Ibn al-Mubarak, the Mujahid

Ibn al-Mubarak not only defended Islamic knowledge from being polluted by falsehood, heresy and deviancy, but he also defended Islam physically. He was a scholar known for partaking in battles and defending the Muslim lands. Ibn Kathir said in his ‘Al-Bidayah’: ‘He was known for participating in battles and Hajj very often.’ 103

In Tadhkirat al-Huffadh, Imam al-Dhahabi called him ‘the pride of the Mujahidin (fighters)’ and he comments: ‘He was the leader of the brave… he used to perform Hajj one year and in the next year, he would be stationed in battles in the Way of Allah.’ 104

He used to observe Ribat (guarding the army fronts) in Tarsus and al-Massisah (near the land of the Romans) as well as other places. He was particularly known for his Jihad against the Romans and just like he was an Imam in Islamic knowledge, he was also an Imam in warfare, and just as he taught Hadith and Fiqh, he also taught the people heroism and bravery. Hajj one year and Jihad the next was a principle he lived by and this was to such an extent that his death came just as he had returned from battle.

Ibn Abi Hatim mentions that when he went out to battle and Ribat, he would gather the Mujahidin and teach them Hadith. Upon arriving, the first thing the army did was surround Ibn al-Mubarak who would then teach them knowledge and Hadith which they in turn wrote down. They learnt knowledge from him just as they learnt the skills of war and bravery. 105

It is reported that when in Tarsus, Ibn al-Mubarak wrote a letter to his friend al-Fudayl ibn

‘Iyadh (who was known for his worship in Makkah and Madinah), encouraging him to partake in Jihad and not to be satisfied with simply worshipping Allah in the mosques. Ibn Abi Sukaynah said, ‘In Tarsus in the year 177 AH, Ibn al-Mubarak gave me a letter with the following verses. I bid farewell to him and went to deliver it to al-Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyadh:

يا عابد الحرمين لو ابصرتنا *** لعلمت انك في العبادة تلعب

O Worshipper of the two Holy Mosques!

Were you to see us, you would realise your worship is mere play

من آان يخضب خده بدموعه *** فنحورنا بدمائنا تتخضب

For the one whose tears fall down his cheek (in worship)

Then in turn, our blood flows down our necks (in battles)


103 Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah

104 Al-‘Ibar fi Akhbar man Ghabar, by al-Dhahabi

105 Taqaddumat al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil

أو آان يتعب خيله في باطل *** فخيولنا يوم الصبيحة تتعب

Or him whose horse tires in pursuing pretence

Then our horses toil on the morning of combat

ريح العبير لكم ونحن عبيرنا *** رهج السنابك والغبار الأطيب

For you is the smell of fragrance, but our fragrance

Is the dust and dirt kicked off, which is more pleasant

ولقد اتانا من مقال نبينا *** قول صحيح صادق لا يكذب

And indeed, the words of our Prophet have reached us

A correct and truthful statement, which cannot be denied

لا يستوي غبار خيل الله في *** أنف امرئ ودخان نار تلهب

The dust stirred up by the Horse of Allah which enters a man’s nose

Can never coexist with the smoke of a blazing fire (Hell) 106

هذا آتاب الله يحكم بيننا *** ليس الشهيد بميت لا يكذب

This is the Book of Allah which shall judge between us

Surely, the martyr is not dead and this can never be refuted

 Ibn Abi Sukaynah said, ‘So I met al-Fudhayl in the Haram (Makkah) with the letter and when he read it, tears came to his eyes and he said, ‘Indeed, Abu Abdur-Rahman (Ibn al-Mubarak) has told the truth and he has certainly advised (me).’ 107

His words matched his actions for he was not one to keep back from engaging in the actual battle. Not only did he hold his post as a Murabit (guard), he also plunged into the heat of battle when the occasion called for it. Ibn Muthanna narrates that ‘Abdullah ibn Sinan said, ‘I was with Ibn al-Mubarak and Mu’tamir ibn Sulayman in Tarsus when the call to arms was made. So Ibn al-Mubarak came out along with the people. When the two ranks faced each other, a Roman emerged and requested a duel (one-on-one fight until death). So a man went out to him but the infidel overpowered him and killed him. He kept doing that until he killed six of the Muslims whereupon he began to boast and walk with pride in between the two ranks. He requested a duel but no-one went out to him. So Ibn al-Mubarak turned to me and said, ‘If I am killed, do such and such for me.’ And then he moved his horse and went out to the dueller. He fought him for a while and then killed him. He (Ibn al-Mubarak) requested another duel and so another infidel came out to him and he killed him too until he had killed six of the Romans. He requested a duel but it seemed like they all feared him!


106 Ibn al-Mubarak here alludes to the Hadith reported by al-Nasa’i: ‘The dust (stirred up) in the Way of Allah and the Fire of Jahannam will never come together in the chest of a slave.’

107 Al-Nujum al-Zahirah fi Muluk Misr wa al-Qahira, by Tughri Burdi, also recorded in Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala (8/413) and other collections.

So he struck his horse and went between the two ranks, then he hid. We didn’t see anything when suddenly, he reappeared next to me exactly where he previously was and he said to me, ‘O ‘Abdullah, if you ever mention this to anyone whilst I am alive…’ – and he made a (stern/clear) statement after that. 108

And thus with humbleness did he struggle and fight. He was known to partake heavily in battles but when it came to the spoils being distributed after the battle ceased, he would be found missing! In Dhayl Jawahir al-Mudiyyah, it is mentioned that someone once asked him about this (disappearing at the time of spoil-exchange), and he simply replied, The One for Whose Sake I fight, knows who I am.’

He led his life in this way, defending the Muslim lands until he died. The son of al-Fudhayl said, ‘I saw Ibn al-Mubarak in my sleep and so I said to him, ‘What have you found to be the best of deeds?’ He said, ‘That which we used to engage in.’ I said, ‘Do you mean Jihad and Ribat?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘What did your Lord do with you?’ He said, ‘He forgave me with a Forgiveness that requires no forgiveness after it.’ 109


108 Siyar A’lam al-Nubala

109 See above source


[Taken from “The Life Of ‘Abdullah Ibn Al-Mubarak” by Farhia Yahya]


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