Monday, April 29, 2013

Curious Tale of Prophet Muhammad’s Love Affair with Umm Hani

Muslims are told that the Miraculous Night Journey (Isra’ Mi’raj) took place because Allah wanted to bring some consolation to Muhammad the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him.  It took place in the tenth year of Prophethood, after he had lost his beloved wife, Khadijah, and his protective uncle, Abu Talib.

It was also to give him some “firsthand experience” about the glory of God.  He was transported to Seven Heavens, where he “saw” the glory of God with his naked eyes.  And the Prophet was also shown some “preview” about the life in the Hereafter, where both Paradise and Hell, yet to take place in our time, were shown to him with his naked eyes.  It was “time travel” before the idea of time travel was even conceptualized.

But according to one deranged theory, which seems to find some support in the Internet, the story of the Miraculous Night Journey was only his own concoction.  Muhammad was caught in a very embarrassing position with his cousin Umm Hani.  He was caught red handed with her in her bed, in her house, with his pants down.  Not knowing what else to say, his imaginative mind quickly made up the miraculous journey: first from Makkah to Jerusalem, henceforth to Seven Heavens.

Let’s quote what this theory says:

Muhammad passionately fell in love with her [Umm Hani], but for some unknown reason his beloved uncle, Abu Talib did not give her hand to Muhammad when Muhammad requested. Instead, she was married to a pagan, Hibayrah. But Muhammad’s adulterous relation with Umm Hani (real name Fakitah, also known as Hind) continued. He used to sleep in her house, when no one was around.

Such an incidence took place when Muhammad returned from his failed mission at Taif, after the deaths of his first wife, Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib. Returning from Taif, he took shelter in Ka’ba. But at nightfall, when all were asleep, he stealthily went to Umm Hani’s house and spent the night with her. When the people did not find him at Ka’ba, they went looking for him and when he was discovered in the house of Umm Hani, he was embarrassed, so was Umm Hani.

To hide the truth, he concocted the story of his night journey to Jerusalem and Paradise from Umm Hani’s house (more precisely, from her bed), which many converted Muslims found too incredible to believe and left Islam. This made him sad and withdrawn. Soon, after such an adulterous affair was leaked out, he left Mecca and settled in Medina. But his undying love for Umm Hani remained aflame.(1)

I quote the above exactly as it is written.  It shows how far the imagination of the enemies of Islam can go.  In a single scoop, three ideas are rubbished in: (1) that Muhammad was passionately in love with his cousin but her love was unrequited due to the objection of his uncle; (2) that after getting caught fornicating with his cousin, he concocted the story of Miraculous Journey to get out of embarrassment; and (3), because of that adulterous relationship, he migrated to Madinah.

One can see that even the Seerah books of the Prophet written by the Orientalists, designed to disparage him, would not have stooped that low.   For that reason, none of these allegations need to be defended, for they are all rubbish.  I have mentioned the above tale only to introduce the name of the alleged adulterous partner of the Prophet (God forbid), Umm Hani. 

Who is she?

Umm Hani is Fakhitah/Hind bint Abi Talib b. 'Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim b. 'Abd Manaf b. Qusayy b. Kilab b. Murra.  She was the sister of Ali, the daughter of Abu Talib and Fatimah Asad.  She was the cousin of the Prophet. 

Muhammad’s alleged love story with her has been gaining some interest of late, although such tale can hardly be found in any Seerah literature, classical or contemporary, written by Muslim or otherwise.  One Internet site (by a well-meaning Muslim woman) says that she was the Prophet’s first love.  I find this curious, because none of the Seerah books that I have read (and I have read plenty), ever put it that way. 

There is, however, a famous hadith attributed to Ibnu Abbas, saying that the Prophet wanted to marry her, but her father, Abu Talib, married her to someone else.  Abu Talib was quoted as saying that they (Abu Talib and Muhammad) were already closely related to each other through blood, and that he wanted to return the favor by marrying her to another man (Hubayra, or Hibayrah according to the spelling in the above quotation).

There is also another famous hadith saying that the Prophet proposed to marry her again, but this time, it was she who rejected the proposal, on the ground that she did not want to bother him with her small children.  She was quoted as saying: “I loved you in Jahiliyya, what to say in Islam? but I have young children and hate that they should bother you.”

There is yet another hadith which says that when her children attained puberty, she went to the Prophet.  Umm Hani said to him she was ready to marry him, but this time, it was the Prophet who turned her down.

Putting aside the authenticity of these traditions, there is nothing to suggest that the Prophet was madly in love with her, or even to suggest that she was his first love.  As to his adulterous relationship with her, we can just dismiss it outright, without further argument required. 

If he was truly madly in love with her, would his uncle object to his proposal, if ever he made one?  There was hardly anything his uncle would not have done to him.  What more if both were passionately in love with each other. 

Furthermore, it takes some imaginative mind to construe the word “love” as uttered by Umm Hani’s in the second hadith to indicate that it was romantic love.  It could well be the love of one cousin to another.

Most importantly, if the Prophet was madly in love with her, why on earth did he turn her down when she was ready to marry him, as the third hadith suggest. 

Let’s analyze their so called love story into perspective.

We know for certain that the Prophet died in 11 AH when he was 63 years old.  He married Khadijah when he was 25, and Khadijah died when he was 50. 

I have not yet been able to find the year of Umm Hani’s birth, but she was said to die in 41 AH, about 30 years after the death of the Prophet.  If their age was about the same, then Umm Hani had lived a long life, about 90 years, plus minus.  We have to keep this age thing in mind because, for Umm Hani to be the Prophet’s first love, she has to be about the same age as the Prophet’s, or perhaps slightly younger.  Else, she was too young for the Prophet to marry her before he married Khadijah, in which case Umm Hani cannot be his first love. 

Now, we do not know when the alleged first proposal was made (the one rejected by Abu Talib), but we know that the second proposal was made after the conquest of Makkah.  The conquest of Makkah took place in 8 AH.  By then the Prophet was already 60 years old.  If Umm Hani’s age was about similar to the Prophet, then she must have been about 60 as well, or slightly younger, or even slightly older. 

If such is the case, why would Umm Hani refuse him by giving such a lame excuse?  She said: “But I have young children and I hate that they should bother you.” 

Umm Hani had four children.  All of them were still very young during the conquest of Makkah.  Most did not reach their puberty as yet.  If the age of Umm Hani was about similar to the Prophet, then she must have given birth in her late forties and early fifties. 

Could that be the case?  It is highly unlikely, of course, because that would be the age when woman starts having menopause.

It seems very like likely, therefore, that during the conquest of Makkah, Umm Hani must have been rather young.  She was perhaps in her forties, or thirties.  That being the case, then Umm Hani must have been a toddler or was just a little girl when the Prophet married Khadijah.  For this reason, Umm Hani, therefore, cannot be Muhammad’s first love, unless if you buy the idiotic idea that Muhammad the Prophet was a pervert.

This so-called love affair between the Prophet and his cousin, Umm Hani, is nothing but a fanciful tale.  The Prophet’s proposal to marry her after the conquest of Makkah only suggest that he wanted to honor her, as he had honored other women such as Umm Habibah, Hafsah, Juwairiyah and Safiya, by marrying them. 

Besides, Umm Hani, on her part, would not have refused him, in spite of her young children, if her cousin (i.e., the Prophet) was madly in love with her.  She would not have refused him if truly she was his first love. 


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Monday, April 22, 2013

Women around the Prophet: His Supporters from Madinah

Events and stories are easier to remember than names.  Thus, while the event of the Second Pledge of al-Aqabah is known to many, the names of two female participants are expectedly known only to a few.  

In the same vein, many Muslims know that during the Battle of Uhud, a group of Companions had used their bodies as human shields in order to protect the Prophet from being killed by the disbelievers.  Of this group, one of them was woman.  I bet not that many among us know who she was, or that she was one of the women who participated in the Second Pledge of al-Aqabah.

Similarly, many must have heard of a story about one female companion whose dowry was for her suitor to become a Muslim.  Few perhaps, know her name, or that she was the mother of Anas bin Malik, the well-known hadith narrator. 

Finally, we may likewise be familiar with the story of the invasion of Cyprus, the first naval battle engaged by the Muslims.  Many would perhaps know that one of them was woman, but few I suspect know who she was.

Having described some of the female companions of the Prophet from Makkah, as we have seen in the previous entry, we now turn to some of the women from Madinah, whose lives had been touched by the Prophet. 

The Second Pledge of al-Aqabah was the event that marked the turning point in the fate of Islam.  This event had led to the migration of the Prophet and his Companions from Makkah to Madinah.  This migration had enabled the Prophet to establish the first Islamic state.  With him as the supreme leader in Madinah, the Muslims were soon made equal to their enemies in Makkah.

The First Pledge of al-Aqabah took place a year before the second pledge, and it was called the Women Pledge, although no woman took part in it.  The second pledge, on the other hand, was called the Pledge of War, although there were two women in it, and women did not normally engage in war.  One may find this curious, but the reason is quite simple. 

In the first pledge, the people of Madinah were not required to defend the Prophet militarily.  In the second pledge, however, they were required to protect the Prophet with their lives, should the occasion arise.  Since men generally fight in the battle, not women, the pledge that does not involve military action is therefore termed as Women Pledge, although those taking part were all men.

The first of two women who took part in the Second Pledge of al-Aqabah was Umm Ammarah.  Her full name is Nusaybah bint Ka'ab b. 'Amr b. 'Auf b. Mabdhul b. 'Amr b. Ghanm b. Mazin b. al-Najjar.  She was the prominent one.  The other female participant in this pledge, Asma’ bint Amr, was a more obscure figure.  It is said that she was known as Umm Manee, and that she was the mother of a well-known companion, Mu’adh bin Jabal.  Other than this, little is reported about her.

Umm Ammarah was more prominent because she had played a major role during the Battle of Uhud.  She did not originally participate in the Battle of Uhud as a soldier, for she was a woman, and the Prophet only asked the men to fight.  The role of women was to provide assistance: to bring water, to care for the wounded, or to collect arrows shot by the enemies. 

But when Umm Ammarah saw that many Muslims were running helter skelter, and that the Prophet was quite exposed to the pursuing enemies, with only a handful of soldiers protecting him, she took the sword and joined the companions who were defending the Prophet.  The Prophet was reportedly saying that whichever direction he turned his face, he saw Umm Ammarah fighting the enemies, defending him.  This indicates how close the enemies were to the Prophet, and how precarious the situation was.

Umm Ammarah was badly wounded in that Battle, and suffered the pain throughout her life.  Yet, she continued to play active role in the struggle for Islam.  She died shortly after the Battle of al-Yamamah, against the army of Musaylamah the Liar.  This took place shortly after the death of the Prophet, during the reign of Abu Bakar.

Before the Prophet died, he had sent the son of Umm Ammarah, Habeeb, as one of his two envoys to al-Yamamah, to meet Musaylamah the Liar.  Musaylamah asked Habeeb whether he believed Muhammad to be the Messenger of Allah, to which Habeeb said yes.  Musaylamah then asked Habeeb whether he believed Musaylamah to be the Messenger of Allah as well, to which Habeed answered he can’t hear. 

That response incensed Musaylamah, and he had Habeeb’s limbs cut off, urging the latter to confess that he too was the Messenger of Allah.  Habeed died with his faith intact.  When the news reached Umm Ammarah, she vowed to avenge her son’s execution.  It was for this reason that Abu Bakar allowed her to go to al-Yamamah during the Apostasy War.  When the tribe of Banu Hanifah, the people of Musaylamah, was soundly defeated, and Musaylamah himself was killed, Umm Ammarah’s vow was fulfilled.  She did not live long after that.

Equally well known among the Ansari female companions (female companions from Madinah) is Umm Sulaym.  Like Umm Manee who had a well-known son, Mu’adh bin Jabal, Umm Sulaym also had a well-known son, Anas bin Malik.  Unlike Umm Manee, whose prominence was due to her son, Umm Sulaym was prominent on her own accord.  Stories about her are numerous.  Among her famous story is the bridal gift that she asked for her second marriage, as we allude to earlier.

Umm Sulaym, whose name is Rumaysa bint Milhan b. Khalid b. Zayd b. Haram b. Jundub b. 'Amir b. Ghanm b. 'Ady b. al-Najjar, was among the earliest Muslim women in Madinah.  She married twice.  He first husband was Malik bin an-Nadr, the father of Anas.  Her second husband was Abu Talha al-Ansari.  When Islam came to Madinah, Umm Sulaym chose to embrace it, but not her husband, Malik.  He divorced her for that, and left Madinah to live in Syria, and died there shortly thereafter.

Now that Umm Sulaym was available to be married, Abu Talha came to ask her hand in marriage.  Abu Talha was not yet a Muslim at that time.  Instead of saying yes, Umm Sulaym said: “Abu Talha, don’t you know that the god you worship grows out of earth?”  Since Abu Talha worshipped an idol made of wood, he replied in affirmative.  Umm Sulaym then added: “Are you not ashamed of worshipping the tree?”

Had Abu Talha did not come to ask for her hand in marriage, he might have given her a good slap on her face.  But perhaps because he still entertained the thought of marrying her, he just kept quiet. 

“I have embraced Islam, and I do not want any bridal gift from you other than your acceptance of Islam,” Umm Sulaym added.  To that, Abu Talha replied he would think about it.  When faith subsequently entered Abu Talha, they were married.

Like Umm Ammarah, Umm Sulaym also took active part in the struggle for Islam, and participated in many major battles.  Similarly, like Umm Ammarah, her participation was non-combatant.   While Umm Ammarah sprang into action to defend the Prophet in the Battle of Uhud, which took place in 3 AH, Umm Sulaym also did likewise in the Battle of Hunayn, which took place about a month after the conquest of Makkah. 

In this Battle, the Muslims were at first complacent due to their superiority in number.  The enemies, therefore, managed to surprise the Muslims with their determined attack.  Consequently, the Muslim army was thrown into confusion.  In the heat of the moment, Umm Sulaym took her dagger trying to protect the Prophet against the approaching enemies. 

Unlike the case of Umm Ammarah, however, Umm Sulaym’s husband (Abu Talha) was with her.  He pushed her aside and took her place to defend the Prophet, saving his wife from danger, while at the same time defending the Prophet.  For that reason, Umm Sulaym was not hurt, unlike the case of Umm Ammarah.

As mentioned earlier, Umm Sulaym (whose given name was Rumaysa) was the daughter of Milhan.  Now, the house of Milhan was one of the houses that the Prophet used to visit frequently.  The house of Milhan also produced another illustrious woman, Umm Haram, the sister of Umm Sulaym.

Like her sister Umm Sulaym, Umm Haram was also among the earliest Muslim women in Madinah.  Unlike her sister, however, her husband, Qays bin Zaid bin Sawad also became Muslim, but he died in the Battle of Uhud.  Henceforth, she married Ubada bin Samit, one of the learned Companions.  Together with her husband, she took part in about all major struggles for Islam, especially in the conquest of Sham and Egypt.  But Umm Haram was most renowned for her part in the Conquest of Cyprus, being the only woman who participated in that expedition.

Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan, the general who led the expedition to Cyprus, would not have brought Umm Haram along, because this was the first time that the Muslims were crossing the seas as the soldiers.  Muawiyah, then the Governor of Sham, had recognized the importance of having a military base in Cyprus, because the coastlines of Sham (greater Syria) were too exposed to the Romans.  He had requested the permission from Umar al-Khattab, the Caliph at that time, to allow him to conquer the island of Cyprus, but Umar disagreed, not wanting to expose the Muslims to danger, for the Arabs then were not familiar with sea battles. 

When Umar died, Muawiyah managed to convince Uthman, the successor of Umar, to give him permission to conquer Cyprus, on the condition that the participation must be voluntary.  No soldier should be coerced to join if he was not willing to participate in this uncharted water.  It goes without saying that women were discouraged to participate in this venture.  But Umm Haram was given an exception, because years back, the Prophet had a vision that the Muslims would cross the Green Sea (Mediterranean Sea) as victorious soldiers.  This vision came to him when he took a nap at the house of Milhan, and Umm Haram happened to be there.

After the Prophet woke up from his short nap, Umm Haram noticed a smile on his face, and enquired what the smile was for.  The Prophet replied: “Some people among my followers were shown to me riding the Green Sea like kings over their thrones.”  To that, Umm Haram said: “O Messenger of Allah, invoke Allah that I will be one of them.”

On another occasion, similar thing happened, and Umm Haram asked similar thing to the Prophet, to which the Prophet replied: “You are one of them.”

It was for this reason that Umm Haram was allowed to join the expedition.  While Muawiyah was not superstitious, he must have regarded the vision to be a good omen; hence his decision to allow Umm Haram to join the expedition. 

Umm Haram died and was buried in Cyprus, in the year 28 AH. 

Like their counterparts in Makkah, the women from Madinah also played active roles in Islam.  Islam would not have flourished without them.  Although generally less famous, the service of these women to Islam was no less great.  And it is not only those from Makkah and Madinah who were outstanding in their service for Islam.  There were many others who came from somewhere else, but we shall content ourselves with only a few of them, as narrated in this and the previous parts. 

There is one famous name that I have deliberately omitted here.  She was Umm Hani, the sister of Ali.  Her name could be found in almost all books on Seerah, particularly with the event of the Miraculous Night Journey (Isra’ Mi’raj) and the Conquest of Makkah.

I have mentioned her name in passing in the Introductory Remarks, but I have deliberately omitted the story about her in this series because of one special reason.  Umm Hani deserves special mention, because a number of Internet sites have been spewing a curious tale about her love affair with the Prophet.  They say that the Prophet was passionately in love with her. 

We shall look into this strange tale in our next installment, inshaAllah.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Women around the Prophet: His Supporters from Makkah

Men such as Abu Bakar, Umar, Ali, Uthman, Abdul Rahman Awf, Zubayr al-Awwam, Abu Ubaydah al-Jarrah, Khalid al-Walid, Amr al-Aas (to name but a few), would have been lost into oblivion without Islam.  They fought for Islam, and Islam made them prominent.

But the fight for Islam was not an exclusive activity for men only.  Although the majority of them did not achieve fame like their male counterparts, their sacrifices to Islam were not less exemplary.  Less is known about them because they played their role in the background, mending their household affairs, looking after the children, educating them to be good Muslims.  Without their great sacrifices, their husbands, fathers, or sons, would not be able to do what they had done.  Books specifically written about them are rather few, but Seerah literature and hadith collections are littered with narrations about their struggle.

In this piece, we shall sample only a few of them.

One of the names that would always appear in any Seerah literature is Asma’ bint Abu Bakar.   This is because no Seerah book would be complete without the story of Prophet’s migration, and in this story, Asma’ played a major role.

As the Seerah tells us, before the Prophet migrated, he knew that he would be assassinated.  The plan for his assassination had been hatched in secrecy, but the Prophet was told about it by the Archangel, Gabriel.  Meanwhile, the Prophet (blessing and peace be upon him), had been planning for his migration many days earlier.  He had told Abu Bakar, his closest companion, that they would migrate together, and asked the latter to purchase two camels for that purpose. 

When he was informed about his impending assassination, the Prophet went to Abu Bakar’s house in the middle of the day, during the hottest hour, when people did not go out of their houses, so as to avoid being seen.  He told the latter to get ready.  Together with Abu Bakar, the Prophet would sneak out of Makkah in the darkness of the night.  He knew that a searching party would be after them, so they needed a good escape plan.  Asma’, the daughter of Abu Bakar, the older sister of Aisha, was to have a role in that plan.  She was about twenty seven years old at that time, and was heavily pregnant with her first baby.

The plan was for the Prophet to sneak out of his house and go south, instead of heading north towards Madinah, which should be the case, since Madinah is to the north of Makkah.  They were to hide in a cave about eight km away for a few days, until the searching party gave up looking for them.  Asma’ was to bring them provision for the journey without being detected.  Her brother Abdullah was to gather intelligence about the searching party.

To create the diversion, the Prophet asked his cousin, Ali, to sleep in his bed, so that the would be assassins would think that he was still sleeping.  When the would be assassins, led by Abu Jahal, found out that it was Ali in the bed, and not Muhammad, they were furious, but they did not harm him.

The next place to look for would be Abu Bakar’s house, for if anyone knew about Muhammad’s whereabouts, it would be Abu Bakar.  But Abu Bakar was nowhere to be found.  It was Asma’ who answered the knocking door, and confronted Abu Jahal.  When questioned, Asma’ answered defiantly, “I don’t know.  Even if I do, I won’t tell you.”

For her defiant answer, Abu Jahal slapped Asma’, leaving her bleeding.   In any case, Abu Jahal failed to achieve his objective, for Asma’ pricked his honor, saying that Abu Jahal hit her only because she was weak, being not only a woman, but also heavily pregnant.

After hiding for three days, news reached the Prophet that the searching party had ceased looking actively for them.  The price of 100 camels on his head, however, was still on.  In any case, his pursuers thought that the Prophet and his companion Abu Bakar must have gone quite far already.  Thus, while strict precaution was still necessary, it was time to start the journey. 

At the appointed time, Asma’ came bringing provision for the journey, but she forgot to bring something to tie the food container.  She tore the girdle wrapping her pregnant belly, used one half of it to tie her belly, and the other half to tie the container.  Because of that the Prophet called her “the lady of two girdles,” the appellation she carried with pride.

When the Prophet and his father arrived safely in Madinah, she prepared to migrate, and undertook the long journey more than 400 km away, heavily pregnant.  Not long after, she gave birth to her first son, Abdullah bin Zubayr.

Asma’ lived a long life.  It was said that she lived for 100 years.  Because she had lived a long life, she had seen a lot.  She went through the period of difficulty in Makkah, the period of speedy growth in Madinah, the period of prosperity during Umar and Uthman’s reigns, the period of tribulation during the later years of Uthman’ reign and the whole of Ali’s Caliphate, and the period of another peace and prosperity during Muawiyah.  She also witnessed the turbulent times of the power struggle to oust the Umayyah  Dynasty.  Her son, Abdullah bin al-Zubayr, was the main actor in this power struggle.

Asma’ was the daughter of leading companion (Abu Bakar), the wife of leading companion (az-Zubayr), the older sister of Prophet’s favorite wife (Aisha), the mother of leading challenger to Umayyah Dynasty (Abdullah bin Zubayr), and the mother of a leading scholar during his time (Urwa bin Zubayr).

She died in 73 AH, a few months after her son Abdullah was killed by al-Hajjaj, the notorious general of Abdul Malik bin Marwan, the Caliph who managed to firmly reestablish the supremacy of the House of Umayyah.  She was about 100 years when the Lord called her upon Himself, having served Islam since she was the teenager to the end of her life.

There is another well-known Asma’ among the leading female companions of the Prophet.  Her name is Asma’ bint Umays.  The Prophet called her “the woman with two migrations.”  The two migrations refer to the migration to Ethiopia during the early days of Islam to escape persecution, and the migration to Madinah where the Prophet moved the center of his mission from Makkah to Madinah.

Asma’ bint Umays was not the only woman who had migrated to two places: that is, Ethiopia and Madinah.  One of Prophet’s wives, Umm Habibah, the daughter of Abu Sufyan, had likewise migrated to these places.  But the Prophet gave Asma' bint Umays this title after she complained to the Prophet that Umar had hurt her feelings, saying that she had missed the blessed migration with the Prophet to Madinah. 

Having listened to her complaint, the Prophet appeased her, saying: “Umar is not better than you.  He migrated once, you migrated twice.” 

This may seem like a trivial quarrel among leading companions, which should not have happened in the first place.   But if we understand the psychology of the Companions, this is not a small matter.  The Companions competed among themselves to be the best in obedience and in deeds.  It was indeed hurtful that after they had sacrificed everything, someone came to belittle them.  That was the reason Asma’ went to the Prophet complaining about what Umar had said. 

On his part, it goes without saying that Umar did not intentionally try to belittle Asma’, or any other people like her.  Umar was known to be stern and harsh, especially before he became the Caliph.   In one famous story, the women were laughing and talking loudly in one of the Prophet’s study circles.  As  soon as Umar entered their congregation, all women turned quiet upon seeing him. 

“You keep your mouth shut when you see me, but you were boisterous in front of the Prophet,” Umar retorted.

“Don’t flatter yourself Umar,” one of them answered, “we are quiet not because we respect you more, but because you are not like the Prophet.”  The message was clear.  The women felt at ease with the Prophet, but they were not quite so with Umar.

Asma’ lost her husband, Ja’far bin Abu Talib, during the Battle of Mu’tah.  Her husband was the general in that war.  She and her husband Ja’far migrated to Ethiopia in the fifth year of Prophethood, when both were rather young.  Her husband was the spokesman and the leader of Muslim refugees in this foreign land.  When she lost her husband in the Battle of Mu’tah, Abu Bakar married her.  When Abu Bakar died, Ali married her.  She was the wife of successive leading companions, Ja’far, Abu Bakar and Ali.  One may find it curious that some of his sons are Ali’s nephews, while one of them, whose name was Yahya, was Ali's own son.

Asma’ bint Umays died in 40 AH, not long after her third husband, Ali, was assassinated. 

In Islamic history, the name of Umar al-Khattab is very distinguished.  The story of his conversion is also well-known.  Umar was not among the earliest convert.  In fact, he was one of those who fought against the new religion, and participated in the torture of the early Muslims.  More interestingly, he became Muslim only after he was fed up with the new movement. 

Being an intelligent man, Umar knew that the source of all problems was Muhammad.  If he killed Muhammad, the problem would be solved.  Being a man of strong character, he was willing to put his money where his mouth is, so he set out to do just that, willing to die in the process.  

But the ones who caused his change of heart were relatively more obscure.  Upon being told that his younger sister and his brother in law had become Muslim, Umar changed his direction, heading to their house.  He beat his brother in law, Sa’eed bin Zayd, although, out of fear, Sa'eed  denied his conversion to the new religion.  His sister, Fatimah bint al-Khattab, came to her husband’s rescue, so Umar beat her also. This story is well known.

While Fatimah did not have Umar's strength and sternness, she did not lack courage.  Seeing that it was futile to beat around the bush, for Umar must have been told about it already, she confronted his brother: “Yes Umar, we have become Muslims.  Do whatever you like to us.”

Those words brought Umar back to his senses.  Seeing his sister bleeding, he must have felt rather silly.  Beating a man was no issue to Umar, for he was an accomplished wrestler, but beating a woman to bleed, his sister no less, was a little different.  In any case, it was his sister’s stand that softened Umar’s attitude.  Umar knew that both his sister and his brother in law were sensible people.  If they were willing to die for their faith, then there must be something compelling about it.  It was at the moment that Umar’s intelligence was put to a proper perspective.  To make the long story short, he converted.

While Umar rose to prominent after his conversion, his sister Fatimah bint al-Khattab, and his brother in law, Sa’eed bin Zayd, preferred to shun the limelight.  Sa’eed continued to participate in every major battle during his lifetime, although he always shunned the leadership position.  Little, however, was reported about Fatimah since the episode of Umar’s conversion.  Like her husband, but unlike her brother, she played her role mostly in the background. 

Even if most people remember her only because of her brother’s conversion, that alone would be sufficient to put her name in the annals of Islamic history.  It was commonly acknowledged that the conversion of Umar, along with the conversion of Hamzah, became the turning point in the cause of Islam in Makkah.

Umar’s conversion took place three days after the conversion of Hamzah bin Abdul Muttalib, an uncle of the Prophet, a distinguished warrior.  Hamzah is well-known, but her sister, Safiyya bint Abdul Muttalib, is less so, except to those familiar with Seerah.

Safiyya was one of Prophet’s unties, but she was younger than the Prophet by about three years.  Her mother, Halah, was the cousin of Aminah, the Prophet’s mother.  Thus, not only that she was the auntie of the Prophet, but she was also the Prophet’s second cousin.  While Abdul Muttalib, the Prophet’s grandfather, chose Halah  to be his wife, he chose Aminah, Halah’s cousin, to be the wife for his son Abdullah, the father of the Prophet. 

Like her brother Hamzah, Safiyya was noted for her bravery.  She was the mother of az-Zubayr (the husband of Asma’ bint Abu Bakar) as we have narrated earlier.  Sharing perhaps similar warrior blood in her, just like her brother Hamzah, she brought up his son, az-Zubayr, to be a man of valor. 

It was reported that when Zubayr was a young boy, he came home bleeding with bruises all over his body.  Upon finding out that her son was beaten by his peers, Safiyya did not scold him for fighting with the boys.  Neither did she scold his son’s friends for beating him.  Boys were, after all, boys.  Instead, she scolded him for being sissy, for losing the fight.

On another occasion, her son came home with bruises again.

“What happened to you?”  Safiyya asked the young boy az-Zubayr.

“I took a fight with so and so.”  His son answered. 

“Who won?”  She asked.


“That’s my son.”

The way she brought up her son made az-Zubayr an accomplished warrior, not unlike his uncle Hamzah, or his cousin Ali (Safiyya was the half-sister of Abu Talib).  On her part, Safiyya did not lack courage and valor.  During the Battle of Confederacy, the Prophet housed their womenfolk in a safe fortress.  One day, a Jewish man was seen spying their fortress.  Not wanting this to be a security threat, Safiyya took a large stick and beat the man to death.  She was already a woman of about 55 years old at that time.

When her brother Hamzah was killed and mutilated in the Battle of Uhud, Safiyya came to pay him the last respect.  The Prophet gestured to az-Zubayr, her son, to stop her from approaching the mutilated body, for he was concerned that his auntie would be overtaken by grief. 

“Woe to you,” she scolded her son for stopping her, “I know what they did to my brother.”

Safiyya died in 18 AH, during the reign of Umar.  She was among the early supporters of the Prophet, and continued to support the cause of Islam till the end of her life.

There are numerous other female companions of the Prophet whose stories are recorded in the Seerah literature and hadith collections, but for this brief instalment  we shall confine ourselves to these four as regards to Prophet’s supporters from Makkah.  Although they were generally less known as compared to their male counterparts, their services and sacrifices were not any less outstanding.  Doing their womanly duties, their men were free to do their manly duties with peace of mind.  

In the next installment, we shall relate a few of the Prophet’s female supporters from Madinah, inshaAllah. 

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