Saturday, March 30, 2013

Women around the Prophet: His Guardians

Being a posthumous child, Muhammad the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, never met his father.  He seemed to have some recollections about his mother Aminah and his grandfather Abdul Muttalib, but not about his grandmother Fatimah bint Amr.  She must have died when he was too young to remember her.

His mother Aminah did not die until he was six years old, but he only spent slightly more three years with her.  That’s because a few weeks after he was born, he lived with his suckling mother, Haleemah as-Sa’diyah, in the desert.  This Haleemah was his guardian when he was an infant. 

After his grandfather died, the Prophet went to live with his auntie, Fatimah bint Asad, the wife of Abu Talib.  He lived under her household until he got married, at the age of twenty five.  When he started his mission, she became his follower and migrated with him to Madinah.  She died there a few years later, and the Prophet buried her with his own hand.

These two female guardians of the Prophet died before him.   But there was another guardian who took care of him since he was born, lived with him even after he got married, became his strong supporter when he started preaching Islam, and died about five months after him.  She was Barakah al-Habashiyah, better known as Umm Ayman.

Let’s briefly narrate their stories.

When the Prophet was born, the first woman to breastfeed him was Thuwaibah, the slave girl of one of his uncles, Abu Lahab.  But Thuwaibah was not included among his guardians, thus we need not narrate further about her.

It was customary among the elites of Quraysh to let their child be nursed in the desert among the Bedouin.  The air of the desert was healthier; the language of the Bedouin was purer because it was untainted by the cosmopolitan life in the city; and the rigor of the desert life would develop better physical body for the baby.  All in all, it was considered a good thing for the child to be brought up in the desert.

Likewise with the baby boy Muhammad.  A few weeks after he was born, he was given to Haleemah bint al-Harith of Banu Sa’d to be nursed by her in the desert.  She is better known as Haleemah as-Sa’diyah, that is, Haleemah from the Tribe of Sa’d.

In the well-known tradition, we are told that Haleemah did not actually want to take Muhammad to be her nursling.  Her Bedouin tribe had been afflicted with drought.  Hunger was with them.  They came looking for babies to be nursed in the hope that the fathers of the infants would reward them handsomely.  But Muhammad was an orphan whose father had died even before he was born, so no woman of her tribe wanted to take him.  Haleemah also politely refused when Abdul Muttalib offered Muhammad to her. 

It turned out that she could not get any nursling.  It was said that among the women who came looking for babies to be nursed, Haleemah appeared to be rather pale and emaciated, an indication that hunger had afflicted her and her family rather severely.  Naturally, the parents of the infants preferred other women compared to her.

Not wanting to leave Makkah without any nursling, she told her husband, al-Harith bin Abdul Uzzah, that she decided to take the orphan.  Al-Harith agreed, saying that perhaps they would be blessed through him, so they went back to take Muhammad the baby. 

And what a blessing it was.  The tradition tells us that when Haleemah came to Makkah with her tribe, her mount, a donkey, suffered from a bloody wound.  The donkey could only walk very slowly behind the traveling caravan.  After taking the baby boy Muhammad, however, her donkey raced past the rest of the mounts in the caravan on their return journey to the desert.  

In addition, Haleemah had a baby boy about the same age as Muhammad.  Like his starving mother, he was suffering from malnutrition, because Haleemah’s breast would not turn out enough milk.  After taking Muhammad, however, her breast produced abundant milk to feed both infants. 

Furthermore, her old camel that had stopped producing milk, had suddenly produced milk again, and with that, they could quench their thirst and hunger.  When she reached their dwelling, her flocks somehow found enough to eat.  They returned home from grazing satiated and full of milk, while the flocks of others returned hungry.

On top of these and many other blessings, it was a joy to nurse the baby boy Muhammad, who grew up to be healthy, strong, intelligent and adorable toddler.  For that reason, Haleemah and her husband were most unhappy to return Muhammad to his mother.  So was Shayma, her daughter about five years older than Muhammad, who liked to play with, and took care of him. Thus, when the two year period ended, they were determined to keep him for another two years.

“By Allah,” Haleemah said when she brought Muhammad to his mother, “we have never seen a boy who is more blessed than he is, and we fear upon him the plague and diseases that are rampant in Makkah, so let us take him back with us.”

Aminah, the mother of Muhammad, refused.  She wanted to be with her son.  But she was sick at that time, so Haleemah and her husband used that as their argument, urging the mother of the Prophet to let they care for him for another two years, or at least until she was cured of her illness.  Seeing that they were very persistent, and she herself was not well at that time, Aminah relented.

But barely three or four months later, they brought Muhammad back to his mother.  Aminah sensed that something was not right, because they had been very persistent in taking him back with them to the desert.  When questioned, Haleemah simply said that the breast-feeding period was over, and that they were happy with his condition. 

But Aminah persisted, prodding them to tell the truth.  At last they told her that two men in white dress had come and split opened Muhammad’s belly, and took something out before they closed it again like before.  Fearing that something evil had happened to him, they thought that it was best to return him to his mother. 

Aminah assured them that nothing evil would fall on his son, and recounted her miraculous experiences during her pregnancy, and during giving birth to him.  Nevertheless, she was happy to have her son back.

The story of Haleemah as-Sa’diyah practically ended there.  Popular story indicated that she had visited Muhammad when he was already married with Khadijah.  Muhammad gave her 40 sheep because her family had been afflicted with drought, which was a regular phenomenon for the desert people.  It was also said that she and her family migrated to Madinah, joining the Prophet after Muhammad the Prophet had established himself as the undisputed leader there.

But the authentic tradition suggests that she remained with her tribe, and her story appeared after the Battle of Hunayn, which took place a few months after the Conquestof Makkah.  Her tribe was among the alliance that fought against the Muslims, and when they were defeated, Shayma, a young girl who used to play and take care of him when he was with them, came to see the Prophet.  The Prophet did not recognize her, for by then both were old.  Asking for the proof that she was really Shayma, the daughter of Haleemah, she told him of the incidence whereby Muhammad the toddler bit him on her back when she was playing with him. 

If the popular story of Haleemah joining the Prophet in Madinah is also authentic, then perhaps Shayma did not migrate with her parent to Madinah.  She must have stayed with her own family in the desert.  In any case, Haleemah is the guardian of the Prophet who appeared at the beginning and at the end of his life.  It is agreed that she and her family embraced Islam.

As the guardian of the Prophet, the name Haleemah as-Sa’diyah is well-known.  A more obscure figure is Fatimah bint Asad, although she took care of the Prophet longer than Haleemah did, and even longer than Aminah, the mother of Muhammad, did.

When Abdul Muttalib died, it was to her niece that the upbringing of Muhammad was entrusted.  Fatimah’s father, Asad, was the half-brother of Abdul Muttalib.  She was the wife of Abu Talib, her cousin.  Abu Talib as the male guardian of the Prophet is well-known, but the role of his wife, Fatimah, is less highlighted.  In any case, the Prophet lived with her from the time Abdul Muttalib died, when he was eight, until he got married, when he was twenty five.

Her full name with lineage was Fatimah bint Asad bin Hashim bin Abdul Manaf bin Quasyy b. Kilab b. Murrah b. Ka'b.  She had six children: four boys, two girls.  They are: Talib, Aqeel, Ja'far, Ali, Umm Hani and Jumanah.  She took care of the Prophet like her own children, and loved him no less than she did her own.  It was said that one of her daughters, Umm Hani, whose real name was Fakhitah, also known as Hind, was the Prophet’s first love.  This appears to be unfounded.  Neither Abu Talib, nor Fatimah Asad, would have objected if the two wished to be married.

Like her husband, she supported the Prophet when he started his mission.  Unlike her husband, she also became the Prophet’s companion, that is, she embraced the religion he brought.  Like her son Ali, who kept his conversion hidden from his father, Fatimah too kept it hidden from her husband, until Abu Talib found it out soon after.  When the Prophet migrated to Madinah, she also migrated and joined her nephew there.  She died not long after, in the year 4 AH, and the Prophet buried her with his own hand. 

Seerah literatures do not tell much about her.  Her husband, Abu Talib, was more prominent.  And her sons, especially Ali and Ja’far, were very prominent companions.  Even her daughter, Umm Hani, was better known than her mother.  This suggests that Fatimah Asad played her role more in the background.

Unlike Haleemah, who appeared in the beginning and towards the end of the Prophet’s life, Fatimah stayed close with her nephew throughout her life.  For seventeen years, the Prophet used to live in her house, under her watchful, caring and loving eyes.  To some extent, she was a “guardian” even before the Prophet stayed in her house, and even after his marriage to Khadijah, but the honor to be the longest serving female guardian of the Prophet should go to Barakah al-Habashiyah.

Her full name with lineage was Umm Ayman Barakah bint Tha'labah bin 'Amr bin Hassan b. Maalik b. Salamah b. 'Amr b. Nu'man.  She was a slave girl of the Prophet’s father, Abdullah.  She was about ten years old when the Prophet was born.  It was said that she was the one bringing the news of the Prophet’s birth to Abdul Muttalib, or she was one of those who brought the news that Aminah had delivered the much awaited boy. 

She took care the Prophet from the day he was born, and was separated from him only after Haleemah took him to be nursed in the desert.  Since she was the slave girl of the Prophet’s father, one may say that her role was more like a nanny rather than a guardian. 

When Haleemah returned the young Muhammad to his mother, Barakah stayed with Aminah, looking after him.  When his mother brought him to Madinah to visit his relatives there, as we have seen earlier, Barakah joined the trip.  When his mother died and his grandfather took care of him, she stayed with Abdul Muttalib, looking after the boy.  When Abdul Muttalib died, she stayed with Fatimah Asad, also looking after him.  When the Prophet got married, she moved with him and stayed in the household of the Prophet and Khadijah.

She lived separately from the Prophet only after the Prophet found a husband for her.  This marriage did not last long (some said her husband divorced her, others said he died) and she came back to live with the Prophet.  Through this marriage, however, she got a son named Ayman.  Because of that, she was known as Umm Ayman.  When the Prophet assumed his prophethood, she was among the earliest women to embrace Islam.  Due to her closeness with him, the Prophet called her “my mother after my mother.” 

Barakah al-Habashiyah or Umm Ayman was not known for her beauty, but the beauty of her heart was hard to beat.  When she lost her first husband, Muhammad was already a Prophet.  Looking for someone to care for her as a husband, the Prophet asked his adopted son, Zayd, whether he would want to marry “a woman of paradise.”  When Zayd asked who might that be, the Prophet answered, “Umm Ayman, my mother after my mother.”  Zayd readily agreed.

It is interesting to observe that, in this marriage, it was as if Zayd had married his “grandmother.”  Muhammad considered Zayd to be his son, calling him Zayd bin Muhammad after he adopted him.  At the same time, the Prophet called Umm Ayman “my mother.”  But this is only apparent, for the Prophet did not have any blood relationship with either. 

What is more interesting is that both readily accepted the proposal from the Prophet, although their age difference was rather big.  Zayd was about 15 years younger than the Prophet, and Umm Ayman was about 10 years older.  Between the two, the age difference was 25.  It was common for a man to marry a woman 25 years his junior, but not the other way around.  In any case, the marriage was a happy one. 

Zayd went on to marry another wife later in Madinah, Zaynab bint Jahsh, upon the instruction of the Prophet.  Zaynab was relatively young and very pretty.  She was of noble birth, for she was the cousin of the Prophet, being the daughter of one of his aunties, Umayma bint Abdul Muttalib.  But this marriage did not last.  Zayd divorced her, and the Prophet took Zaynab to be one of his wives.

Through her marriage with Zayd, Umm Ayman got another son, Usama, and a daughter, Zaynab.  Considering that she married Zayd when she was already in her early fifties, or late forties at least, Usama and Zaynab were the only children she gave to Zayd.

Umm Ayman lost her husband, Zayd, during the Battle of Mu’tah, in 8 AH, before the conquest of Makkah.  It was the first major battle participated by Khalid al-Walid as a Muslim.  Zayd was the appointed first general in that battle.  Two other appointed generals, Ja’far Abu Talib and Abdullah Rawahah, also fell martyr.  In this battle, Khalid was appointed by the Muslims to be their general, as we have related in Khalid al-Walid, the Drawn Sword of Allah

The day of Mu’tah was the sad day for Umm Ayman, having lost her husband.  She was to face another sad day not long thereafter.  Her son, Ayman, fell martyr during the Battle of Hunayn, which took place about a month after the conquest of Makkah.  In a span of less than one year, or more precisely about six months, she lost both her husband and her eldest son.

But her saddest day was when the Prophet died about two years later.  She herself died about five months thereafter, as if she lived only to serve her “son” and her master the Prophet.  When her master died, she seemed to lose the will to live, and hastened to meet him in the Paradise.

It was related in the well-known tradition that Abdullah bin Umar, the prominent companion famously known as Ibnu Umar, used to complain to his father, Umar al-Khattab, about the distribution of war booty.  This took place when Umar was the Caliph.  The point of contention was that Usama, the son of Barakah al-Habashiyah and Zayd bin Haritha, both originally slaves, got more than Ibnu Umar did, while he was the son of the Caliph.  Umar retorted: “The Prophet loved his father more than he loved your father, and the Prophet loved him more than he loved you.”

Umar stopped at that, but he would be most correct had he continued: “And the Prophet also loved his mother more than he loved your mother.” 

The Prophet’s deep loved to Barakah al-Habashiyah, better known as Umm Ayman, his mother after his mother, is well known.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Women around the Prophet: His Matriarchs and Relatives

When the Prophet was about six years old, his grandfather Abdul Muttalib took him to Yathrib.  His mother Aminah and his “nanny” Barakah came along.  The purpose of the journey was to visit the grave of Abdullah, the son of Abdul Muttalib, the husband of Aminah, the father of Muhammad, and the master of Barakah.

But the greater reason for the journey was to introduce the young Muhammad to his relatives in Yathrib.  The town Yathrib, as we know, was the place the Prophet and his Companions migrated.  The name of this town was later changed to Madinah after the Prophet’s migration.  This name stays until our times.  Let’s use Madinah instead of Yathrib from hereon, because this name is known to all.

But who were the relatives of the Prophet who lived in Madinah?  They were the clan of Abdul Muttalib’s mother, Banu an Najjar, a sub-tribe of Khazraj, one of the two main tribes in Madinah.  Her name was Salma bint Amr bin Zayd bin Labid.

The great grandfather of Muhammad, Hashim, whose name the clan of the Prophet, Banu Hashim, is associated with, married Salma bint Amr in one of his visits to Madinah.  He was on his trade mission to Sham (Syria).  He was in fact the first to introduce the trade mission to Sham in the summer and to Yemen in the winter, a tradition that we learn from Surah al-Quraysh (Chapter 106).

Due to his marriage with Salma, Hashim stayed with his wife for a while in Madinah before continuing with his trading mission to Sham (at the Gaza city).  He died and was buried there, leaving his widowed wife who was pregnant with a baby boy at that time.  When she gave birth to him, they named him Shaybah.  In case you are curious, it is said that he was named Shaybah (literally, old man) because he was born with a few grey hairs.  Hashim’s family in Makkah, meanwhile, was not aware that he had a son in Madinah, until many years later.

When Shaybah was about ten years old, his uncle Muttalib, the brother of Hashim, went to Madinah to persuade his mother and her tribe to let the young Shaybah be brought and raised in Makkah.  His mother Salma and her tribes were at first disagreed with the idea, no doubt because they loved the boy and did not want to be separated from him. 

Undeterred, Muttalib stayed in Madinah for three months and finally managed to persuade them to let him bring his nephew to Makkah.  His main argument was that Hashim, his brother, was the leader of Makkah, and his son should be allowed to live in Makkah so that he would be their leader when he became a grown up man.

When Muttalib brought the young Shaybah with him to Makkah, people thought that the boy was his slave.  So they called him Abdul Muttalib (literally, the slave of Muttalib).  Muttalib objected to that, saying that the boy was his nephew, the son of their deceased leader, Hashim.  Nevertheless, the name stuck throughout his life and beyond. 

Since the Prophet’s great grandmother was from Banu an-Najjar of Madinah, there was, therefore, some Yathrib or Madinah blood in him.  This proved to be quite handy for his mission later on, for the first clan that accepted his mission was Banu an-Najjar, the clan of his great grandmother.  Thus, when the Prophet migrated to Madinah, the town was not a complete stranger to him, for here lived his relatives, and he had been there as a young boy.

Anyway, when Abdul Muttalib became the most prominent of leaders in Makkah, one day he went to the place near Kaabah where animals were slaughtered.  Due to the vow that he made years earlier, it was not an animal that he was about to slaughter this time; it was one of his sons, Abdullah.

When Abdul Muttalib was about to fulfill his vow, one of his wives, the one who gave birth to Abdullah, went hysterical.   When she failed to persuade her husband to call off his intention, she quickly called for her cousin, al-Mughirah, for help.  Meanwhile, Abdul Manaf, one of Abdul Muttalib’s sons, tried all he could to stop his father from slaughtering his brother.  At the same time, Umayyah, the cousin of Abdul Muttalib, also tried to stop his cousin from continuing with his vow.

Abdul Muttalib of course did not really want to slaughter his son.  Abdullah was after all his most beloved son.  But he also did not want to break his vow with God.  In the ensuing suspense, Al-Mughirah proposed that the vow be ransomed with other things.  “Even if we have to exhaust all our wealth,” al-Mughirah said, “we would do so.”  To make this long story short, 100 camels were slaughtered in place of Abdullah.

Now, our concern here is not with this well-known story.  It is with the important figures in the story. 

First, who was the woman (one of Abdul Muttalib’s wives) who went hysterical when Abdullah was about to be slaughtered?  She was Fatimah bint Amr, the mother of Abdullah.  Her name with lineage is Fatimah bint Amr b. A'idh b. Imran b. Makhzum b. Yaqaza b. Murra b. Ka'b b. Lu'ayy b. Ghalib.   Because she was the mother of Abdullah, that made her the grandmother of the Prophet.

You will see that just like the name of one his daughters, the Prophet’s grandmother also went with similar name, Fatimah.  But it was to Ali bin Abu Talib, the cousin of the Prophet, that the honor of having Fatimahs around him should be given, for Ali was probably the only one whose grandmothers, mother, wife, daughter and granddaughter are named Fatimah.

Fatimah bint Amr was Ali’s grandmother as well, because his father Abu Talib was the full brother of Abdullah.  His grandmother from his mother side was also called Fatimah, that is Fatimah bint Qays, who was the mother of his mother, Fatimah bint Asad bin Hashim bin Abdul Manaf bin Qusayy.  His wife was Fatimah bint Muhammad, the daughter of the Prophet.  And Ali also had one daughter whom he named Fatimah (from different wife, not Fatimah bint Muhammad), and a granddaughter by the same name.

Another name in the above story is al-Mughirah.  Who was he?  He was the head of Makhzum clan at that time, a close friend of Abdul Muttalib, and a cousin of Fatimah bint Amr.  If you are familiar with Seerah, you would notice that one of the most notorious enemies of the Prophet came from this clan.  Yes, he was none other than Abu Jahal. 

Now, Abu Jahal was not actually called Abu Jahal.  That was the name given by the Prophet to him, a gift, we may say, for his fierce opposition.  His real name was Amr.  His full name was Amr bin Hisham bin al-Mughirah bin Abdullah b. Umar b. Makhzum b. Yaqaza b. Murrah b. Ka'b. 

Al-Mughirah, the cousin of Fatimah bint Amr, was Abu Jahal’s grandfather.  Al-Mughirah was also the grandfather of the great Islamic general, Khalid al-Walid.  Yes, Khalid full name was Khalid bin al-Walid bin al-Mughirah bin Abdullah b. Umar b. Makhzum.  Khalid and Abu Jahal was first cousin.  Khalid’s father and Abu Jahal’s uncle, al-Walid, was the famous enemy of the Prophet.  This al-Walid was the head of Banu Makhzum when the Prophet started his mission.

Back to Abu Jahal, his real name was Amr, as we have seen above.  But he liked to style himself Abu al-Hakam (pronounce Abul Hakam), meaning the Father of the Wise, or the Father of Wisdom.  It was by this name that he was known during the Prophet’s time. Since he rejected Islam, however, the Prophet did not see any wisdom in that, so he changed the name to Abu Jahal, the Father of Ignorance.  Of course Abu Jahal was not amused with that name calling.

Another name in the story above is Umayyah.  This is another well-known name.  One who reads Islamic history must have heard of Umayyah Dynasty, which was founded by Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan.  Yes, this was the same Umayyah who gave the name to the first Islamic dynasty. 

Umayyah was the cousin of Abdul Muttalib.  His father, Abdul Shams, was the brother of Hashim.  He was also the grandfather of Abu Sufyan, another fierce enemy of the Prophet, before he became Muslim after the conquest of Makkah.  Abu Sufyan, as we have seen in the first part of this series, was the husband of Hind, the fierce female opponent of the Prophet, before she too embraced Islam.  This couple, Abu Sufyan and Hind, were the parent of Muawiyah, the founder of Umayyah Dynasty.

The last name in the story above is Abdul Manaf.  Now, you may have heard that sometimes the Prophet is said to be of Banu Hashim.  Sometimes he is said to be of Banu Abdul Manaf.  At other times, he is said to be of Banu Abdul Muttalib.  That is the Arab’s way of identifying to which group he belongs to.  Banu simply means the children of, or the descendants of.  The Prophet descended from Abdul Muttalib, who descended from Hashim, who descended from Abdul Manaf.  That is why sometimes it is said that the Prophet belong to the tribe of Abdul Manaf (or Banu Abdul Manaf).

But the Abdul Manaf in the story above was not the great great grandfather of the Prophet, of whom Banu Abdul Manaf was called.  He was actually his uncle who was his guardian after the death of his grandfather.  He was none other than Abu Talib, whose given name was Abdul Manaf.  Since he had a son called Talib, Abdul Manaf was therefore known as Abu Talib.  He was the father of Ali, and the full brother of Abdullah.

Sometime after the above event, Abdul Muttalib went looking for a woman to be a wife for Abdullah.  He took a bride for himself first, whose name was Halah bint Wahab, or Wuhayb.  He chose Halah’s first cousin to be the bride for Abdullah.  Her name was Aminah bint Wahab bin Abdul Manaf bin Zuhrah. 

The Prophet’s mother, Aminah, is well known to many Muslims.  Suffice to say here that she belong to Zuhrah Clan, the clan of Sa’d Abu Waqqas, the conqueror of the Persian Empire, one of the Ten Promised Paradise.  She died when the Prophet was only six years old, on her way back from Madinah, as mentioned in the beginning of this article. 

After visiting her husband’s grave, and introduced her son (the boy Muhammad) to his relatives in Madinah, and let the boy played with his relatives for a few months, it is said that she was caught by a viral fever, but was undetected until the four of them (Abdul Muttalib, Barakah, Muhammad and herself) took the journey back to Makkah.  The fever developed and proved to be fatal, and she was buried at the place call al-Abwaa, somewhere between Madinah and Makkah.

The only thing to add is that her cousin Halah gave birth to two of the well-known personalities in Islamic history.  The first was Hamzah, the Prophet’s uncle, who fell martyr in the Battle of Uhud.  The second was Safiyya, the Prophet’s untie, who gave birth to Zubayr bin Awwam, one of the leading companions.  Zubayr was among the Ten Promised Paradise.  He was one of the six candidates to replace Umar al Khattab. 

When we trace the matriarchs of the Prophet, we could see the relationship between the main actors in the Seerah of the Prophet.  Whether they are companions or enemies, they belong to the same tribe.  This is not surprising, because they are all Qurasyh.  We hope the above gives some picture to the readers.

Related Articles:

Ten Promised Paradise
All in the Family

Monday, March 11, 2013

Women around the Prophet: Introductory Remarks

Names like Khadijah, Aisha, Aminah, Fatimah and Umm Jamil are practically known to every Muslim.  The first two were the Prophet’s wives, the third was his mother, the fourth was his daughter, and the last one was his fierce enemy. 

Other names like Fatimah bint Amr, Fatimah bint Asad and Barakah are less well known, except to the students of Seerah, although these three were very closely related to the Prophet.  The last two, in fact, had played great roles in the life and mission of the Prophet.  Of these three, the first was his grandmother, the second was his auntie (the wife of Abu Talib) who was his guardian after the death of his mother, and the last one was his father’s bondmaid whom the Prophet considered as “my mother after my mother.”

In this series, we shall try to highlight some of the women around the Prophet. 

Women around the Prophet may be divided into four categories.

First are his guardians: his grandmother (Fatimah Amr), his mother (Aminah Wahab), his suckling mother (Halimah al Saadiyah), his auntie who raised him after the death of his mother (Fatimah Asad), and his father’s freed bondmaid who took care of him when he was young and remained close to him for the rest of his life (Barakah or popularly known as Umm Ayman).

Second are his wives, of whom he had twelve: 1. Khadijah bint Khuwaylid; 2. Sawda bint Zam'a; 3. A'isha Siddiqa bint Abu Bakr; 4. Hafsah bint Umar; 5. Zaynab bint Khuzayma; 6. Umm Salamah Hind bint Abi Umayya; 7. Zaynab bint Jahsh; 8. Juwayriya bint al-Harith; 9. Umm Habibah bint Abi Sufyan; 10. Safiyya bint Huyayy; 11. Maymuna bint al-Harith; and 12. Maria al-Qibtiyya.  Or thirteen if we count Rayhanah bint Zayd as well, whose status is disputed, as we have seen in Prophet Muhammad Is Not an Israelite.

Third are his daughters, of whom he had four: Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthoom and Fatimah.

And finally his supporters, who are either his close relatives, such as his auntie Safiyya (the sister of his uncle Hamzah), his cousin Umm Hani (the sister of his cousin Ali), or distant relatives such as Fatimah al Khattab (the sister of Umar al Khattab), or those who are not related at all, such as Umm Sulaym (the mother of his boy-servant in Madinah, Anas bin Malik).

This classification is neither neat nor clear cut.  For instance, all of them are essentially his supporters as well, with the exception of his grandmother and his mother who had died when he was still a boy (his mother died when he was about six years old, and his grandmother a year or two later), and his suckling mother who had “disappeared” from his life after he was four years old, only to “reenter” again after the Battle of Hunayn.  His suckling mother was said to embrace Islam after that battle, but “disappeared” again from his life, living with her Bedouin tribe.

Not included in the above categories, but whose names are well known, were his female enemies.  Foremost among these were his auntie, Umm Jamil, the wife of his notorious uncle, Abu Lahab; Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan bin Harb; Khunass bint Malik, the mother of Mus’ab bin Umayr; and Umm Anmaar, the mistress or slave owner of Khabbab bin al Aratt. 

Since this series is about the female companions of the Prophet, or his guardians, let’s conclude this introductory remark by briefly highlighting the Prophet’s well known female enemies.

The first one was Umm Jamil. Her real name was Arwaa’ bint Harb. “Umm” means mother in Arabic.  Thus, her name denotes that she was the mother of “Jamil,” as Barakah, the guardian of the Prophet, was called Umm Ayman because she had a son called Ayman.  Arwaa’ bint Harb, however, did not have a son called “Jamil.”  She was called Umm Jamil because she was said to be very beautiful, for Jamil means beautiful.  Thus her name signifies that she is the “mother of beauty.”

Her beauty, however, did not go beyond her looks.  She had a sharp tongue and a terrible behavior. Unlike other female enemies of the Prophet, whose enmity tend to be mostly verbal, Umm Jamil got physical with the Prophet.  Aside from verbal abuse, she would throw dirt, animal hides, and thorns to the Prophet.  Other than Umm Jamil, no other woman was brave enough to cause physical and verbal abuse to the Prophet. 

Her “gallantry” was probably due to the fact that the Prophet was her nephew by marriage, since she was the wife of Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s notorious uncle.  Her “standing” was further amplified by the fact that she was the sister of Abu Sufyan bin Harb, a well-known enemy of the Prophet.  As if that is not enough, she was also the sister in law of Hind bint Utbah, another notorious female enemy of the Prophet, whose father, Utbah bin Rabi’ah, was also a well-known enemy of the Prophet. 

For her role in opposing her nephew and the mission he brought, Umm Jamil earned the epithet of the “wicked carrier of firewood.”  This epithet, given by Allah Himself, is preserved for eternity in the Surah al Masad.  As her husband was rich, she did not have to carry firewood to earn her living.  The epithet is a satire from Allah, signifying that her work would serve as fire to burn her in Hell.

When she came to know about the epithet, Umm Jamil was overcome with rage.  She took a stone and went looking for his nephew.  The Prophet was with his bosom friend, Abu Bakar, at that time.  She saw Abu Bakar, but somehow her nephew was “hidden” from her sight.

“Where is your companion Abu Bakar?”  She asked.

“Why?”  Abu Bakar replied with a question.

“I want to smash his mouth with this stone for lampooning me!”  She said.  Abu Bakar did not respond, and she left shortly thereafter, oblivious to the fact that her nephew, Muhammad the Prophet, was in front of her all the while.  This story is well known.

The second well known female enemy of the Prophet is Hind bint Utbah.  She was the wife of Abu Sufyan, the Makkan supreme leader after the Battle of Badar.  Abu Sufyan was among the arch enemies of the Prophet, but unlike Abu Jahal, Abu Sufyan did not belong to the hardliners.   This is probably due to his close friendship with Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib, the Prophet’s uncle. 

Hind was also the daughter of Utbah bin Rabi’ah, another well-known enemy of the Prophet.  She was related to Umm Jamil in many ways, for Umm Jamil was her cousin as well as her sister in law.

Hind opposed Islam and the Prophet from the beginning, following the footsteps of her father and her husband.  But unlike her sister in law, Umm Jamil, her opposition was not physical.  She also took the backseat behind Umm Jamil while the latter was alive.  The situation, however, changed after the Battle of Badar.  In that war, her father, Utbah bin Rabi’ah, her uncle, Shaybah bin Rabi’ah and her brother, Walid bin Utbah, were killed in the duel.

Crying out for vengeance, she mourned the death of her father, uncle and brother, putting dust on her head outside of her house, where she stayed and moaned for hours daily.  Her husband Abu Sufyan pleaded her to stop mourning and putting dust on her head, but she refused, until Abu Sufyan gave her the promise that the vengeance would be waged the next year.  It was to be the Battle of Uhud.

Hind’s enmity with the Prophet also turned personal after the Battle of Badar.  She wanted three men dead: the Prophet, Ali and Hamzah.  As for the Prophet, that was because he was the leader.  As for Ali, it was he who killed her brother, Walid.  As for Hamzah, it was he who killed her uncle, Shaybah.  And both Ali and Hamzah also finished off his father, Utbah, during the duel before the actual battle started.

For that purpose, she hired an Ethiopian slave, Wahsy, promising him freedom and material reward.  Wahsy was to kill the three, or at least one of them.  He managed only to give martyrdom to Hamzah, for he could never come close to the Prophet during the battle, and Ali was too vigilant when fighting.  When Hamzah fell, Wahsy slit opened his belly and took out the liver for Hind to chew.  Hind did chew the liver, but spit it out, unable to swallow it.  This story is well known.

Unlike Umm Jamil, however, Hind died as a good Muslim woman.  She embraced Islam after the conquest of Makkah.

The other two fierce enemies of the Prophet were Khunaas bint Malik and Umm Anmaar.  Khunaas was a close friend of Hind, a woman of high standing.  She was present with Hind during the Battle of Uhud.  But her story is known only because she was the mother of Mus’ab bin Umayr.  While she opposed Islam in general and Muhammad in particular, unlike Umm Jamil, she did not confront the Prophet physically.  Her opposition was mostly verbal, but she is quite known because she had chained her son Mus’ab and locked him in the room when she found out that her son had become a Muslim.  Like Umm Jamil but unlike Hind, she died a disbeliever.

Umm Anmaar is a more obscure figure compared to the first three.  She did not even belong to the tribe of Quraysh, but of Khuzaa, the Quraysh ally in Makkah.  But she is known because of her method of torturing her slave, Khabbab al Aratt.  Now, Khabbab was an ironsmith.  When Umm Ammar knew that Khabbab had become Muslim, she tortured him by putting the burning charcoal on the ground and roasted him as if he was some kind of roasted lamb.  Khabbab survived the ordeal, for the purpose of the torture was not to kill him, but to inflict severe pain, and Allah still wanted him to live by then. 

But Umm Anmaar got her “equitable reward” while still living.  Towards the end of her life, she was inflicted with excruciating headache the like of which had not been seen by the Makkans.  No treatment could relieve her pain, which would never go away.  Somebody suggested that the only way to cure her illness is by cauterizing her.  The burning iron ore was then placed on her neck, and she died after that.

These four, undoubtedly, were not the only female enemies of the Prophet.  But they were the most famous ones.  As our purpose is to highlight the female companions of the Prophet, beginning with his guardians, we shall end this introductory remark at this point.

Stay tuned.

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