Abu Ubaydah Ibn Al-Jarrah

“I went to the Zuhr (midday) Prayer early hoping to be the one who would fit the description of the Prophet. When the Prophet 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 Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah. He called him and said, ‘Go with them and judge among them with truth about that which they are in disagreement.” And so Abu Ubaydah got the appointment.”

Abu Ubaydah was not only trustworthy. He displayed a great deal of strength in the discharge of his trust. This strength was shown on several occasions.

One day the Prophet despatched a group of his Sahabah to meet a Quraysh caravan. He appointed Abu Ubaydah as amir (leader) of the group and gave them a bag of dates and nothing else as provisions. Abu Ubaydah gave to each man under his command only one date every day. He would suck this date just as a child would suck at the breast of its mother. He would then drink some water and this would suffice him for the whole day.

On the day of Uhud when the Muslims were being routed, one of the mushrikeen started to shout, “Show me Muhammad, show me Muhammad.” Abu Ubaydah was one of a group of ten Muslims who had encircled the Prophet to protect him against the spears of the Mushrikeen.

When the battle was over, it was found that one of the Prophet’s molar teeth was broken, his forehead was bashed in and two discs from his shield had penetrated into his cheeks. Abu Bakr went forward with the intention of extracting these discs but Abu Ubaydah said, “Please leave that to me.”

Abu Ubaydah was afraid that he would cause the Prophet pain if he took out the discs with his hand. He bit hard into one of the discs. It was extracted but one of his incisor teeth fell to the ground in the process. With his other incisor, he extracted the other disc but lost that tooth also. Abu Bakr remarked, “Abu Ubaydah is the best of men at breaking incisor teeth!”

Abu Ubaydah continued to be fully involved in all the momentous events during the Prophet’s lifetime. After the beloved Prophet had passed away, the companions gathered to choose a successor at the Saqifah or meeting place of Banu Sa’aadah. The day is known in history as the Day of Saqifah. On this day, Umar ibn al-Khattab said to Abu Ubaydah, “Stretch forth your hand and I will swear allegiance to you for I heard the Prophet, peace be upon him say, ‘Every ummah has an amin (custodian) and you are the amin of this ummah.’ ”

“I would not,” declared Abu Ubaydah, “put myself forward in the presence of a man whom the Prophet, upon whom be peace, commanded to lead us in Prayer and who led us right until the Prophet’s death.” He then gave bay’ah (the oath of allegiance) to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. He continued to be a close adviser to Abu Bakr and his strong supporter in the cause of truth and goodness. Then came the caliphate of Umar and Abu Ubaydah also gave him his support and obedience. He did not disobey him in any matter, except one.

The incident happened when Abu Ubaydah was in Syria leading the Muslim forces from one victory to another until the whole of Syria was under Muslim control. The River Euphrates lay to his right and Asia Minor to his left.

It was then that a plague hit the land of Syria, the like of which people had never experienced before. It devastated the population. Umar despatched a messenger to Abu Ubaydah 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 Ubaydah received Umar’s letter, he said, “I know why the Amir al-Mu’mineen needs me. He wants to secure the survival of someone who, however, is not eternal.” So he wrote to Umar:

“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 God wills. So, when this letter reaches you, release me from your command and permit me to stay on.”

When Umar read this letter tears filled his eyes and those who were with him asked, “Has Abu Ubaydah died, O Amir al-Mu’mineen?”

“No,” said he, “But death is near to him.”

Umar’s intuition was not wrong. Before long, Abu Ubaydah became afflicted with the plague. As death hung over him, he spoke to his army:

“Let me give you some advice which will cause you to be on the path of goodness always.

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