Umm Salama Hind bint Abi Umayya, may Allah be pleased with her, was married to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in 4 AH at the age of twenty nine, after her first husband, Abdullah ibn Abdul Asad, had died from the wounds he had received while fighting at the battle of Uhud. Umm Salama and Abdal Asad had been among the first people to embrace Islam in the early days of the Muslim community in Mecca. They had suffered at the hands of the Quraish who had tried to force them to abandon their new faith, and had been among the first group of Muslims to seek refuge under the protection of the Negus in Abyssinia. When they had returned to Mecca, believing that the situation of the Muslims had improved, they had found instead that if anything it was worse. Rather than return to Abyssinia, Abdal Asad and Umm Salama had received the Prophet’s permission to immigrate to Medina, but this proved not to be as easy as they might have imagined.
In the words of Umm Salama: “When Abu Salama (my husband) decided to leave for Medina, he prepared a camel for me, lifted me up onto it and put my son Salama on my lap. My husband then took the lead and went straight ahead without stopping or waiting for anything. Before we were out of Mecca, however, some men from my tribe, the Banu Mahkhzum, stopped us and said to my husband: “Although you may be 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 grabbed hold of him and snatched me away from him. Some men from my husband’s tribe, the Banu Abdul Asad, saw them taking both me and my child and became hot with rage: “No, by Allah!’ They shouted. ‘We shall not abandon the boy. He is our son and we have a rightful claim over him.’ So they took him by his arm and pulled him away from me. Suddenly, in the space of a few minutes, I found myself all alone. My husband headed out towards Medina by himself; his tribe had snatched away my son from me; and my own tribe had overpowered me and forced me to stay with them. From the day that my husband and my son were parted from me, I went out at noon every day and sat at the spot where this tragedy had occurred. I would remember those terrifying moments and weep until nightfall.
“I continued like this for a year or so until one day a man from the Banu Umayya passed by and saw my condition. He went to my tribe and said, ‘Why don’t you free this woman? You have caused both her husband and her son to betaken away from her.’ He went on like this, trying to soften their hearts and appealing to their emotions, until at last they said to me, ‘Go and join your husband if you wish.’ But how could I join my husband in Medina, and leave my son, part of my own flesh and blood, in Mecca among the Banu Abdul Asad? How could I remain free from anguish, and my eyes free from tears, if I were to reach the place of hijrah not knowing anything of my little son left behind in Mecca?
“Some people realized what I was going through and their hearts went out to me. They approached the Banu Abdul Asad on my behalf and persuaded them to return my son. I had no desire to remain in Mecca until I could find someone to travel with me, for I was afraid that something might happen that would delay me or stop me from reaching my husband. So I immediately prepared my camel, placed my son on my lap, and set out in the direction of Medina. I just had just reached Tan’im (3 miles from Mecca) when I met Uthman ibn Talha (He as in charge of looking after the Ka’ba, but did not embrace Islam until the Conquest of Mecca). “‘Were are you going, Bint Zad ar Rakib?’ he asked. ‘I am going to my husband in Medina.’ ‘And isn’t there anyone going with you?’ ‘No, by Allah, except Allah and my little boy here.’ ‘By Allah,’ he vowed, ‘I will not leave you until you reach Medina.’
He then took the reins of my camel and led us on our way. By Allah, I have never met an Arab more generous and noble than he. Whenever we reached a resting-place, he would make my camel kneel down, wait until I had dismounted and then lead the camel to a tree and tether it. Then he would go and rest in the shade of a different tree to me. When we had rested, he would get the camel ready again and then lead us on our way. This he did every day until we reached Medina. When we reached a village near Quba (about two miles from Medina), belonging to the Banu Amr ibn Awf, he said, ‘Your husband is in this village. Enter it with the blessings of Allah.’ Then he turned round and headed back to Mecca.”
Thus after many difficult months of separation, Umm Salama and her son were reunited with Abu Salama, and in the next few years that followed, they were always near the heart of the growing Muslim community of Medina al Munawarra. They were present when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) arrived safely from Mecca, and at the battle of Badr Abu Salama fought bravely. At the battle of Uhud, however, he was badly wounded. At first his wound appeared to respond well to treatment, but then his wounds re opened after an expedition against the Banu Abdul Asad, and after that they refused to heal and he remained bedridden. Once while Umm Salama was nursing him, he said to her, “I once heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that whenever a calamity afflicts anyone he should say what Allah has commanded him to say: ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un!’ ‘Surely we come from Allah and surely to Him we return!’ and then he should say, ‘O Lord, reward me for my affliction and give me something better than it in return, which only You, the Exalted the Mighty, can give.'”
Abu Salama remained sick in bed for several days. One morning the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to see him. The visit was longer than usual, and while the Prophet was still at his bedside, Abu Salama died. With his blessed hands, the Prophet closed the eyes of his dead Companion and then raised them in prayer. “O Allah, grant forgiveness to Abu Salama; 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; make his grave spacious for him and fill it with light. Amin.”
Once again Umm Salama was alone, only now she had not one child, but several. There was no one to look after her and them. Recalling what her husband had told her while she was looking after him, she repeated the dua’a that he had remembered: “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un!” “Surely we come from Allah and surely to Him we return!” she repeated. “O Lord, reward me for my affliction and give me something better than it in return, which only You, the Exalted and Mighty, can give.” Then she thought to herself, “What Muslim is better than Abu Salama whose family was the first to emigrate to the Messenger of Allah?” All the Muslims in Medina were aware of Umm Salama’s situation, and when her idda period of four months and ten days were over, Abu Bakr proposed marriage to her, but she refused. Then Umar asked her to marry him, but again she refused. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself asked for her hand in marriage. “O Messenger of Allah,” Umm Salama replied, “I have three main characteristics: I am a woman who is extremely jealous and I am afraid that you will see something in me that will make you angry and cause Allah to punish me; I am a woman who is already advanced in age; and I am a woman who has many children.”
“As for your jealousy,” answered the Prophet, “I pray to Allah the Almighty to take it away from you. As for your age, I am older than you. As for your many children, they belong to Allah and His Messenger.”
The Prophet’s answered eased her heart, and so they were married in Shawwal, 4 AH, and so it was that Allah answered the prayer of Umm Salama and gave her better than Abu Salama. From that day on, Umm Salama was not only the mother of Salama, but also became the ‘Mother of the Believers’ ‘Umm al Muminin’.
Umm Salama was not the only wife to have been widowed as a result of the battle of Uhud, and thanks to this marriage, many of the Companions followed the Prophet’s example, marrying widows and thereby bringing them and their children into the circle of their families, instead of leaving them to struggle on their own.
A’isha said, “When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) married Umm Salama, I felt very unhappy when he mentioned her beauty to us. I waited until I saw her and she was even more beautiful than her description.” She was also from a very noble family and known for her keen intelligence. On more than one occasion, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked her advice in tricky situations.
Like A’isha and Hafsa, Umm Salama learned the whole of the Qur’an by heart, and an indication of her high station with Allah can be found in the fact that she was permitted to see the angel Jibril in human form: It has been related by Salman that Jibril came to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) while Umm Salama was with him, and had a conversation with him. After Jibril had left, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to Umm Salama, “Do you know who that was?” and she replied that it was a man called Dihya al Khalbi. “By Allah,” said Umm Salama, “I didn’t think it was anyone else until the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told me who it really was.”
She also had a home for her four children: Salama, Umar, Zaynab, and Durra who ere the foster children of the Prophet. Once she was with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) with her daughter Zaynab when Fatima came with al Hasan and al Husayn. He embraced his two grandsons and said, “may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you, People of the House. He is Praiseworthy, Glorious.” Umm Salama began to weep and the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) looked at her and asked tenderly, “Why are you weeping?” She replied, “O Messenger of Allah, you singled them out and left me and my daughter!” He said, “You and your daughter are among the People of the House.” Her daughter Zaynab grew up in the care of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and become one of the most intelligent women of her time. Once Zaynab came in while the Prophet was bathing and he splashed water in her face. Afterwards face retained its youthfulness even into her old age.
Her son Salama later married Umama, the daughter of Hamza, the martyred uncle of the Prophet. Umm Salama was married to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) for seven years until his death in 10 AH and accompanied him on many of his expeditions: Hudaybiyya, Khaybar, the Conquest of Mecca, the siege of Ta’if, the expedition against Hawazin and Thaqif, and the Farewell Hajj. She continued to live for a long time, outliving all the other wives of the Prophet, may Allah be pleased with them, until she died in 61 AH, at the age of eighty four, may Allah be pleased with her, and Abu Hurairah said the funeral prayer over her.