Of Malls and Mus’ab Bin ‘Umair
Big city, bright lights. Cars flash in fast lanes. Young Muslims are getting ready to hit the “night scene”. Branded shoes and designer clothes in place, clutching the latest mobile gizmos and sporting the trendiest watches, their perfume smells of – more than anything else – money.
You can see them “hanging out” in groups, lolling in the bright lights of a megamall, lingering aimlessly in hyper shops, watching people go by, sharing a joke and laughing raucously.
You can see them racing cars dangerously late into the night, music blasting from the stereos, startling passersby while they laugh in their faces. A standard sight.
Each time you see this all-too familiar scene, just think of someone. Someone who lies buried in the blood-wet earth of ‘Uhud, feet covered by scented grass and his body covered only by a square woolen sheet that was not even sufficient to cover him completely. Someone who was his mother’s pampered son, he wore the best clothes his rich mother’s money could buy, his perfume scented the streets he walked through. The talk of Makkan matrons and maidens in their plush salons, the toast of his peers in the city’s clubs, the most flamboyant young man of the Quraish, who left a life of pleasuring the Self to gain the pleasure of Allah: Mus’ab Bin Umair Bin Hashim Bin Abd Munaf who was also known as Mus’ab Al-Khair.
Mus’ab was only a youth when he heard of the new Prophet who had arisen among the Quraish and his message of monotheism. Makkah talked of very little else in those days. His curiosity piqued by all the talk, Mus’ab decided to approach the Prophet (peace be upon him) on his own to determine the truth of his Message.
One night, instead of joining his friends in their customary revelry, Mus’ab made his way to the house of Al-Arqaam Ibn Al-Arqaam which came to be known as Dar Al-Arqaam among the Muslims. It was here that the Prophet met with the growing band of Muslims, away from the eyes of the Quraish. It was here that the companions talked over the future of their faith, heard and recited newly revealed portions of the Qur’an and prayed behind the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Allah.
That night, Mus’ab sat down among the gathering of the faithful and heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) recite verses of the Qur’an. From that moment on he forgot forever his life of luxury and indolence, while discovering the key to eternal life.
Mus’ab’s path to the faith was not easy – his mother, Khunnas Bint Maalik, a strong willed woman infamous for her sharp temper and sharper tongue – was his chief opponent. In order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation with his mother, Mus’ab initially avoided telling her about his new faith. However, people found him frequenting Dar Al-Arqaam more than his usual haunts and saw him coming under the influence of the Prophet (peace be upon him). It wasn’t long before news of his conversion reached his mother.
Reacting with the imperiousness of her nature, her pride in her lineage and her age-old allegiance to the gods, she commanded Mus’ab to return and repent to the gods he had abandoned in his “foolishness”; and when he refused, she had him shackled and imprisoned in a corner of the house.
Somehow, news of the first emigration of some Muslims to Abyssinia reached Mus’ab in his incarceration and his heart longed to join his brothers in the faith. Using his ingenuity, he managed to delude his mother and his guards and escaped to Abyssinia with other emigrants. Later, he returned to Makkah with them for a short while and emigrated a second time, this time as the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) chosen envoy to the new center of faith – Yathrib (Madina).
When Mus’ab returned from Abyssinia, his mother sought to imprison him yet again. But this time he vowed that if she attempted that, he would kill all those who came to her aid to lock him up. She knew the intensity of his determination better than anyone else and so she bade him a final farewell, crying bitterly: “Go away, I am no longer your mother.”
At this, Mus’ab went close to her and said: “O Mother, I am advising you and my heart is with you, please bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.”
Enraged, she swore: “By the stars, I will never enter your religion, to degrade my status and weaken my senses!”
But Mus’ab entered Islam. He forsook every semblance of satisfaction of the Self for the sake of Allah – his dress was tattered, his food was simple, the bare earth was his bed.
One day he went out to meet some Muslims while they were sitting around the Prophet (peace be upon him), and when they saw him they lowered their heads and shed silent tears at the sight of the pampered youth of their memory, moving about in worn out patches held together by thorns, which barely covered him. After Mus’ab moved away from the gathering, the Prophet (peace be upon him) recalled: I saw Mus’ab, and there was no youth in Makkah more petted by his parents than he. Then he abandoned all that for the love of Allah and His Prophet.
When Mus’ab was martyred in the Battle of Uhud, there wasn’t enough material to serve as a shroud. He did not leave behind anything except a sheet of shredded woolen cloth. If his head was covered with it, his feet were uncovered, and if his feet were covered with it, his head was uncovered. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to the companions, “Cover his head with it and put lemon grass over his feet.”
In the neon dazzle of malls, where countless young Muslims strive daily in the trivial pursuit of “pleasure”, we would do well to bear the memory of Mus’ab (may Allah be pleased with him) in mind. It may keep us from getting lost in the light.