Preface: This is only a summary of the life of Yazeed ibn Abī Sufyān (ra) and subsequently doesn’t cover every narration mentioned about him. This isn’t a written biography but rather a brief look into his life and times so that we can get an idea of his character. For ease of reading, we have not inserted “May Allah be pleased with him (ra)” each time his name or the name of each Companion is mentioned, but please take it that the salutations apply to all of the companions of the prophet (saw), may Allah be pleased with them all. The companions are beloved to Muslims around the world (including myself) and therefore writing negatively about them is morally and categorically unethical.
Why am I writing about Yazeed?
Yazeed (ra) is not to be confused with Yazeed Ibn Muawiya, the latter being a controversial caliph of the Umayyad dynasty who seems to be disliked throughout history and is for the most part negatively viewed because of the killing of Husayn (ra), the massacre of Al Harrah and the siege of Makkah which all happened under his short lived 3 year reign.
This is not that Yazeed, this is a different Yazeed who was the older half brother of Muawiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan from a different mother. Yazeed (ra) converted to Islam at the conquest and is therefore a companion of the prophet (saw) and much loved within the Muslim world. I first came across Yazeed (ra) many years ago when I was reading about the famous battle of Yarmouk and I heard about an individual called Yazeed (ra) who was leading commander against the Romans. I soon discovered that he was one of the most active political figures during the reign of Abu Bakr (the first caliph) and that the latter would name him as the first general that he sent to combat the Romans.
He (Yazeed) would go on to play a key role during Abu Bakr’s reign taking part in all the major conquests and battles and would eventually become the governor of Syria for the following Caliph Umar Ibn Al Khattab (ra). After reading about how his younger brother (the famous Muawiya) admired him so much that he named his own son Yazeed, I began to love and admire Yazeed because he was a faithful, successful, prestigious and kind man and decided that he should be written about.
Early Life of Yazeed Ibn Abu Sufyan
Not much is known about Yazeed’s early life. History books mention that he was described as kind, loving, charming, wise, brave and dear to the Quraysh. His full name was: Yazeed bin Abi Sufyan bin Harb bin Umayyah bin Abd Shams bin Abd Manaf bin Qusay al-Umawi. Hailing from the Banu Umayyah tribe (and being the older brother of Muawiya) one could imagine that Yazeed (like other members of his tribe) would be trained in warfare, politics, business, management and receive an education. This is because he came from the most powerful and influential tribe which was Banu Umayyah and he himself would have been seen as a prince of Makkah. In the pre-islamic society, Yazeed was seen as the most prominent child of Abu Sufyan and some narrations mentioned how he was known as the best child of Abu Sufyan.
During The Life of The Prophet (saw)
There isn’t anything on Yazeed during the life of the prophet (saw) he appeared to have been a young man who would have most likely remained a background figure. What is clear however, is that Yazeed wasn’t a vulgar, crude and prominent enemy of the prophet (saw) like other figures from his own tribe. He didn’t even take a job in his fathers government, not even as a spy. He seemed to just lay low and mind his own business until the conquest when he did convert to the religion.
During The Reign of Abu Bakr (ra)
As mentioned before, it is very clear that Abu Bakr (ra) (the greatest companion) viewed Yazeed Ibn Abu Sufyan (ra) as an instrumental figure and kept him in some administrative capacity throughout his entire reign. Yazeed shared a close relationship with Abu Bakr and Abu Bakr was able to see the potential that was within Yazeed. In many history books he gave him long pieces of advice hoping that Yazeed wouldn’t make mistakes and telling him what he feared Yazeed would fall into. Yazeed was one of Abu Bakr’s principle commanders and fought as one his leading commanders in most of the wars that took place during Abu Bakr’s time.
Battle of Yarmouk
It was a 4 (some say 6) day battle and Yazeed (ra) was working alongside the famous Khalid Ibn Walid, Abu Ubaydah Ibn Al Jarrah and other notable individuals during this great big battle. The fight lasted many days and was long and draining but eventually Khalid Ibn Walid (ra) finally won as a result of his faith in God and his gifted genius mind. Yazeed (ra) worked closely alongside Khalid (ra), enjoyed a great relationship with him and was there beside him every day of that battle. The Muslims eventually were victorious and Abu Bakr’s confidence grew in Yazeed. During this battle, Yazeed’s beloved younger brother, Muawiyah, served as captain of his vanguard. His father Abu Sufyan and step-mother Hind also were present during this battle.
During The Reign of Umar Ibn Al Khattab (ra)
Umar saw in Yazeed many admirable qualities and felt that Yazeed was a respectable man who could be a great leader given the chance. Umar himself was desperate to continue the expansion of Abu Bakr and subsequently conquered Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran and Jordan during his reign. Umar Ibn Khattab assigned Yazeed as the governor of Syria after the passing of the two great companions Abu Ubaydah Ibn Al Jarrah and Mu’adh Ibn Jabal. Yazeed was saddened when his predecessors died as it was likely that Mu’adh Ibn Jabal was one of his teachers. Yazeed ruled as governor of Syria for a short time before he died in the plague.
Death , Martyrdom and a note on Covid-19
The plague of Amwas killed a lot of the prominent companions of Islam. The Prophet (saw) explained to people how to deal with a plague 1400 years ago in his favourite hadith:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”
Scholars of Islam mentioned how this is an explanation of social distancing, isolation and making sure that the virus doesn’t spread around. Yazeed (ra) followed through with these rules and made sure his province of Syria followed through with the rules of containing the Amwas virus.
Furthermore, Yazeed counts as one of the martyrs of Islam as in another narration The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever dies from a plague is a martyr” – Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 5733.
In another narration its mentioned that The Prophet ﷺ once asked his companions, “Who do you consider a martyr among you?” They replied, “The one who is killed in the path of Allah is a martyr.” He said, “In that case, the martyrs of my community are few!” He then explained that people who die from other tragedies, such as a stomach illness or drowning, will get the reward of a martyr. – Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 1915.
In any case, Yazeed Ibn Abu Sufyan (ra) died from a plague making him a martyr in the religion. This also means that he will have a lot of reward in the next life. Yazeed will be remembered as a hard-working, wise, kind, loving, intelligent man who was a companion of the prophet (saw), a military commander and notable governor. I am very happy to have written about such a noble individual.
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