Rumaysa Bint Milhan

Rumaysa Bint MilhanRumaysa Bint Milhan

Even before Islam was introduced to Yathrib, Rumaysa was known for her excellent character, the power of her intellect and her independent attitude of mind. She was known by various names including Rumaysa and Ghumaysa, but these were possibly nickna mes. One historian says that her real name was Sahlah but later she was popularly known as Umm Sulaym.

Umm Sulaym was first married to Malik ibn an-Nadr and her son by this marriage was the famous Anas ibn Malik, one of the great companions of the Prophet.

Umm Sulaym was one of the first women of Yathrib to accept Islam. She was influenced by the refined, dedicated and persuasive Musab ibn Umayr who was sent out as the first missionary or ambassador of Islam by the noble Prophet. This was after the first pl edge of Aqabah. Twelve men of Yathrib had gone to Aqabah on the outskirts of Makkah to pledge loyalty to the Prophet. This was the first major break through for the mission of the Prophet for many years.

Umm Sulaym’s decision to accept Islam was made without the knowledge or consent of her husband, Malik ibn an-Nadr. He was absent from Yathrib at the time and when he returned he felt some change had come over his household and asked his wife: “Have you be en rejuvenated?” “No,” she said, “but I (now) believe in this man (meaning the Prophet Muhammad).”

Malik was not pleased especially when his wife went on to announce her acceptance of Islam in public and instruct her son Anas in the teachings and practice of the new faith. She taught him to say la ilaha ilia Allah and Ash hadu anna Muhammada-r Rasulull ah. The young Anas repeated this simple but profound declaration of faith clearly and emphatically.

Umm Sulaym’s husband was now furious. He shouted at her: “Don’t corrupt my son.” “I am not corrupting him ,” she replied firmly.

Her husband then left the house and it is reported that he was set upon by an enemy of his and was killed. The news shocked but apparently did not upset Umm Sulaym greatly. She remained devoted to her son Anas and was concerned about his. proper upbringin g. She is even reported to have said that she would not marry again unless Anas approved.

When it was known that Umm Sulaym had become a widow, one man, Zayd ibn Sahl, known as Abu Talhah, resolved to become engaged to her before anyone else did.

He was rather confident that Umm Sulaym would not pass him over for another. He was after all a strong and virile person who was quite rich and who possessed an imposing house that was much admired. He was an accomplished horseman and a skilful archer and , moreover, he belonged to the same clan as Umm Sulaym, the Banu Najjar.

Abu Talhah proceeded to Umm Sulaym’s house. On the way he recalled that she had been influenced by the preaching of Musab ibn Umayr and had become a Muslim.

“So what?” he said to himself. “Was not her husband who died a firm adherent of the old religion and was he not opposed to Muhammad and his mission?”

Abu Talhah reached Umm Sulaym’s house. He asked and was given permission to enter. Her son Anas was present. Abu Talhah explained why he had come and asked for her hand in marriage.

“A man like you, Abu Talhah ,” she said, “is not (easily) turned away. But I shall never marry you while you are a kafir, an unbeliever.”

Abu Talhah thought she was trying to put him off and that perhaps she had already preferred someone wealthier and more influential. He said to her:

“What is it that really prevents you from accepting me, Umm Sulaym? Is it the yellow and the white metals (gold and silver)?”

“Gold and silver?” she asked somewhat taken aback and in a slightly censuring tone. “Yes,” he said. “I swear to you, Abu Talhah, and I swear to God and His Messenger that if you accept Islam, I shall be pleased to accept you as a husband, without any gold or silver. I shall consider your acceptance of Islam as my mahr.”

Abu Talhah understood well the implications of her words. His mind turned to the idol he had made from wood and on which he lavished great attention in the same way that important men of his tribe venerated and cared for their personal idols.

The opportunity was right for Umm Sulaym to stress the futility of such idol worship and she went on: “Don’t you know Abu Talhah, that the god you worship besides Allah grew from the earth?” “That’s true,” he said.

“Don’t you feel stupid while worshipping part of a tree while you use the rest of it for fuel to bake bread or warm yourself? (If you should give up these foolish beliefs and practices) and become a Muslim, Abu Talhah, I shall be pleased to accept you as a husband and I would not want from you any sadaqah apart from your acceptance of Islam.”

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