Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood (Radhiallaahu Anhu)

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Whoever likes to recite the Qur’aan as purely as it was first revealed, let him recite it like ibn Umm Abd (i.e. ibn Mas’ud)

The sun was blistering hot. There was no hope of attaining water in the harsh mountain passes of Makkah, where the blessed Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, and his companion Abu Bakr took respite from the oppression and the insults of the pagan Makkans. As they penetrated deeper into the passes, a great thirst overtook them, a thirst that exhausted their bodies and parched their throats.

They went further searching for water when they caught sight of a boy driving a flock of sheep. He looked thin and small, but at a closer look he was well in his teens “Young man, give us some milk from one of these ewes to quench our thirst,” the Prophet said, sallallahu alayhi wasallam.  “I am not going to do it, for I am entrusted with these  sheep, which belong to Uqbah ibn abi Mu’ait.” The  Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, did not argue and was rather pleased with the youth’s honesty. “Then show us a young ewe which has not given birth to a lamb,” he  said, “This I will do,” replied the youth. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, seized it, and stroke its udder with his hand as he invoked Allah. To his great amazement, the youth saw the udder swell and milk started flowing from it. He knew very well that an ewe which has never had a lamb could not produce milk. Abu Bakr fetched a hollow stone, which the Prophet filled with milk. He gave Abu Bakr and the youth drink. He then said to the udder, “Shrink and it shrank! The youth said to the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam, “Teach me the words you said.” The Prophet replied, “You are a learned boy.” It was not long before the youth accepted Islam, as he was introduced to it through such a miracle! The young man’s name was Abdullah ibn Masoud. He used to hear about the news the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam who appeared among his people, but he did not pay much attention to that because of his young age and also because he was away from Makkah most of the time, taking Uqbah’s flock to graze from dawn to dusk.

Soon after this event, ibn Masoud offered to be at the services of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, tending to his needs. Abandoning his job as a shepherd to be with him, he became closer to him than his own shadow. He was with him when he traveled and when he was in town. He would wake him up when he slept, and screen him when he bathed. He would bring his shoes when he wanted to go out and remove them for him when he came in. He carried his miswak and stick for him, and he slept in a room next to him. In fact, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, allowed him to enter his house whenever he wished and kept nothing hidden from him, until he was known as the keeper of the Prophet’s secrets. But Ibn Masoud’s deeper desire was to learn from the Prophet and to follow his example in every one of his moves. Thus he was raised in his home, and was trained by his guidance. He was so much like the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, that Huthafah said about him, “I never saw a person closer to the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, in character and guidance than ibn Masoud.

The truthfulness of ibn Masoud’s faith revealed itself when he dared to accomplish an act that none besides the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, had done before him, to recite the Qur’aan openly in the Ka’abah. The Muslims were few and weak in number. They all gathered one day with the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, and said, “By Allah, Quraysh have never heard this Qur’an being distinctly read to them. So is there anyone who would make them listen to it?” Ibn Masoud sprang up: “I will do it,” he said. “We fear for you,” they replied, “we want a man of good family that will protect him in case the populace attacked him.” “Let me alone, for Allah will protect me,” he insisted. In the morning, he went to Ka’abah while Quraysh were in their conferences, and when he arrived at the Maqam Ibrahim station, he recited, “In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful,” raising his voice as he did so. “The Compassionate. He taught the Qur’an. He created man. He taught him eloquent speech, … (Surah ar-Rahman). ” They looked at him attentively. “What on earth is the son of Umm Abd saying?” they wondered? “Woe to him, he is reciting some of the words which Muhammad came with!” They got up and showered him with blows, hitting him in the face and the head, but he continued to read so far as Allah willed that he should read. Then he went to his companions with his face swollen and blood running from it. They exclaimed when they saw him, “This is just what we feared would happen to you!” “Allah’s enemies were never more contemptible in my sight than they are now, and if you like I will go and do the same thing in front of them tomorrow,” he replied. “No,” they said, “you have done enough! You have made them listen to what they do not want to hear.”

Not only was Ibn Masood a courageous and determined man, but he was also the most learned among the companions concerning the Qur’an and its meanings, so much that he earned the title of ‘the scholar of the Ummah’. Abu Musa al-Ash’ari said about him, “Do not ask us about any matter of this deen as long as this scholar is among you.” He himself said, “I learned seventy surahs directly from the Prophet, nobody can contend with me concerning them.”

Ibn Masoud was not distinguished because of his social status for he was a poor shepherd with no wealth, or because of his physical strength, for he was thin and frail. Yet he was dear and beloved by the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, who appreciated his sincere devotion and his eagerness for the knowledge of the Deen. He once climbed a tree to get a twig for the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wasallam, to use as a miswak. When the Prophet’s companions saw his thin legs, they laughed. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, said, “You laugh at ibn Masoud’s legs! They are in the sight of Allah heavier in the Scale than the mountain of Uhud!”

In addition, ibn Masoud had an incredibly beautiful voice that moved to tears anyone who listened to him recite the Qur’an. During the days when Umar was Khalifah, a man came to him and said, “O leader of the faithful, I came from Kufah, and I left a man there who dictates the Qur’an to scribes from cover to cover, claiming he knows it by heart.” Umar’s face swelled, red with anger, as he asked, “Woe to you, who is he?” “‘Abdullah ibn Masoud” replied the man. Umar’s anger subsided as he said “By Allah I know nobody who is more deserving of this task than him, and I will tell you a story concerning him.” Then he continued, “The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, and I were gathering one evening at the house of Abu Bakr, we later went out to the masjid where we saw a man standing in salah whom we did not recognize because of the darkness. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, stopped to listen to him recite the Qur’an, then turned to us and said, “Whoever likes to recite the Qur’an as purely as it was first revealed, let him recite it like ibn Umm Abd (i.e., ibn Masoud)” Then Abdullah ibn Masoud sat down supplicating Allah, and the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, said, “Ask, for you shall be granted, ask for you shall be granted.” I said to myself, ‘by Allah, I will bring these glad tidings to ibn Masoud,’ but when the next morning came, I found that Abu Bakr had already informed him. I never rushed to any good deed but found Abu Bakr preceding me.”

The knowledge of ibn Masoud reached such a degree that he himself said, “By Allah, there is no verse of the Book of Allah which I did not know where, and concerning what, it was revealed.” This was not an exaggeration from him, and here is an example to illustrate his excellent knowledge of the Qur’an.

Umar met a caravan while he was traveling once. In the darkness of night, he could not distinguish who the people were, so he ordered one of his men to call out and ask from where the caravan was coming. It happened that Abdullah ibn Masoud was in the caravan, so he answered, “From the deep ravine.” “Where are you going to” asked the man? “To the Ancient House,” replied ibn Masoud. “There is a learned man among them.” remarked ‘Umar to his companions. He ordered his man to ask,

– “Which verse of the Qur’an is the greatest?” Abdullah ibn Masoud answered, “Allah, none has the right to be worshiped but He, the Living, the Self-Subsistent. Sleep does not overtake Him, nor does slumber … [2:255]”

– “Ask them which verse of the Qur’an has the most justice,” said, ‘Umar to the man. “Verily, Allah commands justice, and giving help to kith and kin … [16:90]” answered ibn Masoud.

– “Which verse of the Qur’an is most encompassing?” asked the man, “And whosoever does an atom’s weight of good shall see it, and whosoever does an atom’s weight of evil shall see it [99:7-8].” answered ibn Masoud

– “Which verse is most frightening?” “it will not be in accordance with your desires, nor those of the people of the Scripture. Whosoever works evil, will have the recompense thereof, and he will not find any protector or helper besides Allah [4:123].”

– “Which verse gives the most hope?” “Say, ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (39:53)”

– Umar asked his companion to call out if Abdullah ibn Masoud was among them. “Yes” they said, “By Allah, he is indeed”! Ibn Masoud lived until the Khilafah of ‘Uthman when he fell fatally ill. His soul departed from him while his mouth was moving to the last moment, reciting the Qur’an and glorifying Allah.

Al-Jumuah vol.10 issue8/9