Umm Salamah bint Abu Umayyah

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“Allah has commanded me to marry only with the women of Paradise. “Umm Salamah participated in the Ridwan pledge; therefore, she deserved the Paradise.

Her real name was Hind bint Abu Umayyah who became famous by the name Umm Salamah. She was noble by birth, intelligent, learned, wise and skillful. She was first married to ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdul Asad Makhzumi known as Abu Salamah. He was the son of the Prophet’s paternal aunt Barrah bint Abdul Muttalib. He too belonged to the select band of people who were the first to accept Islam. He was known for his integrity, valour, generosity, tolerance and patience. He was the eleventh person to come into the fold of Islam. He was also the foster brother of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) through the ties of breast-feeding.

Umm Salamah was also one of the earliest converts to Islam. Her mother was ‘Atikah bint ‘Amer bin Rabi’ah bin Malik bin Khazimah. Her father Abu Umayyah bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Makhzum was a very wealthy man and famous throughout the Arab world for his public service and charity. Umm Salamah seemed to have inherited this trait from her father. She was always amiable and kind to her neighbors. When she married the handsome and brave son of the equally wealthy family of Makhzum, she carried a friendly demeanor of pleasant serenity into her new household. There was an atmosphere of gaiety and love in the home of the newly married couple.

But things changed radically when the couple embraced Islam. The whole family turned against them; mischievous and wicked elements like Walid bin Mughirah Makhzumi started creating problems for them. Finally, when matters had nearly reached their worst, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised his staunch followers to migrate to Abyssinia where the Christian King was more tolerant of the new religion. Sixteen people set out on that historic first migration of the followers of Islam – twelve men and four women, Abu and Umm Salamah were part of these sixteen.

Umm Salamah narrated that life was very peaceful in Abyssinia, free of all religious persecution. She first gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Zaynab. Then she had a son Salamah, hence her name and her husband’s name.

The next child was also a son, ‘Umar. Finally they had another daughter who they named Durrah. So life was very smooth and time passed uneventfully, in peace and happiness. The ruler of Abyssinia, Najashi, was very kind to the migrants. When the leaders of the disbelievers heard this news they were enraged and thought that the Muslims were becoming a real source of danger for them. They decided to take strong measures to stem the rising tide of Islam.

After a great deal of thought they evolved a plan of action. The disbelievers sent the leading politician of the Arab world, Amr bin ‘Aas and ‘Abdullah bin Abi Rabi’ah with expensive gifts for Najashi, in order to persuade him to hand over the Muslim migrants to their custody. Najashi was a fair minded, far-sighted and frank man. So he called for the leader of the refugees to present their case. Najashi, after hearing the plea of the Muslims he then told the emissaries of the Quraysh that these migrants were people of good character and could continue to live in Abyssinia as long as they wished. Further, he would continue to give every kind of protection necessary, and the delegation from Makkah could leave carrying back their gifts. If someone gave him even a mountain of gold in exchange for these righteous people he would not surrender them. Umm Salamah has written about this memorable first migration of the Muslims, and described the greatness of Najashi in such a moving manner that it has become an integral and important part of Islamic history.

Umm Salamah narrates that their life in Abyssinian was very peaceful and Najashi was very kind, but all the same they were homesick for Makkah. They continued longing for the time when peace would finally prevail so they could return to their beloved country. One day news reached that ‘Umar bin Khattab accepted Islam and that the conditions in Makkah had changed completely. It was said that because of the authority and influence of ‘Umar the persecution of Muslims came to an end. They were all so excited at this good news, writes Umm Salamah that they decided to set out for their homes. ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan also set out with them with his family. On reaching Makkah they realized it had been just a rumor and things were much worse than before. Muslims were the targets of worse crimes and persecution. But it was too late.

An accepted tradition states what had actually happened. The disbelievers heard the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) reciting Ayat from the Noble Quran, and prostrated involuntarily at one Ayah with him. Like all rumors this too ballooned into news that the Quraysh had converted to Islam. In reality this was not so.

Weary of the constant problems they faced, they decided to leave for Abyssinia again. It was at this time that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered staunch Muslims to migrate to Al-Madinah. The delegation from there had brought the news that those who swore allegiance to Allah and His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) at ‘Aqabah had invited Muslims to settle there, and he accepted. The Ansar of Al-Madinah, (as they came to be called), had said they would look after their migrant brethren.

Abu Salamah with his family left on camels for Al-Madinah. When members of her family saw this they caught the bridle of the camel and told him that he could go where he wanted but he would have to leave behind their daughter. They said it seemed like a joke – he was always off somewhere or the other, Abyssinia, then Al-Madinah! He never seemed to give her a peaceful settled life.

When Abu Salamah’s family heard this they were enraged. They came and took her sons away, saying she could not take them with her; they were their flesh and blood and they would bring them up. So, in a moment the whole family was split up in three different places. Abu Salamah left for Al-Madinah, his wife was left with her parents and the sons were with the paternal grandparents. It was such a shock being torn apart from husband and sons, that she just could not stop weeping. Every day she used to visit the spot from where the husband and children had been torn away from her and weep for her loved ones. One day one of the members of her tribe passed that way and saw her grieving and asked her what happened. She told him about her plight. He then went and gave a piece of his mind to the elders of both families, rebuking them for their cruel behavior towards a noble and helpless lady. His emotional and blunt outburst made them realize how unjust they were and they relented. They gave back her sons to her, and her family too gave her permission to proceed to Al-Madinah.

But how could she travel alone? No one was willing to accompany her. Finally, gaining courage and solace from the fact that she now had her sons with her, she set out for Al-Madinah. When she reached Tan’im she met ‘Uthman bin Talhah ‘Abdari, who had not up to that time converted to Islam. He asked her where she was traveling all alone. She replied that she was going to join her husband. He was surprised that not a single member of the family accompanied her. She said no one agreed to go with her and she was totally dependent on Allah Almighty who was her Defender and Protector; only He would protect her. ‘Uthman bin Talhah ‘Abdari took the bridle of the camel and said he would help her in reaching destination.

Umm Salamah said that such a decent, pure-hearted man, with not a trace of evil in him would be difficult to find. Whenever they reached a camping site he would tie the camel to a tree and move far away to lie down and rest. So she also had some privacy and could rest at ease, relaxed with her children. When it was time to resume the journey he would bring the camel and make it sit down. Once she got on the camel’s back with her children, he would take the bridle in his hand and start walking. After several days they reached Quba which is in the environs of Al-Madinah. Banu ‘Amr bin ‘Auf were settled there; he said that since Abu Salamah was also there he could leave her and return. Umm Salamah says in her book that his gentlemanly behavior and his goodness affected her deeply. When she finally saw her family after so long her joy knew no bounds. So this divided family once again was at peace and the children had the benefit of a good upbringing that only united and happy parents can provide.

Abu Salamah took part in the Battle of Badr and once again had the honor of fighting for Islam in the Battle of Uhud. But in this last mentioned battle Abu Usamah Jashmi wounded him seriously in the side with his spear. He underwent treatment for a month but to no avail. The wound apparently healed, but that was only on the surface, and it continued to fester inside. Barely two months after the battle of Uhud the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) received news that Banu Asad was planning to attack the Muslims. He ordered his men to prepare for battle, and made Abu Salamah the Commander of the Islamic forces. The battle was won, and Banu Asad was crushed. The Muslims got the rich spoils of a war well fought. Abu Salamah was lying in a very serious condition when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) came to visit him. He realized that he was approaching death, and patting his hand consoled him. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prayed for him and Abu Salamah, also prayed and asked Allah to give his family a protector and provider like him. And he also asked Him to give Umm Salamah a husband who would give her neither sorrow nor hardship.

After this prayer he passed away. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) closed his eyes with his hands. Umm Salamah often thought of her husband’s last prayer for her and wondered who could possibly be better than Abu Salamah. She asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) what she should ask Allah for herself. He taught her to pray for forgiveness both for herself and for Abu Salamah and ask Allah to give her a better future.

Umm Salamah says that she prayed thus and Allah granted her prayer. When she finished the prescribed period of waiting, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent a proposal of marriage to her, but she refused. Then ‘Umar bin Khattab proposed and she refused him as well. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) proposed. She told him that she had three reservations regarding his proposal. She was hot-headed and had a temper; she felt she might be rude to the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), and thus lose the reward for all her good deeds. Secondly, she was an elderly lady; thirdly, she had, many children. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) answered that he would pray to Allah, and Allah willing, her temper would subside. As far as age was concerned, he was also an elderly man. Thirdly, as far as her children were concerned – that was the precise reason for proposing to her – he wished to be their guardian and share the responsibility. She writes that this answer gave her great happiness and thus she attained the honor of becoming part of the Prophet’s household. Thus Allah granted both hers and Abu Salamah’s prayer, and she married the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in the month of Shawwal, in the 4th, year after Hijrah.

‘Ayshah narrated that it was the habit of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to visit each of his wives in turn after the ‘Asr prayers. He would inquire about their welfare and if they needed anything. He would start from the apartment of Umm Salamah because she was the eldest among them, and finish his rounds at the apartment of ‘Ayshah.

Umm Salamah, because of her beauty, knowledge and wisdom held an eminent position. After the truce of Hudaybiyah, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered his Companions to sacrifice the animals they brought along for the purpose, and shave their heads. But they all seemed reluctant and did not rise to obey his command. When Umm Salamah saw the situation she suggested that he should not speak about the subject to anyone, but just go out from the tent and offer the sacrifice and shave his head. Then he could see the effect of his action. And what she expected happened – all the Companions followed suit.

Umm Salamah was a very astute and wise lady. She was educated and was very devoted to the welfare of the destitute and needy.

Several of the Ayat of the Noble Quran were revealed to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when he was in her apartment. For instance, Ayat in Surat AI-Ahzab,

“And Allah only wishes to remove evil deeds from you, O members of the family (of the Prophet), and to purify you with a through purification.” [Noble Quran 33:33]

Also some of the Ayat of Surat At-Tawbah were revealed while he was with her.

“And (there are) others who have acknowledged their sins, they have mixed a deed that was righteous with another that was evil. Perhaps Allah will turn unto them in forgiveness. Surely, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Noble Quran 9:102]

He also said:

“And (He forgave) the three who did not join till for them the earth, vast as it is, was straitened and their own selves were straitened to them, and they perceived that there is no fleeing from Allah and no refuge but with Him. Then He forgave them that they might beg for His pardon. Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful.”[Noble Quran 9:118]

This Ayah refers to the turning towards Allah of Ka’b bin Malik, Hilal bin Umayyah and Mararah bin Ar-Rabi’ in sincere repentance. These three Companions, without any valid reason, avoided joining the Muslim army in the Battle of Tabuk. They were therefore ostracized by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the rest of the Companions. They were so stricken by guilt that they kept praying for Divine Forgiveness, until finally Allah granted it to them. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was sleeping in the apartment of Umm Salamah when this last Ayah was revealed to him. He woke up in the late hours of the night and told her that the supplications for forgiveness of these three Companions had been accepted. She asked him if this good news should be conveyed to them immediately. He said they should not be disturbed so late at night; after the Fajr prayers he sent for them and congratulated them. They were overjoyed and so were all the other Companions.

Umm Salamah also had the distinction of taking part in many battles of significance in the history of Islam. She was with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) during the Battles Bani Mustalaq, Ta’if, Khaybar, Hunayn and the conquest of Makkah. She was present at the signing of the historic treaty of Hudaybiyah or Ridwan the oath of allegiance taken place.

Salman Al-Farsi narrates that someone mentioned to him that the Angel Jibril had come down from the Heavens and was in conversation with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). When he went there he saw that the person with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was Dahiah Al-Kalbi, and that Umm Salamah was also present. When conversation ended, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked if they knew who that gentleman was. She said he was one of his most faithful followers, Dahiah Al-Kalbi. Thereupon the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told her, smiling, that it was actually the Angel Jibril in human guise.

Umm Salamah was very learned in religious matters. She knew three hundred and eighty-seven Hadiths of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) by heart. She knew very well the finer points of Islamic law about foster-relations through suckling and divorce. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas used to consult with her for many points of Shari’ah, (Islamic law). Leading the list of names of Companions whose judgments on points of law were regarded as valid is the name of Umm Salamah.

Umm Salamah had hardly any equal in mastery over language. When she spoke her words and phrases were well chosen and exactly appropriate for the expression of ideas. Her written language was suited for literary expression. Many companions and followers have noted down traditions attributed to her.

She lived to the ripe old age of eighty-four and died in the year 62nd after Hijrah. She lived to see the rule Khulafa’ Ar-Rashidin. Zaynab bint Jahash was the first among the Mothers of the Believers to pass away and Umm Salamah the last. This was during the rule of Yazid bin Mu’awiyah and she was laid to rest beside the other wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in Jannatul Baqi’.

“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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