Umm Salamah! What an eventful
life she had! Her real name was Hind. She was the daughter of one of the
notables in the Makhzum clan nicknamed "Za'ad ar-Rakib" because he
was well known for his generosity particularly to travelers. Umm Salamah's
husband was 'Abdullah ibn 'Abdul-Asad and they both were among the first
persons to accept Islam. Only Abu Bakr and a few others, who could be counted
on the fingers of one hand, became Muslims before them.
As soon as the news of their
becoming Muslims spread, the Quraysh reacted with frenzied anger.
They began hounding and persecuting Umm Salamah and her husband. But the couple
did not waver or despair and remained steadfast in their new faith.
The persecution became more and
more intense. Life in Makkah became unbearable for many of the new Muslims. The
Prophet, peace be upon him, then gave permission for them to emigrate to Abyssinia. Umm Salamah and her husband were in the
forefront of thesemuhajirun, seekers of refuge in a strange land. For Umm
Salamah it meant abandoning her spacious home and giving up the traditional
ties of lineage and honor for something new, hope in the pleasure and reward of
Despite the protection Umm
Salamah and her companions received from the Abyssinian ruler, the desire to
return to Makkah, to be near the Prophet and the source of revelation and
News eventually reached the muhajirun that
the number of Muslims in Makkah had increased. Among them were Hamzah ibn
'Abdul-Muttalib and 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. Their faith had greatly strengthened
the community and the Quraysh they heard, had eased the persecution
somewhat. Thus a group of the muhajirun, urged on by a deep longing in
their hearts, decided to return to Makkah.
The easing of the persecution was
but brief as the returnees soon found out. The dramatic increase in the number
of Muslims following the acceptance of Islam by Hamzah and 'Umar only
infuriated the Quraysh even more. They intensified their persecution
and torture to a pitch and intensity not known before. So the Prophet gave
permission to his companions to emigrate to Madinah. Umm Salamah and her
husband were among the first to leave.
The hijrah of Umm
Salamah and her husband though was not as easy as they had imagined. In fact,
it was a bitter and painful experience and a particularly harrowing one for
Let us leave the story now for
Umm Salamah herself to tell ...
When Abu Salamah (my husband)
decided to leave for Madinah, he prepared a camel from me, hoisted me on it and
placed our son Salamah on my lap. My husband then took the lead end went on
without stopping or waiting for anything. Before we were out of Makkah however
some men from my clan stopped us and said to my husband:
"Though you are free to do
what you like with yourself, you have no power over your wife. She is our
daughter. Do you expect us to allow you to take her away from us?"
They then pounced on him and
snatched me away from him. My husband's clan, Banu 'Abdul-Asad, saw them
taking both me and my child. They became hot with rage.
"No! By Allah," they
shouted, "We shall not abandon the boy. He is our son and we have a first
claim over him."
They took him by the hand and
pulled him away from me. Suddenly in the space of a few moments, I found myself
alone and lonely. My husband headed for Madinah by himself and his clan had
snatched my son away from me. My own clan, Banu Makhzum, overpowered me
and forced me to stay with them.
From the day when my husband and
my son were separated from me, I went out at noon every day to that valley and
sat in the spot where this tragedy occurred. I would recall those terrible
moments and weep until night fell on me.
I continued like this for a year
or so until one day a man from the Banu Umayyah passed by and saw my
condition. He went back to my clan and said: "Why don't you free this poor
woman? You have caused her husband and her son to be taken away from her."
He went on trying to soften their hearts and play on their emotions. At last
they said to me. "Go and join your husband if you wish."
But how could I join my husband
in Madinah and leave my son, a piece of my own flesh and blood, in Makkah among
the Banu 'Abdul-Asad? How could I be free from anguish and my eyes be free
from tears were I to reach the place of hijrah not knowing anything
of my little son left behind in Makkah?
Some realized what I was going
through and their hearts went out to me. They petitioned the Banu
'Abdul-Asad on my behalf and moved them to return my son. I did not now
even want to linger in Makkah till I found someone to travel with me and I was
afraid that something might happen that would delay or prevent me from reaching
my husband. So I promptly got my camel ready, placed my son on my lap and left
in the direction of Madinah.
I had just about reached Tanim
(about three miles from Makkah) when I met 'Uthman ibn Talhah (he was a keeper
of the Ka'bah in pre-lslamic times and was not yet a Muslim).
"Where are you going, Bint
Za'ad ar-Rakib?" he asked.
"I am going to my husband in
"And there isn't anyone with
"No, by Allah. Except Allah
and my little boy here."
"By Allah. I shall never
abandon you until you reach Madinah," he vowed.
He then took the reins of my
camel and led us on. I have, by Allah, never met an Arab more generous and
noble than he. When we reached a resting place, he would make my camel kneel
down, wait until I dismounted, lead the camel to a tree and tether it. He would
then go to the shade of another tree. When we had rested he would get the camel
ready and lead us on.
This he did every day until we
reached Madinah. When we got to the village near Quba (about two
miles from Madinah) belonging to Banu 'Amr ibn Awf, he said, "Your
husband is in this village. Enter it with the blessings of God."
He turned back and headed for
Makkah. Their roads finally met after the long separation. Umm Salamah was
overjoyed to see her husband and he was delighted to see his wife and son.
Great and momentous events
followed one after the other. There was the battle of Badr in which Abu Salamah
fought. The Muslims returned victorious and strengthened. Then there was the
battle of 'Uhud in which the Muslims were sorely tested. Abu Salamah came out
of this wounded very badly. He appeared at first to respond well to treatment,
but his wounds never healed completely and he remained bedridden.
Once while Umm Salamah was
nursing him, he said to her: "I heard the Messenger of God saying.
Whenever a calamity afflicts anyone he should say, 'Surely from Allah we
are and to Him we shall certainly return.' And he would pray, 'O
Lord, give me in return something good from it which only You Exalted and
Mighty, can give.' "
Abu Salamah remained sick in bed
for several days. One morning the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam came
to see him. The visit was longer than usual. While the Prophet sallallahu
'alayhi wa sallam was still at his bedside Abu Salamah passed away. With
his blessed hands, the Prophet closed the eyes of his dead companion. He then
raised these hands to the heavens and prayed:
"O Lord, grant forgiveness
to Abu Salamah. Elevate him among those who are near to You. Take charge of his
family at all times. Forgive us and him, O Lord of the Worlds. Widen his grave
and make it light for him."
Umm Salamah remembered the prayer
her husband had quoted on his deathbed from the Prophet and began repeating it,
"O Lord, with you I leave this my plight for consideration ... " But
she could not bring herself to continue ... "O Lord give me something good
from it", because she kept asking herself, "Who could be better than
Abu Salamah?" But it did not take long before she completed the
The Muslims were greatly saddened
by the plight of Umm Salamah. She became known as "Ayyin al-Arab" -
the one who had lost her husband. She had no one in Madinah of her own except
her small children, like a hen without feathers.
Both the Muhajirun and Ansar felt
they had a duty to Umm Salamah. When she had completed the Iddah (three
months and ten days), Abu Bakr proposed marriage to her but she refused. Then
'Umar asked to marry her but she also declined the proposal. The Prophet then
approached her and she replied:
"O Messenger of Allah, I
have three characteristics. I am a woman who is extremely jealous and I am
afraid that you will see in me something that will anger you and cause Allah to
punish me. I am a woman who is already advanced in age and I am a woman who has
a young family."
The Prophet replied: "Regarding
the jealousy you mentioned, I pray to Allah the Almighty to let it go away from
you. Regarding the question of age you have mentioned, I am afflicted with the
same problem as you. Regarding the dependent family you have mentioned, your
family is my family."
They were married and so it was
that Allah answered the prayer of Umm Salamah and gave her better than Abu
Salamah. From that day on Hind al-Makhzumiyyah was no longer the mother of
Salamah alone but became the mother of all believers, Umm al-Muminin.