Female Sahabah of African Origin – Umm Ayman

A Pious Sahabi
May 23, 2019
Barirah
May 23, 2019

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Female Sahabah of African Origin

Umm Ayman[1]

 

A foreigner in Makkah, Barakah bint Tha’labah, commonly known as Umm Ayman, hailed from Abyssinia and lived as a slave in Makkah. She was taken captive from the army of Abrahah―who planned to destroy the Ka’bah―after the army was pelted with stones from above.[2] Even her date of birth is not recorded because no one considered her worthy of it. But Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala divinely selected her to become the nursemaid of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

She lived the initial stages of her life as the servant girl of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abdul Muttalib, Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam father.[3] ‘Abdullah passed away at a young age, prior to the birth of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam so she was inherited by his unborn son. Barakah was thus fortunate to become part of the inheritance of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

Sayyidah Umm Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anha served as Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam nursemaid in his infancy.[4] She would foster Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam with great love and affection.[5] After the demise of his mother, she played the role of his mother, caring for him and nurturing him. Lucky she was to raise and care for the greatest of all mankind, nay the greatest of all creation. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would say affectionately, “Umm Ayman is my mother after my biological mother.”[6]

Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam love and respect for Sayyidah Umm Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anha can be well imagined. She was his mother figure throughout his life. He would even address her as his mother. Looking at her with admiration, he would comment, “She is the remnant of my household.”[7]

Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam freed Sayyidah Umm Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anha when he married Khadijah radiya Llahu ‘anha.[8] She first married ‘Ubaid ibn Zaid, from the Banu al Harith ibn al Khazraj, and gave birth to their son, Ayman. Sayyidina Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anhu made hijrah and participated in the battles. He was martyred during the lifetime of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.[9]

After the passing of her first husband, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam announced, “Whoever desires to marry a woman from the dwellers of Jannat should marry Umm Ayman.”[10] Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam adopted son, Sayyidina Zaid ibn Harithah radiya Llahu ‘anhu married her. They had a child whom they named Usamah.[11] Here you have a family, each one of them are close to the heart of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. A blessed beloved breed.

She embraced Islam in the early stages and pledged allegiance to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. She has the great fortune of participating in both emigrations, the emigration to Abyssinia and then to Madinah, and is reckoned among the first emigrants. Abyssinia was her home land. She emigrated there with Rasulullah’s salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam daughter, Sayyidah Ruqayyah radiya Llahu ‘anha.[12]

While Sayyidah Umm Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anha was making hijrah to Madinah Munawwarah, she passed the night at Munsarif, before Rawha’. Make a mental note of the fact that she traversed the distance on foot, with no conveyance and no companion. She was extremely thirsty and had no water with her and to top it all, she was fasting. The thirst became unbearable for her, and she was about to die of thirst. Her immigration was towards Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala so her attention was turned in His direction. And Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala responded instantaneously to the plea of the one in distress:

 

أَمَّنْ يُّجِيْبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوْٓءَ وَيَجْعَلُكُمْ خُلَفَآءَ الْأَرْضِ أَإِلٰهٌ مَّعَ اللّٰهِ قَلِيْلًا مَّا تَذَكَّرُوْنَ

Is He [not best] who responds to the desperate one when he calls upon Him and removes evil and makes you inheritors of the earth? Is there a deity with Allah? Little do you remember.[13]

 

As soon as the sun set and it was time to open her fast, she heard a noise from above her head and when she looked up, she saw a water-skin filled with water hanging above her head. A miracle! Divine water arranged for an exceptional woman.

She drank from the water until she was satiated. The divine water did not only quench her thirst for that day. It extinguished her thirst for the remainder of her life. She comments, “Thirst never gripped me thereafter.” After this incident, she would fast on an extremely scorching day and walk in the heat so that she could experience thirst, but she would not.”[14] A rare reward for a substantial sacrifice.

Sayyidah Umm Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anhu was a courageous woman. She participated in the Battle of Uhud, in 3 A.H. She would provide water to the warriors and nurse the injured. A few years later in Muharram 7 A.H., she joined in the Campaign to Khaybar.[15] Her son, Sayyidina Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, was martyred in this campaign.[16]

In the eighth year after hijrah, the battle of Mu’tah took place, wherein her husband, Sayyidina Zaid ibn Harithah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was appointed the first of three commanders-in-chief to face the Roman forces and their allies, the Arab Christians. The odds were heavy against the Muslims. They were only 3000 in number while the enemy numbered 150 000 strong. Despite the heavy odds, Sayyidina Zaid ibn Harithah radiya Llahu ‘anhu fought bravely as the army general to his coveted end. Sayyidah Umm Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anha thus has the fortune of being the wife of a martyr and inhabitant of Jannat.[17]

One year later, she accompanied Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to Makkah for the Conquest of Makkah and she participated in the Battle of Hunayn as well.[18] During the tough battle, confusion broke out and it was a difficult test from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala for the Muslims. However, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum who surrounded him remained firm. Among those to remain steadfast alongside Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was her son, Sayyidina Usamah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.

When the Muhajirin emigrated from Makkah to Madinah; they came without any worldly assets. The Ansar, owing to their generosity and brotherhood, divided their properties with the Muhajirin. They gave them half of the produce from the orchards every year. Sayyidah Umm Sulaim radiya Llahu ‘anha―the mother of Anas ibn Malik radiya Llahu ‘anhu―gave Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam her date-palms. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam bestowed these date palms upon Sayyidah Umm Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anhu as a token of appreciation for her love and care.

Few years later, the Muhajirin, including Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, obtained land on the outskirts of Madinah, subsequent to the eviction of the Banu Qurayzah and the Banu al Nadir, as well as land in Khaybar after defeating the Jews. Thus, they returned to the Ansar all the fruit gifts which they had received from them.[19] Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam intended to return to Sayyidah Umm Sulaim radiya Llahu ‘anha her date-palms. The dilemma he faced was that he had already gifted them to Sayyidah Umm Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anha.

These date-palms had sentimental value in her heart, since her beloved child, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam gifted them. Moreover, she had a sense of motherly pride over Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam for she cared for him as a little child. So when she heard that her date-palms will be taken away, she became upset and said to Anas radiya Llahu ‘anhu, “No, by Him besides Whom none has the right to be worshipped, he will not return those trees to you as he has given them to me.” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam pleaded with her, “Return those trees and I will give you so much instead.” But she kept on refusing till he gave her ten times the number of her date-palms.[20]

Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would visit her very often. He honoured her extensively. At the same time, he enjoyed a jovial relationship with her. She told him once to organise a conveyance for her. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam told her that he will give her a camel’s child to mount. She replied, “It will not bear me and I do not want it.” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam commented wittingly, “I will only mount you on the child of a camel after all.”[21] She would also make him laugh when he would come to visit her.[22]

Once she mistakenly drank the urine of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had a clay pot in which he would urinate at night. Every morning, Sayyidah Umm Ayman radiya Llahu ‘anha would dispose of the urine. One morning, she woke up and by mistake, drank the urine. We should remember that the urine of the Ambiya’ is pure. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam told her that her stomach will never pain ever again.[23]

Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away in 11 A.H. She lived with him and cared for him from his birth until his demise. What a fortunate woman indeed!

After the demise of the Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Sayyidina Abu Bakr told Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, “Let us go to visit Umm Ayman just as Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would visit her.” When they entered her presence, she began to weep. “What makes you weep?” they asked. “What is in store in the next world for Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is better than this worldly life,” they told her. She explained, “I weep not because I am ignorant of the fact that what is in store for Allah’s Messenger (in the next world) is better than (this world). But I weep because the revelation which came from the Heaven has ceased to come.” This moved both of them to tears and they began to weep along with her.[24] Have a look at the astounding wisdom and foresight of this remarkable woman.

Another surprising statement was made by her after Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu was fatally stabbed. She wept stating, “Today, Islam has become weak.”[25]

She relates few ahadith from Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Sayyidina Anas ibn Malik radiya Llahu ‘anhu, Hanash ibn ‘Abdullah al San’ani, and Abu Yazid al Madani narrate from her.

She passed away five months after the death of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.[26] Some historians, on the contrary, say that she passed away 20 days after the demise of Sayyidina ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu, in the early days of the caliphate of Sayyidina ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu.[27] She is buried in Madinah Munawwarah.

 

NEXT⇒ Barirah


[1]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 358; Raf’ Sha’n al Hubshan, pg. 312.

[2]Munasarat al Sahabah al Afariqah, pg. 42.

[3]Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 4375.

[4]Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 4375; Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 3737.

[5]Tabaqat al Kubra, Hadith: 10345.

[6]‘Umdat al Qari, vol. 16 pg. 323, Hadith: 3737; al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 359.

[7]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 359.

[8]Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 4375; Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 2 pg. 224.

[9]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 359; Munasarat al Sahabah al Afariqah, pg. 42; Tanwir al Ghabash, pg. 148.

[10]Tabaqat al Kubra, Hadith: 10345.

[11]Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 4375; al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, vol. 2 pg. 301; Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 8 pg. 162.

[12]Munasarat al Sahabah al Afariqah, pg. 43.

[13]  Surah al Naml: 62.

[14]Tabaqat al Kubra, vol. 8 pg. 179; al Isabah, vol. 14 pg. 292.

[15]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 361.

[16]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 359; Munasarat al Sahabah al Afariqah, pg. 42. However, the author mentions that he was martyred in Hunayn.

[17]Al Bidayah wa al Nihayah, vol. 4 pg. 270 – 280; Sahih al Bukhari, Book 52, Hadith: 298.

[18]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 361.

[19]Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 799; Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 4375.

[20]Sahih al Bukhari, Book 59, Hadith 446.

[21]Siyar A’lam al Nubala’, vol. 2 pg. 225; Munasarat al Sahabah al Afariqah, pg. 43.

[22]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 360. Sahih Ibn al Sakan.

[23]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 360. Sahih Ibn al Sakan.

[24]Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 6009.

[25]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 360. Ibn Sa’d.

[26]Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 4375.

[27]Al Isabah, vol. 8 pg. 361, 362. Ibn Sa’d.

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