Uqbah Ibn Aamir

Uqbah Ibn AamirUqbah Ibn Aamir

After a long and exhausting journey, the Prophet, peace be on him, is at last on the outskirts of Yathrib. The good people of the city go out to meet him. Many crowd the narrow streets. Some stand on roof-tops chanting La ilaha ilia Allah and Allahu Akbar in sheer joy at meeting the Prophet of Mercy and his loyal companion, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq. The small girls of the city come out gaily beating their daffs and singing the words of welcome:

Tala ‘a-l badru alaynaa

Min Thaniyaati-l Wadaa’ Wajaba-sh shukru alaynaa

Maa da’aa lillaahi daa’ Ayyuha-l mab ‘uthu finaa

Ji’ta bi-l amri-l mutaa’ Ji’ta sharrafta-l Madinah

Marhaban yaa khayra-d daa’.

“The full moon has come upon us. From beyond the hills of Thaniyaati-l Wadaa Grateful we must be. For what to God he calls? O you who has been sent among us? You came with a mission to be obeyed. You came, you honoured the city; Welcome, O best of those w ho call (to God).

As the procession of the blessed Prophet wended its way, all around there were joyful hearts, tears of ecstasy, smiles of sheer happiness.

Far away from these scenes of jubilation and delight was a young man named Uqbah ibn Aamir al-Juhani. He had gone out to the bawadi, the open expanses of desert, to graze his flocks of sheep and goats on the sparse vegetation. He had wandered far in searc h of fodder for his hungry flock. It was difficult to find suitable grazing grounds and he was constantly afraid that his flock would perish. They were all he possessed and he did not want to lose them.

The happiness which engulfed Yathrib, henceforth to be known as the radiant city of the Prophet, soon spread to the near and distant bawadi and reached every nook and corner of the land. The good news of the Prophet’s arrival finally reached Uqbah as he t ended his flocks far away in the inhospitable desert. His response to the news was immediate as he himself relates: “The Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, came to Madinah while I was tending my sheep. When I heard the news of his coming, I s et out to meet him without delay. When I met him I asked:

‘Will you accept my pledge of allegiance, O Messenger of God?’ ‘And who are you?’ asked the Prophet. ‘Uqbah ibn Aamir al-Juhani ,’ I replied. ‘Which do you prefer,’ he asked, ‘the pledge of a nomad or the pledge of someone who has migrated?’ ‘The pledge o f someone who has migrated,’ I said. So the Messenger of God took the same pledge from me as he did from the Muhajirin. I spent the night with him and then went back to my flock.

There were twelve of us who had accepted Islam but we lived far from the city tending our sheep and goats in the open country. We came to the conclusion that it would be good for us if we went to the Prophet daily, so that he could instruct us in our reli gion and recite for us whatever revelation he had received from on high. I told the others:

‘Take turns to go to the Messenger of God, peace be on him. Anyone going may leave his sheep with me because I am too worried and concerned about my own flock to leave them in the care of someone else.’

Each day, one after another of my friends went to the Prophet, leaving his sheep for me to look after. When each returned, I learnt from him what he had heard and benefitted from what he had understood. Before long, however, I returned to my senses and sa id to myself:

‘Woe to you! Is it because of a flock of sheep that you remain thin and wretched and lose the opportunity to be in the company of the Prophet and to speak directly to him without an intermediary':’ With this, I left my flock, went to Madinah and stayed in the masjid close to the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace.”

Uqbah had no reason to regret having taken this fateful decision. Within a decade, he had become one of the outstanding scholars among the companions of the Prophet, a competent and beautiful reciter of the Quran, a military commander and later on one of the eminent Muslim governors as Islam spread east and west with astonishing rapidity. He could never have imagined as he left his flock to follow the teachings of the noble Prophet, that he would have been among the vanguard of the Muslim forces that libe rated fertile Damascus – then known as the “mother of the universe” and that he would have a house for himself among its verdant gardens. He could never have imagined that he would be one of the commanders who liberated Egypt, then known as the “emerald o f the world”, and that he would be one of its governors.

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