Mus’ab bin Umayr (ra) came from the Abd ad-Daar branch of the Quraysh tribe, and his family was among the most prominent and wealthy clans of this tribe. His father, Umayr b. Hashim, was one of the notables of his family, and his mother was Hannas bint Malik. Mus’ab in his youth was known among the Meccans as a handsome young man with a taste for beautiful clothing and expensive perfumes. During the period when the Prophet (saw) had not yet come forward publicly but performed his mission secretly, Mus’ab was among those who first became Muslim in the house of Arkam b. Abi’l-Arkam. After he became Muslim, Mus’ab (ra) made significant changes to his lifestyle, giving up his fun sprees and frivolous friendships and devoting himself to the spread of Islam. Being deeply opposed to the mission of the Prophet (saw), Mus’ab’s family was extremely disturbed by their son’s allegiance to Islam, and they pressured him relentlessly to make him return to the polytheistic belief. His mother was especially fierce in her efforts to disengage her son from the fold of Islam. Despite all this psychological, physical, and financial pressure from his family, Mus’ab (ra) held fast to his faith and continued to secretly meet with his fellow Muslims in order to pray with the Prophet (saw).
As the number of Muslims in Mecca kept increasing, the persecution they suffered at the hands of the Meccan polytheists reached unendurable levels. Keenly aware of this, the Prophet (saw) advised Muslims, especially the ones without proper protection and guardianship, to emigrate to Ethiopia. Suffocating under the relentless pressure of his family, Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) joined a convoy of eleven men and four women and emigrated to Ethiopia in the fifth year of the prophetic mission (615 AD). For a while he lived in peace, free from the pressure of his family and the Meccan polytheists. Upon hearing the news that Hamza (ra) and then Umar (ra) embraced Islam, some of the Muslims in the Ethiopian diaspora assumed that their fellow Muslims in Mecca were finally delivered from their sufferings. When they also received some reports claiming that the polytheists in Mecca had submitted to the Prophet (saw), roughly 38 Muslims decided to go back to Mecca. Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) was also in this group. When these Muslims reached Mecca and realized that some of these reports had been false and that the polytheists were as adamant about their way of life as ever, some of them decided to go back to Ethiopia, while some stayed despite everything. Mus’ab (ra) stayed in Mecca and began to live with the Muslims there. His return triggered the tide of pressure from his family to renounce Islam and return to his previous life. Despite all this pressure and persecution, Mus’ab (ra) continued to support the Prophet (saw).
In the eleventh year of the prophetic mission (621 AD), the Prophet (saw) signed the First Pledge of Aqaba with six men from Medina, and he sent Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) to Medina as both his representative and a teacher of religion. For this reason, Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) is regarded as the first Companion to emigrate to Medina. In the city, Mus’ab (ra) stayed in the house of the chief of the Hazraj tribe, As’ad b. Zurara (ra), who is regarded as the first Muslim in Medina. With his help and support, Mus’ab (ra) won many converts to Islam both from the Aws and the Hazraj tribes, some of them prominent personalities such as the Aws leaders Usayd b. Hudayr (ra) and Sa’d b. Mu’az (ra). With his great helper As’ad b. Zurara, Mus’ab led the Muslims in the regular daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer. He led the first Friday prayer that was ever performed in the city of Medina. Another important duty carried out by Mus’ab in Medina was to teach the Qur’an to the Muslims of the city.
As a fruit of the efforts of Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) and As’ad b. Zurara to spread Islam in Medina, seventy-five Medinans, two women among them, came to the Prophet (saw) in the thirteenth year of the prophetic mission (622 AD) to pledge their allegiance to him in Aqaba, an event that is known as the Second Pledge of Aqaba. Mus’ab was also present at this meeting, and he was praised by the Prophet (saw) for his successful work in Medina. Having played a key role in the organization and planning of the meeting at Aqaba, Mus’ab spent three months in Mecca after the Pledge and subsequently returned to Medina, his main place of duty. Mus’ab continued his efforts to spread Islam in Medina, still working with As’ad b. Zurara, until the Prophet (saw) himself emigrated to the city. The work of these two Companions was so extensive and successful that not a single house was left in Medina where Islam had not entered yet. Another duty performed by Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) in this period was to help the Muslims emigrating from Mecca to Medina as dictated by the decisions made at the Second Pledge of Aqaba, and to foster the initial dialogue between the Meccan Immigrants and their Medinan Hosts. Without doubt his most significant task overall was to prepare Medina for the arrival of the Prophet (saw).
In the Brotherhood of Immigrants and Hosts, which was established by the Prophet (saw) after the Hijra (Immigration) to Medina, Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) was matched with Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas (ra) from the Immigrants and with Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (ra) from the Hosts. In the Battle of Badr, the Prophet (saw) gave the duty of banner bearing, which was previously held by his own tribe during the Meccan period, to Mus’ab, who thus carried the banner on behalf of the Immigrants. Likewise Mus’ab carried the banner on behalf of all Muslims during the Battle of Uhud. In the rout that occurred due to the negligence of the archers during the Battle of Uhud, Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) never left the side of the Prophet (saw) and never dropped the banner until his last breath. His commitment was such that when both his hands were severed by the sword of Ibn Qami’a, who also wounded the Prophet (saw), he tried to keep the banner upright by pressing it to his chest with both his arms. He was martyred in this state when he was struck by a spear.
While the Uhud martyrs, including the Prophet’s (saw) uncle Hamza (ra.), were being buried in the aftermath of the war, the Messenger of God (saw) came upon the body of Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) lying on the ground covered in an old garment. The Prophet (saw) said to those around him that Mus’ab was once a wealthy man wearing the best clothes and enjoying the best food but that he preferred the love of God and His Messenger (saw) to everything else. The Prophet (saw) subsequently exalted all martyrs like Mus’ab by reciting the verse: “There are men among the believers who honored their pledge to God: some of them have fulfilled it by death, and some are still waiting. They have not changed in the least.” (Ahzab, 23) The Prophet (saw) went on to reminisce about Mus’ab: “When I first saw you in Mecca, you were peerless in good looks and taste. But today, your hair is tangled and all you have on you is a simple piece of cloth. The Messenger of God declares with absolute certainty that you will be accepted to the presence of God on the Day of Judgment.” Those Muslims who later lived in abundance and wealth thanks to the booty gained during the victorious conquests in the period after the Battle of Uhud never forgot the state of Mus’ab as he lied on the ground in the aftermath of the battle. Habbab b. Arat (ra), who was one of the very first Muslims, narrates that even though they emigrated from Mecca to Medina for the pleasure of God and not for worldly gain, God nevertheless granted them worldly blessings. He went on to say that Companions like Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra), despite carrying similar intentions, passed away before being able to enjoy any of these blessings. He also narrated that the day Mus’ab (ra) was martyred at Uhud, they couldn’t find a big enough shroud to cover his whole body, and that when they tried to use his cardigan, either his feet or his head remained uncovered. Finally, they decided to cover his head with the cardigan and put a sweet-smelling bunch of herbs on his feet cover them.
Also known as “Mus’ab the Good” among Muslims, Mus’ab b. Umayr (ra) joined the extended family of the Prophet (saw) when he married Hamna, who was the sister of Zaynab bint Jahsh (r.anha), one of the Prophet’s (saw) wives and hence one of the Mothers of the Muslims. From this marriage Mus’ab had a daughter named Zaynab. The drastic changes that Mus’ab (ra) made in his life after accepting Islam gained legendary fame even during his own lifetime, and he was always portrayed as a role model among Muslims for his indifference towards worldly riches. A wealthy and prosperous young man living in luxury and enjoying the best of everything material life could offer, Mus’ab turned his back on all that to attain eternal peace and salvation. When he saw Mus’ab walking around in Medina in patched clothes, The Prophet (saw) said: “Glory be to God, this is the young man who used to live in luxury in Mecca, but whose love for God and His Messenger and whose love for piety made him turn his back on all worldly comfort.”