Usamah Ibn Zaid

Commander-In-Chief Of The Largest Army Of Islam

Haritha was a Syrian who followed the Christian faith. He belonged to an affluent family. Zaid was his son. He had just entered his youth when one day he accompanied his mother on a journey to visit some relatives. On the way they were waylaid by some bandits who kidnapped him and sold him as a slave in the market of Ukaz. Hakim ibn Hazm purchased him for Khadijah, his paternal aunt. When Khadijah married the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) she gifted Zaid to him.

According to historians Zaid was the second person after Ali (a.s) to accept the Islamic faith. On the other hand Haritha was in search for his son when someone informed him that Zaid was in Mecca . When Haritha came to Mecca to take away his son, Zaid, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) also did not object and he said that Zaid could go with him if he so liked. However, Zaid was not prepared to go with his father. Haritha also permitted him to remain with the Prophet and himself returned to Syria . Later, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) proposed the marriage of Zaid with the daughter of his paternal aunt, Zainab. The two were married in the due course.

But this marriage did not last long, because Zainab considered herself from the nobility of Mecca and she was since day one not agreeable to marry Zaid who was a mere slave. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), time and again urged them to mend their differences and lead a peaceful married life but all this did not have much effect on Zainab. At last Zaid could not bear the sharp tongue of Zainab anymore and came to the Prophet and requested him to effect their divorce so that he could attain some peace.

Thus, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) had them divorced and after the stipulated waiting period married Zainab himself. This was so because the Prophet himself was the initiator of the marriage of Zaid and Zainab. Secondly it was a sort of recompense for Zainab. Also, since the Prophet was the son of the maternal uncle of Zainab the relationship between the families also survived the crisis. Zainab’s objection was also addressed since the Prophet belonged to the nobility of Mecca .

After that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) married Zaid to Umme Aiman, one of his maidservants. Umme Aiman was an understanding and an accomplished lady. The marriage proved successful to both the spouses and they began to live a happy and peaceful life. Umme Aiman gave birth to a male child whom Zaid named Usamah.[1]

Usamah belongs to the group of those young men who were born at the time of the birth of Islam in Mecca . He was a capable, intelligent and an accomplished young man.

[1] Al-Isabah, Vol. 1, Pg. 545

In the battle of Muta when Ja'far Ibn Abi Talib was martyred, according to the directions previously issued by the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) the leadership of the Muslim army fell on Zaid. Zaid engaged the foes in a fierce contest but at last he was also martyred. After the martyrdom of Zaid, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) dispatched an army against the Romans under the command of Usamah to avenge the death of his father, Zaid. This is a brief account of history so far. Now listen to what Falsafi says about what happened after that:

In the final days of his life in the world, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) persuaded the Muslims to fight a war against the powerful country of Byzantine. He organized a huge army and it included the great warriors, stalwarts and battle-hardened officers. Commanders and powerful chiefs of the Ansar and Muhajir communities were also a part of this army. In other words there was no person of any importance among the Arabs, who was not enrolled in this army.

On the day the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) went outside Medina to inspect the army he saw a gigantic and magnificent host ready to defend religion. Seeing the magnificence of the militia, it was necessary for the Prophet that he appoints an able and intelligent commander to lead the army who was qualified to head such a dangerous expedition. The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) summoned Usamah ibn Zaid and entrusted him the command of the army, handing him the standard of Islam and putting the whole army in his charge.

A noteworthy point here is that Usamah was only eighteen years of age at that time.[1] Though I have no right to say that such an example is not found in the history of mankind, at least I can say that such examples are very rare when a youth of eighteen has commanded an army of thousands.

Today in the civilized world it has become common for young people to be appointed to important posts. This is so because their intelligent and integrity is found worthy of such responsibilities. Yet we cannot as yet imagine a youth being appointed the chief of Army of the American nation or a European country to lead an expedition against a powerful enemy having all the latest weapons and training.

The Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.s.) established such an example that it continues to inspire the world even today. It is a very important lesson in support of the youth, which helps in garnering the capabilities and intellects of young people for profitable ends. What is noteworthy is that the huge Byzantine army was poised for attack and on the other hand the standard of the army of Islam was in the hands of Usamah, a lad of eighteen.

The best of the trained warriors who had passed through the most difficult circumstances in the wars of Islam, and defeated the machinations of the foes and those military chiefs of Islam, who had broken the strength of the enemies with great courage, valor and fearlessness and those Arab stalwarts who had fulfilled the most difficult conditions in the propagation of Islam through the perfection of their abilities, now all these experienced personnel had enrolled for this expedition due to the prophetic command and they

[1] Usud al-Ghaba, Vol. 1, Pg. 64

were now under the control and command of Usamah, the commander-in-chief of the army.

This matter of subordination to a youth of eighteen was very distasteful for them and they had to bear it without being able to raise any objection against it. The Prophet’s decision that the standard bearer of the army would be Usamah, a boy of eighteen was beyond imagination. Thus the majority of the leaders were shocked at this and they looked at the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) in bewilderment. Some of them were such that they lost the ability to digest this decision and they spoke up whatever lay hidden in their hearts: What is this? Those emigrants who were in the forefront in the battles of Islam and who also acted upon the principles and laws of Islam, how can such seniors be put under the command of an eighteen-year-old boy?

When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) heard about the discontent and whisperings among the military chiefs he was very angry. He mounted the pulpit and after due praise and glorification of the Almighty said:

“O people! What types of objections am I hearing from your side against the appointment of Usamah ibn Zaid as the commander? These ridicules and criticisms from your side are not new. When some years ago I appointed Zaid ibn Haritha, the father of Usamah as the leader, the same types of objections were raised. I swear by the Almighty that at that time also Zaid ibn Haritha was the most capable and qualified person for commanding the army and his son Usamah also is the most capable and qualified for leading the army. A sort of revolt has begun to simmer in the ranks. You must obey him.”

The persuasion of the Prophet and his support of the young generation affected the people and the bias they had towards the youthful generation was removed gradually. In the due course they began to regret their mistake.

Abu Ayyub Ansari, one of the best companions of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.), who had always followed and always claimed loyalty to Islam, participated in many battles and proved his unflinching support for the religion of God, he refused to participate in only this expedition. Only for the reason that the standard bearer and the commander-in-chief was a youth of lesser years.

After some years Abu Ayyub was remorseful of this. All the time he remained restless due to his opposition and sighed in regret: What my end would be? What right did I have to question the appointment of the commander-in-chief? Why did I oppose the leadership of this youth?[1]

The confirmation and emphasis of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) on the appointment of Usamah as the chief and the commander that all the Arab people may gather under his charge is a very important topic in the history of Islam that invites contemplations of all those who possess reason. At that time the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was indisposed and was passing the last days of his worldly life. When Abu Bakr and Umar came to visit him he was very angry with them and he said, “Go, go, go to the army of Usamah! Curse of Allah be on one who agrees for the battle but avoids joining the army of Usamah.”

[1] Usud al-Ghaba, Vol. 2, Pg. 81

Taking leave of the Prophet when Abu Bakr came to Usamah’s army, it was ready to move. They were waiting for the final news from Abu Bakr who said that the army had to march forward. The army thus departed for Syria but when it reached there Abu Bakr deposed Usamah and appointed Yazid Ibn Abu Sufyan at the command.

When the deposed Usamah returned to Medina he stood besides the Prophet’s mosque and announced in a loud voice, “O people of Medina ! It was only yesterday that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) had appointed me as the commander and the standard bearer of the army. And today he is opposing the orders of the Prophet and trying to impose his orders on me! He has deposed me from the commandership of the Islamic army.”[1]

[1] A'laamul Wara, Pg. 135