Preface: This is only a summary of the life of Al-Mughīra ibn Shuʿba (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 Al-Mughīra ibn Shuʿba?
Al-Mughīra ibn Shuʿba has to be my favorite companion of the prophet (saw) and the most interesting historical individual for me of all time. He is a man of many talents, very classy, well respected, highly intelligent perhaps a genius and a very interesting personality. From his biography I learnt so many things about the world all around. Al-Mughīra ibn Shuʿba lived a very exciting life and every other year of his life he was doing something very interesting. At the end of his life, he died as the independent ruler of the entire eastern Umayyad caliphate. However, he wasn’t “royalty” in that sense he rose to his position because of his deductive mind, sound heart and classy leadership ability. This blog post is dedicated to this unique charismatic character.
Appearance of Al-Mughīra ibn Shuʿba
Al-Mughīra ibn Shuʿba was described as a tall and strong man with very very broad shoulders. The history books have stated that he was ridiculously tall (like Khalid, Zubayr and Umar) and very muscular as well. Al-Mughīra ibn Shuʿba was said to have long red hair as well and this was something that wasn’t normal for the Arabs as well. Not many Arabs had long flowing red hair. In later years, after the Battle of Yamourk, Mughira lost one eye and consequently had one eye only for the rest of his life.
Early Life of Al-Mughīra ibn Shuʿba
Born to the Banu Mu’attib clan – a sub clan of Banu Thaqif – in the city of Ta’if, Mughīra ibn Shuʿba had a rich upbringing. His tribe, the Thaqif, were one of the most powerful and influential tribes of the Arab world. They produced some of the most powerful and infamous figures in Arab history and all these men were directly or indirectly linked to Mughīra ibn Shuʿba. These men include Urwah Ibn Masud (the uncle of Mughīra who was a famous companion of the prophet), Ziyad Ibn Abih (the friend of Mughīra and they would end up ruling Iraq together) as well as other more infamous character like Ubaydullah Ibn Ziyad (the governor who killed Husayn Ibn Ali) and Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf who would go on to rule the eastern half of the Umayyad dynasty and become the main advisor for Caliph Abdal-Malik Ibn Marwan. Mughīra ibn Shuʿba married and divorced the mother of Hajjaj and was the friend of the father of Ubaydullah Ibn Ziyad, he barely knew them but appeared to be indirectly linked to them.
The Thaqif tribe were (in the days of Jahiliyah) were the protectors of one of the main idols of the Arabs called Al-Lat. As a result, they had a huge standing with the Quraysh. Furthermore, the Thaqafis were seen as a resourceful and intelligent lot who were skilled at warfare, administration and politics. All of these were qualities that Mughīra ibn Shuʿba was trained in (as a young man growing up in Ta’if) and his love of deduction and wittiness would eventually distinguish him from his peers.
Mughīra ibn Shuʿba was a fun loving , easy going, witty character. Tabari records in his history book (vol 18) that Mughīra ibn Shuʿba loved for things to run smoothly. He had a reputation as someone who couldn’t be outwitted and it was a reputation that Mughīra ibn Shuʿba would jokingly be proud of. However, Ibn Qudamah recorded in one of his books an instance where Mughīra admitted that someone outwitted him only once in his life. The story goes as follows (and Mughira narrates it in first person):
“Mughīra planned to marry a beautiful woman from a certain tribe, however, just before his wedding a young man came up to him and informed and warned Mughīra of that woman saying that he saw the woman kissing another man. Mughīra (who was the governor of Iraq at the time) worried about how this looked and then informed the woman that he no longer wanted to marry. After some time, Mughīra left the country of Iraq for some business.
When he returned, he was invited to a wedding and lo and behold the man who informed him to watch out for the woman was marrying that same woman at the wedding. So Mughīra went up to the man and asked him why he is marrying the woman given that he saw her kiss another man. The man told him, ‘don’t worry about it governor, I saw her kissing her own father (on the cheek)’.”
Mughīra ibn Shuʿba was the ruler of Iraq and most people would have become angry and call that “treachery” but Mughīra ibn Shuʿba wasn’t that kind of man. He merely laughed, enjoyed the story himself and even went on to narrate the story to others. In many sources, Mughīra ibn Shuʿba was mentioned as a forgiving governor.
Mughīra ibn Shuʿba knew when to stay silent and when to speak to others. Like I said before, he loved for things to run smoothly and in later years when Umayyad citizens would insult Sayyiduna Ali around him, Mughīra would just walk past them and ignore them. When questioned about why he would always remain silent and ignore these individuals by Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas, he responded by saying “I know the virtues of Ali and the people can’t take Ali’s virtues away from him”. Some history books mention that Mughira was a man who loved women and married a lot which is a normal thing for men.
Life in Jahiliyah
Mughīra ibn Shuʿba quickly rose up the ranks of not only the Thaqif tribe but the Arab world around him until he was recognised as one of the ‘principle shrewds of the Arabs’. He, alone with four other men, held this title and it was an honorific title which was there to show the Arab world that Mughīra ibn Shuʿba had a uniquely genius mind and that he understood political affairs in a way that many other men didn’t. As such, he would regularly travel around to meet the Byzantine, Persian and Ethiopian kings. Al-Mughīra also built a reputation for himself as someone who was gifted in military affairs as well. As a result, the Thaqafis (and the Arabs) had a feeling that Mughīra ibn Shuʿba would go on to do great things as an older man.
Conversion to Islam
One day, Mughīra was out on some business travel far away from his city of Ta’if. On his way home, he passed by a priest. Being the naturally curious guy (with an inquisitive mind) that he was, he began to ask the priest questions about his faith and about prophecies. The priest informed him that his holy scriptures say that a prophet (with a certain description) will come out and this prophet is the seal (the last) of the prophets. At that same time, the prophet Muhammad (saw) was establishing the new city of Madinah. He hurried down to Madinah and became a Sahabi. He informed the prophet (saw) about his life and any sins that he might have committed during his past life.
He was open and honest with the prophet (saw) and the prophet (saw) informed him that all of his past life was now nullified upon accepting Islam. Mughīra and the prophet (saw) had a close bond and Mughīra became one of the body guards of the prophet (saw). This is where Mughīra gained a lot of popularity in Muslim literature as he narrated many hadith and stories during his time as the bodyguard of the prophet (saw). The hadith narrated by Mughira show his deep knowledge of Islam as well as his close relationship and love for the prophet (saw). An example of one of those hadith are:
It was narrated that al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: My moustache grew too long and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) trimmed it for me on a siwaak.”
Narrated by Abu Dawood (188); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
That’s all. There’s so many benefits to take out of this one hadith but that would take up the entire blog post. One thing it does show is how close he was with the prophet (saw) since the prophet (saw) was the one who trimmed his moustache.
Virtues & Life with the Prophet (saw)
Mughira posessed many virtues in the eyes of Allah (swt) so many that (once again) it would take up an entire blog post just to highlight all of them. For the sake of this blog post, however, I will just highlight a few of them. For one, Mughira was one of the Muhajiroon. He made the pilgrimage and travelled to Madinah in order to become a companion.
Allah (swt) says about the Muhajiroon in the Quran:
(And the foremost to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun and the Ansar and also those who followed them exactly. Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise). (Quran 9:100)
(Allah has forgiven the Prophet, the Muhajirin and the Ansar who followed him in the time of distress.) (Quran 9:117)
These verses, and there are many more praising the Muhajiroon and the Ansar, show that Allah (swt) has forgiven Mughira, is pleased with Mughira and has prepared Jannah for him.
Mughira Ibn Shuba was also one of the men who participated in the pledge of ridwaan, a pledge which the participants of whom were praised and Allah (swt) said about them:
“It is He who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers that they would increase in faith along with their [present] faith. And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth, and ever is Allah Knowing and Wise.” (Quran 48:4)
…..meaning Allah (swt) is testifying to the faith of Mughira and saying that he even added more faith on top of his current faith. Allah (swt) is also saying Mughira is one of his soldiers.
“Certainly was Allah pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, [O Muḥammad], under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquility upon them and rewarded them with an imminent conquest.” (Quran 48:18)
Now this is perhaps the greatest of all of Mughira’s virtues. Here Allah (swt) is informing the prophet that he was pleased with him and that he knew Mughira was being sincere to the prophet and as a reward he sent tranquility down upon him (and of course the other companions).
This shows that Mughira was a sincere companion which is important because in his later years some people would come along and accuse him of all sorts of accusations which are false because if Allah (swt) testifies to someone’s intentions then no one can come along and say otherwise.
During the time of Abu Bakr
During Abu Bakr’s short two year reign, Mughira participated as a member of the cabinet. Abu Bakr recognised that Mughira had many talents and consequently kept him in some administrative capacity. During these two years there is little mention of Mughira in the history books because at the time the Quraysh held all the important government posts and Mughira was a Thaqafi. However, Mughira was very much involved in everything that was going on and it is highly likely that he participated in the major battles of that time like the Ridda wars and the famous battle against Musaylama the liar.
During The Reign of Umar
During the 10 year reign of Umar Ibn Khattab, Mughira played a prominent role. For a while Mughira was the governor of Basra and then was removed from his position. Umar (ra) praised Mughira’s ability to lead and as a result had him become the governor of Kufa. Kufa was seen as the most difficult city to govern in Islamic history and Umar knew he needed the right man for his most difficult job and he placed Mughira as the governor of Kufa.
Mughira remained as the governor of Kufa until the death of Umar. During the time of Umar he also oversaw the large campaigns against the Byzantine and Persian empires. He participated in many of the famous battles during that period including the Battle of Yarmouk where he lost an eye.
During the reign of Uthman
During the reign of Uthman, he remained the governor of Kufa for the first year and then after that he was replaced. It was at this time that he most likely had his three children (all of whom would learn their fathers skills and become governors). His three sons were Urwah (who he named after the famous Sahabi Urwah Ibn Masud, his uncle), his second son Al Mutarrif and his third son Hamza (whom he named after Hamza Ibn Abdul Mutalib). Here we see that the Muslim culture of naming your children after the companions was started by the companions themselves. I, myself, am named after the companion Mu’adh Ibn Jabal. During this period, he essentially took a back seat and worked as an advisor for Uthman.
During the reign of Ali
Once Uthman was Martyred and the various fitnahs kicked off including 3 civil wars in the period of 6 years, Mughira chose to retire from public life assuming that by not participating in everything going on this would be for the best. He advised Ali but didn’t pledge to any party and chose to take a back seat and move to his state in Kufa. From here he took a neutral position and done the best thing by not participating in any wars. Ibn Taymiyyah said that his neutral position was the best position to take as he (along with other companions like Abdullah Ibn Umar, Abu Musa Al Ashari etc) didn’t have any Muslim blood on their hands to worry about and avoided the fitnah entirely.
For me personally this is what makes Mughira so cool and one of my favourite individuals. For a man who was involved in politics his whole life he just retired when the fitnah began and worked on raising his own family. He didn’t use his influence to take part in the fitnah but rather he helped dissolve the fitnah by not taking part in it. Also, it wasn’t as if he didn’t care about Ali, the two men had love for each other and Mughira gave him his honest advise which was the best sort of gift he could have given in that situation and then he smoothly retired back to his estate and minded his own business.
During the Reign of Muawiyah
When Hasan Ibn Ali rendered allegiance to Muawiyah and ended the fitnah and brought the Muslims together, this was called the year of unity. The Muslims were once again, United. Now that the fitnah was over, Mughira went to visit the son of his friend, Muawiyah. Muawiyah asked him if he could become the governor of all of Iraq. Mughira agreed. Now, Mughira was essentially ruling the eastern half of the Islamic empire with virtual independence. He ruled it for many years before he passed away. Upon his death, the Muslims missed him and prayed for him, knowing they wouldn’t see another Mughira again.
– Quran Surah Al Fath
– Tafsir Ibn Kathir
– Hadith Collection of Abu Dawood
– History of Tabari
– Ibn Kathir Bidaya wan Nihaya
– Ibn Kathir Umayyad Dynasty
– Imam Dahabi Siyar Alam An Nubala
– Ibn Qudamah Al Maqdisi
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