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  • Writer's pictureAnees Bhayat

The Correspondence of Two Greats

Aslam رضي الله عنه narrates that ‘Umar رضي الله عنه once received news that Abū ‘Ubaydah رضي الله عنه had been besieged in Syria, and the enemy had joined forces against him. So ‘Umar رضي الله عنه wrote to him:

Peace [be upon you].

No difficulty befalls a believing servant, [except that] Allāh creates after it an exit [from it]; never will a difficulty overpower the two periods of ease Allāh creates:

‘O you who believe! Be patient, compete with each other in patience, guard your frontiers and fear Allāh, so that you may be successful.’ (3:200)

Abū ‘Ubaydah رضي الله عنه wrote back:

Indeed Allāh mentions in His Book:

Know well that the worldly life is but a play and an amusement, and a show of beauty, and exchange of boastful claims between you, and a competition of increase in riches and children. (All this is) like a rain, the growth of which attracts the farmers, then it withers, and you see it turning yellow, then it becomes straw. And in the Hereafter there is a severe punishment (for the disbelievers), and forgiveness from Allāh and (Allāh’s) pleasure (for the believers and the righteous). The worldly life is nothing but a material of delusion. (57:20)

When ‘Umar received the letter, he came into the masjid, sat on the minbar and read the letter out to the people of Al-Madīnah… (Al-Ḥākim)[1]

From this narration, I would like to point out a few lessons that can be learnt:

  1. When Abū ‘Ubaydah رضي الله عنه was faced with the difficulty of being surrounded by the enemy, being a Ṣaḥābī, and one of the elite Ṣaḥābah – those who were given glad-tidings of Jannah in this very world – his first sanctuary would have been Allāh. He must have definitely asked Allāh for ease and protection. However, this did not stop him from writing and consulting ‘Umar رضي الله عنه, who was his senior and was of a greater calibre than himself. We therefore learn that when in difficulty, together with seeking help from Allāh, we should also consult our seniors who may offer some valuable advice or even assist us, and if not then at least make du‘ā for us.

  2. Consulting seniors at times of difficulty and consequently receiving their backing boosts a person psychologically.

  3. The Ṣaḥābah رضي الله عنهم were very much attached to the Qur’ān. We can see from both letters that āyāt of the Qur’ān are included; in the case of Abū ‘Ubaydah رضي الله عنه’s letter, all it contains is one āyah! This was because they understood the power of the Qur’ān, and they understood its eloquence. They knew that the addressee(s) would understand the message fully, and also be motivated by it. Their knowledge and understanding of the Qur’ān was unparalleled.

  4. In reply to the letter of ‘Umar رضي الله عنه, Abū ‘Ubaydah رضي الله عنه wrote just one āyah. This served two purposes:

  5. Acceptance of the naṣīḥah (advice) of ‘Umar رضي الله عنه in his previous letter

  6. Naṣīḥah to ‘Umar رضي الله عنه and the Muslims of Al-Madīnah.

From this we learn that together with accepting the advice of his senior, Abū ‘Ubaydah رضي الله عنه did not hold back from giving his own advice to ‘Umar رضي الله عنه when he felt the need to do so. He did not feel that ‘Umar رضي الله عنه was of too high a status for him to be given advice; neither did ‘Umar رضي الله عنه feel offended at the offering of advice by Abū ‘Ubaydah رضي الله عنه. In fact, despite being the Khalīfah at the time and the leader of the Muslims, he read the letter of Abū ‘Ubaydah رضي الله عنه out to the people of Al-Madīnah.

How great these people were! May Allāh create the true love of these stars in our hearts. Āmīn.

[1] عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ أَسْلَمَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ: بَلَغَ عُمَرَ أَنَّ أَبَا عُبَيْدَةَ، حُصِرَ بِالشَّامِ، وَتَأَلَّبَ عَلَيْهِ الْعَدُوُّ، فَكَتَبَ إِلَيْهِ عُمَرُ: سَلَامٌ أَمَّا بَعْدُ، فَإِنَّهُ مَا تَنْزِلُ بِعَبْدٍ مُؤْمِنٍ مِنْ شِدَّةٍ يَجْعَلُ اللَّهُ بَعْدَهَا مَخْرَجًا، وَلَنْ يَغْلِبَ عُسْرٌ يُسْرَي اللَّهِ، وَقَرَأَ: {يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اصْبِرُوا وَصَابِرُوا وَرَابِطُوا} [آل عمران: ٢٠٠] إِلَى آخِرِ الْآيَةِ. فَكَتَبَ إِلَيْهِ أَبُو عُبَيْدَةَ: أَمَّا بَعْدُ، فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَقُولُ فِي كِتَابِهِ: {اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ} [الحديد: ٢٠] إِلَى قَوْلِهِ: {مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ}، قَالَ: فَخَرَجَ عُمَرُ بِكِتَابِهِ فَقَعَدَ عَلَى الْمِنْبَرِ فَقَرَأَهُ عَلَى أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ، ثُمَّ قَالَ: يَا أَهْلَ الْمَدِينَةِ إِنَّمَا يُعَرِّضُ بِكُمْ أَبُو عُبَيْدَةَ وَأَنِ ارْغَبُوا فِي الْجِهَادِ (رواه الحاكم، وصححه الذهبي)

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