In the fourth year after the Hijrah, The Prophet received news that tribes from distant Najd were planning an attack. To have the upper hand over them, the Prophet gathered a force of over four hundred men and set out eastwards. Among this force was the young Madinan, Abbad ibn Bishr رضي الله عنه.
Arriving at Najd, the Prophet found the habitations of the hostile tribes strangely deserted of men. Only women were about. The men had taken to the hills. Some of them regrouped and prepared to fight. The time of Salat al-Asr came. The Prophet feared that the hostile tribesmen would attack them during prayer. He arranged the Muslims in ranks and divided them into two groups and performed Salat al Khawf
On beholding the disciplined ranks of the Muslims the hostile tribesmen became uneasy and afraid. The Prophet had made his presence felt and something of his mission was now known in the central highlands of Arabia when he departed peacefully.
On the way back, the Prophet pitched camp in a valley for a night. As soon as the Muslims had settled their camel mounts, the Prophet ﷺ, asked: “Who will be our guard tonight?” “We, Oh Messenger of Allah,” said Abbad ibn Bishr رضي الله عنه and Ammar ibn Yasir رضي الله عنه. Abbad and Ammar رضي الله عنه left for the mouth of the valley to take up duty. Abbad رضي الله عنه saw that Ammar was tired and asked him: “What part of the night do you wish to sleep, the first or the second?” “I shall sleep during the first part,” said Ammar رضي الله عنه who was soon fast asleep.
The night was clear, calm and peaceful.. Abbad رضي الله عنه felt serene. There was no movement, no threatening sign. Why not spend the time in ibadah (worship) and reciting the Quran? How delightful it would be to combine the performance of Salat with the measured recitation of the Quran which he so much enjoyed.
In fact Abbad رضي الله عنه was enthralled by the Quran from the moment he first heard it being recited by the beautiful voice of Musab ibn Umayr رضي الله عنه. That was before the Hijrah when Abbad was just about fifteen years old. The Quran had found a special place in his heart and day and night thereafter he would be heard repeating the glorious words of God so much so that he became known among the Prophet’s companions as the “friend of the Quran”.And so in the stillness of the night, at the mouth of the valley in Najd, Abbad رضي الله عنه stood up, faced the Qiblah, And began his salaah. Finishing Surah Fatihah of the Quran, he began reciting Surah al-Kahf in his sweet, captivating voice.
While he was thus absorbed in reciting and reflecting upon the Divine Words, eternal words of illumination and wisdom, a stranger stalked the outskirts of the valley in search of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his followers. He was one of those who had planned to attack the Prophet ﷺ but who had fled into the mountains on the approach of the MusIims.
From a distance, the man saw the figure of Abbad رضي الله عنه silhouetted at the mouth of the valley and he knew that the Prophet and his followers must be inside the valley. Silently he drew his bow and let fly an arrow. Unerringly it embedded itself in Abbad’s flesh.
Calmly, Abbad رضي الله عنه pulled out the arrow from his body and went on with his recitation, still absorbed in his Salat. The attacker shot a second and a third arrow both of which also found their mark. Abbad pulled out one and then the other. He finished his recitation, made ruku and then sujud. Weak and in pain, he stretched out his right hand while still in prostration and shook his sleeping companion. Ammar رضي الله عنه awoke. Silently, Abbad continued the Salat to its end and then said: “Get up and stand guard in my place. I have been wounded.”
Ammar رضي الله عنه jumped up and began to yell. Seeing them both the attacker fled into the darkness. Ammar turned to Abbad رضي الله عنه as he lay on the ground, blood flowing from his wounds.
“Subhanallah! Why didn’t you wake me when you were hit by the first arrow?” “I was in the midst of reciting verses of the Quran which filled my soul with awe and I did not want to cut short the recitation. The Prophet 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.”
Aishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, once said: “There are three persons among the Ansar whom no one could excel in virtue: Sad ibn Muadh, Usayd ibn hudayr and Abbad ibn Bishr رضي الله عنه.”