Mus’ab ibn ‘Umayr: The First Ambassador of Islam

Most people find it easier to blend in with the crowd rather than stand out and open themselves to criticism and ridicule. This has been the case from olden times until now. But many people have succeeded in overcoming the obstacles in their lives and have developed into noble, great, and legendary characters. Such is the case with Mus`ab ibn `Umayr.Mus`ab was born into a wealthy family headed by a mother whose strength of personality and dominating character were well-known in Makkah. Mus`ab was given everything a young person could dream of. He wore the most fashionable clothes and shoes, mixed with the most popular and notable people of his area, and was greatly admired by all. Added to this was his natural personality: he was a good communicator; he had a bright intelligent mind; he was quick and alert and so was allowed to attend the most prestigious meetings with intelligent, elderly, and noble people. Mus`ab had everything a young person of his time could ever dream of. So what could ever make him consider giving it all up?

Mus`ab would walk the streets of Makkah tall, confident, well-dressed, loved, and perhaps envied by some, and during one such time he came to know about Muhammad who was known as Al-Amin (the trustworthy). This man called Muhammad (peace be upon him) claimed to have been given a message by the Creator and Lord of all. Makkah buzzed with this news and talk spread quickly that the idols they worshipped were being threatened by a man who they had always loved, trusted, and respected. To them it was a curious matter. Mus`ab, being intelligent and inquisitive, wanted to know more about the matter. During his many talks with the notables of Makkah Mus`ab came to know that the Muslims (for that is what the followers of Muhammad (peace be upon him) called themselves) met in the house of Al-Arqam in the outskirts of Makkah. Mus`ab decided to go and have a look and see for himself what all this was about.


Makkah at the time was full of spies and informants and so it wasn’t long before Mus`ab’s comings and goings were noted and reported. His mother was furious.


The young, handsome man quietly and with dignity entered the house of Al-Arqam and heard the recitation of the Qur’an—a thing that led many like him to Islam. He was overwhelmed by what he heard and felt. The words of the Qur’an made a deep and lasting impression on him. Mus`ab was young but decisive and determined. With strength of character and a pious heart he met the Prophet (peace be upon him) and a historic moment was recorded by the angels on high when Mus`ab declared his acceptance of Islam at the hands of the Prophet himself (peace be upon him).

Mus`ab had grown up without fear of anything or anyone. He was sure of himself, kind, confident, and clever but nevertheless he was just a human being. The one thing that Mus`ab feared was his own mother. She was a strong and fierce woman and was well-known as such. After considering his situation for some time Mus`ab decided to keep his acceptance of Islam a secret for a while until the best way showed itself. In the meantime, he continued to visit the house of Al-Arqam where he received knowledge about Islam and learnt the Qur’an.

Makkah was full of spies and informants and so it wasn’t long before Mus`ab’s comings and goings were noted and reported. You can imagine how furious his mother was. The news spread like a storm and the power of his mother’s fury came down on him. Basically Mus`ab was confident but since he accepted Islam there came over him more of a sense of tranquility, calmness, and inner resourcefulness. In this way, he faced his furious mother with an air of determination and dignity. He didn’t engage in a debate about the worship of Allah or that of idols; he didn’t shout and rebuke; he didn’t say demeaning mean words; he simply told her that he had in fact become a Muslim and quietly explained to her why he had done that. Regardless of her rantings he remained calm. He recited some verses to her with the hope that she would understand what he was doing but she refused to listen and was haughty. Perhaps what bothered her a lot was the fact that most of Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) early followers were from the poor people and it was unthinkable that her son, Mus`ab, would ever be counted among such people. It was simply unthinkable! She didn’t realize that the message of Islam is for all and that even poor, uneducated people can gain wisdom and nobility from imbibing its pure teachings. Mus`ab knew this and that is why he never considered himself superior to any of the Muslims despite his wealth.

His mother wanted to beat him and degrade him to compensate herself for the sorrow and humiliation she felt. But then she thought of something better and perhaps more lasting. She ordered her servants to take her son and bind him tightly; keep him a prisoner in his own home.

As usual Mus`ab remained calm but sought the first opportunity to escape. Allah the Almighty opened the way for him and he left with a group of the Muslims who were heading for Abyssinia seeking safety there from the persecution of the Makkans. So Mus`ab left his mother, his home, his wealth, the city of the childhood and headed off to the unknown. His sure and strong faith in Allah made him strong, determined, and peaceful.


Mus`ab was seen walking around Makkah with a smile on his face and light and hope beaming from his eyes.


After some time Mus`ab heard news that it was now safe to return to Makkah. He set off at once but upon arrival he learned that the situation was still the same. Inevitably he once again confronted his mother who was unsure what she should do now. Once again he explained the simple and beautiful message of Islam and invited her to join him but she was persistent and chose to follow the idols and the ways of her forefathers—helpless in her pride and arrogance to admit she was wrong. She threatened once again to have him tied up and imprisoned but this time the gentle Mus`ab told her in no uncertain terms that if she tried that again he would kill anyone who helped her to do that. His mother saw the glint of determination in his eyes and succumbed. She told him in an offhand manner to go on his way and not to darken her door again. He was no longer her son. Mus`ab came close to her and tried one more time to advise her and invite her to the mercy of Allah the Almighty and the truth of His messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) but she simply couldn’t. Moreover, in her arrogance she swore by the shooting stars that she would never accept Islam even if she was ridiculed. There was nothing more that Mus`ab could do. He left.

Not only did he leave his mother and home but he also left the wealth and luxury he had been brought up in. Some people would feel sad and disillusioned if such a fate befell them; it may even cause them to be depressed and hopeless in life, but not with Mus`ab. He was seen walking around Makkah with a smile on his face and light and hope beaming from his eyes. His time was spent in learning Islam and spending time with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his noble companions, of which he was now one.

One time the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions were sitting and they saw Mus`ab approaching. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I have seen this Mus`ab with his parents in Makkah. They lavished care and attention on him and gave him all comforts. There was no Quraish youth like him. Then he left all that seeking the pleasure of Allah and devoting himself to the service of His Prophet (peace be upon him).” The Prophet (peace be upon him) predicted that the Muslims would one day become rich and powerful. This was very significant because at that time they were living in great poverty. The Prophet (peace be upon him) further remarked that even though they were poor at that time, they were really better off. Meaning that having riches isn’t necessarily good for people.

The Prophet and his companions (peace be upon them all) stayed in Makkah for another ten years inviting people to Islam but they remained hostile. The future looked bleak but the Muslims never gave up. Then the opportunity came for the message of Islam to spread in a place called Yathrib which was later called Madinah. For the honored task of being the first ambassador of Islam, Mus`ab was chosen, above older people and those who were closely related to the Prophet himself (peace be upon him). Why was this young man chosen? He was chosen for his noble pious character, fine manners, and sharp intelligence. He was also able to recite the Qur’an beautifully and movingly and he had a lot of knowledge of Islam. He was perfect for the job.

Mus`ab knew this was a very sacred mission he was being called to do. He knew that he was inviting people to Allah and His prophet (peace be upon him) and that this city would be the base for the young and struggling Muslim community. Once in Madinah, he used to go to the people in their houses and gatherings and speak to them about Islam reciting the Qur’an to them. Many people accepted Islam. Although this pleased Mus`ab, it greatly displeased the leaders of Madinah.


The first ambassador of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was extremely successful.


One time when Mus`ab was sitting with a group of people under a tree, one of the notables of Madinah approached, brandishing a spear. Mus`ab said to the group, ‘If he sits down, I’ll speak to him.’ The man threatened Mus`ab and warned him to leave the city and leave them all alone. Mus`ab smiled warmly and invited him to sit down and hear what he had to say. He added that if the man liked what he said he could accept it and if he didn’t like it, he would leave and not bother him again. The man agreed. He sat down and listened. Mus`ab did not compel him to do anything; he didn’t ridicule him or argue with him. Mus`ab simply recited the Qur’an and explained the simply and beautiful message of Islam. The man’s face changed and became radiant. It was clear that faith had entered his heart. He accepted Islam. More and more people accepted Islam at the hands of Mus`ab, through the mercy of Allah the Almighty. The first ambassador of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was extremely successful.

Mus`ab stayed in Madinah for about a year then returned to Makkah during the season of pilgrimage. He took 75 Muslims from Madinah known as Ansar (helpers) because they helped the Muslims from Makkah when they later migrated to Madinah. This group made a pledge of allegiance with the Prophet (peace be upon him) that they would defend him at all costs and remain firm in their faith. Shortly after this pledge, the Prophet (peace be upon him) directed his persecuted followers to migrate to Madinah. The first of the companions to arrive there were Mus`ab and a blind old man named Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum.

The next chapter of Mus`ab’s life was the battle of Badr. After this battle the Quraish prisoners of war were brought to the Prophet (peace be upon him) who put them into the custody of individual Muslims. They were ordered to treat the prisoners well. Among these prisoners was the brother of Mus`ab named Abu `Aziz ibn `Umayr who told the story:

“I was among a group of Ansar—whenever they had lunch or dinner they would give me bread and dates to eat in obedience to the Prophet’s instructions to them to treat us well. My brother, Mus`ab passed by me and said to a man from the Ansar who was holding me prisoner: ‘Tie him firmly…His mother is a woman of great wealth and maybe she would ransom him for you.” Aziz couldn’t believe his ears. He turned to Mus`ab and said, “My brother, is this your instruction concerning me?”

Mus`ab replied, “He is my brother, not you.” Mus`ab meant that the bonds of faith were stronger than the bonds of kinship.


Tears flowed when they saw Mus`ab’s body. They could not find any cloth with which to shroud Mus`ab’s body, except the garment he was wearing.


Mus`ab came to be known as Mus`ab Al-Khayr (the Good). At the battle of Uhud the Prophet (peace be upon him) called upon him to carry the Muslim standard (flag). The battle started and at first the Muslims seemed to have the upper hand however, a groups of Muslims disobeyed the order of the Prophet and left their places and this gave the enemy the chance to counter-attack and win the battle. The enemy forces wanted to kill the Prophet (peace be upon him). Mus`ab understood the danger the Prophet was in so with the flag in one hand and his sword in the other he plunged into the ranks of the enemy. Even when Mus`ab was being struck with enemy swords and his life seemed certain to be over, the words he spoke were those of concern for the Prophet (peace be upon him). He said, half to himself, ‘Muhammad is only a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him.” He was reminding himself that his struggle was not just for the Prophet but for the message of Allah to the world. First one hand was severed, so he held the flag with the other, then the other hand was severed and he determinedly held the flag with the stumps of both arms then finally he was struck by a spear and died. The words he repeated every time he was struck were later revealed to the Prophet and completed, and became part of the Qur’an.

After the battle, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions went sadly through the battle field bidding farewell to the martyrs. Tears flowed when they saw Mus`ab’s body. Khabbab related that they could not find any cloth with which to shroud Mus`ab’s body, except the garment he was wearing. When they covered his head, his legs were exposed and when his legs were covered, his head was exposed. So the Prophet told them to place the garment over his head and cover his feet and legs with the leaves of the idhkhir (rue) plant.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) felt great pain and sorrow at the number of his companions who were killed at the battle of Uhud. He (peace be upon him) remembered Mus`ab as he first saw him in Makkah, stylish and elegant and then looked at the garment he was then wearing—the only garment he owned, and he recited the verse of the Qur’an:

[Among the believers are men who have been true to what they have pledged to Allah.] (Al-Ahzab 33:23)

Sources:

Bibliography

  • Lings, Martin. Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. Kuwait: Foundation for Traditional Studies and A.S. Noordeen, 1983.
  • Al-Mubarakpuri, SafiurRahman. The Sealed Nectar. Riyadh: Dar-us-Salam, 1996.
written by Anthea Davis

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