Ramlah Bint Abi Sufyan

Ramlah Bint Abi SufyanRamlah Bint Abi Sufyan

Abu Sufyan ibn Harb could not conceive of anyone among the Quraysh who would dare challenge his authority or go against his orders. He was after all, the sayyid or chieftain of Makkah who had to be obeyed and followed.

His daughter, Ramlah, known as Umm Habibah, however dared to challenge his authority when she rejected the deities of the Quraysh and their idolatrous ways. Together with her husband, Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh, she put her faith in Allah alone and accepted the message of His prophet, Muhammad ibn Abdullah.

Abu Sufyan tried with all the power and force at his disposal to bring back his daughter and her husband to his religion and the religion of their forefathers. But he did not succeed. The faith which was embedded in the heart of Ramlah was too strong to b e uprooted by the hurricanes of Abu Sufyans fury.

Abu Sufyan remained deeply worried and concerned by his daughter’s acceptance of Islam. He did not know how to face the Quraysh after she had gone against his will and he was clearly powerless to prevent her from following Muhammad. When the Quraysh reali zed though that Abu Sufyan himself was enraged by Ramlah and her husband, they were emboldened to treat them harshly. They unleashed the full fury of their persecution against them to such a degree that life in Makkah became unbearable.

In the fifth year of his mission, the Prophet, peace be on him, gave permission to the Muslims to migrate to Abyssinia. Ramlah, her little daughter Habibah, and her husband were among those who left.

Abu Sufyan and the Quraysh leaders found it difficult to accept that a group of Muslims had slipped out of their net of persecution and was enjoying the freedom to hold their beliefs and practice their religion in the land of the Negus. They therefore sen d messengers to the Negus to seek their extradition. The messengers tried to poison the mind of the Negus against the Muslims but after examining the Muslims beliefs and listening to the Quran being recited, the Negus concluded: “What has been revealed to your Prophet Muhammad and what Jesus the son of Mary preached came from the same source.”

The Negus himself announced his faith in the one true God and his acceptance of the prophethood of Muhammad, peace be on him. He also announced his determination to protect the Muslim muhajirin.

The long journey on the road of hardship and tribulation had finally led to the oasis of serenity. So Umm Habibah felt. But she did not know that the new-found freedom and sense of peace were later to be shattered. She was to be put through a test of the most severe and harrowing kind.

One night, it is related, as Umm Habibah was asleep she had a vision in which she saw her husband in the midst of a fathomless ocean covered by wave upon wave of darkness. He was in a most perilous situation. She woke up, frightened. But she did not wish to tell her husband or anyone else what she had seen.

The day after that ominous night was not yet through when Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh announced his rejection of Islam and his acceptance of Christianity. What a terrible blow! Ramlah’s sense of peace was shattered. She did not expect this of her husband who pre sented her forthwith with the choice of a divorce or of accepting Christianity. Umm Habibah had three options before her. She could either remain with her husband and accept his call to become a Christian in which case she also would commit apostasy and – God forbid – deserve ignominy in this world and punishment in the hereafter. This was something she resolved she would never do even if she were subjected to the most horrible torture. Or, she could return to her father’s house in Makkah – but she knew h e remained a citadel of shirk and she would be forced to live under him, subdued and suppressing her faith. Or, she could stay alone in the land of the Negus as a displaced fugitive – without country, without family and without a supporter.

She made the choice that she considered was the most pleasing to God. She made up her mind to stay in Abyssinia until such time as God granted her relief. She divorced her husband who lived only a short while after becoming a Christian. He had given himse lf over to frequenting wine merchants and consuming alcohol, the “mother of evils”. This undoubtedly helped to destroy him.

Umm Habibah stayed in Abyssinia for about ten years. Towards the end of this time, relief and happiness came. It came from an unexpected quarter.

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