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He was enthralled by the Qur'an after first hearing it recited by Musab ibn Umayr before the hijra when Abbad was about fifteen years old. The Qur'an had a special place in his heart, and he became renowned for his recitation so much so that he was known among the companions as the friend of the Qur'an. Muhammad's wife Aishah bint Abi Bakr once said: "There are three persons among the Ansar whom no one could excel in virtue: Sad ibn Muadh, Usayd ibn Khudayr, and Abbad ibn Bishr."
In 625 (4 years after hijra), Muhammad received news that the Najd tribes were planning to attack Medina. In preemption, he assembled a detachment of over four hundred men including Abbad ibn Bishr. Arriving at Najd, they found the men of the tribes had fled to the hills. When the time of salatul asr came, Muhammad feared an ambush so he arranged the Muslims in ranks and divided them into two groups and performed salatul-khawf (the Prayer of Fear). Seeing their disciplined ranks, the hostile tribesmen became uneasy. After Muhammad made his presence known, he felt a conflict was unnecessary and decided to depart. On the way back to Medina, the Muslims pitched camp in a valley for a night. The responsibility of guarding the camp was assumed by Abbad ibn Bishr and Ammar bin Yasir, whom Muhammad had paired as brothers following his arrival in Medina.
After reaching the mouth of the valley, Abbad noticed that his brother was tired and volunteered to keep watch for the first half of the night and allow him to rest. Since there appeared to be no imposing threats, Abbad stood up for prayer. While absorbed in recitation, a stranger stalked the outskirts of the valley in search of Muhammad and his followers. He was among those who had planned to attack Muhammad, but fled into the mountains.
From a distance, the man saw the figure of Abbad and knew the Muslim force must be inside the valley. Silently he drew his bow, and fired an arrow which embedded itself in Abbad's flesh. Calmly, Abbad removed the arrow and went on with his recitation, still absorbed in his Salat. The attacker shot two more arrows, which also found their mark. Abbad pulled them out and finished his recitation. Weak and in pain, he stretched out his hand while still in prostration and shook his sleeping companion. Abbad continued the prayer to its end and then said: "Get up and stand guard in my place. I have been wounded."
Ammar stood up, and seeing them both, the attacker fled into the darkness. Ammar turned to Abbad, blood flowing from his wounds, and asked "Why didn't you wake me when you were hit by the first arrow?"
Abbad replied "I was reciting verses of the Qur'an which filled my soul with awe and I did not want to cut short the recitation. Muhammad had commanded me to commit this surah to memory. Death would have been dearer to me than that the recitation of this surah should be interrupted."
Abbad was killed fighting the forces of Musailma at the battle of Yamamah in 632. Before the battle, he observed the lack of mutual confidence between the Muhajirin and Ansar, realized the campaign would fail unless they were separately regimented, and distinguished those who bore their responsibility and were steadfast in combat. When the battle commenced, Abbad ibn Bishr stood on a mound and shouted:
"O Ansar, distinguish yourselves among men. Destroy your scabbards. And do not forsake Islam."
Abbad gathered about four hundred men from the Ansar and launched an offensive into the enemy ranks, forcing their retreat to the garden of death, where Abbad ibn Bishr was mortally wounded. Although the battle was a victory for the Muslims, twelve hundred of their force were killed. So numerous were Abbad’s wounds, that he was hardly recognizable. Although he passed at a young age, Abbad contributed much to the strength of the early Muslim community, and his life and martyrdom continue to inspire followers of Islam the world over.
- Nickname of Abbad Ibn Bishr