The Battle of Mu’tah, in modern-day Jordan, took place in Jumada al-Ula in the eighth year of the Hijrah. The Prophet ﷺ had sent al-Harith bin ‘Umayr Al-Azdi with a letter for the ruler of Busra in Syria. On his way, however, he was intercepted and killed by Shurahbil bin ‘Amr Al-Ghassani. As a result, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ sent an army to discipline the transgressors. He appointed Sayyiduna Zayd bin Harithah to lead the army and gave him the standard. Sayyiduna Ja’far bin Abi Talib would replace him if he was killed, and Sayyiduna `Abdullah bin Rawahah would succeed Ja’far in case the latter fell. These were among the greatest of the Companions.
Sayyiduna Zayd bin Harithah was the beloved of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and preferred him over his own parents and family.
Sayyiduna Ja`far bin Abi Talib was the older brother of Sayyiduna `Ali. He made hijrah twice: to Abyssinia first and then to al-Madinah. He was the one to whom the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “You resemble me in your physical appearance and in your character.”
Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah bin Rawahah was one of the Prophet’s poets. He used his poetry to praise and defend the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Before departing on this expedition he wept. He explained it was not out of fear of going into battle, but rather due to his reflection upon Allah’s statement, referring to the Hell Fire: Every one of you will pass over it (19:71). He wept out of fear that he would not be among those saved from it.
In the Battle, the Companions came up against vastly superior forces made up of Byzantine soldiers and Arab tribes loyal to them. When the fighting started, Sayyiduna Zayd was the first to be martyred. Sayyiduna Ja’far then assumed leadership and carried the standard in his right hand until it was cut off. He seized the standard with his left hand until that too was cut off. He then clasped the standard with both arms until he was mortally wounded. He was offered water but he refused to drink it, due to the fact that he was fasting. Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah bin Rawahah then took the standard until he too was killed. Sayyiduna Khalid bin Walid later assumed leadership and managed to inflict losses upon the enemy and then withdraw safely with only a few losses. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ described him as one of the swords of Allah.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ, meanwhile, was in al-Madinah watching events unfold. He informed his Companions that Allah had given Sayyiduna Ja’far two wings to replace his hands and allowed to him fly wherever he wished in Paradise. He also informed them that Sayyiduna Ja’far, out of his love for the Messenger, came to give him greetings of salam before entering Paradise.
Upon learning of the martyrdom of Sayyiduna Ja’far, the Prophet ﷺ went to his house. He counselled Ja’far’s wife, Sayyidatuna Asma’ bint ‘Umays, to remain steadfast and he treated Ja’far’s sons, ‘Abdullah and Muhammad, with immense compassion. He kept them with him for three days until things had settled in their house. When the army returned to al-Madinah, he went out to meet it with ‘Abdullah riding with him on his camel.
Every year in Jumada al-Ula, Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) travels to Jordan to visit Sayyiduna Ja’far and the other martyrs of Mu’tah. In doing so, he encourages the Ummah to strengthen its connection to that blessed generation and to emulate them in their love for Allah and His Messenger ﷺ and their readiness to sacrifice everything for them.
Taken from Sayyid Ahmad bin Zayni Dahlan’s al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah and some of Habib Umar bin Hafiz’s lectures.