Umm 'Umarah – Nusaybah bint Ka'b

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

“O Allah! Make this family my friends in Paradise.”

Umm ‘Umarah was also an Ansariyyah. She was from the famous Banu Najjar tribe. Her two sons had been martyred and her brother ‘Abdullah bin Ka’b was a Companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in the Battle of Badr. She was renowned for her courageous exploits in the battlefields. She was a faithful and loyal wife, and a loving mother, and had remarkable patience and forbearance. Also she was very learned in the Quran and Hadith.

Her life makes pleasurable and instructive reading for the growth and development of one’s faith.

The fortunate Ansar in Al-Madinah who converted to Islam by the teachings of Mus’ab bin ‘Umair went to a particular mountain pass to pledge allegiance to Allah and His Messenger for the second time. There were about seventy-two men and two women. One of the women was Umm ‘Umarah and the other was Umm Muni’ Asma’ bint ‘Amr bin ‘Adi. The former narrates that her husband, Ghazyah bin ‘Amr, told the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that these two women also wanted to swear allegiance on his palm. He said it was all right, but for these women too the terms would be the same as for the men. He said that the only difference would be that he took the men’s palms in his palm, but he did not shake hands with women. This incident of the swearing of allegiance is called Bay’atul-‘Aqabah Ath-Thaniyah (second oath) in Islamic history. When Umm ‘Umarah returned to Al-Madinah after taking this oath of allegiance, she devoted herself to the education and training of women in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

Umm ‘Umarah was married the first time to Zaid bin ‘Asim Al-Mazni. and she bore two sons by him named Abdullah and Habib both of whom were among the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). A boy Tamim, and a girl Khawlah, were born from her second marriage which was to Ghazyah bin ‘Amr Mazni.

Umm ‘Umarah took part in the Second Bait-ul-‘Aqabah, the Battle of Uhud, the Battle of Hunayn, the war of Yamamah, and the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. Her skill with the sword in the battle of Uhud astonished those who saw her. The Prophet said that in whichever direction he turned in the battlefield he could see her defending and protecting him.

She herself describes a very critical stage in the battle of Uhud. The Mujahidin of Islam were on the verge of defeat and they were scattering. She, along with her two sons, and husband tried to surround the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in order to ward off and repel any attack on him. She had a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. If the enemy had been on foot and not on horseback, they would have slain all of them. When one of the enemies attacked her she warded off the attack with her shield; she then pulled at the bridle of the horse to turn it around. Taking this opportunity, she plunged her sword into the horse’s back. The wounded horse fell, taking the rider with him. Seeing this, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) called out to ‘Abdullah bin Umm ‘Umarah to help his mother. And together she and her son finished off the enemy soldier.

‘Abdullah bin Umm ‘Umarah relates how during the battle of Uhud the enemy made a forceful thrust against them. The Mujahidin scattered before them and he and his mother moved close to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to defend him from all quarters. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) it called out to him to attack the enemy. He threw a stone at the disbeliever; it hit the eye of the horse he was riding. The horse fell to the ground somersaulting. He threw another heavy stone and the enemy died. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) looked pleased, and then he noticed that Umm ‘Umarah was bleeding from the shoulder; he asked ‘Abdullah to bandage his mother’s wound and said that they were a truly great family. He invoked Allah’s blessings on them, and prayed that they should be his friends in Paradise as well.

Both Umm ‘Umarah and ‘Abdullah were overjoyed when they heard these auspicious words from the lips of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). At the same time they were inspired to greater heights of heroism and returned to the attack with renewed vigour. His next victim injured him on the left arm with his sword, and a fountain of blood gushed out. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told him to immediately bandage his wound. When Umm ‘Umarah saw her son bleeding profusely, she bandaged his arm and told him not to lose courage but continue with his attack on the enemy. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) smiled when he saw the heroism and courage of both mother and son, and said,

‘From where can anyone get courage like you, O Umm ‘Umarah?’

Umm ‘Umarah was standing in front of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) with a naked sword when the same man came before them. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) pointed out to her that this was the man who injured her son. She struck a powerful blow cutting off his leg. The man fell face down; a few other Mujahidin leapt on him and killed him.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was very impressed with this display of strength and courage by Umm ‘Umarah. He smiled and thanked Allah who gave her that success and had soothed her grief and avenged her by the death of the enemy before her very eyes.

During this battle she sustained at least twelve major wounds; the deepest one, the one on her shoulder, it was so deep that she fainted; and it took a year for it to heal. When she regained consciousness her first question was about the well being of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), rather than about her own sons or husband. When she learned that he was fine, she thanked Allah. Besides the battle of Hunayn and the conquest of Makkah, Umm ‘Umarah fought valiantly in the battle against Musaylamah Al-Kadthab. She sustained eleven wounds and her arm was cut. Her son, Habib bin Zaid Ansari was martyred in this battle, slain by Musaylamah himself.

Her other son, ‘Abdullah bin Zaid was martyred in the Battle of Hurrat. This war was fought in the year 63rd, after Hijrah, on stony black ground (Harrah) to the east of Al-Madinah. ‘Abdullah bin Zaid was that great Companion who took part in many wars and the one, who murdered Musaylamah Al-Kadthab with his sword. Wahshi bin Harb, who martyred Hamzah bin ‘Abdul Muttalib was also among those who murdered Musaylamah Al-Kadthab. After the battle of Uhud when the Muslim troops returned to Al-Madinah under the leadership of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), he announced that they should get ready to march to a place called, Hamra’ Al-Asad, to chase the pagans. The Mujahidin spent just one night in Al-Madinah. Umm ‘Umarah also got up to join them, energized as she was by her ardour to fight the pagans, but weakened by her serious injuries she could not make it. As soon as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) returned he asked her brother, ‘Abdullah bin Ka’b Mazni about her sister’s welfare. When he heard that her wounds were healing he breathed a sigh of relief and thanked Allah for His Divine Mercy.

Umm ‘Umarah and some other women also took part in a war with the Banu Quraythah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave them part of the booty taken during this war. These were the terms of equality practiced by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). She was also active during the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. She related how they set out from Al-Madinah to perform ‘Umrah under the leadership of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). They were stopped at Hudaybiyah because the Quraysh did not want the Muslims to enter Makkah. ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan was appointed ambassador and sent to Makkah to negotiate. Since his return was delayed, rumors spread that he had been martyred. At the command of Allah the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sat under a tree and people started swearing allegiance to Allah and His Messenger.

Those who were armed took hold of their weapons. Most people came unarmed as they set out for ‘Umrah. Umm ‘Umarah says she had a stick and she stuck a knife in her belt, to defend herself in case of enemy attack. As it turned out the news about the death of ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan was a false rumor. And a pact was made with the enemy that came to be known as the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. This treaty is mentioned in the Quran in the following words,

“Indeed, Allah was pleased with the believers when they gave the pledge to you under the tree: He knew what was in their hearts, and he sent down calmness and tranquility upon them, and He rewarded them with a near victory. And abundant spoils that they will capture. And Allah is Ever All-Mighty, All-Wise.” [Noble Quran 48:18-19]

Twenty women took part in the Battle of Khyber; one of them was Umm ‘Umarah. Once again when the Muslim army triumphed women were given a share of the booty of war. Umm ‘Umarah got expensive dresses and jewellery and two Dinars. In the Battle of Hunayn as well she had fought valiantly and received some part of the booty. A man of the tribe of Banu Hawazin entered the battlefield on camel back, waving a flag. She hit the camel from the back so violently that it stumbled and fell; the rider also fell, she attacked him so that he never recovered.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sent Umm ‘Umarah’s son, Habib bin Zaid as his representative to Musaylamah Al-Kadthab, in order to bring him to the right path. Breaking all norms of diplomacy, this low down man captured Habib and tied him to a pillar. He then asked him, “Do you testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah?” When he answered in the affirmative, he asked him if he also testified that he, Musaylamah, was also the messenger of Allah. Habib replied that he was deaf and could not hear him. He kept on repeating the question again and again. And Habib kept on repeating the same answer. Then this cruel man cut off each part of his body, one by one, and gradually martyred him. When Umm ‘Umarah got this news about her son she displayed exemplary patience. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) consoled the family and prayed for them.

During his caliphate, Abu Bakr Siddiq sent the army to test the challenge of the army of Musaylamah. Umm ‘Umarah was also in the army. She was about sixty years old at the time, and her son ‘Abdullah bin Zaid was also with her; he was one of those who finally killed this man. During this battle her arm was cut off and she sustained eleven injuries. Khalid bin Walid the General of the army boiled some oil and immersed her arm in it to cure her wounded arm; but for Umm ‘Umarah her happiness at the death of Musaylamah, was much greater than her grief at the loss of her arm.

During the caliphate of ‘Umar bin Khattab, some beautiful and exclusive sheets were sent to him. One of these sheets was exceptionally beautiful and large as well. Some of the companions suggested that it should be sent as a gift to Safiyyah bin ‘Ubayd, the wife of ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar. But ‘Umar bin Khattab said that he knew of someone even better than her and praised by no less a person than the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). He then sent it to Umm ‘Umarah.

Once Umm ‘Umarah told the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that in the Noble Quran only men were mentioned and women were often deprived of any importance. Then this Ayah was revealed.

“Verily, the Muslims men and women, the believers men and women, the men and the women who are obedient (to Allah), the men and women who are truthful, the men and the women who are patient, the men and the women who are humble, the men and the women who give Sadaqat (i.e. Zakah and alms), the men and the women who observe fast, the men and the women who guard their chastity (from illegal sexual acts) and the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise).” [Noble Quran 33:35]

Umm ‘Umarah held a very special place among the women Companions. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) saw the valour and sacrificing spirit of the whole family – husband, wife, and sons – in the most intense part of the battle of Uhud he prayed that Allah might have Mercy on that family.

Umm ‘Umarah requested him to pray that they should have the good fortune to be with him in Paradise. It was then that he prayed that they should be his friends in Paradise.

“Allah will be pleased with them and they with Him.” [Noble Quran 98:8]

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