There are big-name companions of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) like Salmān al-Fārisi, Bilāl, Abu Bakr and `Umar radi allahu `anhum (may Allah be pleased with them) whom we’ve heard so much about. Their journeys to Islam, and how they sacrificed for the sake of the truth brings smiles to our faces, or sometimes brings us to tears – and always make us feel connected to our Islamic heritage. There are other companions whom we don’t hear about as often, but their lives are also filled with struggles and exemplary behavior that deserves our attention.
One of these lesser-known companions is Sa`īd ibn `Amir al-Jumahy. His story is translated below, with some modification, from the book Suwar Min Hayāt Al-Sahābah (Glimpses from the Lives of the Companions) by Dr. `Abd al-Rahmān Ra’fat Al-Bāsha. I hope you find his story as moving and inspiring as I have, and may it resonate deeply in your heart, mind and soul.
Sa`īd’s story begins when he was a young boy living in Makkah. It was his fate to witness something that would haunt him forever, yet transform his life completely.
He was among thousands of people invited to watch the killing of Khubayb ibn `Adiy, a companion of the Prophet ﷺ, whom the Quraysh had captured. Sa`īd had a tall stature and strong build, so he managed to push through to the frontlines and get a close-up view of the Quraysh’s captive. He saw Khubayb weighed down in chains as women and children pushed him into the arena of death. They all wanted to avenge Muhammad ﷺ through killing Khubayb, and also get revenge for their dead in the Battle of Badr.
Sa`īd watched as they brought Khubayb up to the cross to be crucified. He heard his calm, firm voice, amidst the screaming women and children, make the request: “If you could let me pray two rak`as (units of prayer) before my death, please do so.” He saw him face the qiblah (direction of prayer), and pray with complete composure and contentment. After his prayer, Khubayb turned to the leaders of Quraysh and said fearlessly: “By Allah, if you hadn’t assumed that I’m elongating my prayer out of fear of death, I would have lengthened my prayer.”
Then, with his own two eyes, Sa`īd saw his people mutilate Khubayb alive. They cut up his body, piece by piece, while having the nerve to challenge Khubayb: “Would you like Muhammad to be in your place and you be saved?” He responded without hesitation: “By Allah, I wouldn’t like that I be secure with my family and children while Muhammad is even pricked with one thorn…”
The spectators were infuriated. They threw their hands up in the air and yelled even louder than before: “Kill him! Kill him!” Sa`īd could see Khubayb looking towards the sky from atop the cross, saying: “Allāhumma-ahsihim `adadā, waqtulhum badadā, wa lā tughādir minhum ahadā (O Allah, count them all, wipe them out, and don’t leave any of them out).” Then he breathed his final breaths, being left with countless cuts and gashes from all the swords and spears that struck him.
Soon afterward, everyone dispersed. The people of Quraysh got caught up in other events and forgot about Khubayb and his death. But this young boy, Sai`d ibn `Amir, never forgot Khubayb for a moment. He would see him in his dreams when he slept, and he would see his image while awake – being mutilated in front of him, and praying those two calm rak`as before he was crucified. He would hear the echo of Khubayb’s voice as he supplicated against the Quraysh, fearing that he would be counted in the supplication and be struck with a thunderbolt, or that a boulder would fall on him from the sky.
Sa`īd learned from Khubayb what he didn’t know before. He learned that the true life is a life of belief and conviction in God, and struggling for the sake of this belief until death. He also learned that deep-rooted imān (faith in God) can give you unimaginable strength. And there’s one more thing he learned: that a man whose companions loved him that much, must be a Messenger receiving Divine help from the heavens.
It was through these realizations that Allah guided Sa`īd to Islam. He wasted no time and stood up in front of a group of people and announced his Islam, and his disassociation from the sins and evil acts of Quraysh, and from their idols and false gods.
Sa`īd migrated to Madinah and accompanied the Prophet ﷺ; he witnessed the Battle of Khaybar with him and other battles after that. When the beloved Messenger ﷺ passed away, Sa`īd was at the disposal of Abu Bakr and `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) during their caliphates, and he lived a life that was uniquely exemplary to the believers. Both successors of the Prophet ﷺ knew of Sa`īd’s honesty and God-consciousness, and they would take his advice, and listen intently to his words. On one occasion, during the beginning of `Umar’s caliphate, Sa`īd came to `Umar and said,
“O `Umar, I advise you to fear Allah in dealing with people, and not to fear the people over Allah. Don’t let your words contradict your actions, for the best of speech is that which the actions attest to…
O `Umar, never lose sight of those whom Allah has given you responsibility over, from the Muslims near and far. Love for them what you love for yourself and your family, and hate for them what you would hate for yourself and your family. Tread through the challenges to reach the truth, and by Allah, don’t fear the blame of the blamers.”
“Who can handle all this Sa`īd?!” `Umar asked passionately.
“Someone like you whom Allah has given leadership over the Ummah of Muhammad ﷺ, and whom no one stands between him and Allah.”
At that point, `Umar sought Sa`īd’s assistance. He said, “Sa`īd, I am making you a governor of Hims1 .” Sa`īd replied, “O `Umar, I beg you by Allah, don’t put me through this trial.”
`Umar got angry and said, “Woe to you… you put this matter (i.e. the caliphate) around my neck and then you abandon me! By Allah, I won’t let you go.” So `Umar appointed Sa`īd as the governor of Hims, and asked, “Shall we pay you?” Sa`īd quickly refused: “And what would I do with it, O Amir al-Mu’minīn?!2 My right from the Treasury already surpasses my needs.” Then `Umar left Sa`īd to govern Hims.
After a short time, a group of people from Hims, whom `Umar trusted, passed through town. He asked them to write down the names of their poor people so he can get their needs met. They gave him a list, and lo and behold, one of the names was Sa`īd ibn `Amir.
Shocked, `Umar said: “Who is Sa`īd ibn `Amir?!”
They said, “He is our Amir.”3
“Your Amir is poor?!” `Umar asked with astonishment.
They affirmed, “Yes, and by Allah, days would pass by and no light (i.e. fire for cooking) would be lit in his home.”
On hearing this, `Umar wept until his beard became wet with tears. He took 1,000 dinars and put them in a sack, instructing the people of Hims: “Send him my salaam and tell him that Amir al-Mu’minīn sent you this money to assist you in fulfilling your needs.”
The delegation brought the money to Sa`īd. He opened the sack and found money in it, but immediately pushed it away, saying, “Innā lillāhi wa innā ilayhi raji`ūn (to Allah we belong and to Him is our return)” as if a catastrophe had befallen him.
Startled, his wife asked: “What is wrong Sa`īd…? Did Amir al-Mu’minīn pass away?!”
“No, worse than that,” said Sa`īd.
“Have the Muslims been struck by a calamity?!”
“No, worse than that.”
“And what can be worse than that?!”
“The dunya (material world) has come to destroy my (outcome for the) hereafter, and the fitnah (trial) has entered my home.”
Not knowing anything about the money, she said easily: “Get rid of it.”
“Will you help me in doing so?”
“Yes,” she replied.
So they both rationed the dinars into sacks, and distributed them to the poor Muslims in Hims.
It wasn’t long before `Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) came to al-Shām to check up on its affairs. Hims at the time was known as Al-Kuwayfa (the smaller Kūfa) because it was similar to Kūfa in that its people used to complain from their leaders like the people of Kūfa. When `Umar went to Hims, the people greeted him, and he asked them, “How do you find your Amir?”
They immediately complained about him and brought up four issues – each one being worse than the previous one. `Umar said: “I brought them together (Sa`īd and his people), and prayed to Allah that He doesn’t disappoint me in (Sa`īd) because I had a great deal of trust in him.”
When they were all before him, he asked again, “What are your complaints about your Amir?”
They replied, “He doesn’t come out to us until late morning.”
“What do you have to say about this Sa`īd?” `Umar asked.
He remained quiet for a bit, then said: “By Allah, I would hate to say this, but now I have to; my family has no servant, so I wake up every morning and knead the dough for them. Then I rest a little until it rises. Then, I bake it for them. Then I make ablution, and go out to meet the people.
“And what other complaint do you have about him?” `Umar asked.
“He doesn’t respond to anyone who calls for him at night,” they said.
“What do you have to say about this Sa`īd?” `Umar asked again.
He replied, “By Allah, I would hate to mention this too… I have devoted the day to (serving) them and the night to (worshipping) Allah, the Glorious and Almighty.”
“And what other complaint do you have about him?” `Umar said.
They said, “There is one day out of every month where he doesn’t come out at all.”
“And what is this Sa`īd?” `Umar asked.
Sa`īd said, “I don’t have a servant, O Amir al-Mu’minīn, and I don’t have any clothing except what’s on me now. So, I wash it once a month and wait (at home) for it to dry, and then I go out to the people at the end of the day.”
“And what is your last complaint about him?” `Umar asked.
They said, “From time to time he loses consciousness, and becomes unaware of those he is sitting with.”
“And what is this Sa`īd?!” `Umar exclaimed.
Sa`īd said, “I witnessed the killing of Khubayb ibn `Adiy while I was a mushrik. And I saw the Quraysh mutilate and cut up his body while asking him: ‘Would you like Muhammad to be in your place and you to be saved?’ But, Khubayb responded: ‘By Allah, I would not like that I be secure with my family and children while Muhammad ﷺ is even pricked with one thorn…’
And by Allah, there is not one day that I remember this and how I didn’t help him except that I think Allah will not forgive me for it; and that is when I lose consciousness.”
At this point, `Umar exclaimed, “Praise be to Allah Who did not disappoint me in him!”
Then he sent Sa`īd another 1,000 dinars to help him with his needs. When Sa`īd’s wife saw the money, she said,
“Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah) that we no longer have to depend on your service. Go buy us food, and bring us a servant.”
Sa`īd told her, “Are you interested in something better?”
“What would that be?” she asked.
“We give it to the One who sent it to us, while we are in great need of it.”
“And how is that?”
“We loan it to Allah as a goodly loan.” (Qur’an, 64:17)
“Yes,” she agreed, “and may you be rewarded good (for this),” she said.
Sa`īd didn’t get up from his place until he took all 1,000 dinars and divided them up in sacks again. He told someone from his family, “Take them to the widow of this person, and to all these orphans, and to the needy of that family, and to the poor of such and such families.”
This was the simple, humble, devout life of Sa`īd ibn `Amir, who always preferred others over himself, even though he was in desperate privation.
May Allah be pleased with Sa`īd, and Khubayb, and all the companions. And may He purify our hearts, and grant us the strength and courage to follow in the footsteps of the righteous.