Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah

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Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah
Personal Information
Full Name'Amir b. 'Abd Allah b. Jarrah b. Hilal
TeknonymAbu 'Ubayda
EpithetAbu 'Ubayda b. al-Jarrah
LineageBanu l-Harith clan of the Quraysh tribe
Birth38 before Hijra/585-6
Place of BirthMecca
Place(s) of ResidenceMecca, Medina, Syria
Cause of Death/MartyrdomPlague
Religious Information
Presence at ghazwasBattle of Badr and Uhud
Migration toMedina and Abyssinia

ʿĀmir b. ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Jarrāḥ (Arabic: عامر بن عبدالله بن الجَرّاح; b. 38 before Hijra/585-6 d. 18/639-40), known as Abū ʿUbayda al-Jarrāḥ ( أبوعُبیدة الجرّاح), was a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and a close companion of Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa and 'Umar b. al-Khattab. In the incident of Saqifa, he endorsed the caliphate of Abu Bakr and had a major role in taking oaths of allegiance from opponents of Abu Bakr, and in particular, Imam 'Ali (a). He had a significant role in conquests in the periods of the early caliphs, and died in 17/638-9 or 18/639-40.


Abu 'Ubayda 'Amir b. 'Abd Allah b. al-Jarrah b. Hilal al-Qurashi al-Fahri" was from the Banu l-Harith clan of the Quraysh tribe (a poor family of Quraysh). He was known as Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah. He was born about 38 years before Hijra (585-6). In the Battle of Fijar, his father, 'Abd Allah, was a warlord of the Quraysh and died before the Bi'that. Abu 'Ubayda's mother was also from the Quraysh who later converted to Islam. It is reported that Abu 'Ubayda, Arqam b. Abi Arqam and 'Uthman b. Maz'un went to the Prophet (s) and converted to Islam, but according to another account, he converted to Islam in its early years in the presence of Abu Bakr. He was one of the Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia.

Migration to Medina

After the migration of Muslims to Medina, Abu 'Ubayda returned from Abyssinia to Mecca and then went to Medina. The Prophet (s) made a Pact of Brotherhood between him and Sa'd b. Mu'adh or Salim, mawla of Abu Hudhayfa. He also made a Pact of Brotherhood with Muhammad b. Maslama so that they could inherit from one another.

Presence in the Battles

Abu 'Ubayda was present in the ghazwas (or battles) of the Prophet (s). According to a report, in the Battle of Badr, he killed his father, 'Abd Allah b. Jarrah who was in the army of polytheists, and thus, a verse of the Qur'an was revealed about him. But given al-Waqidi's report that Abu 'Ubayda's father was not alive after the emergence of Islam, the story seems to be fabricated.

There is a report according to which, in the Battle of Uhud, Abu 'Ubayda was one of the few people who did not leave the Prophet (s) when he was in difficulty. (Other sources, such as al-Dhahabi's Tarikh al-Islam and Ibn Hisham's Sira did not mention him among those people, and other historical sources such as Tarikh al-Tabari and Tarikh al-Ya'qubi did not mention the name of those who stood with the Prophet (s).) Moreover, after the battle, two rings of the Prophet's (s) helmet pierced into his face; Abu 'Ubayda removed them with his teeth and as a result, two of his teeth fell out.

Abu 'Ubayada was also present in some other battles and sariyyas. He was the commander of the Islamic army in a sariyya and a ghazwa. Moreover, he was a witness in Hudaybiyya Peace Treaty.

Some sources have pointed to Abu 'Ubayda's role as a witness of some treaties between delegates of some Arabian tribes and the Prophet (s) for their conversion to Islam. It is said that the Prophet (s) sent him to Bahrain or Najran or Yemen as a missionary.

In the Army of Usama

Toward the end of his life, the Prophet (s) sent an army to the borders of Syria under the commandership of Usama b. Zayd. People such as Abu Bakr, 'Umar b. al-Khattab, and Abu 'Ubayda were present in this army. But because of the disobedience of some people, Usama camped near Medina until the Prophet's (s) demise. When he heard the news about the demise of the Prophet (s), he and his army returned to the city. The Prophet (s) cursed people who disobeyed Usama.

His Role in the Caliphate of Abu Bakr

After the demise of the Prophet (s), some heads of Ansar gathered in Saqifa Bani Sa'ida in order to select a caliph from among themselves. Their candidate was Sa'd b. 'Ubada. When 'Umar b. al-Khattab heard the news, he took Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa and Abu 'Ubayda to the Saqifa. After quarrels between Muhajirun and Ansar, Abu Bakr was finally selected as the caliph and people pledged their allegiance to him.

Although Abu 'Ubayda's role in the Incident of Saqifa is not obviously known, his cooperation with Abu Bakr and 'Umar in the Saqifa and his influential role in later events cannot be accidental.

Taking Oaths of Allegiance from Opponents of the Caliph

When Abu Bakr became the caliph, Abu 'Ubayda played a major role in taking oaths of allegiance from his opponents, and in particular, 'Ali (a). Together with Abu Bakr, 'Umar, and Mughira b. Shu'ba, Abu 'Ubayda tried to take an oath of allegiance from 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet's (s) uncle. When Abu Bakr's caliphate was stabilized, Abu 'Ubayda administered the Treasury. He was one of the most important figures in the establishment of the caliphate.

Abu 'Ubayda and Ridda Wars

When Ridda Wars began, Abu 'Ubayda and 'Umar warned Abu Bakr about toughness with respect to receiving zakat before his caliphate was stabilized. This might be why he does not play a remarkable role in reports about Ridda Wars, but he was a major advisor of the caliph with regard to the Conquest of Syria.

In Conquests

Conquest of Syria: reports about Abu 'Ubayda's participation and activities in conquests of Syria are very confused. This is because of contradictions in the reports of the conquest of Iran and Syria. According to al-Tabari's report from Ibn Ishaq, Abu 'Ubayda was appointed by Abu Bakr as the commander of one of the several armies. All of them invaded Syria. Although there are reports about the assignment of the commandership of the whole army to Abu 'Ubayda, it seems that at the beginning of the conquest of Syria, it was not feasible for Muslims to have a single commander in chief.

When Damascus was brought under siege by Muslims, Abu Bakr died, and 'Umar, who did not have a favorable view about Khalid b. Walid, immediately appointed Abu 'Ubayda as the commander of the Islamic army.

According to al-Tabari's report from Sayf b. 'Umar, Khalid hid the news of his removal from the army in order to prevent divisions and tensions. It is said that Abu 'Ubayda did not reveal the news of his appointment as the commander for a while.

Conquest of Baalbek and Homs: after a compromise with Damascus, Abu 'Ubayda went to Homs. He first made a compromise with people of Baalbek and then with people of Homs. But Lattakia was conquered after a hard battle. According to al-Baladhuri, after the hard battle of Yarmouk, in Rajab, 15/August 636, Abu 'Ubayda conquered Qinnasrin and Antioch. He also supervised the conquests of other lands, such as Jordan and Palestine, which were commanded by 'Amr b. 'As.

It is said that while Abu 'Ubayda was busy conquering Jerusalem (in 17/638-9), people of the city decided to compromise and pay jizya, provided that the caliph himself goes to Syria for the peace treaty. Abu 'Ubayda wrote a letter to 'Umar. 'Umar went to al-Jabiyah in Damascus and from there to Jerusalem to sign the peace treaty.


Abu 'Ubayda al-Jarrah died in 17/638-9 or 18/639-40 of an epidemic plague in Syria. His grave is said to be located in Jordan. He had no children.

Shiite and Sunni Views

Sunni Muslims have praised Abu 'Ubayda because he was one of the Sahaba and has transmitted hadiths from the Prophet (s). They have also cited some of his virtues, and by appealing to a hadith (transmitted by 'Umar b. al-Khattab), they consider him as one of al-'Ashara al-Mubashshara (10 people to whom the Prophet (s) gave the good news of going to the Heaven). They also say that 'Umar trusted him so much that he said about him, "if I die and Abu 'Ubayda is alive, I will appoint him as my successor".

However, the Shi'as have reproached him because of his infringement of the command to stay in the Army of Usama, supporting Abu Bakr and 'Umar b. al-Khattab in the event of Saqifa Bani Sa'ida, supporting the first and the second caliphs in their governments, and the commandership of conquests.