Sahaba: ‘Umayr ibn Wahb

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I have decided to start a series of posts that narrate the  lives of the Sahaba. This is first and foremost for myself, because I have felt for a long time that I need to learn more about their lives, who they were, the sacrifices they made for Islam, and understand why they were the best generation of mankind. Also, instead of simply reading about them, actually writing down what I read helps me greatly to remember the narrations and be able to teach them to others. I’m taking the stories from the book ‘Portaits From the Lives of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’. Insha’Allah others will benefit from these as much as I do. 

 

“Umayr b. Wahb has become more beloved to me than a son.” Umar b. al-Khattab.

 

‘Umayr b. Wahb returned safely form the battle of Badr, but he left behind him his son, Wahb, captive in the hands of the Muslims. ‘Umayr feared that the Muslims would exact revenge upon the young boy, because of his own evil deeds. He feared they would treat him with cruelty, as a punishment for the harm which he, ‘Umayr, had caused the Blesses Prophet, and the torture he had inflicted upon the followers of the Blessed Prophet.

 One morning, ‘Umayr set forth for the masjid, to walk around the Ka’bah and pay respects to the idols. There he found Safwan b. Umayyah sitting next to the sanctuary, and so he saluted him, saying:

            “Good morning, master of Quraysh.”

            “Good morning, Abu Wahb. Come sit and talk for a while, for nothing passes time like conversation.”

 ‘Umayr sat facing Safwan b. Umayyah, and they took to recounting the great losses of Badr, and the number of captives who had fallen into the hangs of Muhammad and his companions. They grieved over the lords of Quraysh who had fallen to the swords of the Muslims, and lay now in the depths of the well of Qulayb. Safwan b. Umayyah sighed and said:

            “Life is not worth living, with them gone,” ‘Umayr assented, then after a brief silence said:

            “I swear by the Lord of the Ka’bah, if it were not that I have debts which I cannot pay, and children for whom I fear if I were to die, I would go and kill Muhammad, and rid us of him once and for all.”

Then, lowering his voice, he continued:

            “Besides, the fact that they have my son Wahb captive makes it appear perfectly normal for me to travel to Yathrib, Nobody would suspect anything…”

Safwan b. Umayyah saw in ‘Umayr’s speech a golden opportunity, and seized upon it. He turned to him saying:

            “ ‘Umayr, consider you debts to be mine, and I shall pay them no matter how heavy they be. And consider your children to be mine, and I shall provide for them as long as they and I live. I have enough money to ensure that they live in luxury.”

            “Then keep our talk secret, and tell nobody of it,” said ‘Umayr, and Safwan agreed.

‘Umayr left the masjid, his heart raging with his hatred of Muhammad (pbuh). He started making preparations to carry out his resolution, and had to fear that nobody would find in is journey a cause for suspicion. Many of the people of Quraysh had relatives who were captives of war in the hands of the Muslims and were in the habit of traveling to Yathrib, seeking to ransom them. He had his servant bring his sword, and had it sharpened and coated with poison. Then he called for his mount, and it was prepared and brought to him. He climbed on its back, and set forth for al-Madinah, his heart churning with hatred and spite.

When he reached al-Madinah, he headed towards the masjid in search of the Blessed Prophet. When he came close to its entrance, he made his camel kneel, and dismounted.

At this time, ‘Umar b. al-Khattab (ra) was sitting with some of the Companions near the entrance of the masjid. They were recounting the battle of Badr, and the losses of Quraysh as well as the prisoners which the Muslims had taken. They retold the heroic actions of the Muslims on the battlefield, the Muhajirun here, the Ansar there, and how Allah had honored them with victory and abased their enemy. ‘Umar happened to turn, and to see ‘Umayr b. Wahb dismounting, and striding towards the masjid with his sword tucked into his belt. He sprang up in alarm, saying:

            “That dog, that enemy of Allah, is ‘Umayr b. Wahb. He has come intent on evil. In Makkah, he used to incite the pagans against us, and he was their spy against us just before the battle of Badr.”

Then he told his associates:

            “Go to the Messenger of Allah, and station yourselves around him. Take care that no treachery is done to him by that vile schemer.”

Then ‘Umar sought out the Blessed Prophet, and said to him, “Oh, Messenger of Allah! This enemy of Allah, ‘Umayr b. Wahb, has come wearing a sword, and I think he comes only to do evil.”

The Blessed Prophet said, “Bring him to me.” So ‘Umar went forth to ‘Umayr b. Wahb, seized him by the sash, and collared him with his sword belt. In this manner he brought him before the Blessed Prophet, who upon seeing him, said to ‘Umar,

            “Release him, ‘Umar, release him!”

Then he said, “Stand away from him.”

When, ‘Umar had moved away, the Blessed Prophet drew close to ‘Umayr, and told ‘Umayr to do the same. ‘Umayr said:,

            “Good morning.” (This was a greeting of the heathen Arabs.) The Blessed Prophet answered,

            “Allah has honored us with a salutation better than ours, ‘Umayr. He has honored us with, ‘Peace,’ which is the greeting of the inhabitants of Paradise.”

            ‘Umayr answered:

            “By Allah, you are not far from our greeting. Until very recently, you used to use it yourself.”

Ignoring the rudeness of ‘Umayr, the Blessed Prophet said to him,

            “What brings you here, ‘Umayr?”

            “I have come to plead for the release of a prisoner you have taken Do me kindness through him.”

            “Then why do you carry a sword with you?”

            “May Allah curse it among swords! It did nothing for us at Badr!”

            “Tell me the truth, what have you come for, ‘Umayr?’

            “I have already told you.” Then the Blessed Prophet said:

            “No. You sat at the sanctuary with your friend, and recounted those of Quraysh who are now buried at al-Qulayb. Then you said:

            ‘If it were not for my debt and my dependents, I would go and kill Muhammad.’ Then Safwan said that he would bear your debts and provide for your dependants, if you would kill me. But Allah shall prevent you from that.”

‘Umayr was stunned, then pronounced:

            “I testify that you are the Messenger of Allah.”

Then he added:

            “We disbelieved you, Messenger of Allah, and what you brought us from Heaven, and the revelation which you received. But my story with Safwan b. Umayyah, nobody knows if it but he and I, and I am sure that none save Allah has informed you of it. Praise be to Allah Who has brought me here to you, to guide me to Islam.”

Then he formally testified that there is no go but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and became a Muslim. The Blessed Prophet said to his companions,

            “Teach your brother about his religion, teach him the Quran, and release his captive.”

The Muslims were overjoyed at ‘Umayr b. Wahb’s acceptance of Islam. Even ‘Umar b. Khattab (ra) said:

            “When ‘Umayr b. Wahb came to the Blessed Prophet, I would have preferred a pig to ‘Umayr, and today I have com to love him more than if he were one of my children.”

‘Umayr spent his time purifying his soul with the teachings of Islam, and filling his heart with the light of the Quran. These were the richest, most meaningful days of his life, and they slipped by, with Makkah and all whom he knew there far from his mind. Meanwhile, Safwan b. Umayyah was full of hope, and would pass by gatherings of Quraysh, saying:

            “Be of good cheer, for soon you will receive great tidings which will make you forget the losses of Badr.” When Safwan b. Umayyah felt that his wait had become overly long, anxiety crept info his heart. He reached the point where he was in an agony of worry, so he started asking passing caravans if they had any news of ‘Umayr b. Wahb. He received a satisfactory answer from none, until finally a traveler gave him the news that ‘Umayr had entered Islam. Safwan was thunderstruck, for he had thought that ‘Umayr would never become Muslim, even if all of humanity were to accept Islam.

After ‘Umary b. Wahb had become proficient in the Quran and learned what was necessary in practical matters of religion, he went to the Blessed Prophet got permission to return to Makkah to spread the deen. When he reached the home of Safwan b. Umayyah, he went and addressed him:

            “Safwan, you are one of the masters of Quraysh, and certainly one of the most clear-thinking of them. Does it make sense that you should spend your life worshipping and sacrificing to stone idols? Is this the religion of a sensible man? As for me, I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Then ‘Umayr began preaching Islam in Makkah and obtained many converts. May Allah grant him an abundant reward and fill his grave with light. 

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