Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum

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Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum

Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum was a cousin of Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Mother of the Believers, may
God be pleased with her. His father was Qays ibn Za’id and his mother was Aatikah bint Abdullah. She
was called Umm Maktum (Mother of the Concealed One) because she gave birth to a blind child.
Abdullah witnessed the rise of Islam in Makkah. He was amongst the first to accept Islam. He lived
through the persecution of the Muslims and suffered what the other companions of the Prophet
experienced. His attitude, like theirs, was one of firmness, staunch resistance, and sacrifice. Neither his
dedication nor his faith weakened against the violence of the Quraysh onslaught. In fact, all this only
increased his determination to hold on to the religion of God and his devotion to His messenger.
Abdullah was devoted to the noble Prophet and he was so eager to memorize the Qur’an that he would
not miss any opportunity to achieve his heart’s desire. Indeed, his sense of urgency and his insistence
could sometimes have been irritating as he, unintentionally, sought to monopolize the attention of the

In this period, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was concentrating on the Quraysh notables and was
eager that they should become Muslims. On one particular day, he met Utbah ibn Rabiah and his brother
Shaybah, Amr ibn Hisham better known as Abu Jahl, Umayyah ibn Khalaf and Walid ibn Mughirah, the
father of Khalid ibn Walid who was later to be known as Sayf Allah or ‘the sword of God’. He had begun
talking and negotiating with them and telling them about Islam. He so much wished that they would
respond positively to him and accept Islam or at least call off their persecution of his companions.
While he was thus engaged, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum came up and asked him to read a verse from
the Qur’an.

“O messenger of God,” he said, “teach me from what God has taught you.” The Prophet frowned and
turned away from him. He turned his attention instead to the prestigious group of Quraysh, hoping that
they would become Muslims and that by their acceptance of Islam they would bring greatness to the
religion of God and strengthen his mission. As soon as he had finished speaking to them and had left
their company, he suddenly felt partially blinded and his head began to throb violently. At this point the
following revelation came to him:
“He frowned and turned away when the blind man approached him! Yet for all you knew, (O
Muhammad), he might perhaps have grown in purity or have been reminded of the Truth, and helped by
this reminder. Now as for him who believes himself to be self-sufficientÑto him you gave your whole
attention, although you are not accountable for his failure to attain to purity. But as for him who came
unto you full of eagerness and in awe of God, him did you disregard.
Nay, verily, this is but a reminder and so, whoever is willing may remember Him in the light of His
revelations blest with dignity, lofty and pure, borne by the hands of messengers, noble and most
(Surah Abasa 80: 116).

These are the sixteen verses which were revealed to the noble Prophet about Abdullah ibn Umm
MaktumÑsixteen verses that have continued to be recited from that time till today and shall continue to
be recited.

From that day the Prophet did not cease to be generous to Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum, to ask him about
his affairs, to fulfill his needs and take him into his council whenever he approached. This is not strange.
Was he not censured by God in a most severe manner on Abdullah’s account? In fact, in later years, he
often greeted Ibn Umm Maktum with these words of humility:
“Welcome unto him on whose account my Sustainer has rebuked me.”
When the Quraysh intensified their persecution of the Prophet and those who believed with him, God
gave them permission to emigrate. Abdullah’s response was prompt. He ana Mus’ab ibn Umayr were the
first of the Companions to reach Madinah.

As soon as they reached Yathrib, he and Mus’ab began discussing with the people, reading the Qur’an to
them and teaching them the religion of God. When the Prophet, upon whom be peace; arrived in
Madinah, he appointed Abdullah and Bilal ibn Rabah to be muadh-dhins for the Muslims, proclaiming
the Oneness of God five times a day, calling man to the best of actions and summoning them to success.
Bilal would call the adhan and Abdullah would pronounce the iqamah for the Prayer. Sometimes they
would reverse the process. During Ramadan, they adopted a special routine. One of them would call the
adhan to wake people up to eat before the fast began.

The other would call the adhan to announce the beginning of dawn and the fast. It was Bilal who would
awaken the people and Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum who would announce the beginning of dawn.
One of the responsibilities that the Prophet placed on Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum was to put him in
charge of Madinah in his absence. This was done more than ten times, one of them being when he left
for the liberation of Makkah.

Soon after the battle of Badr, the Prophet received a revelation from God raising the status of the
mujahideen and preferring them over the qa’ideen (those who remain inactive at home). This was in
order to encourage the mujahid even further and to spur the qa’id to give up his inactivity. This
revelation affected ibn Umm Maktum deeply. It pained him to be thus barred from the higher status and
he said:
“O messenger of God. If I could go on jihad, I would certainly do.” He then earnestly asked God to send
down a revelation about his particular case and those like him who were prevented because of their
disabilities from going on military campaigns.
His prayer was answered. An additional phrase was revealed to the Prophet exempting those with
disabilities from the import of the original verse. The full ayah became:
“Not equal are those who remain seated among the believers except those who possess disabilitiesÑand
those who strive and fight in the way of God with their wealth and their persons . . .”
(Surah an-Nisaa, 4: 95).

In spite of thus being excused from jihad, the soul of Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum refused to be content
with staying among those who remained at home when an expedition was in progress. Great souls are not content with remaining detached from affairs of great moment. He determined that no campaign should by-pass him. He fixed a role for himself on the battlefield. He would say: “Place me between two rows and give me the standard. I will carry it for you and protect it, for I am blind and cannot run

In the fourteenth year after the hijrah, Umar resolved to mount a major assault against the Persians to
bring down their State and open the way for the Muslim forces. So he wrote to his governors:
“Send anyone with a weapon or a horse or who can offer any form of help to me. And make haste.”
Crowds of Muslims from every direction responded to Umar’s call and converged on Madinah. Among
all these was the blind mujahid, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum.
Umar appointed Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas commander over the army, gave him instructions and bade him
farewell. When the army reached Qadisiyyah, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum was prominent, wearing a
coat of armour and fully prepared. He had vowed to carry and protect the standard of the Muslims or be
killed in the process.

The forces met and engaged in battle for three days. The fighting was among the most fierce and bitter
in the history of the Muslim conquests. On the third day, the Muslims achieved a mighty victory as one
of the greatest empires in the world collapsed and one of the most secure thrones fell. The standard of
Tawhid was raised in an idolatrous land. The price of this clear victory was hundreds of martyrs. Among
them was Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum. He was found dead on the battlefield clutching the flag of the