‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah
عبدالله ابن رواحة
‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah
عبدالله ابن رواحة
The Companions of Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him)
” ‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah ibn Tha’labah (Arabic: عبدالله ابن رواحة) was one of the companions of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.”
Ibn Rawahah was from the Arabian tribe, the Banu Khazraj. At a time when writing was not a common skill he was a scribe and a poet.
He was one of the twelve representatives of the Ansar who took an oath of allegiance initially, before the Hijra and later spread Islam to Medina. Also he was among the 73 that pledged allegiance to Muhammad in Medina. He is said to have been alert to the supposed plots of Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy. ‘Abd Allah ibn Rawahah was third in command during the Battle of Mu’tah and was subsequently killed during the battle.
He also led his own expedition known as the Expedition of Abdullah ibn Rawaha, where he was sent to assassinate al Yusayr ibn Rizam. Expedition of Abdullah ibn Rawaha to Khaybar, took place in February 628 AD. Ibn Hisham also refers to this as Abdullah b. Rawaha’s raid to kill al-Yusayr b. Rizam. The assassination was successful, and ibn Rizam was killed as well has 29 of his followers.
Assassination of Al-Yusayr ibn Rizam
The assassination of Abu Rafi did not relieve Muhammad of his apprehensions. Muhammad did not feel safe from the Jews of Khaybar.
Al-Yusayr ibn Rizam was elected the new chief of the Khaybar Jews. He maintained the same good relations with the Banu Ghatafan that his predecessor Abu Rafi had. Muhammad heard that Al-Yusayr ibn Rizam was planning a fresh attack against him. So he deputed Abdallah ibn Rawaha, a leader of the Banu Khazraj, and sent him with 3 followers to Khaybar to gather intelligence on how Al-Yusayr may be taken unaware and assassinated.
But Abdullah ibn Rawaha found the Jews to be extremely alert for this second assassination to be a success. When he returned to Medina a new strategy was devised, Muhammad again sent him openly with 30 men mounted on camels to persuade al-Yusayr to visit Medina. When they arrived, they assured Yusayr they will make him the ruler of Khaybar and would treat him well, giving al-Yusayr ibn Rizam a solemn guarantee of his safety.
So he was mounted on the horse of Abdullah ibn Unais and the Muslims rode behind him. When they arrived at al-Qarqarat, about six miles from Khaybar, al-Yusayr suspected the ill-motive of the Muslims and changed his mind about going to meet Muhammad. He dismounted from the beast he was riding with Abdullah ibn Unais. Abdullah ibn Unais claimed that he perceived al-Yusayr was drawing his sword. So he rushed at him and hit him with a deadly blow on his hip joint. Al-Yusayr fell wounded on the floor but hit Abdullah ibn Unais and wounded him with a camel staff, the only weapon within his reach.
This was a signal for the Muslims to attack, each of the Muslims killed the Jews on the camels in front of them, one behind the other. The Muslims killed all the Jews, except one who escaped.
Islamic primary sources
The Sunni hadith collection Sunan al-Tirmidhi no. 3923 mentions that Muhammad sent a detachment under Abdullah ibn Rawaha:
“The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent Abdullah ibn Rawahah with a detachment and that happened to be on a Friday. His companions set off in the morning, but he decided to stay behind and catch up with them after saying the prayer along with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). When he did so he saw him and asked him what had prevented him from going out in the morning with his companions. He replied, “I wanted to pray along with you and then catch up with them.” Whereupon he said, “If you were to contribute all that the earth contains you would not attain the excellence of their going out in the morning.” Tirmidhi transmitted it [Tirmidhi no. 3923]
‘O My Soul, Death Is Inevitable, So It Is Better for You to Be Martyred…!
When the Prophet (pbuh) met secretly with Al-Madiinah’s delegation on the outskirts of Makkah away from the disbelievers of the Quraish, twelve representatives of the Ansaar took an oath of allegiance in the first Pledge of ‘Aqabah. ‘Abdullah Ibn Rawaahah was one of those representatives who ushered Islam to Al-Madiinah and who paved the way for the Hijrah, which was considered an excellent springboard for Allah’s religion, Islam. ‘Abdullah was also one of the great 73 of the Ansaar who gave the Prophet (pbuh) the Second Pledge of ‘Aqabah in the following year.
After the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions emigrated and settled in Al-Madiinah, ‘Abdullah Ibn Rawaahah was the most active Muslim of the Ansaar who strived to support the thriving religion. He was also the most alert Muslim to the plots of ‘Abdullah Ibn Ubaiy whom the people of Al-Madiinah were about to crown king before the Muslims arrived. He never got over the bitterness he felt for losing the chance of his lifetime to become a king. Therefore, he used his craftiness to weave deceitful plots against Islam, while ‘Abdullah Ibn Rawaahah kept on tracing and detecting this craftiness with remarkable insight that frustrated most of Ibn Ubaiy’s maneuvers and plots.
Ibn Rawaahah (May Allah be pleased with him) was a scribe at a time in which writing was not prevalent. He was a poet. His poetry flowed with admirable fluency and strength. Ever since his Islam he devoted his poetic genius to its service. The Prophet (pbuh) always admired his poetry, asking him to recite more of it. One day, as he was sitting among his Companions, “Abdullah Ibn Rawaahah joined them, so the Prophet (pbuh) asked him, “How do you compose a poem?” ‘Abdullah answered, “First I think about its subject matter, then I recite.”
He immediately recited
- the good descendants of Al Haashim
- Allah raised you to a high station
- Of which you are worthy above all mankind.
- My intuition made me realize at once
- Your excelling nature,
- Contrary to the disbelievers’ belief in you.
- If you asked some of them for support and help,
- They would turn you down.
- May Allah establish the good that descends
- On you firmly
- And bestow victory upon you as He did to Muusaa.
The Prophet (pbuh) was elated and said, “I hope that Allah will make your feet firm, too.” When the Prophet was circumambulating the Ka’bah in the compensatory “Umrah, Ibn Rawaahah recited to him:
- Were it not for Allah, we would not have been
- Guided to the Right path nor charitable
- Nor able to perform our prayers.
- So descend, peace of mind and reassurance,
- On us and establish our feet firmly
- When we meet our enemy
- In combat. If our oppressors tried to spread
- Affliction and trial, unrest, among us
- We will not give them way.
Muslims reiterated his graceful lines. The active poet was saddened when the glorious verse descended saying:
‘’And for the poets, only the erring people follow them.’’ [26:224]
But soon he was contented to hear another verse saying:
‘’Except those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, and remember GOD frequently, and defend themselves after being oppressed.’’ [26 : 227]
When Islam rose up in arms in self-defense, Ibn Rawaahah saw service in all the battles: Badr, Uhud, Al-Khandaq, Al Hudaibiyyah, and Khaibar. His perpetual slogan was these lines of poetry: “O my soul, death is inevitable, so it is better for you to be martyred.”
He shouted at the disbelievers in every battle, “0 disbelievers, get out of my way. My Prophet (pbuh) has all the excellent qualities.”
The Battle of Mu’tah started, and, as we have mentioned, he was the third of the Commanders after Zaid and Ja’far. Ibn Rawaahah (May Allah be pleased with him) stood there as the army was about to leave Al- Madiinah and recited:
I truly ask the Most Beneficient’s forgiveness and a mortal stroke of a sword that will strike me down foaming or a mortal stab with a spear by a stubborn disbeliever that will make my liver and intestine show out of my body. So that when people pass by my grave, they will say: By Allah, you are the most righteous warrior.
Indeed, a stroke or a stab that would convey him into the world of rewarded martyrs was his utmost wish. The army marched towards Mu’tah. When the Muslims saw their enemies, they estimated them at 200,000, for they saw endless waves of warriors. The Muslims glanced back at their small group and were stunned. Some of them suggested, “Let us send a message to the Prophet (pbuh) to tell him of the enormity of the enemy that surpassed all our expectations so he will either order us to wait for reinforcements or to pierce through the enemy lines.”
However, Ibn Rawaahah stood amidst the lines of the army and said: “0 my people, by Allah, we do not fight our enemies with numbers, strength or equipment, but rather with this religion which Allah has honored us with. So go right ahead: it is either one of two equally good options, victory or martyrdom.” The Muslims, who were lesser in number and greater in faith, cried out, “By Allah, you spoke the truth.” The smaller army broke through the mighty host of 200,000 warriors in terrible and cruel fighting.
As we have mentioned, both armies met in fierce combat. The first commander, Zaid Ibn Haarithah, was struck down, he winning glorious martyrdom. The second in command was Ja’far Ibn Abi Taalib, who was overjoyed to be martyred. “Abdullah took over the command and grabbed the standard from Ja’far’s failing upper arms. The fight reached the peak of ferocity. The smaller army was indistinct amidst the waves of the mighty hosts of Heraclius.
When Ibn Rawaahah was a soldier, he attacked heedlessly and confidently. But now the command placed great responsibilities for the army’s safety on his shoulders. It seemed that for a moment he was overtaken by hesitation and dread, yet he instantly shook off those apprehensions, summoned his innate fearlessness and cried out, “O my soul, you look as if you were afraid to cross the way that leads to Paradise. ‘O my soul, I took an oath to fight.
‘O my soul, death is inevitable, so you had better be martyred. Now I will experience the inevitability of death. What you have cared for so long is finally yours. So go ahead, for if you follow these two heroes, you will be guided to the way of Paradise.” He meant the two heroes who had preceded him in martyrdom, Zaid and ]a’Sar.
He darted into the Roman armies, fiercely and ruthlessly. Were it not for a previous ordainment from Allah that he was to be martyred on that day, he would have annihilated the fighting hosts. But destiny called and he was martyred. His body was struck down, yet his pure, valiant spirit was raised to the heavens. His most precious wish finally came true, so that “When people pass by my grave, they will say: By Allah you are the most righteous warrior.”
The fierce attack in Al-Balqaa’ in Syria went on. Back in Al-Madiinah the Prophet (pbuh) was talking peacefully and contentedly with his Companions when he suddenly stopped talking. He closed his eyes a little, then opened them. A gleam flashed from them, yet it was tinged with sadness and compassion.
He looked around sadly and said, “Zaid took the standard and fought until he was martyred.” He was silent for a while, then continued ‘Ja’far grasped it and fought until he was marytred. Then ‘Abdullah Ibn Rawaahah grasped it and fought until he was martyred.” He was silent for a while, then his eyes sparkled with elation, tranquility, longing, and joy as he said, “They were all raised to Paradise.”
What a glorious journey it must have been! What a happy succession! They all marched to conquer, they all were raised up to Paradise. The best salute to immortalize their memory rests in the Prophet’s words: “They were raised up to await me in Paradise.”