Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah

Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah

Infobox Military Person
name= Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah

caption= Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah is famous for his victories against the Byzantines during the Muslim conquests.
allegiance= Rashidun Caliphate
nickname= Custodian of Ummah or Trustworthy of Ummah
lived= 583 - 639
placeofbirth= Mecca
name=Campaigns of Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah
battles=Uhud – Yarmuk – Iron bridge – Ajnadayn – Badr – Hunayn – Uhud – Mecca – Siege of Ta'if –Tabuk – Khaybar – Trench – Qaynuqa – Nadir – Qurayza – Autas – Aleppo – busra

Abū 'Ubaidah 'Āmir ibn 'Abdullāh ibn al-Jarrāḥ (Arabic: أبو عبيدة عامر بن عبدالله بن الجراح), more commonly known as Abū 'Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrāḥ, was one of the ten companions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad thought by Sunnis to have been promised Paradise. He remained commander of a large section of Muslim armies during the time of Caliph 'Umar ibn al-Khattab and was on the list of 'Umar’s appointed successors to the Caliphate.

Early life

Abu 'Ubaidah was born in the year 583 CE in the house of 'Abdullah ibn al-Jarrah, a merchant by profession. Abu 'Ubaidah belonged to the Quraishi clan of Banu al-Harith ibn Fihr. Even before his conversion to Islam, he was considered to be one of the nobles of Quraish and was famous among Quraish of Mecca for his modesty and bravery

Conversion to Islam

By 611 Muhammad was preaching the oneness of God to the people of Mecca. He began by inviting his closest companions and relatives in secret to the way of Islam. He embraced Islam just a day after Abu Bakr in the year 611. [Tabqat ibn al-Saad volume:1 Chapter no:3 Page no:298]

Migration to Abyssinia

Abu 'Ubaidah lived through the harsh experience that the Muslims went through in Makkah from beginning to end. With other early Muslims, he endured the insults and oppressions of Quraysh. As the first emigration to Abyssinia succeeded, this violence against Muslims renewed itself with much conviction and became stronger in its force. Being the only person in his clan to have accepted Islam, Abu Ubaidah was foremost amongst them. Muhammad suggested that the remaining Muslims who were specially subjected to the atrocities of the people of Mecca migrate as well. Consequently, Abu 'Ubaidah migrated to Abyssinia along with a delegation of 83 men and 20 women. [Tabqat ibn al-Saad volume no:1, chapter no:1, page no:138 ]

Migration to Medina

In 622 CE, when Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina, Abu Ubaidah also migrated. When Muhammad arrived in Medina, he paired off each immigrant (Muhajir) with one of the residents of Medina (Ansari), joining Mu'adh ibn Jabal with Abu 'Ubaidah making them brothers in faith. Muslims remained in peace in Medina for about 1 year before the Quraish raised an army to attack Medina.

Muhammad's era

In the year 624, Abu 'Ubaidah participated in the first major battle between Muslims and the Quraysh of Mecca, that is, the Battle of Badr. In this battle, he was attacked by his father Abdullah ibn al-Jarrah, who was fighting alongside the army of Quraysh. Abu 'Ubaidah avoided fighting with him but eventually his father succeeded in blocking Abu Ubaidah's path. Abu 'Ubaidah then attacked him and killed him.The following verse of the Quran was written about this display of character by Abu 'Ubaidah:cquote|You will not find a people believing in God and the Last Day making friends with those who oppose God and His messenger even if these were their fathers, their sons, their brothers or their clan. God has placed faith in their hearts and strengthened them with a spirit from Him. He will cause them to enter gardens beneath which streams flow that they may dwell therein. God is well pleased with them and they well pleased with Him. They are the party of God. Is not the party of God the successful ones? (58:22).

In the year 625, he participated in the Battle of Uhud. In the second phase of the battle, when Khalid ibn Walid’s cavalry attacked Muslims from the rear changing the victory of Muslims into defeat, bulk of Muslim soldiers routed from the battle field and few remian steadfast, Abu Ubaidah was one of them, he guarded Muhammad from the attacks of Qurayshi soldiers. On that day, Abu 'Ubaidah lost two of his front teeth while trying to extract two links of Muhammad's armor that had penetrated into his cheeks.

Later in the year 627 he took part in the Battle of the Trench and also in the Battle of Banu Quraydah. He was also made commander of a small expedition that set out to attack and destroy the tribes of Tha'libah and Anmar, who were plundering nearby villages. [Tabqat ibn al-Saad book of Maghazi, page no:62 ] .

In the year 628 he participated in Treaty of Hudaybiyyah and was made one of the witnesses over the pact. [Tabqat ibn al-Saad book of Maghazi, page no:62 ] . Later in the same year, he was a part of Muslim’s campaign to Khaybar.

In the year 629 Muhammad sent 'Amr ibn al-'Aas to Zaat al-Salaasil from where he called for reinforcement and Muhammad sent Abu 'Ubaidah in command of an army that contained Abu Bakr and 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. They attacked and defeated the enemy. Later in the same year, another expedition was sent under his command to locate the routes of Quraishi caravans. This skirmish is known as Saif al-Jara. [Sahih-al-Bhukari book of Maghazi, Ghazwa Saif-al-Jara] .

In the year 630, when Muslims armies rushed for the Conquest of Mecca, Abu 'Ubaidah was commanding one of the four Muslim armies that entered Mecca from four different routes. Later that year, he participated in the Battle of Hunayn and the Siege of Ta'if. He was also part of the Tabuk campaign under the command of Muhammad himself. On their return from Tabuk, a Christian delegation from Najran arrived in Medina and showed interest in Islam and asked Muhammad to send with them a person who will guide them in the matters of religion and in other tribal affairs according to Islamic laws, Abu 'Ubaidah was appointed by Muhammad to go with them. He was also sent as the tax collector ('aamil) to Bahrain by Muhammad. He was present in Mecca when Muhammad died in 632.

In Caliph Abu Bakr’s Era

In 632 when Muhammad died, the matter of his succession took place at Saqifah of Banu Sa'ad Abu Ubaidah was there along with Abu Bakr and Umar.Umar said to Abu Ubaidah to stretch forth his hand for caliphate but he refused and said to Abu Bakr to sretch forth his hand to take the pledge of alliance. After the Ridda wars when Abu Bakr sent Khalid ibn Walid to Iraq to conquer it, he sent four Levant making Abu Ubaidah commander of one of them. His target was selected to be Emesa and he was ordered to move through the route of Tabouk after the army of Shurahbil bin Hasanah.

He remained commander in chief of Muslim armies until Khalid ibn Walid arrived from Iraq to Syria in 634.He was ordered by Khalid ibn Walid to remain where he is until Khalid ibn Walid reached the city of Bosra. Khalid and Abu Ubaidah met at Bosra. The castle surrendered the city After the Battle of Bosra. 130 Muslims died by now it was almost mid of July 634.

Soon Muslims heard of gathering of 90,000 Roman army at Ajnadeen, all the divisions of Muslim army joined khalid at ajnadeen on 24th July 634,which was about 32,000 in number ,Muslims defeated Roman there on 30th July 634 AD in Battle of Ajnadayn under the command of Khalid ibn Walid. After one week Abu Ubaidah along with khalid moved to Damascus, on their way to Damascus, they defeated another Roman army in the Battle of Yakosa in mid-aujust 634 AD. Tomur, the son-in-law of Emperor Heraclius, sent another army to stop khalid’s corps but they were also defeated in the battle of Maraj-al-Safar after the corps of Abu Ubaidah and Shurabil bin Hasana joined him on 19th August 634 AD.

The next day Muslims finally reached Damascus and sieged the city which continued for 30 days. After defeating the Roman reinforcements sent by emperor Heraclius at Battle of Sanita-al-Uqab 20 miles from Damascus, Muslims finally attacked and conquered the city. The Conquest of Damascus held on 18th September 634 AD.

Abu Ubaidah was appointed by Khalid ibn Walid to siege the Jabiya Gate of Damascus.It was Abu Ubaidah who gave peace to Damascus after Khalid ibn Walid attacked the city and conquered by force but as Abu Ubaidah, Shurabil bin Hasana and Amr ibn al-A'as gave peace to them unaware of khalid’s attack from the gate of his side, the Peace treaty was signed by Khalid. Roman army was given deadline of 3 days to go as far as they can with their families and treasure, other simply agreed to stay at Damascus and pay tribute .After three days deadline was over, Muslim cavalry under khalid's command attacked Roman army by reaching them from unknown shortcut at Battle of Maraj-al-Debaj. [http://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter27page1.htm http://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter28page1.htm http://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter29page1.htm http://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter30page1.htm]

Appointment as Commander of the Army

On 22 August 634 CE, Caliph Abu Bakr died making Umar his successor. As Umar became caliph he relieved Khalid ibn Walid from the command of the Islamic army and appointed Abu Ubaida ibn al-Jarrah as the new commander. This was done to dispel the impression that the victories were due to Khalid. Moreover Khalid was an overtly generous person who in some opinions would often waste his money in giving gifts to his soldiers as a reward for their bravery in the battles. Moreover, Abu-Ubaida was a great and a humble person; additionally he was a fearless and a skillful fighter.

Due to different style of commands, there was a slowdown in the pace of operations, as Abu Ubaida moved slowly and steadily, in contrast to Khalid who is said to rush 'like a tornado from battle to battle'; using surprise, audacity and brute force to win his battles. The conquest of Syria continued under the new commander. Abu-Ubaida used to rely heavily on the advice of Khalid, whom he kept with him as much as possible.

Conquest of Syria

From the August of 634 CE till the conquest of Levant (the areas of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Southern Turkey) was under the command of Abu Ubaidah. Soon after the appointment of Abu Ubaidah as the commander, he sent Khalid ibn Walid to rescue Islamic army trapped among Romans at Abu-al-Quds. Khalid went there and defeated them in the Battle of Abu-al-Quds on 15 October 634 CE. Abu-Ubaida made Khalid commander of the cavalry. Which was later to became the best part of Muslims army and was given the name 'Mobile Guard' by historians.

Emperor Heraclius assembled an army to defeat Muslims and evict them from Syria at the Plain of Fahal. Muslims to moved to Fahal, the cavalry under Khalid ibn Walid's was first to arrive at the battle scence. Muslims defeated them at the Battle of Fahal on 23rd January 635 CE. After the battle Abu Ubaidah along with Khalid moved towards Emesa city, with Khalid in-command of the cavalry. Meanwhile, emperor Heraclius sent General Theodras to Damascus to recapture it as there was only a small defensive army in the city under the command of Yazid bin Abi Sufyan. Theodras met the Muslim army at Maraj-al-Rome, and moved with half of his army towards Damascus at night, while Abu Ubaidah and Khalid were engaged with the remaining Byzantine army. A Spy informed Abu-Ubaidah about this move. Khalid's cavalry was dispatched by Abu Ubaidah to defend Damascus. Abu Ubaidah defeated the Byzantine army in the Battle of Maraj-al-Rome, while Khalid attacked and defeated Theodras in the 2nd Battle of Damascus.

After a week, Abu Ubaidah himself moved towards Balaq, while he sent Khalid to Emesa. Both cities surrendered and agreed to pay tribute (Jizya). Emesa and Qinassareen city signed one year peace treaty. In the November of 635 CE, Abu Ubaidah along Khalid moved towards city of Hamaa'; it surrendered and agree to pay tribute. Later Abu Ubaidah sent Khalid to Shairzer, Afamia and Matar-al-Hamz which all surrendered. Meanwhile, the city of Qinassareen and Emesa broke peace treaty, Abu Ubaidah sent Khalid to reclaim Emesa, there he defeated the Byzantine army in 1st Battle of Emesa, Byzantines retreated to the Castle of Emesa. Soon Abu Ubaidah reached Emesa with rest of his army, and gave the command of the siege to Khalid. He defeated Byzantine once again in the 2nd Battle of Emesa and finally conquered the city in the 3rd Battle of Emesa in the March of 636 CE, after two months of siege.

Afterward, Abu Ubaidah sent Khalid to conquer northern Syria, he defeated there a small group of Byzantine soldiers in a skirmish and took many as prisons. These prisoners informed him about Emperor Heraclius's final effort to take back the Byzantine province of Syria. They told him that an army of possibly 200,000 will soon emerge to take back the lost land. Khalid halted his advance, on June 636 CE this huge army set out for there destination. As soon as Abu Ubaida got this news he gathered all his officers to decide their next step. Khalid gave suggestion that they should call all of there forces present in province of Syria (Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel) to utilize the combined forces of the Muslim army and then moved towards the plain of Yarmouk for the battle.

Abu Ubaida ordered all Muslim commanders to withdraw from the conquered areas and pay back their tribute (Jizya) to them and move towards Yarmouk. Heraclius's army also moved towards Yarmouk. The Muslim Army reached there in the July of 636 CE. Within two weeks the Byzantine army arrived to the battleground. In the mid of July there was a skirmish between Khalid's cavalry and Christian Arab auxiliaries of Byzantine army. Khalid defeated them. For a whole month there was no action in the plain of Yarmouk. On the third week of August, the Battle of Yarmouk was fought, which lasted for 6 days. The Muslim army defeated the Byzantine army.

On October of 636 CE, Abu Ubaida held a meating with his high command officers to decide future conquests, they decided to conquer Jerusalem. Siege of Jerusalem lasted for 4 months, the city finally agreed to surrendered, but only to the Caliph himself.

Umar came from Medina and the city surrendered on April 637 CE. After the victory Abu Ubaida sent his 'Amr-ibn al-Aas, Yazid bin Abi Sufyan and Sharjeel bin Hassana back to there areas to reconquer them. Most of these areas submitted without any fight.

Abu Ubaida moved his armies to Northern Syria once again to conquer them with army numbering 17000. Khalid along with his cavalry was sent to Hazir, and Abu Ubaida moved to Qasreen city. Khalid defeated a strong Byzantine force in the Battle of Hazir and reached Qinassareen before Abu Ubaidah. The city surrendered to Khalid in the June of 637 CE, soon afterwards Abu Ubaida arrived. Abu Ubaidah moved on to the city Aleppo (Halb). After the Battle of Aleppo city finally agree to surrendered in the October of 637 CE. After this battle, Abu Ubaidah moved to Antioch, in there way to Antioch Byzantine army stopped them near a river on which there was an iron bridge, because of this the battle following is known as Battle of Iron bridge. Abu Ubaidah defeated them and the city of Antioch surrendered on 30th October 637 CE.

Abu Ubaidah sent Khalid to conquer the remaining cities. Khalid, in a series of small battles conquered the cities of Lazkia, Jabla and Tertoos. Abu-Ubaida sent Khalid to conquer north-eastern Syria. Khalid conquered all the areas up to Munbij city, and finished all resistance up to the Euphrates river. After these conquests Khalid return to Abu Ubaidah at Aleppo city in the January of 637 CE. Later, Abu Ubaidah dispatched Khalid and another of his general, Ayaz ibn Ghanam with armies separately. Khalid's conquered the city of Maresh in the Autumn of 638 CE. [http://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter31page1.htmhttp://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter32page1.htmhttp://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter33page1.htmhttp://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter34page1.htmhttp://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter35page1.htmhttp://www.swordofallah.com/html/bookchapter36page1.htm]


Later this year Arabia fall into severe Drought. People began to die because of hunger and epidemic diseases, as a result of drought hundreds of thousands of people from all over Arabia gathered at Madinah as food was rationed. Soon the reserves of food at Madinah began to decline, Caliph Umar had already wrote to the governors of his Provinces to sent help for people, one such letter he wrote to Abu Ubaidah in answer to which he wrote:cquote| I am sending you the Caravans whose one end will be here at Syria and the other will be at Madinah.

Abu Ubaidah's caravans of food supplies was the first to reach Madinah. With his 1st supply of 4000 camels full of food Umar appointed him to distribute the food among the people who were living around Madinah in thousands of numbers, when Abu Ubaidah did that Ummar wanted to give him 4000 Dinars as a reward but he refused to take them saying that he did all that for sake of Allah.


Nine months had passed since the drought episode and a new problem had started brewing. The plague epidemic broke in Syria and western Iraq, it was more severe in Syria. When the news of plague broke Umar was on his way to the tour of Syria but returned from the border of Syria as suggested by his companions. Abu Ubaidah met him there and said cquote| O’ Umar do you run from the Allah’s will ?Umar was shocked by this and said in sorrow: "if only some one else would have said this other than you Abu Ubaidah" and said then cquote| “ Yes I am running from Allah’s will, but to Allah’s will . Umar returned from Syria because of the prophet Muhammad once instructed that one should not enter the place where epidemic is unless it is absolutely safe. So Abu Ubaidah returned to his army at Emesa. It was then that a plague hit the land of Syria, the like of which people had never experienced before. It devastated the population. As Caliph Umar wanted to make Abu Ubaidah his successor he didn't want him to remain there in the epidemic region. Umar dispatched a messenger to Abu Ubaidah with a letter saying:

When Abu Ubaydah received Umar's letter, he said, '"I know why Umar needs me. He wants to secure the survival of someone who, however, is not eternal"." So he wrote to Umar:

When Caliph Umar read this letter tears filled his eyes and those who were with him asked, "Has Abu Ubaidah died" ? he replied "No, but death is near to him.". Caliph Umar sent another messenger to him saying that if you are not coming back at least move to any highland with less humid environment Abu Ubaidah moved to Jabyia.


As soon as Abu Ubaidah moved to Jabyia he became afflicted with the plague. As death hung over him, he spoke to his army:

cquote|"Let me give you some advice which will cause you to be on the path of goodness always. "Establish Prayer, Fast the month of Ramadan, Give charity, Perform the Hajj and Umrah, Remain united and support one another, Be sincere to your commanders and do not conceal anything from them. Don't let the world destroy you for even if man were to live a thousand years he would still end up with this state that you see me in. Peace be upon you and the mercy of God.".

He then appointed Mu'adh ibn Jabal as his successor and order him to lead people in the prayers after the prayers Ma’az came to him and at the moment his soul departed.

Ma’az got up and said to the people…

cquote|"O' people, you are stricken by the death of a man. By God, I don't know whether I have seen a man who had a more righteous heart, who was further from all evil and who was more sincere to people than he. Ask God to shower His mercy on him and God will be merciful to you.".

He died in 639 C.E. and was buried at "Jabiya."


His appearance was striking. He was slim and tall. His face was bright and he had a sparse beard. It was pleasing to look at him and refreshing to meet him. He was extremely courteous and humble and quite shy. Yet in a tough situation he would become strikingly serious and alert. He was given the title "Amin" or Custodian of Muhammad's community(Ummah). Abdullah ibn Umar once said about him …

His way of life was very simple he used to dress in a simple clothing, When during the conquest of Jerusalem Caliph Umar came to Syria he saw Khalid ibn Walid and Yazid bin abu Sufyan dressed in very beautiful and charming dress, Caliph Umar dismounted from his camel and threw sand over them saying that "it has not been even a year since you have came out of the hunger and hard life of Arabia and you have forgotten all the simplicity when you saw the glamor or Syria’s Emperors !?",but he was cooled down when Khalid ibn Walid explained to him that under these clothes they are still armed to counter any enemy any time, Abu Ubaidah who was there too was still dressed in his simple dress Umar was pleased to see him at evening when Umar went to his home he saw that Abu Ubaidah didn’t have any thing at home except one bed, sword and shield. Umar said to him :cquote| ‘’ O’ Abu Ubaidah, you may have arranged some things of comfort for yourself at home ‘’ replied Abu Ubaidah ‘’ O’ Umar that’s enough for me ‘’ ... [Ashaba volume no:4 page no:12]

Christians of the Levant accepted Islam inspired by Abu Ubaidah such as the whole tribes of Banu Tanookh and Banu Saleej who were Christians accepted Islam after the conquest of "Qasreen" city. More over, there were many reliefs given by Abu Ubaidah to the non-Muslims living as his subjects in Syria. He is regarded by Muslims to be one of the ten companions of Muhammad who were promised paradise for them during their life.(see the ten who were promised paradise. [John Esposito, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam]


Little is known about Abu Ubaidah’s family He had two wives. From his wife Hind bint Jabar he had his son "Yazid" and "Ubaidah". From his wife Warja he had his son "Umair", but all of them died in childhood. It is unknown if he had any daughters, but his male line of descendants is reported to be ended.

ee also

Abu Bakr al-Siddiq.
'Umar ibn Khattab.
'Uthman ibn 'Affan.
'Ali ibn Abi Talib.
Khalid ibn al-Walid.
Talhah ibn 'Ubaidullah.
Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas.
Zubayr ibn al-'Awwam.
'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Awf.
Sa'id ibn Zayd.


External links

* [http://www.youngmuslims.ca/online_library/companions_of_the_prophet/ubaydah.html]

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