Knowing the Less Famous Giants

https://stocksnap.io/photo/FE8CC21C13Originally published in December 2010

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.

  1. Hims is a city in present-day Syria []
  2. Leader of the Believers []
  3. Leader []

About the author

Naiyerah Kolkailah

Naiyerah Kolkailah

Naiyerah Kolkailah was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, California. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, and a minor in Religious Studies. During her college years, she served as President of the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) and Vice President of the statewide organization, MSA-West. In 2011, Naiyerah received a Diploma in Islamic Studies from the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Qatar Foundation in Doha, Qatar. In 2012, she received a license in memorization and recitation of the Qur’an from Shaykh Uthman Khan, whom she continues to study Tajweed with at Jaamiah Jazriyyah. Naiyerah currently lives in Pismo Beach, California, where she co-directs an Islamic Studies youth program, private tutors women and children in Qur’anic recitation and memorization, and speaks about Islam at local churches, interfaith events and Islam classes. She is also serving as President of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Society of San Luis Obispo County. Naiyerah can be reached at naiyerah@gmail.com.


  • Jazakillahu khairan for this article. I was just reading about this companion (radi Allahu anh) last night on the plane. Hilyatul Awliya wa Tabaqatal Asfiya by Imam Abu Naim al Asfahani also has some of these same accounts.


  • Jazaki Allahu Khairan for this amazing account so beautifully translated! Subhan Allah what an important and practical reminder of real taqwah and ‘ithaar!

    Something you notice with the amazing companions (ra) is their ability to really fear and love Allah (swt) when dealing with the rights and struggles of people. Their social consciousness was deeply grounded in tawheed, and well-hidden personal sacrifice was such a part of their character!

    So many lessons to think about! May Allah preserve you and increase you always!

  • Ameen. I hope those who wish to lead this Ummah study these stories and use them as examples. We need leaders who seek Allah instead of personal profit and ego.

    • JazakAllahu Khairan. I have read this biography before, but it moves me every time I read it.

      I think that our sisters can also learn from Sa`id ibn `Amir’s wife, who supported her husband in his worship and taqwa, rather than insisting on a comfortable worldly life.

  • Certainly Saeed’s story is amazing, may Allah be pleased with him, and I thank you for telling us about him, as I have read the Seerah but somehow I was not aware of his story.

    I have a question. Actually it’s a question that was recently posed by a sister. She said that the character of the Sahabah sometimes seems so extreme in its piety and selflessness that it becomes unattainable for us and even alienating because we know we can never reach that point. In her words, “it leaves one cold.”

    At the time I pointed out to her that the Sahabah set an example for us to aspire to, even if we do not actually reach it. But I’d like to hear what others have to say.

    Who is going to live like Saeed? Who is going to stay at home with no light, or have only one set of clothing which is washed once per month? How do we relate to that degree of humility and translate it into something useful for our lives?

    • @ Wael

      Assalaamu alaikum, Brother.

      The way I look at this is that each Sahaabi was a person, with strengths and weaknesses, just like us. Indeed, they were overall, the greatest of people, and Allaah chose them to be the companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but they were still human. When you read more about their lives and compare them together, you will see a wide array of personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.. just like in us. Some of us might be more like Sa’eed, giving up worldly comfort in order to help others to a higher degree than most. Other people may find themselves to have an element of character like ‘Umar, who trained himself to use his passionate nature in a way pleasing to Allaah instead of in other ways… etc. The more you study about the Sahabah, may Allaah be pleased with them, the more you will see that they were not perfect, and they did not always agree with one another (neither are their mistakes going to be advertised, btw) BUT when you read about these great people, you see a couple things that are the same in all of them: 1) apparent sincerity that just shines through their words and actions and 2) trying one’s hardest to be the best that he/she can be. In this, they are wonderful examples. Their various stories have different situations which may remind us of things we are going through. Their unique personalities offer us a lot to relate to at a very personal level and learn from effectively. That’s what’s so awesome about knowing so much about so many great people, in my opinion.

      • Jazak Allah khayr, your point about sincerity is well taken and is right on. That is exactly the conclusion I was coming too as well. I was thinking of the sahabi who called Bilal (RA) “son of a black woman”, and when the Prophet (pbuh) heard about it and chastised him, the put his head on the ground and said he would not lift it until Bilal stepped on it. So yes, they made mistakes, but had such utter sincerity in confronting their own behavior and repenting for it.

    • As salamu alaykum,

      There are people out there maybe at our side that are following these paths being example for all of us, but I believe many times we are so blind that we cannot see it (their shine blind us). And the ones that do it in a full conscious way don´t expect for any kind of reward for themselves they do it because they know that what they are doing may be reflected in less wars, family armony, less natural dissasters,….. and so on.
      Then I believe that the way that we relate to that degree of humility is a choice that we do following God´s Will, because only with Him guiding us, we will be able to follow this High Behaviours.


    • Good point, but the idea is whilst they have reached further along that road of piety, their stories should help point that road out to us and encourage us on the way. Saeed (R.A) may not have been at that level initially, but the stories that we read about are the culmination of many years of hard endeavour and struggle against the self.

      Maybe we dont need to eat out as much, or get that expensive latte from the coffee shop

  • I too recall reading this previously, but of course, it is a moving story and so strongly reminds us of how we should strive to be in this day and age. Jazak’Allahu Khairan for posting.

  • I realise that here the focus is his sincerity and not his choices, but I would think if he had a stipend as a governor, he could buy the bread from the baker, who would be baking, whereas he would then have time in the morning to be governing, having accepted the duty of the governor. I mean, sure the Prophet also lived very simply but then again, he also succeeded in being nevertheless very accessible when it comes to his duty to be the government leader and/or Muslims’ Prophet.

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