Jābir, the Noble Prophet’s (S) Courier
Jābir was the son of ‘Abd Allāh, one of the Helpers [Ansār] of Medina. He came from the tribe of Khazraj. His pseudonyms were Abū ‘Abd Allāh and Abī ‘Abd al-Rahmān. Jābir ibn ‘Abd Allāh was one of the most renowned companions and helpers of the Noble Prophet (S). He was born in Medina sixteen years before the Migration (Hijrah).1
After the Noble Prophet (S) sent Mus‘ab ibn ‘Āmir to teach and propagate Islam to the residents of Medina, a new chapter was opened in the history of Islam which generated great interest and inclination towards Islam.
It was for this reason that the people who had converted to Islam were impatiently counting the days and waiting for the Hajj season to arrive, so that they might have the chance of seeing the Noble Prophet (S) from up close. This period of anxious waiting finally ended and the caravan from Medina started off towards Mecca.
There were seventy three new and eager Muslims among them looking forward to seeing the Noble Prophet (S) for the first time. On the 13th night of Dhū al-Hijjah, thirteen years before the Migration, the newly converted Muslims arrived at the bottom of ‘Aqabah, and after several rounds of conversations with the Noble Prophet (S), paid allegiance to Allah’s Prophet (S) and promised to defend, protect and support him under all circumstances. After this session, the Noble Prophet (S) selected and appointed twelve people to serve as his representatives and heads of the people of Medina in his absence.2
Among the people who paid allegiance to the Noble Prophet (S) that night was a thirteen year old, named Jābir.3
Just like his father, he was one of the earliest people to become a Muslim. He took part in eighteen of the Islamic wars. He was often seen fighting close or next to the Noble Prophet (S). Jābir himself narrates that he took part in all the Islamic wars except the battles of Badr and Uhud.4
Jābir was not only a warrior and a struggler [mujāhid] but was (‘a) renowned and distinguished in the different fields of Islamic knowledge, having benefited a lot from the Household of the Noble Prophet (S), and amassed treasures of wisdom and knowledge in his heart from them. Some historians assert that Jābir has narrated and recounted the largest number of hadīths (Islamic traditions).5
Jābir was one of those distinguished scholars whom the people referred to for scholarly opinion.6 He used to hold sessions in the Noble Prophet’s (S) Mosque and quench the thirst of those seeking knowledge.7
Among the Noble Prophet’s (S) companions and helpers, there are some people who are especially beloved and very famous in the history of Islam. One of these people is Jābir. The reason why Jābir is a beloved figure is because he had a deep spiritual union and solidarity with the Noble Prophet’s (S) Household, due to a constant association with them. He proved his love for the Ahlul Bayt (‘a) under extremely sensitive and difficult circumstances.
It is for this very reason that Imām al-Sādiq (‘a) said about him, “Jābir was very loyal and intimately attached to our Household.”8
After the Noble Prophet’s (S) sad demise, Jābir always accompanied the Household of the Noble Prophet (S). During ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib’s (S) wars against Mu‘āwiyah, the rebel and his depraved partisans, Jābir was one of Imām ‘Alī’s (‘a) supporters, and during the Battle of Siffīn, he was one of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib’s (‘a) companions.9
In addition to being present in the battlefields, Jābir did not stop at anything to serve ‘Alī (‘a). Scholars of history narrate that Jābir used to lean on a walking stick and walk in the streets of Medina to attend the discussion sessions of the Heleprs [Ansār]. In these public discussions, he used to say, “‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a) is the best person on earth. Anyone who denies this truth has acted with partiality and has deliberately disregarded what is right. O group of the Ansār! Train your children to love ‘Alī (‘a) and bring them up according to ‘Alī’s (‘a) instructions…”10
Abū Zubayr says, “I asked Jābir what kind of person ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a) was?” Jābir raised his eyebrows and said, “‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a) was the best person on the surface of the earth. When the Noble Prophet (S) was alive, we used to recognize the hypocrites by knowing who hated ‘Alī (‘a).”11
Some people asked Jābir why it was unlawful [harām] to oppose ‘Alī (‘a). He answered, “Everyone knew about the illegality of fighting against ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a) save the infidels and unbelievers.”12 There have been a lot of other traditions [hadīths] recounted from Jābir confirming this issue.13
A lot of people are mistaken about the meaning of Ulu’l-Amr (those endowed with authority or leadership in the Islamic community). For this reason, they believe that every head of government is one of the Ulu’l-Amr, even if he is an oppressor and tyrant. Some people have even asserted that following and obeying this kind of ruler is obligatory [wājib].
In this way, they have strengthened obstinate and tyrannical rulers and, as a result of this, created many problems for the Muslims. The Shī‘ites believe that not every ruler is one of the Ulu’l-Amr. On the contrary, the Ulu’l-Amr are twelve people who are the rightful successors of Allah’s Prophet (S), and have been named and introduced to us by the Noble Prophet (S) himself. Following and obeying them has been compared and likened to following and obeying Allah and the Noble Prophet (S).
Jābir recounts a tradition [hadīth] from the Noble Prophet (S) which explains this issue clearly and makes everything about the Ulu’l-Amr transparent. He says, “When this Qur’anic verse [āyah] was revealed,
‘O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the apostle and those in authority (Ulu’l-Amr) from among you’.”14
Jābir says, “I asked Allah’s Prophet, ‘We know who Allah and the Prophet (S) are and hence we follow them, but we do not know who the Ulu’l-Amr are, whose following Allah has mentioned in the same order or rank as following Him and obeying you?’ The Noble Prophet (S) stated, ‘The Ulu’l-Amr are my successors and are the leaders [Imāms] after me.
The first of them is ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a) and after him, Hasan ibn ‘Alī (‘a), and Husayn ibn ‘Alī (‘a), ‘Alī ibn Husayn (‘a), and Muhammad ibn ‘Alī (‘a) who is famously known as Bāqir in the Tawrāt. O Jābir! You will meet and see him with your own eyes. Pass my greetings [salām] to him when you meet him.
After him will come Ja‘far ibn Muhammad (‘a), and after him Mūsā ibn Ja‘far (‘a) and after him Muhammad ibn ‘Alī (‘a) and after him ‘Alī ibn Muhammad (‘a) and then Hasan ibn ‘Alī (‘a) and after him his child whose name and pseudonym is the same as mine. The East and the West of the earth shall be conquered by him. He will be hidden from the eyes of men and will live in a long occultation. It is for this reason that some people with weak faith will doubt his Imamate, except those whose hearts Allah has purified and blessed with faith’.”15
There have been numerous hadīths recounted from Jābir regarding the names of the honorable Shī‘ite Imāms who are the real Ulu’l-Amr, and the most famous of these hadīths is the Hadīth of “Lawh”. And there are many other documents recorded regarding this issue.16
As has already been mentioned, Jābir was very fond of the Noble Prophet (S) and his pure Household. It was because of this love and fondness that he never ever compromised with their enemies and opponents.
One day Jābir went to Syria in order to perform a duty. When he arrived there, Jābir requested to see Mu‘āwiyah. Mu‘āwiyah, who was aware about Jābir’s love and affection regarding the Noble Prophet’s (S) Household, deliberately delayed the meeting for a number of days to humiliate him.
When Jābir finally met Mu‘āwiyah in the palace of Syria, he addressed Mu‘āwiyah thus, “Have you not heard Allah’s Prophet (S) say, ‘On the day of need and distress (the Day of Judgement), Allah will remove from his mercy every leader who does not give the needy and distressed people the permission to meet him so that they may present their problems to him, and Allah will drive away from his forgiveness any leader who does not alleviate the sufferings of the needy.’
When Mu‘āwiyah heard this, he became angry and said, ‘I heard from Allah’s Prophet (S) that after him, the people will be confronted with oppressive rulers and governments. Their duty is to be patient and obedient to the rulers.’
Jābir said, ‘You have said the truth and reminded me about the truth that I had forgotten.’ After saying this, he left the palace, mounted his horse and rode out of Syria. Mu‘āwiyah later realized his mistake. In order to make up for his folly, he sent six hundred dīnārs as a gift to Jābir which he rejected outright. He told the messenger, ‘Tell Mu‘āwiyah, ‘O son of the liver eating woman! I will never be a means for you to record good works for yourself’.’”17
One of Jābir’s glories is that he was charged with and carried out the duty of conveying the Noble Prophet’s (S) greetings [salām] to Imām al-Bāqir (‘a), the fifth Shī‘ite Imām, and he delivered this message many years after the Noble Prophet’s (S) sad demise.
Imām al-Bāqir (‘a) stated, “One day I visited Jābir, who had become blind because of old age. I greeted him and offered him my salām (peace). He answered me and asked, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I am Muhammad ibn ‘Alī (‘a).’ He said, ‘Come nearer my child.’ I went near him. Jābir got my hands and kissed them, then he bent down with the intention of kissing my feet but I pulled myself aside. Then, Jābir said, ‘The Noble Prophet (S) told me to deliver his greetings and salām to you.’ I said, ‘May Allah’s graces and favors be upon the Noble Prophet (S). How did the Noble Prophet (S) deliver his salām and greetings?’”
Jābir said, “One day I was in the presence of the Noble Prophet (S). He said to me, ‘O Jābir! You will live long enough to meet one of my great grandchildren by the name of Muhammad ibn ‘Alī ibn al-Husayn (‘a). Allah will endow him with light and wisdom. Whenever you meet him, convey my peace and greetings [salām] to him’.”18
There are innumerable traditions [hadīths] recounted regarding this issue.19
After the martyrdom of Imām al-Husayn (‘a) and his precious companions, the Islamic community was scared of the ruthlessness and cruelty of Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiyah. But Jābir was not a person to be intimidated by the blood-sucking tyrants and their apparent power.
On the contrary, Jābir made strenuous efforts to disseminate the power and might of the revolution which took place at Kerbalā, and to propagate the holy cause of Imām al-Husayn’s (‘a) sacrifice. He left the holy city of Medina and set off towards the holy land of Kerbalā with the intention of kissing the purified clay of the martyrs who got killed while trudging the straight path of monotheism, and in this way express his disgust, aversion and indignation against the oppressors. Making a pilgrimage to Kerbalā was a way of disgracing and defaming the enemies and opponents of Imām al-Husayn (‘a).
Jābir’s way of expressing his abomination is of great importance, because:
Firstly, up to that time, the people were still terrified and mortally scared of Yazīd’s power. No one dared to openly go on a pilgrimage to the holy burial ground of Imām al-Husayn (‘a) in Kerbalā.
Secondly, Jābir was not an ordinary person. On the contrary, he was one of the greatest companions and one of the most renowned Helpers of the Noble Prophet (S). Jābir was highly respected by the people in the Islamic community for his bravery in the face of dire consequences from the Yazīdīs.
Therefore, when Jābir left the city of Medina and set off on pilgrimage towards Kerbalā to visit Imām al-Husayn (‘a), he delivered a very deadly blow against the government of Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiyah.
Jābir reached Kerbalā on the 20th of Safar in 61 AH with ‘Atiyyah, the son of Sa‘d Kūfī. ‘Atiyyah was one of the Tābi‘īn20 and one of the the greatest transmitters of Shī‘ite traditions [hadīths]. He is considered a highly esteemed scholar of hadīth. He arrived for pilgrimage at the Holy Shrine of Imām al-Husayn (‘a) on the fortieth day after the martyrdom of Husayn ibn ‘Alī (‘a). Coincidentally, the caravan of the Ahlul Bayt (‘a), which had been taken into captivity by the shameless tyrants, was returning from Syria and arrived at Kerbalā on the same day that Jābir and ‘Atiyyah arrived. The captives, together with Jābir and the tribes living in the vicinity of Kerbalā, started mourning and wailing for Imām al-Husayn (‘a).
Jābir’s pilgrimage was not an ordinary pilgrimage at all. On the contrary, it was a heroic movement accompanied by tears and pain by means of which he taught future generations the great lesson of love for the Ahlul Bayt (‘a) and the high position of Divine Guardianship [wilāyat].
Atih says, “We set off for the pilgrimage of Imām al-Husayn’s (‘a) holy grave with Jābir ibn ‘Abd Allāh. When we came close to the holy land of Kerbalā, Jābir performed the ritual ablution [ghusl] in the Euphrates River and wore clean clothes. He opened a bottle of perfume and applied an amount of the perfume in it on his body and thus made himself smell pleasant. After that, whatever step he made towards Kerbalā was accompanied by remembrance and supplication of Allah on his tongue.
When we arrived close to the holy place, Jābir said, ‘O ‘Atiyyah! Take my hand and help me touch the holy ground.’ I took his hand and helped him touch the holy tomb of Imām al-Husayn (‘a). Because of the high intensity of his sorrow and pain, Jābir passed out and fell on the holy tomb. I poured some water on his face and head and he regained consciousness.
He shouted out three times, ‘O al-Husayn (‘a)! O al-Husayn (‘a)! O al-Husayn (‘a)! What kind of a friend are you; a friend who does not respond to the calls of your friend?’ Then, Jābir answered his own question, ‘O al-Husayn! How can you respond when they cut the veins of your neck, shed your innocent blood, and beheaded you? I bear witness that you are the grandchild of the best of Allah’s Prophets (‘a); the son of the Commander of the Faithful; born with piety from the generation of guidance; and the fifth member of the People of the Kisā’; the child of ‘Alī (‘a), the leader of Allah’s great men and Fātimah (‘a), the leader of the women both in this world and in the hereafter.
How can it not be so, when you ate food from the Noble Prophet’s (S) hands; you were nurtured in the laps of the pious; you were fed on the milk that was full of the light of Islam. Whether alive or dead, you have been and will continue to be pure. The hearts of the believers have been hurt and tormented because of being separated from you, but you will live on for all eternity! May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon you! I bear witness that you took the path of your brother Yahyā ibn Zakariyā (John the Baptist) and attained martyrdom just like him!’
Thereafter, Jābir turned his face towards the whole cemetery of the martyrs of Kerbalā and said, ‘Peace be upon you! O pure souls that are lying dead in the presence of al-Husayn (‘a) and resting in his courtyard. I bear witness that you performed the prayers, paid the zakāt (Islamic tax for the poor), enjoined the right and forbade the wrong, fought against those deprived of faith, worshipped Allah until, finally, you willingly embraced martyrdom. I swear by Allah, He who raised Muhammad to the prophetic mission, that we, too, are associates in your reward.’
‘Atiyyah says, ‘I asked Jābir, ‘How are we their associates in the reward given to them when we did not trudge the path of martyrdom and did not strike with the sword against the enemies of Allah? How can we share in the reward that will be given to them because their heads got separated from their bodies while fighting in the way of Allah, as a result of which their children became orphans and their women (wives) became widows’?’
Jābir answered me, ‘O ‘Atiyyah! I heard the Holy Prophet (S) repeatedly state, ‘Anyone who loves a group of people will be raised together with that group on the Day of Resurrection and will be gathered together with the people that he loved in the same place. Everyone who loves the conduct of a group of people will be associated with that group on the Day of Recompense. I swear by Allah, who raised Muhammad (S) to the prophetic mission, that my intentions and my beliefs are the same as the intentions and beliefs of al-Husayn (‘a) and his companions’.’
‘Atiyyah says, ‘At this moment, a shadow of a caravan was seen coming from Syria. I told Jābir, ‘I see a shadow of a caravan coming from Syria.’ Jābir said, ‘Go and get some news from the people of this approaching caravan. If they are the people of ‘Umar ibn Sa‘d, return quickly and inform me.’
‘Atiyyah went and did not take long before he returned with uncontrollable amazement ‘O Jābir! Arise and hurry up to welcome the honorable Household of Allah’s Prophet! That is Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (‘a) coming along with the women of the Prophet’s (S) Household!’
With his head and feet bare, Jābir arose and hurried towards the approaching caravan. When he came close to Imām ‘Alī ibn al-Husayn (‘a), the Imām asked him, ‘Are you Jābir?’ He answered, ‘Yes I am!’ Imām ‘Alī ibn al-Husayn (‘a) stated, ‘O Jābir! It was at this place that they killed our men, beheaded our babies, took our women into captivity, and burnt our camping tents’”21
Yes, Jābir was the last man living from amongst those who had paid allegiance to the Noble Prophet (S) at ‘Aqabah.22 He died when he was over ninety years of age in 78 AH after long years of indomitable struggle and jihād in the way of Allah. He was buried in Medina to rest in peace.23
- 1. Zarkulī, Al-A‘lām, vol. 2, p. 104.
- 2. Ibn Sa‘d, Tabaqāt, vol. 3, p. 561.
- 3. Usd al-Ghābah, vol. 1, p. 257; Al-Istī‘āb, vol. 1, p. 223; Ikhtiyār Ma‘rifah al-Rijāl, p. 43.
- 4. Usd al-Ghābah, vol. 1, p. 257; Al-Isābah, vol. 1, p. 214; Al-Istī‘āb, vol. 1, p. 22.
- 5. Al-Isābah, vol. 1, p. 214; A‘yān al-Shī‘ah, vol. 4, p. 46.
- 6. Hayāt al-Sahābah, vol. 3, p. 787.
- 7. A‘yān al-Shī‘ah, vol. 4, p. 47; Zarkulī, Al-A‘lām, vol. 2, p. 140.
- 8. Ikhtiyār Ma‘rifah al-Rijāl, p. 43; Tanqīh al-Maqāl, vol. 1, p. 199.
- 9. A‘yān al-Shī‘ah, vol. 4, p. 69; Usd al-Ghābah, vol. 1, p. 257.
- 10. Ikhtiyār Ma‘rifah al-Rijāl, p. 44.
- 11. Mukhtasar Tārīkh Damishq, vol. 2, p. 447.
- 12. Mukhtasar Tārīkh Damishq, vol. 3, p. 112.
- 13. Nūr al-Thaqalayn, vol. 4, p. 570; Safīnah al-Bihār, vol. 1, p. 141; Qāmūs al-Rijāl, vol. 2, p. 314; Tanqīh al-Maqāl, vol. 1, p. 199.
- 14. Sūrat al-Nisā’ 4:59.
- 15. Tafsīr Sāfī, vol. 1, p. 366; Kamāl al-Dīn wa Tamām al-Ni‘mah, vol. 1, p. 365.
- 16. ‘Uyūn Akhbār al-Ridā, vol. 1, p. 40; Bihār al-Anwār, vol. 36, p. 193; Kamāl al-Dīn wa Tamām al-Ni‘mah, vol. 1, p. 423.
- 17. Qāmūs al-Rijāl, vol. 2, p. 317.
- 18. Mufīd, Al-Irshād, p. 245.
- 19. ‘Ilal al-Sharā’i‘, p. 223; Bihār al-Anwār, vol. 46, p. 225.
- 20. The Tābi‘īn are the generation that came after the Noble Prophet (S). They did not meet or see the Noble Prophet (S) but saw and met his companions [sahābah]. [trans.]
- 21. A‘yān al-Shī‘ah, vol. 4, p. 47.
- 22. Usd al-Ghābah, vol. 1, p. 257.
- 23. Zarkulī, Al-A‘lām, vol. 2, p. 104; Tūsī, Al-Rijāl, p. 12.