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Barakah was an Ethiopian slave owned by Mohammed’s ﷺ father. She lived with his mother Aminah after his father past away and was like a second mother to him. So when Mohammed’s ﷺ mother Aminah passed away in the desert between Mecca and Madinah, it was Barakah who took care of him, consoled him, and brought him to his grandfather’s house in Mecca.

Barakah loved Mohammed ﷺ very much and was kind and gentle to him. Abdul Muttalib, his grandfather, used to say to her, “Barakah, be mindful of my son, for I have seen him with the children near the lote tree. The People of the Scripture are saying that my son is the Prophet of this generation.” Barakah herself had heard people say this about Mohammed ﷺ and seen with her own eyes what a miracle the child was.

Two years after Mohammed ﷺ moved in with him, Abdul Muttalib passed away and Mohammed ﷺ went with Barakah to his uncle’s house, Abu Talib. There, he was loved by two motherly figures, Barakah and Abu Talib’s wife Fatimah bint Asad, who treated him as equally as her own children.

Barakah continued with her role as a mother figure to Mohammed ﷺ even into his adult years. When me married Khadeja (RA), he set her free. That was when Barakah got married to Ubayd ibn Zayd, with whom she had a son, Ayman. She was among the first to embrace Islam. She migrated to Madinah and experienced a miracle of her own.  During the migration, Barakah was so thirsty that she thought she might die and there were no signs of water anywhere near. That was when she saw a bowl of water tied with a white rope descend to her from the sky. She drank from that water until she was satisfied and never experienced thirst ever again in her life, even while fasting during hot months. (Tabqat Ibn Sa’ad)

In Madinah, Barakah’s house was one that Mohammed ﷺ visited often and she would dote on him and happily prepare him his favorite foods and drink. To Mohammed ﷺ, she was family a mother to him who deserves respect. When Barakah lost her husband (some books say he died, other say it was divorce) Mohammed ﷺ was there to console her and stood with her while she grieved. He knew what a woman of character she was. He stood up in front of his Companions and said, “Whoever wishes to marry a woman among the women in Paradise should marry Um Ayman.” Zaid Ibn Harithah, himself also a free slave and had developed a liking for Barakah’s character was the first to respond to the Prophet’s ﷺ statement. Zaid and Barakah got married and they had a son named Usamah bint Zayd.

Since Zaid and Barakah were among the most favored of the Prophet’s ﷺ friends, their son Usamah had a special place in the heart of Mohammed ﷺ. Usamah resembled his mother a bit more than his father as his skin was much darker. The hypocrites used to taunt him that he wasn’t the son of Zaid and this used to upset the Prophet ﷺ very much.  Aishah (RA) relates that once she saw the Prophet ﷺ looking happy and she asked him if anything special had happened. He said that Zaid and Usamah were sleeping  with their faces covered but their feet were showing. Majzaz Madalji (who is an expert in physiognomy) saw them sleeping and said, “Looking at the bone structure of the feet, it seems that this is a father and son sleeping together.” This made the Prophet ﷺ happy because now no one could taunt the boy anymore.

Barakah was so strong in her faith in Allah and the Messenger ﷺ that she did not object when the Prophet ﷺ ordered that her husband marry Zainab bint Jahsh.  We know that marriage lasted only for a year and it had a specific purpose and Barakah was patient and faithful enough to wait it out.

{Verily the most honorable of you in Allah’s estimation is that [believer] who is most pious…} (Quran 49:13)

{Say [Oh Mohammed] ‘If you love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you…} (Quran 3:31)

Barakah also participated in the battles and was among the women who devoted themselves to caring for the wounded. Her son Ayman was martyred in the Battle of Hunain and she also embraced her grief with patience and the acceptance of the will of God. Her other son, Usamah bin Zaid was appointed the General of the Army.

At the time of the Prophet’s ﷺ death, Barakah was stricken with sorrow and pain over the boy she had raised and watched grow into one of the greatest men. Umar and Abu Bakr used to visit Barakah often as this was one of the Prophet’s ﷺ practises and console her. They would find her crying and when they asked her she would say she was crying because the revelation from heaven has stopped.

Barakah Um Ayman lived a long life where she endured the hardships and blessings of the new religion. She was strong willed and strong in her faith and stood by Mohammed ﷺ who was like her son. May Allah bless her.

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*The greatest thing I love about Barakah’s story was the she had such great prominence in our history and she was a colored woman. I love that Islamic history does not contain stories of people of one race but those of many different races, making it such a universal religion from the start. We have incredible African figures like Barakah and Bilal, who are just as well known and important figures to our history as the other Companions. We also have scholars like Bukhari and Muslim from whom we take the strongest Hadith and they are from Russia or near the region. Our religion embraces everyone with no discrimination. There is equality between men and women and people of all races. What is so beautiful about remembering these stories is that you get to experience all over again why you love Islam so much.

Qub, Muammad ʻAlī. Women around the Messenger. Riyadh: International Islamic House, 2007. Print.

Ghadanfar, Mahmood Ahmad., Jamila Muhammad. Qawi, Sheikh Safiur-Rahman. Al-Mubarakpuri, Muhammad Ayub. Sapra, and Muhammad Farooq. Great Women of Islam: Who Were given the Good News of Paradise. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Darussalam, 2001. Print.




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Comments

  1. Anonymous Says: May 10, 2015 at 4:40 am

    The first sentence of this article is wrong, misinformed and disrepectful.
    1. She was from “Al-Habasha” modern day (Eritrea, Ethiopia, parts of Sudan, Somalia and Yemen).
    2. don’t refer to her as a “She was a slave”, it’s a bit insensitive and disrespectful to one of the greatest women in islam. Also she was not a slave she lived free with the Prophet’s family for most of her life. She may have been sold as a slave as many orphaned kids were by non-muslims (as islam prohibited slavery of course) she was the slave of Allah only.
    3. The story is missing quite a bit of what she achieved and influenced in her life.

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