Female Sahabah of African Origin – Umm Ayman
May 23, 2019
Sumayyah bint Khubbat
May 23, 2019

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Barirah[1] bint Safwan.[2] Her name appears in the six canonical works, viz. Sahih al Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Jami’ al Tirmidhi, Sunan Abi Dawood, Sunan al Nasa’i, and Sunan Ibn Majah. Why should it not? She is after all the freed slave of none other than the greatest female scholar Umm al Mu’minin, Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha, whose narrations have reached more than 2000 in number and are recorded in the six canonical works and other hadith compilations. In fact, there is no hadith book which does not contain her reports.

Three important traditions were established because of this blessed woman, Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha.[3] Some ‘Ulama’ have deduced 300 points from this hadith.[4]

Firstly, wala’ belongs to the emancipator. Wala’ is the estate of a freed slave who has no heirs. The master who freed him will inherit from the former slave if the former slave is not survived by any of his heirs.

The background behind this is that Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha belonged to a certain family of Madinah. The family stipulated that she pay them nine uqiyah of gold in instalments, one uqiyah per year. Feeling this amount burdensome, she approached Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha and asked her for help. She had thus far paid nothing out of the sum stipulated in the contract.

Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha was ready to pay the whole amount and set her free provided that her masters agree that she will be entitled to her wala’.[5] Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha conveyed the message to them, but they flatly refused saying that if Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha wants to do good to her for the sake of Allah, she may do it, but the right of inheritance will be theirs. Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha consulted Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in this regard. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to her, “Buy her and emancipate her for the right of inheritance vests with one who manumits (the slave).”[6]

Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam then stood up on the pulpit and proclaimed, “What has happened to the people that they lay down conditions which are not (found) in the Book of Allah? He who imposes a condition not found in the Book of Allah, it is not valid, even if he imposes a hundred conditions. The condition laid down by Allah is the weightiest and the most valid.”[7]

Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha did in fact buy her and free her. Yet she chose to remain with her and serve her, so that she might learn from Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha and Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and benefit spiritually from their company. By socialising with them, she was blessed with expansion of thought, sound judgement, and eloquence.[8]

Secondly, she was married to Sayyidina Mughith radiya Llahu ‘anhu, a slave. After she was manumitted, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam gave her the choice to either live on with her husband or to separate from him, and said to her, “If he has intercourse with you, then there is no choice for you.”[9] Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha chose to separate from her husband.

Her husband went behind her in the streets of Madinah, pleading with her to take him back, while tears flowed down his face onto his beard. Seeing his pitiable condition, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam suggested to Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha to take him back reminding her of the fact that they share a child. She submitted, “O Messenger of Allah! Do you order me to do so?” “No,” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam explained, “I only intercede for him.” She submitted that she does not have any need for him.[10] Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha was told to observe the waiting period of three menstrual cycles.[11]

Islam gave rights to women. This report is a glaring example of this. Furthermore, we see the high regard she had for the command of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Had he ordered her to take her husband back, she would have complied, although she resented him.

The scene of the third principle we learn from her is that once Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam entered the house while some meat was being cooked in a pot. When he sat down to eat, however, only bread and some soup of the house were placed before him. He said in surprise, “Did I not just see meat in the pot?” They explained, “Yes, but that meat was given to Barirah in charity (by someone), and you do not eat what is given in charity.” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam clarified, “That meat is charity for her, but a gift for us.”[12] These were the three important principles established because of her.

One night, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam rose and got dressed and went out. Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha―famous for her enquiring mind and yearning heart―told her slave girl Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha to follow him to find out what good action he does at this time of night. Accordingly, she followed him until he came to al Baqi’ (the graveyard of Madinah) near which he stood for as long as Allah willed and then left. Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha left at the same time and arrived home before he did. The next morning, upon her enquiry, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam explained to Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha that he was sent to the people of al Baqi’ to pray for them.[13]

Being the servant of an intellectual and scholarly woman like Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha, Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha developed insight and prudence. To have a glimpse at her comprehension and discernment, you will need to have a look at the incident of ifk (the slander), and the manner in which Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha exonerates Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha from the slander levelled against her.

Someone suggested to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to ask the maid-servant about Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha since she knows her well and she will tell him the truth. On that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam called Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha and said, “O Barirah! Did you ever see anything which aroused your suspicion?” Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha said to him, “By Him Who has sent you with the Truth. I have never seen anything in her (i.e. ‘Aisha) which I would conceal, except that she is a young girl who sleeps leaving the dough of her family exposed so that the domestic goats come and eat it.’”[14]

Here, she highlights the simple-mindedness of Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha when it comes to worldly affairs, alluding to the fact that she is neither cunning nor deceitful. This would lead to the obvious conclusion that when this is her down-to-earth nature, it is unfathomable for her to act foxy and have an illicit affair. This observance of hers corroborates Sayyidah ‘Aisha’s radiya Llahu ‘anha alibi that her search for her necklace had detained her which resulted in her missing the caravan. Her innocence had been the cause for that, just as her innocence is the cause for the goats eating the dough, while she sleeps peacefully. Congratulations for your farsightedness, O Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha! Marvellous is the manner you exonerated the Mother of the Believers, the chaste Sayyidah ‘Aisha radiya Llahu ‘anha.

It was upon her testimony that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam got up on the pulpit and complained about ‘Abdullah ibn Ubay (ibn Salul) before his Companions, saying, “O you Muslims! Who will relieve me from that man who has hurt me with his evil statement about my family? By Allah, I know nothing except good about my family and they have blamed a man about whom I know nothing except good and he used never to enter my home except with me.”[15]

Another incident of her intuition. ‘Abdul Malik ibn Marwan relates that he would sit with Sayyidah Barirah radiya Llahu ‘anha in Madinah. She would tell him that she observes in him many noteworthy characteristics making him eligible to become khalifah. She cautioned him to avoid bloodshed if he does assume a position of authority, relating to him the words of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “A man will be pushed away from the door of Jannat after seeing it, due to unlawfully shedding a cupping glass amount of the blood of a Muslim.[16] This sitting also proves that she lived up to the caliphate of Sayyidina Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.[17]


NEXT⇒ Sumayyah bint Khubbat

[1]Raf’ Sha’n al Hubshan, pg. 322.

[2]Fiqh al Usrah, pg. 302 footnotes.

[3]Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 7, Book 62, Hadith: 34; Sahih Muslim, Book 9, Hadith: 3594.

[4]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 50, Biography: 10934.

[5]Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 3, Book 34, Hadith: 377

[6]Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 7, Book 63, Hadith: 207; Sahih Muslim, Book 9, Hadith: 3585.

[7]Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 3, Book 34, Hadith: 364; Sahih Muslim, Book 9, Hadith: 3585.

[8]Fiqh al Usrah, pg. 303 footnotes.

[9]Sunan Abi Dawood, Book 12, Hadith: 2228.

[10]Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 7, Book 63, Hadith: 206; Sunan al Nasa’i, Vol. 6, Book 49, Hadith: 5419.

[11]Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, Book 10, Hadith: 2477.

[12]Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 7, Book 63, Hadith: 202; Sahih Muslim, Book 9, Hadith: 3594.

[13]Muwatta’ Imam Malik, Book 16, Hadith: 57; Sunan al Nasa’i, Vol. 3, Book 21, Hadith: 2040.

[14]Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 5, Book 59, Hadith: 462.

[15]Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 5, Book 59, Hadith: 462.

[16]Usd al Ghabah, pg. 1485, Biography: 6780; al Mujam al Kabir, vol. 24 pg. 205.

[17]Fiqh al Usrah, pg. 303 footnotes referenced to al Isabah and ‘Umdat al Qari.

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