Umm Habibah Ramlah bint Abi Sufyan

Waraqah bin Nawfal, ‘Uthman bin Huwayrith bin Asad, Zayd bin ‘Amr bin Nafil and ‘Ubaydullah bin Jahash were four friends who were disheartened by idol worship in Arabia. They used to get together and discuss this. One night they came to a decision to search the pure religion of Ibrahim which was the straight path of righteousness. After meeting they moved in different directions to find the pure religion of the Prophet Ibrahim.

Waraqah bin Nawfal gave up idol worship, stopped eating flesh of animals sacrificed in idols’ names and knew Torah and Injil by heart.

His cousin Khadijah had taken Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to him on the occasion of the first revelation in the cave of Hira. Waraqah told her that it was the same Angel in the cave who delivered Messages from Allah to earlier Prophets, and that Muhammad must be the chosen Last Messenger, whose coming was foretold in both the Torah and the Injil. He would soon be elevated to that great position, and the whole nation would turn against him and he would be forced to flee his motherland. He passed away before Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) openly declared himself the Last Prophet of Allah.

‘Uthman bin Huwayrith bin Asad, traveled to Syria, and worked as a missionary for Christianity. He became a close friend of the Roman Emperor Caesar and was elevated to the papal position.

Zayd bin ‘Amr bin Nafil stopped worshipping idols. He gave up eating dead animals and drinking their blood. He hated eating the flesh of the animals sacrificed and often talked of the pure religion of the Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him). He too died before the proclamation of Muhammad as the Messenger of Allah.

‘Ubaydullah bin Jahash fell into doubts between truth and falsehood. He married the beautiful, intelligent and well-educated daughter of the Qurayshi chieftain, Abu Sufyan Sakhr bin Harb.

It was around this time that Makkah was shaken by the news that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was rejecting all the idols. He invited people to worship Allah and proclaimed he was His Last Prophet and Messenger. The Wise daughter of Abu Sufyan, Ramlah, accepted Islam and so did her husband. His two brothers ‘Abdullah bin Jahash and Abu Ahmad bin Jahash had also become Muslims. Her sisters, Zaynab hint Jahash and Hamnah bin Jahash too entered Islam. The former had joined the select group of the Mother of the Believers. The whole family was fortunate to have obeyed the call to Islam, but while in Abyssinia ‘Ubaydullah had the misfortune to reject Islam after having accepted it.

Abu Sufyan Sakhr bin Harb was a chieftain of the Quraysh, who led the disbelievers in many of their wars against the Muslims. Besides his daughter Ramlah, he had two sons, Yazid and Mu’awiyah. Ramlah accepted Islam when the Muslims were facing a lot of opposition and were being cruelly persecuted. Abu Sufyan was a very powerful man, but he was helpless in the matter of his daughter Ramlah. She was a helpless frail girl, but he could not stop her from accepting Islam, when she openly declared herself a Muslim.

Meanwhile, after surveying the situation the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) decided that the staunch supporters of Islam had taken enough of the oppression from the Quraysh. They would have to migrate, and he ordered them to leave for Abyssinia, where the ruler was known for his kindness and hospitality to refugees from tyrannical rule.

Ramlah bint Abu Sufyan and her husband were among the second group of migrants who left for Abyssinia. There Ramlah gave birth to a girl, Habibah so Ramlah was now known as Umm Habibah. The days passed swiftly for her as she kept busy seeing to the upbringing of her little daughter; and any free time was spent in prayer and meditation.

One night she dreamt that her husband’s face was mutilated. She woke up panic stricken, but was too nervous to talk about her dream to her husband. A few days later he told her that he originally had been a Christian and then converted to Islam. But since coming to Abyssinia he had given a great deal of careful consideration and concluded that Christianity offered the best system of beliefs for leading a successful life. Hence he was recanting and going back to the fold of Christianity. He advised her to do the same and become a Christian.

Immediately it struck Ramlah that this was what her dream meant. The metamorphosis of her husband’s face from a superior to a lower form and its mutilation, meant that he had lost his identity as a Muslim. Then she told him about her dream, hoping that this at least would instill the fear of Allah in his heart. But he was too far gone on the downward road; not only his face but his heart had been mutilated. He started drinking and was so addicted that he was drunk for most of the time. Umm Habibah was now growing desperate, worrying about the future of her daughter and herself. She prayed to Allah to give her the strength to remain steadfast in her faith.

After some time ‘Ubaydullah died due to heavy drinking. Umm Habibah was relieved, of course, but what was she to do now, how was she to survive? Only two activities kept her occupied – the upbringing of her daughter and her prayers. She would sometimes get together with the other Muslim ladies in Abyssinia to talk of the latest developments. Ruqayyah, the daughter of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), Asma’ bint ‘Umays and Laylah bint Abi Hashmah were the great ladies with whom she would spend her free time. But these ladies too soon returned home. Still, there were other ladies with whom she was friendly and she would remain patient.

Years passed and the map of the Islamic world changed and battles continued to be fought. The Treaty of Hudaybiyah was signed. One night while she was fast asleep she dreamt someone called out to her, “Mother of the Believers”. When she woke up she felt a great sense of not just happiness, but ecstasy. During the time, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had migrated to Al-Madinah, and the first Islamic State had been established. Someone, while talking to him about the state of affairs in Abyssinia, mentioned that Umm Habibah, the daughter of a wealthy and noble family was living from hand to mouth. After the husband had recanted and died, and she was living under tragic circumstances. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) heard this, he sent ‘Amr bin Umayyah to Najashi with the message that if Umm Habibah liked she could marry him.

When Najashi got the message he sent his slave girl Abraha to Umm Habibah. Umm Habibah was overjoyed when she heard of the proposal, she was so happy that she rewarded Abraha with all the silver jewellery she was wearing – bangles, anklets and rings. Abraha also told her she should appoint someone as her representative for the ceremony. Umm Habibah nominated her relative from the tribe of Quraysh, Khalid bin Sa’id bin ‘Aas.

That very evening Najashi sent a message to Ja’far bin Abi Talib asking him to bring all his Muslim friends to his palace. When all the refugee Muslims were assembled in the court, he announced the news of Umm Habibah’s marriage. After praising Almighty Allah he said he had received a request from His Messenger to arrange for his marriage with Umm Habibah, and he was giving her a dowry of four hundred Dinars.

Then Umm Habibah’s representative, Khalid bin Sa’id bin ‘Aas, read the marriage vows and said,

‘All Praise is for Allah, and I praise Him, seek His help and ask His forgiveness. I bear witness that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger, to whom He has sent with true Religion and a guidance to the Right Path to overpower His Religion over all the false religions though the polytheists will not like it. I have accepted the proposal of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and married Umm Habibah bint Abu Sufyan to him. May Allah bless this marriage and make it fruitful for Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Najashi then gave four hundred Dinars to Khalid bin Sa’id. When all the guests rose to leave, Najashi asked them to stay on for a dinner he arranged in celebration of the marriage.

Umm Habibah was so grateful to Allah for the honor bestowed on her by making her one of the Mothers of the Believers that she sent for Abraha and gave her a sum of fifty Dinars. She said by the Grace of Allah she now had plenty, and apologized for not having rewarded her earlier in a suitable manner, as she had that time nothing but the little pieces of jewelry she had given her. She asked Abraha to make clothes and jewelry for herself. Abraha respectfully presented her with a little bag. It contained some very expensive perfumes which Najashi had asked his wives to send for Umm Habibah. And Abraha presented her with the same jewelry she had received earlier from her, apologizing for her lack of resources. She also sent a message for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), saying she had embraced Islam, but had kept it a secret. She said when Umm Habibah met the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), beloved of all Muslims, she should convey her greetings without fail and this would be the greatest favor she could do for a poor woman.

When Umm Habibah reached Al-Madinah she told the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about the happenings in Abyssinia and about the goodness of Najashi and how the wedding had been organized. She also told him about the slave girl Abraha and the respectful greetings she had sent him. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was very pleased with her message; returning her greetings, he prayed that Allah should bless her with plenitude. Abu Sufyan heard about his daughter’s marriage and he expressed happiness in spite of the fact that he had not yet accepted Islam. He said the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was the youth who would never lose face, and always be honored.

When the Quraysh broke the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, Abu Sufyan came to Al-Madinah to renew the treaty. He visited his daughter; just as he was about to sit down Umm Habibah quickly stepped forward and rolled up the light mattress which was spread out. He was surprised and asked her if he was not worthy of the mattress, or the mattress was not worthy of him. She replied that actually it was a mattress used by a very pure and clean Prophet, and no idol worshipper could sit on it, as he was unclean. She had therefore rolled it up and put it out of his way. Abu Sufyan was very embarrassed and said she had forgotten her manners since moving away from him. She answered that the manners of Islam had taught her different values and cleanliness had a different meaning for her now. Since he was not familiar with these concepts he was offended. She said I was thankful that Allah guided me to the path of Islam. I was surprised that my father, in spite of being an important chieftain of one of the leading tribes of the Quraysh, had not yet accepted Islam. He was in a lofty position by worldly standards, but as far as the norms of a rational religion were concerned, he was really backward. How could he possibly worship a piece of stone that was both blind and deaf, could neither respond to his prayers nor reject them. Abu Sufyan was not happy with what his daughter told him. He asked her how he could possibly, at this stage, turn his back on a religion his forefathers had followed from generations and left his daughter’s house.

It was the earnest desire of Umm Habibah that her father and brother should come into the fold of Islam and earn the reward of a blessed Paradise. She did not want them to pass away from this world in a state of disbelief like Abu Jahl, Walid bin Al-Mughirah, ‘Aas bin Wa’il, ‘Utbah bin Rabi’ah and Shaybah bin Rabi’ah. On the occasion of the conquest of Makkah, when Abu Sufyan and Mu’awiyah pledged allegiance to Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), her joy knew no bounds. The following Ayah was revealed,

“Perhaps Allah will made friendship between you and those whom you hold as enemies. And Allah has power (over all things), and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Noble Quran 60:7]

‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas says that this particular Verse was revealed on the occasion of Umm Habibah’s marriage to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This marriage influenced important chieftains and prominent leaders like Abu Sufyan, Mu’awiyah and Yazid bin Abu Sufyan to understand Islam and join the ranks of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Abu Al-Qasim bin Asakar quoting Hasan says once Mu’awiyah was visiting the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), while he was seated with Umm Habibah beside him. When he turned to leave, Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) called out to him and invited him to sit with them.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then told him that he sincerely wished that they three should sit together and have the pure drink of Paradise there.

These words imply that they will all three, Allah Willing, be in Paradise. In a similar manner the glad tidings of Paradise for Umm Habibah are implied in a very famous statement of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that he has been commanded by Allah to marry only ladies who were deserving of Paradise.

So this means that in this very earthly existence all the Mothers of the Believers had been given the joyous news that they would go to Paradise in the Hereafter.

The name of Najashi, the ruler of Abyssinian, was actually Ashamah, meaning ‘gift’. Since he was a very generous man who was always giving gifts to the distressed and needy. His name was very appropriate. He was a very kind and sympathetic ruler. He became a Muslim after he saw the Islamic way of life of the refugees from Makkah. The Angel Jibril informed the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when he passed away due to natural causes. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed to Allah for the forgiveness of his sins. All the refugees – the Companions and women Companions – who found peace and freedom of religious worship in his kingdom, were very grieved when they received the news of his death. All of them remembered his sympathy, his kindness, his cooperation and the protection he provided them in difficult times. They prayed that his sins be forgiven and he be given a place in Paradise.

Umm Habibah, due to her knowledge, mastery over Hadith and eloquence was ranked third among the Mothers of the Believers. The first in rank was ‘A’ishah and the second was Umm Salamah There are sixty-five Hadiths narrated by her. Some of them are quoted by men like Mu’awiyah, ‘Abdullah bin ‘Utbah bin Abu Sufyan, ‘Urwah bin Zubayr, Salem bin Shawal bin Maki, Abu Al-Jarrah Qurashi. The ladies – Zaynab bint Umm Salamah Makhzumiyyah and Safiyyah bint Shaybah ‘Abdariah quoted others.

In Sahih Al-Bukhari it is mentioned that three days after receiving news of her father’s death Umm Habibah applied perfume. She then said there was no need for her to apply perfume that day, but the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had said,

‘It is not permissible for a Muslim lady who believes in Allah and the Last day of Judgment to mourn for more than three days for a dead person, except for her husband. Then she should observe mourning for four months and ten days.’

There is another Hadith associated with Umm Habibah quoted by Abul Jarrah Qurashi in Musnad Abu Ya’la regarding Siwak. She says, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

‘If it had not been so difficult, I would have liked my Ummah (followers) to clean their teeth with Siwak before every prayer just as they perform the ablution before every prayer.’

Another Hadith she narrated is quoted in Musnad Abu Ya’la, Musnad Abu Ahmad and by several other authoritative sources of Hadiths like Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah. This relates to the noon prayer. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

‘Whoever prays four voluntary Rak’ah (units) of prayer before and after the compulsory noon prayer Allah will make Hell-fire forbidden for him.’

When someone conveyed the message that ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan was martyred in his house after being besieged, she was so upset that she prayed the killer’s hands should be cut off and that he should be disgraced and shamed in public. And Allah fulfilled her prayer. A man entered the murderer’s house and attacked him with a sword; and when the murderer tried to protect himself with his right hand, it got Cut off. Then he tried to flee from him and ran into the street, holding his sheet with his teeth. But he could not manage it, the sheet fell, and he was left standing naked in front of all the people on the street.

During her brother Mu’awiyah rule she visited Damascus, and it was during his caliphate that she passed away in Al-Madinah in the year 44th, after Hijrah. Before her death Umm Habibah sent messages to ‘A’ishah and Umm Salamah apologizing for any offense she might have caused them when disagreements or differences had occurred. Both ‘A’ishah and Umm Salamah were very touched by this gesture.

“O the one in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back to your Lord – well pleased and well pleasing. Enter you then among My (honored) servants, and enter you My Paradise.”[Noble Quran 89:27-30]

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