Abbad Ibn Bishr

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It was the fourth year after the Hijrah. The city of the Prophet salla.gif was still under threat from within and without. From within. the influential tribe the Banu an-Nadhir. broke their agreement with the Prophet and made plans to kill him. For this, they were banished from the city. This was in the month of Safar.

Two months of uneasy quiet passed. Then the Prophet received news that tribes from distant Najd were planning an attack. To pre-empt them. the Prophet gathered a force of over four hundred men. and leaving one of his companions Uthman ibn Affan in charge of the city, set out eastwards. Among this force was the young Madinan, Abbad ibn Bishr.

Arriving at Najd, the Prophet found the habitations of the hostile tribes strangely deserted of men. Only women were about. The men had taken to the hills. Some of them regrouped and prepared to fight. The time of Salat al-Asr (the afternoon prayer) came. The Prophet feared that the hostile tribesmen would attack them during prayer. He arranged the Muslims in ranks and divided them into two groups and performed the prayer as the Salat al-Khawf (the Prayer of Fear). With one group he performed one rakah while the other group stood on guard. For the second rakah the groups changed places. Each group completed its prayer with one rakah after the Prophet had finished…

On beholding the disciplined ranks of the Muslims the hostile tribesmen became uneasy and afraid. The Prophet had made his presence felt and something of his mission was now known at first hand in the central highlands of Arabia whence he departed peacefully.

On the way back, the Prophet pitched camp in a valley for a night. As soon as the Muslims had settled their camel mounts, the Prophet peace be on him, asked: “Who will be our guard tonight?” “We, O Messenger of God,” said Abbad ibn Bishr and Ammar ibn Yasir both of whom had been paired off as ‘brothers’ by the Prophet when he arrived in Madinah after the Hijrah.

Abbad and Ammar left for the mouth of the valley to take up duty. Abbad saw that his “brother” was tired and asked him: “What part of the night do you wish to sleep, the first or the second?” “I shall sleep during the first part,” said Ammar who was soon fast asleep quite close to Abbad.

The night was clear, calm and peaceful. The stars, the trees, and the rocks all appeared to celebrate in silence the praises of their Lord. Abbad felt serene. There was no movement, no threatening sign. Why not spend the time in ibadah (worship) and reciting the Quran? How delightful it would be to combine the performance of Salat with the measured recitation of the Quran which he so much enjoyed.

In fact Abbad was enthralled by the Quran from the moment he first heard it being recited by the mellow and beautiful voice of Musab ibn Umayr. That was before the Hijrah when Abbad was just about fifteen years old. The Quran had found a special place in his heart and day and night thereafter he would be heard repeating the glorious words of God so much so that he became known among the Prophet’s companions as the “friend of the Quran”.

Late at night, the Prophet once stood up to perform the Tahajjud Prayer in Aishah’s house which adjoined the masjid. He heard a voice reciting the Quran, pure and sweet and as fresh as when the angel Jibril revealed the words to him. He asked: “Aishah, is that the voice of Abbad ibn Bishr?” “Yes, O Messenger of God,” replied Aishah. “O Lord, forgive him,” prayed the Prophet out of love for him.

And so in the stillness of the night, at the mouth of the valley in Najd, Abbad stood up and faced the Qiblah. Raising his hand in surrender to God, he entered into the state of Prayer. Finishing the compulsory opening chapter of the Quran, he began reciting Surah al-Kahf in his sweet, captivating voice. Surah al-Kahf is a long Surah of one hundred and ten verses which deals in part with the virtues of faith, truth and patience and with the relativity of time.

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