Brief Life Story of Abdullah Ibn Umar (R.A.)
Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) was the son of the second Caliph Umar ibn Khattab (R.A.) and a brother-in-law and companion of Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.). He was born in Makkah in a A.H. (613-614 C.E.). His mother was Zainab bint Madhun. He had accepted Islam before he was ten years old and had made the Hijrah (migration to Madinah) with his father and his sister, Hafsah (R.A.), who was later to become a wife of the Prophet (S.A.W.). Abdullah bin Umar (R.A.) is known to be famous reporter of the Sayings (Hadiths) of the holy Prophet (S.A.W.) and early jurist of Islam.
From an early age, Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) demonstrated his keenness to be associated with the Prophet (S.A.W.) in all his undertakings. Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) was not included in Battle of Uhud and Battle of Badr due to young age. However, when the Battle of the Trench approached, Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) called Ibn Umar (R.A.) and allowed him to be a part of Muslim Army as Prophet (S.A.W.) decreed that he was old enough to participate the in the battle. Abdullah Ibn Umar (R.A.) was fifteen years old at the time of Battle of Trench.
He (R.A.) learnt from the greatest teacher of all, Mohammad (S.A.W.). Abdullah (R.A.) would observe and scrutinize closely every saying and act ion of the Prophet (S.A.W.) in various situations and he would practice what he observed closely and with devotion. For example, if Abdullah (R.A.) saw the Prophet (S.A.W.) performing ‘Salah’ in a particular place, he would later pray in the same place. If he saw the Prophet (S.A.W.) making a supplication while standing, he would also make a dua while standing. If he saw him (S.A.W.) making a dua while sitting, he would do the same.
Aishah (R.A.) noticed this devotion of Abdullah (R.A.) to the Prophet (S.A.W.) and remarked:
"There was no one who followed the footsteps of the Prophet (S.A.W.) in the places where he alighted as did Ibn Umar."
In spite of his close observance of the Prophet's (S.A.W.) actions, Abdullah (R.A.) was extremely cautious, even afraid, of reporting the sayings of the Prophet (S.A.W.). He would only relate a hadith if he was completely sure that he remembered every word of it. One of his contemporaries said:
"Among the companions (R.A.) of the Prophet, no one was more cautious about adding to or subtracting from the hadith of the Prophet than Abdullah ibn Umar."
Similarly, he was extremely cautious and reluctant to make legal judgments (fatwas). Once someone came to him asking for a judgment on a particular matter and Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) replied:
"I have no knowledge of what you ask." The man went on his way and Abdullah (R.A.) clapped his hands in glee and said to himself: "The son of Umar was asked about what he does not know and he said: I do not know."
Because of this attitude, he was reluctant to be a ‘Qadi’ (Judge) or Caliph even though he was well qualified to be one. The position of Qadi was one of the most important and esteemed offices in the Muslim society and state bringing with it honor, glory and even riches but he declined this position when it was offered him by the Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (R.A.). His reason for so doing was not that he underestimated the importance of the position of Qadi but because of his fear of committing errors of judgment in matters pertaining to Islam. Uthman (R.A.) made him agree not to disclose his decision lest it might influence the many other companions of the Prophet who actually performed the duties of judges and juris consults.
Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) was once described as the "brother of the night." He would stay up at night performing Salah, weeping and seeking Allah’s forgiveness and reading Quran. To his sister, Hafsah (R.A.), the Prophet (S.A.W.) once said:
" Abdullah is a righteous man if he only prays more at night " (Sahih Bukhari: 7031)
From that day, Abdullah (R.A.) did not abandon Qaiyam-ul-Layl (spending whole night in prayer and asking forgiveness of Allah) whether at home or on journeys. In the stillness of the nights, he would remember Allah much, perform Salah and read the Quran and weep. Like his father, tears came readily to his eyes especially when he heard the warning verses of the Quran. Ubayd ibn Umayr (R.A.) has related that one day he read these verses to Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.):
"How then (will the sinners fare on Judgment Day) when We shall bring forward witnesses from within every community and bring you (O Prophet) as witness against them? Those who were bent on denying the truth and paid no heed to the Apostle will on that Day wish that the earth would swallow them but they shall not (be able to) conceal from God anything that has happened." (Surah An-Nisa 4:41-42)
Abdullah (R.A.) cried on listening to these verses until his beard was moist with tears. One day, he was sitting among some close friends and he read:
"Woe unto those who give short measure, those who, when they are to receive their due from people, demand that it be given in full but when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due. Do they not know that they are bound to be raised from the dead (and called to account) on an awesome Day, the Day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds?" (Surah Al-Mutaffifin 83: 1-6)
At this point he kept on repeating "the Day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds" over and over again and weeping until he was faint.
Piety, simplicity and generosity combined in Abdullah (R.A.) to make him a person who was highly esteemed by the companions (R.A.) and those who came after them. He gave generously and did not mind parting with wealth even if he himself would fall in want as a result. He was a successful and trustworthy trader throughout his life. In addition to this he had a generous stipend from the Bayt al-Mal which he would often spend on the poor and those in need. Ayyub ibn Wail Ar-Rasi (R.A.) recounted one incident of his generosity:
One day Ibn Umar (R.A.) received four thousand dirhams and a velvet blanket. The following day Ayyub saw him in the ‘Suq’ (traditional Arabic Garment for men) buying fodder for his camel on credit. Ayyub (R.A.) then went to Abdullah's family and asked:
"Didn't Abu Abdur-Rahman (meaning Abdullah ibn Umar) get four thousand dirhams and a blanket yesterday?"
"Yes, indeed," they replied.
"But I saw him today in the ‘Suq’ buying fodder for his camel and he had no money to pay for it." Ayyub said.
"Before nightfall yesterday. he had parted with it all. Then he took the blanket and threw it over his shoulder and went out. When he returned it was not with him. We asked him about it and he said that he had given it to a poor person," they explained.
Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) encouraged the feeding and the helping of the poor and the needy. Often when he ate, there were orphans and poor people eating with him. He rebuked his children for treating the rich and ignoring the poor. He once said to them: "You invite the rich and forsake the poor."
For Abdullah (R.A.), wealth was a servant not a master. It was a means towards attaining the necessities of life, not for acquiring luxuries. He was helped in this attitude by his asceticism and simple life-style. One of his friends who came from ‘Khurasan’ once brought him a fine elegant piece of clothing:
"I have brought this thawb (traditional Arab garment of men) for you from Khurasan," he said. "It would certainly bring coolness to your eyes. I suggest that you take off these coarse clothes you have and put on this beautiful thawb."
"Show it to me then," said Abdullah (R.A.) and on touching it he asked: "Is it silk?"
"No, it is cotton," replied his friend.
For a little while, Abdullah (R.A.) was pleased. Then with his right hand he pushed away the thawb and said: "No! I am afraid for myself. I fear that it shall make arrogant and boastful. And Allah does not love the arrogant boaster."
Maymun ibn Mahran relates the following: "I entered the house of Ibn Umar. I estimated everything in his house including his bed, his blanket, his carpet and everything else in it. What I found was not a hundred dirhams' worth."
That was not because Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) was poor: indeed, he was rich. Neither was it because he was a miser for indeed he was generous and liberal.
With a total of 2,630 narrations, Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) was the second most prolific narrator of hadiths. It was said that he was extremely careful about what he narrated, and that he narrated with his eyes full of tears.
In spite of the great esteem and honour in which he was held by all the Muslims and notwithstanding the suggestion repeatedly made to him to stand up for the Qadhi or Caliph, he kept himself entirely distant from these offers and throughout these years, led an unselfish and pious life.
He died in Makkah in the year AH 74 (692 CE) at the age of 87.
May Allah have mercy on Abdullah ibn Umar (R.A.) and be pleased with him and assembles us among his company.