Mu’adh Ibn Jabal (R.A)
Preface: These articles are only a summary of the lives of the great Companions and do not cover all the points of their life stories. These stories are not intended as biographies, but rather to provide a glimpse of the main incidents of each companion’s life. For ease of reading, we have not inserted “May Allah be pleased with him (RA)” each time the name of each Companion is mentioned, but please take it that the salutations apply to all of them, may Allah be pleased with them all.
Among the seventy-man delegation of the Ansar who took the oath of allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in the Second Allegiance of Aqabah sat a young man with a bright face, graceful eyes, and a radiant smile. When he was silent, he attracted attention with his profound peacefulness and devoutness. On the other hand, when he talked, he held his people spellbound. This young man was Mu’adh ibn Jabal RA. He belonged to the Ansaar, and he was among the foremost believers who gave the second oath of allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Naturally, a man of such precedence, faith, and certainly would not miss for the world a battle or an expedition. His uppermost quality was his knowledge of fiqh (jurisprudence) the practical aspect of Muhammad’s message. He reached the apex in knowledge and fiqh, to the extent that made the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) say, ‘The most learned man of my nation in halal and haram is Mu’adh Ibn Jabal.’
He resembled Umar Ibn Al-Khattab RA in his enlightenment, courage, and intelligence. When the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) sent him to Yemen, he asked him, ‘How will you give a judgment or settle a dispute?’ Mu’adh answered; ‘I will refer to the Qur’an.’ The Prophet then asked, ‘What will you do if you do not find the decree you are looking for in the Qur’an?’ Mu’adh answered, ‘I will refer to the Prophet’s Sunnah.’ The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) asked, ‘But what will you do if you do not find a decree even in the Sunnah?’ Mu’adh readily answered, ‘I will be judge between mankind by resorting to juristic reasoning (ijtihad) to the best of my power.’ Now, Mu’adh’s staunch commitment to Allah’s Book and the Prophet’s Sunnah does not mean that he closed his mind to the countless and endless hidden or equivocal facts that await someone to unravel and adjudicate.
Perhaps both Mu’adh’s ability in juristic reasoning and the courageous usage of his intelligence enabled him to master the fiqh, excelling all other scholars. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) justifiably described Mu’adh as ‘the most learned man of my nation in halal and haram.’
History portrays him as a man of remarkably enlightened, resolute, and decisive mind. For instance, Aaez Allah ibn Abd Allah narrated that one day he entered the mosque with the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) at the dawn of Umar’s caliphate. Then he sat among more than thirty men. Let us hear him narrate the story: ‘I sat with a group of more than thirty men. They were recalling a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). In this ring sat a dark, swarthy young man who had a sweet voice and a radiant face. Whenever they disputed about a hidden or ambiguous meaning in the hadith, they at once sought his legal instruction or judgment. He seldom, if ever, spoke unless he was asked. When their meeting was over, I approached him and asked him, ‘Who are you, O Allah’s Slave?’ He answered, ‘I am Mu’adh Ibn Jabal.’ So I instantly felt dose to him.
Also, Shahr Ibn Hawshab said, ‘Whenever Mu’adh ibn Jabal was present when the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) were holding a meeting, they looked at him with reverence’.
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, the Commander of the Faithful, often consulted him. It seemed that Mu’adh had a highly disciplined mind and a captivating and convincing logic that moved peacefully and knowledgeable. When we look at his historical background, we will always see him at the center of attention. He always sat there surrounded by people. He always maintained a discrete silence that was only broken whenever people were anxious to hear his judgment and whenever they were in dispute. When he spoke he looked, as one of his contemporaries described, ‘as if light and pearls were emanating from his mouth rather than speech.’ He reached his high rank in knowledge and reverence when the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was alive and maintained it after his death, notwithstanding his youth, for Mu’adh died during Umar’s caliphate at the age of thirty-three years.
Mu’adh was generous, magnanimous, well-mannered, and good-natured. If anyone asked him for money, he would readily and gladly give it to him. His generosity made him spend all his money on charity and aid. When the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) died, Mu’adh was still in Yemen, where the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had sent him with the task of teaching Muslims their religion and fiqh.
When Mu’adh returned from Yemen during Abu Bakr’s R.A caliphate, Umar ibn Al-Khattab was informed that Mu’adh become wealthy, and he suggested to Abu Bakr that the community should have half of Mu’adh’s wealth. Umar did not waste much time as he rushed to Mu’adh’s house and told him about what he and Abu Bakr had agreed on. Mu’adh was an honest and trustworthy man. The fact that he had made a fortune did not make him vulnerable to suspicion or sin; therefore, he turned down Umar’s suggestion and refuted his viewpoint. Finally, Umar left him. The next day, Mu’adh hurried towards Umar’s house and no sooner had he laid his eyes on him than he hugged him. His tears flowed as he said, ‘Last night, I saw in my dream that I was crossing deep water. I nearly drowned were it not for your help, Umar.’ Afterwards, they both went to Abu Bakr’s presence where Mu’adh asked him to take half his money, but Abu Bakr said, ‘No, I will take nothing from you.’ Umar glanced at Mu’adh and said, ‘Now it is halal and blessed.’
After a while, Mu’adh emigrated to Syria, where he lived among its people and the expatriates as a teacher and a scholar of fiqh. When Abu Ubaidah, the governor of Syria and a close friend of Mu’adh, died, the Commander of the Faithful Umar Ibn Al Khattab assigned Mu’adh to take his place as a ruler. Only a few months had elapsed after his taking over when he died, humble and repentant to Allah. Umar used to say, ‘If I were to grant Mu’adh Ibn Jabal succession and Allah asked me, ‘Why did you make him your successor?’ I would readily answer, ‘I heard Your Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) say that when those who have knowledge stand before Almighty Allah, Mu’adh will be among them.’
The succession that Umar meant here was not merely over a country or a governorship but over all the Muslim lands. When Umar was asked before his death, ‘If you choose your successor now, we will give him our allegiance,’ he answered, ‘If Mu’adh ibn Jabal were alive and I made him my successor to the caliphate, then I died and met Allah Who asked me, ‘Whom did you assign to rule Muhammad’s nation?’ I would answer, ‘I assigned Mu’adh ibn Jabal to rule it after I heard the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) say Mu’adh Ibn Jabal is the Imam of those who have knowledge of Judgment Day.’
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said one day, ‘O Mu’adh, by Allah I love you dearly, so do not forget to recite after every prayer, ‘Allah help me in remembering You, in offering thanks to You, and in worshiping You properly.”
Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) supplicated Allah to help him to remember Him. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) persevered in stressing this great fact that tells people that authority belongs to Allah, He has the power over all, and there is no power or any might except with His permission, for He is Most High and Most Great.
Definitely, Mu’adh had learned and fully grasped this fact. He did his utmost to cherish and apply this fundamental basis in his life from that moment onward.
One day, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ran into him so he asked him, ‘How are you this morning Mu’adh? He answered, ‘This morning I woke up as a true believer.’ The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said, ‘Every truth has its manifestations, so what are the manifestations of your belief?’ Mu’adh readily answered, ‘I have never woken up without believing that I might die before nightfall. I have never slept without believing that I might die before the morning and have never taken a step without believing that I might die before taking the next. It always seems to me that I can see each nation humbled to its knees and each nation called to its record of deeds. It always seems to me that I can see the dwellers of Paradise, wherein are delighting everlasting, and the dwellers of Hell, wherein they are in disgracing torment.’ The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) commented, ‘Now you know, so stick to the truth as long as you live.’ Indeed Mu’adh had submitted himself and his destiny to Allah, for Allah was all that mattered to him. It was just that Ibn Mas’ud described him as ‘an ummah, a leader having all the good and righteous qualities, obedient to Allah and Hanifan, who worshiped none but Allah. We used to like him to Ibrahim AS.’
Mu’adh advocated knowledge and the remembrance of Allah. Moreover, he invited mankind to seek the useful and true knowledge saying, ‘I warn you against the deviation of wise men. You will know the truth when you see it, for it has a distinctive light!’ He believed that worship was an end and a means to reach justice. One day a Muslim asked him, ‘Teach me.’ Mu’adh asked him, ‘Will you obey me if I teach you?’ The man answered, ‘I will not disobey you in anything.’ He said then, ‘Fast, then break your fast. Pray during the night but you must get some sleep. Earn what is halal and what is rightfully yours and do not earn sin. Die as a true Muslim. Finally, I warn you against the supplication of those who have been wronged or oppressed.’ He believed that education meant knowledge and practice; therefore, he said, ‘Learn whatever you like to learn, yet Allah will not make your learning worthwhile unless you practice what you have learned.’ He believed that belief and remembrance of Allah meant the perpetual calling to mind of His greatness and the perpetual calling of oneself to account for deeds before Allah does so.
Al-Aswad ibn Hilal reported: As we were walking with Mu’adh one day, he said, ‘Let us sit down for a while to meditate on Allah.’
Perhaps the reason behind his discrete silence was his unremitting meditation and contemplation.
Likewise, his once telling the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) that he never took a step without believing that he might die before taking the next was due to his engrossment in the remembrance of Allah and in calling himself to account for his deeds.
Death summoned Mu’adh. It was time to meet Allah. When the stupor of death creeps upon someone, his subconscious takes the reins and spurs the tongue – if it is able to – to disclose the reality of all mankind in concise words that summarize his life story. In those blessed moments, Mu’adh faintly uttered great words that revealed a great believer, for he gazed up into the sky and humbly supplicated to Allah, the Most Merciful, saying, ‘Allah I used to fear You but now I implore You. Allah, You know that I did not devote my life to travel in the lands or to earn money or property but rather consecrated it to knowledge, faith, and obedience, notwithstanding intense heat or hardships.’
He stretched his hand as if he were shaking death and went into a coma. His last words were, ‘O Death, welcome! You are a long-awaited beloved.’
At last Mu’adh ascended to Allah’s Paradise.
Source: Khalid, Khalid Muhammad, Men Around the Messenger, Islamic Book Service, 2004