Hafsah bint 'Umar

One day the Angel Jibril told Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about Hafsah:

“She is an often fasting and worshipping lady and she will be your wife in Paradise too.”[Mustadrak Al-Hakim 4/15]

Hafsah was the daughter of ‘Umar Faruq, and the niece of another famous Sahabi, ‘Uthman bin Maz’un. Her uncle from the paternal side was Zayd bin Khattab. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar was her brother.

Hafsah was an extremely religious lady who used to spend her time in prayer and fasting. An excellent writer and orator, an ardent follower of Islam.

Hafsah had such noble qualities and such an amiable nature that ‘A’ishah remarked that among wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) only she could compare with her. Her life is exemplary, brought up as she was by a Companion of the calibre of ‘Umar bin Khattab.

Hafsah was born in the family of a great warrior and wrestler, ‘Umar bin Khattab who was well known for his martial skills. In her growing years she was brought up in an Islamic environment, both her parents and her aunts and uncles having already converted to the new religion. When she was old enough, she was married to Khanis bin Huthafah As-Sahmi. He was influenced by the teaching of Abu Bakr Siddiq and had accepted Islam.

Due to worst cruelty and oppression, Khanis had to migrate to Al-Madinah with his wife. He was welcomed by Rafa’h bin ‘Abdul Munthir and stayed in his house as his guest.

Both Khanis and Hafsah loved the new life in Al-Madinah. Hafsah made special arrangements to memorize the Ayat of the Quran as and when they were revealed. Then she would give deep thought and attention to the meaning and interpretation of the Ayat. Her husband meanwhile was enthusiastically preparing himself for Jihad and improving his martial skills. He was constantly alert to the movements of the enemy and was ever ready to meet them head on.

News came that the Quraysh of Makkah, after making elaborate preparations for a war to wipe out the Muslims, were marching towards Al-Madinah under the leadership of Abu Jahl.

The Muslims under the leadership of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), practically unarmed, reached Badr and set up camp taking control of the only source of water. All they had with them was their strong faith in the Allah.

Khanis bin Huthafah, ‘Umar Faruq and the maternal and paternal uncles of Hafsah and her cousin were all part of this courageous band. Her husband was determined to win the battle for Allah and bring to dust the pomp and grandeur of Abu Jahl’s forces. Finally the forces met and Khanis bin Huthafah went tearing through the ranks of the enemy. He was seriously wounded, but most of the leaders of the disbelievers were killed, and Islam triumphed. It is one of the greatest battles fought in history where a handful of unarmed and outnumbered men routed a powerful and well-equipped army.

When Hafsah heard of her husband’s heroic deeds she was very happy, and praised his valour in battle; but she also realized that in this condition he would need the best care possible. She immediately recited the Ayah of Surat Al-Anfal which were revealed in connection with the Battle of Badr,

“Allah made it only as glad tidings, as that your hearts be at rest therewith. And there is no victory except from Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” [Noble Quran 8:10]

These Words of the Allah Almighty promising victory inspired her and she happily turned to the task of nursing her husband back to health. But it was not to be, for he was to be blessed with an exalted position. A few days later he succumbed to his injuries and joined the ranks of those who are blessed with eternal life. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) heard of his passing away he arranged for him to be buried in Jannatul Baqi, next to the uncle of Hafsah; he personally led the funeral prayers. Hafsah was, naturally, grief stricken, but being a true believer she respectfully submitted to the Will of Allah. She turned towards her Maker and courageously gave herself even more to prayer and meditation. She was at this time barely twenty-one years old.

For her father it was very painful to see his daughter in this state. Her silent courage under these circumstances, her patient prayers and her study of the Quran irradiated her countenance with a spiritual beauty and innocence, but there was also a sadness because of the harsh loneliness that had become part of her life. After deep thought ‘Umar Faruq decided to approach ‘Uthman bin Affan, whose wife Ruqayyah the Prophet’s daughter, had passed away. He thought that sharing a common bond would help to alleviate their sorrow in losing worthy spouses. So, having taken this decision he went direct to ‘Uthman. After the formal greeting and expression of condolences on his wife’s death he broached the topic closest to his heart. ‘Uthman lowered his eyes and then after a few moments pause, he said he needed time to think it over.

‘Umar Faruq met him again after a few days and asked him if he had thought over the proposal. ‘Uthman answered that he was not presently planning on marriage. From there he went to Abu Bakr Siddiq and offered him his daughter in marriage. He too lowered his gaze and did not answer him. Imam Bukhari in his book of Hadith, As-Sahih Al-Bukhari, has given a whole chapter to the topic of an honorable man offering his sister or daughter in marriage.

‘Umar Faruq was very upset because both the men he approached had either avoided or refused marriage to his daughter. He was confident of a willing and joyful acceptance but things turned out otherwise. He was very upset and worried at the turn of events; in a sense it was an affront to him and his position as a sincere defender of the faith. People, he thought, would consider it an honor to have an alliance by marriage with him. With this grievance he went to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and explained to him the position he found himself in. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) smilingly answered that he should neither grieve nor worry, and Allah willing he would find a man better than ‘Uthman for Hafsah and ‘Uthman in turn, would find for himself a better woman than Hafsah.

‘Umar Faruq was pleased on hearing this from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself, but also a little perplexed over who such a man could be? A few days later the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) married his daughter, Umm Kulthum to ‘Uthman. ‘Umar Faruq realized that one part of the prediction had come true, but he continued to puzzle over the second half of the statement. Who could possibly be a better man than ‘Uthman? Then the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) proposed marriage to Hafsah. ‘Umar Faruq could not believe his ears; his daughter would have the honor of joining the select band of women who were known as the Mothers of the believers! ‘A’ishah and Sawdah were already part of the Prophet’s household. It seemed too good to be true. Thus Hafsah was joined in marriage to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in the 3rd year after Hijrah, before the Battle of Uhud. She was about twenty-two years old at the time. On seeing off his daughter to her husband’s house, ‘Umar Faruq told her that she should never try to compete with ‘A’ishah, who was the Prophet’s favorite and better than her in many respects. He said she should respect her sincerely and live happily as a member of the first and foremost family.

Sa’id bin Al-Musayyab, a learned scholar, states that the Prophet’s prediction that he was a better husband for Hafsah than ‘Uthman was proved right, as was his statement that Umm Kulthum was a better wife for ‘Uthman than Hafsah. After the marriage Abu Bakr Siddiq met with ‘Umar Faruq and told him the truth, which was that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had mentioned to him that he planned to marry Hafsah. That was the reason he had remained silent, as it would not have been proper to betray his confidence. If matters were different he would have been only too happy to accept her hand in marriage. ‘Umar Faruq expressed his happiness by quoting the following Ayah,

“This is by the Grace of my Lord – to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for himself; and whoever is ungrateful, (it is for the loss of only himself). Certainly my Lord is Rich, Bountiful.” [Noble Quran 27:40]

After attaining the position of the Mother of the Believers, Hafsah became even more absorbed in studying the finer points of religion. She would store in her mind conversations of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) which would lead to a better understanding of Islam. Often she would discuss any points that arose in her mind about the Shari’ah.

Jabir bin ‘Abdullah Ansari narrates an incident which was related to him by Umm Mubasher. She and Hafsah and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were sitting and chatting together. He said that all the people who had given the pledged of allegiance at Hudaybiyah under the tree would go to Paradise, and not to Hell. She asked how that was possible. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) got annoyed, but Hafsah did not give up and quoted an Ayah from Surah Maryam.

“There is not one of you but will pass over it (Hell).” [Noble Quran 19:71]

In reply he quoted the very next Ayah, also from Surah Maryam.

“Then We shall save those who use to fear Allah and were dutiful to Him. And We shall leave the wrongdoers therein to there knees (in Hell).” [Noble Quran 19:72]

This news of Hafsah disputing with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spread in Al-Madinah. On that day the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was very disturbed; and when ‘Umar Faruq heard about it he chided his daughter. She replied that ‘A’ishah too spoke in the same manner to him. Her father again cautioned her not to compete with ‘A’ishah and maintain a certain decorum, or else she would bring trouble on herself.

Among the Mothers of the believers, ‘A’ishah, Umm Habibah, Sawdah and Hafsah all belonged to the tribe of Quraysh. The others came from various other tribes. Everyday after the ‘Asr prayer, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would visit them all for a little while to see if they needed anything; the time of the visits was routine and each would wait eagerly for his arrival. On several occasions, it so happened that he spent more time with Zaynab. This upset ‘A’ishah, and she spoke about it to Hafsah and Sawdah. They got together and found out that a certain relative had sent Zaynab a special kind of honey and she used to offer it to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) everyday. This was his favorite and he used to be delayed in her apartment, enjoying it. ‘A’ishah was so fond of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that she could not bear for him to be late coming to her apartment. Because of her regard for him she could not object directly.

So she consulted Hafsah and Sawdah, and they decided that when he comes to each of us by turn, we would all say that there is a strange smell emanating from his mouth. When he heard the same thing from all three of them, he believed it must be due to the honey he had, and decided to give it up for good. If this had been an incident in the life of an ordinary person it would have been of no consequence. But this was with the last Prophet of Allah and his every word and every action would become the law or Shari’ah for all Muslims for all time to come. Thus it had a special significance.

So Allah rebuked him in Ayah of Surat At-Tahrim.

“O Prophet! Why do you forbid (for yourself) that which Allah has allowed to you, seeking to please your wives? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Noble Quran 66:1]

It was around the same time that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) confided a secret matter to Hafsah, and warned her not to speak to anyone about it. But she told ‘A’ishah. Allah then revealed to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) what happened. Allah revealed this in the following Ayah of Surat At-Tahrim,

“And when the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his wife, then she told it. And Allah made it known to him; he informed part thereof and left a part. Then when he told her thereof, she said: “Who told you this?” He said: “The All-Knower, the All-Aware has told me.” [Noble Quran 66:3]

The year, when the Peninsula was under the Islamic government, the granaries were full and all the riches were reaching the centre from the different regions of Arabia; many of the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), who lived lives of luxury, put forward demands for an increase in their household allowances. When ‘Umar Faruq heard of this he was very upset; he told his daughter Hafsah that she should ask her father if she needed anything and not make any demands on the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He also advised all the Mothers of the Believers not to make any demands. Umm Salamah did not quite like this and felt that he had the habit of interfering in every matter. She told him frankly that he should refrain from meddling in the affairs of the Prophet’s wives.

It was at this time that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had fallen from his horse and been injured; keeping all these things in view he decided to go into seclusion and moved to an upper room adjacent to the apartment of ‘A’ishah. The whole city was buzzing with the gossip the hypocrites spread saying that he divorced his wives. But actually no such thing happened. All the Companions were disturbed by this situation, but no one had the courage to approach the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and talk to him directly. Finally ‘Umar Faruq known for his forthrightness went to him and asked him if the rumor was true. When he denied it he was delighted. Then he asked if he could announce this good news to the rest of the Muslims. When he received permission, he joyfully informed the community that everything was fine with the Prophet’s household. The whole city was relieved that the Messenger of Allah had not been offended in any way. On the twenty-ninth day he came down into the apartment of ‘A’ishah. She asked him smilingly why he came down before the month was over. He replied that often the lunar month did consist of only twenty-nine days. Hafsah promised her father that she would never ever ask for a raise in her allowance and she stood by her word to the end of her life.

Hafsah died in the year 41st after Hijrah aged fifty-nine. At the time of death she was fasting. The funeral prayers were led by the governor of Al-Madinah, Marwan bin Al-Hakam. Abu Hurairah and Abu Sa’id Khudri, the eminent Companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were among those who carried the shroud to Jannatul Baqi’. Her two brothers, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar and ‘Asim bin ‘Umar placed her gently into her final resting place. Salem bin ‘Abdullah, ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Abdullah and Hamzah bin ‘Abdullah, all the sons of ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar also attended the funeral.

And so a righteous and learned writer and reciter of the Noble Quran who devoted herself from her youth to prayer, fasting and meditation passed into history.

These Ayat from Surat Al-Qamar express an apt tribute to this great Mother of the Believers.

“Verily, the pious will be in the midst of Graders and Rivers (Paradise). In a seat of truth, near the Omnipotent King.” [Noble Quran 54:54-55]

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