This is a short story about one of my favorite companions of the Prophet (SAWS). What I love about him is that despite being born blind, he showed a dedication to our faith, a desire for knowledge, and love for the Prophet (SAWS) that was so profound that Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala spoke on his personal behalf from above seven heavens in verses in the Quran. One of the things that I love about him is that he did not let his disability (blindness) prevent him from service to our faith, allegiance to our Prophet (SAWS), or from being and a true servant of Allah.
His name was Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom. He was also known as Amru Ibn Umm Maktoom, as well as Amru Ibn Qais. His mother’s name was Aatika and her surname was Umm Maktoom which means (mother of the concealed). They called her that because she gave birth to a blind child, thus his name; Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom. He was the cousin of the Prophet’s first wife Khadija bin Khuwailid, and he converted to Islam early on during the Meccan period. He was one of the seventy something persons who accompanied the Prophet (SAWS) during the migration (hijrah) to Medina. Ibn Umm Maktoom was blind, but the Prophet (SAWS) trusted him as an able bodied imam of the salat and he would frequently lead the prayers in Madinah when the Prophet (SAWS) was away on an expedition, this happened several times including the time the Prophet (SAWS) left for the conquest of Mecca.
In the narration of al-Barraa ibn Aazib, he said: “the first one to come to us of the Muhaajireen was Mus’ab ibn Umair and then after that it was the blind man, Ibn Umm Maktoom. Ibn Umm Maktoom was one of the two principle mu’athhans (callers to prayer), of the Prophet (SAWS), the other was Bilal. Sometimes Bilal would call the athaan and ibn Umm Maktoom would call the iqaamah and then other times it was the other way around.
Several verses of the Quran were revealed regarding this companion of the Prophet (SAWS). Some of the scholars of tafseer say that 10 verses were revealed about him. In one instance the Prophet (SAWS) was trying to convince some of the high ranking members of the Quraish; Abu Jahl, also known as Amr ibn Hishaam, Ut’ba ibn Rabee’ah, and his brother Shaybah, and Walid ibn al-Mugheerah, the father of Khalid ibn Walid who would later become known as the Sword of Allah, about Islam, when a blind man approached him, entered into the conversation with the group, and pleading, he said; O messenger of Allah, teach me something that Allah has taught you”.
The Prophet (SAWS) at the time, didn’t like the interruption, so he frowned, turned away from the man and turned his attention back to the others. After the Prophet (SAWS) finished speaking with the group of men, he headed back to be his family. It was then the verse was revealed. “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-sufficient, to 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 virtuous.” [Quran, 80:1-16]
This verse amounted to light admonishment for the Prophet (SAWS) from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, and after these verses were revealed, the Prophet (SAWS) used to honor ibn Umm Maktoom and give him the utmost respect. He used to say to him; “do you need anything?”, and, “is there anything that you require of me?” and before the Prophet (SAWS) would leave his presence, he would ask him; what can I do for you?
In the report of al-Barraa ibn Aazib, he said: once the Prophet (SAWS) asked that a shoulder blade or a writing board be brought to him, and he wrote down the verse: “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home)”. Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom was standing right behind the Prophet (SAWS) and said; “is there any exemption (rukh’sa) for me? Then the words; “and receive no hurt,” were revealed and added to the verse, which then read: “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) except those who possess disabilities, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward”, [4:95], with the words, [except those who possess disabilities] inserted.
Still, despite his disability, Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktoom longed to participate with his Muslim brethren in military campaigns, was a brave man and wanted to make the sacrifice like others had done before him. He would say to them; ‘I’m blind, and I won’t be able to flee, so give me the flag and place me on a horse between the ranks. In the 14th year of the Hijra, Umar ibn al-Khattaab mounted a major campaign. Anas Ibn Malik said that during the battle of al-Qaadisiyyah in 636 C.E., which was the battle between the Muslim forces and the Sassanid Persian army, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom was a standard bearer. The battle lasted three days, and when it was all over, Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktoom was dead amongst the martyrs, with the Muslim flag still clutched in his hand.. May Allah be pleased with him, and grant him the company of those on whom Allah has bestowed his grace. Ameen.