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Short Life Story of Abdullah Ibn Masud (R.A.)

Abdullah Ibn Masud (R.A.) was a companion of the Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.). He was also known by the kunya Abu Abdul-Rahman.


Abdallah ibn Masud (R.A.) was born in Makkah in about 594 C.E. His parents name was Masud ibn Ghafil and Umm Abd bint Abdwadd, both of whom were from the Tamim tribe


When he was still in his 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” son of the mother of a slave. 


One day while tending the flocks, Abdullah (R.A.) saw two men, middle-aged and of dignified bearing, coming towards him from a distance. They were obviously very tired. They were also so thirsty that their lips and throat were quite dry. 

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 Abdullah Ibn Masud (R.A.). "The sheep are not mine. I am only responsible for looking after them."

The two men did not argue with him. In fact, although they were so thirsty, they were extremely pleased at the honest reply. The two men in fact were the blessed Prophet (S.A.W.) himself and his companion, Abu Bakr Siddiq (R.A.). 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 (S.A.W.) and his companion and soon became quite attached to them.


It was not long before Abdullah ibn Masud (R.A.) became a Muslim and offered to be in the service of the Prophet (S.A.W.). The Prophet (S.A.W.) agreed and from that day the fortunate Abdullah ibn Masud (R.A.) gave up tending sheep in exchange for looking after the needs of the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.). 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.


Abdullah ibn Masud (R.A.) received a unique training in the household of the Prophet (S.A.W.). He was under the guidance of the Prophet (S.A.W.), 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 (R.A.) was taught in the "school" of the Prophet (S.A.W.). He was the best reciter of the Quran among the companions and he understood it better than them all. He was therefore the most knowledgeable on the Shariah (Islamic Jurisprudence). Nothing can illustrate this better than the story of the man who came to Umar ibn Khattab (R.A.) as he was standing on the plain of Arafat and said:

"I have come, O Amir al-Mumineen from Kufah where I left a man filling copies of the Quran from memory."
Umar (R.A.) became very angry and paced up and down beside his camel, fuming. "Who is he?" he asked.
"Abdullah ibn Masud," replied the man.

Umar's (R.A.) 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 (R.A.) continued:

"One night the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) was having a conversation with Abu Bakr about the situation of Muslims. I was with them. When the Prophet (S.A.W.) left, we left with him also and as we passed through the mosque, there was a man standing in Prayer whom we did not recognize. The Prophet (S.A.W.) stood and listened to him, then turned to us and said, 'Whoever wants to read the Quran as fresh as when it was revealed, then let him read according to the recitation of Ibn Umm Abd.' (Ibn Majah: 138)

After the Prayer, as Abdullah (R.A.) sat making supplications, the Prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Ask and it will be given to you. Ask and it will be given to you."

Umar (R.A.) continued: 

"I said to myself, I shall go to Abdullah ibn Masud 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 Bakr in the doing of any good."


Abdullah ibn Masud (R.A.) attained such a knowledge of the Quran that he would say, 

"By Him besides Whom there is no god, 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 (R.A.) was not exaggerating in what he said about himself. Once Umar ibn Khattab (R.A.) met a caravan on one of his Journeys as caliph. It was pitch dark and the caravan could not be seen properly. Umar (R.A.) ordered someone to hail the caravan. It happened that Abdullah ibn Masud (R.A.) was in it.

"From where do you come?" asked Umar (R.A).
"From a deep valley," came the reply. (The expression used ‘fadj amiq’ meaning deep valley and it is Quranic one). 
"And where are you going?" asked Umar (R.A.).
"To the ancient house," came the reply. (The expression used ‘al-bayt al-atiq’ meaning the ancient house and is a Quranic one.)
"There is a learned person (alim) among them," said Umar (R.A.) and he commanded someone to ask the person: "Which part of the Quran is the greatest?"
" 'God. There is no god 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 Quran is the most clear on justice?"
" Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives . . .' " came the answer. (Surah Nuh: 16:90)
"What is the most comprehensive statement of the Quran?" 
" 'Whoever does an atom's weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atom's weight of evil shall see it.' " (Surah Zalzalah: 99:7-8)
"Which part of the Quran gives rise to the greatest hope?"
" Say, "O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful." (Surah Zumur: 39:53)

Thereupon Umar asked: 

"Is Abdullah ibn Masud among you?" 
"Yes, by God," the men in the caravan replied.

Abdullah ibn Masud (R.A.) was not only a reciter of the Quran, a learned man or a fervent worshipper. He was in addition a strong and courageous fighter, one who became deadly serious when the occasion demanded it.


The companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.) were together one day in Makkah. They were still few in number, weak and oppressed. They said, 

"The Quraish have not yet heard the Quran being recited openly and loudly. Who is the man who could recite it for them?"
"I shall recite it for them," volunteered Abdullah ibn Masud (R.A.).
"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 Masud (R.A.) 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 few metres from the Kabah). It was dawn and the Quraish were sitting around the Kabah. Abdullah (R.A.) stopped at the Maqam and began to recite:

" 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim. ArRahman. Allamal Quran. Khalaqal insan. Allamahul bayan . . . (In the | name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. The Merciful s God. He has taught the Quran. He has created man and taught him the clear truth . . .)' " (Surah Al-Rahman: 55)

He went on reciting. 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 Mohammad brought!" they realized. 

They went up to him and began beating his face as he continued reciting. When he went back to his companions, the blood was flowing from his face.

"This is what we feared for you," the companions said.
"By God," replied Abdullah, "the enemies of Allah are not more comfortable than I at this moment. If you wish. I shall go out tomorrow and do the same."
"You have done enough," they said. "You have made them hear what they dislike."


Abdullah ibn Masud (R.A.) lived to the time of Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan (R.A.). When he was sick and on his death-bed, Uthman (R.A.) came to visit him and said:

Uthman (R.A.): "What is your ailment?" 
Abdullah Ibn Masud (R.A.): "My sins."
Uthman (R.A.): "And what do you desire?" 
Abdullah Ibn Masud (R.A.): "The mercy of my Lord."
Uthman (R.A.): "Shall I not give you your stipend which you have refused to take for years now?" 
Abdullah Ibn Masud (R.A.): "I have no need of it."
Uthman (R.A.): "Let it be for your daughters after you."
Abdullah Ibn Masud (R.A.): "Do you fear poverty for my children? I have commanded them to read Surah Al-Waqiah every night for I have heard the Prophet (S.A.W.) saying, 'Whoever reads Al-Waqiah every night shall not be effected by poverty ever.'"


That night, Abdullah (R.A.) 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.


Abdullah ibn Masud (R.A.) died in Madinah in 653C.E. and was buried by the night at Jannat Al-Baqi. It is disputed whether it was Ammar ibn Yasir (R.A.) or Caliph Uthman (R.A.) who led his funeral prayers.

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