Exemplary Youth Nurtured by the Messenger of God ﷺ (3): Abdullah ibn Masud

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Abdullah ibn Masud, orphaned at a young age, was working as a shepherd of Uqba ibn Abi Muayt’s herds for a fee to support his mother, Ummu Abd, and was grazing sheep in a valley of Mecca, unaware of their future. The two individuals who approached him asked, “Hey, young man! Do you have any milk that you can offer us?” He responded, “Yes, I do! However, I am a custodian, and I cannot give you milk without the owner’s permission!” The response was sufficient for the two individuals before him to recognize him and grasp his character. One of the two individuals was Muhammad al-Amin (peace and blessings be upon him), who had recently been entrusted with the eternal prophethood, and the other was his dearest and most loyal Companion, the respected Abu Bakr, among the earliest believers in him.

In response, the Messenger of God inquired about the existence of a sheep that had never produced milk, and upon receiving confirmation, he instructed him to bring it. Then, a miracle of fertility occurred, and milk began to flow from the breasts touched by his sacred hands. During this time, he also read verses from the Qur’an. Both what he heard and witnessed profoundly influenced Ibn Mas’ud; he embraced Islam and assumed his position among the early believers. Abdullah, a very intelligent young man, immediately expressed his curiosity for knowledge by saying, “O Messenger of God! Could you teach me that sweet and beautiful speech, the Qur’an?” This question marked the commencement of a journey that would elevate him to the pinnacle of Islamic sciences.

The respected Abdullah’s embrace of Islam and his eagerness for knowledge brought great joy and satisfaction to the Messenger of God. He gently stroked his head with his blessed hands and said, “May God bestow His mercy upon you. May the Qur’an you desire to learn be fruitful for you. Surely you will be an educated, intelligent, and knowledgeable young man!” After that, the Messenger of God and the respected Abu Bakr left, and Abdullah ibn Masud proceeded to the house of Uqba ibn Abi Muayt. He had made a firm decision; he would abandon shepherding and dedicate the rest of his life to serving the Messenger of God. This proximity would elevate him to the pinnacle of Qur’anic and Sunnah knowledge, distinguishing him among his Companions as a person of profound knowledge. In his own words, he learned seventy surahs in their entirety directly from the Messenger of God. 1 The remaining ones, he learned from his Companions 2, whom he held in separate esteem.

“If you are going to choose role models, consider the Companions of the Messenger of God as your examples because they are the most sincere and deeply knowledgeable people among this ummah. coThey are people far from affectation and completely natural. Not only do they always live according to guidance, but they also have the best morals. They are exceptional individuals whom God selected to establish His religion and to be Companions of His Prophet. Get to know them well with these superior aspects and follow them because they are on the straight path.’’3

The Most Accurate Choice

The respected Abdullah ibn Masud , who left shepherding, wanted to devote himself to her service, and the Messenger of God, who recognized his potential, welcomed this request because he was deeply concerned about being close to talented young individuals, ensuring they received knowledge and wisdom from the source, and raising them to comply with their abilities. The respected Abdullah was now one of the people closest to him. Day and night, he dedicated himself to service, storing in his memory the things he saw, heard, and inquired about, then reflecting deeply upon them.
Simultaneously, he imparted the teachings of Islam to his mother, Umm Abd, and his brother, Utba ibn Mas’ud. They, too, embraced Islam and joined the ranks of the early believers.

The presence of young individuals like the respected Abdullah, who was passionate about knowledge and research, talented and virtuous, yet impoverished or enslaved, consistently by his side, unsettled the leaders of polytheism. Perhaps because of their arrogance and because they understood what he wanted to do, they said to the Messenger of God: “What, have you chosen these instead of your people? Are we supposed to follow them? If you turn away from them, perhaps we might then follow you!” 4 By behaving in this way, they were asking him to distance them. In response to this “ignorant perspective,” which contradicted his understanding of humanity and fundamental principles of Islam such as justice, freedom, and equality, the Qur’an stated the following:

“Do not drive away from your presence those who pray to their God morning and evening, longing only for His beauty and approval! You are not responsible for them, nor are they responsible for you, so that you can drive them away and become one of the oppressors.” 5

In this manner, he wished for him to persist in keeping young individuals like ibn Mas’ud, who were devoted to the Divine, in his company 6 because they would play crucial roles in establishing and disseminating the Islamic religion and its universal values in society, reaching out to all of humanity.

Fighting Hate Speech and Manipulation

While nurturing the youth, the Messenger of God emphasized the importance of both deepening their knowledge and gaining practical experience, promoting an active lifestyle. Therefore, he assigned them tasks commensurate with their abilities, removing any obstacles in their way. Mecca served as the focal point of the peninsula and the epicenter of paganism, owing to the presence of the Kaaba and the surrounding trade hubs. The leaders of polytheism were deeply concerned about the dissemination of the religion advocated and preached by the Messenger of God. That’s why they tortured Muslims to force them to abandon their religion and tried to keep the people of the city under control by spreading fear. But what would happen to people coming from outside? For this purpose, they formed a propaganda team of sixteen individuals called the “Muqtasimun.”

These individuals stationed at the entrances to Mecca would intercept those arriving from outside, proclaiming, “Do not believe in the person who has emerged among us claiming a new religion. Regard him as insane, a sorcerer, a soothsayer, and a poet.” They instilled fear in the travelers and sowed resentment and hatred in their hearts.7 In order to explain Islam to people correctly and to destroy the negative perception created by this black propaganda in people’s minds, the Messenger of God appointed people who knew the Qur’an and Sunnah very well; one of them was the respected Abdullah 8 He endeavored to connect with individuals subjected to hate speech and manipulation, striving to elucidate the truth to them.

Abdullah Ibn Masud’s The Determination to Live Islam and the Hijrah

Following the fourth year of his prophethood, when the Messenger of God began openly and collectively preaching Islam, the conditions in Mecca intensified for the Muslims, making it increasingly difficult for them to endure. He directed his Companions, who were oppressed and burdened by cruelty, to Abyssinia, the homeland of the just ruler Negus. As part of the migration caravan, one of those who sought refuge from discord and aimed to live their cherished beliefs in tranquility was the respected Abdullah ibn Masud because his non-Quraishi origin,9

Close association with the Prophet, unabashed recitation of the Rahman Surah in the Kaaba despite the leaders of polytheism, fearless dissemination of the Qur’an in Mecca, and the absence of a supportive tribe behind him had made him a target.10 However, his stay in Abyssinia was short-lived. Fueled by baseless news, he returned with the anticipation of reuniting with the Messenger of God, whom he cherished more than life itself, and being close to him once again, just as before. He entered Mecca without protection, stayed for a while, and then returned to Abyssinia. In the Meccan years, the Messenger of God designated him as a brother to the respected Zubayr ibn Avvam, forging a close bond between them. When the news of the migration to Medina reached him, he left immediately and headed to Medina with his family.

Establishing Closeness and Transferring Knowledge

The Messenger of God initially appointed him as a brother to Hazrat Muaz ibn Jabal, one of the most gifted youths in Medina. 11 The noble intention was for Abdullah to impart his 13 years of knowledge in the Qur’an and Sunnah to Muaz swiftly and to mentor him. Indeed, this inoculation took hold, and the respected Muaz quickly rose among the most knowledgeable figures among the Ansar. When the construction of the Masjid an-Nabawi was completed, the Messenger of God allocated a place for the respected Abdullah and his mother right next to the mosque 12 because the respected Abdullah was a talented young man, and the Messenger of God wanted him to stay close to him, as he did in Mecca. He even told him, “O Abdullah! Unless I explicitly prohibit it, you can raise the curtain and listen to my private conversations!”13 He had granted him and his mother the right to enter the household of happiness without seeking permission. They utilized this authorization in such a beneficial and fruitful manner that those arriving from outside assumed they were part of the Ahl al-Bayt. 14

Extensive and Profound Engagement with the Qur’an

The respected Abdullah ibn Masud was not satisfied with just what he saw and heard. He was also frequently asked questions to the Messenger of God and thus tried to understand the secrets of the Qur’an and Sunnah. He brought the verses he learned to life and then moved on to new ones. He showed particular sensitivity to staying within the limits of devotion in his behavior and actions to benefit from the Qur’an. As someone who is a lover of the Qur’an, we can understand what kind of morality he has from his following statement: ‘‘A Qur’anic scholar ought to be vigilant at night while others sleep, fast during the day while others eat and drink, maintain dignity when others laugh and enjoy, and embody humility while others are arrogant. Those versed in the Qur’an should be sorrowful and teary-eyed. One should possess wisdom, knowledge, and forbearance, and speak sparingly. One should not be coarse, heedless, loud, and quick-tempered. “15

One day, Abdullah ibn Masud received high praise from his students. They exclaimed, “O Commander of the Believers! We have never encountered anyone with a more excellent temperament than ibn Mas’ud. He is exceptionally gentle in imparting knowledge, treats his friends with the utmost kindness, and exemplifies a level of piety that surpasses all others.” In response, the respected Ali inquired, “Please, for the sake of honesty, can you confirm the sincerity of your words?” When they responded with “Yes,” he declared, “By God, I bear witness! O God, I bear witness that I echo the same sentiments about ibn Mas’ud and even more.”16

The respected Abdullah had a special connection with the Qur’an. One day, the Messenger of God said to take the Qur’an from these four people (Abdullah ibn Masud, Ubay ibn Ka’b, Muaz ibn Jabal, Salim Mawla Abu Hudhayfah) and mentioned him first.17 He had a deep knowledge and curiosity about the Qur’an: “I swear, there is not a single surah in the Book of God about which I don’t know where it was revealed, nor a verse about which I am unaware of the context of its revelation. However, if I knew that there was someone accessible who knew the book of God better than me, I would immediately go to him and benefit from him.’’18

The trustworthy Gabriel would visit every Ramadan, reciting the entire Qur’an from start to finish to the Messenger of God. In the last Ramadan, the Qur’an’s revelation occurred twice, and the Messenger of God had ibn Mas’ud also present in the environment where the revelation took place.19 By keeping him close and offering encouraging support, the Messenger of God laid the foundation for him to delve deeper and become an authority on matters about the Qur’an. As affirmed by the respected Ali, ibn Mas’ud dedicated himself to the sciences of the Qur’an and the Sunnah without allowing his mind to be preoccupied with other matters. 20 Moreover, he was among the select few who issued fatwas while the Messenger of God was still alive. 21

Simultaneously, he recited the Qur’an with such beauty and spiritual resonance, exactly as it was revealed, prompting the Messenger of God to declare, “If anyone wishes to recite the Qur’an as it was revealed, then let them recite it in the manner of ibn Umm Abd.”22 The Messenger of God, who loved listening to the Qur’an very much, would ask him to read it from time to time and would listen to it in awe and cry. 23

The Spirit of Action and the Final Blow to Abu Jahl

Like all other Companions, he had a great spirit of action as well as knowledge. The primary factor for this was the Prophet’s comprehension of education and representation. He stood by the side of the Messenger of God in all the journeys and fronts visited throughout the Medina period.24 Indeed, in the Battle of Badr, Abdullah ibn Masud delivered the final blow to Abu Jahl, the most formidable adversary of Islam and the Pharaoh of the Ummah, ultimately bringing an end to him. 25 He was among the few Companions who remained with the Messenger of God during the earthquake in Uhud and Hunain. He was among those who were closest to the Messenger of God during his journeys. He shared all the information he witnessed during his journey with other Companions and contributed to their education.

abdullah ibn masud image of the person writing

Closeness Leads to Certainty​

He was one of the closest Companions to him. He was also performing personal services. He was preparing his shoes, walking in front of him with his staff, giving him his staff when he stopped and resting, and waking him up when he went to rest. 26 When the Messenger of God wanted to be alone or walk for a while, he was often the only person who stayed with him. Upon returning home, he would be the first to enter the room for security reasons.27 Hence, he had the chance to hear things that others hadn’t and witness events that were unseen by anyone else. When he died, a person named Abu Mas’ud asked the respected Abu Musa, “Did he leave anyone like himself behind?” and Abu Musa answered: ‘‘I wish I could say he left. But when permission was not granted to us, it was granted to him; when we were not present, he would be with him.’’28 He was called “sahibu’s-siwad/sirr” among the Companions, which expressed how well he knew the secrets, attitudes, and actions of our Prophet.29

The Prototype of Exemplary Ethics

In addition to deepening his knowledge, the result of this closeness manifested in his character, morality, dignity, composure, and actions resembling the Messenger of God. It was as if he had transformed into a prototype of the Prophet.30 When it was asked, “Tell us who is the person closest in behavior to the Messenger of God, so that we may learn from him,” Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman responded, “In all these matters, I know no one closer to the Messenger of God than ibn Ummi Abd!” thus pointing to him as the reference. 31 He was truly one of the advisors whom God positioned beside His Messenger. The respected Abdullah ibn Masud had not only made significant progress in knowledge and morality but also in administrative capabilities. To the extent that the Messenger of God remarked, “If I were to appoint a leader without consulting, I would appoint ibn Mas’ud!”32, underscoring his immense trust in him for such a role.

The Final Advice Before Parting Ways

For 23 years, the Messenger of God kept him by his side, nurturing him and imparting profound knowledge and understanding. However, the time had come to part ways. The Messenger of God gathered a group of Companions, including ibn Mas’ud, in our Mother Aisha’s room and gave the following advice: “Welcome! May God’s peace be upon you. May the mercy of God be upon you. May God protect you. May God help you. May God grant you abundant provision. May God elevate you. May God grant you success. May God keep you steadfast in guidance. May God protect you. I advise you to submit to God, to remain conscious of Him. I entrust you to God. After me, your Master is God. I warn you against disobeying God’s commands. I am a clear Warner sent by God to you. Never show arrogance towards God’s servants and those under your authority…’’33

Not long after, like a shadow that never left him, the Messenger of God handed over his mission to them and walked towards the horizon of his soul. Living and preserving the Islamic religion, civilization, and Prophetic legacy, enlightening individuals and society on these matters, carrying the mission into the future, and nurturing generations—these responsibilities now rested on his shoulders and those like him. The respected Abdullah ibn Masud was both aware and conscious of this responsibility.
He was leading a very balanced life in line with the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and he was advising the people as follows: “There are two crucial matters in life: One is guidance, and the other is speech. The most accurate speech is the Qur’an, which is the word of God. The most beautiful guidance and path are those followed by the Messenger of God. The worst thing is what is later fabricated and introduced into religion. If you immerse yourself too much in the world, your heart will harden. Also, don’t let the illusion of permanently staying in this world deceive you…’’ 34

The respected Abdullah ibn Masud, after the Messenger of God, made significant contributions, effectively disseminating the knowledge, wisdom, and vision he gained from the Messenger of God to society for 23 years in a highly impactful and fruitful manner. He laid the foundation for the Kufa school of interpretation and jurisprudence based on reasoning, which would have a lasting impact until the Day of Judgment. He nurtured brilliant minds and left behind a substantial legacy of knowledge, experience, and disciples. For more extensive information, you can visit our page (Turkish):  https://peygamberyolu.com/ilim-ve-hikmet-pinari-hz-abdullah-ibn-i-mesud-ra/

Author: Yucel Men

Footnotes:

  1. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/111
  2. One of them was Mujammi ibn Jariya. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 2/278
  3. Abu Nuaym, Hilya 1/305
  4. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir 3/254, 255; Zahabi, Siyar A’lami’n-Nubalai 1/73, 255
  5. Al-An’am 6/52
  6. See Hakim, Mustadrak 3/360; Qurtubi, Al-Jami 4/2428, 2429; Ibn Asakir, Tarikh 33/74
  7. See Tabari, Tafsir 14/133, 134; Qurtubi, Al-Jami 6/3674; Ayni, Umdatu’l-Qari 19/13; Baghdadi, Muhabbar 60
  8. See Baghdadi, Muhabbar 61
  9. He was living in Mecca as an ally of the Zuhra tribe, the tribe to which the mother of the Messenger of God, Amina, belonged. Originally, he was affiliated with the Hudhayl tribe.
  10. See Ibn Hisham, Sira 144, 145; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/111; Ibn Asakir, Tarikh 33/75
  11. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/112
  12. See Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/112
  13. See Muslim, Salam 6; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/113
  14. See Muslim, Fadail 22; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/114
  15. Abu Nuaym, Hilya 1/130
  16. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/115
  17. See Muslim, Fadail 22; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 2/276
  18. Bukhari, Fadailu’l-Qur’an 8; Muslim, Fadail 22
  19. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 2/268
  20. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 2/271
  21. Others include the respected Umar, Uthman, Ali, Zayd ibn Thabit, Mu’adh ibn Jabal, Ubay ibn Ka’b, and the esteemed Abu Musa al-Ash’ari. See Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 2/275, 276
  22. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 2/269
  23. See Muslim, Salatu’l-Musafirin 40; Hakim, Mustadrak 3/360
  24. See Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/112
  25. See Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/373
  26. See Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, 3/113
  27. See Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/113
  28. Muslim, Fadail 22; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 2/269
  29. See Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/113
  30. See Hakim, Al-Mustadrak 3/361; ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/114. His student Alqamah was, in a way, his prototype.
  31. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/114
  32. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 3/114
  33. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat 2/202
  34. Ibnu’l-Jawzi, Sifatu’s-Safwa 1/409
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