Medina, there were greater trials that he had yet to go through.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) had barely set up the Islamic State when the polytheists of Makkah brought an army that threatened its very existence. The two armies met at Badr. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) was one of the 313 men who defended the Muslims and the nascent Islamic State against the warriors of the Quraish who were three times greater in number and armed to the teeth.
Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) fought bravely. The Quraish cavalry was extremely wary of him and avoided coming face to face. Abu Ubaidah's father, however, had taken an oath to kill his son if he saw him. He saw Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) and pursued him. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) turned away from him but his father continued to go after him. His father succeeded in blocking his path and stood as a barrier between him and the Quraish. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) had no choice but to defend his life and his faith. He struck one blow to his father's head which killed him instantly.
This was one of the most harrowing experiences that Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) had to go through. He, obviously, had not wanted to kill his father, but in the battle between faith in Allah and polytheism, the choice although profoundly disturbing, was clear. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) was nevertheless worried that he might have committed a huge sin by killing his parent.
It is concerning this event that Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) revealed the following ayaat of the Quran that gave Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) peace: ''You will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such, He has inscribed faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself. And He will admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever. Allah will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of Allah. Truly it is the Party of Allah that will achieve felicity.'' [58:22]
The response of Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) at Badr was possible because he had attained the strength of conviction in Allah (subhana wa ta'ala), devotion to His religion, and a level of concern for the Ummah of Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), to which many only aspire.
There is an important lesson for us here. While Abu Ubaidah's father was a disbeliever, believers need to be just as wary of other Muslims who persist in disobeying Allah (subhana wa ta'ala). Otherwise, when Allah's wrath descends, it will envelope them all together. In Surah Baqarah of the Quran, Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) mentions the story of Bani Israel's disobedience of Allah's orders. They slyly caught fish on Saturday by putting their nets in the water on Friday and pulling them in on Sunday, as though they could fool Allah (subhana wa ta'ala)!
Ibn Katheer mentions in his tafseer, on the authority of Ibn Abbas (radi Allahu anhu), that the people in the village divided into three groups. One group was of the wrong doers, who violated Allah's laws and manipulatively caught fish on Saturdays.
The second group was of true believers who not only obeyed Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) but also warned the transgressors of the wrath of Allah (subhana wa ta'ala). When the sinners refused to heed their warning, they disassociated themselves from the transgressors as well as the third group, by building a wall with a door in it, between themselves and the others.
The third group was of those believers who tried to play both sides. They did not catch fish themselves but also did not tell the transgressors not to. Nor did they dissociate from the sinners. Additionally, they told the true believers that they had done their job by warning the sinners and should back off now.
When Allah's punishment descended and the sinners were turned into apes, the third group that had stayed with the transgressors was also turned into apes. This tells us that true believers must keep themselves clear of both groups; those who sin and those who do not warn others against sinning, downplaying the sin of the wrong doers. Today the Muslims who are trying to please both sides should be warned that there are in Allah's eyes only two groups; those who sin and those who continuously oppose the sin.
The Most Trustworthy
The Christian rulers of Najran, Al-Aqib and Saiyid, came to the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) to consent to live as non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic State. Zakat is collected from Muslims, while Kharaj is collected from non-Muslims and their protection then becomes the duty of the State. So these men said to Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) regarding the Kharaj collector, "Send an honest man to us." The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, "I will send to you an honest man who is really trustworthy."Every one of the Companions of Allah's Messenger wished to be that one. [Bukhari]
Umar ibn al-Khattab (radi Allahu anhu) said: "I went to the Zuhr (midday) prayer early, hoping to be the one who would fit the description of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam). When the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) had finished the prayer, he began looking to his right and his left and I raised myself so that he could see me. But he continued looking among us until he spotted Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, 'Get up, O Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah.' When he got up, Allah's Apostle said: 'Every Ummah has a most trustworthy (Ameen) man; Abu Ubaidah is the most trustworthy of this (Muslim) nation.'''
Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) had learned from the best teacher that nothing in life can equal the reward on the Day of Judgement for those who are honest and trustworthy. Subhan Allah, these people sound too good to be true. For the people who pose as role models today, it's all about themselves; whereas the Companions of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) were always thinking of how to attain the pleasure of Allah (subhana wa ta'ala).
Defending the Prophet at Uhud
During the battle of Uhud when the Muslims were being routed, there came a critical point when the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) was being assaulted, while all he had around him defending him, were seven of the Ansar and two Muhajireen. When the rest of the Muslims came to know of the grave situation that the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) was in, they rushed to protect him.
Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) says he was the first to return to the aid of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam). On the way he was overtaken by Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhu) who was moving as swiftly as a bird. Unfortunately, by the time they reached Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), all the Ansar protecting him had been martyred, Talha bin Ubaidullah (radi Allahu anhu), one of the two Muhajireen, lay in a ditch seriously wounded. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) had also been injured. One of the Prophet's molar teeth had been broken, his forehead was bashed in and two rings from his iron ringed helmet had penetrated his cheeks by the force of a blow. [Zad Al-Ma'ad, quoted in The Sealed Nectar by Safi-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri]
Abu Bakr and Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhuma) both wanted to dress the Prophet's wounds. Abu Bakr set out to take the two rings but Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhuma) pleaded: 'By Allah, O Abu Bakr – I beseech you, let me do it myself.' Fearing to hurt the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) by taking them out with his hand, Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) started pulling one of the two rings out very slowly and carefully with his teeth. Then he pulled the arrow out with his mouth too. Consequently, his front tooth broke. Then Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhuma) sought to pull the second ring out but Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhuma) insisted again to let him have the honour saying: 'O Abu Bakr, I adjure you by Allah to let me do it.' [Zad Al-Ma'ad]
Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) proceeded to pull the second ring out carefully with his other incisor. He extracted the metal ring but lost that tooth also. Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) remarked, "Abu Ubaidah is the best of men at breaking incisor teeth!" Subhan Allah! It is no wonder that he was one of the ten Sahabah who was given the glad tidings of Jannah by Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) while alive. A question that each Muslim should ask himself/herself is, How much trouble have I gone through to defend the person most beloved to Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) -- Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam)? If our ambition is the pleasure of Allah (subhana wa ta'ala), then here is an example of an action to match such an ambition.
Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) was trustworthy and tough. It is not possible to always discharge the trust placed in one, unless one has strength, determination and resilience. Abu Ubaidah’s resilience was proven on several occasions.
One such occasion occurred when Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) sent Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah with 300 Ansar and Muhajireen (radi Allahu anhum), to the sea coast, to watch the caravan of the Quraish. They set out and had covered some distance when their food ran short. So Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) ordered that all the food present with the troops be collected, and it was collected. Their journey food was dates, and Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) kept giving a daily ration from it in small amounts. The share of each man under his command was only one date a day. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) would suck on the date and then drink some water. This would suffice him for the whole day. Jabir bin Abdullah (radi Allahu anhu), a soldier of this army, was asked: "How could one date benefit you?" He replied, "We came to know its value when even that finished." [Bukhari]
They stayed at the seashore for half a month and were struck with such severe hunger that they ate even the Khabt (leaves of a thorny desert tree). Because of this, this army came to be known as Jaish-ul-Khabt.
Then the sea threw out a fish like a small mountain, called Al-Anbar. The troops ate it for 18 days. They rubbed its fat on their bodies till they became strong and healthy again. "Then Abu Ubaidah ordered that two of its ribs be fixed on the ground (in the form of an arch) and that a she-camel be ridden and passed under them. So it passed under the ribs without touching them." [Bukhari] This is how huge the fish was. The army brought some of its meat back with them to Medina and the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) asked for some of it.
The means by which Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) fed this army is an example of the karamaat (miracles) that Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) brings about for His mujahideen. The crucial pre-requisite is that the mujahideen make themselves worthy of Allah's karamaat.
The Faithful Soldier
Through Badr, Uhud, Jaish-ul-Khabt, and the rest of his life, Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) proved to be a loyal soldier. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) was commissioned by the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) to lead many military efforts against the enemies of Allah (subhana wa ta'ala), who plotted to harm the Muslims and stop the spread of Islam.
Some of these expeditions were against tribes around Medina that periodically assaulted the property of the Muslims. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) with his companions stopped their offences.
Another expedition Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) participated in was against the tribes that had allied themselves with the Romans. The Romans on the northern borders of Arabia had concluded a pact with the Quda'a tribe on the borders of Syria to cause disruption to the Islamic State. This combined with provocative military movements of the Bani Quda'a made the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) deem it necessary to make a preemptive move.
So the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) sent Amr bin Al-Aas (radi Allahu anhu) with 300 Ansar and Muhajireen, assisted by a cavalry of 30 men, to fight them. Amr (radi Allahu anhu) saw that he could not fight the enemy with the small group of soldiers that he had. So he sent an envoy to the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) asking for help. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) sent two hundred men under the command of Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) to reinforce him. [The Sealed Nectar]
When the two groups met, Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhu) wanted to lead the Muslims in prayer, but Amr bin Al-Aas (radi Allahu anhu) told him that since he was the one who had been assigned the expedition initially and Abu Ubaidah had been sent to assist, therefore, Amr should lead the Muslims in prayer.
The significance of leading in prayer is that it is the leader who does so. In Islam, the spiritual, military and political office is one, combined in the person called the Imam. Unfortunately, due to our weak Eemaan today, we have people as our leaders who don't even know how to properly perform Salah. Abu Ubaidah, although senior to Amr (radi Allahu anhu), did not object to this. His focus was the pleasure of Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) and fulfillment of the task. It did not matter to him whether he fought as a commander or an ordinary soldier.
Candidate for Supreme Ruler
The death of Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) was a great shock to all the companions including Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu). But they understood that their religion was now complete and that they had to carry it on from here themselves.
Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) and some other Muslims were busy preparing the body of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) for burial, when they received news that the Ansar had gathered at the Saqifah (meeting place) of Banu Sa'aadah, to decide the successor from amongst themselves. This day is known in history as the Day of Saqifah.
This was a delicate issue and could have resulted in a great fitna. Abu Bakr, Umar and Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhum) acted quickly to resolve the matter. They immediately went to the meeting and Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) suggested that the Khalifah should be from the tribe of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) in order for him to be acceptable to all of the Arabs. The Quraish had additionally, always held religious authority in Arabia anyway.
When all agreed to this, Abu Bakr held up Abu Ubaidah's hand along with Umar's and asked the people of Medina to pledge loyalty to either of them as the first Khalifah of Rasul Allah. [The Pious Caliphs, Dr Majid Ali Khan]
Umar ibn al-Khattab said to Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhuma), "Stretch forth your hand and I will swear allegiance to you for I heard the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) say, 'Every Ummah has an Ameen (trustworthy custodian) and you are the Ameen of this Ummah.'"
"I would not," declared Abu Ubaidah referring to Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhuma), "put myself forward in the presence of a man whom the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) commanded to lead us in prayer and who led us right until the Prophet's death."
Umar (radi Allahu anhu) then reminded all present of the virtues of Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) saying: "Abu Bakr is the best of all of us because Allah has mentioned him in the Quran saying, 'The one amongst two in the cave.'" He also reminded them of Abu Bakr's excellence at every occasion during the life of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), including his having been appointed by Rasul Allah as the leader of the Hajj caravan and as the Imam of the Muslims in prayer, during his final illness. All present then gave bay'ah (the oath of allegiance) to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (radi Allahu anhu). [The Pious Caliphs]
It is important to note here, that contrary to power seeking and power grabbing, which we see as the common practice today without exception, Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) had wept and said it was unthinkable for him to even be considered for such a position when Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) was present. He rejected the post and preferred to remain a humble member of the Ummah. Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) continued to be a close adviser to Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) and his strong supporter in the cause of truth and goodness.
Abu Ubaidah During the Khilafah of Abu Bakr
When Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) became Khalifah, he appointed Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhu) in charge of the treasury. Zakat, Sadaqa and Kharaj that came to Medina for the Bait-ul-Maal was under the charge of Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu). [The Pious Caliphs]
Many problems arose upon the death of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam). All powers that hid hostility towards Islam now raised their heads and declared open enmity. The Romans were also furious to see Islam spreading so quickly and so strongly. They were planning to attack the Islamic State and every effort was needed to protect the fortress of Islam.
Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) was thus reassigned from Head of Treasury to be a Commander of the Islamic State's army. Here, we witness the versatility of strengths in the Sahabah. They were not limited to a single role. When the need arose, any man of the Ummah, whether merchant, scholar, or administrator, could rise to physically defend the Muslims.
Khalifah Abu Bakr commissioned Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhuma) to march to Hims to tackle the Romans. Three other battalions were also commissioned to the other parts of Greater Syria under the commands of Amr bin Al-Aas, Yazid bin Abi Sufyan and Shurahbeel bin Masna (radi Allahu anhum). All were given instructions that when they meet, their General Commander would be Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu). [The Pious Caliphs]
Hearing of the size of the Roman Imperial army gathering at Ajnadayn, Abu Ubaidah sent an envoy to Abu Bakr (radi Allahu anhuma) and requested more soldiers. Abu Bakr sent Khalid bin Waleed, who was at the eastern front fighting the Persians, to join Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhum) as the new commander of the combined army. Abu Ubaidah willingly handed over command to Khalid bin Waleed (radi Allahu anhuma), as again his focus was not to command but to serve Allah (subhana wa ta'ala).
All forces gathered at Ajnadayn. This major battle between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Islamic State was fought in 634 CE. While the battle was raging, Abu Ubaidah received a message from Medina that Abu Bakr had passed away and Umar bin Al-Khattab, in his capacity as the new Khalifah, had reappointed him as the Commander in Chief of the army, in place of Khalid bin Waleed (radi Allahu anhum). Abu Ubaidah told the messenger to keep the message secret as long as the battle was on.
After the battle ended, Abu Ubaidah gave the message to Khalid bin Waleed (radi Allahu anhuma). Khalid bin Waleed (radi Allahu anhu) was astonished. He kissed Abu Ubaidah’s forehead and exclaimed, 'Why did you not tell me before?' Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) replied: "I did not want to confuse you in the middle of the battle. You know it is not worldly things that we look for. We are all brothers." Khalid accepted the instructions and continued to fight valiantly under the command of Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhuma). [The Nation's Trustworthy]
By the will of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) the battle of Ajnadayn ended in victory for the Muslims. In it the Muslim army of 32,000 confronted the Roman army of 90,000 soldiers. 450 Muslims were martyred while Roman casualties were 50,000. [Al-Waqidi]
Abu Ubaidah The Commander in Chief
The first dispatch of Umar to Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhuma), after appointing him as Commander in Chief was: "I counsel you to fear that Allah who is Ever Living and everything will perish but He; Who directed us by taking us out of misguidance and brought us to light from darkness. I have appointed you commander of the army of Khalid bin Waleed. Look after the army according to your right; don't lead Muslims (soldiers) to destruction in the hope of the spoils of war. Don't carry the Muslims to a place unless it is known to you in all respects including its direction. Never dispatch but a big army and always try to be guarded against disaster. Verily! Allah has caused both of us to test each other. Keep your eyes closed to the world and set your heart aside from it. Beware of the world lest it spoil you as it has done with your predecessors; and you have already observed the places of their disasters." [Hayatus Sahabah, p.136-137, Vol.2; Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Kandhlawi].
Subhan Allah, this is what the advise of one Momin to another looks like! Today's Muslim leaders couldn't give such an advice as they wouldn't even know what Umar (radi Allahu anhu) meant by these words.
The battle of Ajnadayn had resulted in Palestine and southern Syria coming under Muslim rule. The Roman emperor was seriously alarmed by his losses and prepared an even larger army to save his empire. The battle of Yarmouk thus took place in 636 CE. It proved to be one of the most decisive battles in human history. Greater Syria (all land east of the Mediterranean, i.e., Jordan, current day Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and parts of Iraq) came under Islamic rule. Primary sources such as Baladhuri state that 200,000 Roman soldiers were pitched against 24,000 Muslims. 70,000 Roman soldiers were killed versus 4,000 Muslim soldiers martyred. Khalid bin Waleed's superior credentials as a tactician and cavalry commander were cemented as a result of the battle of Yarmouk.
From 634-638 CE Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhu) was the Commander in Chief of the army of the Islamic State. This army had succeeded in establishing the system of governance revealed by Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) over areas where the two super powers of the time had previously ruled with man made oppressive law. The Persian and Eastern Roman Empires that had been threatening to destroy the Islamic State had been subdued. But the piety of the Commander in Chief was such that when Umar (radi Allahu anhu) visited him, he found Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) lying on the sheet of his camel's saddle, making a bundle of it as a pillow. Umar (radi Allahu anhu) asked him, 'Have you not taken what your other companions have?' Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) replied, 'O Amir ul-Mumineen! It is enough for me to reach my grave!' [Hayatus Sahabah]
Thus, those who understood the reality of this world, wished to quickly reach their graves, lest the temptations of luxury beguile them away from the path of Allah (subhana wa ta'ala). Shaytan whispers to man, every second of his life, to turn away from the path of Allah, to lose himself in the pleasures of this world, so that eternal pleasure in Jannah is denied him. Shaytan is humans' avowed enemy. But most of mankind is not alert to this!
The Selfless Governor
During the Khilafah of Umar, from 634-638 CE, Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) was not only the Commander in Chief of the Muslim army but also Governor of Greater Syria. Umar (radi Allahu anhu) came to Syria during this time. The dignitaries and masses alike came to see him. Umar (radi Allahu anhu) asked, 'Where is my brother?' On inquiry who this man was, Umar (radi Allahu anhu) replied, 'Abu Ubaidah.' When Abu Ubaidah came, Umar (radi Allahu anhuma) got down from his camel, embraced him, and accompanied him to his house. In Abu Ubaidah's modest dwelling was nothing but his sword, a shield, a lance and a horse saddle. [Hilyat-ul Awliya Wa Tabaqat al-Asfiya; Imam Abu Naim al-Asfahani]
Once Umar (radi Allahu anhu) gave his slave a purse containing four hundred dinars. He told his slave to carry the amount to Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhu) and wait a while to see what he did with the money. The slave brought the money to him and said, 'The Amir ul-Mumineen has sent you this amount to spend it as you like.' Seeking blessings of Allah (for Umar), he called his slave girl and asked her to distribute the amount among various needy people. When the entire amount was distributed, the slave came back to Umar (radi Allahu anhu) and narrated what he had observed. He was then given a purse to carry to Hudhaifa bin Yaman, and later one to Mu'adh bin Jabal (radi Allahu anhuma), with the same instructions. They disposed of the wealth in the same manner as Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) had. [Hayatus Sahabah, p.260, Vol.2]
These are examples of men who were in leadership positions truly to serve the common man. They put a hold on their own needs, and sacrificed their own comforts so that they may have an easier accountability before the Lord of all mankind. Today’s leaders can’t even imagine putting themselves into a little discomfort for the very people they are supposed to serve. The scope of their thinking is limited to this Dunya and the things it can offer. The Akhirah is not even the last thing on their minds.
On an occasion Umar (radi Allahu anhu) asked his companions to think of what they could wish for. One said that he would like to have a room full of gold so he could distribute it in the path of Allah. Another said that he wished for a house full of pearls, chrysolites and all kinds of precious gems that he would happily spend for Islam. Umar (radi Allahu anhu) said, "I wish that I had this house full of men like Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah, Mu’adh bin Jabal and Hudhaifa bin Yaman." [Hilyat-ul Awliya Wa Tabaqat al-Asfiya]
Look at the pomp of today's leaders and rulers! You will be able to tell immediately who is working for the gains of this world, and who is working for Allah's pleasure and eternal reward. Although these rulers have every worthless worldly accolade, their worth can be judged by what their people think of them.
The Siege of Jerusalem
Abu Ubaidah joined Amr bin al-As and Khalid bin Waleed (radi Allahu anhum) in laying siege to Jerusalem in 636-637 CE. The ruler of Jerusalem offered a peaceful truce, provided that the Khalifah came in person to sign the treaty. So Umar (radi Allahu anhu) left Medina for Jerusalem. As Umar (radi Allahu anhu) was entering the city, it was his slave's turn to ride the camel. His slave offered his turn to the Khalifah, but Umar (radi Allahu anhu) remarked: "The honour of Islam (being Muslim) is enough for all of us." [The Pious Caliphs] He didn't deem it necessary to honour himself with a particular type of conveyance.
Thus, when Umar (radi Allahu anhu) entered Jerusalem, he was holding the rope of his camel leading it; his clothes were patched and, having gone through a muddy patch, were also dirty. His generals suggested that he change his clothes so that the people of Jerusalem, accustomed to the pomp of kings and emperors, were not dissuaded from handing the keys of Jerusalem over to him. He hit them on the chest, pushing them back, and reminded them that they had been a disgraced nation. Islam is what had elevated them and should they seek honour from anything else, they would surely fail. "The only way for success is the way of the Holy Prophet" he said.
This is a very important lesson for us. We are today busy seeking honour through clothes, cars, name brands, degrees and pats on the back from those in power. Whereas, there is nothing but disgrace for us, so long as we don’t return to the path trodden by the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam).
Martyred by the Plague
Throughout the Khilafah of Umar, Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) gave him his support and obedience. He did not disobey him except once. This happened when plague had hit the land of Greater Syria and devastated the population.
Umar (radi Allahu anhu) quickly dispatched a messenger to Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) with a letter, saying: "I am in urgent need of you. If my letter reaches you at night I strongly urge you to leave before dawn. If this letter reaches you during the day, I strongly urge you to leave before evening and hasten to me."
When Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhu) received Umar's letter, he said, "I know why the Amir ul-Mumineen needs me. He wants to secure the survival of someone who, however, is not eternal."
So he wrote to Umar (radi Allahu anhu): "I know that you need me. But I am in an army of Muslims and I have no desire to save myself from what is afflicting them. I do not want to separate from them until Allah wills. So, when this letter reaches you, release me from your command and permit me to stay on."
When Umar (radi Allahu anhu) read this letter his eyes filled with tears and those who were with him asked, "Has Abu Ubaidah died, O Amir ul-Mumineen?" "No," said he, "But death is near to him."
Umar's intuition was correct. Before long, Abu Ubaidah (radi Allahu anhu) became afflicted with the plague. As death hung over him, he spoke to his army: "I would like to give you some counsel and if you accept it, you will live in peace and prosperity. Keep up your prayers (salah), observe fasts during Ramadhan, offer charity, perform Hajj and Umrah, counsel in regard to each others rights, avoid frequent presences to your Heads and let not the world make you careless. Even if a life of one thousand years is conferred upon someone, he is finally to reach where I am going now. Allah, the Sublime, has written death for the offspring of Adam and hence all of them will die. The wise among them is the one who is more obedient to his Lord, and performs good deeds for the Hereafter. Was salamo alaikum wa rahmatullah. O Mu’adh bin Jabal! Lead the people in prayer." [Hayatus Sahabah, p.150, Vol.2]
Having said this he passed away. Mu'adh bin Jabal (radi Allahu anhu) got up and said: "O people, you are stricken by the death of a man. By Allah, I don't know whether I have seen a man who had a more righteous heart, who was further from all evil and who was more sincere to people than he. Ask Allah to shower His mercy on him and Allah will be merciful to you." Abu Ubaidah’s grave is in Jordan. He died in the year 638 CE. [Hayatus Sahabah]
Regarding him, Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) had said: "What an excellent man is Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah." According to Aisha (radi Allahu anha), after Abu Bakr and Umar (radi Allahu anhuma), Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah (radi Allahu anhu) was most beloved to Allah's Messenger among all people. [Jami At-Tirmidhi, Sahih]