Abdullah ibn Saad
During his time as governor of Egypt (646 CE to 656 CE), ibn Abi as-Sarh built a strong Egyptian Arab navy. Under his leadership the Muslim navy won a number of victories including its first major naval battle against the Byzantine emperor Constans II at the Battle of the Masts in 655 CE. One of his achievements while governor of Egypt was the capture of Tripoli in 647 whereby he brought Libya into the Islamic Empire.
During Muhammad's Era
Al-Tabari has recorded in his tafsir that although ibn Abi Sarh had apostatized, he returned to Islam before the conquest of Mecca. On the other hand, in his History, al-Tabari records about ibn Abi Sarh and Muhammad that "Abdallah b.Sa`d b. Abi Sarh used to write for him. He apostatized from Islam and later returned to Islam on the day of the conquest of Mecca.". A hadith in Sunan Abu Dawud records an account of ibn Abi Sarh's tense encounter with Muhammad on that day.
During Rashidun Caliph Uthman’s Era
When Uthman became caliph in 644 CE, he appointed Abdullah governor of Egypt replacing 'Amr ibn al-'As, with Muhammad ibn Hudhaifa as his aide. Abdullah brought over a large foreign entourage and established the Diwan, "and commanded that all the taxes of the country should be regulated there".
The Copts viewed Abdullah as a "lover of money" who spent the revenues upon himself. In his time a famine struck Upper Egypt such that many Copts fled to the Delta. Soon the Arabs protested his governorship, too.
Some of the protests appear to have been instigated by his aide, Muhammad ibn Hudhaifa. Muhammad's father (Hudhaifa) was an early convert to Islam who died in the Battle of Yamama. Muhammad was raised by Uthman. When he reached maturity he participated in the foreign military campaigns and accompanied Abdullāh ibn Sa‘ad ibn Abī as-Sarh to Egypt as an aide. Muhammad bin Hudhaifa admonished Abdullah, recommending changes in the government but Abdullah did not respond. After continuous efforts, eventually Muhammad ibn Hudhaifa lost patience and turned from sympathetic admonisher to a disillusioned opponent – first of Abdullāh ibn Sa‘ad ibn Abī as-Sarh and later of Uthman for appointing him. Abdullah wrote to Uthman claiming that Muhammed was spreading sedition and that if nothing was done to stop him, the situation would escalate. Uthman attempted to silence Muhammad's protests with 30,000 dirhams and expensive presents. This bribe backfired, with Muhammad bringing the money and presents into the Great Mosque saying;
- “Do you see what Uthman is trying to do? He is trying to buy my faith. He has sent these coins and these goods to me as a bribe.”
Uthman sent numerous placatory letters to Muhammad, but he continued building the agitation against Abdullāh ibn Sa‘ad ibn Abī as-Sarḥ . In 656 the leaders of Egypt decided to send a delegation to Medina to demanding Abdullah's dismissal. Abdullah also left for Medina to defend himself at the court of the caliph. In his absence, Muhammad ibn Hudhaifa assumed charge of the government.
When Abdullah reached Elath, he was told that Uthman's house was under siege (Siege of Uthman) and decided to return to Egypt. At the border he was informed that Muhammad ibn Hudhaifa had given orders to prevent him from entering Egypt. He then went to Palestine awaiting the outcome of events in Medina. In the meantime, Uthman was killed in Medina, and when Abdullah heard the news, he left Palestine, and went to Damascus to live under the protection of Muawiyah I.
- al-Tabari's Tafsir for 6:93
- Al-Tabari, "History of al-Tabari Vol. 9 - The Last Years of the Prophet", transl. Ismail K. Poonawala, p.148, Albany: State University of New York Press
- Translation of Sunan Abu-Dawud (partial). Translated by Professor Ahmad Hasan (online) Hadith 14:2677
- Archdeacon George (fl. 715), as transferred to Severus of Muqaffa; B. Evetts (1904). "Benjamin I". History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic church of Alexandria. On George's authorship of Lives 27-42:Robert G. Hoyland (1998). Seeing Islam As Others Saw It. Darwin Press. p. 447.