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Women at the Time of the Prophet Series - Umm Rumaan

Posted on Jul 03, 2014
Melanie Elturk


A family caravan made-up of a husband, wife and son arrived from the area of al Sarrat to settle down in Mecca - a holy place where people gathered and lived in harmony. The man's name was 'Abdullah ibn al Harith ibn Sakhbara al Azdi. His wife, known as Umm Rumaan, was a beautiful, well-mannered and eloquent woman, known for her righteousness and honesty. According to the custom at the time, the family would have to form an alliance with a prominent and respectable family in Mecca in order to grant them protection. 'Abdullah made a pact with 'Abdullah ibn Abi Qahafah, who later became known as Abu Bakr Assiddiq. Shortly after this, 'Abdullah ibn al Harith passed away, leaving Umm Rumaan and their son behind. As was the Arab custom at the time, to provide for Umm Rumaan and her family, ease her loneliness and honor the death of her late husband, Abu Bakr proposed marriage to Umm Rumaan. She accepted and Abu Bakr was the best of husbands; he honored and treated her well. Together they had had a daughter and a son, 'Aisha and Abdul Rahman.

This beautiful family was chosen by Allah (S) to be among the first to embrace Islam. Abu Bakr, the first man to embrace Islam, held a special title among the Companions and was responsible for many conversions to the new religion. From the moment Abu Bakr entered the folds of Islam, he committed everything he owned to it. He accompanied his mother, Salma bint Sakher to the Prophet (S) to embrace Islam and it wasn't long before his wife Umm Rumaan followed suit and became one of the first, few women to accept Islam and follow the path of the Prophet (S).

Umm Rumaan and Abu Bakr's home became a shelter for the Prophet (S). Umm Rumaan stood by her husband, sharing in his pain and consoling him during the harsh days of early Islam. She supported his generous efforts to free many of the weaker Muslim slaves and gave everything he owned for the sake of Islam. Just as Abu Bakr became known as Assiddiq (the truthful one), Umm Rumaan also exemplified the same attributes as her husband.

After the emigration to Medina, Umm Rumaan and her family attained a privilege unlike any other. The Prophet (S) dreamt that he married 'Aisha (RA), the daughter of Umm Rumaan and Abu Bakr. Khawlah bint Hakim (RA), one of the companions of the Prophet (S), was sent to Umm Rumaan to seek her approval. Khawlah approached Umm Rumaan and exclaimed, "What goodness and blessings God will bestow upon this household!" "What is that?" asked Umm Rumaan. "The Prophet (S) has sent me to ask for 'Aisha to be his wife!" Umm Rumaan was so pleased with the news, but waited for Abu Bakr to give the final blessing. When Abu Bakr heard the news, he was unsure of how to answer. "Is it proper for the Prophet (S) to marry his brother's daughter?" Khawlah rushed back to the Prophet (S) and informed him (S) of Abu Bakr's question. He (S) replied, "Tell Abu Bakr that our brotherhood is for the sake of Islam, and his daughter is permitted to be my wife." With that, Umm Rumaan soon became the mother-in-law to the best of mankind, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

Years later, when the hypocrites attempted to dishonor and humiliate the Prophet (S)'s family through lies and rumors spread about 'Aisha (RA), Umm Rumaan remained by her daughter's side; demonstrating strength and patience. Umm Rumaan put her full trust in Allah (S), for He (S) always took care of His faithful believers. Umm Rumaan kept the awful rumors a secret from 'Aisha, as she felt sympathy and mercy for her innocent daughter. When the news broke, however, 'Aisha burst into tears and blamed her mother for keeping her in the dark while the rumors spread from one person to another throughout Medina. With wisdom that only a mother can provide, Umm Rumaan soothed the pain of her daughter as she said, "O my young daughter, be of ease! I swear by Allah, when a man marries a lovely woman whom he really loves, rarely does this woman live without being hurt by his other wives or by her people." Days passed and finally the news came when Angel Jibreel descended to Earth, proclaiming 'Aisha's innocence with the verse from Allah (S), "Those who brought slander are a group of you. Regard it not as evil for you. No, it is good for you. To every man among them shall it be done according to the sins he has committed. As for him that had the greater part of it among them, his shall be a formidable torment" [24:11-19].

The verses declaring 'Aisha's innocence was a relief to Umm Rumaan and her family. Not only did Allah (S) preserve the Prophet (S)'s family against the hypocrites' lies, but humiliated and exposed the transgressor. Through all this, Umm Rumaan remained composed and patient.

Umm Rumaan earned the respect and appreciation of the Prophet (S) during her life and after her death. She passed away in the year 6 AH and at her burial, the Prophet (S) descended into her grave, made supplication and asked Allah (S) to forgive Umm Rumaan, "O Allah, you know what Umm Rumaan suffered for Your sake and for the sake of Your Messenger." As the Prophet (S) once described her, "Whosoever would like to look at a woman of paradise, then look to Umm Rumaan."

There are so many lessons to learn from the life of this woman of paradise. When her husband, a man of great wealth, spent everything he had freeing Muslim slaves who were being tortured by their masters, Umm Rumaan supported him and sacrificed in the name of Islam. She supported her husband not just for the sake of her being a good wife, but because she too believed in the cause of helping weaker Muslims for the sake of Allah (S). How many of us feel contempt or complain when our spouses spend money on their families - their parents, siblings, or extended family? Umm Rumaan married a man of great wealth - a man who's wealth dwindled to nearly nothing as he gave it all away in the name of Islam. How would we react if our husband's suddenly lost all their wealth, causing us to adjust our lifestyle - the things we buy, the food we eat, the clothes we wear. Would we accept it in stride? Or would we protest, complain, demand that we deserve more?

When the rumors spread about Umm Rumaan's beloved daughter, Umm Rumaan stood by 'Aisha (RA)'s side, protecting her from the awful gossip and remained composed throughout the entire ordeal. Rather than questioning her daughter, she was sympathetic and merciful, soothing her with words to help her understand the rumors and lies spread out of jealousy because she has something so special and sacred, the love of the Prophet (S).

Let us take the lessons from the life of Umm Rumaan and apply them to our own lives - let us be painfully generous even when it's inconvenient, let us stand by our family through thick and thin, remaining patient and poised. Let our actions be of such that the Prophet (S) would describe us as a woman of paradise.

Reference: Tabaa, Asma. Stars in the Prophet’s Orbit, Hussen Obiadi Bookbinding Est., 2003.