Umm Sulaym (r.anha)

The real name of Umm Sulaym was “Ghumaysa”. She was from Madinah. She was from Banu Najjar. She was the foster aunt of the Prophet. She was the sister of Haram bin Milhan, and Umm Haram, who was martyred during the conquest of Cyprus. She was married to Malik bin Nadr. Anas bin Malik, who was a great Companion, was born out of this marriage.

Umm Sulaym became a Muslim when Islam started to spread in Madinah. Her heart was filled with tranquility. However, her husband Malik did not become a Muslim. He did not know that Umm Sulaym had become a Muslim.

Hz. Umm Sulaym knew that her husband would not accept Islam and that he would intervene her. However, she was ready to face all kinds of reactions and trouble in the way of Islam. Her only aim was to bring up Anas, her son, who was a child then, as a Muslim. She often taught him to utter kalima ash-shahada. Once, while she was teaching him kalima ash-shahada, Malik came home. He got very angry. He asked,   “Did you change your religion, too?” Umm Sulaym (r.anha) was calm. She answered, “No. I only believed that Muhammad is a prophet.”Malik did not accept this answer. He could not understand how his wife, whom he knew as a quiet and calm woman, dared such a thing. He got very angry and warned her: “Do not try to distort my son's ethics and faith!” In fact, Umm Sulaym was trying to save her son from burning in Hell forever. Was it of any use to reject the truths? How long more would the ignorance of worshipping idols made of stone and wood as gods continue? Umm Sulaym answered her husband softly: “I am not distorting his faith; on the contrary, I am trying to correct it.”

However, Malik was in complete ignorance. He got furious and left the house. It was an irony of the fate that he was killed by one of his enemies who followed him. Thus, Hz. Anas was left fatherless at a very young age.  

Although it looked like something terrible, it was actually mercy for them because Malik was an enemy of Islam. He was going to prevent his wife and son from practicing Islam. Allah Almighty did not want Hz. Anas, who would serve Islam greatly in the future, to be brought up by a polytheistic father. Umm Sulaym believed that there was something good in everything that Allah Almighty created. She showed patience by surrendering to qadar.  

Umm Sulaym did not want to bring up her only son under the pressure of a stepfather. She decided not to get married again until Anas grew up accepting to face all kinds of difficulties. He promised herself: “I will not get married unless my son Anas allows me.”

Umm Sulaym was poor. She led a hard life after that. However, her trust in Allah Almighty was endless. She believed that her Lord would definitely create ease after hardship, and she showed patience.  

If she wanted, she would lead a comfortable life because there were several rich people who wanted to marry her. If she accepted their offer, she would not have any financial difficulties. However, she waited for Anas to grow up; she faced all kinds of difficulties willingly for the sake of her son. 

One of those whose proposal Umm Sulaym rejected was Abu Talha. Once, he went to Umm Sulaym and said, “Anas grew up. He started to talk in assemblies.” He wanted to remind Umm Sulaym about her promise when her husband died. Umm Sulaym got what he meant.

In fact, Abu Talha was not someone to be rejected. He was rich; in addition, he was a person who was loved by his tribe. However, he was a polytheist. He had not become a believer yet. Was it possible for Umm Sulaym to marry a person who worshipped an idol that he made with his own hands?

Hz. Umm Sulaym was a clever person. When she saw that Abu Talha insisted on marrying her, she hoped something. She thought of making this marriage a means of reviving a person whose heart was dead and taking him to brightness from darkness. He said to Abu Talha, “In fact, someone like you is not rejected. Will you become a Muslim if I marry you or will you live by hiding your polytheism? For, I am a Muslim and I believe in Allah and His Messenger.”

Islam was widespread in Madinah; therefore, Abu Talha was offered to become a Muslim a few times. In fact, he also understood that it was nonsensensical to worship idols, which were too weak to favor and harm people; his heart began to awaken. He confessed that he sometimes thought about those issues. Umm Sulaym took courage from his words and uttered the following statement, which could not be rejected by a person who thought:  

“How do you find it appropriate to worship a stone that cannot favor and harm you? A piece of wood carved by a carpenter can neither favor nor harm you.”

Umm Sulaym spoke sincerely and concisely. Each word of hers made an impression on his heart and erased the wrong beliefs. He could not find any words to answer her. He had to leave that place. Umm Sulaym knew the difficulty of making a person accept the truths of belief. However, she believed that she could overcome this difficulty thanks to her perseverance and efforts and by being steadfast in the way that she knew to be right.   

Abu Talha went to her again a few days later. He said he would give her as much money as she wanted. However, Umm Sulaym did not want to marry a polytheist no matter how rich he was. She was determined not to accept his proposal unless he became a Muslim. She wanted to make use of all of the opportunities; she waived her natural rights. She even waived mahr, the money that Allah Almighty made legitimate for a woman to receive from the man she would marry. She had only one aim:  to save the faith of Abu Talha. She said to Abu Talha that she would accept his Islam as mahr and would not ask for mahr. She addressed him as follows:

“O Abu Talha! I want you to become a Muslim; I do not want any money from you. Do you not know that what you worship as god will burn if you throw it into fire? Do you not feel ashamed of bowing down before such a thing? If you testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, I will accept it as mahr; I will not ask anything else for mahr.”

Those words were enough to eliminate the last remnants of the wrong beliefs in Abu Talha’s heart. Signs of belief began to appear on his face. He thought it would not be appropriate to insist on unbelief any more. He said to Umm Sulaym, “I will accept your offer. I testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Thus, Umm Sulaym received the reward of her patience. Allah Almighty gave her the reward of her sincere intention like that. There was no reason to reject Abu Talha any longer. She accepted his proposal and married him. Thus, she saved a person from unbelief and established her new house. Abu Talha, who became a Muslim thanks to Umm Sulaym, became one of the great Companions. He used his body as a shield for the Prophet in several battles. He did not hesitate to spend his wealth for Allah and His Messenger. He received several compliments from the Messenger of Allah for it.  

Umm Sulaym was very pleased that she saved the eternal life of Hz. Abu Talha. On the other hand, Abu Talha was happy, too. He accepted, which filled his heart with light, and married Umm Sulaym, who was a mujahid of Islam. They had a happy life together.  

With this act, Hz. Umm Sulaym set an example to other women. She attracted attention to the fact that a Muslim girl or woman should not marry an unbeliever or a believer who did not practice his religion no matter how rich, famous or handsome that person was. She also showed in practice that it was necessary to make material sacrifices in order to save the eternal life of a person. 

A little while after Umm Sulaym’s marriage with Abu Talha, the Prophet migrated from Makkah to Madinah. Everybody, young and old alike, was outside to welcome the Prophet. They welcomed him. Everybody knew that he left his house and hometown and migrated here in order to revive the religion of Islam. Therefore, everybody gave him a present based on their wealth. Umm Sulaym also wanted to give the Messenger of Allah a present, a different one from the others': her only son Anas, whom she protected for years, whom she devoted her life to and for whom she faced a lot of difficulties. Hz. Umm Sulaym preferred her son's serving the Messenger of Allah to serving her. She also wanted Anas to be educated by the Messenger of Allah.

Hz. Anas was 10 years old then. She held his hand and took him to the Prophet. She said, “O Messenger of Allah! All of the men and women of Ansar gave you presents. I am giving my son as a present to you. I want him to serve you.” She also asked the Prophet to pray for him.

The Prophet was pleased with her present. He accepted Hz. Anas and prayed for him as follows:  

“O Lord! Increase his children and wealth. Make what you give him blessed.”

Hz. Anas lived very long thanks to this prayer; he had a lot of property and children.

Anas (r.a.) served the Prophet (pbuh) until he passed away. He benefited from the knowledge and abundance of the Messenger of Allah. He became the third person who narrated the most hadiths from the Prophet. Today, we learn many hadiths from the narrations of this great Companion.

Umm Sulaym led a happy life with Abu Talha. One year after their marriage, they had a child. They called him “Uwaymir”. This baby amused his mother and father and brought joy to the house. When the Prophet visited this family, he caressed and loved the baby. Days passed like that.

However, this lively child became ill one day. His parents did their best to cure him but they could not cure him. For, Allah Almighty wanted to take this child from the dungeon of the world to the gardens of Paradise. It was impossible to find a cure. As a matter of fact, he passed away a few days later. His father was not at home when he died.  

Whenever Abu Talha came home, he would ask about Uwaymir first. Umm Sulaym knew about this but she did not panic. For, her calm, unhurried and resigned state prevented her from panicking. She believed in qadar fully. She would consent to all kinds of misfortunes from qadar. She believed that a child was something entrusted to his parents by Allah Almighty and that He could take him whenever He wanted. She promised to the Messenger of Allah that she would not scream and cry for a dead person. She was determined to keep her promise.

With these thoughts, she washed the child and enshrouded him. She put him aside. She said to the people in the house, “Do not tell his father that he died before I tell him.” When Abu Talha came home, he wanted to know how the child was. He wondered where the boy was since he could not see him around. Umm Sulaym did not want to tell him about the child's death at once. She did not want her husband to panic and be distressed. She said, “He probably felt easy and relieved. He slept.” After that, she brought the meal she had prepared to her husband. Hz. Talha thought that the child really got well because of Umm Sulaym’s words and her calm state. They ate the meal together and talked.

Umm Sulaym wanted to give her husband the bad news but she did not want to say, “your son died” all of a sudden. Instead, she said,

“O Abu Talha! Have you heard about such and such family? When I went to them to ask the thing that I had given them to use, they felt sorry and did not want to return it to me.” Hz. Abu Talha said, “Really? They did not act appropriately.” After preparing her husband for what she wanted to say, she spoke as follows: “O Abu Talha! You are the such and such person I mention. Your son was something entrusted to you by Allah. He took the child back.”

Abu Talha was astounded. However, he could not say anything. He showed that he surrendered to qadar. They buried the child.  

The next day, Abu Talha went to the Prophet and told him about the situation. The Prophet (pbuh) prayed for Abu Talha and his wife as follows: “May Allah Almighty make that night blessed for you!”

They had another child one year after the death of Uwaymir. They gave this good news to the Prophet. The Prophet named him “Abdullah”.[1]Abdul­lah had nine children. Thanks to the blessing of the Prophet’s prayer, all of them memorized the whole Quran.

What a person loves most is their own life. Man does their best to protect their life. However, love of Allah and His Messenger is such a thing that a person who is a real believer does not hesitate to sacrifice their life for the sake of this love. Umm Sulaym was one of those who had this belief though she was a woman. She was a brave mujahid of Islam. She did not hesitate to risk her life in the way of Islam.  

During the Battle of Uhud, the news that mujahids were defeated and that the Messenger of Allah was martyred saddened the Muslims in Madinah. The female Companions were astounded. They hoped this news was not true. Umm Sulaym ran toward the battlefield with a few other women. She asked the first Companion she met about the Messenger of Allah. When she found out that he was alive, she became very happy. She would not be so happy even if the whole world were given to her.  

There were some things to do at the battlefront for Umm Sulaym as a woman. As a matter of fact, she fulfilled her duty in the best way. She took care of the wounds of the mujahids who shed their blood for the sake of Allah. She gave them water.

Umm Sulaym made her body a shield for the Prophet at the Battle of Hunayn. She took part in this battle to serve behind the battlefront with the permission of the Messenger of Allah. The Prophet (pbuh) allowed a few more women with her.   

The beginning of the battle was the most severe moment. The enemy forces were very strong. The mujahids who had just become Muslims and whose hearts had not been fully loyal to Islam left the Messenger of Allah alone. The Prophet was facing a big danger. The ferocious polytheists were looking for an opportunity. They could have harmed the Messenger of Allah.  Umm Sulaym saw this danger. She got very angry when the mujahids left the Prophet alone. She wanted to use her body as a shield against the attacks of the polytheists. She stepped into action facing all kinds of dangers. She reached the Messenger of Allah thanks to the help of Allah. Suddenly, she saw something that made her happy; she smiled. Her husband Abu Talha, was next to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and was protecting him. The husband and wife started to protect the Messenger of Allah from the enemy together.  

The Prophet saw Umm Sulaym. He asked, “Umm Sulaym! Is that you?” Umm Sulaym, who had such a strong belief as to sacrifice herself and her property in the way of Allah and His Messenger, answered: “Yes, it is me. O Messenger of Allah! May my mother and father be sacrificed for you!” Her eyes were bright; she was so happy. Allah enabled her to be near His beloved Prophet. Could there be greater happiness than this?

Abu Talha was moved by the courage of his wife. Talha asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Have you seen the dagger in Umm Sulaym's hand?” The Prophet smiled. He asked Umm Sulaym what she was going to do with it. This heroic mujahid said, “I prepared this dagger for days like these. If any polytheist comes close to me, I will stab him with it.” Then, she said, “O Messenger of Allah! If you let me, I will kill the Muslims who left you alone.” The Prophet did not allow this. He said, “O Umm Sulaym! The help of Allah Almighty reached us.” After a while, the Muslims pulled themselves together. The battle was won by the Muslims.[2]

Umm Sulaym was poor; she did not have many worldly possessions but she was abstinent and generous. When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) came to her house, she did her best to give him something. She sometimes stored some oil and food for days and then sent them to the Prophet. She preferred the Messenger of Allah to her own soul.  

She had a sheep. She collected some butter from the sheep's milk in a little bag. When the bag was full, she sent it to the Messenger of Allah with Rubayba, her maid. Rubayba said, “O Messenger of Allah! Umm Sulaym sent you this butter. Will you empty the bag so that I will take it back?” The people in the house of the Messenger of Allah emptied the bag and gave it to Rubayba. When Rubayba returned home, Umm Sulaym was not there. She hung the bag onto a nail. When Umm Sulaym came home, she saw that the bag was full of butter. She was surprised and got angry. She knew that the Messenger of Allah needed butter. She called Rubayba and said, "Did I not tell you to take this to the Messenger of Allah? Rubayba did not make a mistake. She said confidently, "I did. If you do not believe me, you may go and ask the Messenger of Allah.” Umm Sulaym believed in Rubayba but she wanted to find out what happened. She went to the Messenger of Allah with Rubayba. Umm Sulaym asked, “O Messenger of Allah! I had sent a bag full of butter to you with Rubayba. Did you receive it?” The Prophet answered: “Yes, she brought it.” In excitement, Umm Sulaym said, “I swear by Allah who sent you as the true Prophet that the bag is full of butter and it is dripping now.” Thereupon, the Prophet gave her the following glad tiding:

 “O Umm Sulaym! Are you surprised that Allah could feed you as He fed His Messenger? Eat and thank Allah.”[3]

Thus, Umm Sulaym received the reward of her sincere intention in this world, too. Allah Almighty gave her more than the butter she sent to the Messenger of Allah.

All of the family of Umm Sulaym, her brothers, husband, son, believed in Islam and did not hesitate to make self-sacrifices. Therefore, they had a special place in the eye of the Prophet. However, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) loved her foster aunt Umm Sulaym more than the others. Therefore, he visited her from time to time and asked about her health. The Messenger of Allah's taking care of Umm Sulaym and his frequent visits to Umm Sulaym drew the attention of the Companions. Once, they asked him about it. He said, “I feel pity for Umm Sulaym. Her brother, Haram bin Milhan, was martyred while protecting me.”

When the Prophet visited Umm Sulaym, she did her best to receive the prayer of the Prophet and to make him pleased. Due to her love and respect to the Prophet, she would not allow anybody to sit on the thing that the Prophet sat and to perform prayers on the rug that the Prophet performed prayers. She kept them as mementos. Once, the Prophet came to Umm Sulaym’s house. After talking to her a bit, he drank water from the leather bag hanging on the wall. Umm Sulaym stood up and cut the piece that the mouth of the Messenger of Allah touched from the leather bag and kept it as a memento. Besides, when the Prophet had a haircut, she kept her hair and beard as a memento. 

Once, the Prophet went to visit Umm Sulaym; after sitting there for a while, he slept a bit. Meanwhile, beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead. Umm Sulaym started collecting the beads of perspiration trying not to awaken him. However, the Prophet woke up and asked, “O Umm Sulaym! What are you doing?" She said, "O Messenger of Allah! I am collecting the drops of perspiration on your forehead for abundance." The Prophet smiled. After the death of the Prophet, Umm Sulaym used the beads of perspiration to produce perfume.[4]

The mementos of the Messenger of Allah were a great source of consolation for Umm Sulaym. Once, she said to her son, Anas, “I cannot cut all of your forelock because the Messenger of Allah caressed it with his blessed hand.” Thus, she expressed her respect to the mementos of the Messenger of Allah.

* * *

Hz. Umm Sulaym could not bear it when she was away from the Messenger of Allah. Her best days were when she was near the Messenger of Allah even though they were troubled and dangerous days. Once, the Prophet was going to Makkah for hajj. All of the preparations were made. They were ready to set off. Umm Sulaym wished to go with him but it was financially impossible. Therefore, she was very sad. She was about to cry. The Prophet said, “O Umm Sulaym! Would you like to go to hajj with us?” Umm Sulaym said, “O Messenger of Allah! My husband has two camels. He will ride one and his son will ride the other.” The Prophet did not want this devoted woman to feel sad. He took her to hajj with his wives. Umm Sulaym became very happy.[5]

Umm Sulaym did not tell anyone the secret of the Messenger of Allah; she also told her son Anas not to tell anyone the secret of the Messenger of Allah. Hz. Anas narrates an incident about it as follows:

“Once, I was playing with some children. The Messenger of Allah approached us and greeted us. Then, he sent me somewhere to do something. Therefore, I went home late. When I arrived home, my mother asked, ‘Why are you late?’ I said, ‘The Messenger of Allah sent me somewhere to do something.’ She asked, ‘What was it?’ I said, ‘It is a secret; I cannot tell it to anybody.’ Thereupon, my mother said, ‘Then, do not tell anyone about the secret of the Messenger of Allah.’”[6]

* * *

Umm Sulaym was a very chaste and modest woman but she did not hesitate to ask the Messenger of Allah about private issues. She knew that modesty and chastity should not prevent learning something. Thus, many family issues became clear thanks to the questions she asked the Messenger of Allah. Once, she went into the presence of the Messenger of Allah to ask about an issue that occupied her mind. She asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Is it necessary for a woman to make ghusl if she sees the liquid that man has in her dream (if she has a wet dream)? The Prophet said, “Yes. If a woman has a wet dream, she needs to make ghusl.” Umm Salama, one of the wives of the Prophet, was there. She asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Does a woman have liquid like men?” The Prophet said, “Yes, she does. The liquid of a man is thick and white. The liquid of a woman is thin and white. The child resembles the one whose liquid comes first.”[7]

Umm Sulaym had an exceptional place in knowledge since she was with the Messenger of Allah all the time and since she asked the Messenger of Allah about many issues. The Companions asked her about some family issues that they could not settle. Once, Zayd bin Thabit and Abdullah ibn Abbas, two scholars among the Companions, had a disagreement about an issue related to hajj. Hz. Zayd said a woman who started to menstruate after performing tawaf az-ziyarah should perform tawaf al-wada too. Ibn Abbas said such a woman could leave the Kaaba. They could not settle the issue. They decided to ask Umm Sulaym about it. Umm Sulaym said Hz. Safiy­ya started to menstruate after performing tawaf az-ziyarah and the Prophet told her to set off for Madinah without performing tawaf al-wada. Thus, she settled the issue.[8]

This great woman narrated a few hadiths. One of them is as follows:

"The Messenger of Allah said, 'If three children of a woman die before reaching the age of puberty, Allah Almighty will put that woman into Paradise with His grace.' He was asked, 'Is it valid for two children, too?' He said, “Yes, it is.'”[9]

Yes, Umm Sulaym, who loved the Messenger of Allah a lot and who served Islam with her property and soul, was bound to receive her reward. In one of his hadiths, the Prophet indicated her rank in the hereafter as follows:

“I entered Paradise. I heard a rustling. I looked around and saw Milhan's daughter Ghumaysa (Umm Sulaym)”[10]

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[1] Tabaqat, 8: 425-433.
[2] Sirah, 4: 88-89.
[3] Hayatu’s-Sahaba, 3: 470.
[4] Tabaqat, 8: 428.
[5] ibid, 8: 430.
[6] Muslim, Fadailu’s-Sahaba: 145.
[7] Ibn Majah, Taharah: 107; Musnad, 6: 376.
[8] Musnad, 6: 431.
[9] Musnad, 6: 431.
[10] Tabaqat, 8: 434.

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