Abu Musa Al Ashari أبو موسى ألاشعري
Abu Musa Al Ash ar (died somewhere between 42 and 52H)
His real name `Abdullah, he belonged to the Ash`ar tribe of Yeman who migrated to Hejaz after the bursting of the Ma’arib Dam. People of this tribe were devout fighters in the cause of Islam and quite considerate to one another. When the verse: was revealed, the Prophet told Abu Musa, “These are people of your tribe.”
In pre-Islamic times, Abu Musa frequently traveled for business between Yemen and Makkah where his ally was Sa`eed ibn al-`Aas. His acceptance of Islam was due to these visits and was inspired by his personal meetings with the Prophet. He was among the earliest to embrace Islam, and a migrant to Abyssinia under the Prophet's instruction. Ja`far ibn abi Talib was the leader of the first group. A few historians do not include him among the first emigrants probably because although he migrated to Abyssinia, his family returned to Yemen.
When the group was allowed, they migrated again from Abyssinia to Madinah. Upon arrival, they learnt that the Prophet had left for the Khaybar. They marched on to Khaybar, perhaps eager to participate in the battle. Although the battle was over by the time they arrived, the Prophet included them among the recipients of booty since they had undergone hardships.
Thereafter, Abu Musa fought in all the battles under the leadership of the Prophet. He kept himself close to the Prophet during the campaigns. Once, he recalled to his son the suffering they had borne: a shower of rain would make their damp woolen garments smell like sheep. Recalling another campaign with the Prophet , he told his son that six persons had to share one camel by turns. They had developed foot sores and lost their toe-nails. They wrapped their feet with rags which led the campaign to be named Dhat al-Riqa` (rag-covered). However, after narrating this, Abu Musa al-Ash`ari regretted because it was as if he had uncovered one of his good deeds. During another campaign, led by Abu `Aamir Ash`ari, his uncle received an arrow on his knee. Abu Musa chased the pagan and killed him. He returned and informed his uncle that he had dispatched his assailant. Then he pulled the arrow out. A lot of fluid drained out of the wound. His uncle told him to convey his Salam to the Prophet and request him to pray for him. After some time, he breathed his last.” Abu Nu`aym records, in his Hilyah, that once Abu Musa was on a campaign by the sea route along with others. At night, they heard a voice coming from the sea that Allah has bound Himself that whosoever bore the hardships of a hot summer, while thirsty, shall have water on the day of unbearable thirst (the Day of Judgment). Accordingly, Abu Musa used to fast during hot summer days.
At the time of the Tabuk expedition, Abu Musa and his colleagues were in severe financial constraints; yet they were keen to join. Abu Musa’s colleagues sent him to the Prophet with the request to provide them with mounts. But the Prophet said on oath that he would not provide them with any mount. Seeing him in a state of anger, Abu Musa withdrew silently. After a little while, Bilal came asking him to report to the Prophet. When he went to him, he asked him to take six camels with him. But the more interesting part of the story is that when Abu Musa brought the camels to his colleagues and narrated the happenings, they were concerned about the Prophet. Had they led him into swearing? Had he forgotten that he had sworn not to give any mount? Should he not be reminded? So, they went back to him to remind him of his vow, (even if that would have meant he taking back the camels). He informed them that if he declares to do something on oath and then acts in the opposite way, (he does so in the wider interest and) for the breach, he expiates.
Abu Musa recalls that he went to the Prophet along with two other Ash`aris. The two desired to be appointed governor of Yemen. The Prophet asked Abu Musa to give his opinion to which he replied that he had no inkling of what the two had in their minds (when they came with him). The Prophet declared that posts were not given to those who desired them. He gave Abu Musa the responsibility of governorship of Yemen. At the same time, he also deputed Mu`dh ibn Jabal dividing the territory between the two. He ordered them to teach people the Qur’an, make matters easy, spread glad tidings, and not make things difficult for the people. However, he appointed Mu`adh ibn Jabal leader of the two. He wrote to the chief of the Yemen that the two were learned and pious persons. He accompanied the Prophet in 10H on the occasion of Hajjatu al-Wada`.
Abu Musa remained the governor of two provinces of Yemen and, after the Prophet's demise, carried on with his duties until the call for Jihad made him leave for Syria. He made a significant contribution to the campaigns in Syria. He left Syria when he was called by `Umar to assume the office of governor at Basra in which position he remained until `Umar's death. Although a difficult province, whose people were almost always complaining against and getting their governors replaced, Abu Musa held on for six years which speaks of his administrative abilities. Indeed, he remained in the post for another six years during the time of `Uthman. During this tenure, he imparted teaching of the Qur’an and Sunnah; taught the people manners and etiquettes; prepared a team of Ulama who converted Basra into a place that became a highly renowned centre of learning. Hasan Basri remarked: “None brought goodwill and welfare to Basra as much as he did.”
Inspite of such a righteous life, he did not escape accusations leveled by the people of Basra. A man of Anzah tribe nursed anger against Abu Musa for not including him in the delegation sent to Madinah with booty. He complained to the Caliph that Abu Musa had retained sixty slaves for himself; has kept two baskets of ration, wears two rings, has vested too much power with Ziyad ibn Sufyan and that he had rewarded Hutayyaah (the poet) with a thousand coins. `Umar summoned him to Madinah and inquired about the charges. Abu Musa explained that the slaves were taken as Fidyah and hence distributed among Muslims. Out of the two baskets of ration one was for his own consumption and the other for other Muslims. About Ziyad he said that he found him sharp and capable. As for Hutayyah, he paid him to buy his loyalty lest he should carry propaganda against him.
The efficient manner in which he administrated the affairs at Basra was evident in his leadership in other fields as well. It was under his command that crucial battles in Persia were won. The fort at Tustar was besieged for a long while, but ultimately its renowned warrior, Hurmuzan, was captured and sent as prisoner to the Caliph. Having lost their strongholds at Qadisiyyah and Mada’in, the Persians sought refuge in the forts at Isbahan and Ahwaz. Abu Musa conquered these forts as well. After the conquest of Nahawand and Qadisiyyah, Caliph `Umar combined two forces sent for Persia and Iraq under the command of Abu Musa and asked him to march towards Kirman and Isbahan. He subdued “Qumm” and “Qashan.”
In 29H, Caliph `Uthman removed him from the governorship and appointed a young man of twenty five. The reason was the suggestion offered by a few people of Basra to entrust responsibility to young people so that they could play decisive roles in Jihad activities. Instead of resenting, Abu Musa expressed his complete solidarity by extending him a warm welcome and praised him before the people of Basra. Abu Musa deemed it proper, in his own interest as well as in the interest of the newly designated governor, to migrate from Basra to Kufa. At Kufa, he continued his pursuits – teaching the Qur’an. After a short while, `Uthman appointed him as the Governor of the town, which he accepted after some deliberation.
After `Uthman, `Ali retained him as Kufa’s governor. But later, as he refused to side with any of the two groups supporting `Ali and Mu`awiyya, he had to relinquish the governorship, which he gladly did. Yet, when the two - `Ali and Mu`awiyya – agreed on arbitration after the Siffin battle, (see article on `Ali for fuller details), `Ali, despite his difference with Abu Musa, accepted him as one of the two arbitrators (the other being `Amr ibn al-`Aas, a nominee of the Mu`awiyyah group. When asked about the wisdom of his choice, Ali declared that Abu Musa was well versed in knowledge.
One account says that during arbitrary discussions, Abu Musa proposed a third name – that of Ibn `Umar – for caliphate. But no agreement could be reached. Another account – through a weak link, not too strong – says that after marshalling their arguments, the two arbiters agreed to drop the names of both `Ali and Mua`wiyya as Caliph. Accordingly, Abu Musa stood up and said, “In `Amr’s and my opinion, `Ali and Mu`awiyya are dropped. You may now elect another person.” After this `Amr rose up and said, “He has dropped his nominees; but I retain my nominee: Mu`awiyya.” Abu Musa left very unhappy.
History reports that Mu`awiyya had promised on oath to appoint one of his sons as governor of Kufa and another of Basra and all his personal needs would be taken care of, if he accepted to pledge for him. But Abu Musa declined the offer. Yet, and following the Prophet's instructions not to live a day without pledge to an Amir, even if a flat-nosed slave, he pledged allegiance to him after `Ali.
He ranked very high among the scholars of the Qur’an: both as Hafiz as well as Qari. He had learnt the Qur’an direct from the Prophet. Allah had gifted him with a melodious voice. The Prophet remarked, “Surely, Abu Qays (Abu Musa) has been gifted with a melody from the melodies of Da’ud’s family.” On one occasion, the Prophet and `Aisha were passing by and heard him reciting the Qur’an. He stopped there and listened attentively. When he arrived at Dimashq during Mu`awiyya’s caliphate, the latter would go by night to where he was staying in order to hear his Qur’anic recitation. `Umar asked his administrators to send him the list of the Huffaz so that he could increase their stipends. Abu Musa informed that (under him) the number of Huffaz exceeded three hundred. Abu Musa devoted considerable attention to Hadith. Many Companions narrated from him. Those who cited him include Buraydah ibn al-Haseeb, Abu Umamah al-Bahili, Sayeed ibn al-Musayyib, Aswad ibn Yazid, Abu Wa’il Shaqeeq ibn Salamah, Zayd ibn Wahab, Abu `Uthman Nahdi, Abu `Abd al Rahman Nahdi, Marrah Tayyib, Rabi` ibn Harash, Ibn Mudhrab etc. Out of a total of 360 narrations from him, 59 are in Bukhari and Muslim. He used to instruct his students to memorize the Ahadith instead of writing them down, although he himself had learnt how to write after the Prophet’s demise.
He is counted among six Companions as renowned jurists: `Umar, `Ali, Ibn Mas’ud, Ubayy, Zayd and Abu Musa, who used to deliver judgments. He combined in him knowledge, practice, Jihad and spent his time and energy either teaching the Qur’an and Hadith or in rituals and exercising self-restraint, fasting much. He was neither deceived by the world nor did high offices serve to lead him astray. He strictly did his Tahajjud and used to spend the major part of his time in Dhikr.Anas ibn Malik narrates that once he was with Abu Musa in a journey. When he heard people’s gossip, he said, “O, Anas! What is it I am witness to? Let us recite our Lord’s glory.” He asked, “O Anas! What has slowed their journey to?” He replied, “Carnal desires, and Satan”. Abu Musa said, “By Allah, the world has been made preferable to them and the hereafter delayed. Had they the right vision they would neither delay nor would they deviate”.
Allah blessed Abu Musa’s family with sons, grandsons, and great grandsons who became renowned scholars, jurists or narrators of Hadith. Among his sons were Abu Burdah, Abu Bakr, Musa and `Abd al Rahman. Among his grandsons were Sa`eed ibn abi Bardah, Barrad ibn abi Bardah, Dhahhak ibn `Abd al Rahman, all of sound repute.
He was short statured, of medium built, sporting a thin beard. When he began experiencing the signs of approaching death, he instructed the members of his family not to make public announcement of his demise, nor to wail loudly or burn frankincense. He instructed that he may be buried as fast as possible. He also instructed them not to build any memorial or tomb.
Significantly, there are two Prophetic statements that Abu Musa narrated with reference to the Qur’an :
See related articles
- Hajjatu Al-Wada
- Abu Bakr