Abdullah Ibn Masood (r.a.)
Abdullah Ibn Masood was of the tribe of Banu Huzail and was also the sworn ally of Banu Zahra. When he was still a youth, not yet past the age of puberty, he used to roam the mountain trails of Makkah far away from people, tending the flocks of a Quraish chieftain, Uqbah Ibn Muayt. People called him ‘Ibn Umm Abd’, the son of the mother of a slave. His real name was Abdullah and his fathers name was Masood.
The youth had heard the news of the Prophet whom had appeared among his people but he did not attach any importance to it both because of his age and because he was usually far away from Makkan society. It was his habit to leave with the flock of Uqbah early in the morning and not return until nightfall.
One day while tending the flocks, Abdullah saw two men, middle-aged and of dignified bearing, coming towards him from a distance. They were obviously very thirsty and tired. They came up to him, greeted him and said, ‘Young man, milk one of these sheep for us that we may quench our thirst and recover our strength.’
‘I cannot,’ replied the young man. ‘The sheep are not mine. I am only responsible for looking after them.’
The two men did not argue with him. In fact, despite their thirst, they were extremely pleased at his honest reply. The two men were the blessed Prophet himself and his companion, Abu Bakr Siddiq. They had gone out on that day to the mountains of Makkah to escape the violent persecution of the Quraish.
The young man in turn was impressed with the Prophet and his companion and soon became quite attached to them.
It was not long before Abdullah Ibn Masood became a Muslim and offered to be in the service of the Prophet . The Prophet agreed and from that day, the fortunate Abdullah Ibn Masood gave up tending sheep in exchange for looking after the needs of the blessed Prophet . He was the sixth man to accept Islam. Abdullah Ibn Masood remained closely attached to the Prophet . He would attend to his needs both inside and outside the house. He would accompany him on journeys and expeditions. He would wake him when he slept. He would shield him when he washed. He would carry his staff and his Siwak (toothbrush) and attend to his other personal needs. It was for these reasons that the Sahabah took to calling him Saheb-e-Siwak (bearer of the siwak), Saheb-e-Nalaen (bearer of the slippers), Saheb-e-Mutahara (bearer of the water) and also Saheb-e-Wisadah (bearer of the bedroll).
Abdullah Ibn Masood received a unique training in the household of the Prophet . He was under the guidance of the Prophet , he adopted his manner and followed his every trait until it was said of him, ‘He was the closest to the Prophet in character.’ Abdullah was often mistaken as one of the Blessed Household. Abu Musa Ashari says, ‘When we came from Yemen, we thought for some time that Abdullah was a member of the Blessed Household, because Abdullah and his mother were constantly coming and going in the Prophet presence. Furthermore, the Prophet once said to Abdullah, “O Abdullah, you do not need permission to enter my house. You are always welcome.”
Abdullah was the best at reciting the Qur’aan among the companions and he understood it better than them all. He was therefore the most knowledgeable on the Shari’ah. Nothing can illustrate this better than the story of the man who came to Umar Ibn al-Khattab as he was standing on the plain of Arafat and said: ‘I have come, O Amir al-Mumineen, from Kufa where I left a man filling copies of the Qur’aan from memory.’ Umar became very angry and paced up and down beside his camel, fuming. ‘Who is he?’ he asked. ‘Abdullah Ibn Masood,’ replied the man. Umar’s anger subsided and he regained his composure. ‘Woe to you,’ he said to the man. ‘By Allah, I don’t know of any person left who is more qualified in this matter than he is. Let me tell you about this.’ Umar continued: ‘One night the Messenger of Allah was having a conversation with Abu Bakr about the situation of Muslims. I was with them. When the Prophet left, we left with him also and as we passed through the mosque, there was a man standing in Prayer whom we did not recognise. The Prophet stood and listened to him, then turned to us and said, “Whoever wants to read the Qur’aan as fresh as when it was revealed, then let him read according to the recitation of Ibn Umm Abd.”
After the Prayer, as Abdullah sat making supplications, the Prophet said, “Ask and it will be given to you. Ask and it will be given to you.” I said to myself, I should go to Abdullah Ibn Masood straight away and tell him the good news of the Prophet’s ensuring acceptance of his supplications. I went and did so but found that Abu Bakr had gone before me and conveyed the good news to him. By Allah, I have never yet beaten Abu Bakrin the doing of any good.’ In another Hadith, the Prophet said, ‘Learn the Qur’aan from four people, Abdullah Ibn Masood, Salim Maula Abi Huzaifah, Ubayy Ibn Kaab and Muaz Ibn Jabal.’ The Prophet has also said, ‘Read the Qur’aan in the same manner as Abdullah Ibn Masood teaches.’
Note: The most popular and widely read Qiraat is that of Imaam Hafs. He relates from Imaam Aasim Kufi and he in turn relates from Abu Abdur Rahman Abdullah Ibn Habib As-Sulmiyi, who relates from Uthman Ibn Affan, Ali Ibn Talib, Abdullah Ibn Masood, Ubayy Ibn Kaab and Zaid Ibn Thaabit. They all, in turn, relate directly from the Prophet .
Abdullah Ibn Masood attained such a knowledge of the Qur’aan that he would say, ‘By Him besides Whom there is no Allah, no verse of the book of Allah has been revealed without my knowing where it was revealed and the circumstances of its revelation. By Allah, if I know there was anyone who knew more of the Book of Allah, I will do whatever is in my power to be with him.’
Abdullah was not exaggerating in what he said about himself. Once Umar Ibn al-Khattab met a caravan on one of his journeys as caliph. It was pitch dark and the caravan could not be seen properly. Umar ordered someone to hail the caravan. It happened that Abdullah Ibn Masood was in it.
‘From where do you come?’ asked Umar. ‘From a deep valley,’ came the reply, using the Qur’aanic expression – fajj amiq.‘And where are you going?’ asked Umar.‘ To the ancient house,’ came the reply, using the Qur’aanic expression – al-bayt al-atiq. ‘There is a learned person (alim) among them,’ said Umar and he commanded someone to ask the person, ‘Which part of the Qur’aan is the greatest?’ ‘Allah. There is no Deity except Him, the Living, the Self-subsisting. Neither slumber overtakes Him nor sleep,’ replied the person answering, quoting the Ayat al-Kursi (the verse of the Throne). ‘Which part of the Qur’aan is the most clear on justice?’ ‘Allah commands what it just and fair, the feeding of relatives,’ ‘What it the most comprehensive statement of the Qur’aan?’ ‘Whoever does an atoms weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.’ ‘Which part of the Qur’aan gives risk to the greatest hope?’
‘Say, O my servants who have wasted their resources, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. He is the Forgiving, the Compassionate.’ Thereupon Umar asked, ‘Is Abdullah Ibn Masood among you? ‘Yes, by Allah,’ the men in the caravan replied.
The Prophet had always desired to make Ibn Masood a leader of men, as it is clear from the following words of the Prophet , ‘If I was to make anyone a leader over someone without consulting anyone, I would make Ibn Masood a leader.’
Abdullah Ibn Masood would refrain from narrating Hadith in fear of mistakes. However when he did narrate a Hadith, he was very particular and precocious in what he attributed to the Prophet . He would turn pale and quake in fear whenever he accidentally attributed something to the Prophet , even though the Prophet has said, ‘Whatever Ibn Masood narrates to you, believe him.’ Whenever he gave a verdict, he would attribute it to himself, saying that it was his own opinion and that it was from Allah if it was correct and that it was from himself and Satan, if it was incorrect. For this reason, many Fatwahs have been attributed to Abdullah instead of the Prophet .
Imaam Nisai writes in his Sunan: ‘A man married a woman, then he passed away before he could consummate his wedding or set a dowry for his wife. When the issue was placed before the Sahabah, they advised them to go to Abdullah. When they came to Abdullah, he tried to avoid them and told them to ask someone else. Finally he relented and said, “The woman will receive Mehr-e-Mithl. If the verdict is correct, it is of Allah. If it is incorrect, then it is of Satan and I. Neither Allah and the Prophet are responsible for it.” A Sahabi by the name of Maakal Ibn Al-Ashjai was also present and he said, “I swear by Allah, you have given the same verdict that the Prophet gave in the favour of Broan Bint Washile Al-Ashjai. Your verdict is in accordance with the Prophet.” On hearing this, Abdullah rejoiced as he had never rejoiced before. The majority of Fatwahs of Iraq and the Hanafi Fiqh are based upon the Fatwahs of Abdullah Ibn Masood His authority in Fiqh was such that the other Sahabahwould refuse to give a Fatwah during while he was still alive. They would always refer any seeker to him. Students who wanted to enter his service and gain knowledge from him were always constantly petitioning him.
Khatima Ibn Abu Subrah once went to Madinah and prayed for a pious companion. Hurraira was Allah’s reply. Abu Hurraira asked Khatima where he had come from. He replied that he had travelled for two days from Kufa. Abu Hurraira said to him, ‘Is not Saad Ibn Malik, who is Mustajab-ul-Dawat amongst you? Is not Ibn Masood, who was the bearer of the Prophet slippers and ablution water amongst you? Is not Huzaifah, who was privy to the Prophet thoughts amongst you? Is not Amar amongst you, who Allah granted refuge from Shaytaan through the Prophets tongue amongst you? Is not he who knows the two Divine Books (the Qur’aan and the New Testament), Salman Farsi amongst you?’ Coincidentally, all the Sahabah . who Hazrat Abu Hurraira mentioned were in Kufa at that time.
Hazrat Saad narrates, ‘Once there were six of us in the service of the Prophet . Besides me were Abdullah Ibn Masood and Bilal Habshee. Some pagans of Makkah came before the Prophet and began to say, “Remove these people first, then we shall talk.” The Prophet was still considering whether sending us out would win over their hearts and make them more receptive to Islam, when the following verse was revealed: ‘Send not away those who call on their Lord, morning and evening, seeking His Face.’ (Q6:52)
Saad proudly states, ‘This verse was revealed for us.’ Who can match the status of those who are praised by Allah? The whole point of the worship of Allah is the pleasure of Allah. These six attained the glad tidings of Allah in their lifetime that Allah
was pleased with them.
As anyone who has taken an in depth, study on the knowledge of the Sahabah will tell you, the knowledge of the Sahabah climaxed in two people, Ali and Abdullah.
On one hand, we have Allah, the Prophet and his Sahabah who sing the praises of Abdullah Ibn Masood’s excellence in knowledge and character. On the other hand, we have a sect of narrow-minded and totally unqualified people who, ironically, call themselves Ahl-e-Hadith (the people of the Hadith), better known as the Ghair-Muqalids (the leaderless), saying that Abdullah Ibn Masood was uninformed regarding the Prophet Salaah. Wasn’t Abdullah Ibn Masood the one who the Sahabah would mistake as one of the Blessed Household? Wasn’t he the constant companion of the Prophet for thirty years? But then, according to the Ghair-Muqalids, Ali and Saad were also uninformed of the Prophet Salaah, and that all three of these great Sahabah were in reality, non-entities.
Abdullah Ibn Masood was the first man to recite aloud the words of the Qur’aan before a gathering of the Quraish. The companions of the Prophet were together one day in Makkah. They were still few in number, weak and oppressed. They said, ‘The Quraish have not yet heard the Qur’aan being recited openly and loudly. Who is the man who could recite it for them?’ ‘I shall recite it for them,’ volunteered Abdullah Ibn Masood. ‘We are afraid for you,’ they said. ‘We only want someone who has a clan who would protect him from their evil.’ ‘Let me,’ Abdullah Ibn Masood insisted, ‘Allah shall protect me and keep me away from their evil.’ He then went out to the mosque until he reached Maqam Ibrahim (a landmark situated a few meters from the Kabah). It was dawn and the Quraish were sitting around the Kabah. Abdullah began to recite Surah Rahman. The Quraish looked at him intently and some of them asked, ‘What is Ibn Umm Abd saying? Damn him! He is reciting some of what Muhammad brought!’
They began to slap his face but he continued reciting. When he concluded his recital, his face was covered with welts and blood. ‘By Allah,’ said Abdullah, ‘the enemies of Allah are more uncomfortable than I am at this moment. If you wish, I shall return tomorrow and do the same.’ ‘You have done enough,’ they said. ‘You have made them hear what they dislike.’
Abdullah Ibn Masood did Hijrat three times, twice to Ethiopia and once to Madinah. He participated in every Gazwah. It was he who beheaded Abu Jahl in Badr. It was to him that the Prophet presented Abu Jahl’s sword as a share in the booty. The Caliph Umar sent Abdullah Ibn Masood to Kufa to educate the people and to take charge of the Bait-ul-Maal. When Umar fixed salaries for the Sahabah, he offered Abdullah a salary too. Abdullah refused and said, ‘Why do you try to turn me to the world.’
Abdullah Ibn Masood lived to the time of Caliph Uthman. It was during this era that he retired from his post and returned to Madinah. When he was sick and on his death-bed, Uthman came to visit him and said, ‘What is your ailment?’ ‘My sins.’ ‘And what do you desire?’ ‘The mercy of my Lord.’ ‘Shall I not give you your stipend which you have refused to take for years now?’ ‘I have no need of it.’ ‘Let it be for your daughters after you.’ ‘Do you fear poverty for my children? I have commanded them to read Surah al-Waqiah every night for I have heard the Prophet saying, “Whoever reads Al-Waqiah every night shall not be afflicted by poverty ever.”
That night, in either 33 or 34 A.H, Abdullah passed away to the company of his Lord, his tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah and with the recitation of the verses of His Book.