USAAMAH IBN ZAID
The Beloved Son of the Beloved
Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab, Commander of the Faithful, sat down to distribute money from the treasury among the Muslims.
It was `Abd Allah Ibn `Umar's turn, and `Umar gave him his share. Then it was the turn of Usaamah Ibn Zaid. `Umar gave him double of what he gave his son `Abd Allah. As `Umar gave people according to their merit and endeavor, `Abd Allah Ibn `Umar was afraid that his position was not as highly acknowledged as he desired, to be one of the closest to Allah through his obedience, endeavor, piety, and asceticism.
Therefore, he asked his father, "You preferred Usaamah, although I experienced with the Messenger of Allah what he did not." Umar answered, "Usaamah was more beloved by the Prophet (PBUH) than you were, and his father was more beloved by the Prophet (PBUH) than your father was.
Who was it, together with his father that was so close to the Prophet's heart and love? It was a high position which Ibn `Umar did not reach, nor did his father, `Umar himself.
Who was it? It was Usaamah Ibn Zaid who has been called among the Prophet's Companions "The Beloved Son of the Beloved".
His father was Zaid Ibn Haarithah 1 the Prophet's servant, who preferred the Prophet (PBUH) over own his father, mother and kin. He was with him when the Prophet (PBUH) stood in front of a large group of Companions saying, "I let you bear witness that Zaid is my son, inheriting from me and I inheriting from him."
His name remained Zaid Ibn Muhammad until the practice of child adoption was abolished by the Qur'aan. Usaamah is his son. His mother was Umm Aiman, the Prophet's servant and nurse maid. Usaamah's physical appearance made him appear a good for- nothing. Historians and narrators described him as being dark- skinned and snub-nosed. By these two words, not more, did history summarize Usaamah's physical appearance.
However, since when did Islam ever care about a person's physical characteristics? Was it not the Prophet (PBUH) who said, "Maybe a Muslim's hair is unkempt and his feet covered with dust and his clothes are not neat, but, if he swore by Allah he would fulfill his oath?"
Therefore, let us set his appearance aside. Leave his dark skin and snub nose alone; nothing of that sort has weight in Islam. Let us instead take stock of his loyalty. How was his devotion? How was his virtue? How was his honesty? How was his piety? How great was his soul? on account of the qualities of his soul, he reached a worthiness that made him eligible to receive the Prophet's infinite love and acknowledgment: "Usaamah Ibn Zaid is the most beloved to me and I wish him to be one of the virtuous. I recommend you to treat him well."
* * *
Usaamah (May Allah be pleased with him) had all the great characteristics which enabled him to be so close to the Prophet's heart and beloved in his eyes. He was the son of two generous Muslims belonging to the first converts to Islam who, at the same time, were the closest and most loyal to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH).
As one of the true sons of Islam, he was nurtured from his first days by Islam's pure nature without experiencing the murkiness of the pagan period.
Despite his young and tender age, he was a firm believer and a staunch Muslim fulfilling all the duties of his faith with deep loyalty and an unbreakable will. With great intellect and humility, limits to his devotion to Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) could not found. Furthermore, he represented the victims of all kinds of discrimination who were saved by Islam. How could this dark- skinned, snub-nosed fellow attract the heart of the Prophet (PBUH) and Muslims to such an elevated rank! This could only be possible when Islam corrected human norms and values dealing with discrimination against people: " Surely the most honourable of you in the sight of Allah is the most pious of you" (49-13).
On the day of the Conquest of Makkah, the Prophet's Companion who was riding behind him on horseback was that dark- skinned, snub-nosed Usaamah Ibn Zaid. Among the most victorious days of Islam was the day of the Conquest of Makkah. On that day, on the Prophet's right and left were Bilaal and Usaamah, two dark-skinned men; however Allah's word which they carried in their pure, virtuous hearts made them deserving of all kinds of merit and elevated position.
* * *
Usaamah had not yet reached the age of 20 when the Prophet (PBUH) ordered him to be head of an army which had among its soldiers Abu Bakr and `Umar. A growl spread around among a group of Muslims who were distressed by this matter and who found it too much for a youth such as Usaamah Ibn Zaid to command an army which included a large number of Muhaajiruun and elderly Ansaar. Their whispers reached the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), so he ascended the pulpit, thanked and praised Allah and then said, "Some people criticized Usaamah's army command; they criticized his father's command before him. His father deserved to be the commander as well as Usaamah. He is the most beloved to me next to his father, and I hope he is among the virtuous ones. I request you to treat him well."
The Prophet (PBUH) died before the army set off towards its destination; however the Prophet had left his wise testament to his Companions: "Fulfill Usaamah's commission. Fulfill Usaamah's commission."
Despite the new circumstances created by the Prophet's death, Abu Bakr As-siddiiq, the first caliph, insisted upon fulfilling the Prophet's testament. Usaamah's army set off to its destination; the caliph only requested Usaamah to allow `Umar to stay behind to be with him in Al-Madiinah.
At the same time, the Roman (Byzantine) emperor heard the news of the Prophet's death and that an army headed by Usaamah Ibn Zaid was attacking the borders of Syria. He could not hide his astonishment and wonder about the strength of the Muslims, whose plans and potential were not affected by the Prophet's death. Consequently, the Romans abstained from utilizing the Syrian borders as a leaping point upon Islam's center in the Arabian Peninsula, and thereby their power began to shrink.
Usaamah's army returned safely without any causalities so that the Muslims said, "We've never seen a safer army than Usaamah's."
* * *
It was by the Prophet (PBUH) himself that Usaamah had been taught the lesson of his life, a very wise lesson. Usaamah lived according to its wisdom from the Prophet's death until he himself left our world during the latter phase of Mu'aawiyah's caliphate.
Two years before the Prophet's death, Usaamah was sent by the Prophet (PBUH) to lead a detachment which was meeting some polytheists attacking Islam and its followers. It was the first time for Usaamah to be appointed head of a detachment. He accomplished his duty successfully and victoriously. News of his victory preceded his arrival and the Prophet (PBUH) was indeed glad.
Let us leave the rest of the story to be narrated by Usaamah himself: When I reached the Prophet (PBUH) the proclamation of good news had already reached him. The Prophet's face beamed jubilantly. He asked me to sit closer to him and said, "Tell me." I went on telling and narrating. I mentioned to him that at one point the polytheists were defeated and I could reach a man, at whom I pointed my spear. The man said, "There is no god but Allah. Nevertheless I pierced and killed him with my lance. The Prophet's attitude changed. He said, "Woe unto you! How dare you do that when he said, There is no god but Allah. Woe unto you! How dare you do that when he said, There is no god but Allah." He continued saying that to such an extent that I wished to rid myself of all my deeds and embrace Islam afresh on that day. No, by Allah, I will never fight anyone saying, There is no god but Allah, after what I have heard from the Prophet (PBUH).
* * *
Usaamah was guided by the wisdom of this lesson throughout his life.
What a wise lesson! A lesson revealing the Prophet's humanity, his justice, the eminence of his principles, the greatness of his faith and manners. Despite the fact that if was a polytheist warrior who had been killed by Usaamah, the killing was much regretted by the Prophet (PBUH).
At the same moment this warrior said, "There is no god but Allah," he was holding a sword in his right hand, a sword upon which pieces of Muslim flesh were still hanging. He said it to save his soul or to give himself another chance to change his direction or resume fighting.
Nevertheless, because he said it, his blood became inviolate and his life secure and safe at the same moment and for the same reason, whatever his intention or his inward desire may have been. Usaamah understood the lesson fully. If the Prophet (PBUH) forbids the killing of a man in such a situation for the reason that he said, "There is no god but Allah," what about the true believers and true Muslims? Therefore, Usaamah held a neutral position during the period of the civil strife between Imam `Aliy with his followers on one hand and Mu'aawiyah on the other.
He loved `Aliy very much and could see the truth on his side. But after having been blamed by the Prophet (PBUH) for the murder of a polytheist who said, "There is no god but Allah," how could he ever kill a Muslim believing in Allah and His Prophets? Therefore, he sent a message to `Aliy saying, "If you were in a lion's jaw, I would love to enter it with you. But I've never seen a situation like this before."
He kept within doors during the whole period of the fighting and war. When some of his companions came to argue with him over his decision, he simply said, "I will never fight anyone saying, There is no god but Allah."
Once, one cited' him the verse "And continue fighting them until there is no more persecution and GOD's Religion prevails" (2:193). He replied, " Those are the polytheists and we fought them until there wasn't any persecution and Allah's religion prevailed."
* * *
In A.H. 54 Usaamah longed to meet with Allah. on that day the gates of Paradise opened to receive one of the most reverent and pious believers.