Who was he?
He was a famous Taabi'ee (Successors of the Sahabah), a scholar of Hadeeth (Prophetic Narration) who was born in the penultimate year (22AH) of the caliphate of Umar (radhiallahu `anhu) and died 94AH. His father was az-Zubair ibn A’wwam, one of the ten Promised with Paradise. His mother was Asma daughter of Abu Bakr, and therefore his aunt was Aa’ishah, the mother of the Believers from whom he benefited immensely. He also learnt from Ali bin Abi Talib, Abdur-Rahman bin Awf, Zaid bin Thabit, Abu Ayub Al-Ansari and many other sahaabah until he became one of the seven Fuqahaa’ [scholars of Islamic Jurisprudence] of Medina upon whom the people depended.
U’rwah applied his knowledge into his actions. He would even fast during the hottest days in Madinah and would always stand for night prayers. He would keep his tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah. He would read a fourth of the Quran from a mushaf (copy of the Qur’aan) during the day and then he would repeat that it heart in his night prayers. And it is not known that he left this practice from his early youth up until the day he died except on one occasion...
Urwah ibn Zubayr was invited by the khalifah, al-Walid bin Abdul-Malik (705-715 CE, 6th Khalifah of Bana Ummaya) in Damascus. U’rwah accepted the invitation and went with his eldest son Muhammad, who was one of the most handsome of men. The young man had dressed up for the occasion in fine clothes, and had done up his hair. Al-Walid welcomed them with honour and when he saw his son, he said,
"This is how the young people of Quraysh should look!"
and by saying so, he put the evil eye on him. Before he left, the young man fell ill. When he was in the stable (preparing for the journey) and admiring the khalifa's fine horses, one of the horses trampled him to death.
The grief-stricken father had barely shaken off the dust from burying his son, when he developed gangrene of the foot. His leg became swollen and the gangrene began to spread at frightening speed. Al-Walid sent for the best doctors to cure his guest by any means possible. But the doctors were unanimously united on the fact that the only cure for him was amputation quickly before the gangrene spreads and kills him. 'Urwah seeing no other choice agreed.
When the surgeon came to amputate his leg with his scalpel and a saw, he said to U’rwah,'I think it would be appropriate for us to give you a mouthful of intoxicant so that you do not feel the excruciating pain of amputation'.
'No, I will not do that. I will not seek help by taking that which is impermissible, for that which I forgiveness (of Allah) from'.
So the doctor said, 'So we will give you some tranquilizer’.
'I do not wish to be deprived of one of my limbs without me feeling its pain for that for which I aspire the reward of Allah for’.
Then, just before the surgeon was about to cut his leg, a group of men came to them, so U’rwah said,
'Who are these people?’
It was said to him, 'They have been sent for, so that they can hold you, since perhaps when the pain becomes severe, it might cause you to pull back your leg causing you harm.'
'Send them back! I have no need of them as I hope that dhikr (the remembrance of Allah ('azza wa jall)) and tasbeeh (glorify Allah) will suffice me of them.'
So the surgeon began by first cutting off his flesh with a scalpel and when he reached his bone, he started to saw. All that could be heard from Urwah was ‘Laa ilaaha ill Allah (there is none worthy of worship except Allah)’ and ‘Allahu akbar (Allah is the Greatest)’ until his leg was cut off. Then boiling oil was brought in an iron scoop, and was poured on 'Urwah's leg to stop the pouring of blood and close the wound. Urwah at this point lost consciousness and fell into such a deep sleep that he did not read his normal portion of Qur’aan that day. This was the only time when he did not perform his regular good deed.
When he regained consciousness, he called for his amputated leg, kissed it and said while turning it in his hand,
"I swear by the One, Who mounted me on you, I never used you to walk to any place of wrong action or to any place where Allah would not like me to be in."
Then he gave instructions that the leg should be washed, perfumed, wrapped in a cloth and buried in the Muslim graveyard. 'Urwah was carried to his hometown of Madinah where the people and his family gathered to meet him, whereupon he promptly said:
"Do not be frightened with what you see. Allah has bestowed upon me four sons and He has taken back one and allowed me to remain with three, so for Him is the Praise. Allah has given me four limbs and has taken one and allowed me to remain with three, so for Him is the praise. I swear to you by Allah, that if he has taken from me a little, then he has caused to remain with me much, and if he has tried me once then he has forgiven me many times."
Many people came to from the scholars and leaders to offer their condolences to 'Urwah, but of the best words given were those of Ibrahim bin Muhammad bin Talha, when he said.
"Receive the glad tidings! O Abu Abdullah (his kunya, agnomen: ‘Father of Abdullah’) one of your limbs and one of your sons has preceded you to Paradise… and behind that which has gone, the others shall follow inshaa’ Allah (Allah willing)… and Allah has caused to remain for us from you that which we are in need of and that which we cannot do without, and that is your knowledge, your understanding and your opinion… May Allah continue to benefit us with it."