Hazrat UBAYY IBN KA’B Radhia Allahu Anaha

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He was from the chief of the Qur’ân recitors.

Lineage:

Ubay ibn Ka’b ibn Ubayd ibn Zayd ibn Mua’wiyyah ibn Amr ibn Maalik ibn Najjar.

Nicknamed:

Abu Mundhir, aswell as Abu at-Tufayl.

He had two sons:

at-Tufayl, and Muhammad and a daughter: Umm Amr.[1]

Date of Birth:

He was born during the time of the Prophet (sallahAllaahu ‘alayhi wasallam).

Description:

  • He is recognized as the greatest reciter (Qaari) of the Qur’ân after the Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam).
  • He was a man of average height; not tall nor short. He had white hair and beard.
  • He witnessed and participated in: the battle of Badr, Uhud, the pledge of Aqabah, and all other expeditions with the Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam).
  • He memorized / collected the whole Qur’ân during the time of the Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam), and recited it to him (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam).

Those He Took Knowledge From:

  • The Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam).

Those Who Took Knowledge From Him:

  • Abu Moosa (radhiyaAllaahu anhu)
  • Anas bin Maalik (radhiyaAllaahu anhu)
  • Ibn ‘Abbaas (radhiyaAllaahu anhuma)
  • Ubaada ibn Saamit (radhiyaAllaahu anhu)
  • His sons: Muhammad and at-Tufayl.
  • Ubayd bin Umayr
  • Sa’eed bin al-Musayyib
  • Abu Uthmaan al-Hindee
  • Zur bin Hubaysh
  • Abdurrahman bin Abee Laylah

From Among the Sahaaba who recited to him, and learnt recitation from him:[2]

  • Aboo Hurayrah (radhiyaAllaahu anhu)
  • Ibn ‘Abbaas (radhiyaAllaahu anhuma)
  • Abdullaah ibn Saaib (radhiyaAllaahu anhu)

From Among the Taabi’een who recited and learnt recitation from him:

  • Abu Abdurrahman as-Sulamee
  • Abdullaah ibn Iyaash
  • Abdullaah ibn Habeeb
  • Sa’eed bin al-Musayyib

His Praise :

  • holyQuranHe is a man mentioned by Allaah:

Anas (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) said, “The Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) said to Ubay bin Ka’b, ‘Indeed Allaah has commanded me to recite the Qur’an to you.’

Ubay asked, ‘Allaah mentioned me to you?’ He (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘And I have been mentioned by the Lord of The Worlds?’ He (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, ‘Yes.’ (Then) his (Ubay’s) eyes were filled with tears.”[3]

  • He is one of the greatest Scholars of this Ummah:

The Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) asked Ubay bin Ka’b, ‘Which is The greatest verse in the Qur’ân?’ So Ubay replied: “Allah! La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists.” [Al-Baqarah:255] Then The Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) hit his (Ubay’s) chest and said to him, ‘knowledge will be made easy for you, O Abaa Mundhir.’ [4]

Umar ibn al-khattab said, during the time when he was the Leader of the Muslim nation:

“Whoever wishes to ask about the Qur’ân then let him approach Ubay bin Ka’b, and whoever wants to ask about laws of inheritance then let him approach Zayd, and whoever wishes to ask about Fiqh; then let him approach Mu’aadh, and whoever wants to ask about wealth; then let him come to me, for Allaah has made me a safe-keeper and a distributor.”[5]

  • The Best reciter (Qaari) of the Qur’an from among the whole Islamic Nation:

Anas bin Maalik said, “The Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) said,  “The Best reciter from my Ummah is  Ubay…”[6]

Ibn Umar said that the Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Take [learn] the Qiraat [knowledge of recitation] from four: Ibn Mas’oud, and from Ubay, and from Muadh, and from Saalim the slave of Abu Hudhayfah.”[7]

Ibn Abbaas said that Umar said,

“The Best judge amongst us is ‘Alee, and the best reciter amongst us is Ubay…” [8]

Anas bin Maalik also said,

“During the time of The Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam), the Quran was collected by four, and all of them were from the Ansaar: Ubay ibn Ka’b, Muadh ibn Jabal, Zayd bin Yhabit, and Abu Zayd.” [9]

Umar ibn al-Khattab used to refer to him as,

‘The Chief of the Muslims.’[10]

From His Sayings:

Ubayd ibn Umayr narrated from Ubay ibn K’ab (radhiyaAllaahu anhu) who said,

‘None will leave something for the sake of Allaah, except that Allaah will substitute from him that which is better than that in a way that he does not recognize….’ [11]

‘Indeed we recite it (the complete Quran every) eight nights.’

‘Verily Allaah has made the food of the children of Adam a parable of what this world is: even if he puts spices in it [to make it better and delicious], it is well known what its end result is.’ [12]

Abu Al-‘Âliyah reports that a man once asked ‘Ubay b. Ka’b (Allah be pleased with him) for advice. He said,

“Take the Book of Allah as your leader (Imaam) and be pleased with it as a judge and ruler. It is what your Messenger left among you. It will be an intercessor for you. It is to be obeyed; It is a witness never doubted. In it is a mention of you and those before you, and judgment for whatever happens amongst you. And in it is news about you and whatever will come after you.” [13]

He Wrote Revelation

He was a writer during the pre-Islamic days; in those days, those who knew how to write among the Arabs were very few.
Consequently In Islam he was one of those who used to scribe the revelation.

Al Waaqidee said,

‘He was the first one to write for The Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam).’[14]

Masruq said, ‘I asked Ubay regarding some matter, so he said to me,

‘O son of my brother, has this (i.e. your question) occurred?’

So I said: ‘No.’ Thus he said,

‘Then lets leave it until if it happens, then we can do Ijtihaad and apply our reason/opinion.’

Narrations from the Prophet (peace be upon him):

In the six books of hadeeth, he has around sixty hadeeths narrated from him.

Death:

Dhumrah said, “I saw the people of Madinah flocking their streets in groups. So I asked, ‘What is the matter with them [people]?’ Some of them replied,

‘Aren’t you one of the residents of the Land [Madinah]?’

I said: ‘No.’ So they said,

‘Indeed today the chief of the Muslims – Ubay ibn Ka’b –  has passed away.’’

There has been long discussion between the scholars regarding the exact date of his death. Imam ad-Dhahabee says regarding his death –after bringing many different narrations- says about the narration which mentions that he died in year 22 A.H,

‘..the soul is drawn to this narration.’

May Allaah have mercy on him, and all the Pious Predecessors.
We ask Him the Most Mighty, the Most Praiseworthy to grant us beneficial knowledge
and guide us to His straight path, while imitating the best of the people in all affairs. Aameen.

______________

References

Main Sources: Siyar a’lamuu an-Nubalaa and Tabaqaat al-Kubra , Al-Iswaabah fi ma’rifati as-Sahaabah.

[1] Swafat Swafwaa of Ibn Jawzee : 1/84
[2] Taken from Ghaayati an-Nihaaya fi Tabaqaatil-Qurraa of Al-Imaam ibn Jazareey
[3] Saheeh al-Bukhaaree
[4] Narrated by Ahmad 5/142, Muslim:810.
[5] Siyar aa’laam an-Nubalaa : 1/389
[6] Jami’ Tirmidhee : 3793
[7] Narrated by Bukhaaree : 3758, 4999
[8] Saheeh al-Bukhaaree : 4481
[9] Saheeh al-Bukhaaree : 5003
[10] Al-Iswaabah : 1/5
[11] Az-Zuhd Kabeer of Imaam Bayhaqee: 2/427
[12] Az-Zuhd of Imaam Abee Daawood: 1/202
[13] Al-hilyah of Aboo Nua’ym : 1/253 , translation taken from sayings of the Salaf blog.
[14] Al-Iswaabah : 1/5

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Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, the Scholarly Youth

Ubayy ibn Ka‘b belonged to the Khazraj tribe, that formerly inhabited the Caspian littoral. Before converting to Islam, he was one of the Jewish scholars and intellectuals. He converted to Islam at the age of thirty one. He had complete knowledge of the Tawrāt (the Old Testament) and knew about the glad tidings of the coming of the Noble Prophet (S).

When the first Muslim propagator by the name of Mus‘ab ibn ‘Umayr entered Medina and invited the people to convert to Islam, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b responded with clear foresight and complete awareness to the call before he had even met or seen the Noble Prophet (S). During the second allegiance ceremony at ‘Aqabah, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b was one of the seventy people of Medina who paid allegiance to the Noble Prophet (S).

Before converting to Islam, he was considered as one of the most learned people of Medina. For that reason, it did not take long before he achieved great success among the Muslims. When the Noble Prophet (S) entered Medina, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b was the first person among the Helpers [Ansār] of Medina to record the Divine Revelation, and, hence, become one of the most famous scribes of the Glorious Qur’an.1

Aided by his brilliant intellectual abilities, Ubayy soon became one of the most renowned personalities of the Muslim World. He acquired competence and proficiency in recitation of the Glorious Qur’an and made enormous progress in other fields of Islamic sciences.

It is important to note that this honorable position and status was bestowed upon him by Allah. The Noble Prophet (S) received orders from Allah to recite the Qur’an for Ubayy and teach him how to recite it in a correct manner.

Ubayy had never imagined that some day he could be favored to such a great extent by Allah. When the Noble Prophet (S) informed him about the good news, that Allah had selected him to take up this assignment (recitation of the Glorious Qur’an), he asked in a surprised and eager way, “Did Allah mention me by name?” The Noble Prophet (S) stated, “Yes, he mentioned you by name.” He was so overwhelmed with the honor that he could not restrain the tears from flowing down his cheeks.

In order to bless him with peace, the Noble Prophet (S) recited the following Qur’anic verse [āyah] for him, “Say: In the grace of Allah and in His mercy—it is that they should rejoice; for it is better than that which they gather.”2

Ubayy always acted in accordance with the instructions of his teacher, the Noble Prophet (S).

One day, while addressing the Noble Prophet (S), Ubayy said, “O Prophet of Allah! I believed in Allah, and I converted to Islam at your hands, and then learnt the Noble Qur’an from you.”3

Indeed, Ubayy was always thankful for the great eminence he was honored with, and ascended to great heights because of reciting the Noble Qur’an. Imām al-Sādiq (‘a) said this in his favor, “We (the Ahlul Bayt) recite the Noble Qur’an according to Ubayy’s way of recitation.”4

Ubayy ibn Ka‘b and Qur’anic studies

In addition to what has been mentioned, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b possessed many other special qualities. One of the special qualities which Ubayy possessed was comprehension of the deep and profound meanings of the Glorious Qur’an.

Ubayy ibn Ka‘b possessed an enquiring mind, an open attitude and positive thinking regarding Qur’anic studies. It is for this reason that he was always involved in academic research. He used to carefully examine the details expounded in the verses of the Glorious Qur’an. That is why the Noble Prophet (S) always used to encourage him to strive hard at acquiring divine knowledge.5

A person asked Ubayy ibn Ka‘b for advice. He said, “Your guide, example and judge should be the Glorious Qur’an, because it is a remembrance from Allah’s Prophet (S) and an interceder in the presence of Allah. It is a program for the daily activities of the Muslims and is far from accusation and incrimination. The lives of the past peoples have been narrated therein and the right way of life for the Muslims has been shown therein. News about the future of the present Muslims and the generations that will come after has been foretold in the Glorious Qur’an.”6

Ubayy and the events that occurred after the Noble Prophet (S)

After the sad demise of the Noble Prophet (S) of Islam, the managers of the Assembly of Saqīfah succeeded at executing their pre-planned conspiracy to usurp the caliphate and gain the reigns of power. As a result of this, they disregarded ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a), the real Imām of the Islamic community unparalleled in every way from temporal or apparent leadership.7

Ubayy, who had painfully witnessed this chaotic state of affairs, used to say, “As long as the Noble Prophet (S) was alive, all eyes were fixed on one point. After his sad demise, however, eyes and faces started deviating from right to left.”8

In the afternoon of the day of the Saqīfah, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b was passing by a group of the Ansār. One of the Ansār asked him, “Where are you coming from, Ubayy?” He answered, “From the house of the Prophet’s family.” They asked him, “How are the Prophet’s family faring?” He responded, “How can one describe the state of those whose house is now devoid of the presence of one on whom Allah’s angels descended with His Messages?” While saying this he broke down, the tears choking his throat. On witnessing this, the people who had asked him this question started crying too.9

Ubayy never paid allegiance to the First Caliph, and believed that the Saqīfah was an illegitimate assembly which possessed no legality and no value at all.10

Ubayy was one of the first twelve people who raised their voices of protest against the First Caliph in the Prophet’s (S) Mosque, and openly declared their support of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a).11

He was constantly protesting against the rulers of his time, and during the rule of ‘Uthmān, said, “The rulers of this community have gone astray and destroyed their Hereafter. My heart does not feel pain for them, but breaks for those who have followed these lost leaders. If I stay alive till this Friday, I will reveal the truth as I know it even if I am killed.”12

But it is very sad that he died on Thursday, the day before Friday of that same week! He passed away in 30 or 32 AH at the age of fifty. Ubayy spent his life as a Muslim struggling to support and uphold the principles of Islam that he had learnt from the Holy Prophet (S) but died of a broken heart filled with sorrow for the direction it was moving in at the hands of the self-appointed rulers. May his soul rest in peace.13

  • 1. Al-Asābah, vol. 1, p. 19; Al-Darajāt al-Rafī‘ah, p. 324; Zarkulī, Al-A‘lām, vol. 1, p. 82; Sifat al-Safwa, vol. 1, p. 188.
  • 2. Sūrat Yūnus 10:57.
  • 3. Hilyat al-‘Awliyā, vol. 1, p. 250.
  • 4. Al-Darajāt al-Rafī‘ah, p. 324.
  • 5. Hilyat al-Awliyā’, vol. 1, p. 250.
  • 6. Hilyat al-Awliyā’, vol. 1, p. 253.
  • 7. The usurpers of the caliphate could not dismiss ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a) from divine guardianship because it was Allah the High who had appointed him. Therefore, they only managed to usurp the temporal or apparent leadership. [trans.]
  • 8. Hilyat al-Awliyā’, vol. 1, p. 254.
  • 9. Al-Darajāt al-Rafī‘ah, p. 325.
  • 10. Al-Fusūl al-Muhimmah, p. 180.
  • 11. Tabarsī, Al-Ihtijāj, p. 47; Tanqīh al-Maqāl, vol. 1, p. 198; Hilyat al-Awliyā’, vol. 1, p. 252.
  • 12. Bihār al-Anwār, vol. 3, p. 270.
  • 13. Ibn Sa‘d, Tabaqāt, vol. 3, p. 378; Qāmūs al-Rijāl, vol. 1, p. 50; Zarkulī, Al-A‘lām, vol. 1, p. 78.

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UBAYY IBN KA’B Radhia Allahu Anaha

“O Abu Mundhir! Which verse of the Book of God is the greatest?” asked the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace. “Allah and His Messenger know best,” came the reply. The Prophet repeated the question and Abu Mundhir replied.

“Allah, there is no god but He, the Living the Self-Subsisting. Neither slumber overtakes him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on earth, …” and most likely he went on to complete the Verse of the Throne (Ayat al-Kurs i). 

The Prophet smote his chest with his right hand in approval on hearing the reply and with his countenance beaming with happiness, said to Abu Mundhir. “May knowledge delight and benefit you, Abu Mundhir.” 

This Abu Mundhir whom the Prophet congratulated on the knowledge and understanding which God had bestowed on him was Ubayy ibn Kab, one of his distinguished companions and a person of high esteem in the early Muslim community. 

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 at Aqabah before the Hijrah. He participated in the Battle of Badr and other engagements there after. 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, he was one of the twenty five or so people who knew the Quran completely by heart. His recitation was so beautiful and his understanding so profound that the Prophet encouraged his companions to learn the Quran from him and from three others. Later, Umar too once told the Muslims as he was dealing wi th some financial matters of state: 

“O people! Whoever wants to ask about the Quran, let him go to Ubayy ibn Kab…” (Umar went on to say that anyone wishing to ask about inheritance matters should go to Zayd ibn Thabit, about questions of fiqh to Muadh ibn Jabal and about questions of mone y and finance, to himself.) 

Ubayy enjoyed a special honor with regard to the Quran. One day, the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, 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.” 

Any Muslim whose name had been conveyed to the heart of the Prophet in this manner must certainly have been of great ability and of a tremendously high stature. 

Throughout the years of his association with the Prophet, Ubayy derived the maximum benefit from his sweet and noble personality and from his noble teachings. Ubayy related that the Prophet once asked him: 

“Shall I not teach you a surah the like of which has not been revealed in the Tawrah, nor in the Injil, nor in the Zabur, nor in the Quran?” 

“Certainly,” replied Ubayy. 

“I hope you would not leave through that door until you know what it is,” said the Prophet obviously prolonging the suspense for Ubayy. Ubayy continues: “He stood up and I stood up with him. He started to speak, with my hand in his. I tried to delay him fearing that he would leave before letting me know what the surah is. When he reached the door, I asked: “O Messenger of God! The surah which you promised to tell me…” He replied: 

“What do you recite when you stand for Salat?” So, I recited for him Fatihatu-l Kitab (the Opening Chapter of the Quran) and he said: “(That’s) it! (That’s) it! They are the seven oft-repeated verses of which God Almighty has said: We have given you the seven oft-repeated verses and the Mighty Quran.” 

Ubayy’s devotion to the Quran was uncompromising. Once he recited part of a verse which the Khalifah Umar apparently could not remember or did not know and he said to Ubayy: “Your have lied,” to which Ubayy retorted; “Rather, you have lied.” 

A person who heard the exchange was astounded and said to Ubayy: “Do you call the Amir al-Muminin a liar?” 

“I have greater honor and respect for the Amir al-Muminin than you,” responded Ubayy,” but he has erred in verifying the Book of God and I shall not say the Amir al-Muminin is correct when he has made an error concerning the Book of God.” 

“Ubayy is right,” concluded Umar. 

Ubayy gave an idea of the importance of the Quran when a man came to him and said, “Advise me,” and he replied: “Take the Book of God as (your) leader (imam). 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…” 

After the demise of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, Ubayy remained strong in his attachment to Islam and his commitment to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. He was constant in his ibadah and would often be found in the mosque at night, after the last obligatory Prayer had been performed, engaged in worship or in teaching. Once he was sitting in the mosque after Salat with a group of Muslims, making supplication to God. Umar came in and sat with them and asked each one to recite a dua. They all did until finally Ubayy’s turn came. He was sitting next to Umar. He felt somewhat over-awed and became flustered. Umar prompted him and suggested that he say: “Allahumma ighfir lanaa. Allahumma irhamnaa. O Lord, forgive us, O Lord, have mercy on us.” 

Taqwa remained the guiding force in Ubayy’s life. He lived simply and did not allow the world to corrupt or deceive him. He had a good grasp of reality and knew that however a person lived and whatever comforts and luxuries he enjoyed, these would all fad e away and he would have only his good deeds to his credit. He was always a sort of warner to Muslims, reminding them of the times of the Prophet, of the Muslims’ devotion to Islam then, of their simplicity and spirit of sacrifice. Many people came to him seeking knowledge and advice. To one such person he said. 

“The believer has four characteristics. If he is afflicted by any misfortune, he remains patient and steadfast. If he is given anything, he is grateful. If he speaks, he speaks the truth. If he passes a judgment on any issue, he is just.” 

Ubayy attained a position of great honor and esteem among the early Muslims. Umar called him the “sayyid of the Muslims” and he came to be widely known by this title. He was part of the consultative group (mushawarah) to which Abu Bakr, as Khalifah, refer red many problems. This group was composed of men of good sense and judgment (ahl ar-ray) and men who knew the law (ahl al-fiqh) from among the Muhajirin and Ansar. It included Umar, Uthman, Ali, Abdur Rahman ibn Awl, Muadh ibn Jabal, Ubayy ibn Kab and Z ayd ibn Harith. Umar later consulted the same group when he was Khalifah. Specifically for fatwas (legal judgments) he referred to Uthman, Ubayy and Zayd ibn Thabit. 

Because of Ubayy’s high standing, one might have expected him to have been given positions of administrative responsibility, for example as a governor, in the rapidly expanding Muslim state. (During the time of the Prophet in fact he had performed the fun ction of a collector of sadaqah.) Indeed, Ubayy once asked 

“What’s the matter with you? Why don’t you appoint me as a governor?” 

“I do not want your religion to be corrupted” replied Umar. 

Ubayy was probably prompted to put the question to Umar when he saw that Muslims were tending to drift from the purity of faith and self-sacrifice of the days of the Prophet. He was known to be especially critical of the excessively polite and sycophan tic attitude of many Muslims to their governors which he felt brought ruin both to the governors and those under them. Ubayy for his part was always honest and frank in his dealings with persons in authority and feared no one but God. He acted as a sort o f conscience to the Muslims. One of Ubayy’s major fears for the Muslim ummah was that a day would come when there would be severe strife among Muslims. He often became overwhelmed with emotion when he read or heard the verse of the Quran.” 

“Say: He (Allah) has power to send calamities on you, from above and below, or to cover you with confusion in party strife, giving you a taste of mutual vengeance, each from the other.” (Surah al-An’am, 6: 65) 

He would then pray fervently to God for guidance and ask for His clemency and forgiveness. Ubayy died in the year 29 AH during the caliphate of Uthman.