Abu Musa Al Ash ar (died somewhere between 42 and 52H)
His real name `Abdullah, he belonged to the Ash`ar tribe of Yeman who migrated to Hejaz after the bursting of the Ma’arib Dam. People of this tribe were devout fighters in the cause of Islam and quite considerate to one another. When the verse: was revealed, Rasulullah SAW told Abu Musa, “These are people of your tribe.”
فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ
“Soon Allah will bring out a people whom He would love and who will love Him” (Al-Ma`idah: 54)
In pre-Islamic times, Abu Musa frequently traveled for business between Yemen and Makkah where his ally was Sa`id ibn al-`Aas. His acceptance of Islam was due to these visits and was inspired by his personal meetings with Rasulullah SAW. He was among the earliest to embrace Islam, and a migrant to Abyssinia under the Rasulullah’s instruction.Saidina Ja`afar ibn abi Talib RA was the leader of the first group. A few historians do not include him among the first emigrants probably because although he migrated to Abyssinia, his family returned to Yemen.
When the group was allowed, they migrated again from Abyssinia to Madinah. Upon arrival, they learnt that Rasulullah SAW had left for the Khaibar. They marched on to Khaibar, perhaps eager to participate in the battle. Although the battle was over by the time they arrived, Rasulullah SAW included them among the recipients of booty since they had undergone hardships.
Abu Musa RA ranked very high among the scholars of the Qur’an: both as Hafiz as well as Qari.
Abu Musa RA ranked very high among the scholars of the Qur’an: both as Hafiz as well as Qari. He had learnt the Qur’an direct from Rasulullah SAW. Allah had gifted him with a melodious voice. Rasulullah SAW remarked, “Surely, Abu Qays (Abu Musa) has been gifted with a melody from the melodies of Da’ud’s family.” On one occasion, Rasulullah SAW and `Aisha RA were passing by and heard him reciting the Qur’an. He stopped there and listened attentively
Thereafter, Abu Musa RA fought in all the battles under the leadership of Rasulullah SAW. He kept himself close to Rasulullah SAW during the campaigns. Once, he recalled to his son the suffering they had borne: a shower of rain would make their damp woolen garments smell like sheep. Recalling another campaign with Rasulullah SAW , he told his son that six persons had to share one camel by turns. They had developed foot sores and lost their toe-nails. They wrapped their feet with rags which led the campaign to be named Dhat al-Riqa` (rag-covered). However, after narrating this, Abu Musa al-Ash`ari regretted because it was as if he had uncovered one of his good deeds. During another campaign, led by Abu `Amir Ash`ari, his uncle received an arrow on his knee. Abu Musa RA chased the pagan and killed him. He returned and informed his uncle that he had dispatched his assailant. Then he pulled the arrow out. A lot of fluid drained out of the wound. His uncle told him to convey his Salam to Rasulullah SAW and request him to pray for him. After some time, he breathed his last.” Abu Nu`aym records, in his Hilyah, that once Abu Musa RA was on a campaign by the sea route along with others. At night, they heard a voice coming from the sea that Allah has bound Himself that whosoever bore the hardships of a hot summer, while thirsty, shall have water on the day of unbearable thirst (the Day of Judgment). Accordingly, Abu Musa RA used to fast during hot summer days.
At the time of the Tabuk expedition, Abu Musa RA and his colleagues were in severe financial constraints; yet they were keen to join. Abu Musa’s colleagues sent him to Rasulullah SAW with the request to provide them with mounts. But Rasulullah SAW said on oath that he would not provide them with any mount. Seeing him in a state of anger, Abu Musa RA withdrew silently. After a little while, Bilal came asking him to report to Rasulullah SAW. When he went to him, he asked him to take six camels with him. But the more interesting part of the story is that when Abu Musa RA brought the camels to his colleagues and narrated the happenings, they were concerned about Rasulullah SAW. Had they led him into swearing? Had he forgotten that he had sworn not to give any mount? Should he not be reminded? So, they went back to him to remind him of his vow, (even if that would have meant to take back the camels). He informed them that if he declares to do something on oath and then acts in the opposite way, (he does so in the wider interest and) for the breach, he expiates.
Abu Musa RA recalls that he went to Rasulullah SAW along with two other Ash`aris. The two desired to be appointed governor of Yemen. Rasulullah SAW asked Abu Musa RA to give his opinion to which he replied that he had no inkling of what the two had in their minds (when they came with him). Rasulullah SAW declared that posts were not given to those who desired them. He gave Abu Musa RA the responsibility of governorship of Yemen. At the same time, he also deputed Mu`dh ibn Jabal RA dividing the territory between the two. He ordered them to teach people the Qur’an, make matters easy, spread glad tidings, and not make things difficult for the people. However, he appointed Mu`adh ibn Jabal RA leader of the two. He wrote to the chief of the Yemen that the two were learned and pious persons. He accompanied Rasulullah SAW in 10H on the occasion of Hajjatu al-Wada`.
Abu Musa RA remained the governor of two provinces of Yemen and, after Rasulullah’s demise, carried on with his duties until the call for Jihad made him leave for Syria. He made a significant contribution to the campaigns in Syria. He left Syria when he was called by Saidina Umar RA to assume the office of governor at Basra in which position he remained until Saidina Umar’s RA demised. Although a difficult province, whose people were almost always complaining against and getting their governors replaced, Abu Musa RA held on for six years which speaks of his administrative abilities. Indeed, he remained in the post for another six years during the time of Saidina Uthman RA. During this tenure, he imparted teaching of the Qur’an and Sunnah; taught the people manners and etiquettes; prepared a team of Ulama who converted Basra into a place that became a highly renowned centre of learning. Hasan Basri remarked: “None brought goodwill and welfare to Basra as much as he did.”
Inspite of such a righteous life, he did not escape accusations leveled by the people of Basra. A man of Anzah tribe nursed anger against Abu Musa RA for not including him in the delegation sent to Madinah with booty. He complained to the Caliph that Abu Musa RA had retained sixty slaves for himself; has kept two baskets of ration, wears two rings, has vested too much power with Ziad ibn Sufyan and that he had rewarded Hutayyaah (the poet) with a thousand coins. Saidina Umar RA summoned him to Madinah and inquired about the charges. Abu Musa RA explained that the slaves were taken as Fidyah and hence distributed among Muslims. Out of the two baskets of ration one was for his own consumption and the other for other Muslims. About Ziad he said that he found him sharp and capable. As for Hutayyah, he paid him to buy his loyalty lest he should carry propaganda against him.
The efficient manner in which he administrated the affairs at Basra was evident in his leadership in other fields as well. It was under his command that crucial battles in Persia were won. The fort at Tustar was besieged for a long while, but ultimately its renowned warrior, Hurmuzan, was captured and sent as prisoner to the Caliphate. Having lost their strongholds at Qadisiyyah and Mada’in, the Persians sought refuge in the forts at Isbahan and Ahwaz. Abu Musa RA conquered these forts as well. After the conquest of Nahawand and Qadisiyyah, Caliph Saidina Umar Al Khattab RA combined two forces sent for Persia and Iraq under the command of Abu Musa RA and asked him to march towards Kirman and Isbahan. He subdued “Qumm” and “Qashan.”
In 29H, Caliph Saidina Uthman RA removed him from the governorship and appointed a young man of twenty five. The reason was the suggestion offered by a few people of Basra to entrust responsibility to young people so that they could play decisive roles in Jihad activities. Instead of resenting, Abu Musa RA expressed his complete solidarity by extending him a warm welcome and praised him before the people of Basra. Abu Musa RA deemed it proper, in his own interest as well as in the interest of the newly designated governor, to migrate from Basra to Kufa. At Kufa, he continued his pursuits – teaching the Qur’an. After a short while, Caliphate Saidina Uthman RA appointed him as the Governor of the town, which he accepted after some deliberation.
After Saidina Uthman RA , Saidina Ali RA retained him as Kufa’s governor. But later, as he refused to side with any of the two groups supporting `Ali and Mu`awiyya, he had to relinquish the governorship, which he gladly did. Yet, when the two – `Ali and Mu`awiyya – agreed on arbitration after the Siffin battle, (see article on Saidina Ali RA for fuller details), Saidina Ali RA , despite his difference with Abu Musa RA , accepted him as one of the two arbitrators (the other being `Amr ibn al-`Aas, a nominee of the Mu`awiyyah group. When asked about the wisdom of his choice, Ali declared that Abu Musa was well versed in knowledge.
One account says that during arbitrary discussions, Abu Musa RA proposed a third name – that of Abdullah Ibn Umar RA – for caliphate. But no agreement could be reached. Another account – through a weak link, not too strong – says that after marshalling their arguments, the two arbiters agreed to drop the names of both `Ali and Mua`wiyya as Caliph. Accordingly, Abu Musa RA stood up and said, “In `Amr’s and my opinion, `Ali and Mu`awiyya are dropped. You may now elect another person.” After this `Amr rose up and said, “He has dropped his nominees; but I retain my nominee: Mu`awiyya.” Abu Musa RA left very unhappy.
History reports that Mu`awiyya had promised on oath to appoint one of his sons as governor of Kufa and another of Basra and all his personal needs would be taken care of, if he accepted to pledge for him. But Abu Musa RA declined the offer. Yet, and following Rasulullah SAW instructions not to live a day without pledge to an Amir, even if a flat-nosed slave, he pledged allegiance to him after Ali.
He ranked very high among the scholars of the Qur’an: both as Hafiz as well as Qari. He had learnt the Qur’an direct from Rasulullah SAW. Allah had gifted him with a melodious voice. Rasulullah SAW remarked, “Surely, Abu Qays (Abu Musa) RA has been gifted with a melody from the melodies of Da’ud’s family.” On one occasion, Rasulullah SAW and `Aisha were passing by and heard him reciting the Qur’an. They stopped there and listened attentively.
During the Caliphate of Saidina Umar Al Khattab RA, he asked his administrators to send him the list of the Huffaz so that he could increase their stipends. Abu Musa RA informed that (under him) the number of Huffaz exceeded three hundred. Abu Musa RA devoted considerable attention to Hadith. Many Companions narrated from him. Those who cited him include Buraydah ibn al-Haseeb, Abu Umamah al-Bahili, Sayeed ibn al-Musayyib, Aswad ibn Yazid, Abu Wa’il Shaqeeq ibn Salamah, Zayd ibn Wahab, Abu `Uthman Nahdi, Abu `Abd al Rahman Nahdi, Marrah Tayyib, Rabi` ibn Harash, Ibn Mudhrab etc. Out of a total of 360 narrations from him, 59 are in Bukhari and Muslim. He used to instruct his students to memorize the Al hadith instead of writing them down, although he himself had learnt how to write after the Prophet’s demise.
He is counted among six Companions as renowned jurists: `Umar, `Ali, Ibn Mas’ud, Ubayy, Zayd and Abu Musa, who used to deliver judgments. He combined in him knowledge, practice, Jihad and spent his time and energy either teaching the Qur’an and Hadith or in rituals and exercising self-restraint, fasting much. He was neither deceived by the world nor did high offices serve to lead him astray. He strictly did his Tahajjud and used to spend the major part of his time in Dzikir. Anas ibn Malik RA narrates that once he was with Abu Musa RA in a journey. When he heard people’s gossip, he said, “O, Anas! What is it I am witness to? Let us recite our Lord’s glory.” He asked, “O Anas! What has slowed their journey to?” He replied, “Carnal desires, and Satan”. Abu Musa RA said, “By Allah, the world has been made preferable to them and the hereafter delayed. Had they the right vision they would neither delay nor would they deviate”.
Allah SWT blessed Abu Musa’s family with sons, grandsons, and great grandsons who became renowned scholars, jurists or narrators of Hadith. Among his sons were Abu Burdah, Abu Bakr, Musa and `Abd al Rahman. Among his grandsons were Sa`eed ibn abi Bardah, Barrad ibn abi Bardah, Dhahhak ibn `Abd al Rahman, all of sound repute.
He was short stature, of medium built, sporting a thin beard. When he began experiencing the signs of approaching death, he instructed the members of his family not to make public announcement of his demise, nor to wail loudly or burn frankincense. He instructed that he may be buried as fast as possible.