There are some women who haven’t simply left their mark on the pages of history, they have in fact become a catalyst for the revelation Qur’an, its laws and injunctions, to be remembered eternally. They are like guiding starts for the public and private lives and dealings of the masses. Amongst those great women we find Umm al Mu’minin Sayyidah Hafsah bint ‘Umar al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, the sister of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the daughter of Zainab bint Maz’un ibn Habib. An august personality, pious and obedient.
She was born five years before Nubuwwah whilst the Quraysh were spear heading the mammoth project of the construction of the Ka’bah. She was married to Khunays ibn Hudhafah al Sahmi radiya Llahu ‘anhu who had undertaken the journey of both emigrations, first to Abyssinia to protect his faith and creed and second to Madinah in assistance of his Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. She emigrated with him to Madinah complying with the directive of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam safeguarding her faith. Khunays radiya Llahu ‘anhu took part in Badr and in Uhud, and was wounded in the latter which led to his passing away, leaving behind a young wife in the prime of her life.
The passing of her husband, Khunays ibn Hudhafah radiya Llahu ‘anhu, was hard on ‘Umar al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He was pained at the loss his young daughter had suffered, coupled with the sight of losing her youth to widowhood. Hoping to comfort her and somehow replace the loss she endured, he took it upon himself to find a pious spouse for her after she had completed her ‘iddah. His keen eye fell on ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan radiya Llahu ‘anhu to whom he took her proposal. ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu considered the proposal, however respectfully declined sighting the lack of need for marriage at the time. ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu then took the proposal to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu to which he did not respond, upon which ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu felt hurt and angry. He proceeded to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam laying the order of events before him.
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam pacified him with the following, “One who is better than ‘Uthman will marry Hafsah, and ‘Uthman will marry one who is better than Hafsah.” Perhaps ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu had no inkling of the intent of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and he waited a few nights in this manner. Not long after, a proposal for Hafsah radiya Llahu ‘anhu was sent by the Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself which he acceded to. This was the meaning of his statement, “One who is better than ‘Uthman will marry Hafsah.” As for the second part of the prophecy, ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu married Umm Kuthum radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the daughter of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, after the passing of her sister Ruqayyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
A few days after the blessed union was sanctified by the nikah ritual. Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu approached ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu asking if he had felt snubbed by his silence in the matter, to which ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu replied in the affirmative. Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu then explained his silence with the following, “I knew that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had expressed an interest in her and I am not one to expose the secret affairs of the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. If he had not married her I would have surely done so.” In this manner Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala blessed her with an undying union to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, gaining from his effulgence and knowledge over and above the intelligence, fever for worship, and spirit of obedience Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala had blessed her with. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala be pleased with her.
Hafsah and ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, father and daughter were both pleased. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had honoured this blessed family by including them in his family and had released her from the pains of widowhood as a token of appreciation for her patience and emigration and so too for her husband’s sacrifice in emigrating, fighting and ultimately giving his life for the cause of Islam. Their marriage was in the third year of the Hijrah with the dowry stipulated at four hundred Dirhams. Hafsah radiya Llahu ‘anha was at the time of marriage, twenty years of age.
After some time Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had given her one revocable divorce which caused ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu great pains and she too was distraught, however Jibril ‘alayh al Salam came down with a divine decree, “Take back Hafsah into your Nikah, she is sawwamah qawwamah (one who often fasts and spends lengthy periods of time standing before Allah) and she is to be your wife in Jannat.” What an honour to be given the mantle of sawwamah qawwamah by the angel Jibril, the carrier of revelation, furthermore she was given glad tidings of being the wife of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in Jannat!
Hafsah radiya Llahu ‘anha had imbued within herself the message of the Qur’an to perfection, reading, pondering over its meaning, and going to great lengths to understand it. Her respect and connection to the words of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala were unrivalled. It was for this reason that her father ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu entrusted her with a great trust. The responsibility of keeping the single copy of the Qur’an prepared in the era Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu based on the last complete rendition of the Qur’an by Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to Jibril ‘alayh al Salam in his final Ramadan. This was to be forever held amongst her great virtues, her being selected to safeguard this copy, the first written copy gathered by Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu from the hearts of the great Companions and from what was written by them on bones and hides after many Qurra’ had passed on. This precious trust stayed with her till the era ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. In his era, he requested the copy from her from which other copies were made. No sooner had this been completed that the original was returned to her safe and sound.
Writing these words are simple, yet to fathom the mammoth responsibility entrusted to her is staggering. Her trustworthiness and connection to Qur’an was such that she was delegated to keep the only copy of the Qur’an! An honour and virtue unparalleled. She safeguarded the Qur’an with complete trust and so too did the Sahabah and Tabi’in after her and so on and so forth to this day, so will it be till the end of time. She will be remembered whenever the compilation of the Qur’an in book form will be discussed. The first in the time Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the second in the time of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
After spending a life creating a deep link to the Qur’an and exerting herself in the worship of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, standing in prayer and fasting, she left this world behind in the forty-first year after the hijrah at the age of sixty, the year the Muslims united under Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The people of Madinah bid-farewell to her at her final resting place with the other Ummahat al Mu’minin in the Baqi’ graveyard.
NEXT⇒Safiyyah bint Huyay
 For further reading see Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, al isti’ab, vol. 1 pg. 584, Usd al Ghabah, vol. 5 pg. 425, al Isabah, vol. 7 pg. 582.
 Al Mustadrak of al Hakim, 6753/6754; al Tabarani in al Kabir, 17/804-291, 23/188-307; Hilyat al Awliya’, vol. 2 pg. 51.Back to top