Rasulullah SAW said:
"Whoever likes to recite the Qur'an as purely as it was first revealed, let him recite it like Ibn Umm Abd (i.e. Abdullah ibn Mas'ud)."
The sun was blistering hot. There was no hope of attaining water in the harsh mountain passes of Makkah, where the blessed Prophet Muhammad SAW, and his companion Abu Bakr RA took respite from the oppression and the insults of the pagan Makkans. As they penetrated deeper into the passes, a great thirst overtook them, a thirst that exhausted their bodies and parched their throats.
They went further searching for water when they caught sight of a boy driving a flock of sheep. He looked thin and small, but at a closer look he was well in his teens.
"Young man, give us some milk from one of these ewes to quench our thirst," the Prophet SAW said.
"I am not going to do it, for I am entrusted with these sheep, which belong to Uqbah ibn Abi Mu'ait."
The Prophet Muhammad SAW, did not argue and was rather pleased with the youth's honesty.
"Then show us a young ewe which has not given birth to a lamb," Nabi SAW said.
"This I will do," replied the youth.
The Prophet Muhammad SAW seized it, and stroke its udder with his hand as he invoked Allah. To his great amazement, the youth saw the udder swell and milk started flowing from it. He knew very well that an ewe which has never had a lamb could not produce milk. Abu Bakr RA fetched a hollow stone, which the Prophet SAW filled with milk. He gave Abu Bakr and the youth drink. He then said to the udder, "Shrink" - and it shrank!
The youth said to the Prophet SAW, "Teach me the words you said."
The Prophet SAW replied, "You are a learned boy."
It was not long before the youth accepted Islam, as he was introduced to it through such a miracle! The young man's name was Abdullah ibn Mas'ud. He used to hear about the news that the Prophet SAW appeared among his people, but he did not pay much attention to that because of his young age and also because he was away from Makkah most of the time, taking Uqbah's flock to graze from dawn to dusk.
Soon after this event, Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA offered to be at the services of the Prophet SAW, tending to his needs. Abandoning his job as a shepherd to be with him, he became closer to him than his own shadow. He was with him (SAW) when he traveled and when he (SAW) was in town. He would wake him (SAW) up when he slept, and screen him (SAW) when he bathed. He would bring his (SAW) shoes when he wanted to go out and remove them for him (SAW) when he came in. He carried his (SAW) miswak and stick for him, and he slept in a room next to him (SAW). In fact, the Prophet SAW allowed him to enter his house whenever he wished and kept nothing hidden from him, until he was known as the keeper of the Prophet's (SAW) secrets.
But Ibn Mas'ud's deeper desire was to learn from the Prophet SAW and to follow his example in every one of his moves. Thus he was raised in the home of Rasulullah SAW - trained and guided by Rasulullah SAW personally. He was so much like the Prophet SAW, that Huthafah RA said about him, "I never saw a person closer to the Prophet SAW in character and guidance than Ibn Mas'ud (RA)."
The truthfulness of Abdullah ibn Mas'ud's faith revealed itself when he dared to accomplish an act that none besides the Prophet SAW, had done before him - to recite the Qur'an openly in the Ka'abah. The Muslims were few and weak in number. They all gathered one day with the Prophet SAW, when he (SAW) said, "By Allah, Quraysh have never heard this Qur'an being distinctly read to them. So is there anyone who would make them listen to it?" Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA sprang up: "I will do it," he said. "We fear for you," they replied. "We want a man of good family that will protect him in case the populace attacked him." "Let me alone, for Allah will protect me," he insisted.
In the morning, he went to Ka'abah while Quraysh were in their conferences, and when he arrived at the Maqam Ibrahim station, he recited, "In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful," raising his voice as he did so. "The Compassionate. He taught the Qur'an. He created man. He taught him eloquent speech, … (Abdullah ibn Mas'ud started reciting Surah Ar-Rahman). " They looked at him attentively. "What on earth is the son of Umm Abd saying?" they wondered?" "Woe to him, he is reciting some of the words which Muhammad came with!" They got up and showered him with blows, hitting him in the face and the head, but he continued to read so far as Allah willed that he should read. Then he went to his companions with his face swollen and blood running from it. They exclaimed when they saw him, "This is just what we feared would happen to you!" "Allah's enemies were never more contemptible in my sight than they are now, and if you like I will go and do the same thing in front of them tomorrow," he replied. "No," they said, "you have done enough! You have made them listen to what they do not want to hear."
Not only was Abdullah ibn Mas'ud a courageous and determined man, but he was also the most learned among the companions concerning the Qur'an and its meanings, so much that he earned the title, "The Scholar of the Ummah". Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari RA said about him, "Do not ask us about any matter of this Deen as long as this scholar is among you." He himself said, "I learned seventy surahs directly from the Prophet (SAW), nobody can contend with me concerning them."
Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA was not distinguished because of his social status, for he was a poor shepherd with no wealth, or because of his physical strength, for he was thin and frail. Yet he was dear and beloved by the Prophet SAW, who appreciated his sincere devotion and his eagerness for the knowledge of the Deen. He once climbed a tree to get a twig for the Prophet SAW to use as a miswak. When the Prophet SAW's companions saw his thin legs, they laughed. The Prophet SAW said, "You laugh at Ibn Mas'ud's legs! They are in the sight of Allah heavier in the Scale than the mountain of Uhud!"
In addition, Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA had an incredibly beautiful voice that moved to tears anyone who listened to him recite the Qur'an. During the days when Umar RA was Khalifah, a man came to him and said, "O leader of the faithful, I came from Kufah, and I left a man there who dictates the Qur'an to scribes from cover to cover, claiming he knows it by heart." Umar's face swelled, red with anger, as he asked, "Woe to you, who is he?" The man answered, "Abdullah ibn Mas'ud”. Umar's anger immediately subsided and Umar RA said, "By Allah I know nobody who is more deserving of this task than him, and I will tell you a story concerning him."
Then he continued, "The Messenger of Allah SAW, and I were gathering one evening at the house of Abu Bakr; we later went out to the masjid where we saw a man standing in Solah whom we did not recognise because of the darkness. The Prophet SAW stopped to listen to him recite the Qur'an, then turned to us and said, "Whoever likes to recite the Qur'an as purely as it was first revealed, let him recite it like ibn Umm Abd (i.e. Abdullah ibn Mas'ud)." Then Abdullah ibn Mas'ud sat down supplicating Allah, and the Prophet SAW, said, "Ask, for you shall be granted, ask, for you shall be granted." I said to myself, "by Allah, I will bring these glad tidings to Ibn Mas'ud," but when the next morning came, I found that Abu Bakr had already informed him. I never rushed to any good deed but found Abu Bakr preceding me."
The knowledge of Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA reached such a degree that he himself said, "By Allah, there is no verse of the Book of Allah which I did not know where, and concerning what, it was revealed." This was not an exaggeration from him, and here is an example to illustrate his excellent knowledge of the Qur'an. The above is also a sign of conviction. Only soaked in the solidness of his faith.
Umar met a caravan while he was traveling once. In the darkness of night, he could not distinguish who the people were, so he ordered one of his men to call out and ask from where the caravan was coming. It happened that Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA was in the caravan, so he answered, "From the deep ravine." "Where are you going to?" asked the man. "To the Ancient House," replied Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA. "There is a learned man among them", remarked Umar RA to his companions.
Umar RA ordered his man to ask, "Which verse of the Qur'an is the greatest?"
Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA answered, "Allah, none has the right to be worshiped but He, the Living, the Self-Subsistent. Sleep does not overtake Him, nor does slumber..." (Surah 2: Ayat 255)
Umar RA continued, and told his man to ask, "Which verse of the Qur'an has the most justice?"
Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA answered, "Verily, Allah commands justice, and giving help to kith and kin..." (Surah 16: Ayat 90)
The man continued on behalf of Umar RA, "Which verse of the Qur'an is most encompassing?"
Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA responded, "And whosoever does an atom's weight of good shall see it, and whosoever does an atom's weight of evil shall see it. (Surah 99: Ayats 7~8)
The man continued, "Which verse is most frightening?"
Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA responded, "It will not be in accordance with your desires, nor those of the people of the Scripture. Whosoever works evil, will have the recompense thereof, and he will not find any protector or helper besides Allah." (Surah 4: Ayat 123)
The query continues, "Which verse gives the most hope?"
Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA replied, "Say, 'O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Surah 39: Ayat 53)
Umar RA then asked his companion to call out if Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA was among them.
"Yes" they said.
"By Allah, he is indeed!"
Abdullah ibn Mas'ud RA lived until the time of the Khilafah of 'Uthman bin Affan RA when he fell fatally ill. His soul departed from him while his mouth was moving to the last moment, reciting the Qur'an and glorifying Allah.
How far are we from the Sahabah RA. Astaghfirullahul Adzeem. May Allah SWT forgive us. Ameen.