Sahaba’s connection to the Quran

Sahaba: people of the Quran

Companions of the Prophet are known as Sahaba and being the closest to him meant they saw his love and devotion to the Quran.  The Sahaba also inculcated love for the Quran within them too, then practised and preached it their whole lives. Although many verses relate to Sahaba, only Zayd bin Harithah is mentioned by name in the Quran.

There are many stories of Sahabas of the Prophet (SAW) regarding their close connections with the Quran.  Some verses were themselves revealed due to the companions’ words or actions. 

Sahaba stories: their relationship to the Quran

  • Abdullah ibn Abbas
  • Abu Musa Al Ashari
  • Jafar ibn Abi Talib
  • Musa Ibn Umair
  • Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas
  • Ubayy ibn Kaab

Abdullah ibn Abbas

Abdullah was the son of Abbas, an uncle of the Prophet (SAW).  He was born just three years before the Hijrah (migration from Mecca to Madina). When the Prophet died, Abdullah was only thirteen years old. 

Abdullah became one of the most learned companions of the Prophet (SAW), preserving on behalf of later generations of Muslims, the priceless words of the Messenger of God. It is said that he committed to memory about one thousand, six hundred and sixty sayings of the Prophet which are recorded and authenticated in the collections of Bukhari and Muslim. 

It was not only in the collection of hadith that Abdullah specialised. He devoted himself to acquiring knowledge in a wide variety of fields. He had a special admiration for persons like Zaid ibn Thabit, the recorder of the revelation; an expert in the laws of inheritance and in reading the Quran. 

As Abdullah’s knowledge grew, he grew in stature.  The Khalifah Umar (RA) often sought his advice on important matters of state and described him as ‘the young man of maturity.’ 

Abdullah and his knowledge

Abdullah felt he had a duty to the ummah (Muslim nation) to educate those in search of Knowledge.  He turned to teaching and his house was usually full of students who came to learn from him a wide variety of subjects. 

One of his companions writes that after performing wudhu (ablution), he would say: ‘Go out and say to them (the crowds of people waiting):’ Whoever wants to ask about the Quran and its letters (pronunciation) let him enter.’ and people entered until the house was filled. Whatever he was asked, Abdullah was able to elucidate and even provide additional information to what was asked. Then (to his students) he said: ‘Make way for your brothers.’ Then he said: ‘Go out and say: Who wants to ask about the Quran and its interpretation, let him enter’. Again the house was filled and Abdullah elucidated and provided more information than what was requested.”

And so it continued with groups of people coming in to discuss fiqh (jurisprudence), halal and haram (the lawful and the prohibited in Islam), inheritance laws, Arabic language, poetry and etymology.

Abdullah ibn Abbas was constant in his devotions. He kept voluntary fasts regularly and often stayed up at night in Salah (Prayer). He would weep while praying and reading the Quran. When reciting verses dealing with death, resurrection and the life hereafter, his voice would be heavy from deep sobbing. He passed away at the age of 71 in the city of Taif.

Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah (SAW) put his hand on my shoulder and he said, ‘O Allah, give him understanding in religion and teach him the interpretation of the Quran.’ (Musnad Ahmad)

Abu Musa Al Ashari

His real name was Abdullah ibn Qays but he was known as Abu Musa al-Ashari.  He left his native land, Yemen, for Mecca immediately after hearing that a Prophet had appeared there. He was a man of rare insight, who called people to the worship of One God and who insisted on the highest standards of morality.

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At Mecca, he stayed in the company of the Prophet (SAW) and gained knowledge and guidance. He returned to his country to propagate the word of God and spread the mission of the Prophet.

He would read the Quran in a voice that profoundly stirred the souls of all who listened to him. Concerning his moving and melodious recitation of the Quran, the Prophet (SAW) had said: Abu Musa has indeed been given one of the flutes of the people of David.’

Also, Umar (RA), often summoned Abu Musa and asked him to recite from the Book of God, saying: “Create in us a yearning for our Lord, O Abu Musa.” As a mark of his dedication to the Quran, Abu Musa was one of the few companions who had prepared a mushaf a written collection of the revelations.

Abu Musa al Ashari (RA) reports the Prophet (SAW) said: ‘Be watchful towards the Quran.  I swear by Him in Whose hands my life is, that the Quran is apt to escape from the hearts more rapidly than do the camels from their strings.’

Jafar Ibn Abi Talib

Jafar had a very close resemblance to the Prophet (SAW), being his cousin.  It is said there were five men from the Hashim clan who resembled the Prophet so much, they were often mistaken for him and he was one of them. 

He and his wife were among the first people to accept Islam. He became a Muslim at the hands of Abu Bakr (RA).  The Quraysh tribe made life intolerable for them both and other Muslims and so some of them, including Jafar, left for Abyssinia. 

Jafar’s story

The famous story of Jafar (RA) in Abyssinia explaining to the Christian King Negus, who offered them hospitality and safety, of the descriptions of his people and Islam is moving and eloquent:  He said: ‘O King, we were a people in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshipping idols and eating the flesh of dead animals, committing all sorts of abominations and shameful deeds. Breaking ties of kinship, treating guests badly and the strong among us exploited the weak.

We remained in this state until Allah sent us a Prophet, one of our own whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness and integrity were well-known to us. He called us to worship Allah alone and to renounce the stones and the idols which we and our ancestors used to worship besides Allah. He commanded us to speak the truth, honour our promises, be kind to our relations, be helpful to our neighbours, cease all forbidden acts, abstain from bloodshed, avoid obscenities and false witness, not to appropriate an orphan’s property nor slander chaste women. He ordered us to worship Allah alone and not associate anything with him, to uphold Salah, give Zakat and fast in the month of Ramadan. We believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah, we follow him in what he asked us to do and we keep away from what he forbade us from doing. Thereupon, O King, our people attacked us, visited the severest punishment on us to make us renounce our religion and take us back to the old immorality and the worship of idols. They oppressed us, made life intolerable and obstructed us from observing our religion. So we left for your country, choosing you before anyone else, desiring your protection and hoping to live in justice and in peace in your midst.

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Jafar’s recitation

Jafar then recited for the King the first portion of Surah Maryam (No. 19) which deals with the story of Jesus and his mother Mary. On hearing the words of the Quran, the Negus was moved to tears. To the Muslims, he said: “the message of your Prophet and that of Jesus came from the same source….’

Jafar (RA) returned to the Prophet’s company after 10 years.  He quickly became known as a person who was much concerned for the welfare of the poor. For this he was nicknamed, the “Father of the Poor”.

Musab ibn Umair

Musab ibn Umayr was born in affluence and luxury.  He wore the most expensive clothes and the most stylish shoes of his time.  His keen mind endeared him to the Meccan nobility. Although still young, he had the privilege of attending meetings and gatherings. He was thus in a position to know the issues which concerned the Meccans and what their attitudes and strategies were.

When news of the Prophet (SAW) reached Musab, he became curious as to who this person was that was creating so much excitement and concern among his tribe.  Musab learnt that Muhammad and those who believed in his message were gathering in a house near the hill of as-Safa, the house of Al-Arqam. 

He proceeded to the house and met the Prophet (SAW) who welcomed him.  Musab was totally overwhelmed by what he had seen and heard. The words of the Quran had made a deep and immediate impression on him and at this first meeting, he declared his acceptance of Islam. 

The result of Musab’s acceptance

It subsequently became a very difficult time for Musab in Mecca for a long time as his family disowned him but he remained steadfast and kept persevering even though he lost everything.  After some time, Musab was chosen to teach some people of Yathrib (now known as Madina) about Islam. 

Musab was chosen because of his noble character, his fine manners and his sharp intellect. His knowledge of the Quran and his ability to recite it beautifully and movingly was an important consideration.  Many locals became Muslim as a result.

Musab continued to play a major role in Madina’s Muslim community, teaching the Quran and sunnah of the Prophet (SAW). 

At the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet called upon Musab to carry the Muslim standard.  In the ferocious battle, Musab was fatally wounded, but before he fell he repeated the words: ‘Muhammad is only a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him,’ showing that however great his attachment was to the Prophet himself, his struggle above all was for the sake of God.  These words were later revealed to the Prophet (SAW) and completed, and became part of the Quran.  He is buried near the battlefield at Uhud. 

The Prophet (SAW) said to the living companions about the martyrs of Uhud: ‘O People! Visit them; send peace on them for, by Him in whose hand is my soul, any Muslim who sends peace on them until the day of Qiyamah (Judgement), they would return the salutation of peace.’

Saad ibn Abi Waqqas

Saad was one of the first persons to accept Islam and this is something that pleased him greatly.  But it did not please his mother at all who said he should either give up Islam or she will starve herself to death.  When she saw his unshakeable belief in Allah, she finally relented.  It was concerning Saad’s relationship with his mother and her attempt to force him to renounce his new faith that the words of the Quran were revealed:

And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination – But if they endeavour to make you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them but accompany them in [this] world with appropriate kindness and follow the way of those who turn back to Me [in repentance]. Then to Me will be your return, and I will inform you about what you used to do. 

Quran [31:14-15]

The ruling of inheritance

Saad (RA) narrated that the Prophet (SAW) came visiting me while I was (sick) in Makkah, (Amir the sub-narrator said, and he disliked to die in the land, whence he had already migrated).

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He (i.e. the Prophet (SAW)) said, ‘May Allah bestow His Mercy on Ibn Afra (Saad bin Khaula).’ I said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle (SAW)! May I will all my property (in charity)?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Then may I will half of it?’ He said, ‘No’. I said, ‘One third?’ He said: ‘Yes, one third, yet even one third is too much. It is better for you to leave your inheritors wealthy than to leave them poor begging others, and whatever you spend for Allah’s sake will be considered as a charitable deed even the handful of food you put in your wife’s mouth. Allah may lengthen your age so that some people may benefit from you, and some others are harmed by you.’ At that time Saad had only one daughter.  (Bukhari)

Ubayy ibn Kaab

Ubayy was one of the Ansar and belonged to the Khazraj tribe. He was one of the first persons of Yathrib to accept Islam. He pledged allegiance to the Prophet (SAW) at Aqabah before the Hijrah. He participated in the Battle of Badr.  Ubayy was one of the select few who committed the Quranic revelations to writing and had a Mushaf of his own. He acted as a scribe of the Prophet, writing letters for him.

At the demise of the Prophet (SAW), he was one of the few people who knew the Quran completely by heart.  His recitation was so beautiful and his understanding so profound that the Prophet (SAW) encouraged his companions to learn the Quran from him and from three others.

Ubayy’s special honour

Ubayy enjoyed a special honour with regard to the Quran. One day, the Prophet (SAW), said: ’O Ubayy ibn Kab! I have been commanded to show or lay open the Quran to you.’ Ubayy was elated. He knew of course that the Prophet only received commands from on high. Unable to control his excitement, he asked: ‘O Messenger of God…Have I been mentioned to you by name?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the Prophet, ‘by your own name and by your genealogy (nasab) in the highest heavens.’

Ubayy placed great importance on the Quran.  Once, when a man came to him and said, ‘Advise me,’ and he replied: ‘Take the Book of God as (your) leader. Be satisfied with it as (your) judge and ruler. It is what the Prophet has bequeathed to you. (It is your) intercessor with God and should be obeyed…’

Ubayy (RA) died in the year 29 AH during the caliphate of Uthman (RA).
Anas RA said, “The Prophet (SAW) said to Ubayy ibn Kaab, ‘Indeed Allah has commanded me to recite the Quran to you.’ This shows that Allah had chosen Ubay (RA) to be recited the Quran to which was indeed an immense honour.