Usama ibn Zayd

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Usama bin Zayd (Arabic: أسامة بن زيد‎) was the son of Zayd ibn Harithah, Muhammad's freed slave, whom he adopted as his son. His mother was Umm Ayman (Barakah).


Early life[edit]

Usama bin Zayd was born in the seventh year before Hijra (615 on the Christian calendar) according to some, and in the tenth year before hijra according to others. Because of his father's status as the adopted son of Muhammad, and his mother's closeness to Muhammad's own mother, Usama was considered almost a grandson, and Muhammad treated him the same way he did the sons of his daughter Fatimah, al-Hasan and al-Husayn. His mother was Umm Ayman, the nurse-maid of Muhammad. Even though his father was white and short, Usama was black, tall, and thin. During Usama's youth, Muhammad was presented with an expensive thawb (the long gown the Muslim men wear). After wearing it once to the Friday Jumu'ah Prayer, he gave it to Usamah as a gift. When Usama was ten years old, he asked to join his elders in defending the faith in the Battle of Uhud, but was not allowed. His first experience participating in a battle was when he was seventeen, in the Battle of the Trench. During the Battle of Hunayn, in which the Muslim army was ambushed, Usama was among the few men who continued to fight with Muhammad, helping turn the near-defeat into victory.

Muhammad's era[edit]

He was the youngest person ever to be appointed a general by Muhammad.[citation needed]

Muhammad's last expedition[edit]

In Medina, after the Farewell Pilgrimage and the event of Ghadir Khumm, Muhammad ordered an army under the command of Usama bin Zayd. He commanded all the companions, except for his family, to go with Usama to Syria to avenge the Muslims’ defeat at the Battle of Mu'tah.[1] Muhammad gave Usama the banner of Islam on the 18th day of the Islamic month of Safar in the year 11 A.H. Abu Bakr and Umar were among those that Muhammad commanded to join Usama’s army.[2][3] However, Abu Bakr and Umar resisted going under the command of Usama because they thought that he, who was 18 or 20 at the time, was too young to lead an army,[4] despite Muhammad’s teachings that age and standing in society did not necessarily correspond to being a good general.[5][6]

In response to these worries, the Prophet said: "O Arabs! You are miserable because I have appointed Usama as your general, and you are raising questions if he is qualified to lead you in war. I know you are the same people who had raised the same question about his father. By God, Usama is qualified to be your general just as his father was qualified to be a general. Now obey his orders and go."[7] Whenever Muhammad felt any relief from his fatal sickness, he would inquire as to whether Usama’s army had left for Syria yet, and would continue urging his companions to leave for Syria.[8] Muhammad even reportedly said, "Usama's army must leave at once. May Allah curse those men who do not go with him."[9][10][11] However, while a few companions were ready to join Usama’s army, many other companions, including Abu Bakr and Umar, disobeyed Muhammad’s orders. It is also noted that this was the only battle expedition where Muhammad urged his companions to go the battle no matter what; for other battles, if someone was unable to go to the fight, Muhammad would let them stay at home.


His father, Zayd bin Harithah, died in the Battle of Mu'tah, 629 CE, and is considered a martyr (shahid).

Usama's role as a general[edit]

Although Usama was the son of a freed slave and only seventeen years of age, he was appointed by Muhammad as the commander of the army sent to Sham. This army was the second Muslim army to encounter the Romans. The Muslims had faced a stalemate with the Byzantines at the Battle of Mu'tah and had lost their leader Zayd bin Harithah. A follow up defensive expedition had been initiated by Muhammad to safeguard the northern approaches to Medina.

Among the orders he received was "go to where your father was killed".[12]

Although the army was waiting in Jurf, outside of Madina, set to march to Syria, Usama heard word that Muhammad was ailing, upon which Usama promptly returned to Madina. Muhammad died soon after his arrival.

With the death of Muhammad, certain companions tried to persuade Abu Bakr, who succeeded Muhammad as leader of the Islamic community, to replace Usama as commander of the army with Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, due to his youth, but Abu Bakr reaffirmed the decision of Muhammad and dispatched an expedition under Usama's leadership. He then requested that Usama allow Umar ibn al-Khattab to stay behind in Madina to help in the administration, and Usamah obliged.

The expedition was successful and it demonstrated the strength and cohesiveness of the Muslims even in the absence of Muhammad. The army reached Sham and became the first Muslim forces to defeat the Romans in battle, thus paving the way for the subsequent conquests of the Syrian and Egyptian regions, both of which were captured during Usama's lifetime.

Despite his accomplishments in helping defeat the Roman army, he is best known as the person Muhammad admonished for killing a man who had got the best of the Muslims in battle and then when Usama approached him to take off his head, he pronounced the words one officially states to become Muslim. Thinking this was just an attempt to spare his life, Usama killed him anyway. When the news of this got back to Muhammad, he asked Usama, "Did you kill him in spite of his professing La ilaha illallah (There is no God but Allah)?" Usama replied, "O Messenger of Allah! He said it out of fear of our arms." Muhammad said, "Why did you not cut his heart open to find out whether he had done so sincerely or not?" He continued repeating it until Usama wished he had embraced Islam only that day (so that he could be forgiven for whatever sins he committed before that). (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Tayalisi, Abu Dawud, Nasa'i, al-`Adni, Abu `Awana, al-Tahawi, al-Hakim, and Bayhaqi.)[13]


Usama died at an unknown age in the year 54AH (674 CE) according to some and 58AH or 59AH according to others.


He had a son, named Muhammad bin Usama.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 283.
  2. ^ Haykal, Muhammad Husayn (1935). The Life of Muhammad. Cairo.
  3. ^ Muir, Sir William (1877). The Life of Mohammed. London.
  4. ^ "19 - The Life of Imam Ali: Prophet's (pbuh) Death - Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani - Ramadhan 1435". YouTube. YouTube.
  5. ^ Bodley, R.V.C. (1946). The Messenger. New York.
  6. ^ Kelen, Betty. Muhammad, Messenger of God.
  7. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 286.
  8. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 286.
  9. ^ Shahristani. Kitab al-Milal wan-Nihal. p. 8.
  10. ^ Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. p. 288.
  11. ^ "19 - The Life of Imam Ali: Prophet's (pbuh) Death - Dr. Sayed Ammar Nakshwani - Ramadhan 1435". YouTube. YouTube.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-18. Retrieved 2006-03-05.
  13. ^ Book of Iman Ch. 10 #47
  14. ^ "Who are ahl al-bayt". 27 October 2009. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009.