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‘Aamir ibn ‘Abdullah ibn al-Jarrah RA – (583-638)

(Arabic: أبو عبيدة عامر بن عبدالله بن الجراح), more commonly known as Abū ‘Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrāh, was one of the ten companions of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) who were promised Paradise as mentioned in early Islamic historical accounts and records. He remained commander of a large section of Muslim armies during the time of Caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab RA and was on the list of ‘Umar’s appointed successors to the Caliphate. Abu ‘Ubaidah was born in the year 583 CE in the house of ‘Abdullah ibn al-Jarrah, a merchant by profession. Abu ‘Ubaidah belonged to the Quraishi clan of Banu al-Harith ibn Fihr. Even before his conversion to Islam, he was considered to be one of the nobles of Quraish and was famous among Quraish of Makkah for his modesty and bravery.

Dome, lotfollah mosque, isfahan oct. 2007

Conversion to Islam

By 611 Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) was preaching the oneness of Allah to the people of Makkah. He began by inviting his closest companions and relatives in secret to the way of Islam. He embraced Islam just a day after Abu Bakr RA in the year 611.

Migration to Abyssinia

Abu ‘Ubaidah lived through the harsh experience that the Muslims went through in Makkah from beginning to end. With other early Muslims, he endured the insults and oppressions of Quraysh. As the first emigration to Abyssinia succeeded, this violence against Muslims renewed itself with much conviction and became stronger in its force. Being the only person in his clan to have accepted Islam, Abu Ubaidah was foremost amongst them. Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) suggested that the remaining Muslims who were specially subjected to the atrocities of the people of Makkah migrate as well. Consequently, Abu ‘Ubaidah RA migrated to Abyssinia along with a delegation of 83 men and 20 women.

Migration to Medina

In 622 CE, when Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) migrated from Makkah to Medina, Abu Ubaidah also migrated. When Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) arrived in Medina, he paired off each immigrant (Muhajir) with one of the residents of Medina (Ansari), joining Mu’adh ibn Jabal with Abu ‘Ubaidah making them brothers in faith. Muslims remained in peace in Medina for about one year before the Quraish raised an army to attack Medina.

During Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam)’s era

In the year 624, Abu ‘Ubaidah participated in the first major battle between Muslims and the Quraysh of Makkah, that is, the Battle of Badr. In this battle, he was attacked by his father Abdullah ibn al-Jarrah, who was fighting alongside the army of Quraysh. Abu ‘Ubaidah avoided fighting with him but eventually his father succeeded in blocking Abu Ubaidah’s path. Abu ‘Ubaidah then attacked him and killed him. The following verse of the Quran was written about this display of character by Abu ‘Ubaidah: “You will not find a people believing in Allah and the Last Day making friends with those who oppose Allah and His messenger even if these were their fathers, their sons, their brothers or their clan. Allah has placed faith in their hearts and strengthened them with a spirit from Him. He will cause them to enter gardens beneath which streams flow that they may dwell therein. Allah is well pleased with them and they well pleased with Him. They are the party of Allah. Is not the party of Allah the successful ones? (58:22).” In the year 625, he participated in the Battle of Uhud. In the second phase of the battle, when Khalid ibn Walid’s cavalry attacked Muslims from the rear changing the victory of Muslims into defeat, bulk of Muslim soldiers routed from the battle field and few remained steadfast, Abu Ubaidah was one of them, he guarded Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) from the attacks of Qurayshi soldiers. On that day, Abu ‘Ubaidah lost two of his front teeth while trying to extract two links of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam)’s armor that had penetrated into his cheeks. Later in the year 627 he took part in the Battle of the Trench and also in the Battle of Banu Quraydah. He was also made commander of a small expedition that set out to attack and destroy the tribes of Tha’libah and Anmar, who were plundering nearby villages. In the year 628 he participated in Treaty of Hudaybiyyah and was made one of the witnesses over the pact. Later in the same year, he was a part of Muslim’s campaign to Khaybar. In the year 629 Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) sent ‘Amr ibn al-’Aas to Zaat al-Salaasil from where he called for reinforcement and Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) sent Abu ‘Ubaidah in command of an army that contained Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. They attacked and defeated the enemy. Later in the same year, another expedition was sent under his command to locate the routes of Quraishi caravans. This skirmish is known as Saif al-Jara. In the year 630, when Muslims armies rushed for the Conquest of Makkah, Abu ‘Ubaidah was commanding one of the four Muslim armies that entered Makkah from four different routes. Later that year, he participated in the Battle of Hunayn and the Siege of Ta’if. He was also part of the Tabuk campaign under the command of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) himself. On their return from Tabuk, a Christian delegation from Najran arrived in Medina and showed interest in Islam and asked Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) to send with them a person who will guide them in the matters of religion and in other tribal affairs according to Islamic laws, Abu ‘Ubaidah was appointed by Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) to go with them. He was also sent as the tax collector (‘aamil) to Bahrain by Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). He was present in Makkah when Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) died in 632.

During Caliph Abu Bakr’s Era

When Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) died in 632 the matter of his succession took place at Saqifah of Banu Sa’ad Abu Ubaidah was there along with Abu Bakr RA and Umar RA. Umar RA said to Abu Ubaidah RA to stretch forth his hand for caliphate but he refused and said to Abu Bakr to sretch forth his hand to take the pledge of alliance. After the Ridda wars when Abu Bakr sent Khalid ibn Walid RA to Iraq to conquer it, he sent four Levant making Abu Ubaidah commander of one of them. His target was selected to be Emesa and he was ordered to move through the route of Tabouk after the army of Shurahbil bin Hasanah. He remained commander in chief of Muslim armies until Khalid ibn Walid arrived from Iraq to Syria in 634.He was ordered by Khalid ibn Walid to remain where he is until Khalid ibn Walid reached the city of Bosra. Khalid RA and Abu Ubaidah RA met at Bosra. The castle surrendered the city After the Battle of Bosra. 130 Muslims died by now it was almost mid of July 634. Soon Muslims heard of gathering of 90,000 Roman army at Ajnadeen, all the divisions of Muslim army joined khalid at Ajnadeen on 24 July 634, which was about 32,000 in number, Muslims defeated Roman there on 30 July 634 AD in Battle of Ajnadayn under the command of Khalid ibn Walid RA. After one week Abu Ubaidah RA along with Khalid RA moved to Damascus, on their way to Damascus, they defeated another Roman army in the Battle of Yakosa in mid-August 634 AD. Tomur, the son-in-law of Emperor Heraclius, sent another army to stop Khalid’s corps but they were also defeated in the battle of Maraj-al-Safar after the corps of Abu Ubaidah and Shurabil bin Hasana joined him on 19 August 634 AD.

The next day the Muslims finally reached Damascus and sieged the city which continued for 30 days. After defeating the Roman reinforcements sent by emperor Heraclius at Battle of Sanita-al-Uqab 20 miles from Damascus, Muslims finally attacked and conquered the city. The Conquest of Damascus held on 18 September 634 AD. Abu Ubaidah was appointed by Khalid ibn Walid RA to siege the Jabiya Gate of Damascus. It was Abu Ubaidah who gave peace to Damascus after Khalid ibn Walid attacked the city and conquered by force but as Abu Ubaidah, Shurabil bin Hasana and Amr ibn al-A’as gave peace to them unaware of Khalid’s attack from the gate of his side, the Peace treaty was signed by Khalid RA. The Roman army was given deadline of three days to go as far as they can with their families and treasure, other simply agreed to stay at Damascus and pay tribute. After three days deadline was over, Muslim cavalry under Khalid’s command attacked the Roman army by reaching them from unknown shortcut at the Battle of Maraj-al-Debaj.

During Caliph Umar’s era

Appointment as Supreme Commander

On 22 August 634 CE, Caliph Abu Bakr RA died making Umar RA his successor. As Umar RA became caliph he relieved Khalid ibn Walid RA from the command of the Islamic army and appointed Abu Ubaida ibn al-Jarrah RA as the new commander. This was done to dispel the impression that the victories were due to Khalid RA. Moreover Khalid RA was an overtly generous person who in some opinions would often waste his money in giving gifts to his soldiers as a reward for their bravery in the battles. Moreover, Abu-Ubaida was a great and a humble person; additionally he was a fearless and a skillful fighter.

Due to different style of commands, there was a slowdown in the pace of operations, as Abu Ubaida moved slowly and steadily, in contrast to Khalid who is said to rush ‘like a tornado from battle to battle’; using surprise, audacity and brute force to win his battles. The conquest of Syria continued under the new commander. Abu-Ubaida used to rely heavily on the advice of Khalid RA, whom he kept with him as much as possible.

Death

As soon as Abu Ubaidah moved to Jabyia he became afflicted with a plague. As death hung over him, he spoke to his army: “Let me give you some advice, which will cause you to be on the path of goodness always. “Establish Prayer, Fast [in] the month of Ramadan, Give charity, Perform the Hajj and Umrah, Remain united and support one another, Be sincere to your commanders and do not conceal anything from them. Don’t let the world destroy you for, even if man were to live a thousand years, he would still end up with this state that you see me in. Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah.” 

He then appointed Mu’adh ibn Jabal as his successor and ordered him to lead people in prayers; after the prayers Mu’adh went to him and, at that moment, his soul departed.

Mu’adh RA got up and said to the people… “O’ people, you are stricken by the death of a man. By Allah, I don’t know whether I have seen a man who had a more righteous heart, who was further from all evil and who was more sincere to people than he. Ask Allah to shower His mercy on him and Allah will be merciful to you.”

He died in 639 C.E. and was buried at Jabiya. Legacy

His appearance was striking. He was slim and tall. His face was bright and he had a sparse beard. It was pleasing to look at him and refreshing to meet him. He was extremely courteous and humble and quite shy. Yet in a tough situation he would become strikingly serious and alert. He was given the title Amin or Custodian of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam)’s community (Ummah). Abdullah ibn Umar RA once said about him… “Three persons in the tribe of Quraysh were most prominent, had the best character and were the most modest. If they spoke to you, they would not deceive you and if you spoke to them, they would not accuse you of Lying: Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Uthman ibn Affan and Abu Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah.’’

Christians of the Levant accepted Islam and were greatly inspired by Abu Ubaidah RA; both of the entire Christian tribes, Banu Tanookh and Banu Saleej, had accepted Islam after the conquest of Qasreen city. More over, there were many reliefs given by Abu Ubaidah to the non-Muslims living as his subjects in Syria. He is regarded by Muslims to be one of the ten companions of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) who were promised paradise for them (by Allah) during their lifetime.

Family

Little is known about Abu Ubaidah’s family. He had two wives. From his wife Hind bint Jabar he had his son Yazid and Ubaidah. From his wife Warja he had his son Umair, but all of them died in childhood. It is unknown if he had any daughters, but his male line of descendants is reported to be ended. However, Al-Jarrah family in present day Jordan and Lebanon claim their descendant from Abu Ubaidah.

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