Barakah

Zayd was an Arab from the tribe of Kalb who was captured as a boy and brought to Makkah to be sold in the slave market. He was bought by Khadijah’s nephew and put in her service. In Khadijah’s household, Zayd became attached to Muhammad and devoted himself to his service. Their relationship was like that of a son to a father. Indeed when Zayd’s father came to Makkah in search of him, Zayd was given the choice by Muhammad of either going with his father or staying with him. Zayd’s reply to his father was:

“I shall never leave this man. He has treated me nobly, as a father would treat his son. Not a single day have I felt that I am a slave. He has looked after me well. He is kind and loving towards me and strives for my enjoyment and happiness. He is the most noble of men and the greatest person in creation. How can I leave him and go with you?…I shall never leave him.”

Later, in public Muhammad proclaimed the freedom of Zayd. However, Zayd continued to live with him as part of his household and devoted himself to his service.

When Muhammad was blessed with prophethood, Barakah and Zayd were among the first to believe in the message he proclaimed. They bore with the early Muslims the persecution which the Quraysh meted out to them.

Barakah and Zayd performed invaluable services to the mission of the Prophet. They acted as part of an intelligence service exposing themselves to the persecution and punishment of the Quraysh and risking their lives to gain information on the plans and conspiracies of the mushrikin.

One night the mushrikun blocked off the roads leading to the House of al-Arqam where the Prophet gathered his companions regularly to instruct them in the teachings of Islam. Barakah had some urgent information from Khadijah which had to be conveyed to the Prophet. She risked her life trying to reach the House of al-Arqam. When she arrived and conveyed the message to the Prophet, he smiled and said to her:

“You are blessed, Umm Ayman. Surely you have a place in Paradise.” When Umm Ayman left, the Prophet looked at his companions and asked: “Should one of you desire to marry a woman from the people of Paradise, let him marry Umm Ayman.”

Ali the companions remained silent and did not utter a word. Umm Ayman was neither beautiful nor attractive. She was by now about fifty years old and looked rather frail. Zayd ibn al-Harithah however came forward and said:

“Messenger of Allah, I shall marry Umm Ayman. By Allah, she is better than women who have grace and beauty.”

Zayd and Umm Ayman were married and were blessed with a son whom they named Usamah. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, loved Usamah as his own son. Often he played with him, kissed him and fed him with his own hands. The Muslims would say: “He is the beloved son of the beloved.” From an early age Usamah distinguished himself in the service of lslam, and was later given weighty responsibilities by the Prophet.

When the Prophet migrated to Yathrib, henceforth to be known as al-Madinah, he left Umm Ayman behind in Makkah to look after certain special affairs in his household. Eventually she migrated to Madinah on her own. She made the long and difficult journey through the desert and mountainous terrain on foot. The heat was killing and sandstorms obscured the way but she persisted, borne along by her deep love and attachment for Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace. When she reached Madinah, her feet were sore and swollen and her face was covered with sand and dust.

“Ya Umm Ayman! Ya Ummi! (O Umm Ayman! O my mother!) Indeed for you is a place in Paradise!” exclaimed the Prophet when he saw her. He wiped her face and eyes, massaged her feet and rubbed her shoulders with his kind and gentle hands.

At Madinah, Umm Ayman played her full part in the affairs of the Muslims. At Uhud she distributed water to the thirsty and tended the wounded. She accompanied the Prophet on some expeditions, to Khaybar and Hunayn for example.

Her son Ayman, a devoted companion of the Prophet was martyred at Hunayn in the eighth year after the Hijrah. Barakah’s husband, Zayd, was killed at the Battle of Mutah in Syria after a lifetime of distinguished service to the Prophet and Islam. Barakah at this time was about seventy years old and spent much of her time at home. The Prophet, accompanied by Abu Bakr and Umar often visited her and asked: “Ya Ummi! Are you well?” and she would reply: “I am well, O Messenger of Allah so long as Islam is.”

After the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had died, Barakah would often be found with tears in her eyes. She was once asked, “Why are you crying?” and she replied: “By Allah, I knew that the Messenger of Allah would die but I cry now because the revelation from on high has come to an end for us.”

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