One of the Companions I feel the most affinity for is ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar. Besides his position as the son of ‘Umar and one of the major jurists among the Companions, one cannot help when reading of him but to come away with the image of a man who is reserved, knowledgeable, serious, and avoided anything that would waste his time and not involve benefit to himself or others – and this was witnessed from his youth to his death. All in all, he is someone that we would all love to be.
Some narrations collected in adh-Dhahabi’s ‘Siyar A’lam an-Nubala‘‘(4/346-373) and Ibn al-Jawzi’s ‘Sifat as-Safwah’ (1/214-222) give a taste of Ibn ‘Umar’s character:
1 – His Discipline as a Youth:
Ibn Mas’ud said: “From the most disciplined youth of Quraysh in the face of the dunya was ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar.”
Jabir bin ‘Abdillah said: “None of us experienced the dunya but that it affected him, except Ibn ‘Umar.”
Nafi’ said that Ibn ‘Umar presented himself to fight in Uhud when he was fourteen years old, and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) refused to allow him. He then presented himself during the Battle of the Trench when he was fifteen, and he was allowed to fight.
2 – His Discipline as an Adult:
Ibn Shihab said that Ibn ‘Umar was about to curse one of his servants, and said: “O Allah, cu-” without completing the word, and he said: “I don’t like to say this word.”
3 – His Love of Imitating the Prophet in Everything:
Zayd bin Aslam said: “Ibn ‘Umar would dye his beard with saffron until his clothes were colored with it. He was asked about this, and said: “I saw the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) dye his hair with it.””
Hisham bin ‘Urwah said: “I saw Ibn ‘Umar’s hair reaching down to his earlobes,” and Anas reported that the Prophet’s hair also hung down to his earlobes.
‘A’ishah said: “I never saw anyone holding tighter to the original affair than Ibn ‘Umar.”
Malik said that someone informed him: “Ibn ‘Umar would imitate the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and follow his traces and lifestyle and be very keen in this, to the point that we feared for his sanity because of his keenness in this.”
Nafi’ said: “Ibn ‘Umar used to follow the traces of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in every place he prayed. This was to the point that there was a tree that the Prophet would sit under, and Ibn ‘Umar would frequent this tree and water its trunk so that it wouldn’t weaken.”
Nafi’ said that Ibn ‘Umar told him that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) told him: “If only we could leave this door (of the mosque) for the women.” So, Ibn ‘Umar never used that door until the day he died.
Muhammad al-’Umari said: “I never heard Ibn ‘Umar mention the Prophet without weeping.”
Nafi’ said that Ibn ‘Umar was once on his way to Makkah, and stopped the animal he was riding and said to it: “Maybe my footsteps will fall where his footsteps did,” meaning the footsteps of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
Tawus said: “I never saw anyone praying like Ibn ‘Umar who was stricter than him in facing the Qiblah with his face, hands, and feet.”
4 – His Friendliness With People:
Ibn ‘Umar said: “Sometimes, I go out for no reason or need except to greet people and have them greet me.”
Abi ‘Amr an-Nadabi said: “I went out with Ibn ‘Umar once, and he didn’t leave a single young or old person except that he greeted them.”
5 – His Care to Look and Smell Good:
‘Abdullah bin Waqid said: “I saw Ibn ‘Umar praying. If you saw him, you’d see him shivering about, and I saw him putting some musk in cream and rubbing it on himself.”
6 – His Humility:
Nafi’ said: “Ibn ‘Umar and Ibn ‘Abbas would sit with the people when the pilgrims arrived, and I would sit with one of them one day, and the other the next. Ibn ‘Abbas would answer every question he was asked, and Ibn ‘Umar would refuse to answer most of the questions he was asked.”
7 – His Lack of Eating:
Ibn al-Jawzi said that he would sometimes go an entire month without even tasting meat.
When ‘Abdullah bin ‘Adiyy (a servant of Ibn ‘Umar’s) came from Iraq, he greeted him and said: “I brought you a gift.” Ibn ‘Umar said: “What is it?” He replied: “Jawarish.” Ibn ‘Umar asked: “What is jawarish?” He replied: “It helps you digest your food.” So, Ibn ‘Umar said to him: “I haven’t filled my stomach in forty years. So, what will I use it for?”
8 – His Generosity:
Maymun bin Mahran said: “Ibn ‘Umar was given 22,000 dirhams in a gathering. He did not get up from that gathering until he had given it all away.”
Maymun bin Mahran said that Ibn ‘Umar’s wife would complain about him, saying: “What can I do? I never cook any food for him without him inviting others to eat it. So, I sent some food to the group of poor people who would sit in the road on his way from the mosque and fed them with it,” and she had told them not to sit in this road that Ibn ‘Umar took anymore and to not respond to his invitations. When Ibn ‘Umar finally got home, he said: “You don’t want me to eat supper tonight,” and he refused to eat that night.
Mujahid said: “I accompanied Ibn ‘Umar, seeking to serve him. Instead, he would serve me even more.”
Nafi’ said: “Ibn ‘Umar did not die before freeing at least a thousand slaves.”
Abu Bakr bin Hafs said: “Ibn ‘Umar would never eat food except in the company of an orphan.”
9 – His Defiance in the Face of a Tyrant:
Ayyub said: “I asked Nafi’ how Ibn ‘Umar died, and he said: “He was injured between two of his fingers by a supporting beam in the middle of the crowd during the stone-throwing of the Hajj, and this made him sick. So, al-Hajjaj came to visit him, and Ibn ‘Umar closed his eyes. al-Hajjaj spoke to him, and he would not reply.””