The second narration describing the demise of Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) is as follows:
When Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) had neared his end, his wife began to cry. “What makes you cry?” he asked her. She replied, “I am crying because there is nobody to help me bury you and I do not have sufficient cloth to enshroud you.” Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) responded, “Do not cry, for verily I heard Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) saying to a group of people which included me, “One of you will most definitely pass away in a deserted place. A group of believers will be present by him (at the time of his death).” There is no person from that group except that he has already passed away in a village and a group of believers. I am the one who is passing away in a deserted place. Keep a watch on the road for you will soon see what I mentioned to you regarding the group of believers. Verily, by the oath of Allah, neither do I lie through these words and nor did Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) lie when he mentioned this to me.”
She asked, “How is that possible? Whereas the people travelling for Haj have ceased to pass by due to the time of Haj elapsing and the roads are deserted!” He again instructed, “Keep a watch on the road.” She would thus run and stand on a hill, watching, and then return to Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) to nurse him after which she would again return to the hill. While doing this, she suddenly saw a group of riders who were riding with such speed that they seemed to be birds. She waved a cloth to attract their attention and they came to her and asked her what the matter was. She replied, “A man from the Muslims is passing away. You will enshroud him and be rewarded for it.” They asked, “And who is he?” She replied, “Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu).” When they heard this, they began to exclaim, “May our mothers and fathers be sacrificed for him!”They thereafter spurred their animals on with their whips, hastening to meet him. When they reached him, he told them, “Glad tidings! You are the group regarding whom Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) had prophesized.” He then said, “Verily I heard Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) saying, “There are no two Muslims who lose two or three children between them – due to which they anticipate reward and are patient – who will see the fire of Jahannum.” Listen! If I owned cloth which was sufficient to enshroud me, I would not be enshrouded in any cloth besides my own, or if my wife owned cloth which sufficed as my shroud, I would not be enshrouded in besides her cloth. I therefore ask you, for the sake of Allah and Islam, that none of you enshroud me who is a governor, leader or chief.” All present had accepted some sort of position with the exception of an Ansaari youngster who said, “I will enshroud you for verily I have received none of the positions that you mentioned. I will enshroud you in this shawl which I am wearing and two more pieces of cloth which are in my bag. They are from my mother’s yarn which she spun for me.” Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) replied, “You are the one who must enshroud me.” The Ansaari then enshrouded him after he passed away amidst the group that was present from among whom were Hujr ibnul Adbar and Maalik Al-Ashtar (rahimahumallah). All those who were present in this group were from Yemen.
(Ibn Sa’d 4/176)
After recording the first narration in his Zaadul Ma‘aad, Haafiz Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullah) made mention of the apparent contradiction and recorded the second narration. He did not present any reconciliation for the narrations.
(Zaadul Ma‘aad 3/534)
The author of Seeratul Halabiyyah, ‘Ali bin Burhaanudden Al-Halaby (rahimahullah), reconciles between the two narrations by saying that the group of Hazrat Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) arrived after the body of Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was already enshrouded in the kafn of the Ansaari youngster. Hazrat Abdullah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) therefore assisted in the burial of Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) and performed his Janaazah salaah. The first narration mentions that the slave and wife of Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) had given him ghusl and enshrouded him whereas the second narration mentions that the Ansaari youngster had enshrouded him. This will not cause any contradiction as the duties of ghusl and enshrouding were duties that required more than one person. Although only the slave and the wife of Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) were mentioned, the narration does not negate others being present and assisting in the enshrouding and burial. Hence we will understand that the Ansaari youngster was also present. That is why the enshrouding is in one narration attributed to the wife and slave and in the other narration attributed to the Ansaari youngster.
(Seeratul Halabiyyah 3/135)
A similar reconciliation has been given by Moulana Manaazir Ahsan Geelaani (rahimahullah). He is of the opinion that some of the narrators have erred in their narrating the incident. He explains that the group with the Ansaari youngster had first given ghusl to Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) and enshrouded him. They thereafter placed his body on the road, as per his instruction, and waited for a second group. The second group to arrive was the group of Hazrat Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) and it was Hazrat Abdullah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) who performed the janaazah salaah. Hence we understand that Hazrat Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) and his group only assisted in the burial and not the enshrouding of the body as understood by the wording of the Hadith:
“فأعينونا على دفنه”
(Biography of Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) by Moulana Manaazir Ahsan Geelaani (rahimahullah) pg. 236)
We have not come across any clear narration showing that Hazrat Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was present at the time of kafn. However, if the group of the Ansaari youngster was the very same group of Hazrat Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), as understood by certain Muhadditheen, the likes of Allaamah ibnul Atheer (rahimahullah), then it will be concluded that Hazrat Abdullah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) was present at the time of kafn. Similar was the view of Haafiz ibn Katheer (rahimahullah).
(Usdul Ghaabah 1/345)
Haafiz ibn Katheer (rahimahullah) mentioned that Hazrat Abdullah bin Mas‘ood (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) had met Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) before he passed away. Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) had spoken to him and told him what to do with his body after he passed away. Haafiz ibn Katheer (rahimahullah) thereafter mentions that there is a second view which explains that Hazrat Abdullah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) arrived after Hazrat Abu Zar (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) already passed away.
(Bidaayah wan Nihaayah 7/172)