Talha Ibn Ubaydullah

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Whenever the battle of Uhud was mentioned to Abu Bakr [ra], he would say, ‘It was a day that belonged all to Talha’

Talhah left Makkah in one of Quraysh’s trade caravans between Makkah and ash-Sham. Although he was younger than the other merchants and lacked their experience, his wit and cleverness permitted him to surpass any of them and succeed in acquiring more transactions.

When the caravan reached Busrah, a town in Syria, the ciders among the merchants rushed towards its busy market buying and selling. Talhah was coming and going in the marketplace which was crowded with people coming from all places, when he heard a man calling, “O merchants is there any one of you coming from Makkah?” Talhah turned around and saw a monk. Being the one closest to him he answered him. The monk asked, “Has Ahmad appeared among you?” “Who is Ahmad?” asked Talhah. “He is the son of Abdullah,” replied the monk, “and this is the month he is due to come forward. He is the last of the prophets, and he will appear from your land, the land of the sacred House. He will emigrate to a land of black rocks, that has date palm groves, its salty soil oozes water. Do hasten to believe in him young man.” This conversation with the monk was to change the life of Talhah.

Talhah prepared his mount, rounded up his camels, gathered his goods, and hurried back towards Makkah, leaving the rest of the caravan behind him. There, he asked his wife, “Anything new had happened while I was away?” “Yes,” she said, “Muhammad ibn Abdullah has come forth, pretending he was a prophet, and Abu Bakr has followed him.” Talhah knew Abu Bakr well. Abu Bakr was a merchant of easy going nature, much beloved by people, and of the most praised manners. He went to him inquiring about the matter. Not only did Abu Bakr confirm the news but he also called Talhah to Islam and suggested that he meets Muhammad, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam. It did not take long for Talhah to realize that indeed Muhammad was the foretold prophet and that his name and description matched the one given by the monk. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, explained Islam to him and recited some of the Qur’an to him. Talhah narrated to the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, what he has heard from the monk, then he pronounced the shahadah and joined the small group of Muslims. He was the fourth person to accept Islam.

The news of Talhah’s acceptance of Islam hit his parents like a thunderbolt. His mother was especially afflicted for she had hope that he would one day be a leader of his tribe, given his fine character, and wealth. In vain did his people try to convince him to abandon his dee’n. When they gave all hope they resorted to harass him and torture him. One of the Prophet’s companions narrated, “I was one day walking between as Safa and al-Marwa when I saw a large crowd following a young man, his hands tied to his neck, pushing him in the back and hitting him on the head. Behind him was an old woman who was cursing him and yelling at him. I asked what the matter with the man was and I was told that he was Talhah ibn Ubaydillah who forsake the religion of his forefathers for a new one. Then I asked who the old woman behind him was? I was told that she was his mother.” Things got worse for Talhah as time went by. One day, Nawfal ibn Khuwaylid, nick named “Quraysh’s lion”, took hold of him and tied him up. Then he tied Abu Bakr up and bounded them together, and delivered them to the mob of the tribe to be tortured without mercy. For this incident, Talhah and Abu Bakr were nicknamed the Qareenayn (The two linked together).

Talhah migrated to Madinah with the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, when the order came to migrate having no doubt in his heart that this was the fulfillment of what the monk in ash-Sham informed him. He witnessed all the battles with the Prophet and passed all the tests with success to the point that the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, nick named him Talhah the generous, the open-handed, and the living martyr. Each of these attributes was earned by Talhah following events where he alone stood up when others fell.

He earned the title of the living martyr on the battle of Uhud. Many Muslims fled the battlefield that day leaving the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, with only a handful of his companions. The Prophet and the companions climbed the mountain when a group from the pagans followed them seeking to kill him. He asked, “Who can drive those men away and he will be my companion in Paradise?” “I can O Messenger of Allah,” said Talhah. “No, stay where you are,” replied the Prophet. Then a man from the Ansar offered to be the one, and the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, said yes. The man fought until he was killed. The Prophet asked, “Who can drive those men away and he will be my companion in Paradise?” Again Talhah said, “I can O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, said, “No stay in your place,” And another man from the Ansar offered to fight. He fought until he was killed. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam climbed the mountain with those with him, and the pagans were still following them. He continued asking his companions to drive them away and each time Talhah offered to help, but the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, would allow another Ansari to fight instead until all the Ansar around him were killed, and only Talhah was left with him. The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, then said, “Now you can.” Talhah sprang like a lion chasing away the enemy, and protecting the Prophet who was by then exhausted from fighting, his front tooth was broken, his forehead was gashed, blood was running all over his blessed face. Talhah would charge at the enemies keeping them away and then he would go back to the Prophet helping him climb higher. He would do this again and again until he drove away all of them and got the Prophet to a safer place. By that time Abu Bakr and Abu Ubaydah who were fighting the pagans in an area far from the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, came up to him to help him, but he said, “Leave me and go help your friend,” meaning Talhah. When they got to Talhah, they found him bleeding profusely; his body pierced in more then seventy places by the swords and the spears of the pagans, his hand was severed and he was laying unconscious in a ditch. Later the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wa sallam said, “Whoever would like to see a man who is still walking on earth after he has met his death, he should see Talhah ibn Ubaydillah.” And that is how he earned the title of the ‘living martyr’. Whenever the battle of Uhud was mentioned to Abu Bakr, he would say, “That was a day that belonged all to Talhah (meaning that he had saved the day).”

Talhah was no less known for his generosity, spending his wealth in the sake of Allah. He was a wealthy and successful trader, his caravans traveled north to ash-Sham and south to Yemen. One day he had received the revenue of his trade from Yemen, which totaled seven hundred thousand Dirham. He spent the night worrying, looking at the large sum of money sitting in his house. His wife Um Kulthoom the daughter of Abu Bakr came to him asking, “What is the matter, Abu Muhammad? Is there anything I have done that displeased you?” “O no,” he replied, “But I was wondering about this money and said to myself, a man who can sleep with all this money in his house, while he does not know if he will be alive the next day, is really arrogant towards his Lord!” “Do not worry,” she said, “Tomorrow, look for the needy among your people and friends, and divide it among them.” “May Allah have mercy on you,” he said, “you are a wise woman, daughter of a wise man.” The next day, he divided the money into bundles and distributed it to the poor until not a Dirham was left.

This was not the only time when Talhah gave all his money for the sake of Allah. It was said that he did not leave a single poor person from among his tribe but he provided for him. Jabir ibn Abdullah said, “I never saw a man who gave more abundantly without being asked than Talhah ibn Ubaydillah”. Another said, “I have accompanied Talhah in his travels and I was with him in town, and I have never seen a man more generous in giving money, food and clothing than Talhah.”

Talhah lived a long life until he witnessed the great trials of the Muslim Ummah when the Khalifah Uthman was slain, and he was among those who asked for his killers to be executed. Talhah was about to participate in the battle of al-Jamal against the Khalifah Ali, but he turned away after he realized that it was a fitnah (trial), and that Muslims should not fight against each other. This did not deter one of the opposing parties to hit him with an arrow that left him dead. When Ali heard of his death, he cried and said, “I heard with my own ears the Messenger of Allah say, ‘Talhah and az-Zubair are my neighbors in Paradise.”

Alia Amer