The Sahabah Series: ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Ās
In the name of Allah Most Gracious, Most Merciful
His name and family
He is known as ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Ās, although at birth he was named al-‘Ās, which means the disobedient one. When he embraced Islam, in the seventh year of the Hijra, the Messenger, upon him be peace, renamed him ‘Abdullah. He was from the Sahm branch of the tribe of Quraish. His nickname (kunya) was Abu Muhammad although some called him Abu Abdul Rahmân. His mother was Riâtah bint Manbah. His father was the famous companion ‘Amr ibn al-Ās, the celebrated conqueror of Egypt. His father was very young when ‘Abdullah was born, according to most sources, he was only twelve years old. ‘Abdullah became Muslim before his father. It is reported that the Messenger, upon him be peace, used to show preference to the son over the father because of his superior knowledge and intense worship.
His ability to read and write
‘Abdullah memorised the whole Qurân and was able to read and write. He was known to have read the pre-Islamic scriptures before he embraced Islam and it is reported that he continued after becoming Muslim. He was one of the few companions who wrote down the words of the Messenger, upon him be peace, during his lifetime. He sought the Messenger’s specific permission asking , ‘May I write down everything I hear from you in the states of contentment and anger?’ He, upon him be peace, replied, ‘Yes, for I speak nothing but the truth.’ The other great narrator of the sayings of the Messenger, upon him be peace, Abu Hurairah, used to say, ‘there is no one more knowledgeable of the sayings of the Messenger, upon him be peace, than me, except ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr. He used to preserve them in his heart and I used to preserve them in my heart; but, he used to write them down and I did not.’ It is reported that ‘Abdullah used to say that he memorised one thousand sayings from the Messenger, upon him be peace. He reported 700 hadith. Eighteen were agreed upon by Muslim and Bukhâri, eight can be found in Bukhâri alone and twenty in Muslim alone. Although it is commonly understood that he was more knowledgeable of hadith than Abu Hurairah; as he resided in Egypt where there were less people to relate from him than in Madina, the number of traditions related by him is less than some of the other great companions including Abu Hurairah and ‘Aisha bint Abu Bakr, Mother of the Believers, may Allah be pleased with them all.
The intensity of his worship and abstinence from the world
‘Abdullah was one of the most intense worshippers, fasting for days without a break and going many nights without sleep, until the Messenger, upon him be peace, forbade him from fasting without breaks and abstaining from intimacy with his wife. He said, ‘surely your eyes have rights upon you, your family have rights upon you, so sleep and break your fast. Fast the three days in the middle of the month for that is the eternal fast.’ When ‘Abdullah said, ‘but I can do more than that,’ and he continued with his intense fasting; the Messenger, upon him be peace, told him, ‘there is no fast better than the fast of David, that is, to fast one day and eat one day.’ Then he limited him to fasting every other day.
He was also told not to read so much Qurân but to limit his completion of the whole Qurân to only once a month. ‘Abdullah said that he can do more than that and was then told ‘complete it every seven days’, which he did. He had a very emotional relationship with the Qurân. He used to say that to shed tears out of fear of Allah was more beloved to him than to spend a thousand dinâr in charity. He lost his sight in the later years of his life.
He fought in several battles during the lifetime of the Messenger, upon him be peace, and accompanied his father on many conquests including the conquest of Egypt and Syria. He remained with his father until his father’s death.
He carried the banner at the battle of Yarmuk and attended the civil war battle of Siffin but did not throw an arrow or participate in any fighting. He said that he only attended the battle because his father wanted him to and recalled the Messenger’s command to ‘obey your father!’ Up until that point he had avoided being involved in any internal politics. After the death of the Khalifa Uthmân, he went into recluse in order to avoid disputes.
His death and burial place
There is some difference of opinion about the date of his death and about his burial place. After the conquest of Egypt, he resided in Syria and returned to the Hijaz area (Makkah and Madina). Ahmed ibn Hanbal said he died on the nights of al-Harra where Yazîd’s army attacked the city of Madina. This took place on the last Wednesday of Dhul Hijja 63H. Others say he went on to Makkah after that and died there in 67H aged 72 years. Some say he died in Syria, others say in Tâif and it is also reported that he died in Egypt and is buried where the current library of the mosque of his father now stands. And Allah knows best.
(Sources: Ibn Hajr al-Asqalâni, al-Isâba fî Tamyîz al-Sahâba and Muhammad al-Jardâni al-Dimyâti, al-Jawâhir al-lu’luwiyya)