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Ubayy b. Ka'b

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Ubayy b. Ka'b
Personal Information
Full Name Ubayy b. Ka'b b. Qays b. 'Ubayd b. Zubayd
Teknonym Abu l-Mundhir
Epithet Sayyid al-Ansar
Lineage Banu Najjar
Muhajir/Ansar Ansar
Place(s) of Residence Medina
Death/Martyrdom 19/640, 22/642, 33/653-39/659
Religious Information
Presence at Ghazwas Battles of Badr, Uhud, and Khandaq
Known for Scribe of the revelation
Notable Roles Secretery of the Prophet (s)
Other Activities Opposing the caliphate of Abu Bakr

Ubayy b. Kaʿb (Arabic: اُبَیّ بن کَعب) was a companion of Prophet Muhammad (s) and a scribe of the revelation. He was an expert in the recitation, compilation, exegesis and teaching of the Qur'an and jurisprudence. He was one of the seventy Ansar who pledged their allegiance to the Prophet (s) in the second Pledge of 'Aqaba. He also accompanied the Prophet (s) in battles, such as Badr, Uhud, and Khandaq. During the caliphate of 'Uthman b. 'Affan, he and Zayd b. Thabit were the most prominent members of the twelve-member commission for the compilation of al-Mushaf al-'Uthmani.

Name and Lineage

Ubayy b. Ka'b b. Qays b. 'Ubayd b. Zubayd, known as "Ubayy b. Ka'b", was from the Banu Najjar clan of Ansar. Ibn al-Nadim mentioned a different lineage for Ubayy: "Ubayy b. Ka'b b. Qays b. Malik b. Imri' al-Qays".

'Umar b. al-Khattab referred to Ubayy as "Abu l-Tufayl" because he had a son, called "Tufayl". However, there are some hadiths in which the Prophet (s) referred to him as "Abu l-Mundhir". According to a hadith, the Prophet (s) gave him the title, "Sayyid al-Ansar" (master of Ansar). He was still alive when Muslims referred to him as "Sayyid al-Muslimin" (master of Muslims). During the Age of Ignorance when very few Arabs knew how to read and write, Ubayy had learned writing.

In the Period of the Prophet (s)

The first event in which Ubayy b. Ka'b is mentioned is the Second Pledge of 'Aqaba in which seventy people from Ansar pledged their allegiance to the Prophet (s). After the migration to Medina, the Prophet (s) made a Pact of Brotherhood between Ubayy and Sa'id b. Zayd b. 'Amr b. Nufayl, or on another account, between him and Talha b. 'Ubayd Allah. He then accompanied the Prophet (s) in the battles of Badr, Khandaq, Uhud, and others. He also attended a sariyya which occurred at the beginning of the seventh month after the Hijra under the commandership of Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib.

A Scribe of the Revelation

Ubayy was a Scribe of the Revelation. According to a report, Ubayy and Zayd b. Thabit wrote the revelation (verses revealed to the Prophet (s)) when 'Ali (a) and 'Uthman b. 'Affan were not available.

The Prophet's (s) Secretary

In addition to a Scribe of the Revelation, Ubayy served as the secretary of the Prophet (s), and when he was not available, Zayd b. Thabit took care of his tasks. It is reported that Ubayy was the first person who wrote his and his father's name at the bottom of letters as a scribe ("it was written by such and such the son of such and such"). He was sometimes commissioned by the Prophet (s) to teach Islamic rulings and the Qur'an to new Muslim converts, including the wafd (envoys) of 'Amir and the wafd of Banu Hanifa who went to Medina.

A Mufti

In addition to his Qur'anic knowledge, Ubayy b. Ka'b was a mufti among the companions of the Prophet (s). Some people believed that he was one of the six people who inherited the knowledge of the Prophet (s).

In the Period of the Caliphs

After the Demise of the Prophet (s)

According to Shiite sources, after the demise of the Prophet (s), Ubayy b. Ka'b was one of the twelve people from Muhajirun and Ansar who expressed their objections to the way the Prophet's (s) successor was elected. Ubayy transmitted a hadith from the Prophet (s) according to which: "'Ali b. Abi Talib is your Imam after me and he is the well-wisher for my people".

In the Period of the Second Caliph

In the period of 'Umar b. al-Khattab, Ubayy expressed his desire to be in charge of an administrative task, but 'Umar told him: "I do not like this to stain your piety". However, he accompanied 'Umar to Jabiyya (a village near Damascus) and wrote a peace treaty with people in Jerusalem.

In the Period of the Third Caliph

Also, according to reports on which Ubayy was still alive in the period of 'Uthman b. 'Affan, he was among the twelve people from Muhajirun and Ansar who were asked by 'Uthman to compile the Qur'an.

A Transmitter of Hadiths

Ubayy b. Ka'b transmitted hadiths from the Prophet (s), some of which are cited in al-Sihah al-Sitta. According to al-Nawawi's enumeration, Ubayy's hadiths in reliable books are 164, three of which are commonly cited by both al-Bukhari and Muslim, three of which are solely cited by al-Bukhari, and seven of which are solely cited by Muslim.

Ahmad b. Hanbal cited many of Ubayy's hadiths in his Musnad transmitted by Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, 'Ubada b. Samit, Abu Hurayra, Rafi' b. Rifa'a, Jabir b. 'Abd Allah, Sahl b. Sa'd, 'Abd Allah b. 'Amr b. 'As, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, Anas b. Malik, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abri, Sulayman b. Surad, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Aswad, Suwayd b. Ghafla, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Layla, Zarr b. Hubaysh, Abu 'Uthman al-Nahdi, Abu l-'Aliya al-Riyahi, Tufayl and Muhammad the sons of Ubayy b. Ka'b, and some others. Hadiths transmitted by Ubayy b. Ka'b are concerned with a range of issues from jurisprudence and the exegesis of the Qur'an to the tradition of the Prophet (s), asceticism, and ethics.

Ubayy and Qura'nic Sciences

As one of the early Ansar, Ubayy accompanied the Prophet (s) for many years, and according to a hadith, he presented the whole Qur'an to the Prophet (s), and began teaching the Qur'an since then. According to a well-known hadith, he was one of the four people from whom the Prophet (s) recommended to learn the Qur'an. According to another hadith in which the virtues of some of the companions are mentioned, Ubayy b. Ka'b is characterized as the most knowledgeable person with respect to the recitation of the Qur'an.


After the demise of the Prophet (s), Ubayy b. Ka'b was always engaged in teaching the Qur'an in Medina. Some well-known figures of the companions, such as Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Hurayra, and 'Abd Allah b. Sa'ib, as well as some of the Tabi'un, such as 'Abd Allah b. 'Ayyash b. Abi Rabi'a, Abu 'Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, and Abu l-'Aliya al-Riyahi, learned the recitation of the Qur'an from him.

Ubay's Recitation

It is implied by some hadiths that the popularity of Ubayy's recitation goes back to the period before the compilation of al-Mushaf al-'Uthmani. In this period, Ubayy's recitation was one of the common recitations of the Qur'an. According to reports, some of his recitations were opposed by 'Umar. After the compilation of al-Mushaf al-'Uthmani, to which Ubayy b. Ka'b had a contribution as well, his recitation was still popular and was transmitted to later generations. It was the basis of recitations which were considered as reliable recitations in later centuries. Of the seven recitations, Hijazi recitations of Nafi' and Ibn Kathir, and the Basri recitation of Abu 'Umar b. 'Ala' with its Hijazi tone were originated from Ubayy's recitation. The recitations of Ubayy b. Ka'b and Zayd b. Thabit can be considered as the main bases of the Hijazi recitation of the Qur'an. Of the Kufi recitations of the Qur'an, Ubayy b. Ka'b's influence on the recitations of 'Asim and Kasa'i is remarkable. This might be the reason why Ibn Jazari has considered Ubayy b. Ka'b as the most prominent reciter in Islam.

A Reliable Recitation for the Imamiyya

In some Imami sources, the recitation of Ubayy b. Ka'b has been appealed to in support of certain beliefs or jurisprudential rulings. Moreover, there is a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a) according to which the recitation of Ubayy b. Ka'b is endorsed by Ahl al-Bayt (a).

Mushaf Ubayy b. Ka'b

In the period of 'Uthman, Ubayy b. Ka'b and Zayd b. Thabit were the most prominent members of a twelve-member council for the compilation of al-Mushaf al-'Uthmani. Despite Ubayy's crucial role in the compilation of the Mushaf, manuscripts under Mushaf Ubayy b. Ka'b were found in early centuries which were slightly different from al-Mushaf al-'Uthmani. However, non-official manuscripts in the name of Ubayy b. Ka'b were not as common as manuscripts under Mushaf Ibn Mas'ud. This might be partly because of Ubayy's affirmative position with regard to the compilation of al-Mushaf al-'Uthmani and Ibn Mas'ud's opposition to it.

Works Attributed to Ubayy

In different exegetical works, such as Majma' al-bayan by al-Tabrisi and Kashf al-asrar by Maybudi, some hadiths are cited as transmitted by Ubayy b. Ka'b with regard to the virtues of different Qur'anic suras which might have been cited from an essay attributed to Ubayy b. Ka'b under Fada'il al-Qur'an (the virtues of the Qur'an) referred to by Ibn al-Nadim. Also, a great manuscript on the exegesis of the Qur'an was common in the early centuries of Islam. It was transmitted by Abu Ja'far al-Razi from Rabi' b. Anas from Abu l-'Aliya from Ubayy b. Ka'b. It was consulted by al-Tabari in his exegesis of the Qur'an, Ibn Abi Hatam in his exegesis, Ahmad b. Hanbal in his Musnad, and al-Hakim al-Nishaburi in his Mustadrak.


It is difficult to reconcile different accounts of when Ubayy passed away (19/640, 22/642, 33/653-39/659). A number of historians believe that he died in the period of 'Umar b. al-Khattab, while some events cited in al-Bukhari's al-Tarikh al-saghir and al-Hakim al-Nishaburi's al-Mustadrak imply that he was alive when people started protesting against 'Uthman. On one account, he died one week or ten days before the murder of 'Uthman.


  • The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from ابی بن کعب in Farsi wikishia.