Abu Ubaidah (rta) is one of the ten companions, to whom the Prophet (sa) publicly promised Paradise. Born in the tribe of Quraish, he was known for his modesty, humbleness and noble character. His real name was Amir Ibn Abdullah Ibn Al-Jarrah, but he became famous as Abu Ubaidah Ibn Al-Jarrah (rta).
Although always soft and gentle among his friends, Abu Ubaidah (rta) would become as hard as iron when it came to deciding right from wrong. Already before the advent of Islam, Abu Ubaidah (rta) felt that his people were on the wrong path. Islam was so close to Abu Ubaidah’s (rta) heart that when he learned about it from his friend Abu Bakr (rta), he embraced it without any hesitation. Abu Ubaidah (rta) was the eighth person to accept Islam. Because of his unparalleled integrity and honesty, the Prophet (sa) named him ‘the nation’s trustworthy’ (Amin-ul-Ummah).
After migration to Madinah, Muslims had to fight numerous battles to defend their faith. In the Battle of Badr, Quraish chiefs from Makkah came to attack Muslims. Abu Ubaidah (rta) also took part in this battle. While fighting, he noticed his father among the rows of the enemy. He did all he could to avoid facing his father, but there came a point when both of them stood in front of each other – Abu Ubaidah (rta) had no other choice but to defend his life and faith. They exchanged blows, and Abu Ubaidah’s (rta) father fell down dead at his son’s feet. Abu Ubaidah (rta) was very sad to see this happen. However, soon Allah (swt) lifted heaviness from his heart – due to this incident, a revelation came:
“You (O Muhammad (sa)) will not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, making friendship with those who oppose Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)), even though they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their kindred (people). For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with Ruh (proofs, light and true guidance) from Himself.” (Al-Mujadilah 58:22)
This act of Abu Ubaidah (rta) proved his undivided love for Allah (swt). What more can a Muslim wish for than being praised for his deed in the Quran?
After the victory in the Battle of Badr, the Battle of Uhud brought new trials of faith for Muslims – this time the enemy army exceeded the numbers of Mujahideen about three times. The retreating Quraish gained an upper hand when a group of Mujahideen rushed after the booty, leaving their hill unmanned. The situation grew worse as misleading news about the Prophet’s (sa) death began to spread – many Muslims fled from the battlefield. Abu Ubaidah (rta), however, remained among the soldiers who decided to fight till the end.
In the heat of the battle, Abu Ubaidah (rta) saw an arrow strike the Prophet (sa), who then fell to the ground. Abu Ubaidah (rta) rushed towards him and saw that two chains of the Prophet’s (sa) armour had gone through his cheeks, causing serious injury and heavy bleeding. Understanding the gravity of the situation, Abu Ubaidah (rta) took out these chains from the Prophet’s (sa) face, using his own teeth, two of which broke in the process. Later, other companions looked at Abu Ubaidah (rta) with envy because they wished they had had this opportunity to sacrifice their teeth in order to show their love for the Prophet (sa).
Abu Ubaidah (rta) was a successful and exceptionally loyal military commander. Under his command, Muslims controlled the Arab tribes around Madinah and participated in military efforts to spread Islam. He joined his forces with the Mujahideen army at Mutah in Jordan for a battle against the Roman army. He led a faction of Muslims when the Mujahideen proceeded to conquer Makkah. The qualities that Abu Ubaidah (rta) was admired for were his humility and purity of intentions when it came to struggling in the cause of Allah (swt). Although a great military leader, Abu Ubaidah (rta) never hesitated to surrender his leadership because he knew he was fighting for a greater cause than just worldly power and authority.
The Prophet’s (sa) death brought a new challenge to the Muslim community – the selection of the next head of the Islamic state. To settle the arising differences, Abu Bakr (rta) offered two candidates for the post of the first Caliph: Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (rta) and Abu Ubaidah (rta) Ibn Al-Jarrah. Upon hearing this, both Umar (rta) and Abu Ubaidah (rta) immediately pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr (rta), as they felt there was no other more worthy of this position. Upon seeing this, others also pledged their allegiance to the new Caliph Abu Bakr (rta). Thus, these sincere acts of self-denial by both Abu Ubaidah (rta) and Umar (rta) smoothly solved the situation, which could have become critical for the future of the Muslim community.
Selecting the first Caliph was not the only instance that proved the exceptional humbleness and self-denial of Abu Ubaidah (rta). Abu Bakr (rta) sent Abu Ubaidah (rta) to Syria to fight the Romans, selecting him to be the general commander of the Muslim forces. When thirty-six thousand Mujahideen reached their destination at Yarmuk, they were met by the Roman army of two hundred thousands. Seeing the uneven division of forces, Muslims sent a message to the Caliph, inquiring what to do next. Abu Bakr (rta) sent in support forces with Khalid Ibn Waleed (rta), whom he selected to be the commander general of the whole joint Muslim army. Upon hearing this, Abu Ubaidah (rta) gave his post to Khalid (rta) without any hesitation and continued to fight under him as an ordinary soldier.
Later during the same battle, the news came about the death of Abu Bakr (rta). The next Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab had once again given the command of the joint Muslim forces to Abu Ubaidah (rta). Abu Ubaidah (rta), however, did not rush to deliver this news to Khalid (rta). Only when the battle ended with a great victory by Mujahideen, he handed to Khalid (rta) the message from the Caliph. Khalid was deeply moved by such an act of self-denial on Abu Ubaidah’s (rta) part. This humble man did not wish to reap the worldly glory of a victorious commander – he preferred to be loyal to the higher aim of spreading the message of Islam.
Abu Ubaidah (rta) remained loyal to Umar all his life, except on one occasion. When the fatal disease of plague spread in the Syrian city where the Muslim forces were stationed, Umar (rta) sent an urgent message to Abu Ubaidah (rta), requesting him to return to Madinah immediately. The Caliph feared for the life of his most trustworthy warrior. Abu Ubaidah (rta) guessed this and sent a return message to Umar (rta), asking permission to stay with his soldiers, who were in much need of him. Abu Ubaidah (rta) wrote that there was no need to keep alive a man who was not born to live in this world forever.
Umar’s (rta) guess proved to be right – Abu Ubaidah (rta) contracted the deadly disease. Before passing away, Abu Ubaidah (rta) addressed his Mujahideen with a special speech, instructing them to keep steadfast in their Islamic duties, to practice good morals, to obey the rulers and, above all, to remember that no one can escape death.
Abu Ubaidah (rta) Ibn Al-Jarrah, ‘the nation’s trustworthy,’ died and was buried in Jordan.