Big city, bright lights. Cars flash in fast lanes.
Young Muslims are getting ready to hit the night scene. Branded shoes and designer clothes in place, clutching the latest mobile gizmos and sporting the trendiest watches, their expensive perfumes hang in the air.
You can see them hanging out in groups, in the bright lights of a megamall, lingering aimlessly in shops, buying a knick knack to drive away the boredom, even if it is just for a second.
You can see them sipping cappucino at a Starbucks café …watching people go by, sharing a joke and laughing raucously; vacant eyes straying over to huge tv screens for the latest football score.
You can see them racing cars dangerously late into the night, music blasting from the stereos, startling passersby while they laugh in their faces.
Each time I see this all-too familiar scene, I find myself thinking of someone. Someone who lies buried in the blood-wet earth of Uhud, feet covered by scented grass and his body covered only by a square woollen sheet that was not even sufficient to cover him completely.
Someone who was his mother’s pampered son, he wore the best clothes his rich mother’s money could buy, his perfume scented the streets he walked through.
The talk of Makkan matrons and maidens in their plush salons, the toast of his peers in the city’s clubs, the most flamboyant young man of the Quraysh, who left a life of pleasuring the self to gain the pleasure of Allaah: Mus’ab bin Umair bin Hashim bin Abd Munaf who was also known as Mus’ab al Khair.
Mus’ab was only a youth when he heard of the Prophet who had arisen among the Quraysh and his Message of monotheism. Makkah talked of very little else in those days. His curiosity piqued by all the talk, Mus’ab decided to approach the Prophet s.a.w on his own to determine the truth of his Message.
One night, instead of joining his friends in their customary revelry, Mus’ab made his way to the house of Al-Arqaam Ibn Al-Arqaam which came to be known as Daar al Arqaam among the Muslims.
It was here that the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w met with the growing band of Muslims, away from the eyes of the Quraysh. It was here that the Companions talked over the future of their faith, heard and recited newly revealed portions of the Qur’aan and prayed behind the Prophet s.a.w to Allah.
That night, Mus’ab sat down among the gathering of the faithful and heard Prophet Muhammad s.a.w recite verses of the Quran. From that moment onwards he forgot for ever his life of luxury and indolence, in the ecstasy of discovering the key to eternal life.
Mus’ab’s path to the faith was not easy . His mother, Khunnas bint Maalik, a strong willed woman infamous for her sharp temper and even sharper tongue – was his chief opponent. In order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation with his mother, Mus’ab initially avoided telling her about his new faith.
However, people found him frequenting Daar Al-Arqaam more than his usual haunts and saw him coming under the influence of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. It wasn’t long before news of his conversion reached his mother.
Reacting with the imperiousness of her nature, her pride in her lineage and her age-old allegiance to the gods, she commanded Mus’ab to return and repent to the gods he had abandoned in his “foolishness”. And when he refused, she had him shackled and imprisoned in a corner of the house.
Somehow, news of the first emigration of some Muslims to Abyssinia reached Mus’ab in his incarceration and his heart longed to join his brothers in the faith. Using his ingenuity, he managed to delude his mother and his guards and escaped to Abyssinia with other emigrants.
Later, he returned to Makkah with them for a short while and emigrated a second time, this time as the Prophet’s chosen envoy to the new centre of faith, Yathrib.
When Mus’ab (ra) returned from Abyssinia, his mother sought to imprison him yet again. But this time he vowed that if she attempted that, he would kill all those who came to her aid to lock him up.
She knew the intensity of his determination better than anyone else and so she bade him a final farewell, crying bitterly, “Go away, I am no longer your mother”.
At this, Mus’ab went close to her and said, “O Mother, I am advising you and my heart is with you, please bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger”.
Enraged, she swore, “By the stars, I will never enter your religion, to degrade my status and weaken my senses “
But Mus’ab entered Islam in the spirit of the Quran when it says: “Enter into Islaam completely”. He forsook every semblance of satisfaction of the self for the sake of Allaah – his dress was tattered, his food was simple, the bare earth was his bed.
One day he went out to meet some Muslims while they were sitting around the Prophet s.a.w, and when they saw him they lowered their heads and shed silent tears at the sight of the pampered youth of their memory , moving about in worn out cloth which barely covered him.
After Mus’ab moved away from the gathering, the Prophet s.a.w recalled, “I saw Mus’ab, and there was no youth in Makkah more petted by his parents than he. Then he abandoned all that for the love of Allah and His Prophet”.
Recognizing Mus’ab’s noble manners and patience, the Prophet s.a.w commissioned him to instruct the people of Yathrib who had pledged their allegiance to the Prophet at Aqabah, to call others to Islam and to prepare the city for the eventual migration of the Prophet s.a.w.
At that time, there were among the Companions men of sterling character and nerves of steel, men who were older and more experienced in the ways of the world. Yet Prophet Muhammad s.a.w chose Mus’ab as his representative.
And Mus’ab proved worthy of the Prophet’s choice many times over, dealing with detractors with patience and sagacity.
Mus’ab entered Yathrib as a guest of Sa’ad ibn Zurarah of the Khazraj tribe. Together they went approached the citizens of Yathrib, explaining the message of monotheism and reciting the Quran.
Once Musa’ab and Sa’ad were sitting near a well in an orchard of Banee Zafar, when they were approached by Usayd ibn Khudayr brandishing a spear in obvious rage.
Sa’ad whispered to Mus’ab, “This is a chieftain of his people. May Allah place the truth in his heart” .
Mus’ab replied calmly, “If he sits down, I will speak to him”.
Usayd was angry at the success of Mus’ab’s mission and shouted angrily, “Why have you both come to us to corrupt the weak among us? Keep away from us if you want to stay alive”.
At this, Musa’ab smiled and said softly, “Won’t you sit down and listen? If you are pleased and satisfied with our mission, accept it, and if you dislike it we will stop telling you what you dislike and leave”.
Sticking his spear into the ground, Usayd sat down to hear them out.
As Musa’ab began telling him about Islam and reciting portions of the Quran to Usayd’s changed expression , the first words he uttered were , “How beautiful are these words and how true! What does a person do if he wants to enter this religion?”
Mus’ab (ra) explained, “Have a bath, purify yourself and your clothes. Then utter the testimony of Truth (shahadah), and perform prayers”.
Usayd then testified that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, prayed two rakaats of salaah and was followed by another influential man, Sa’ad ibn Muaadh.
By the time the Prophet (s.a.w) emigrated, there was not a single household in Yathrib in which Mus’ab had not endeared himself and the Message of Islam.
In the subsequent pilgrimage, he led a company of 70 people went from Yathrib to pledge allegiance to the Prophet s.a.w.
In a famous incident after the victory at Badr, the Muslims captured some Makkans and sought to ransom them. Mus’ab passed by the ranks of prisoners and stopped when saw his brother, Abu Azeez ibn Umayr among them.
However, instead of interceding on his behalf, he instructed his brother’s captor to bind him securely and to extract a large ransom for the prisoner, because “his mother is a very rich woman”
When the brother sought to remind Mus’ab of his relationship, Mus’ab replied, “I only recognize brotherhood of the faith, this man is my brother, but not you !”
At ‘Uhud, the Prophet s.a.w chose Mus’ab to bear the battle standard. In the melee that followed the archers descent from the hill where they were stationed, in violation of the Prophet ’s orders, the Makkans fought back fiercely.
Taken unawares by the cavalry of the Quraysh attacking from the rear, the Muslim ranks scattered. Intent on harming the Prophet (s.a.w), the Makkans searched for him while he was being guarded only by a handful of companions. Suddenly, someone shouted that the Prophet (s.a.w) was no more.
It was at this juncture that Mus’ab’s glorious life reached a fitting culmination.
Ibrahim ibn Muhammad related from his father, who said, ” Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair carried the standard on the Day of Uhud.
When the Muslims were scattered, he stood fast until he met Ibn Qaami’ah who was a knight. Ibn Qaami’ah struck Mus’ab on his right hand and cut it off, but Mus’ab said, “And Muhammad is but a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him “.
He carried the standard with his left hand and leaned on it, when his left hand was cut off, he leaned on the standard and held it with his upper arms to his chest, all the while saying, “And Muhammad is but a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him”.
Then a third soldier struck Mus’ab with a spear, and the spear went through him “.
After the battle, the Prophet s.a.w and his companions came to the plain of ‘Uhud to bury the martyrs, some of whose bodies had been mutilated by the marauding women of the Quraysh.
Pausing when he saw Mus’ab, the Prophet s.a.w recited, “Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah”.
Then the Prophet s.a.w looked at the remains of his companions in the battlefield and said, ” The Prophet of Allah witnesses that you are martyrs to Allaah on the Day of Resurrection “.
There wasn’t enough material to serve as a shroud for Mus’ab. Khabbaab ibn Al-Arat narrated, “We emigrated with the Prophet for Allah’s cause, so our reward became due with Allaah.
Some of us passed away without enjoying anything in this life of his reward, and of them was Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair, who was martyred on the Day of Uhud .
He did not leave behind anything except a sheet of shredded woollen cloth. If we covered his feet with it, his head was uncovered, and if we covered his feet with it, his head was uncovered. The Prophet s.a.w said to us, “Cover his head with it and put lemon grass over his feet””.
It was this memory of Mus’ab in his martyr’s grave, that caused companions like Abdur Rahman ibn ‘Awf to cry in fear of having no share in the Hereafter, because they had been granted a life of plenty and ease right here in this world.
Once his servant brought him a meal to break his fast and Ibn ‘Awf burst into tears, remembering Mus’ab who had passed away without tasting the good of this world, to the certainty of eternal pleasure in the Hereafter.
As night falls, I think of the shadows lengthening across ‘Uhud where the martyrs lie buried, when visitors drive off leaving the plain quiet, dark and peaceful. I think of the graves of the shuhadaa, resplendent with the dazzling light of the truly fortunate, those who are pleasing to Allah and are pleased with Him.
In the neon dazzle of malls, where countless young Muslims strive daily in the trivial pursuit of pleasure, we would do well to bear the memory of Mus’ab radiyy Allaahu anhu in mind.
It may keep us from getting lost in the light.