Conversion of Umair ibn Wahb (RA)

وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ

Two very interesting events took place soon after the Battle of Badr, and these were an assassination attempt on the prophet by Umair ibn Wahb (RA), and the expulsion of the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qaynuqa from Medina.

So after the Battle of Badr, Safwan ibn Umayyah was sitting with his cousin Umair ibn Wahb Al Jumahi by the Ka’bah, and they were both discussing the losses of Badr. Umair ibn Wahb’s son had been taken as a prisoner by the Muslims, and for some reason Umair either was not willing or did not have the means to pay for his ransom. And so he was extremely bitter, and when Safwan began to ridicule and complain about the prophet and Islam he declared, ‘By Allah, were it not for the fact that I owe [so and so] some money and that I have a family to take care of, I would personally volunteer to go to Medina and execute Muhammad  myself.’

On hearing this, Safwan realised he could seize this opportunity and proposed, ‘What if I take care of your debt,’ remember his father was the wealthy businessman Umayyah ibn Khalaf, ‘and I promise to take care of your family to the extent that everything that I give to my family your family will get the same. Will you then agree?’

And so Umair said, ‘If you promise me this then yes. Don’t tell a single soul and keep this conversation between the two of us.’ From here he went straight back home and without telling anybody he began to prepare for a journey to Medina. And he sharpened his sword and doused it with poison, so much so that had the tip of the blade just pricked someone then it would have been enough poison to kill them. And then in secret he left Mecca alone and made the journey all the way to the City of the Prophet.

About two weeks later he arrived in Medina, and as was custom of a traveller in those times he had wrapped a cloth around his face and his sword hung from his neck. And as he began to make his way straight to the masjid, he was recognised by none other than Umar ibn Khattab (RA) himself. And Umar recognised him from afar by his eyes, and he declared, ‘This dog, this enemy of Allah, by Allah he come for some evil intent.’

Immediately he went to the prophet and informed him that Umair was in the city looking for him, and in turn the prophet asked for Umair to be brought to him. And so Umar went out with his own sword and found Umair, and he brought him back to the mosque where the prophet said, ‘Allow him to come in. But watch every move of his, because this filthy person cannot be trusted.’ And it is true to say that Umair was one of the most bitter enemies of Islam, and he was known for his evil nature.

And so Umar and Umair came in together, and Umar had his hand directly on the hilt of his sword waiting to see in Umair would try to do anything. Umair came in and greeted the prophet with his own, pre-Islamic greeting, but the prophet responded, ‘Allah has given us a greeting better than this – it is the greeting of the people of Jannah. It is the salaam.’

‘By Allah, O Muhammad, this is something new to me. This is your business; I have my own ways of greeting’

Now the prophet asked, ‘Why have you come, O Umair?’

‘In order to negotiate the ransom of my son,’ so Umair had his excuse ready, ‘And that you send him back with me, and be good with him.’

‘If that is the case, what is this sword around your neck?’

At this, Umair gave a trivialising response, ‘What is the point of this sword? This sword here, what good did it do us at Badr?’ Here he was trying to draw attention away from his weapon which he intended to use against the prophet.

But the prophet asked again, ‘Tell me the truth, why have you come, O Umair?’

‘I have told you the reason, for my son.’

But Jibrael (AS) had already come to the prophet, and so he began to relate back Umair’s real intention right back to him, ‘No, this is not the reason that you came. Rather, you and Safwan were sitting alone in the Hateem (open-topped area of the Ka’bah) and you mentioned your losses at Badr, and you said that were it not for your debt and your family you would personally go and kill Muhammad. So Safwan offered to take care of your debts and your family so that you may come and kill me. But Allah has come between you and your plans.’

This speech of the prophet was like a shock of cold water for Umair. There was absolutely no way that the prophet could have discovered this had Allah not told him, and as the prophet spoke Umair recognised the miracle that unfolded in front of him. And this completely changed Umair’s perspective, because he was not one of those like Abu Jahal who deep down knew that what Muhammad  was preaching was the truth but refused to accept it out of arrogance. No, he truly believed that Islam was a false religion, and so when this miracle sunk in Umair realised that the prophet spoke the truth.

And just like that, within no more than seconds Umair completely switched his tune, and he blurted out, ‘I swear by Allah, you are the Messenger of Allah.’ Look at this change, going from having one of the heaviest hatreds for the prophet such that he was willing to sacrifice him and his son’s lives in order to kill him, to accepting him as the messenger of Allah within moments. He was literally about to try to kill him when he testified and said, ‘We used to consider you to be a liar when you told us revelation would come from the skies. But this issue that you just told me – no one knew of it except me and Safwan. And there is no way you could have found out or been informed of it except from Allah. And so I thank Allah who has caused me to see the truth and guided me to Islam.’

And so the prophet turned to his sahaba and told them, ‘Teach your brother about the religion and help him to memorise the Quran, and go free his captive for him for free.’

So Umair remained in Medina for some time learning Islam, and then decided that he wanted to return to Mecca. And so he went back to the prophet and said, ‘O Rasulallah, I used to strive my hardest to extinguish the flame of Allah, torturing those who embraced Islam. So now I ask your permission to go back to Mecca and call them to Islam just like I used to prevent them from Islam.’ And so he wanted to make up for some of the evil he had done in the past, and as he was a high ranking nobleman and would be well protected the prophet let him return to preach.

Meanwhile in Mecca, Safwan had begun to spread a rumour in Mecca that very soon some good news would come to them. And so he had begun to build some anticipation for what he thought was going to be news of the prophet’s death, when all of a sudden the news that Umair had accepted Islam came to him. And he confronted Umair to find out if this was true, and when he learnt of it from the mouth of his cousin himself he made a vow to Allah, that he would never look at, speak to, or be under the same roof as him again. Despite this, Umair did actually manage to convert a number of people to Islam while in Mecca.

Here we get a beautiful story about the conversion of a vicious and resentful enemy of the prophet, going from wanting to kill the prophet to testifying that his words were the truth. And this is just one of the many amazing incidents of people realising the truth and changing their entire allegiance within seconds, and it is only by the guidance of Allah and mercy of the prophet that this could take place. And there is also a very practical lesson we should get from this incident, specifically from the prophet’s very first command after Umair converted that the other sahaba should teach him the religion and memorisation of the Quran. This shows us that the prophet would assign teachers to the new converts, showing them their way around the religion. And this mentality of helping one another is something we desperately need to hold onto today. On top of this we also see the importance of the Quran, that even the very newest convert was expected to begin memorising it; and so what excuse do we long time Muslims have to not do so? And finally, there is also a token of inspiration in the conclusion of the story of Umair and his cousin Safwan: Umair soon made Hijra back to Medina, however he returned to Mecca a second time in the conquest. Now when the Muslim armies had marched into Mecca, Safwan had already fled the city and gone into hiding as he believed he would not be forgiven by the prophet, but his cousin Umair still cared for him and wanted the best for him. And so he asked for protection for Safwan from the prophet, and he sought out his cousin and found him and convinced him to return. And so Safwan made his shahaada in front of the prophet and became a Muslim, all because despite the vow he had made against his cousin, Allah had softened Umair’s heart such that he had cared enough to try to bring Safwan back.



Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 043