Ubayy bin Ka’b (r.a.)
Another distinguished Companion that read the Quran, our holy book, beautifully was Ubayy bin Ka’b. In the words of the Prophet, “he was the one that read the Quran the most beautifully.” He was also called “the Master of the Reciters of the Quran" and “the Master of Ansar”.
He became a Muslim before the Second Pledge at Aqaba and he confirmed his loyalty to the Messenger of Allah there. After the Migration, the Messenger of Allah made him brothers with Said bin Zayd, one of ashara al-mubashshara. Hz. Ubayy took part in all battles when he was with the Messenger of Allah.
When the order about zakah was sent down by Allah, the Messenger of Allah sent him to collect zakah from the tribes of Bani Huzaym, Bani Qudama, Bani Sa’d and Bani Uzra. He fulfilled this duty properly.
Hz.Ubayy, who received compliments and praises from the Prophet, was competent at the Torah, the Gospel and other heavenly books as well as the Quran.
Once, the Messenger of Allah asked him, “What is the greatest verse in the Quran?” He said, “Allah and His Messenger know better.” However, the Messenger of Allah asked again and again insistently. Finally, he said, “It is ayat al-kursiyy". The Messenger of Allah became very pleased when he heard this answer and said,
“How happy you are, O Ubayy! You have amazing knowledge. I swear by Allah that this verse has a tongue and lips that mention and sanctify Allah Almighty.”
Once, the Messenger of Allah went to see Ubayy and said to him, “O Ubayy! Allah ordered me to read the Quran to you.”
Ubayy said, “Did Allah mention my name?”
The Messenger of Allah said, “Yes, He did. He mentioned your name and family name in the High Council.”
Ubayy said, “Then, read me the Quran, O Messenger of Allah!” Then, he could not help cry and shedding tears due to this divine grace.
When he narrated this incident afterwards, his son asked him, “Dad, did you rejoice a lot at that time?” He answered his son by reading the following verse: “Say: "In the Bounty of Allah and in His Mercy― in that let them rejoice": that is better than the (wealth) they hoard.”
After the death of the Messenger of Allah, he devoted himself to the service of the Quran. He taught the students who gathered around him to read the Quran in the best way and to understand it. Many distinguished Companions including Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar were among his students learning the Quran.
Hz. Umar appreciated Ubayy bin Ka’b. Hz. Ubayy did not accept any administrational duty despite the insistence of the caliph and did not give up teaching the Quran. In Madinah, he gave the same service that Hz. Abu’d-Darda gave in Damascus. Upon the request of Hz. Umar, he accepted to join the meetings of consultancy.
Hz. Ubayy was a Companion with exemplary ethics and virtues. He was honest and straightforward. Once, Hz. Umar read a verse in a wrong way when he was there. Hz. Ubayy told Hz. Umar to correct his reading. He said, “O Umar! I listened to this verse from the Messenger of Allah himself. When I listened to him, you were busy with trade in Baqi.”
Hz. Umar answered him as follows:
“You have told the truth. I wanted to try your sensitiveness about talking honestly. For, if the truth is not uttered in the presence of an administrator, he is not a good administrator.”
When different views regarding reading the Quran occurred during the caliphate of Hz. Uthman, a committee of 12 people from Qurayshis and Ansar was established and Hz. Ubayy was appointed as the head of this committee. He read the Quran and Zayd bin Thabit wrote it. He has an exceptional place in the history of Islam thanks to this service.
Ubayy bin Ka’b avoided unnecessary and meaningless words. He would not answer the unserious questions he was asked. He would answer serious and sincere questions very carefully and meticulously.
He did not sit at a different place from his students. He would sit at the same level as them when he taught them. He served greatly in both the science of reading the Quran and interpreting (tafsir) it. This service took place in two forms: The questions that he asked the Messenger of Allah regarding the verses of the Quran; the answers he gave to those who asked him questions about the reasons why the verses were sent down and the meaning of the verses.
Hz. Ubayy reported many hadiths from the Messenger of Allah. He is one of the witnesses and narrators of the miracle of “the crying of the log of the palm tree". The Prophet used to recite the sermons in Masjid an-Nabawi by leaning against a log of palm tree before a pulpit was built there. After the pulpit was built, the Prophet did not lean against the log any longer. Thereupon, the log moaned and cried in the presence of a group of people. Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah said, “The reason why he cries is the fact that he was separated from the divine dhikr read in the sermons.” Then, the Messenger of Allah approached the log, hugged it and said something to it.
According to a narration, the log said to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), “Plant me in Paradise so that the beloved slaves of Allah Almighty will eat my fruits. Paradise is such a place that there is no decaying or drying there.”
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “All right, I will do so.” Then, he said, “It preferred the eternal world to the transient world.” Then, the log was placed under the pulpit. When the pulpit was later demolished in order to expand the mosque, Ubayy bin Ka’b (r.a.) took the log and kept it until it decayed.
Ubayy, who spent his life serving the Quran had many aphorisms. Some of them are as follows:
“A believer is known by four characteristics: When he undergoes troubles and misfortunes, he shows patience. When he receives bounties and good things, he thanks. When he speaks, he tells the truth. When he decrees, he treats with justice.”
“A believer walks among five lights. That Allah Almighty mentions 'light upon light' indicates this. His word, knowledge, the place he enters, the place he exits and the place he will go on the Day of Judgment are all light.”
Hz. Ubayy bin Ka’b died in Madinah in the 35th year of the Migration. His janazah prayer was lead by Hz. Uthman.
May Allah be pleased with him!
Tirmidhi, Manaqib: 90.
Mektubat, p. 219-220.
Muslim, Fadail: 121; Usdu’l-Ghaba, 1: 49-50; 1: 251-255.