A young boy of short stature was grazing a herd of goats on the mountain trails on the outskirts of Makkah. He saw two men in the distance coming towards him. As they came closer they looked tired and thirsty.
They approached him and asked, “O young boy, can you offer us some milk from any of your goats to quench our thirst?”
In reply the young boy said, “I am sorry, these goats are not mine, they belong to Uqaba Ibn Ali Muait, so I will be dishonest if I give you this milk without his permission.”
Both men were very impressed with the young boy’s honesty.
This young boy was none other than Abdullah ibn Masud, and the two men were Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Sayyidina Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (ra).
They had left Makkah for the historical Hijrah that day to escape the persecution of the Quraysh. This incident shows the keen sense of honesty Abdullah ibn Masud had even before he accepted Islam and relates to the saying of The Prophet (saw) that, “The best of you before he accepts Islam are the best after accepting it”.
Soon after this incident Abdullah ibn Masud became very attached to the Prophet (saw) and very soon he became a Muslim. He gave up herding goats and instead devoted himself to serving the Blessed Prophet (saw).
He used to accompany Prophet Muhammad on his journeys and tend to his personal needs. He received the unique training and guidance in the household of the Prophet (saw). He is known and recognised as one of the most knowledgeable companions with his knowledge of the Qur’an.
Once a man came to Sayyidina Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) and told him, “I have just come from Kufah in Iraq where I left a man filling copies of the Qur’an from memory”.
“Who is he?” asked Umar angrily.
“Abdullah ibn Masud” replied the man.
Then Umar became calm and said, “Woe to you, by Allah I don’t know anyone more qualified to do this”.
Another time, the Prophet (saw), Abu Bakr and Umar (ra) passed the mosque while someone was reciting the Qur’an beautifully in prayer. The Prophet (saw) said, “Whoever wants to read the Qur’an as fresh as it was revealed, should read like ibn Masud”, as he was the person reciting it.
Ibn Masud was one of the four people the Prophet (saw) recommended people to learn the Qur’an from; the other three were Salim Maula Abu Hudhayfa, Muadh Ibn Jabal and Ubayy Ibn Ka’ab (ra).
When the Sahabah were still very few in Makkah, weak and oppressed, one day they said, “The Quraysh have not heard the Qur’an being recited loudly, Who can do it?”
“I will do it” said Abdullah ibn Masud. This was a big task. The Sahabah were afraid for him because he did not have any tribe to protect him. The Quraysh could easily attack and harm Abdullah ibn Masud if he started to read the Qur’an for everyone to hear.
But ibn Masud said, “Allah will keep me safe from their mischief”.
Ibn Masud went to the Kab’ah where some of the Quraysh were gathered and started reciting Surah Ar-Rahman of the Qur’an. When the Quraysh realised he was reciting the Qur’an, they came over to him, and started beating him till he bled. However, although he was very swollen and bruised, he finished reciting the Surah.
The Sahabah were sorry for Abdullah ibn Masud when they saw his condition, but Abdullah ibn Masud said, “By Allah, the enemies of Allah are more uncomfortable than me, and I would go and do it again.”
The Sahabah said, “It is enough.”
Ibn Masud had excellent manners and he loved to make sacrifices for Allah’s sake. He took part in all the major battles of Islam with the Prophet Muhammad (saw).
In the battle of Badr, he killed Abu Jahl. He also fought in the battles of Uhud, Khandaq, Khaybar, were there during the conquest of Makkah and Hunayn.
Abdullah ibn Masud was also very careful in narrating hadith from the Blessed Prophet, to make sure he said the exact words of the Prophet, and didn’t make any mistakes. Once after telling people a hadith, he smiled after it, because the Prophet (saw) also smiled after it when he recited the hadith. He knew that he said the hadith correctly, and that the Blessed Prophet was pleased. This shows us ibn Masud’s truthfulness and determination to be correct.
Ibn Masud also never allowed injustice of any kind, no matter who was doing it. One day Wahid ibn Aqaba, the governor of Kufa was late to lead the prayers in congregation, so Abdullah ibn Mas’ud led the prayers. When ibn Aqaba came he was very angry and demanded an explanation from Ibn Mas’ud.
“Allah does not like the prayer delayed for you. Why should the people wait in the Mosque for prayer whilst you are busy in your work?,” replied Ibn Mas’ud. Wahid could not reply.
Ibn Masud would treat his family with affection and kindness and made sure he educated them in the Qur’an and about Islam. He was very hospitable and in Kufah, he had emptied his house for serving guests.
His speeches very mainly about the Oneness of Allah, prayers, fearing Allah and the Hereafter. He used to say, “O people, he who wants this world loses the next, he who wants the Hereafter does not care about this world”.
Ibn Masud was brave and pious, though he was short and had very thin legs. One day he climbed a tree and his legs were uncovered and some people laughed at them. But the Prophet (saw) said, “On the Day of Judgement, his legs will have more weight in Allah’s sight than Mount Uhud.”
Ibn Masud lived up to the time of the Khalifah Uthman (ra). On ibn Masud’s deathbed, Sayyidina Uthman came to visit him and asked, “What is your illness?”
“My sins,” replied ibn Mas’ud.
“And what do you desire?,” asked Uthman.
“The mercy of my Lord,” replied Ibn Masud.
“Should I give you your grant (salary), which you have refused for many years?,” asked Uthman.
“I don’t need it,” said Ibn Masud.
“Let it then be for your daughters who survived after you,” replied Uthman.
“Do you fear that my children will become poor, Uthman? I have commanded them to read Surah al-Waqi’ah every night, for I have heard the Prophet saying: “Whoever reads al-Waq’iah every night shall not be afflicted by poverty ever.”
That night ibn Masud passed away, his tongue moist with remembrance of Allah and recitation of the Qur’an.